Friday, February 22, 2019

Little Leo - It's A Boy!

Another grandchild has entered our lives. Its a boy! I'll repeat that. It's a boy. My daughter, Lana and her husband Rich, had a baby boy. He's a bright eyed little bundle with an eager smile, blue eyes, and features still defining themselves. He's now almost four months old and has the same right cheek dimple as his mother when he smiles. He's getting perfectly chubby.This guy is a cuddly, contented baby. We're so in love with him. 

From zero to three in two plus years. This one's personal. I now have as many grandchildren as I do children. It's not an error or a fluke. I'm now a grandmother. I realize this has been factually correct since Lila was born in July 2016, but somehow it didn't really sink in until recently. I didn't really feel like a grandmother until I could see how much I was adored by these new little people. As amazing as it is to fall in love with the tiny humans, it's even more incredible to feel how much they love me. 

Sally took a while to attach. She was so busy wailing in her first colicky five months that she really didn't have much space for extraneous emotional involvement. It made me a little sad that I was so close to Lila, an extrovert by nature, and Sally was a bit standoffish. I had so much more time with Lila, starting with the month she spent in the hospital after her premature birth. 

I knew it would happen eventually, and it did. Sally and I really sealed our bond when her "baby bruddah", Leo, was born. It was a rather traumatic day for both of us. Baby Boy Mason was due at the end of November 2018. He was supposed to be a Thanksgiving baby. Instead, he was just a tiny turkey. I saw Lana on Tuesday, October 23rd. She was almost eight months pregnant and feeling good. The idea that she would have a premature delivery was the furthest thing from my mind. Sally had been slightly overdue so I figured it would be similar with baby number two. I was wrong. 

Mama Lana four days before the surprise
I slept late on Wednesday, October 24th. I was tired and didn't have any early appointments, so I turned my phone on silent and didn't set the alarm. When I woke up at 7:45 am I looked at my iPhone. There were eight missed calls from Lana as well as many text messages. Something was obviously wrong. Fear coursed through me. I called her in a panic. 

Lana was in the hospital. Her water had broken at 4:30 in the morning. Rich had already left for work. He's a chef and was prepping for his busiest week ever. Lana took Sally (almost two) and drove  herself to Kaiser Hospital Oakland in the dark. She couldn't reach me or Rich for hours. The baby was five weeks early and breech. They were going to do a c-section, but meanwhile Sally was in the hospital bed with Mommy, while Lana tried to reach us. 

It was stressful like the day Lila was born all over again. I needed to get there, but had no idea how long I would stay. I needed to stay calm, to think, to gather a few essentials and get out the door. The traffic was the usual East Bay quagmire, plus an accident to top it off. I called Lucy and Allie from the car. I kept calling Lana to update her and get news. Finally, Rich had arrived. Now they just needed me to care for Sally so Rich could be with Lana during surgery. 

I made it to the hospital. I had to wind up through all eight floors of the parking garage to find a spot. I couldn't see the elevator so I ran down eight flights of stairs and across the courtyard to the hospital elevators. By the time I got through security and found Labor and Delivery Lana was headed off to surgery. I saw her with her cap on and her big belly, waddling down the hall to the operating room, with a nurse on either side. I gave her a quick hug, then found Rich and Sally. Rich went off to join Lana. 

Gigi & Sally waiting to meet baby
It makes me anxious to think about it, because I was so worried. Was the baby ok? Was Lana going to be alright? Why did her water break so early? Was there an underlying problem?  People romanticize baby births, but bad shit can happen. Fortunately for me, Allie was able to come straight to the hospital and work from there while we waited. She grabbed her computer and took BART and two Ubers. I was alone when Lila was born and I didn't want to be by myself again. 

Baby Boy Mason

Baby Boy Mason was born at 10:17 am. He weighed a respectable 5 pounds, 8 1/2 ounces and all seemed to be well. Until it wasn't. The docs didn't like the way he was working so hard to breathe. He had some fluid in his lungs and they advised he be admitted to Neonatal Intensive Care. We were really deflated, but what are you going to do? They put him in the NICU and started hooking him up to all the equipment we knew so much about because of Lila. It was depressing and I couldn't really fathom it. My mother had five kids and my siblings and I had eight. Not one of them was premature. Now two out my three grandchildren were premies. How could it be? 

Meeting Gigi
On the bright side, the hospital was fantastic, Lana recovered quickly and Sally was a champ. I thought it might be our moment to shine as a duo, and shine we did! She owned that hospital, charming her way up and down the halls. She loves to eat and I kept up a steady stream of food and snacks. She's seriously like a Labrador. She will play ball endlessly and has major food envy. Sally was sweet and affectionate and well-behaved, except for the time she hurled a container of milk at me in the hospital cafe. In her defense, she's got incredible aim.

We were all sad that Leo (who took a couple days to be named) couldn't leave the hospital when Lana went home. We adjusted. Rich started his paternity leave and his work just had to cope. I cancelled everything on my calendar and went to help with Sally and be with Leo every day. The one day I stayed home was really hard. It was much better to be there and see the progress in person. Unlike CPMC, the NICU rooms at Kaiser were private. The nurses and doctors were so nice. They really let us be involved in his care and soon we got to hold him and change the tiny diapers. 

Leo was a very alert newborn. He would lie there looking around. When I spoke to him he seemed to listen. Something about him reminded me of his aunt, Lucy, when she was born. When Rich would hold him on his chest he opened his eyes wide. After a week Leo had made tremendous progress. They began weaning him off the machines. We were able to feed him breast milk in a bottle and he started to nurse. I was so proud of Lana. She was really strong. 

Checking out Dad

Snuggling with Mom

Leo was in the hospital for Halloween and big sister Sally's 2nd birthday. Great Grandma Juju also had a birthday that week. She turned 89. Mom had been in the hospital several times during the fall and was finally sprung on October 4th, just a few weeks before Leo was born. I'd spent enough time in hospitals. When the baby was released after ten days in the NICU, we were thrilled. 

Right after the baby came home from the hospital the Camp Fire started and our air quality was terrible. Lana couldn't take the baby outside for even a minute. Not with those tiny lungs. He'd lost weight and was so little. It seemed to take him forever to grow.

Leo's 1st Thanksgiving

The day before Thanksgiving we finally had our first rain. Wet, glorious liquid pouring from the sky for the first time in 6 or 7 months. The fires went out and Leo was able to come over for his first Thanksgiving. There were just six of us which was a perfect amount for a premie and his shell-shocked sister and exhausted parents. I did a little too much baby snuggling and not enough keeping an eye on the cooking. It wasn't our finest meal, but it was wonderful to be together. We were all so thankful and very grateful for our many blessings, especially for little Leo.


Thursday, February 21, 2019

Mill Valley Realtor, A Life Well Lived

Article by Jim Welte

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Silly Sally - I Am Loved

Sally on her 1st Birthday
If you see a very chubby one year old, with huge blue eyes and the world's longest eyelashes, crawling toward you with an emphatic intensity, you may be seeing Sally. Our granddaughter, Sally Jo Mason, who was born November 2, 2016 to Mama Lana and Papa Rich. Sally is a fierce little spirit. Sally is a force.

Sally's arrival followed her cousin Lila's dramatic, premature entrance by three months. The babies were due five weeks apart, but Lila was a stinker and thwarted the plan by arriving nine weeks early. Unlike her mother, Lila is quite easygoing by nature. She's a good traveller and adapts well to new situations. Sally, unlike her mother, is so dramatic! Teething, schedule changes, her first cold - it's been very traumatic for all concerned. Lila is golden haired. Her mom is brunette. Lana was a towhead. Sally has much darker hair. Clearly these were cousins who were switched in utero!

It was stressful to have two simultaneously pregnant daughters. We were thrilled when Lucy shared her news with us. My first child was going to have a child! Lucy, Lana and I planned a trip to see my mother and stepfather. Lucy was going to tell them the happy news. When we picked up Lana I asked her if she'd like to drive. She said the strangest thing in response. Horrified, she blurted, "I can't drive. I'm pregnant! " And then there were two. I drove because Lucy was feeling tired and queasy.  I'll never forget how nervous I was out on the highway with two newly expecting daughters.

Happily, Lana recovered her ability to drive while pregnant and continued on to have the world's longest pregnancy. At least that's how it felt to me. Lana and Rich had been trying for a while so it probably just seemed that way. There was suspense and a little disappointment each month, usually on holidays. Lana found out that she WASN'T pregnant on Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Then Lucy got pregnant and Lana was sure she was also pregnant. I grabbed a gestation calendar and calculated that the babies were due five days apart! WHAT?! That meant they could easily be born on the same day! How could I be there for them? I'm a good mom, but even I'm not good enough to be in two places at once. It would be like having twins born in different locations. Cousins of sisters from different misters.

Lana's "pregnancy" was a false alarm. Praise the lord! I knew they were a little sad about it because they so much wanted to get the baby making machine fired up, but I was privately relieved. It was too much to process at once. However, the next month they did, indeed, get pregnant and we were off to the races. Sally was on her way.

Lana waiting for Sally

I got to go to one of the ultrasounds and I'll never forget the sight of her dancing and twisting inside her mom like a tiny John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. Amazing.  When it was discovered that she was a girl we were so happy. We do girls very well in our family. I'm one of three sisters and a stepsister. I have three daughters and a stepdaughter. I now have two granddaughters. It's how we roll. It's how Rich's family rolls, as well. Rich has a daughter, two sisters, one nephew, three nieces and another niece on the way.

No child has been more eagerly awaited than our Sally. I thought Lana would go out of her mind the last few weeks. She literally could not wait for her baby to be born. Rich took some time off work, which was great. Lana needed the moral support. We were all hoping the baby wouldn't be born on Halloween. The very next day Lana went into labor and Sally was born in the early hours of November 2nd.

In perfect health other than a little jaundice, Sally looked like her mother as a newborn. In a foreshadowing of things to come, Sally wasn't exactly a champ at breastfeeding. As in, she refused to drink at all from the breast. She drank breast milk from bottles until Lana got her straightened around. All was well until the screaming began. The poor baby! Poor mommy and daddy. I've never seen anything like it. Sally had colic and cried for a large part of five months.

Anything could set off the wailing, and once she started it seemed impossible to stop. It was hard to know how to help Lana and Rich. One weekend we convinced them to leave Sally with us while they went out for a beak. Everything went perfectly for about six minutes. I put Sally on our bed and she began to cry and would not stop. We tried everything. Eventually we put her in the stroller and Eric pushed while I ran alongside holding the pacifier in Sally's mouth.

Wearing her "I Am Loved" shirt
It's almost difficult to recollect now that it's over. After many months of being sprawled on Lana' s chest day and night, she's like a different baby. She's not sad Sally, anymore. She's silly Sally. When Lana was a baby the pediatrician, old Dr. Brown, took a look at her and declared, "This one's got a touch of the whimsy."  If Lana had a bit of whimsy, Sally has a lot. She's a goof.

Now Sally is seventeen months old and an excellent walker. She crawled for the longest time and one day just quit cold turkey. Crawling was for infants. Sally was clearly a toddler with her sure and steady footsteps. Sally and I recently had a date. I took her to feed the ducks in the creek just like her Mommy used to do. I handed her a piece of bread to toss in the water. She ate it. I handed her another. She ate that one, too. So much for feeding the ducks.
With "big" cousin Lila
Sally loves to dance and read books. She loves to throw balls. The kid has an arm! With her sturdy build and great throwing skills I'm thinking she could go gold in shot put at the twenty-something Olympics. Sadly, all the running around has made her a bit more svelte. She even has definition in her thighs instead of Michelin man rolls. No matter how much she stretches out she will always be the Chunky Monkey to me. Silly Sally, you are loved!

And she's off!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Name That Book!

Hello! Here is a fun game that everyone can play. Pearls and Lemons will be publishing a book in serial form, chapter by chapter. The book was written by Delaney Griswold aka Eric Crowe and Wendy Partridge Crowe.

Now that we have piqued your interest, we need reader help in several ways.

1) Name the book! We've had two names thus far and both have been busts. The first was "A Game Of Inches". We didn't bother to check whether the name was already taken. It was. That's a rookie mistake. The second name was "Mason Jarred" which is close, but no cigar. Please send your offerings to

2) Find the flaw! The book has made the rounds amongst some pretty intrepid readers. We know a lot of you! While people seemed to enjoy beginning the book, enthusiasm inevitably trailed off and we're not sure why. This is where readers can help. Everyone has an opinion. This is where you get to voice yours. Tell us where and why the book falls apart for you. Don't hold back. We can take it.  We're first time novelists, after all. We're not at all sensitive.

3) Share, share, share! You may feel right about now that the world is going to hell in a hand basket and you just want to escape. Well, you're not alone. Help others escape to the island of the newest, unnamed Delaney Griswold novel. The more people who read it the faster we will be able to fix what's broken, so please pass along to your friends. This is going to be fun. I think.

Synopsis: Book With No Name

The life Marilee Mapplethorpe chose as an epidemiologist working with  Doctors Without Borders had given her a great deal of satisfaction.  It fulfilled her desire to experience excitement, danger and make a positive  contribution in a part of the world far divorced from her privileged, first world upbringing. Despite its satisfactions, that life had eventually worn her down to a nub and left her so drained she had to admit defeat.

She retreated to her charming home in well to do Masonville, CA. There, the predictability and security of life in its hip, small-town setting was just what the doctor ordered.  It made it easy to recuperate, but that lifestyle had begun to pall. Marilee felt a need to shake things up a little. 

As Marilee soon found out, you’d better be careful what you wish for. A wild, dangerous, utterly unexpected series of events descended upon her quiet life and changed everything. First, an ex-lover’s Somali child showed up on her doorstep. Then an unlikely conglomeration of jihadists, white supremacists and an entire alphabet-soup of government agencies were hot on her heels.  For Marilee, whose idea of shaking things up was more like learning another language or maybe taking up a new activity, it was earthshaking.  She was thrust into a scary new reality that she barely understood and the threat was real. It was time for Marilee and an unlikely cadre of allies to start thinking outside the box, or they might end up in one.

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Big Six Oh

My birthdays have come and gone for decades. Precisely six, to be exact. They have been mostly pleasant, worry-free occasions. Different ages brought different traditions. In New York State, March 11th fell smack in the middle of mud season, so sometimes my mother and I would take a bus into New York City to the Flower Show. I went through a stage where I loved eating spareribs, and my neighbor, Elizabeth, and I would have sparerib eating contests, piling up the bones on our plates. One year in Middle School my friends gave me a surprise party. I was so surprised! I still remember the dress I was wearing.

My card from Trish

When the kids were little they would get very excited about birthdays, and mine was no exception. The drawings, cards and gifts from them were so precious. They still are. I was always sanguine about my advancing age, no matter what decade. There was a benefit to the aging; I had learned something, I was stronger. Life seemed to be as it was meant to be. I didn't really question it too much.

I must admit I have struggled with the prelude to turning 60. I've always believed, and often stated, that life is one long series of identity crises. Cognitive dissonance is the feeling of discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs. I think I have age dissonance. My literal age is at odds with my interior life and my vision of myself.

I am very grateful for my good health. The adage that every day above ground is a good day makes sense to me, although I'm never going to go under the ground. I plan to be cremated and have my ashes scattered. You heard it here, folks. I have learned the hard way that afterlife choices must be written down. Don't leave it to your survivors to make choices for you.

I have a lot of associations with sixty-somethings. White hair, retirement, social security, Medicare, senior discounts, forgetfulness, going to bed early. Oops. I've just described my husband! He's seven years older. Nothing personal, but I look at him and think there's no way I'm going to be like that in seven years! All this talk of "sixty is the new forty" is the baby boomer way of trying to remain pioneers. Who are we kidding? We're not invincible. Two of my former flames have already died.

It's not the number sixty that bothers me, per se. It's more that you add fifteen years and all of a sudden you're seventy-five years old. Boom. I play tennis with quite a few lovely women that age and they are an inspiration. They're in great shape, and because they're retired they have time to work hard on their fitness. No offense, ladies, but I'd still rather go back fifteen years to forty-five. I don't think I appreciated it enough at the time, but now it seems so cute and young! I'm sure when I'm looking back at sixty I'll feel the same way.

Now that the birthday has come and gone I've gotten my mind right on the subject. I was dragged into this decade with lots of love and care. Friends and family from near and far sent me good wishes. I had a very special spa day with my three girls. Eric made a paella dinner for all of us. 

Love this card made by Pam J. Especially my new photoshopped body!

At the end of the evening my daughter, Lana, said something that really gave me perspective. She pointed to my granddaughters who are 16 and 19 months. She said, "Mom, in fifteen years Lila and Sally will be sixteen years old." I thought about that for a moment. They will be in high school, going to prom, driving or whatever 16 year olds will be doing then. I thought about all the changes they will go through and the life they will live between now and then. It really does seem like a long time.

My mom and aunt are 84 and 88 years old. I come from hearty stock. If it weren't for the damn cigarettes I'm sure my father would still be alive. It's going to be all right. Like we used to say to the kindergarteners: "You get what you get and you don't get upset." These are the good, old days.