Dream Big, People

Twenty years from now?
Twenty years from now?

Art Journaling is the first thing I do on waking. I don’t even get out of bed. I reach over and grab my phone and check the prompt. I sit and think. I open my journal bag and grab the book and pen and draw a picture. Then I write. Today’s prompt: What is you most outrageous dream? Two things about this prompt caught my attention. There’s some synchronicity out there. Firstly, I woke up from a very odd musical dream where Burt and I as the Gypsy Carpenters were playing a stadium sized gig with a back up band. The odd part was that I was singing on a ladder from back stage. We can analyze that some other time. Secondly, last night at dinner with my dad and Sara Gay we confessed our next big dream. Stage two of dream achievement plan accomplished. The confession came about because they asked if we were planning to get a new cat when Mimi eventually goes. No, we are not. We are planning on burying Mimi and Elvis when the times come and doing something else. More here down below.

So life dreams, the big ones, are hard to quantify. It’s a tricky thing dreaming. I could say I want to visit the moon. I do want to visit the moon. I wish I could be a universe explorer. But that’s not going to happen so I don’t spend much though on it. It’s a waste of energy.  I could also say I wish I was thirty pounds lighter and super-fit. Just not going to happen. There’s all kinds of reasons why but mainly I’d rather not be that kind of person that worries about those kinds of things.  I like to focus on dreams that I might be able to accomplish if I have the intention, resources, interest, and luck. Burt and I had a great conversation about how neither of us like to talk pie in the sky dreams but we are good at achieving things many people won’t dare to try.  The phrase “if wishes were horses” does not apply to us. I hate those conversations about if I was rich, if I was in charge, or if I was blah blah blah. I’m a down to earth. I can solve a puzzle. I have enough resources.

Here’s what I concluded today, for me, about dreams. Find a dream where you have the drive, the itch, the passion. Then look for the skills, resources, and luck you’ll need to achieve it. I don’t want to be a super famous performer. I’m happy as a community musician. I like to help our kids but I don’t want to run a school. I do want to explore the world. I want to drive. I want to speak Spanish. I want to drive the entirety of South America.

Just as the seeds of quitting work and hitting the road took root a few months before we did it eight years ago this South America idea has been sitting in the soil of our hearts and minds for a while. There are logistical problems with our current outfit. Then there are the elderly pets. There are money concerns, too. Safety, health, age…But recently we saw our window. Mimi and Elvis appear on convergent tracks of expiration. Two years at the most for either or both or them. First step towards down scaling the living arrangements: No new pets.

Last the idea saw life outside the gNash. Burt and I dared tell others we hope to drive to South America. Like all bold ideas it was met with questions and fears for our safety but also with support and excitement. It sounds like we are on teh right path.

So I insist, go find that first step to your dreams.

Below are the 5k race results. I was super pleased to see I had managed under 20 minute miles. Maybe that super-fit goal isn’t as far fetched as I thought.

The next adventure?
The next adventure?
Carrera de Todos Santos 5k
Carrera de Todos Santos 5k
Carrera de Todos Santos 5K results
Carrera de Todos Santos 5K results
Carrera de Todos Santos 5k results
Carrera de Todos Santos 5k results



The gang's all here.
The gang’s all here.

When there’s blood in the first ten minutes you know you’re on an adventure. Vince is a kid that is kind and solitary. He’s got a ton of energy and he’s curious. He can also be a handful. Like many young boys and most men he doesn’t listen well and he takes action without thought of the consequences. Yesterday he joined our cast of thousands for a trip to the beach. In teh first 4 minutes he was causing a minor disruption. We were still withing sight of his house so I could say, “Vince, decide now if you want to go home or stay with us.” That settled him down nicely. No fear. Just a decision and it was his decision. He knew what I needed. In a car with 7 kids and no seatbelts there is no room for distraction.

Burt had decided it was time for a beach trip because it was Christmas break and we had an extra car. Also, the water is over heated and the weather is stunning. No joke on the water. Locals are starting to worry. The water is almost 10 degrees warmer than usual for this time of year. Hurricanes love warm water.

When we arrived at the beach I announced two rules. No littering and no going in the water until the adults arrived. We all walked together at a stately pace.  Last year only a few of the kids could swim. This year they all claimed to have the ability. I thought to myself, “This won’t be so bad. Twelve kids and four adults. We can manage.” Mayhem was on that sweet thoughts heels. Within seconds of entering the tepid water with inconsequential waves there was blood. Blood, when it’s gushing down a young person’s face is quite a visceral shock. I feared an accidental elbow to the nose or a tooth for the tooth fairy but it was just a routine bloody nose. I hadn’t thought about bloody noses since I was a kid. They seemed like a regular occurrence on the playground. I never had one. It kind of looked fun. I think I wanted to have one and enjoy the attention.

Vince the Bloody, was an expert. He held his head back and we walked back to my towel. He asked for a tissues to clean his face. He calmly cleaned up and then just lay there quietly. He told me it was a fairly common experience for him and I need not worry. I sat there for a moment and he sent me off to supervise the 11 swimmers. The epitome of manly maturity.

Meanwhile the kids were like atoms in Brownian motion. They expanded to fill the space. The just kept buzzing and bouncing further and further apart. The huge beach was flat and nearly empty and the waves were so small there was no fear effect to contain them. Usually they are afraid of the water and they cling to us.  Yesterday they were swimming and diving and running around liek teh proverbial maniacs. I must have counted to 12 six-hundred times. Every time I counted twelve kids I started over and counted again. Even Burt yelled at me once to try and get them closer together. Tom and Vikki were also standing guard and I could see Vikki counting, too. It’s hard to relax and count kids.

Vince was quickly back in action. Sand activities got some of the mob out of the water. My  still impressive cartwheel skills were in high demand. Soon we were doing yoga and back bends. These kids have zero cartwheeling experience. There is no grass here. None of them have lawns. I tried to explain the mechanics. I nearly became a bloody mess myself as feet flew towards my face. After six or so personal demonstrations I told them I had to stop. I am getting smarter. I’m only a little sore today.

Trips to the beach require snacks. We grouped up and sat in the sand eating tamales, fruit, and chips. The kids surprised me when they almost universally judged the tamales to be too spicy. For a group that takes chili on their watermelon they were kind of wimpy about some peppers in there pork.  As they say, more tamales for me.

Our journaling prompt for today was to draw a picture of ourselves when we felt invisible as a child. I did that but it’s not very inspiring. I felt invisible much of the time. Yesterday I was so visible and in such high demand that I teased the kids I was going to change my name so they couldn’t yell it.

Catching a wave Paola style.
Catching a wave Paola style.
7 year old man.
7 year old man.
Daniela and doll drawing
Daniela and doll drawing
Beto wows them all.
Beto wows them all.
Sand works
Sand works
La Yerasca
La Yerasca
Daniela y Vikki
Daniela y Vikki
My car. Okay, dad's car with my group.
My car. Okay, dad’s car with my group.

Day 4 Art Journal Challenge

Today’s work was to find a selfie from last year and draw it into your journal. I found a selfie I liked that happened to be a wefie but Burt’s presence is minimalized and I like the expression on my face. Bonus: no eyes to draw. Burt thinks he looks like an alien baby in the original. I think he looks like my accompanist.  Further down you can see another pair of selfie and self-portrait. I was so pleased with the first effort I thought I’d try another. I abandoned the effort when my face got all bulbous. Eyes are problematic but I still like the weird feel of the unfinished.

Rumpus room rehearsal
Not as easy as it looks.
Not as easy as it looks.


The next generation of Katniss
The next generation of Katniss.

Burt left out his archery equipment and the kids saw it when they came up for class. We made calendars and talked about dreams for 2018. What do you know? Somebody wanted to learn archery. So we notched some arrows and aimed at the straw bales a few yards away. This was one goal we could work towards. It was a little scary. Those bows were wobbling. Keeping the group behind the line took constant nagging. I don’t think they saw it as a lethal weapon. One moment I saw the tip of the arrow swing my way and even though the kid couldn’t pull the string I was alarmed. What a way to go.

We all survived. In celebration we ate watermelon sprinkled with chili, lime, and salt. Yummy.

Watermelon or sandia.
Watermelon smile or sandia sonrisa.

Growing Lessons 2017

Kids at Palm Beach
Kids at Palm Beach. Olive, the dog, on the right sitting watch.

Today’s prompt was to reflect on the growing lessons of 2017.  My inner critic lit up. She said, “Where’s the love? Lessons? Lessons means you fucked up…” The old adage of experience comes from bad decisions also rolled on by. The character building of mistake making. The endless list of ‘why did I say that?’ And I was all ugh…don’t wanna go there. I believe I have stopped learning from that negative critic. I still hear her but take what she says with more skepticism. I do have a sense I might be on the cusp of learning to forgive myself and others more readily when these blurts of mouth of micro-misjudgements cause pain. I am starting (not quite there) to feel an ability to let it go when someone says something harsh. The pain eases quicker and I know these kind of things they and I do are usually, almost always, unintentional. Recently I said something so stupid to a casual friend that I hoped she thought I was drunk. I finally confessed to Burt and he had me in stitches over how embarrassed I was over a silly, stupid utterance. But I could see the light of awareness. We all say really stupid shit. The mouth moves faster than the brain.

Then I sat with the idea of learning as a positive thing. After all, I study Spanish and am always proud of learning new words.I like to learn. Of course learning lead me to the kids here that Burt and I work with. And then I saw the love I had learned this year. What had I learned in 2017? What had I sought out and actually accomplished? My area of most important growth was obvious. It’s all over this blog. The kids that surround us in our neighborhood and my husband as enabler had shown me a way to have meaning in this wandering lifestyle.

I am proud of us (and Jolyn and Tom and April and all our adult helpers) and I am proud of the kids. Over the course of three seasons we’ve developed trust and friendship. In the past I disliked working with children. I taught many a kid their first roundhouse kick and kata in karate for over a decade. It was draining and uncomfortable for me. I rarely found joy. Now I realize why. Some might say American kids blah blah blah…I say it is free agency. No parental coercion. Our kids show up because they want to show up. And they have little else competing for their attention. Like when I was a kid. They are free range. The kids play in the streets. Their parents don’t always know who’s house they are visiting. Tuesday and Thursday are Burt and Susan days. Friday is art with Jolyn. They come, they go.

Kids need guidance and support to achieve skills like piano playing or black belts. Higher skills require consistency and practice. Adults usually have to push. Most of our neighbors don’t have wi-fi, laptops, computer games, or TVs. Many are bored. For some of them we are the only show in town. So we’re trying to be the best show we can be. Consistency is the key. We must be consistent. The kids can learn to rely on us. Classes are regular and repetitive. Success is built in.

This was a new lesson in showing up. I long ago learned showing up meant I could learn a skill. Now I have learned its a way of finding love and meaning.

Many thanks to Burt for being both the sandpaper that smooths me and the blackboard to create with.




Hey Diddle Diddle the Cat and the Fiddle

And the cow jumped over the moon.
And the cow jumped over the moon.

My friend Barbara has this darling Christmas ornament in her home. I saw it the other day when we met for Bridge. I was filled with covetous ideas and thought, “I need a cat and the fiddle ornament.” I’ve got to keep my eyes peeled. I can’t steal Barbara’s. She’s had it for 41 years.

There are all kinds of theories on the origin of this rhyme but I’m in agreement with most experts. It’s nonsense for the sake of nonsense.

Hey diddle diddle,
The Cat and the Fiddle,
The Cow jump’d over the Moon,
The little dog laugh’d to see such Craft,
And the Fork ran away with the Spoon.



Welcome 2018

Here's a peek in my art journal.
Here’s a peek in my art journal.

2018 is here. 2017 left quietly from the goat pen. Scattered neighbors sent the old year away with firecrackers as is the norm here. Last year I participated in Zöe Dearborn’s Art Journal project and I’m doing it again this year. If you want to join in you can follow along on Facebook. It was a very rewarding and demanding in January of 2017. Well worth the effort. Every day for the month of January Zöe sends a prompt for us to journal about. Today’s assignment is to write about what we loved in 2017. Then to write about what we want to love in 2018. Afterwards we are to circle significant words and draw a picture or several of the significant words. My picture is above. The words are incorporated here with slight revisions for readability. Journal writing is more stream of consciousness than blogging. Hard to believe if you read this regularly but I do try to make it readable. So off we go…

What I loved about 2017…

1. Mimi, Olive, and Elvis all lasted the year. It was not a given. It never is; Mimi is 19; Olive survived a poisoning; Elvis is a a big dog of 12. I am very glad they all are here with me this morning.

2. My dad has found new love.

3. Burt and I were able to travel and do so many different things together.

3.a. See the total solar eclipse in Oregon surrounded by friends and music.

3.b. Visit Spain, art, food, history

3.c. Italy, art, food, history

3.c.1. pantheon

3.c.2. walking Amalfi coast

4. Work in California (Hello Ursulaululates), Oregon, Washington, and Arizona

5. Portal Irish Music Week

6. Saw so many loved ones this year. Our immediately family in Europe and Montana. Scattered dear friends all over the U.S.

7. I loved missing Mexico so much. I missed teh neighborhood children. I constantly looked forward to seeing them again.

8. That we returned to Mexico sooner rather than later.

9. That we went to the Galapagos and saw so much beauty and so many animals.

9.a. marine iguana

9.b. land iguana

9.c. penguins

9.d. fiches, finches, finches

9.e. snake

9.f. fishes and octopus and sea lions

9.g. lava gulls

9.h. lava herons

9.i. I could go on and on

9.j. oh, yeah, blue-footed boobies

10. That Burt and I continue on in a relationship as good as I know. That we struggle to understand and support one another. That we try to bring love and kindness to each other. That we support each other. That we still do the deed.

I am a very lucky woman. I could go on all day about what I loved in 2017. I feel success in building the life I want to have. A life of meaningful work and fun and beauty.

For 2018 I want to be able to love many of the same things but I’d like to add some external things:

1. I want more kindness and generosity of spirit in the world.

2. I want political change in the US. I’m not talking parties. I’m talking love, kindness, support, healthy environment, health care, peace.

3. More travel with Burt (Hello, Galapagos).

4. More music with Burt (First gig announcement soon).

5. More peace for all of us.

6. More work and play with the neighborhood kids.

7. Continued good enough health.

8. I’d love the pets to all see 2018 through but I’m not sure that’s the best for them. We’ll take that month by month.

9. And, of course, health and love to my friends, family, and dear readers.

I recommend this exercise even if you are not in the project. I have a warm glow thinking about the good. It was a very good year for us.


New Year Happens Soon

Todos Santos 5k winners. Every one.
Todos Santos 5k winners. Every one. Daniela (next to Burt) was our very first student in Pescadero. She showed up to music class all by herself.

I’m always thinking like my Girl Scout leader Marilyn Nardoza. What can I do to show these kids a little bit more of the world? Mrs. Nardoza (she’s alive and well and following along on Facebook) took us camping, put on plays, crafted us from here to Mars and back, lead cake baking contests, drug us to area historical sights. She always had a team of mothers to help. My mom was one. You’ve already previously heard previously how I won the cake contest one year after my mom baked my cake when I screwed up the first one. I wonder if mom ever confessed.

One year we did some enormous walk-a-thon thing. The Battle of Monmouth was the theme. My memories are fuzzy but I’m sure we raised money for every mile we walked. I think Mrs. Nardoza added a kind of scavenger hunt activity challenge to keep it interesting. The scouts had to find certain things by following clues.  We were obsessed with colonial America. That ‘we’ means society at large to a 12 year old. School, scouts, news media, even our home were all colonial style. It was the age of the bicentennial and it seemed as though everything that didn’t happen in Boston happened in New Jersey.  So we walked some lengthy distance collecting leaves and measuring flagpoles in a clump of pre-adolescence wearing our sashes and passing by battlefields and Washington-slept-here homes. My most distinct memory is measuring the flagpole. Someone had provided the basic math and we needed a 5′ volunteer to stand at the base and the rest of the group would back off and see how many time the 5′ kid ‘fit’ in the length of the flagpole. I was exactly 5′ at the time. I felt very special in my starring role as human yard stick.

Yesterday we took on our kids to a 5K race through a neighboring town. This idea to take the kids to run a 5k must have been rooted in the deep sub-conscious of girl scout walk-a-thons. Or maybe it was the former ultra-marathoner in me. As soon as I hatched the plan I started to doubt myself. This kids loose in town scenario is way scarier than kids loose at the beach. Also, I wondered could the kids even cover a 5k? Would they want to? I presented the idea and it was met with frowns and silence. Seeing them like that made me think it was going to be a bust but I said, think about it. A few days went by. I asked, “Who wants to go run the race?” All hands went up. Apparently upon thinking about it they realized it was a ride to the big town and maybe food would be involved.

At 7:15 AM yesterday we picked up 10 kids (9 girls and the stoic Guillermo) and one mother, Vikki. Vikki is always ready to go. She is our guardian angel. So 13 of us piled into two cars and we motored over to Todos Santos in the cloudy dawn light. We had a 3 1/3 kids to adult ratio working to our advantage. We parked a block away from the race start. Remembering my Girl Scout bag of organizational skills I gathered everyone around and gave them a rule and a quiz: No throwing trash. Where is the car? What is my name? What color is my shirt?

Our kids are litterbugs. That 70s era anti-littering campaign that I grew up under is only just now reaching our community. We are constantly reinforcing the No Tire Basura rule. Change of habit happens slowly. Reassured that they knew where the car was and who they were traveling with we headed into the Todos Santos plaza to register for the race. Burt negotiated a group discount of about 30%. This race was a fund raiser for the local organization the Palapa Society. We were happy to contribute nearly $100. Next ensued some brief mayhem as I filled out entry forms with names and ages. The kids dictated and I wrote. A few of the oldest did it themselves. I did Burt’s. Then we pinned race numbers onto everyone’s front. The race number has a metallic bar code that tracks everyone over the course and records their finishing time. This is serious business.

For the next hour we took photos and warmed-up.  After we had already done an excellent warm-up some random dude, Orlando, gave us an impromptu warm up of his own. My stranger danger alarms went off like crazy so I just watched. I am a natural paranoiac. Finally it was time to line up. The kids all got into the scrum of it with Vikki and Burt. I knew I was going to walk and also was carrying a bag of hold my-sweater, my-water, my-camera, my-hat, my-phone for the kids I took a spot in the back. And we were off.

It felt a little sad and lonely in the back by myself. After all the business of hatching the plan and getting everybody to town I was suddenly on the dusty streets of Todos Santos walking in silence.  But it was also nice knowing they were all up ahead. Somewhere. So I walked in peace. Then an ambulance flew past and I was no longer calm. I was what you might call freaked out. Of course my mind went to all the worst places. It was an ugly time. I started telling myself this: Everything is fine. Everything is fine. Everything is fine. I chatted with some other walkers. I walked as fast as I could. About halfway into it all and a half hour after the start I spotted Burt with three stragglers. I told myself, “Ok, three are alive.” I caught up to them and Burt told me he had seen all of our group intact and moving since the ambulance had passed. For the next half hour we cajoled and sang our three kids towards town. As we passed a water station the staff encouraged us to just throw our cups in the dirt when we finished drinking. We were walking through a mat of discarded cups. Despite this, my three girls all ran over to a garbage can and threw their cups away. Hope rises.

Our group of stragglers was really only one slacker and two groupies. The younger kids had fallen into the abyss of the older kid. They were whining but walking so we just kept moving. The eldest told me it was her first and last race. I told her to never say never (nunca digas nunca). My smartaleck use of Spanish drew a smile. As town drew near we all dug deep and got to the finish line in style. The slacker ran in. I did a cartwheel as my waiting team cheered. Burt crossed hand in hand with the only child to truly be struggling. She was beaming. Burt was ecstatic. It was his first road race, too.

Everybody finished healthy and happy enough. We watched the award ceremony. There were some very fast runners.  Afterwards we took everyone out to fish tacos. Burt and I collapsed for an hour and then headed out to play Bridge.

Team you can do it
Team you can do it
Mayan calendar art in town.
Mayan calendar art in town.
Burt and Paola
Burt and Paola





Keeping Up with It All

The Tommy Hug. They're the best.
The Tommy Hug. They’re the best.


It’s nearly the end of the year. That time of annual reckoning. The last year was very exciting and successful on a personal level. We traveled. We made music. We worked enough. We were healthy enough. We are only a little fatter. I’m fitter. I still have not reached menopause. That’s just an assessment. It’s bewildering. All my friends are leaving me in the dirt on this. Just like when I was the last one to start menstruating, I’m going to be the last in my cohort to finish menstruating. Shall we take bets on where I’ll be next year? I can post a graph for you scientific types to help develop the odds.

I digress. As usual. Let me take a moment to thank all you readers. The commenters and the silent lurkers, the constant companions and the random drop-ins. You help me in ways you do not know. Writing for me and you forces a regular internal discussion. An analysis, if you will, of what is happening and why am I writing? These days I write a lot about our neighborhood kids. I like to post on social media about them, too. My goal is to try and inspire myself and you, too, to reach out. I am not a teacher. I can barely speak Spanish. But I have many things those around me don’t have. I have enough food, clothing, and shelter. I have had the privilege of a stellar elementary and university education. I can (sort of) play music. I have seen a lot of art. I have made some (sort of) art. I have had the luxury of art and leisure. I am now able to luxuriate in sharing my art and leisure with these kids.  While a lot of people say Burt and I are very kind and generous to give our time I say we are the lucky ones. Getting ready for the kids makes me think: What do they need? What can I give? How can I best help them? It makes me feel good to be of use. I highly recommend you find your place of usefulness. There’s a lot that can make the world better but we become overwhelmed. I think by me and Burt making the world we want in our neighborhood we can worry less about the entirety of the world’s problems.

Maybe all of our neighborhood kids will wind up pregnant teens or working terrible jobs or bound by circumstances so soul breaking that they can never feel the satisfaction they give us by allowing us to work with them. I hope not. I know many of us and them carry nearly unbearable sorrow. Abuse, neglect, hunger…hunger for food, knowledge, status, security. These are terrible things for many of us. The photos I share do not show the flinches from a child with clouds in her eyes when I unexpectedly touch her. They do not show the rapacious hunger they have for pens, paper, toys, food. The desperate clutching at material objects to fill a yawning abyss of neglect. Most days I can say no because I know the pen will not fulfill the need. Instead I offer my time. I give a smile. My eyes cloudy, too.

Not all of our kids are like this but quite a few come from very rough circumstances. Some come from loving homes. The difference is obvious. As my friend Will told me once when I was dealing with a difficult client, “Those that need our love most are the ones that behave the worst.” I try to remember this. I also try to remember that love isn’t all sweetness and presents and hugs and kisses. Boundaries, respect, and manners are important, too. As I was saying about preparing for each class, what do they need and what can I do? Big questions.

Below is a photo of a mulberry pie. I picked and stemmed the mulberries this summer in Oregon. The berries were in our freezer annoying Beto. Finally, somebody suggested I pay someone to make a pie for me. This someone (Debra, the owner of Que Rico) also suggested Joanne Whitehead of Todos Santos. Joanne made me a mighty fine and beautiful pie and I do declare, mulberry pie is my favorite pie. I love the chewiness and the flavor. Anybody know where I can get mulberries in 2018?

The next photo is Beto and Vikki. Our friend, Roberto Lopez sold his place down here. He gave us his guitar. He has several at home. We passed the guitar on to Vikki. She’s been wanting to learn. First she has to cut her finger nails. So thanks for sharing, Roberto. Anyone else with a spare guitar? We can get these kids playing if we had enough.

Class worksheet
Mmmmmullberry pie by Joanne Whitehead. I have her contact info if you want a pie or quiche.
Vikki gets her first guitar and first lesson. Check out her nails.
Snack time.