Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The latest

So the rag rug is still coming along but I have been so busy that I have had hardly a moment to work on it.  We just our Christmas tree and took it home on the roof of our little car and it now sits beautifully in our livingroom. Every day Jude is getting bigger and bigger and more of his personality is coming out.  He loves to laugh for no reason that we can tell and his favorite thing to do is to go on walks.

Friday, November 27, 2009

My Trip to Ant Hill for Sharks Teeth

I just came back from a solo trip to Ant Hill in Bakersfield in pursuit of prehistoric petrified shark's teeth and sea mammal bones.  It was a good 4 1/2 hour drive from Oakland along an endless stretch of flatlands and farmland to a very commercial town of Bakersfield which is heavily marked with hotels and motels and eateries for wayward travellers on their way to someplace else.  Just beyond the hub of town, just 14 minutes or so away lies a quiet stretch of giant hills that appear to lead one out to nowhere.  One misconception that I arrived with was that looking for shark's teeth would be easy but I discovered that with a lot of time and patience one can find enough to satisfy themselves.  One difficulty is just knowing which place to start as the digging site winds itself around the upper half of the hills and goes on for several miles possibly, which one can easily notice by the scarred line of exposed gray sediment that is exposed years of digging.  It is necessary to bring a shovel to get passed the eroded places where rains have caused the soil to collapse over the productive area where shark teeth can be found.  I have also noticed that greedy minded people have made sure to cover up an area that they have worked on with a piles of dirt and in one case I found a pseudo dirt mound covering a worked area that was constructed of 2, 5 gallon containers covered with a comforter blanket and a couple of inches of soil to keep out anyone from digging where they left off.  As a fellow rockhound I believed this to be very ill spirited and not very community minded.  A day before my trip I constructed my own fossil hunting sifter using an old drawer from a piece of furniture on our patio along with 1/4" galvanized mesh that one can find in the fencing department in any hardware store and heavy duty staples (T-50's) and stapler and wire cutters.    

I wouldn't have found much without the sifter which was an essential tool in finding the teeth.  I worked feverishly for 10 straight hours for two consecutive days hammering out chunks of semi soft sediment and breaking them down in order to sift through the remains for any teeth.  The best teeth popped out of the material easily undiscovered until I picked through the broken sediment and found them with a semi polished luster to them, many of which had a neutral tone leaning towards orange, some bluish white and others black.  In the main dig area there exists a once fairly new Chevy truck that someone tried to drive into the hills with and ended up getting stuck and leaving it there for spare parts.  I was fascinated to find that around the tops and sides of these hills I could find petrified bone fragments sticking plainly out of the ground with various subtle hues of blue, white and cream to them and some really nice pieces where the cells structure of the bone was very marked and pronounced.  In one soft bed of dirt just above a line of bone fragments marked by a orange tinge in the gray sediment, I found areas of green that would often contain some piece of bone or another and stumbled onto a complete limb bone possibly from an ancient seal though I am only guessing.  I also found near this one, a piece of vertebrae which had a small fragment missing but still pretty well defined.  Most of the bone had a rotten look to them being that they had spent some time being worn away by ocean water at the sea bottom before being covered by sediment for preservation.   One has to be extremely careful when digging into the hillside that the dry soil above is very unstable and one can get buried alive easily.  It is best not to dig alone just in case.  The newest area to dig which people say has been productive lies further away from the CALM zoo, across from the near end of the soccer fields where one can pull off the road easily on the left where the dig site is.  Here you can walk in an opening in the fence and can see the dig areas up along the top of the hills to the right.  My favorite spot was to the immediate left when you walk in was on a little hill to the left (you can see the dug out part from the road).  No one goes to this spot but the sediment here is much more soft and easier to work through to find fossils and sharks teeth.  You will find very little without sifting believe me so bring a good one.

I have read that the Ant Hill site may contain bones and teeth that range between 12-14 million year old.  The teeth there ranged all different shapes and sizes from wide to very long, and some so tiny that they could easily pass through the screen of my sifter had they not been attached to the rock matrix that I found them in.  Fortunately most teeth had the root still attached though few were rotten at the ends.  In all I found the exact number of 60 teeth in all, 10 of which unphotographed I gave to Isabella.  The rest you can see below, the biggest of which was given to me as a gift by a friendly guy who gave me some helpful tips in hunting others like it. 
below and to the right in gray are pieces of petrified whale bone that I collected at a beach site close to the Bay Area.  The slightly more colorful fragments to the left are petrified bone pieces collected at the Ant Hill site. 

By the end of two and 1/2 days of rockhounding the area I decided to stop digging and do some hiking to look over the surface of things.  I was surprised to find in one area bits of evaporate material resembling something close to ulexite or colemanite which is almost transparent and clear and will dissolve overtime with exposure to water.  Oh, and as for the animals, I was previlaged enough to spot an owl at dusk, a inch long and clear looking scorpion crossed before me in as I was crouched down in a hole I was digging into, and later that same day I happened upon the largest spider I have ever seen outside a zoo which had all the characteristics of a tarantula with a spiky black furry body about the size of Isabella's 9 year old hand and I watched it move ever so slowly away.  I did see ants about but nothing that would worry anyone and I didn't catch sight of any rattlesnakes.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

High Chair

This is a high chair that I embellished by decorating the tray with vintage childrens book illustrations and then covering it in a epoxy resin material called Envirotech which is perfectly safe when hardened.  Jude is yet too small to be eating let alone sitting in a high chair but it is fun to find reasons to make and improve upon things in your home with a bit of creativity.  I am still working tediously on the rag rug which is more than I ever bargained for but it is coming out beautiful and is now the size of our coffee table.  Poor Sam has tendonitis in both wrists and so she is unable to help but I have learned to lace quite efficiently with all the practice I have been getting.  Yesterday, Sam, Isabella, Jude and I ventured off to route 1 along the coast and down to Santa Cruz to visit one of my favorite beaches.  Isabella and I did most of the exploring seeking out places to climb and overlook the ocean and scour along the ground for pieces of polished abalone shell.  We found one of the biggest tide pools that I have yet seen and it was filled with all sorts of sea plants, starfish, crab, anemones, and purple spikey sea urchin stretching the span of 6 feet and 3 feet deep.  There was very little wind but a high berm from the tide that swept in pulling everything out to sea. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Over the Hill for Halloween

Halloween night we went out at about 7 with all of us in painted face except for Jude. I spent a good while trying to make Sam look like a Day of the Dead skeleton but had to keep altering her face painting to look less scary but all in all I believe I heard several small children gasp and cry out when they saw her. Halloween was very different than last year even though we went to the same neighborhood. Sam and I felt that people were a bit put off by our dressing up and collecting candy which we are way over the hill for but I guess we wanted to partake in the fun alongside Isabella. I suppose there is a sadness in knowing that harmless fun that breaks away from social norms and mainstream thinking is often going to be uncomfortable for most people. There were several people that loved that we were all dressed up and congratulated our youthful spirit. To some my ponderings my seem childish but despite all the myriad responsibilities that I have as an adult there still is a childlike part of myself that doesn't want to grow old too soon. Currently I am lacing the rag rug together and seeing it develop little by little, first the size of a potholder, then a table mat, now a small floor mat. I will take pictures of it when I can but it will probably take a few weeks to get to the end of the braided cord.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Cat Spy

We have all been sick on and off this week. I barely made it through my teaching day yesterday though the lessons went very well as we were drawing autumn trees and making Jack-o-lantern collages. I was really reluctant to call off of work for the next day so I went home and slept till 7 pm but I felt hardly better so I called out sick. So on this day, Friday, I sat up on the couch and began lacing the braided of our rug together with lacing cord which takes a long time but it is relaxing and rewarding, watching it get bigger as we go. However, Sam and I discovered that if the rug is not layed flat and there are any raised areas than it can cause the rug to not sit flat and it gets worse as you go and so I had to undo an hour or so of work to start over again. Having spent so many hours working on this thing, it is really important that it comes out right. Feeling slightly better I drove Sam and I to Isabella's school for her Halloween parade. Isabella's favorite pasttime is spying on people in the building which she has done on quiet days when we stay in on the weekend. Isabella combined her love of spying with cats and so she is a 'cat spy' for Halloween with the tail and ear accessories. We went into her classroom where her class was having a pot luck lunch and after which we painted Isabella's face. Sam and I did this together, taking turns whenever the other got stuck. We stood out in the yard watching each grade level make their turn around a giant circle to show off their costumes and all to the sound of Halloween related classic tunes like "Werewolf in London, Thriller and Monster Mash." I have been napping since we have gotten home and feel a bit better but still on the mend. Hopefully tomorrow I will be well for Halloween festivities of pumpkin carving, and trick or treating.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Art Teacher

I have been teaching art for the past few days at two different schools and all this came about because I elected to be one of the teachers consolidated at my site. This has turned out to be a blessing or gift of sorts and I am happy not to have the responsibility of a regular classroom teacher. On Monday I was thrown into a new schedule consisting of 6 classes in a day with only paper and crayons to start and with only about 10 minutes of preparation time. However I have stored numerous art lessons in my head from teaching art in New York long ago and as a classroom teacher so I was able to throw something together that was appropriate. Both schools are super lacking in art materials so I hope to nudge the principles into ordering some immediately. The first school that I went to didn't even have drawing paper. This will be a grassroots program that I will be running here. The two schools are quite opposite to one another; one school in the urban valley of dangerous Oakland the other high up in the hills almost completely surround by nature, one school is primarily latino with smaller than average class sizes and the other primarily African American with few classes but larger than average class sizes, one school has me go to each teacher's classroom for art while the other school has given me my own art room. Today I taught only 2 classes but spent the rest of the work day setting up the art room which has a great shortage of materialss. All in all I am thrilled to have a new opportunity and hope to make a positive impression in both schools. Sam and I are still braiding the rag rug but we are getting closer and closer to the finish. Both of us have been without much sleep for the past two nights but we try to catch up with naps here and there when we can.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Life presents sudden changes

So today I made a crazy bold leap to leave my position at my school. It was reported to us that due to the under-enrollment of students we would have to consolidate as a school, meaning 3 of our new teachers would have to be given other assignments elsewhere in the district. I wouldn't have been affected by this but I opted for the chance to leave and do something different though I do not know where that will land me, only that I will remained paid my current salary. Our family has been waiting on word to move to Canada to be reunited with Sam's family and so I knew that I would be leaving sometime within the school year so life provided a clear way for me to leave my school in a positive way. The crazy part is that we were given the news during breakfast at an inservice work day and were told that those opting for reassignment would have to make up their mind by lunch. I called Sam and we both decided that it would be a good thing all around and that leaving my students now would be better than later and it would save one new teacher from having to be relocated. So who knows what this will bring but I am positive at least that I made a good choice. I have one more week with my students and will not be able to tell them until the district has made its plans official. We went out to dinner at Los Cantaros to celebrate the changes that lie ahead and now Sam is tucking Isabella into bed while Jude is at his 2nd attempt at going to bed.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

No time like the present

Slowly reaching our artistic goals but life sure does make things challenging. School has been keeping me busy and home life with baby Jude keeps us all very busy but Sam and I set a bit of time every other night to work on the rag rug. I have a hankering to do some paintings from the canvases that I built out of an old crate that we have had sitting out on the patio for quite some time. I used the ends that were already in a squarish shape and cut to size masonite boards to fit over the frame which was nailed down with nice old flat head nails. A very rustic frame but what to paint on it? I am eager to paint portraits but do not have a model to work from yet. I have had the thought to photograph some of my students but I see them so much I would rather approach a subject without any excess feeling about them that will get in the way. I prefer having strange new faces to work with that I can interpret in my own way. I am also working towards finishing two new sketch book journals to add to my shop. I have bought a nice sturdy watercolor paper that I think will work very well. Doing a little bit of what makes you happy even for 15 minutes a day does make a difference no matter how hectic ones schedule can be.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Napa Day

Today we ventured out early beginning with a run to Whole Foods to get some pastries before heading up to Napa for some wine tasting. We drove up to a favorite vineyard of ours called Christopher Creek which has been established well over 30 years and offers free wine tasting. We wanted to catch a view of the grapes before they are all harvested and we got to taste a few off the vines that make their delicious Syrah's. After this we drove towards the coast which turned out turned out to be a lengthy detour that sent us for hours on windy roads through the hills and valleys of wine country and beyond. Sam got a bit car sick so we pulled over and I went exploring down a steep steep hillside which led to a creek at the bottom. I was disappointed to find little of interest in the creek but found some interesting things in the upturned soil near a wash. I picked up a piece of chert that looked chipped away around the edges and then found a small fragment of obsidian which looks a bit out of place. On my way back up the hill I tried to cross over the narrow wash by some giant roots that made a nice bridge over it and suddenly the roots which had appeared sturdy broke from under me and I fell 5 feet on the rocks below. For a split moment I was sure I really hurt myself, even broken or fractured my left leg, ankle and knee which turned awkwardly when I landed. However, by some miracle I got away with pulled muscles and a few tender spots and was able to climb my way back up the hill to the car. We drove a few hours down the coast of route 1 soaking in the scenery painted in pink and warm hues by the setting sun. The baby cried several times as it got later and later and each time we pulled off to feed him and calm him down before continuing. By the time we got home it was nearing 9 o'clock and since we hadn't eaten we ordered a pizza with pineapple on one side for Isabella. At about 10 Isabella finally went off to bed and at 10:26 we have just gotten Jude to bed and Sam and I will watch an eposode of the Office on the computer before we too turn in.

Monday, September 21, 2009

New Computer

It has been a long time since I have written a new post. At the end of the summer I was in a mad rush to do as much as possible artwise before getting back to school. Then Sam, accidentally spilled water on my computer and killed it. I admit I was pretty heartbroken over it but we ended up getting new computers for both of us anyhow. The ragrug project is going ever so slowly in its development due to the lack of time when both Sam and I can sit down at the same time to do it. However, little by little we are getting closer to end of our endless roll of fabric for braiding and then we will beginning lacing the braided cords together. I have gotten excited over my own project of making sketchbook journals which has been a costly undertaking but the finished product is one of quality that I can be proud of. I have been doing a lot of looking for just the perfect paper that won't be too costly but is ideal for drawing, inking or writing on. Everything in the sketchbook is measured and cut to fit together, including the pages which are bound together with linen thread. I have posted two already on my etsy shop and hope to finish more soon.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rag rug continued

So now Sam and I are on the next phase of making the braided rag rug and I must admit this by far has been the most tedious step. One obsticle is to braid the fabric together without ending up in a big tangled mess. The trick is to unbraid behind Sam while she is braiding which means shadowing her movements by moving the giant spools of fabric to coincide with the braiding. So braiding actually takes two people and it is a monotonous task to say the least. Sam has cramped her hand out to the point of it hurting and so we are going to take a break for a couple of days and proceed our way forward. We did a sample of what the rug may look like by coiling the braid we have on the floor and it looks tremendous. We still have no idea how big or small our rug will turn out to be but we are still excited to be taking on such an endeavor. In the meantime we have been doing art here and there and I have been jogging every other day around the lake to get myself trim and in shape. But tonight we are going to enjoy a movie with some cookies and ice cream and I will guiltily jog it off tomorrow morning.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

continued progress of the rag rug

So this is the completion of stage three in the process of making a rag rug for our little home. The fabric has a nice sharp look to it without all the fray. I did so much ironing that I developed naturally quicker and more efficient ways of folding the fabric in 1/4 from the edges of the fabric with one hand while ironing with the other simultaneously. I actually felt ironing was a very peaceful and cathartic activity and spent hours doing this, but did suffer stiff neck like you wouldn't believe. Now we only need to begin braiding and sew the rug together which I imagine will take a day or so.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Making a rag rug

Sam and I have begun a huge project to make ourselves a rug to replace the dirty and beat up one that sits on the floor now. We are endeavoring to make ourselves an old fashioned braided rag rug using old garments, sheets and anything else we could find as long as they all had a similiar weight or thickness to them. We made a few runs to some thrift stores to buy up whatever might add some color to our finished product. I sat down off and on for a few days cutting strips of fabric which we later sewed together and rolled up on cardboard toilet paper dispensers. The pictures above show three spools of cloth on an ironing board. The next step is to iron the edges of the fabric in so that the fabric will have a neat look in the end. The ironing is tedious and takes hours to finish just one roll but with each step we get closer to actually assembling the rug. On the side we have stayed in doing art at our dining table, eating banana nut bread with strawberries in it and listening to classical music. I feel as though I am in a rush to get creative things done before I have to go back to work to teach. I feel really great that Sam and I are putting our efforts together to make something creative and useful in our little home.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

There's poo in pooL

I haven't written much in a while because there has been little time with all the things we have been up to. It has been extremely creative here at home. Currently Sam and I are setting out to make a giant braided rag rug which is a huge undertaking. I have been cutting 2 inch wide fabric stripes for hours and hours on end. Ever since Sam introduced me to the project I have been driven to get it done as quickly as possible before school begins again for me. I have also added about 8 new works to my shop and have gotten to try out different approaches to making portraits. Isabella and I have done a bit of swimming and she is getting better all the time, but the last time we went to the pool it was evacuated during our public swim time because poo was discovered in the water near the shallower end (Sam says ewwww!) I made sure to bleach myself off when I got home. I posted above some adorable pictures of Jude who is a pleasant and happy soul who loves the company of us to hold him till he falls asleep. He is now 7 weeks old already.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ode to Opa and Oma

Two new works that I have just added to my shop of a once married Dutch set of grandparents from long ago. They are actually Sam's grandparents and both were very much at odds with one another. I am happy about how they came together as seperate drawings but disappointed that they cannot be accurately depicted in digital form. I used photoshop to get them to the closest likeness possible but art can be so difficult to reproduce. Sam and I have been hard at work doing art and staying in. No longer do we suffer from the pangs of cabin fever. I have found that doing a really detailed pencil drawing is extremely peaceful and I can spend hours without notice.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Sam and I have discussed our worries over losing our creativity and our pursuits for our work. It has been difficult to have much time to do much but that doesn't mean I can't work on little projects here and there. Lately I have been working on a new watercolor of Isabella which I will have done in another session but I found it very hard to get back into drawing and painting. I try not to worry so much about what the work will look like but that the work is part of a process of growing as an artist. Today I spent some time constructing new visuals for Jude's mobile that hangs above his pack and play. I have used old leftover cardboard toilet paper dispensers to cut out odd bug shapes, with wings or strange bodies. I painted them white on one side and black on the other and folded them inward so that they have a 3 dimensional look. I am actually quite happy with them. I will try to brainstorm some other little projects for tomorrow so that I am ready for something.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Change is happening

This is my own baby picture taken after several months of newborn life. I was born prematurely by 2 months and had to be kept at the hospital for some time before I was able to go home. I was born too early for my lungs to work properly on their own. I often think about what Jude might experience now in these very first weeks that will be carried on with him throughout his life. Maybe just an emotion that tells him whether or not the world is comforting and safe depending on how much love he feels from us now in his newborn state. He is already smiling when he is greeted by us with smiles and he can easily lift his head up and look around him. Fatherhood is just as hard as everyone says it is but it is all worth it, every bit. The sitting up in at 3 in the morning sometimes for a hour or so because he is not sleeping, or the throwing up of all his food on his clothes and on the floor, or the crying which at moments feels unconsolable are all trials of the new parent. I am amazed also that so much alteration and change and endless work is caused by one so small. It is a time to recognize that not much else can be done in the way of personal goals and pursuits and to struggle with this idea only creates confusion. One thing I love doing is taking baths with Jude who floats so buoyantly in the water and looks so peacefully up at me in his natural element. Just yesterday I made the mistake of wiping his hairline which had a creamy build up on it from the bath water and his hair rubbed away leaving a crop of missing hair on one side. I have heard about baby's hair doing this but I was still surprised that I caused it. Jude each day grows a bit more readable and needs more and more stimulating to catch up with his developing interests,, being the sucking on his pacifier, or a bumpy knee, or a change of scenary. Our poor house pets have been either uncomfortable with the presence of the baby or show symptoms of being jealous, doing odd things to grab our attention. Isabella had some trouble adjusting as well for all the attention given to Jude to meet his needs but she has been growing more self assured and loving towards her new brother. I had to contend with 4 other siblings but I can't imagine being the only child for 8 years and then having a baby brother move on in. Sam and I have worked further in our communication with all these things that we are going through and on our outlook for the future.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

2 1/2 weeks

Jude looks subtlely different each day as he grows bit by bit, cheeks beginning slightly to expand, skin clearing up to a healthy unblemished hue, and features showing themselves to be a bit more distinct. I cannot imagine not having this time to stay home with Jude and our sleep happens over small shifts which can make time feel like one very long day. Jude is 2 and a half weeks old already and his head is 14 and 1/2 inches and his has grown a 1/4 inch in length from 23 inches. Isabella and I got to see the new Harry Potter movie which we saw at the Grand Lake Theater here in Oakland by the lake, just a small walk from our home. We loved it of course. Isabella and me have also gone swimming earlier this week in Berkeley where I am helping her to learn how to swim.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

One week

Well Jude is over a week old already and it seems that each day he looks a bit bigger, his face a bit more defined, his skin clearer and healthier looking. For the most part he is an ideal baby. He doesn't cry very often and sleeps for hours on end and we have to wake him up for a feeding. Fathering feels very natural for me, as his needs appear pretty straight forward; change of diaper, time to feed, a struggle with gas or a bowel movement. He has already gone through so much in the way of being poked and proded, during the many examinations and procedures of doctors and nurses alike. I am often surprised at his size for being so young and he has already demonstrated that he can roll over and occasionally lift his head to look around him. This morning and throughout the day Jude has approached the day with wide contemplative eyes studying the appearance of things close by and bending his head towards the many sounds around him. Our pace has changed dramatically since the birth of Jude. Now we wake late in the morning, our showers take place towards noon and we are not often eating breakfast together but end up taking shifts to do the normal routines which one does to ready themselves for the day. All in all things are really great and we are delighted to have Jude as a new member of our family.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Baby is Born!

We are happy to announce the birth of Jude Willem Vanderwyst-Kozlowski (a very long title indeed)! Jude was born on Sunday, June 28th at approximately 8:00 in the evening at the Kaiser Walnut Creek facility without any complications. At birth Jude weighed almost 10 pounds at 9lb and 12 ounces, measured 23 inches long and had a head circumference of 14 inches, which is an inch longer than average. So Jude is a really big baby as one can imagine. At this point I am not sure if Jude looks anything like Sam or I but he is a handsome devil nonetheless. We had a couple sleepless nights but Jude has become a really mellow boy and loves sleep and being held. Sam had a natural birth and was able to recover quickly and is doing really well. Jude on the other hand is still recovering from a skin rash that he developed on his body due to exposure to the outside world. But all in all Jude is a content baby and a wonderful addition to our family.

Friday, June 26, 2009

My own contractions

I know now the harsh taste of a garlic bulb freshly chewed and swallowed for its medicinal purposes. This is one of the things I have done to help cure my own belly which has caused me to be ill in bed for two days. Somehow I caught a bug or a bacterial infection that has attacked my intestinal tract. I went reluctantly to the doctors, worried that there might be some other more severe condition at work. I believe I have lost faith in western medicine completely or maybe it is just the state of our healthcare system which operates mainly on a wait and see type of prognosis rather than taking any proactive measure towards restoring the body to health. I went through the gammit of tests, being blood work, urine sample and radiology, which took several hours of waiting and relocating from lab to lab. At the end of the day the doctor tells me that all my lab results are normal and so that leaves me with an unnamed ailment which is still throbbing in my belly and no suggestion about what to do other than, call us back if it doesn't get better in a week. I just find it so interesting that doctors will only ask you what your systems are but not take the time to learn anything about the patient. Only by my own ruminating can I contribute to a more accurate diagnosis. Whereas eastern or Chinese medicine more specifically, in my experience asks a gamut of questions about a patients habits as well as other physical symptoms. Incidently, when I lived in New York City many years ago, I was suffering from fevers and severe headaches on a daily basis with dizziness and hot flashes as well. I went to my doctor and he ran a bunch of tests, but nothing could be found. After weeks of this, I called my doctor and almost frenzied I demanded treatment. The doctor told me that he could not give me antibiotics if he didn't know what the ailment was, that it "wasn't good medicine." So he sent me to an Infectious Disease Specialist who had me give a pint and several viles of blood to do more tests. Again,,, nothing but I was still sick and I knew that it wasn't a simple flu. I talked to my mother about this to ask her advice as I did several times, except this time I mentioned to her that I noticed that a cat scratch I had received on my hand many weeks ago was not healing. I relayed to her an event which took place in Philadelphia where I had gotten scratched by a feral young cat. Instantly, my mom knew what it was,, I had contracted Cat Scratch fever! I thought she was joking but as it turns out, that is exactly what I had. I was elated in a sense, but alas there is no treatment for Cat Scratch, which goes through ones body in stages and leaves in about a months time. Anyway, I suppose that I have learned that both eastern and western perspectives in medicine can be most advantagous to a person who seeks both of them. My intestinal bug has been clearing up and I am back on track for feeling right as rain again. I was really concerned that I would be sick if Sam should go into labor.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

No Baby yet

After all expectations, our baby has not shown any signs of being ready yet and remains snug in Sam's womb. We are now entering into week 41 with few if any contractions at all. Sam will occasionally make note of a lower womb pain or lower back ache but dismisses these as something other than contractions. We both agree that getting induced into labor in the hospital is not something we want and we have read many horror stories of the trail of complications that can arise by doing so, not to mention the intensity of the pain. So, being as proactive as we can be, we are finding our own ways to help to get things started. First, we are taking long walks almost everyday in the parks and beaches in and around the bay area. The walking has helped Sam not to feel stiff and she describes herself as feeling 'loose' and more energetic. In addition Sam has eaten the black licorice, drank throughout the day glasses of water with drops of black cohosh, eaten spicy food, driven on bumpy roads and been given nipple stimulation for several hours but all to no avail. In the meantime we are all staying close to home and sort of at a loss as to how to spend our time each day. Today we went to see the movie Up at the Grand Lake theater in 3D and we loved it, which was a big surprise because I really didn't expect to like it at all.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Henna Tattoo on a pregnant belly

Last night while Sam was in the tub she pondered over getting her belly a henna tattoo again after our failed attempt last time. I immediately sat down and got to work. It took a bit getting used to rolling a perfect cone out of a hearty square of plastic but after a few tries I was able to make two decent cones with very narrow tips. I used the henna already mixed from before out of the fridge to fill the cones and taped up the ends. After which I ventured out to the backyard to pick a lemon or two from the lemon tree growing along the fence next store. The lemons were to be used as a sealer after the henna is applied to keep the henna moist so that it doesn't dry out. Making this sealer is just composed of sugar, water and lemon juice in equal portions. So, Sam sat in a wooden kitchen table chair and I immediately got to work. I felt so much more comfortable putting down the henna this time and decided that I just needed to use my intuition as an artist and allow myself to see the big picture altogether rather than focus simply on each line put down. I incorporated many floral elements and a variety of marks that swirled around the central point of Sam's belly button. The end of the cone which held the henna was cut so narrow that the henna often found its way out of the top and all over my hands. In the end my hands were properly hennaed as well as my shirt and several hand towels. We juiced up Sam's belly frequently with the lemon juice solution which we put in a spray bottle. Sam kept herself reclined in a way that kept her belly in a safe position to let the henna dry which takes hours and hours for the dye to really make a stain. Unfortuately the design came out very light which may have something to do with the preparation of the henna or the age of the henna powder. So I took some pictures of the henna belly to share before the henna dried and I am glad I did.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Events Passed

I am writing just to journal about some recent events that I have not yet noted in my blog. Last Tuesday I was invited to an Adams Point counsel neighborhood watch meeting to receive a commendation for the Oakland Police Department. We went into a historic building where the meeting was to take place and got a chance to sneak around in a couple of rooms including a swimming pool area that dated back to the World War II era, and some fancy ballrooms adorned with exotic antique furniture. I was surprised to see about 8-10 police officers there along with about 14-16 residents. I was given a well framed award that was encased in glass after a well detailed introduction accounting the event of apprehending the thief. It was surely a surreal experience to be such a guest of honor with my neighbors clapping for me. A woman whom I've never met presented me with a check and an officer took down my telephone number to later deliver to us some Oakland Police memorabilia (tee shirt, mug, teddy bear). I was then greeted by the victim who I had witnessed in the attack and mugging. She was still appeared shaken up but she looked healthy and unbruised. Overall, I think of how protected I felt when I tackled the man to the ground and though I noticed he was cut in various places from our scuffle I was left with not a scratch on me. I feel very fortunate indeed.
Sam, Isabella and I went to the Oakland Zoo before all this and I was eager to get some good photographs of the animals. One of the most interesting animals there was the gibbon which with its lengthy and stringy arms could swing in great strides through the branches of a tree. I also got some nice picks of a chimp lazily reclining with her stuffed bunny.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Watermelon and Cucumber

The sun has made its appearance on our outside patio as we rapidly approach noon. I have just 4 days of teaching until the summer break and still I am not content with this as I wish school to be done with already. I suppose these feelings come from the anticipation of the baby which has not shown himself to be ready just yet. My prediction that Jude would be born on the full moon of this month is not looking very likely but each day, each hour, each minute brings us a step closer. My heart and my head has not been on teaching when I am at school but rather towards home where I wish to be and feel I am most needed. Yesterday we took a drive up north for several hours to the town and beaches of Jenner along route 1. We stopped by a local hamburger and milkshake dive in the country along the way and then happened across a live rodeo show which we only caught the tail end of. Later we reached our destination of Goat Head beach in Jenner, where the Russian River empties out into the Pacific Ocean. Sam rested on a blanket on the sandy beach while Isabella and I walked along the River with our shoes off, feeling the mud between our toes and the warmth of the slowly ebbing water. We passed many quaint little towns along the way but due to lack of time we could only promise ourselves to go back to them later when time is more available. This morning, I got up to complete all my report card comments and after that Sam made us a nice lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches, watermelon and cucumber. We will spend the rest of the day running errands in preparation for the baby to come.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

In the now

I am so excited for the baby to come but the days continue and Sam shows no definite sign that the moment is near. With only a few more school days left, I am wondering how the year may indeed finish out. I haven't written for a bit because last week, my computer just up and went kaputz and I couldn't get passed an error screen. As it turned out I had to completely wipe the hard drive clean and manually install the operating systems and drives which caused me to lose all my files and such but nothing was lost that I couldn't do without. Now my computer is running as it first did when I bought it new and I am delighted. I suppose I am just writing this little blog to keep things current. Yesterday, I received a call in which I was asked to attend a meeting where I am to be given a commendation of some sort for catching a man for hitting a woman in the face in an attempt to steal her car and her purse. I chased the guy down and tackled him to the ground. The story is told more clearly in the previous blog entries. Anyway, things are good as they are. I did a jog around the lake, worked on some report cards and now Sam and I are going to watch a movie at home for this evening.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Catching a Thief- part 2

An older gentleman in his 60's happened to be on the sidewalk near the path to which the thief was heading and I hollered disparately for him to stop him. The older gentleman froze and turned slowly around to watched us both run by but came swiftly behind the chase. The man holding still some of the woman's belongings turned to look at me gaining on him both of us now having run into another car port. He scrambled with his hands to receive something that he was holding and for a brief second it crossed my mind that he might be going for a weapon. Before I got a chance to find out I jumped on him, knocking him to the concrete which caused him to let go of the things he was carrying. In the tussle I discovered that the man was bigger than me by a few inches but I was fighting with every ounce of my being to keep him on the ground. We went several rounds of me holding him face down on the ground, my knee on the back of his knee my arm pressed on the back of his neck shouting at him to stay down, however this man was carried by the strength of flight. He had probably spent much of his life running and he was as determined to get away, as I was to catching him. He was very strong and could counter against my weight upon him but he was also disoriented and lacked coordination which helped me to wheel him around and knock him off his feet. As I held him down I noticed that his shirt had been pulled off in the scuffle and he smelled strongly of one who hadn't bathed in weeks. He slurred his words in mumbling pleads that he didn't do anything. I felt for a while that people were around me watching but I couldn't see them, to risk taking my eyes off of this man. By the third time I pinned the guy to the ground I looked around in a sweaty panic and yelled at them to help me hold him down, that he had punched a woman in the face, that he had robbed her, but I didn't know who I was addressing. The man on the ground yelped in pain and I turned to see the older man finish binding the man's ankles together with his belt. Two girls were there, one ran to the curb to flag a police car down, one guy had laid down a golf club and was helping to pin down the man's legs. Another gentleman took my place and was trying to calm down the guy with a reasonable and level tone of voice quite opposite to my own which was filled with yelling and swearing out of anger I felt. In a moment a taller guy, who was once there and left, returned with a pair of red handcuffs and several of us worked together to cuff the man on the ground. Soon, after the police pulled in and neighbors were giving congratulations to one another for our efforts, I was pointed out for my part and was asked to stay behind to make a statement. Worried about Sam and Isabella waiting for me, I asked the policeman if we could drive up the hill to meet them and I took a short ride in the squad car. Sam didn't seem the least surprised by what happened but had made silent prayers to herself while I was gone while Isabella spent her time weaving a braid of grass. This is a true story and after much personal debate I decided I should write it down in case I might ever forget it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Chasing a Thief- Part 1

Recently, I met a situation that was both jarring and extraordinary. Sam, Isabella and I were coming home from a dinner out and were merely a block from home when we heard yells or screams of a woman in distress. The sounds were somewhat muffled but were familiar to a domestic dispute sometimes heard when a couple is arguing. However, there was a tone that drew us in with curiosity and worry towards its source. I followed the shouts through two apartment buildings and in my hurried steps I could hear more distinctly the pleas for help as I drew closer. I made my way to the back of a building where a broad fence seperated me from a car port where the tumult was taking place. I had to step up to a ledge to see over the fence and I heard people shouting from the surrounding apartments to call 911. In view I saw a woman stagger out of a car from the drivers side, her face splattered with blood that ran from her nose to her blouse. She stumbled in a confused sort of way holding on to the wall closest to her to steady herself and with a panicked and dazed look in her eyes she continued to call out for help until finally fainting to the ground. Almost at the same instant, a dark African American male came out of the passengers side of the car holding a large brownish purse and started to flee towards the exit of the car port. A man yelled out of one of the apartments that the police would get him and I myself yelled that I could see clearly who he was. Two residents standing at the car port entrance in the position to stop the man, as their was no other escape, hastily moved aside to let the criminal pass. As he ran by them I yelled for them to stop the thief but to no avail, however they began to chase him. I quickly pulled away a wide slat of fence and slid my way into the car port to also take pursuit. I ran out to the street just as the man flipped himself over a fence into a gated complex which put a halt to the two pursuers but I was enraged and determined to catch him. I ran around and down the block with the idea that I could cut him off en route to the next block over by taking a short cut through two buildings before getting to the corner. However this was to no avail as I came to a dead end. I could hear him rustling through yards and barriers ahead though I couldn't see him. I decided quickly to make my way back out the way I came and then head him off at the next street and with adrenaline now pumping I was clear to the corner in seconds. Turning the corner up the street I could see him running out of nowhere across the street and I chased after him.

to be continued....

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A day on the farm

Today, I awoke feeling somewhat gloomy having had an odd sleep full of heavy thoughts leaning towards the existential. Our apartment has a darkness to it, even in the sunniest hours of the day and the thing that brough me up was visiting the patio to greet the day. The bird feed, manly consisting of black oil sunflower seeds, has to be cleaned up regularly as it becomes quite a mess regularly. I am so delighted however to have our bird friends, especially the Titmouse which now has become my favorite character of all with its pointed little feathers at the top of its head and its black bead like eyes. After being outside for a while we all went out to a historic farm in Fremont, only 30 or so minutes away. We were able to get a free tour of the Victorian farmhouse there which was once owned by the Peterson family since the mid 1800's. I of course asked Sam to let me know if she could see any spirits, knowing that my wife has a knack for such a thing, and I was ready with my camera for any photo opportunities. Our tour guide was an elderly woman dressed in the garb of late 1800's era who appeared to get more winded as the tour progressed throughout the house. Many of the rooms contained smells of the past, of old scents that still resonanted from a time before, and the smell of clothes and objects in slow decay. Most of all the kitchen still contained a smoky odor that probably still clung deep into the walls and the bowels of the stove and furnace. I was surprised to find that in the late 1800's the recipe for a cake might call for the oven to be set for 5 seconds, which referred to how long one could keep their hand in the oven to check the temperature as there was no other way of knowing how hot it was. If one could have their hand in the oven longer then the oven wasn't hot enough, whereas less seconds meant that the oven was too hot. Anyway, I was amazed at how different life must have been like at that time. I took pictures of things that I found fasinating, one of which of a little grumpy girl who maybe didn't want her picture to be taken, of old toys that were bought for the museum house, and of various rooms. Oh and I almost forgot, there were music boxes all over the house. Elaborate but delicate works of art but in fine working order, some full of loud orchestral sounds, another haunting and indistinct like music being played backwards. When we went outside, we visited the chickens, goats, sheep and cows. I picked up a chicken for Isabella to hold and she became addicted to grabbing them up herself.