Saturday, September 29, 2007

We left early Tuesday (9-25-07) for San Francisco. We spent the morning crossing Indiana and then into Illinois and finally Iowa by afternoon (don’t hold me to the times of state crossing- There is a bit of blur of motion.)

I LOVE IOWA! It appeals to my orderliness. The farmers in Iowa value neat and tidy rows- And they cut the area next to the crop so there is never this swatch of weeds next to their crops. And their homes and barns look straight out of a Hallmark card- or Rockwell drawing. Not that they don’t have their share of BIG- and I mean BIG equipment. Don loves BIG tractors- or mowers etc. All the Deere stuff to him is absolutely thrilling (though not as thrilling as a BIG CRANE when we went by the mining camps in Wyoming and Nevada). But as luck would have it he was always driving when we passed the really interesting stuff- like a BIG John Deere tractor- or a BIG mining crane.

But Iowa was beautiful. It was our second trip across Iowa- the first on our way to Minot, North Dakota to see Brandy. (Brandy has been the impetus for much of our really interesting travel- we’ve been to Del Rio, Texas- really in the middle of nowhere. Guess the Air Force does not want to train their new pilots close to anything- And I mean anything! And then there was the trip to Enterprise, Alabama and the Bo Weevil Monument. And then finally two trips to Minot- And the drives across Iowa- and Minnesota- and South Dakota -and North Dakota- and Michigan- to say nothing of two drives across Kansas on the way to the Air Force Academy in Colorado.) So I’ve looked at some farms through the window of a car moving down the Interstate at 70 miles a hours.. Iowa is the favorite. Iowa knows that random fields filled with discarded rusting automobiles, refrigerators, farm equipment is not easy on the eyes. And Iowa does not have sheds or barns that are falling down next to the farm house. Iowa mows next to the highway. So hats off to Iowa and the idyllic picture of farm life in America!
We finished the day in Omaha, Nebraska. I’d never been to Nebraska- but boy do I ever have an opinion about Nebraska. After all I’m a Sooner (as in Boomer from University of Oklahoma)- And I have spent many a Saturday (or often a Friday after Thanksgiving) yelling at the Cornhuskers. But I’d never been. Now I have. And I must admit it reminded me- not of the flat- see forever Kansas- But rather Illinois- one of the those states that takes forever to cross but doesn’t give you much to look at as you cross

One further comment about Nebraska. We do know why that call them the Cornhuskers. They do grow lots of corn there and I suppose someone has to shuck it, although I never thought you needed a college degree to do it.

But I did have a great steak for dinner in Omaha- so I don’t need to go back again- to Nebraska that is. The steak was good- But it was a bit of a long drive just for dinner.

An as you might expect, they served corn with their steaks.

The second days drive was the longest. It is 470 miles just across Nebraska- And we crossed much of Wyoming as well. I’d only flown into Wyoming- and then only Jackson Hole (and Yellowstone). I was in for a bit of surprise. Southern Wyoming is not Jackson Hole. It is miles of open- not much. And it gets terrible cell phone reception- so you can’t spend the time talking on the phone. I'm really glad that Don's brother Ron picked Jackson Hole for his beautiful home in the mountains- not Rock Springs. Sure makes for a different vacation! I’ll let Don talk of crossing Wyoming- nothing much stuck in my mind. I do know I wouldn’t ever want to spend a winter in that part of the world.

It’s obvious that Max doesn’t appreciate some of the more interesting things we saw in Wyoming. One thing Wyoming does have is lots of minerals and consequently, lots of mines, mining equipment, and processing plants. They were everywhere we looked. She did mention the big drag line we saw just before getting to Rock Springs, but there were enormous processing plants near every mine. Who knows what they were processing, but there were lots of smoke stacks and piles of colored stuff all in the middle of nowhere. It was finally fun to see those places from the ground instead of from 30,000 feet when I fly overhead.

We finished day two in Rock Springs, Wyoming at a charming Bed and Breakfast (a bed and breakfast is almost by definition “charming).

The best part about the B&B is that Rock Springs is a big mining town. The B&B and the restaurant we ate at all had lots of mining pictures. In fact our B&B host and her husband worked for a mining and processing company making sodium phosphate. The rumor was that the streets were laid out based upon the mines because they built the houses on top of old mine locations. I guess my thought about mining in Wyoming is that you really had to look hard to tell if the hills were real hills or just piles of mine tailings. They all look the same in Wyoming because nothing grows there anyway except sage brush. So I guess I would much rather see desolate land where nothing grows get turned into wasteland instead of the beautiful mountains in West Virginia and Kentucky that they bulldoze to get to the coal.

Our hostess at the B&B said that for a while they thought the town was dying- then there was a resurgence of mining and now there are 28,000 people- when the Starbucks opened they knew they had arrived. She had grown up in Denver and then went to college at Colorado State in Fort Collins and then spent 4 years in San Fran. She said it took a long time but she knows now that the important thing in life isn’t where you live- But rather who you’re living with... and we remember all who remain those 2439 miles away.

The third day saw us driving out of Wyoming, across Utah and then Nevada before finally stopping in Carson City, Nevada. Another very long day! I am staggered at the size of this beautiful country of ours. You can drive forever and ever and there is still more road in front of you. Sometimes the emptiness of the open places takes your breath away. I fall in love all over again. It’s not that it’s one picturesque scene after another- it’s not- But rather the overwhelming variety- And uniqueness- And twist that the road brings.

And I saw the salt plains- I’ve seen grassy plains- But never salt plains. We walked to the edge and tasted the saltyness of this most usual place. And it was beautiful- the white, glassy reflection as you drove along the desolate landscape- you felt like you might fall off the road into the eerie reflection of the white salt.

And today was our last day on the road. A piece of cake! Only 6 hours in the car- and much of that driving through the beautiful mountains of Lake Tahoe. How different these mountains from the emptiness of Wyoming and Nevada. Ponderosa pines all around.

Don told the stories of his Sunday nights growing up- they’d always eat hot dogs and popcorn- Grandpa Lucas would cook- And then they’d gather around the TV and watch little Joe and Hos and Adam with Pa (the Cartrights) rescue one or the other from some disaster or other each Sunday night on Bonanza- the ranch at the Ponderosa- right where we were today.

We stopped for lunch just before we got to Sacramento. I ordered fish tacos. About 10 years ago or so I had the most delicious tacos I have ever put in my mouth- We were in San Diego at the pier and I had the fish tacos- They were incredible! I have been looking for that experience ever since. Well – today was not that day. Fortunately at a Mexican joint there are always chips and salsa and refried beans so even if the food is awful- the fish tacos were- you don’t go away hungry- I didn’t.

I always wonder why Max thinks she can get good fish tacos in a place like Sacramento. Moreover the place she chose was in a strip mall right on I-80 that was empty when we got there and empty when we left. The waiter was not Hispanic. Who would have thought that they would be the exception to the rule and have great fish tacos?

When Don and I are on road trips- we both love road trips- we alternate the driving- he’ll drive for a while and then I’ll drive. It works. Then we listen to the radio- siurus is great- So we didn’t miss a single episode of Diane Rhemes on NPR- and listened to a lot of chat on NPR today. When we’d get tired of talk we’d listen to Oldies (I’d switch when there was too much doo-wop) to the 60s (and would switch when the Beach Boys came on- Don hates the Beach Boys). And I knit. I’m knitting a blanket for my next grandson- Sarah and Shawn’s baby is due in December- I don’t think I realized how many stitches it takes to knit a blanket- even a baby blanket- And then I’m trying some new things- But I loved thinking about that next baby when we drove across the country. I like to knit- But I like most to think about the person I’m knitting for while I’m doing my knitting. And this baby blanket is going to give me lots of time to think about Anthony- (the name Sarah and Shawn have picked for my next grandchild).

To sum it all up, it was a long drive, but we made it. The Honda Hybrid proved it's economy, and we got 40.8 miles per gallon over the whole 2436 miles. Right now we are spending Saturday and Sunday in Oakland, saving P&G some money on the cost of the hotel. Once we cross the bridge into SF, the prices go up, but I guess that's the difference in East Bay and West Bay. Now we just have to wait on the delivery of our stuff. We still don't know when it will get here, but estimates are the middle of next week. We spent some time today shopping for stuff that we didn't bring. We were planning on a new flat screen TV and found a Best Buy not far away. We also visited the IKEA in Emeryville. Now that was a new experience. It's a store the size of a football field laid out in a rat maze path from one end to the other. It seemed that most of humanity was there looking for stuff for their house. I think I'm too old to be buying furniture that I have to assemble, but I expect that is what we will end up doing for a table & chairs and TV stand. We'll let you know as we continue this adventure.
We made it. After 2439 miles and four days on the road, we rolled into the Bay Area this afternoon. So that’s the end of this story, but here are the details of getting ready to back out of the drive.

It all started almost two weeks ago. After an uncomfortable weekend when I always seemed to be tired, I got a call on Monday morning from my cardiologist’s office. It seemed that my 8.5 year old pacemaker was getting tired and its batteries were running down. So it had gone into a survival mode (both for it and for me) and kept my heart rate at a constant 65 beats regardless of what I was doing. It was time for a tune up and mine was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. The surgery was successful and I was home by 5:00 with a brand new high tech pacemaker and new charged up batteries.

I feel so lucky that Don’s battery died when it did. We had known that he was due for a “charge”- and even talked of scheduling it for January- the first moment the insurance would pay for a “routine” change. But suddenly the change isn’t routine”. Don was just so suddenly winded, his legs feeling heavy after just one flight of steps in our house. Of course a real clue was the fact that his pulse never changed regardless of what he was doing. From time to time I am abruptly reminded of the progress that has been made since I first was a nurse. I remember feeling so grateful for the first pacemakers- the ones that beat at 72 per minute with nary a budge regardless of what the patient was doing- and those very first pacemakers did save lives. Don’s life would have been one of those lives saved even then. Don is in complete heart block- so without the pacemaker his heart would never beat higher than about 30 or so- certainly not enough to sustain anyone’s life for long. But he would have always been so very tired with those old pacers. But not now- the new models not only respond just like a heart without the block- they have phenomenal ability to collect much info about his heart which he transmits over the phone to the Medtronics- the pacemaker company. Oh I know there are folks who wax nostalgic for the good ole days- not me- The difference that we can make in lives because of medical advances wasn’t even imagined by many of us those 35 years ago when I first became a nurse.
But an aside- I cannot ever think of a pacemaker without thinking of my dear Aunt Annie- our perfect Miss Pitty Pat. When we told her that Don had a pacemaker she exclaimed- “Why that’s wonderful- now he can never die!” She went on to explain that she had a friend that hovered at the door of heaven for several days- with all of the family sitting at the bedside- But that pacemaker just wouldn’t stop. “Why,” Aunt Annie said in that characteristic southern drawl, “they thought they might have to go in and take the thing out!”

Unfortunately, I was scheduled to go to San Diego on Thursday, so after a night’s sleep, I was off to the airport and a flight to San Diego where I was in meetings the rest of the day and then dinner that night. But again, unfortunately, the packers were coming to our house to pack our stuff on Friday morning. So I flew home Thursday night on the redeye and got home at about 8:30. The packers arrived at 9:00, and we worked with them until they left at around 2:00.

Don was so exhausted that he actually slept upright on the backyard glider while the movers were working inside.

It’s hard to know exactly what one needs to take for a year away from home. I scoured the kitchen for just what I thought might be necessary. The avocado slicer, mango slicer and garlic slicer all made the cut. The counter top mixer and food processer stay at home. The bread machine made the cut- Don loves homemade rolls. I put in the vegetable juicer- I keep thinking that I’ll become that California health conscious this year and actually make vegetable juice- I have much hope for California- I’m going to look svelte- lose 15 pounds and exercise regular- meditate with yoga- wear long flowing flower skirts- and look good-oh the dreams I have . The citrus juicer stayed behind- no family coming for breakfast that requires 40 plus oranges for breakfast in order to serve “fresh squeezed”- will just be Don and me. The stick blender definitely made the cut- the food processor stays at home. One time I read an article that all you needed were like 7 items to cook almost anything- I don’t remember the 7 things- the whole article was heresy- and missed the point. It’s not that anyone needs all that equipment- it’s just that all that equipment prompts trying new things- why if it weren’t for that mango slicer (with seed removal) I would never have tried so very many mango recipes. And blended soups- only for the opportunity to use that stick blender- to say nothing of homemade salad dressings- it’s the toys in the kitchen that provides the interest- And you’d think with all the interest my kitchen contains I’d do a lot more cooking.

That night we had dinner and played Bridge with our friends the Peairs.

I love to play bridge with the Don and Mary Jo Peairs. Of course a big draw is that the evening always begins with a wonderful dinner cooked by Mary Jo- not only does the food always taste great- but you always feel just a bit healthier after eating Mary Jo’s food. My Don and Mary Jo won- of course it was just luck- they had better cards. So I’m sure that had Don Peairs and I had better cards the outcome would have been reversed. But don’t worry- we’ve packed the cards- and they’re safe after the drive across country just waiting for Don and Mary Jo to come to San Fran for a visit.

On Saturday we started with lunch with Michael and Liz on the river and then they followed us home where Michael helped me move furniture around the house to fill up spaces that the movers left. Michael was a real savior helping me move a hide-a-bed couch, a queen size bed, and also bring a twin bed in from storage. Max and Amber and I probably could have eventually gotten it all done, but with Michael it was a breeze.

Michael is strong! It was amazing to watch this “boy”- now “man” do the heavy lifting with Don- who usually is the one doing the heavy lifting alone. It is one of those moments when you really see those passing of the years- that moment when the youngest Son is bigger and stronger than the Dad. But of course Michael would never let on- He’d probably always pretend that he was just helping- but then like father like son.

Saturday night we went a going away party with a few folks from P&G and had a great time with some of my favorite co-workers. Melisse (the host) fixed a great meal and we all had wonderful time.

Don is blessed with the most wonderful friends from P&G. But I am forever indebted to the “girls”- Rimma, Mary Pat and Melisse. They have done wonders to keep Don in touch with his feminine self. And of course I wouldn’t have my diamonds if Rimma hadn’t gently suggested that a KitchenAid counter top mixer was not the best choice for a 10 year wedding anniversary- Thank you Rimma! Because of the “girls” Don understands all of his women better- And for that I am most grateful!

Sunday, we went to our church for the last time for a while and then had our usual brunch at our favorite Sunday morning place, Gabby’s. Linda Wise, our friend from the neighborhood met us there for our 3rd or 4th good-bye with her. I spent Sunday afternoon doing final yard work, trying to get last minute gardening finished and then Mary, Kevin and Taylor came over for dinner and their last good-byes. We’ll sure miss seeing them this next year.

By the end of the goodbyes- And watching all my stuff packed and loaded in the truck I got pretty sad myself. I had been spending most of my time thinking of the wonderful adventure lying ahead- not much time thinking about all I’ll miss at Cincinnati. But boy- by the time I had had last meals with Sarah, Shawn and Deseree, Sam and Jan,

And then Mary and Fouad, Mary Jo and Don, Amber and Jason, Mary, Kevin and Taylor, Mary Pat and Tom, Melisse and John, Rimma and Kevin, George, Mimi and Adrienne and Linda- we actually did Linda twice! I was well over the top with the “leaving”. But in addition to enjoying the company of so many wonderful friends/family- I am also reminded that what I love the most remains 2439 miles away from where I am now.

I had to go to work on Monday to meet with a company that was in town from Taiwan, so that pushed me to the afternoon to pack for our drive. The rest of Monday was spent going from room to room trying to find stuff that we will need for the next year and then getting it all packed. We went back to Gabby’s for dinner (Monday is Italian night) and Amber joined us. Dino, Gabby’s owner gave us Italian Ice’s on house for dessert and then it was home for the final look.

Tuesday morning, I started loading the car. I think we filled it to capacity. The trunk and the back seat were filled up with miscellaneous bags of stuff that we kept finding that we couldn’t leave behind.

There was not a corner left without something stuffed into. I couldn’t even find a space to set the coffee cups when we finished without getting out of the car and rearranging the multiple “small canvas” bags. Don said the only reason we got so much stuffed into the car was because I had so many small canvas bags that could be “stuffed into yet another corner.

Finally, it was time to say good-bye to Semper. He knew we were leaving. He always knows when I get out my suitcase. But this we were taking lots of stuff, but not him. When I last looked at him he was lying down just looking at me. I think he knew that this was different. I hate leaving him home, but know that he would not do well living in a small apartment. He will have Amber and Amber’s dog Brutus to keep him company. I’ll miss Semper. He is the best dog I have ever known.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Our "Short, Fat" Baby is 24!

We celebrated the birthday of our "short, fat" baby on Tuesday, September 11. She is now 24 years old. Now I know some wonder how Amber- who is hardly fat, though does remain decidedly short- came to to be my "short, fat" baby.
It all began those 24 years ago. She was a full two pounds chubbier than Brandy- And a full two inches shorter- And wrapped tightly in the cutest little ball of a baby girl. It was love at first sight! Who could resist such a bubbly ball of baby!
And now our "short, fat" baby is growing up.

We started the celebration with a pedicure!

Amber asked if "24" qualifies
one as "fully adult". Well yes it does in fact land one firmly in the camp of the adult world. I asked if given a choice of an evening with her older sister and her older sister's friends or our teenage neighbor and her teenage friends which would she pick. Ahhhh the moment of reckoning! Yes Amber- "You're not a kid anymore!"

Jason joined us for lunch at PF Chang. We kept Amber company in her vegetarian world by all ordering only vegetable dishes. That way Amber could have any or all of the dishes she wanted- we're usually not so kind! But after all- it is her birthday!

After lunch we went to a movie- which seems so ve
ry fitting for a daughter who is indeed the biggest movie buff in our family. We saw "Becoming Jane". Jason noticed that he was the only guy in the whole theater of women. We just told him we were helping him get in touch with his feminine side.
We finished the day with dinner at local Italian restaurant, Vincenzo's. We were joined by Matt- a friend of Amber and Jason's from college who is now Jason's roommate.
By now we were all over our "shared" vegetarianism- We ordered the calamari appetizer and Amber watched while we ate!


Monday, September 10, 2007

A Toe Hold in San Francisco

From Don in Blue and from Max in Red.

Labor Day seemed a good time to start a whole new approach to working, so Max and I left Monday morning on a flight to San Francisco to get this adventure started. The prime objective was to find a place to live in this city. We had no idea what to expect, but both believed we could find something that would be OK. P&G did line us up with a realtor who knew our needs and also the town. On Tuesday she showed us 11 different apartments in about 8 different parts of the city. We went from Cow Hollow to Marina, to Nob Hill, to South Bay, to the Financial District, to Russian Hill, to North Beach and to Pacific Heights. We looked in high rise buildings, quaint Marina flats, 8 to 12 unit apartment buildings, and “corporate housing buildings (reminded us of a college experience). We had great views of the bay bridge, terrible views of a run down building next door, and some with no view at all.

After our first day we had narrowed it down to about 4 that might do. I liked the 10th floor in the Financial District right in the middle of the city and only about 2 blocks from where I’ll work. Max liked the Marina district and it's 2 block walk to the bay just inside the Golden Gate Bridge. None were ones we fell in love with, but all acceptable.

But this is my dream and my dream is not to live in a skyscraper amid “suits” and noise. Now the view was incredible out the wall of windows overlooking the Bay-

But my dream is the quaint charm of the neighborhoods on the hills- not the concrete of the city. In fact sometime I don’t even think of San Francisco as a city- usually bypassing the downtown for Nob Hill and the Wharf and parts hither.

Don did remind me that we had stayed downtown on one of our trips and walked the piers- But for all I could remember it might have been Chicago or New York- Not my fantasy of this beautiful city of hills. But for Don the convenience called- no walking uphill (both ways) to a bus daily. Why living downtown is rather like living in the convention hotel of one very long Biotech conference. But then the Marina wasn’t exactly what I wanted either. I’d really never been in this neighborhood and knew that part of the attraction was my growing terror of driving- and of course walking- up and down steep hills whenever I ventured out of my cocoon of a home. THESE HILLS ARE STEEP! If a hill is too steep that only parking vertically to the curb rather than the parallel fashion is permitted, you know you are close to the top- And of course you can’t ever see what is at the top because the hills are just TOO steep. And we had been driving up and down and up and down and up and down for a day. So the Marina seemed safe- very, very flat- and of course a short walk to the Bay. And we did need a place to stay and time was running out.
Our realtor spent some of Tuesday night searching for more and got us an appointment at one more place in Pacific Heights for the next morning. Now this place is called Pacific Heights because it is at the top of the hill. The apartment was on the 3rd floor of a building that has 12 apartments in it. This one was still occupied, but the people were packing up to move out. It was on the south side of the building, so the view was of the city and the lower bay, which is a long ways away. But we both loved it. It has a very nice kitchen with fairly new appliances including a dish washer, washer and dryer in the apartment, hard wood floors, two bedrooms, dining room, living room, but only one bath. The second bedroom is on the south side of the apartment and extends out with windows on 3 sides. There is a large pine tree out the window and nothing else except the city and bay in the distance.

We decided on the spot that we wanted it, and since the guy showing it was the owner, we agreed. It won’t be available until late September, so our move will be a week or so later than we thought, but that gives us more time to get the move organized.

But go figure- we drive to the very top of a very steep hill (only vertical parking to and from this street) and walk into a beautiful home away from home. It of course is the farthest from Don’s work- with the longest daily (steepest) walk and then longest bus ride. But it is bright and sunny with charm that is refreshing (Did I mention the large apartment we visited the first day seemingly totally inhabited with old ladies and tiny yip, yip dogs and a slight urine smell in the halls- very easy to eliminate that one?) But our home away from home has windows along two rooms looking out over the city with sunlight streaming in (probably helped that this was our sunniest day in San Fran). We went back that evening and parked close and practiced our first walk down to the restaurants we’ll frequent (a wonderful Italian was our stop but there are about a dozen or more in walking distance). Anyway- we navigated the first walk up and down and Tara (our realtor) kept reassuring me that I will quickly become accustomed to driving the steep hills of this beautiful city.

Then since we had time to spare we spent the afternoon finding a piano to rent (it will be delivered October 3). Though it is not my baby “the Grand”, it will keep me in touch with the keys while away- Hopefully it will fit into the very small, very old, very jerky elevator in our building – but if not for just $2 a step they’ll take it up the 3 flights to our apartment.

With finding an apartment done, we could finally relax a little and get on with the reason for the rest of our visit. I had a meeting with Burrill, the VC firm I’ll be working with. They already have an office ready for me with a computer that will get me into their system. I got to meet most of the staff and also got some perspective about what I’ll be doing and what I should bring with me. It’s going to be a great adventure of learning about the world of venture capital, how it works and how they work. I’ll be reviewing business plans from biotech companies from around the world. My office is on the 27th floor of the Embarcadaro Center with a window on the city. The real employees have the great views of the Bay Bridge and Telegraph Hill, but since I’ve been living in a cube with a wall in front of me for the last 10 years, this will be a real treat.

And I have a job! I interviewed with Sutter VNA on Thursday afternoon and was offered a fulltime position as a home health nurse. I am so excited. It has been too long since I took direct care of patients and this will be such a glorious opportunity to know San Fran in a way visitors (and even Don in his downtown Financial District) can know. I start on October 8th.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

But First…..

from Don in Blue and Max in Red.:

OK, I know this Blog is supposed to be about our transformation into San Franciscans, but we had some diversions to attend to first. On the 18 of August Max left for Bennington, Vermont for her one week Piano Camp and I left for a “quick” trip to Seoul, Korea for a signing ceremony with a company that I recently completed a licensing deal with. I was home by Wednesday and on Friday flew to Vermont to join Max and hear her perform in the recital the Camp does on the last day. I was so happy to get out of the Cincinnati heat and enjoy cool Vermont. But Bennington had an unusual hot spell and temperatures went to near 90. Not much air conditioning in Vermont, so we all sweated through recital. Max’s playing was better than I’ve ever heard. She played a Chopin Nocturne and everyone cheered at the end. The host of the Camp stopped the clapping long enough to tell me that buying that new piano for Max last year was worth every penny. And she was right of course.

The next day Max and I drove to cooler climes in the Adirondacks in upstate NY. We spent three nights at the Big Moose Lodge at Big Moose Lake. It was a quaint lodge with great food, no cell phone reception at all, a room looking out onto the lake, fantastic hiking trails, some of the friendliest people we have met, cool weather, and loons on the lake. We had never seen, or moreover heard, loons. We heard them every night between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. with a cry that sounded somewhat like a wolf howling. While canoeing on the lake we actually got within a 10 yards of one and Max took this picture. It was a great three days of hiking, canoeing, reading, and just sitting and watching the loons.

Our other prime time activity was just sitting on the deck at the lodge, enjoying the view. Max had her knitting and I had my book.

We tried out the Adirondack chairs- they really were more comfortable than we thought they might be so we logged some real hours just watching the lake and listening to the music in the evening.
We spent one morning on the lake in a canoe. Don "rowed" while I rode!

In Wednesday we drove back to Albany and then flew home to hot and sunny Cincinnati. This August in Cincinnati has been the hottest on record. We had 25 days with temperatures over 90 and five of those were over 100. On top of that, it has been the 4th driest August ever with just over a half inch of rain all month long. As you might imagine, lawns are brown, flowers are wilted, and trees are already dropping their leaves. Our next post will be about cool San Francisco.

This was my second year at piano camp. This year and last I shared the experience (and the room) with my dear friend Clare from Oklahoma (in the picture below). The camp is called Sonata (you can check out their web site at and is located in a grand old home (actually a couple of years younger than our home on Wentworth) in Bennington, Vermont. The big house was home to 23 adult campers for the week as we played away from dawn to dusk. Until lights out at 10pm you could hear the sound of piano playing anywhere in the house- or yard for that matter.

Each day began with a wakeup at 6:30, followed by breakfast and then to the keyboard. Each camper is assigned practice times, lesson times and chores for the day. I swept the kitchen most days for my chore. I was amazed at how quickly the day flew by- and how much more you want to practice even outside the assigned times. In addition to the practice and private lessons there was a daily theory class and then evening master classes and performances. The experience is phenomenal! And I’m already signed up for next year. Because many of the campers are returnees (13 out of the 23) the week takes on the character of reunion of friends as we catch up with stories and laughter and hard work.

The participants come from as far away as Japan and range in age from young 30s to 70s. The camp is open to all levels of players so the piano playing ranges from beginning to expert- And we celebrate the music of each! Each evening we would unwind from wine and cheese before enjoying an incredible meal prepared by Hans, the Sonata gourmet cook. He said that ours is his favorite camp because it follows the 6 weeks of Sonatina- the camps for children- and after cooking for 45-50 children for 6 weeks to once again cook beautifully prepared meals for very appreciative adults is a welcome change. And we were appreciative! It is just one of the special features of the camp that calls you back for another August in Vermont.

It was so special to have Don join on the final day and performance. Because he came last year as well the returning campers looked forward to seeing him again. The final performance is a highly charged finale to a week of hard work and practice. The performance lasted about 4 hours (we took frequent breaks because the room would become so warm even with the hard working window air conditioner at full blast) and is available in CD which I do have -(there is professional recording made of the final performance). I am eventually going to have a whole CD of just my performances- for the children and grandchildren. But for now there are two pieces (this year and last’s) so doesn’t quite make up a whole CD yet.

Don talked about the Adirondacks already- and I do believe I’ve found my August retreat from Cincinnati. For much of the year Cincinnati is a great place to live- a beautiful experience of all of the seasons. But then there is August (of course January is much too long as well but haven’t quite figured out the solution to that yet). But for August- dismal, hot, smoggy August. The only activities are rushing out periodically to water yet another drying, dying flower. Children stop going outside to play (there are more people outside in January in Cincinnati than in August). And did I mention the mosquitoes! Huge mosquitoes waiting for a bit of blood if you venture forth. But now I’ve found the Adirondacks- cool, beautiful and mosquito free. So when we retire it is off to the Adirondacks for us.