Thursday, December 27, 2012

Scenes from the Desert at Linda Vista Trailhead

Before the rain and rainbow suprisingly appeared, Mark and I took a nice hike at the east end of Linda Vista Blvd., where Pusch Ridge dominates the background.

Don't these rocks look like turtles with their heads tucked into the sand?

Can you see the tiny bird in the palo verde branches, just to the left of the saguaro?
Look at this healthy saguaro, four arms upraised to the sky.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Holiday Neighbors' Drop In

In our pledge to "keep it simple" this year, we kept our holiday invites to just a few favorite neighbors and it was just perfect for us.  Here's our table for sharing the good life, 2012, with our 13 year old dog, Lia, supervising the event.

Monday, December 24, 2012

God Bless Us Everyone

For the best three weeks, the "Magnificent Seven" at Kellond School (these are the 3rd graders I work with once a week) and I have been reading Dickens' "The Christmas Carol."  As is the case with the story "The Polar Express", many of them have seen the Disney movie of the story but had never read (or even heard of) the books.  I try to impress upon them the importance of the written word and even, in the case of older stories, how the oral tradition was the first way stories were passed on.  Some of them get the idea, but, what it all comes down to for me is the importance that stories have in our lives. 

Without stories, meanings to why we are are here, what we should do while in this life can become a rudderless journey.  Part of my moral compass story guide is the 1951 movie version of "The Christmas Carol".  It is my favorite Christmas story and we have it on tape to watch again this year.  When I was growing up, after singing in our Methodist early service youth choirs, my family would go to my Aunt Della Chuffo's house in Dundee, Illinois and watch the movie playing on WGN-TV. Parts of it terrified me, but mostly I felt its magic. Mark's favorite story is "It's a Wonderful Life."  That's on tomorrow night and we are planning our Christmas Eve around it on 7 p.m.

This year, the season's light seem to be shining a little less brightly for me--my dad's declining health, the Connecticut shootings, the fiscal cliff--all seem to be dark clouds hiding the stars.  Still there are "brightspots" to be found and experienced.  One of mine this week was going to Ben's Bells, making a donation for the Newtown 1000 Bells Project, painting some beads for the bells and sending a note of kindness from Tucson to Newton.  Here's a link so that you can do that, too.  And here's a photo from our earlier visit to Ben's Bells showing the colorfull tile bench at their UA/Main Gate studio location.

Just looking at the Power of Kindness photo makes me smile and I feel my life-boat sails unfurl.  And so, as Tiny Tim shouts out, atop Mr. Scrooge's shoulders:  "God Bless Us Everyone!"

Monday, December 17, 2012

Granddog, Dani

Aron and his girlfriend have a newly found and adopted puppy, named Dani.  She, like our Gray did with us, picked out her new family.  From wandering in the desert, with thorns and stickers, she has been bathed, leashed and now showered with toys and Science Diet puppy food.  Merry Christmas, Dani!

Friday, December 14, 2012

tiny tree

This year, for various reasons, I didn't feel like hauling out our big articfical tree and hanging the ornaments.  Instead, I went to Target yesterday and bought this tiny tree to decorate.  I am glad I did it last night, to gentle music from KUAT/Arizona Public Media, because, right now, I don't feel anything in my heart except a huge tightness where my tears of grief are stuck.  I had heard about about the shooting before leaving to meet Kellond School kids to watch Southwest Nutcracker ballet performance at the Tucson Music Hall.  It was a lovely performance and I so enjoyed watched some of the class on the edge of their seats, watching the magic of music and dance. 

But, because of the shooting in Connecticut, children were killed, their families are in grief, other children and their families are in trauma.  What can this tiny tree do against the violence of our culture?  Can it stand a little taller today and show resiliency?  I guess I will try to imagine that this is what hope looks like sometimes:  a tiny tree, standing alone, but still standing--its branches outstretched to give shelter and solace, an angel in white, gold star and candle to offer light.  As I finish writing this, I am lighting the candle....

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Keeping Gray Warm

Since Gray is an outside cat, we've been bringing him into the garage after sunset as the desert winter has begun to roll in.  First, we added a layer to his bed floor by placing an old comforter underneath the cat bed.  Next, with near freezing temps the past two nights, I came up with the idea of using our heating pad underneath his bed.  Mark figured out how to hook it up and so now Gray keeps warm and toasty during the night.  In fact, so much so, he won't leave the garage and finally used the litter box we have placed there for weeks!! This morning, I watched as he stretched to lick up his soft food but kept one paw on the warm bed. So, we clearly have the winter shelter set for Gray and I do think about the homeless humans out there in the arroyos who don't have the comfort our cat does. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

A group photo

Yesterday was the wrap-up of a three day family event.  I am keeping my note simple on this: the group photo is of me, Mark, Aron, his girlfriend, Lora, and her daughter, Izzy.  We were very happy to have this fivesome at Tanque Verde Guest Ranch's buffet.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Afternoon ride

We just finished a fun, easy ride from home to UA Campus Farms.  I really like going there because it reminds me of biking from McClure Ave., in Elgin, Illinois to Randall Road where my Grandparents Dice had their small farm.  The light today was just perfect on the mountains and, on the way back, the new grass for the cattle glowed in pre-sunset.

taking a ride

I really am enjoying my new bike (Sedona model, made by Giant).  I like the way its compact fit works to help stabilize my ride and the front and seat suspension make the bumps almost non-existent.  I purchased it from RoadRunner Bicycles on E. Broadway and found the sales person, Gene, very knowledgeable and low-pressure.

I look forward to sharing more about my 1-7 geared life as it speeds up a bit (but I am holding back on the higher range--up to 21!).

Thursday, December 6, 2012

New Bike

As I try to shift my gears a bit higher for 2013, I decided to take the next step and buy a bike with gears (21) and hand brakes!  I did 3 miles yesterday and it was much easier than the slog with my 1960s Schwinn.  That one might go to BICAS who can fix it up and give it to someone who will continue to enjoy it. But for me, I am going to stretch my legs (maybe lose some pounds, if I am lucky) and definitely have fun on my new bike!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Simple String of Lights

I did a rare thing today: stayed in bed until 10 a.m.  I called a long distance friend and we talked for almost an hour.  She lives in Ohio and was facing a grey and dreary day so she stayed in bed as well.

My day, as per usual in Tucson, promises to be sunny and very warm.  I am not complaining, but I do like the earlier dark skies so that the desert cools off quickly and I can feel the soft paws (reference to Gray the cat) of winter stalking the sun as it sets.  I think this week was the "in between" holiday time I savor.  Thanksgiving remnants have been eaten or thrown into the garbage, Chanukah and Christmas ornaments are still in their boxes.  I did start my Advent Calendar yesterday and began to think about holiday decorating inside.  Mark put lights up last week and we are keeping it to a simple string around the front of the house--nothing elaborate inside or outside this year.

I think that's an image for myself as well: trying to keep the elaborations to a minimum, let the essence of who I am be shared in safe and sane company.  On the other hand, I want to try something new in 2013--and I am open to suggestions if you have any.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Small and Simple Thanksgiving

This year, thanks to the springlike weather in autumn, we were able to do our meal outside on our back patio with both of our dads, a neighbor and her mother who is visiting from Puerto Rico.  Three of the six of us had walkers so it helps to be living in a small and one story/concrete floors house.  We kept it simple by ordering most of the meal from our friendly neighborhood Safeway and adding some side dishes and an extra dessert.  After the meal, and taking the dads back to Cascades where they both live, Mark and I took a pleasant walk around the lake and horseshoe field at Reid Park.  Sometimes, the small and simple is best.  Here's Mark's pic of me and my dad who, at almost 94, still enjoys his meals and UA Wildcat basketball.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tucson Botanical Gardens: BrightSpot Extradordinary

I am a member of TBG and go there at least once a month and take photos on my cellphone camera.  Since my previous visit last month, I was surprised (TBG always surprises me which is one of its joys) to see the pomegranate leaves golden against the garnet red fruit. 

Walking through the Butterfly Garden, I gazed at a monarch flitting for minutes around the flowers, aligting, then fluttering again until it found its perfect spot and rested.  Can you find the butterfly?
As I wind my way out, I always stop in the Mexican Garden where, today, I could make a milagro in honor of my mother and her parents.  Here's a simple shot where my finger demonstrates that I am not the semi-pro my hubby is in taking pictures!
Finally, no trip would be complete without celebrating the child within each of us and who could better bring out a smile than a happy scarecrow?
Happy Thanksgiving!!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Garage Scene and Beyond with Gray.

I don't know who invented the concept of a garage, but I recall, growing up in Elgin, our one car garage was also a place where Dad had paints and yard tools.  Unfortunately, it was also a place where I often was "paddled" (with a paint stick) for talking back through adolescence.  Maybe that's way, for most of my adult life, a garage has been a space I just move in and out of.  It's functional for the car, storing file boxes of papers from different chapters of our lives and "stuff" that is seasonal (fake Christmas tree, our son's old snowboard and his box of Transformer toys).  It holds our bikes and Mark's motorcyle. 

We used to have room for one car, but, now with Gray in our lives, we are adjusting to life with an outside cat who needs warmth when the temps drop below 45 degrees as they did last weekend and early this week.  So, we moved his bed inside, placing a thick towel underneath it, and brought in one of the front patio chairs so we could take turns in the garage with Gray. The car stays in the driveway so that Gray can roam around.  He has yet, to our knowledge, used the litter box.  So far, he seems to just shut down after his last meal and mew and snooze until dawn.

When it's my turn to be with him (we are overly conscious about tending to him, I suppose, because we don't want him to think he's been abandoned again, as he was by his first family), I bring out my Nook and read.  For the past six weeks, I have been savoring Tolstoy's Anna Karenina which took me to Russia and lyrical scenes of harvest, the Petersburg Opera, death (not only Anna's), birth (Kitty's baby) and a main character's (who is suposedly Tolstoy) discovery of God.  All that, with our cat, in the garage.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Good Life for Gray and Us

This weekend we did our Phoenix Friday trip (we also try to do a "Monday Mountain" trip once a month, now that we have a slower life).  We can do the Phoenix weekends because of the continued generousity and hospitality of a colleague and friend who rented an apartment for a year and now has purchased a condo so that she can work in Phoenix and "live" in Tucson with her family.  She knows how much we appreciate this unexpected "gift" and we do not underestimate the pleasure it has added to our lives.

So here is a photo of me in front of the new place in Phoenix.

And, we aren't the only ones enjoying a good life these days.  Here's a Friday photo of Gray in the grassy bush outside of our house.  He likes to lounge in the shade and also play with the blades of grass that dangle in his face.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Neighborhood Fun

We like where we live--we can bike to the Rillito River or Campus Farms (as we did today).  Take a turn and have French breakfast at Ghinis  One street west, there are Tucson "funky" residences with chickens and Guadalupe shrines.  Across the street (almost) is one of the best thrift shops in town (Casa de las Ninos), UA and PCC campuses are less than 10 minutes away.  Yes, we hear in-town traffic but the Catalina Mountains are visible to the north and above us only sky. Today we had a neighborhood pool party and enjoyed light refreshments and casual conversations. There are so many advantages to living in the "center" of town.  Do you like where you live?

Friday, November 2, 2012

All Soul's and All Saint's Day Display on King Street

We take an evening walk near our neighborhood along Mountain Ave.  We cut through a funky Tucson neighborhood just west of us on King Street and one of the houses had a bewitching Halloween display that we thought we would see for a few days.  But, lo and behold, they switched up fast to an All Soul's and All Saint's Display yesterday afternoon.  Thus, Mark took pics last night and here they are and, just maybe, another scene may be posted soon--life is full of surprises!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

gray at rest

It took Gray a few days and cooler temps to a) choose and b) get used to his cat bed, but, as you can see, he has no problem now.  After a good meal (I observed him with hiccups today), he curls up and just zones out.  The garage door can go up and down, creaking along on its hinges, but he doesn't stir.  Dogs can walk by and bark at the sight of him in his bed, which is under the table, but he doesn't budge.  He does move, sometimes, if I am watering and the hose moves rapidly--maybe it reminds Gray of snake-life in the desert.  Since he's out and about  when not napping or in the trees or in his buddha-pose on the driveway, we suspect he has learned what to be bothered with and what to ignore.  We can learn a lot from a Gray-like perspective toward life.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A bit of the De Anza Trail

As a way of being a continuing part of S. Arizona history, my husband, friend, Gail and I thought it would be a rurban adventure to walk a bit of the De Anza Trail.  This weekend, history buffs in Tubac celebrated the exploration of 1775 that connected Spain, through Arizona, to the coast of California.   Along the (yet unfinished) trail, we encountered a rattlesnake skin, coyote scat, birdlife and burrs and "goatheads" (weed seeds) that stuck to our socks, shoelaces, and occasionally, our skin.  This photo saw the Santa Rita Mtns. in the East and it's fun to imagine the scene of 225+ years ago where, minus the darker green pecan trees in the foreground, the landscape might have looked much the same.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Model A Ford Door Handles

We went to the Fall Festival at Cascades, the Senior Living Apartments where both of our dads reside.  And, as they have for the past years we've attended, a Model T and Model A car show parks in front for all to enjoy.  I am not the "gear-head" my husband is but I can appreciate the artistry of these cars which came at a time when the average speed was no higher than 45 mph.  Life was definitely slower then (and probably harder, too).  Here's a photo of the door handles from one of the Model As, circa 1930.  The car is so shiny you can see the reflection of Mark's legs in the photo!  What you can't see, unfortunately, is the etching on the gentle curls of each handle. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Leaf Peeping on Mt. Lemmon

I hadn't heard this expression before but Mark says that's what Easterners call the experience of "outsiders" visiting the autumal landscapes.  Then, later on Monday--which is our monthly "mountain Monday" time, I heard KOLD-TV's weatherman, Chuck George, say it again:  "leaf peeping", so that's what we did on Monday.  We went "leaf peeping" on Mt. Lemmon. 

No colors appeared in the first forest at Bear Canyon, but past Windy Point and onto Bear Wallow where the leaves were ablaze.  I think the oak has already peaked and turned brown, but red maples were splendid and the aspen were shimmering gold. Thanks to recent physical therapy work to strengthen my legs and ankle and with some assistance from Mark at the high angle spots on the path, I was able to do a 1.5 mile hike in the Bear Wallow ravine.  I love listening to aspen leaves rustle in the wind and, when we got to the "tippy top" (I overhead a toddler using this description close to the UA Observatory), I gathered a few fallen aspen twigs to make a bouquet for home. 


It was a wonderful day.  We wrapped it up with a restful meal at the Sawmill Run restaurant in Summerhaven which I have reviewed (with photos) at .

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Gray on his Throne

We moved a more comfortable chair from the back to front patio for Mark to sit on and read, and now, of course, when Mark is not on it, Gray often is curled up on the cushion.  As the weather begins to cool, he his shifting his resting places.  Here he is responding to Mark's request for a photo and obliges.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Autumn glass

I will be writing more about our adventure today to the Sonoran Glass School on my other blog.  But here's a photo of what some of the artists created.  The School had a waiting list of 3 1/2 hours today of folks wanting to "blow their own" pumpkin, or acorn or ornament.  Mark and I both want to take a class sometime and you might want to check them out for more information.

Check out more info at

If you want more photos, go to

Friday, October 5, 2012

Gray on the Ground

It was still a pretty warm day yesterday, so when I watered the plants, the drip dampened the concrete which appears to have appealed to Gray's need to relax and cool off.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gray on the Wall

We have begun to wonder about Gray's daily (and nightly) exploits when he isn't lounging on the porch or under a shady bush.  This morning we can share proof of what we suspected he might be doing:  bounding up the western wall and peering into the farm-like property below.  We have heard a rooster crowing in the morning and the cluck of chickens from time to time, along with the occasional music from a flute and banjo.  But, beyond the wall, is another world for us and, apparently for Gray.  He makes the wall leap with a sprint across our road (we gasp--what about traffic that goes in and out of here with a sometimes speedy pace?) and either a) up the mesquite tree that is adjacent to the wall or b) up the wall itself.  Either way, he doesn't hesitate, and once there, he takes his time to walk along the edge and decide where to land.

I will carry these images with me into the day--thinking about walls I can leap across and the exciting land beyond.  Can you imagine such an escapade in your life?  What one action could you take today to start your sprint?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

More photos from the Getty Villa

I promised you more photos from Mark and my trip to the Getty Villa and here they are: slow down and savor the loveliness in the lines of the columns, statues, flowered ceilings and more.

Venus Alcove
Replica of ancient fountain of the Large Fountain at Pompeii: tiles, shells and theatre masks
Several fountains had lilies in the water that encourage a lingering look
In the herb garden this grape arbor offered shady on a sunny late summer afternoon
In the same garden, this blooming pom tree
Even the ceilings on the porches are painted, which reminded me of Firenze/Florence Italy. I think this could make a serene computer screen wallpaper.
Finally, the interior pools and gardens lined with maidens, arms gracefully arched bidding us to be calm.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

roadside flowers

My husband, on a solo trip in Flagstaff (and then eastward to Pinetop), took this pic of roadside flowers outside of Flagstaff.  I stayed in the (too warm) Tucson valley, still "highwayed out" as I told him after the two hour journey from Huntington Beach to Malibu two weeks ago.  The bumper to bumper, shoulder to shoulder, shop to shop panorama continues to be a reflection of what hell would look and feel like to me.  Heaven, on the other hand, is open space such as this picture and what we continue to enjoy about living in the Tucson area.  Yesterday, finishing up chores, I savored the late afternoon light on UA Campus farms where cattle and horses leisurely chewed on green grass and a field of tassling corn in their background gave me a momentary time travel to Randall Road in Elgin, Illinois and my grandparents' farm.  Autumn's light is here even if the cooler daytime temps have not yet settled in but the nights are lovely.  Last night, I sat on the porch, watching Gray the cat's tail twitch to music we could both hear from the nearby Greek Festival.  The notes enthralled me so much I got up and did a little Zorba jig and then, as that music stilled for a moment, sang "Bella Notte" (from the movie, "Lady and the Tramp") to the half moon.  When you are lifted up by song, what childhood chorus comes to your heart?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Gray Buddha

This photo captures, I think, Gray's Buddha-nature which I appreciate as I read my daily Tao.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Oh, you gotta have friends

That's a line from a very good song by Carole King.  And it's true, of course.  Mark and I enjoyed our weekend in Southern Cal and especially an evening in Pasadena with my former NIU grad school colleague, Michael.  We went through the Adult Education Program together and took different routes since then, professionally, geographically and personally, but have reconnected in the past couple of years.  That's a good thing and we hope it continues as we lean forward into our 60s.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Front Porch scene

One of the perks I have experienced since becoming a part-time "cat lady" is sitting on the front porch, enjoying the shade in the morning and the sunsets in the evening, along with chatting with neighbors walking their dogs or getting the mail. Of course, I also read and check in with my Nook, from time to time. Gray, the cat, is under the chair, enjoying the breeze from the fan. Our son's snowboard is propped in the open garage. What perk in life have you enjoyed in late summer?