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absence of Dog

February 8, 2014
smiley Dog

smiley Dog

Our beautiful beloved Dog left us behind last Sunday and we are so sad without her. Yoko was almost blind and practically deaf and had trouble getting up and around, but was still so sweet and loving. She didn’t suffer a long decline (aforementioned infirmities didn’t seem to trouble her) which is a blessing to all, but her sudden exit made her loss that much harder. The house seems so empty and we keep including Yoko in our daily plans, but she’s not there. I want to stroke her soft fur, but all we have are photos and memories…


Renée & Michael

Sad but thankful for all the helpers during the past difficult monthsnext in the series. Renée and Michael took our health crisis on as a personal project. Renée helped plan and schedule our house prep for convalescence, cooked delicious healthy food and delivered it, sent encouraging emails and called to help keep our spirits up. Michael and our dear posse of friends showed up one Saturday to box and move everything (except furniture) from the house to the garage for new carpet installation, with Renée and Carly making an inventory and labeling boxes. I couldn’t have done this massive project without their help, and all their other kindnesses have kept me going. Thank-you dear friends! XX


Renée & Michael

Where’s Winter?

January 25, 2014

ImageHot dry weather means drought times again in SoCal, while the rest of the US is frigid and fretting storm after storm. I’m happy to be here, but have to keep reminding myself not to buy the pretty blooming plants in all the stores. There will be no water to keep them alive. I’m also very glad we replaced the lawn with succulents and bark – still have to water but nowhere as much. I did just transplant our Christmas poinsettias into one large pot and will try to keep that gorgeous red color happening a while longer…

Next installment of THANKS: Our beloved younger daughter also took time off work to help at home. Devon was here for a week or two at a time frequently during the lead-up, hospitalization, and at-home recovery. She was with me when we checked her dad into City of Hope for the transplant, and she came back again five weeks later to bring him home. That’s when her expertise was most appreciated! Her time working as a pharmacy clerk had made her quite familiar with all the prescriptions that were a total mystery to me. That first day home we had to pick up over 20 different drugs (2 large grocery bags full) and figure out what time and what mix for the dosing!! I couldn’t have managed that without her help. Devon helps to keep us cheered up and moving forward through all the scary times. Love you, Kiddo!

January Memories

January 20, 2014

ImageLast year so many people helped us with the logistics of Mercer’s illness, from preparing the house for convalescence to driving him to chemo, to cooking us food and cleaning, to sending moral support and prayers. I don’t know how to repay these infinite kindnesses, but can at least acknowledge what it meant to us…FIRST IN A SERIES:

NOVEMBER, 2012. In the beginning, daughter Whitney took 2 months off from her job in Chicago and stayed with us to sort out the “office” so we could pack up the house in March for new carpet installation (to eliminate the germs of 12 years of Dog). This was a challenge akin to a Rubic’s cube: move one thing in order to move another, ad infinitum!! She can visualize space in 3 dimensions, and created a path and a plan that worked for the “great box-up”. (I still need to sort and purge my corner…argh) Whit also drove her dad to chemo and generally kept him company while I was teaching. Thanks, Sweetheart!! Your surprise 24-hour visit this Thanksgiving was also a spirit-lifter that we’ll never forget 🙂

Image2013 was hard in other ways as well – my beloved and unique father passed away a year ago tomorrow. Daddy was 93 and had been healthy for most of that span, traveling, building, reading, singing, helping, inspiring. He had high expectations for himself and his children, and taught us his work and life ethic by example. He was often stern but preferred to laugh and share the joy of living with those around him. He and our mother had a strong and loving relationship for over 65 years, and he did his best to prepare everything so his children would not be burdened after his death. I miss you so much, but am so thankful for your love and support all my life.

94th birthday!

January 12, 2014

Mary Love, our loving and alwdad+mom hugays-a-lady mother celebrates another year tomorrow, her 94th birthday! She is constrained these days by physical limitations – legally blind, hard of hearing, in a wheelchair – but her spirit remains strong. She still enjoys an outing to a museum or gardens (I did both with her and my sister in October), and keeps track of her neighbors in Covenant Woods and family around the country.aIMG_2443 She is much loved, and lights up when visited by her three “Schus” and their mates, six grandkids and the five great-grands! I’m sending big hugs from across the miles – can’t make it from the Left Coast this year, but will be toasting you, Mama. Thank you for all you’ve taught me, by words and example.   IMG_079123504_1232285930957_4567634_n

Fun a Day

January 5, 2014

poster for the event

Fun a Day is a great art-making cooperative experience that we are trying for the first time in Reseda: originated back East with artists choosing to make art every day for one month then showing their creations in a one or two day group show with no jury or awards, just shared joy in creativity! For my part, I’m working on a mixed media embroidery piece, another person is doing portraits, another shooting sunsets, and the most intriguing (to me) is one person leading walks every day along Reseda Boulevard, providing history of the area. Reseda’s Fun a Day is part of the newly-launched “Reseda Renaissance,” with a goal of reinvigorating this San Fernando Valley neighborhood to its earlier glory. Since I teach at Cleveland Charter High School in Reseda, I am hopeful that this effort blossoms into a more vibrant, and aesthetically appealing locale for our students to grow up in. Viva Reseda!!

Happy New Year 2014!

December 31, 2013
Happy New Year from the Mercer Group!

Happy New Year from the Mercer Group!

Counting down the final hours of a very  hard year and looking forward to a healthier, happier, more peace-filled 2014! Sending love out to all our friends and family who supported us these past 12 months – we couldn’t have made it without you!

as 2013 wanes…

December 28, 2013

Christmas cactus only bloomed on one side this year!

Year endings mean new beginnings and hope springs for better times. This was a very hard year so I don’t even want to reflect on the bad parts, just keep remembering how far we’ve come from this time in 2012. Health really is the one necessity for happiness, and we take it so for granted. Don’t!! Be ever mindful, and appreciative, and do as much as you can in the life we have because time is limited and that is hard to think about. Done with my new year’s sermon!


Last photo with my dear Daddy

Besides the health challenges here at home, we also lost our dearly beloved father last January. David Schumaker lived an amazingly full life for 93 years, and gave so much to those around him. He stills talks to me in my head because he gave me terrific advice that has always been my compass. One of his personal objects that I kept for myself is his Kindle – he raised a family of readers, and I love to think of him as I curl up with a good e-book! I’ve read quite a few in the past 12 months, so here are my recommendations for other story-lovers out there!


front porch, reflection self portrait & shadow

Alone Together: My Life with J. Paul Getty, by Teddy Getty Gaston. © 2013 Autobiography written as she neared 100, focusing on her 20+ year relationship with the oil magnate. She was his 5th wife, mother of his 5th son, and a successful singer who kept her independence and eventually divorced Getty when he neglected their relationship in favor of his obsession with business.


aloe blooms in December

The Aftermath, by Rhidian Brook. ©2013 Assigned to oversee the reconstruction of Hamburg in the tumultuous year following World War II, Colonel Lewis Morgan grieves the loss of one son killed in England which has destroyed his wife. He brings his grieving wife and remaining son to share quarters in the requisitioned home of a German widower and his daughter, an arrangement that forces both families to confront the trauma of war and surviving terrible loss.

Stealing Mona Lisa, by Carson Morton. ©2011 from the publisher: “The charming Eduardo de Valfierno makes a living in Argentina fleecing the nouveau rich–they pay him to steal valuable pieces of art, and Valfierno sells them flawless forgeries instead. But when Eduardo meets the beautiful Mrs. Hart on his latest con, he takes a risk that forces him back to the city he left behind–Paris. There he assembles his team of con artists for their final and most ambitious theft: The Mona Lisa. Valfierno and his crew must stay one step ahead of a relentless police inspector and conquer their own doubts to keep the priceless painting in play–and survive. Based on the actual theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911, and published on the 100th anniversary of the crime.”

Pompeii: A Novel, by Robert Harris. ©2003 from the publisher: “All along the Mediterranean coast, the Roman empire’s richest citizens are relaxing in their luxurious villas, enjoying the last days of summer. But the carefree lifestyle and gorgeous weather belie an impending cataclysm, and only one man is worried. The young engineer Marcus Attilius Primus has just taken charge of the Aqua Augusta, the enormous aqueduct that brings fresh water to a quarter of a million people in nine towns around the Bay of Naples. His predecessor has disappeared. Springs are failing for the first time in generations. And now there is a crisis on the Augusta’s sixty-mile main line—somewhere to the north of Pompeii, on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. Attilius—decent, practical, and incorruptible—promises Pliny, the famous scholar who commands the navy, that he can repair the aqueduct before the reservoir runs dry. However, Attilius soon discovers that there are powerful forces at work—both natural and man-made—threatening to destroy him.”

Other books from my 2013 readings: Augustus: A Novel; City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas; The Sweet Girl (about Aristotle’s daughter); The Golden Mean (about Aristotle’s youth); Alias Grace: a Novel; Just Kids (Patty Smith’s memoir about her friendship with Mapplethorpe); Four Corners of the Sky

As you may notice, I favor historical fiction 🙂

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