Tuesday, January 11, 2011


To my dearest, darlingest daughters (who gave me permission to post this),

I thought of you all today when I was peeling stars off the ceiling. Glow-in-the-dark stars and planets from your old bedroom. The ceiling crack had gotten more noticeable recently. It was time to spackle and paint. In order to paint the ceiling, Mars and Jupiter had to go. If any of you wants them, they’re stuck to the top of the wooden ladder. Being in your old room - the "nursery" brought back so many memories. It’s where you lived together in various configurations. It’s where Lucy became a big sister and Lana was in her body cast and Lana and Allie made their god-awful Barbie messes. It was one yellow and then another yellow. It was lavender with bunny borders. The room still echoes with bedtime stories and plaintive requests for yet another drink of water.

Painting your old room made me happy until it made me so sad. Part of the time I couldn’t tell the difference. I’ve been going through some things in every room - organizing and purging. I feel like I’m saying goodbye to the house, although we have no plans to leave. Then I realized I’m not saying goodbye to the house. I’m saying goodbye to a time. Our time. All those years of you being little and sweet and young. And ornery and whiny and demanding. The relentless daily routines year after year seem such a blur now. In those years it seemed time passed quickly and slowly, simultaneously. How is that possible? Could it really be Halloween again? It seemed like we’d just done Halloween or one of the forty-eight birthday celebrations we had. Three kids times sixteen birthdays is forty-eight, but, really, it seemed like a lot more.

All this maudlin- mother- time can only lead one place. Worry. It’s me, after all. Did I do enough? Do you know what you need to know? I know your lives were good. Lana’s comment that she feels she had a perfect childhood was music to my ears, of course. I really do believe you have what you need to go wherever you may go. It’s all inside. You knew right from wrong, with few exceptions, by four years old. I trust in your abilities, your values and the love in your hearts. You’ll be fine, no matter what. It’s just that the painting project made me think of a couple things I want to say...

Painting is messy and hard, but you get a lot of bang for your buck. Painting a ceiling is even more difficult than painting walls. It has to be done all at once. You can’t just do one wall at a time. Cover up anything you care about, and not just when you’re painting. It’s not easy to climb up and down ladders with rollers and brushes. You’re going to have little drips. Just don’t turn them into big blobs - especially big blobs that you step in and get all over the place. Clean up the little drips right away, so they don’t harden. You know this isn’t just about painting.

Don’t be afraid to break your own rules - even rules you previously believed in whole-heartedly. It’s all about adjusting to the present time and present circumstance. I’ve never painted the ceiling the same color as the walls. I did this time. It looks really pretty to have the cream color on the ceiling. Don’t get too attached to a formula. They’re always being discontinued or reformulated - like the cream colored paint. Wear a hat or you’ll have paint in your hair.
If there are cracks in one place, they’re probably in another location, as well. You can spackle. You can paint, but you can’t really cover cracks. You have to accept the cracks, even love them. Remember, covering cracks as you go along is maintenance. Covering them before you sell is fraud. Painting can be contemplative, even therapeutic. It requires almost more patience than I possess, but it’s tremendously satisfying to feel you’ve done a fine job. Like the way I feel about being your mother.

All my love,

Monday, January 10, 2011

Austin de Lone to play at Party for Boyle

Very special musical guests: Austin de Lone (of Commander Cody, Eggs Over Easy, Nick Lowe, Christmas Jug Band and many more) beloved and renowned will be performing with his daughter, Caroline. Don’t miss it. January 23rd. Mill Valley Golf Clubhouse.
See boyleparkrenovation.com/ for details.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Shelter in Place

It poured on Christmas Day. The first rainy Christmas I can remember. Usually, when I take my traditional Christmas Day Vitabath, the sun is shining on me through the window. There’s the feeling that one should be outside enjoying the weather when one just feels like turning inside themselves. This year, we had no such conflict and fortunately, no social commitments. The weather outside was frightful. Naps were had by noon. We all rallied to go downtown and see "The King’s Speech" which was wonderful. When we left the theater in search of hot chocolate, there were rivers of water running down the sidewalks. It was so pleasant to be home by the fire, with the new books and toys for grownups. I got to play with my new iPad for hours - after I wrenched it away from each of the children.

Now we have saturation issues. Too much rain in too short a period of time. It’s a worry. All the homes I sold in 20l0 were in flood zones. That's another worry.Think sump pumps and sand bags. Think flash floods and creeks jumping their banks. Think mud. We flooded on New Year’s Eve five years ago. I really don’t care for it. Fortunately, unlike others on our street, our house was safe from water intrusion. The attached garage had two feet of water, which resulted in smelly mud when the water receded. The garage is the California basement and attic combined. It's also our laundry room. The dryer did not like being flooded. Everything had to be tossed out which was a bit liberating. Out with the old on the first day of the new year. We could even park a car in there a few times.

We were all so unprepared for the Flood of 2005. Dozens of cars on our street were damaged beyond repair. For days they were being flat-towed away. Almost everyone got new cars but us. Eric saved my car by having me move it up the driveway closer to the house. Later, when the Audi came down with multiple mechanical issues, I kind of regretted that it was saved. Lana's car was the only flooded car in the neighborhood to survive. An old Dodge Dynasty, it was so low tech she was able to suck the water out with a shop vac, dry off the mud and start that baby up again. The Dynasty, AKA the "tank" and "Big Blue", was from Ohio and it knew weather. 

There is an effort by the town to make sure this type of flooding won't happen here again, presumably to avoid legal problems. It's not like we don't know we live in a flood zone. It's Mill Valley. There are very few homes here that aren't at risk for flooding, wildfires or slope stability issues. I'll take my chances with flooding. The Storm of the Century needed a perfect confluence of events. Unremitting rain for days. High tides. High winds. In retrospective analysis, it seems that there was maintenance that should have been done on the creek that runs through the neighborhood. All of the water runs off the mountain and down through the creeks out to the Bay. It has to go somewhere. When the tide is extremely high, it literally backs up out of the storm drains.

Now we get phone calls. Lots of phone calls at home and work warning us of possible impending flooding. It's a weather report combined with dire predictions. It's an admonition. Do you have food, water, batteries, flashlights to last for seventy-two hours? Not seventy-one or seventy-three. Always seventy-two. We even had City employees going door to door a few Saturdays back. In orange vests, presumably on overtime, they were checking on citizen preparedness. We thought they were selling more Bibles or wrapping paper and hid until they were gone. Ironically, that day was almost sunny and the storm fizzled. 

All of this pressure to perform made me a bit resistant, so I kept joking about how we didn't have emergency supplies BUT, we had plenty of wine and firewood so we'd be fine. Yet another storm rolled in between Christmas and New Years and this one packed a wallop. It was well upon us, with howling gusts and rain blowing sideways in sheets. I finally got sensible and did flashlight inventory. Acch. One semi-workable flashlight and NO spare batteries. I immediately set off in the storm for the closest grocery store. All sold out of flashlights. Off to the drugstore where I bought the last of their supply. Ironically, there were two men in the store buying ice cream cones for five, small children like they weren't in the middle of the seventh Storm of the Century. I was afraid of flash floods on my way home and they were blithely eating ice cream. 

There's a lot to be said for sheltering in place. This year we were most appreciative that we didn't spend several days in a blizzard at an airport. I can read or nap while Eric watches nine hours of college football. The  background noise is a soothing sound from my childhood. My father, grandfather and brother would all watch the games. I only actually "watched" part of one game - the UConn bowl game because it's Allie's school. 

When I wasn't firmly adhered to the couch, life was a bit dangerous for me. In one week I managed to sustain three burns (one from the oven, one from the fireplace and one from steaming milk) and a cut on my finger that probably should have been stitched. I just couldn't face sitting in the emergency room for hours when I was preparing a dinner party for fourteen people. Lana and Allie pitched in while I supervised with my finger in the air. Not that one. We also had the thermostat wars. Lucy, who has NO body fat, is always freezing. Allie and I have dry skin issues. Blasting the heater all day long makes it so much worse. It was so cold and the house is so poorly insulated, that we had to use the furnace a LOT and bundle up. Nothing a little trip to Hawaii couldn't improve upon.     
Although we are extremely tired of the rain, there have been a few fortuitous breaks in the action. Christmas Eve was clear and we got to play some tennis. I was walking home from the courts when I encountered a confused delivery man with a van full of packages. He asked me about a particular address. I suggested he give me the last name. Maybe I'd know them. I did. I gave directions to their house. If you pass the Palm tree you've gone too far.  I called the recipients and told them to expect a package in a few minutes. It was their Stone Crab from Joe's in Florida. Christmas Eve dinner.

Now that the holidays are over, it's time for the rain to stop. We're bored and tired of entertaining ourselves indoors. Eric is as restless as a hungry bear coming out of hibernation. The "well, it could be worse" game is no longer working. We've played gin rummy and watched movies. We made soup and organized the spices. We've done numerous crossword puzzles. Yet, it still rains. I've spent hundreds of hours looking at photos on Houzz when I should have been finishing my Christmas cards. I've discovered it's really in to have black bannisters and stair treads. Maybe it's time to get out the paint...