Not enough zeros
Not enough zeros

I spoke to my dad and he mentioned the Mega Millions lottery was over one billion dollars. A BILLION dollars. That’s real money even if the government gets 60%. I laughed. I’ve never bought a lottery ticket in my life. Neither has Burt. Well, it turns out neither had Trish. So at dinner these three lottery virgins decided to go in for three tickets together. We figure we can split it three ways and it would still be enough money for alienating all our friends and families and ruining our lives. If we win you won’t read about it here. My mind boggles at the ideas of what I could do with that much dinero.

Mine all mine. I mean, ours, all ours.
Mine all mine. I mean, ours, all ours.

Counting Birdies

Place I walked
Place I walked

We had a garage sale and it was a success. The clients got rid of a ton of things and now the garage is available for work space. Meanwhile I’m continuing on my medical checklists. Mammogram done and all clear. Heart monitor off, we’re waiting word on the results. My blood work was fabulous. I started a new heart medication. I got the first shot of the new shingles vaccine. The long delayed colonoscopy is scheduled. My night guard to protect my teeth and jaw is under construction. I’ve been walking many miles counting birds and practicing my fiddle. Burt has been working diligently.

Olive has become my main walking companion. It’s tough to leave Elvis home. He’s a trim and healthy looking 12 year old but he has lost his get up and go. He’d rather sleep in the trailer than walk, especially if the walk is uphill. I give him happy pills for those days he does too much but mostly I leave him behind. Olive seems pleased to be doggy number one. She minds very well and likes to get out and see the world. I sometimes wonder if Elvis and Mimi are in a battle of the wills to see who can outlast whom.

Wildflowers on my walks.
Wildflowers on my walks.
Post-garage sale moment. Recycling.
Post-garage sale moment. Recycling. That’s a wheel chair up there.
We went and listened to live music 3 times this week.
We went and listened to live music 3 times this week.

Hack hack hack

Olive has the cold dog blues.
Olive has the cold dog blues.
Pinochle with Jack.
Pinochle. That’s a good hand I have there. Can you count the points?

Our furnace is out. We think we’ll get it fixed but maybe not. Space heaters work fine if we are hooked to shore power. After an early morning of Mimi borrowing in and out of the blankets as she looked for heat we borrowed Jack’s faux fire place heater. Look at that thing! It’s like a mini-fire place right on the kitchen counter. No smoke, no ashes, no wood chopping, actual heat. Hopefully Mimi will agree to sleep in her own spot with real heat.

Mimi has a reptile heater (Thanks, Sue!) on the wall next to her nest but I think she’s just gotten too old and too skinny for it to satisfy her. I’m going to try adding aluminum foil to the underside of her bed and some more padding. Maybe a real heating pad is required. This morning I made a turkey meatloaf for the boys. The residual oven heat is keeping us toasty on this cool and cloudy California day.

Stay warm. Spring comes and goes.

We borrowed Jack's heater for Mimi.
We borrowed Jack’s heater for Mimi.


Jalapeño cheddar rolls (r) and plain rolls (l).
Jalapeño cheddar rolls (r) and plain rolls (l).

Food is at the foundation of our needs triangle. Water, shelter, are impossible to live without, too. Other stuff like love, kindness, or fulfillment, that’s all up higher. We can survive a lot if we have sustenance. I guess that’s how food wound up in all of my photos this week. Food follows us all the way up to self-actualization. Here’s a version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for your consideration. Image result

Our group of kids are mostly making it to the bottom three. They have some serious belonging and safety issues in their day to day lives. If the only place you belong is the same place that beats you, where does that leave you? I think there’s more convolutions in life than this triangle allows but it’s good for the basic idea. Burt and I are trying to build them up towards esteem but we do a lot of feeding and providing safety, too.

A few weeks a go my friend Donna had the Bridge ladies over to her house to make bread. We all had our own mini-loaf pan and a bag of dough. Everyone was free to add ingredients to her bread to make the bread her own. I went for pure rosemary. I like rosemary bread. Other people used lemon peel or sage or garlic. There were many things to chose from. The bread was a kind of symbol for this needs hierarchy. We all had to have wheat, water, oil, and yeast. We had to have the right amount, too. Too much yeast and your bread will be full of hot air and lack structure. Water not warm enough? Your yeast wont rise and you’ll have a loaf too tough to eat. Donna guided us through the process from beginning to end. There were some corny angel readings that some of us rolled our eyes about but it helped pass the time and got me thinking about who are our real angels.

I posted the bread pictures on Facebook and Mayra saw them and decided she wanted to make bread, too. I sent her the recipe and we made plans to get together and bake. Today Mayra and Priscilla and I made the bread. Each person’s bread was as different as we are but all were perfect. First we changed the recipe to half whole wheat and half white flour. Then we decided to make rolls because they are easier to share and store. We stood at the table and made three batches of dough. To mine I added cheddar cheese and jalapeños. Mayra added parmesan and Priscilla went with nothing. We formed our rolls and loaded the trays. I sprinkled the tops with Trader Joe’s everything but the bagel spice. While the rolls rose we chatted, played with our phones, and sat quietly. The language barrier was a little high today. We could have used an angel card reading.

After the 20 minute rest we backed the rolls for twenty minutes. They came out overstounding. Really. This recipe is so simple and quick and you can do whatever you want. My jalapeño cheese bread was as close to the defunct Sweetgrass Bakery’s bread as anything I have ever tasted. Mayra’s was a lovely parmesan roll and Priscilla’s were perfectly dignified and ready for as much butter as you had on hand. Like a well developed person this dough can handle whatever you have in mind. It’s flexible but well formed. Uncomplicated but interesting. I wish life was this easy.

Here’s the recipe for plain rolls. Use your imagination to make it your own:

PREP: 0:20
• Cooking spray, for mini loaf pans
• 3 c. all-purpose flour, divided
• 1/4 c. sugar
• 1 .25-package active dry yeast
• 1 c. warm water
• 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 tsp. kosher salt
• Preheat oven to 375º and spray mini loaf pans with cooking spray. In a resealable plastic bag, place 1 cup flour, sugar, and yeast and add warm water.
• Seal bag and squish together with your hands to mix. Let rest 10 minutes at room temperature. (Yeast should activate.) Add 1 cup flour, oil, and salt to the bag, then seal and squish together.
• Add remaining cup of flour and mix until combined. Remove from bag and knead 5 minutes until smooth. Halve dough and place in two loaf pans. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise 30 minutes.
• Brush top of bread with olive oil or melted butter and bake until golden, about 30 minutes.
You can make one loaf instead of mini-loaves or you can hand form rolls. I omit the bag and use a bowl. I use half whole wheat and half white flour.

Rolls en el horno.
Our kids eating beans.
Our kids eating beans Burt cooked in our solar cooker.
Here's Ivonne digging out some ant salt for our enjoyment.
Here’s Ivonne digging out some ant salt for our enjoyment. The question was had we eaten insects? Ivonne had some on hand. Ant salt would be good on top of your rolls.

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.


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.

Oregon Work

Musicians day before eclipse
Musicians day before eclipse

So we are back at work. Burt’s building a wood shed and I’m managing Portal Irish Music Week. Money is in and staff flights are reserved. We’ll be in OR for a week or so working and then another weekish visiting friends as we travel south to our next job in California. This has been a wandering summer and it was not planned.

Last year we committed to do a large job in this area. Ultimately that large job fell through but by luck and a large internet presence and our glittering personalities and BIG ONE HERE ability to improvise we put together enough jobs to sustain us for another year. Our friend Bruce (a highly trained professional) mentioned the improv. He suggests Life Improvisation should be the subject of a Gypsy Carpenters’ book. I say it already is if you read the blog. But for all of you following along here is a summary of how it works. The first rule of improv is: Yes, and…. That means you always answer with a yes and room to move. We’re pretty positive people around here and we try to ignore fear or at least not let it make our decisions. I wish there was more positivity and less fear for everyone. Really, I do.

I’m comfortable that we have enough. Make the pie bigger as my friend Bruce (a different Bruce) used to say.

Ryan and our  decks in use.
Ryan and our decks in use.
Brice knows how to listen.
Brice knows how to listen.

Smoke smoke smoke that western US….

These pieces are collected, not painted, by the artist we worked with on the studio.
These pieces are collected, not painted, by the artist we worked with on the studio.

After a smoke filled drive across the Northern Cascades we have arrived in Helena. It’s a jam packed visit with music, doctors, bridge, and fishing. I find myself deeply saddened by the state of the world. The west burns down around us. Fish are in trouble. People can’t find common ground. We are actually thinking nukes. WTF. It is a very sad and difficult time. I’ve been asked by others how I deal and I always advise, do what you love and look for goodness and beauty. It’s hard to do some days especially when my back hurts. It’s a heavy lift.

Following my own advice here are some lovely photos despite the smoke. I caught and released some fishes yesterday on my favorite river. I played some tunes with friends. I really sucked at Bridge. Again.

If you’re in Helena and want to see us. Do not weep. Next summer we’ll be here working. We’ve got a big job lined up. Perhaps the last big one before retirement. We can play music, fish, and eat good food then.

On the medical side Burt passed his physical with an A plus. I do not have hemochromatosis, yet. I may never develop it. This is good news. I go in for an upper GI test with a barium milkshake tomorrow. It’s probably all just gastritis. Or freaking stress about the state of the world. I’ll let you know what we find out. Tomorrow we depart for Kila and the kids.

Here's Burt mopping the studio.
Here’s Burt mopping the studio.
Jolyn Wells-Moran paintings.
Jolyn Wells-Moran paintings.
Smoke so thick we could only appreciate the up close stuff.
Smoke so thick we could only appreciate the up close stuff.
The Northern Cascades.
The Northern Cascades.
This is an ancient breed of plant.
This is an ancient breed of plant.
I erased Burt's toe.
I erased Burt’s toe.
Claire and Burt
Claire and Burt
Box Elder Bugs. They are odoriferous.
Box Elder Bugs. They are odoriferous.

The hand of the Man


The man and his hand
The man and his hand

I’ll admit it I got a little tipsy last night. It wasn’t on purpose. We went out for a pizza and a movie and the margartita was enormous and strong. I don’t normally enjoy the sensation of intoxication but it felt right in the moment and I’m fine today. A little tired and still sad but okay. Mimi had a seizure this morning on top of it all. She started having seizures about three years ago. They were rare until this month. So rare that we only observed three in three years. But this month we’ve seen three in a bout 5 weeks. There’s no telling how many we are missing when we are away. After a few minutes of convulsions and drooling she regains her composure and appears normal. La-di-dah, I guess I’ll go eat, I feel fine now that’s over. At 18 years of age it’s hard to take these as a crisis. I presume one day she might give it up mid seizure. She’s had a long and pampered life. She has been a bonny road warrior. It would be a fine and dramatic end to the creature I’ve spent more years living with than any other in the world. But also an enormously sad end. Of course I was relieved she came out of it today. It’s not that I’m ready, it’s that she’s so old I’m trying to accept it as imminent.  Yesterday when I was messily bawling she rolled over and over and rubbed on me trying to cheer me up. The dogs ignored me. People that say cats aren’t connected are idiots.


Write About an Important Object

Mom's wedding ring
Mom’s wedding ring. Inscribed With Love AJZ to PER 8-22-64

I thought about a number of different objects for today’s writing. Mandolin, fiddle, iPhone? But this month I get more comfort spinning this ring on my right ring finer than playing music or surfing the internet. I pull it on and off. I fiddle with it a lot. As a child I always liked the magnitude of this wedding band. It’s grand and stylish. Purely of the age. My brother says there was a different one she wore before this. He’s probably correct. There was definitely one after this. The last one. A Dynasty-era engagement ring/wedding band amalgamation custom made to Mom’s specifications. Her large solitaire set in a sea of smaller stones. Flashy. Even heavier. She was always remodeling stones and pieces she found or inherited to suit her current tastes. Mom did this with houses, too. The ring I wear is the one I associate with her and it fits me style and size wise. She wore it through the seventies. I inherited it last month.

To me this ring symbolizes a long and dynamic relationship, a successful but not easy marriage. It represents the idea that things can change and not lose their relevance. It takes me to a master bedroom where we watched Star Trek and played with mom’s treasures. The room was small, the bed spongy. Mostly we lay on the floor. Mom kept the bed as her space. We all outgrew the gap between the foot of the bed and the dresser where the TV stood. Our feet climbing higher and higher up the drawers as our heads rested on the foot board. Mom had to walk over us to get to the bathroom. I felt safe in that space with the TV on.

The ring also represents the union that created me just 10 months after their marriage. The first accident. My brother Christian, the second accident, came thirteen months later. They thought she couldn’t get pregnant so easily. Both times. The last kid, Matthew, spaced 3 years after the second, was planned.

This ring pleases me.