Tuesday, August 8, 2017

And 23rd Place Goes To—

Five years ago our team of six lounged at a table in Theater Square, eating ice cream and nervously assessing the  competition registering for the 3rd Great Petaluma Treasure Hunt. As the two PM start time loomed, all kinds of people showed up, filling the square with noisy excitement. With growing confidence, we determined we had the advantage over the families with school-aged kids and the twenty-somethings who’d probably get bored. And wouldn’t the senior citizens get too hot tromping around in the August sun? Besides, we included a writer-editor, a computer whiz, two puzzle experts, an artist, a teacher, and between us held five undergrad degrees, two masters degrees, one PhD, and six smart phones. Not to mention a combined residence in Petaluma of about seventy-five years. Team Albuminati a cerain shoo-in!

Our team regiseterd in advance, proceeds benefitting Butter and Egg Days. The clue packets had been handed out at check-in, and we had nothing to do but bake in the hot August sun and speculate on possible clues until the “starting gun” of what was essentially a race to find locations in downtown Petaluma and solve clues. The cover of the sealed packet offered some strategies to maximize our use of time: “determine as many clue start locations as possible before heading out” being excellent advice.

At two o’clock, the MastermindTreasure Hunts team gathered the 28 participating teams together, explained the rules and instructed us to break the seals on our packets. I felt like I was back in school about to take the SAT. Maybe it was the heat, but pinpricks of perspiration broke out under my hat-band.  My pulse raced.


The Albumati raced to a corner of the square in the shade and started solving for clue locations. The teacher reminded us to answer what we knew, skip what we didn’t coming back to those later. We all got #1-A—a no-brainer: It’s quite an odd place for a lair/a business with tools and hardware/ but this place’s name/ is one and the same/ as the wondrous bear that is there. We marked our maps with  1)Rex Ace Hardware. 

In moments my husband had 3) Putnam Fountain. I knew 7) Copperfields and 8) The Petaluma Historical Museum. Our artist, Diane, was all over 2) The Petaluma ArtCenter. We marked our maps with the numbers and a route began to emerge.

Ours wasn’t the first team to leave Theater Square, nor were we last. A knot of “hunters” clustered in front of Rex Ace pondering the clue: a missing letter—the “v” in shovel. We raced to the Historical Museum and our scientist PhD easily found 26 apples in local artist, Sachal’s, painting Apple Tree: Homage to Newton. We streamed out onto Fourth at Kentucky and found “Heritage.” We were giddy, on a roll. Copperfields stumped us. We moved on to find a flour company. Forty-five minutes later, we’d covered every downtown alley and the Boulevard but couldn’t find the clue—because it was on Washington.

Well, if we hurried and got the rest right, we could still win, couldn’t we? We took a quick rest in the shade to google Petaluma flour companies before scurrying around Putnam Plaza to discover that the fountain isn’t dedicated to anyone in particular, but the drinking fountain is dedicated to Milt Whitt. Got another one—time to move back toward Theater Square.

I’d solved much of the puzzle for locaton #6 before we’d departed the starting line, and we knew we wanted to be near Graffiti Restaurant, but we never found the clue. “Ok, then let’s run to the Art Center,” concealed David, Mr. acrostic. He'd figured out the clue: a snake with a shovel for a tongue!

Time ticked on and we had about twenty minutes to find the last clue in Walnut Park. I don’t think anyone actually solved the maze, but we found the clue, 1932, through sheer will and jogged back to Theater Square with six minutes to spare. Someone handed in our score sheet and we grabbed a table at La Dolce Vita Wine Lounge and ordered drinks and appetizers. The Albuninati was sweaty, hungry and every one’s feet hurt!

Soon the tables filled up and the Mastermind Treasure Hunt team tallied the scores. Someone got onto the mic and said they’d announce the winners soon. I gripped my husband’s hand feeling like that six year old waiting to have her basket of colored eggs counted by the mothers—the basket with the most eggs (usually my sister’s) won a beautiful sugar egg with a pastoral scene inside. This was going to be my sugar egg! I ordered another glass of wine.

“In 3rd place, Red Harvest, with all ten answers correct and a 4:12 time stamp,” the emcee announced. A table of adults hooted and the crowd clapped.

Ten clues? “Hey, did you guys know we missed one?” I asked. “Yeah,” our detail- oriented programmer answered, “the one about the street crossing signs.” Drat!

“In second place at 4:10 with all answers correct, the Evil Goggles!” The crowd cheered, but I couldn’t see the group from where I sat. “And first prize goes to the Be Dang Cool with all ten clues and a finish time of 3:52.” The table next to us erupted—eight or ten twenty-somethings had won the prize—a night at High Tides Cottage on Tomales Bay. Definitely not bored.

And in 23rd place, the Albuminati! Our prize? A wonderful afternoon exploring our hometown, learning about its history and meeting our neighbors. After a day of laughter, ice cream and drinks with Petaluma, we had a big win.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Take Me Riding in the Car-Car

I first fell in love in the backseat of a black Buick Roadmaster convertible circa 1950. Miss Buick was shiny, curvaceous, and had a toothsome grin—and I could stretch out along her smooth upholstery and watch the sky whoosh over my head as we streamed along the roads on her spinning whitewalls. Dad loved her too, but in ways I didn’t understand—she was the symbol of post-war prosperity, and apparently she was lovely to drive, something I experienced many years later in my sporty Nissan with the sunroof—the thrill of mobility and control in the open air.
I don’t remember what Dad drove after the Buick, but I remember the green wood-paneled Ford station wagon, loaded to it’s gills with family and camping gear, that carried us on journeys throughout the West. Dad and Mom traded off driving the long distances and we three kids sat on the bench seat in back, playing I Spy or cards, or just gazing out the windows. I hated when I had to sit in the middle because the hump of the drive shaft made it uncomfortable. But the utter exhilaration of traveling across the ever-unfolding land, made even that worth it. I remember how it sounded to hear the rush of the wind flooding through the open windows and feel it on my face. When we stopped, I could still hear the roar in my ears, feel the tingle on my cheeks. “I like smoke and lightning, heavy metal thunder, racing in the wind and the feeling that I'm under!” I wonder how I ever combed the knots out of my hair.
Our family car trips probably started in 1959, but the first record I have is in 1960, the year I received a Brownie camera. I have fading black and white photos of Bubbles the pilot whale, jumping from a giant salt-water tank for fish held by a trainer decked out in a white sailor suit, complete with the black tie and white cloth hat, at Marineland of the Pacific, Palos Verdes.
Bubbles the Pilot Whale
It was the following car-trip that marked the second time I fell in love. This time not with the car but with the travel. Still 1960, and later in the summertime, we packed up and toured the pristine forests around Crater Lake, looped up to Wyoming to see Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons, then dropped back into California through Virginia City, Nevada. I loved the bubbling mud pots, the sulfuric stink, and the live bears of Yellowstone; this was the real deal—so much better than Yogi and Boo Boo. The majesty of the Tetons awed me, but the most memorable single image I have of this trip is of Bear Lake, Idaho. A turquoise set into the chaparral of high desert. By now my photos are in color, but no photo can compare to my remembered glimpse of this little lake.

For the next several years, we car-tripped to the California Missions, to Death Valley, to Disneyland, to the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair—I’m holding my “Eye of the Needle Certificate” that certifies, I Ana Manwaring, “has dined in the sky high merry-go-round restaurant at the top of the Space Needle.” Shot through the steel railings enclosing the observation deck, my photos show the landscape of the fair spread a dizzy-ing 520 feet below. On that trip I fell in love once again—in Victoria B.C. at the Buchart Gardens. Now, give me a car to drive and a garden to visit, and I’m in Heaven.
What is it about our cars that we love so much—the potential for adventure or the promise of freedom? Have you ever counted the number of love songs written about cars and the road? I’m a woman of means by no means, Queen of the road! And how regal I’ve felt, passing by the golden Gateway Arch on my first transcontinental “progression” in a ‘57 Chevy, and later, navigating my ‘69 VW pop-top camper, tricked out with air shocks and red leather Cadillac “thrones,” on the back roads of Mexico and Belize.           

The era of long car trips may be coming to a close, but you can still hear me humming  “Get your motor running, head out on the highway, looking for adventure in whatever comes our way,” even if gas is over $4 a gallon, the windows are up and the adventure takes place in the shadow of Sonoma Mountain.
Is that my Prius I hear revving its hybrid motor?
Brrrm brm brm brm brm brm brrrm.

Don't miss A Salute to American Grafffiti in Petaluma May 19th

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Reverible Skirt and Shoes to Match

 In 2012 the Petaluma Post ran this article, but changes have occurred since then:
1) Sisters Consignment Couture: Clothing, Accessories, and Custom Designed Art Handpicked for Quality & Artfully Chosen has moved over to Santa Rosa from the City of Sonoma

2) Laura McHale Holland has published the sequel to her award winning memoir, Resilient Ruin.

Over the years we’ve shopped for many a new outfit and attended many more readings, but that night at Sisters I went to heaven—a literary reading in my favorite clothing store where I was a featured reader. It still doesn’t get better than that.

To ramp up the entertainment value that night, my friend Linda O, the queen of thrift shop couture, Mary T, our retired Petaluma Unity minister and scarf expert, fashion forward Diane, now retired director of the Adobe Christian Preschool, and I met for a glass of Zin and dinner at the Red Grape famous for its margherita pizzas and just around the corner from Sisters former location. They say the best thing about the Red Grape, besides the efficient service, is that you always run into someone you know and we ran into another of the featured readers, Kenwood writer, Jean Wong. The stars were out that night!

The program, brainchild of Cotati writer Laura McHaleHolland, author of Reversible Skirt, a silver medal winner in the 2011 Readers Favorite book awards and Chris Johnson, owner of Sisters Consignment Couture, was the second in a series of events emceed by Laura, featuring stories and poetry celebrating the rich theme of sisterhood.

If you’ve ever shopped in Sisters, you might be wondering where Chris put the twenty-some attendees—the new shop is more spacious. Like the store itself, it’s a little bit of magic. Chris manifested an eclectic collection of boudoir chairs, vintage looking vanity stools, counter stools, lawn chairs and I sat on the stepping stool. The bulging racks of brightly colored clothes and the displayed outfits accessorized with Chris’s latest finds from San Francisco Gift Mart—then ruffled scarves with fabric roses attached in Spring pastels—surrounded the event, and made me think of days spent with my sister and cousins pawing through trunks of Gaga’s old clothes under the eves on the third floor at my grandparents’ house.

Sisters Consignment Couture is now located at 2700 Yulupa Ave, Ste. 6, Santa Rosa, www.sonomaconsignment.com. is the Bohemians’s Best of The North Bay 2011 and 2012 winner for Best Consignment Shop. A consignment store lover and shopper all her life, Chris dreamed of her own store after moving to Sonoma. She left her corporate job in San Francisco and early in 2007 she opened. Sisters was born out of a love for her own three sisters, as well as a strong belief in the sisterly bond that women form in their relationships, whether biologically related or not.

And Chris’s belief played out as Laura read a moving scene from Reversible Skirt where she and her two sisters talk about their mother’s death for the first time. Jean read from a memoir about friendship lost and reconciled. I shared poems written for my sister, dying of multiple myeloma. I noticed a few damp cheeks during the wine and chocolate intermission. But the evening wasn’t all heart-wrenching tearjerkers. Several readers signed up for the “open mic” and we heard a wonderful piece by fellow Redwood Writer Brenda Bellinger, and a happy tribute to her sister read by Diane.

 Shopping in Sisters has the feel of shopping in your best friend’s closet—only with more options, more style and a really helpful staff of fashion consultants. “Look at this cute blouse!” “That bag is just your color.” “What do you think girls? Is it me?” I asked Chris if she gets tired of women’s indecision and deliberations, and she said “No. I love shopping with women.” It shows too. She and her staff have strong style-sense and can apply that to helping shoppers find the perfect look. I’ve never been steered wrong. In fact, the first time I shopped in Sisters, several years ago, I picked some flouncy disaster. Chris didn’t mince words, “That doesn’t work for you. Let me find something that will.” And she did. I’ve been coming back ever since.

The new store is crammed with spring selections of all descriptions. Lots of red was featured around Valentine’s Day—I barely made it past a pair of open-toed, lipstick red sling-backs with skyscraper high heels, too high for me, but the perfect shoes to pair with that ’40s look jersey Ann Taylor skirt I love, but—YAY— has gotten too big. If it fit, it would be perfect to wear to the next literary event, if I had the right shoes. Linda O suggests the skirt finds a new life in someone else’s closet—maybe the closet of the lucky girl who can balance in those 4” red heels.

She’s right. Life flows better if we clear out the clothes stagnating in our closets—the garments not worn in a year or more. I try to circulate my wardrobe through several local shops. I do most of my buying in Sisters. For me, Sisters carries the best selection of clothes, jewelry and accessories in the shadow of Sonoma Mountain, and the consignment process is easy and organized. I drop off my garments and receive an email the next day with a list of what Chris has accepted and the selling price. I can check my sales on-line anytime.

Since Sisters offers a buyer incentive plan, I’m thinking of stopping by for that dreamy sage and lavender Alberta Ferretti dress on the couture rack. It’s my size, and I’ve got ten percent of the price already credited to my account. Maybe I can wear it to the next literary evening with
Laura McHale Holland when she reads from Resillient Ruin. I have several new sister poems to read. (one may be found in Laura's Sisters Born, Sisters Found anthology.) You’ll recognize me; I’ll be the well-dressed poet sitting on a step stool.

Please support local writers and local boutiques!


2700 Yulupa Ave, Ste. 6
Santa Rosa CA 95405
Store Hours:
Mon-Sat 11-7
Sunday 12-6

Friday, February 10, 2017

Kill the Love Handles Before They Kill You

The New Year may be settling into the Shadow of Sonoma Mountain, but remnants of the old year linger. Dry, naked trees tilt forlorn and forgotten along street curbs—late for recycling; icicle lights drip off rooftops in the February sun; credit balances spike; even the crumbs of cake and cheese still lurk in the back of the refrigerator. Changing one’s reality, the plan for January, is harder than I thought. Ghosts of the old reality are tenacious and hang on, especially around my middle. And my middle was one of the perceptions I’d planned to change. Do I dare use the “D” word?
I worry. My expanding middle-aged middle, not at all benefited by Linda O’s supremely decadent rum cake, doesn’t appear to understand that I’m working hard to see it differently—not as a slab of flab that makes me look my age, ruining my opportunities to wear bathing suits, but as a hard-earned trophy of a life lived to the fullest. Ha! I’d rather not see it at all. But this is the conundrum, isn’t it? The more we focus on the things we don’t want, the more we have them. I read somewhere that you can love yourself into size ten—if you love yourself enough. I apparently only love myself size 12, and it may be a 14 after Valentine’s Day.
Some people manage to love themselves size 10’s worth even when they’re in 3x. I admire these folk. Their views of themselves aren’t hung up on outward appearance and society pressure, although society is actually shifting its perception of beauty and accepting rather padded flesh in place of the decades old twig image—ok, not Victoria’s Angels—but look at the proud losers on the Weight Watchers ads. There ain’t a skinny Minnie in the bunch. Uh-oh. Was that a snarky comment? It’s that attitude that needs to change. I’ve got it in my head that my Rubenesque shape is undesirable, rather than seeing the opportunities to wear muumuus and Ren Fair costumes. I love sweats. I should be happy.

            Part of my problem is that I’ve been reading up on belly fat and dread diseases. It’s hard to love the middle when the middle is telling me it’s the onset of Type 2 diabetes. We had a little scare recently in my family, but the doctor insisted that through a sensible diet and exercise, the diagnosed prediabetes could be reversed. My family member cut out sugar in all its insidious forms and in a couple months, has shed the bulge, controlled his blood sugar and looks just fabulous, dahling. I’m down with eating sensible meals and exercising—I joined the gym last February after that rich Valentine’s dinner—but giving up sugar? No wine? No chocolate? What about fruit? Is there a perception change I can make within myself that causes me to shun sugar? Maybe I can have my dentist pull my sweet tooth.
Belly fat, or central obesity, is linked to Type 2 diabetes, as we all know, but did you also know that it’s linked to heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis? Preliminary studies indicate that people with high body fat have less bone mass and weaker bones, according to studies reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
 Let’s not even think about what all this extra weight does to our knees. My friends and I have reached the age where we begin to replace moving parts. Maybe a trimmer waist would stave off the titanium joints. Or, another thought, maybe titanium joints would turn me into Supercrone! I might save the world from evil, one word at a time, throughout my dotage. If I could learn to flap my rolls, I’d soar—now there’s an image. Ok, I won’t appear in public wearing the “Super” suit. I promise.
 I watched Dr. Phil’s show once. Lucky me, it was the day he brought in an expert on pot-bellies to discuss the connections between belly fat and diseases then invited obese audience members onto the stage to pick up and display slabs of pure fat comparable to the flab around their own middles. Five pounds of fat is just gross!        
That’s not all, folks. Belly fat is connected to Alzheimer’s Disease, the disease I fear most. Here’s the frightening 4-1-1: mid-life obesity has been associated with dementia. A U.S. study reported in the  Annals of Neurology, examined over 700 adults and found evidence to suggest higher volumes of visceral fat—the fat Dr. Phil displayed from inside the body that packs around your organs and wreaks havoc—were associated with smaller brain volumes and increased risk of dementia. Alzheimer's Disease and abdominal obesity has a strong correlation and, with metabolic factors added in, the risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease was even higher, an almost 10-fold increase risk (Wikipedia).

I’m scared. I have trouble remembering words now. How will I save the world if I can’t remember I’m a writer? “Named must your fear be before banish it you can,” Yoda reminds me. And the name is change; it’s the hard work I need to do: the new habits I need to form, the old habits and thought processes I need to dump to create a new perception of myself. Supercrone doesn’t sit around popping bonbons into her mouth all day in front of Dr. Phil’s show. Nor does she worry about dieting. She isn’t deprived of the food she loves, she’s empowered by the strength, energy, cognitive ability, ease of movement, ability to sleep well, and, yes, her leaner silhouette (not just her end of the day shadow, either), possibly in a bathing suit.            

 On Valentine’s Day, when David and I are beckoned by dessert at The Wild Goat Bistro we’ll see just what scares me more: giving up sugar or adding to my waist. After all, love handles kill!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Resolve and Persevere in the New Year

I opened one eye and peered into the shadowy disarray of my bedroom. January First glared back at me, its filmy blue eye fixing me in a reproachful stare. I grabbed the comforter and dragged it over my head in hopes of shutting out that telltale eye. No good! I felt myself melting to a protoplasmic mush—amorphous, undefined. I hadn’t made any resolutions. Maybe I could just sleep all year.

            Resolution: /ˌrɛzhttp://sp.dictionary.com/dictstatic/dictionary/graphics/luna/thinsp.pngəˈluhttp://sp.dictionary.com/dictstatic/dictionary/graphics/luna/thinsp.pngʃən/ http://sp.dictionary.com/dictstatic/g/d/dictionary_questionbutton_default.gif [rez-uh-loo-shuhhttp://sp.dictionary.com/dictstatic/dictionary/graphics/luna/thinsp.pngn]   n.    3. the act of resolving or determining upon an             action or course of action, method, procedure, etc.
 resolve, determination, perseverance, tenacity; strength, fortitude.

After I got out of bed, I researched the tradition of New Year’s resolutions in hopes of coming up with ideas. Reputedly, the Babylonians made resolutions as early as 4000 B.C., but their New Year began on March 23rd and the celebration went on for eleven days. After all that partying, their resolutions probably sounded something like, “I’ll never drink again.”

January 1 became the beginning of the New Year in 46 B.C., when Julius Caesar developed a calendar that would more accurately reflect the seasons than previous calendars. January was named after the mythical figure of Janus, whose two faces symbolized beginnings and endings.

The Romans celebrated the New Year by making resolutions, a common one being to seek forgiveness from enemies. At midnight on December 31, they imagined Janus looking back at the old year and forward to the new (probably with the same vulture eye that woke me up Sunday morning.) I’m betting that first January must have been strange with the 45 B.C. New Year baby still in diapers when the next one was born. Those early Romans loved their parties, but I bet they resolved to quit tinkering with the calendar.

New Year’s resolution making is big business here in the good ole’ US of A. Google it and you’ll get 1.2 million + results, including a Top Ten:

1.              Spend more time with friends and family
2.              Find time for a fitness program
3.              Lose weight
4.              Quit Smoking
5.              Enjoy life more
6.              Quit drinking
7.              Get out of debt
8.              Learn something new
9.              Help others
10.           Get organized

But even with guidelines, I’m still stumped. There’s no point in setting unobtainable goals—I tried that four years ago. My first resolution was to lose twenty-five pounds. I joined Weight Watchers in January with my BFF (hold on a sec, I have to pull my 94% fat free popcorn out of the microwave) and started tracking every morsel that crossed my lips. Woo-hoo! Worked great! I’d lost fifteen pounds by April, but three weddings, a cruise, and too many holiday parties later, well…you probably get the picture.

The next year my resolution  was to organize my office, but I’m more disorganized now—in two places. The clutter in my home office piled so high, I moved my writing to the studio above the barn, leaving the clutter in the house to nag me every time I passed. Let's not talk about the studio after three years!

Experts say that setting measurable goals is more realistic than say, “I resolve to lose weight.” Describing resolutions in specific terms and breaking down lager goals into smaller, easily achieved challenges—“I’ll weigh-in every Friday at 10”—promotes success. Those same experts stress that finding alternatives for habitual behaviors (exchanging a little nookie for the desserts?) will help me stick to my resolutions. But the most important thing is to choose resolutions that really mean something personally, even if they aren’t in the Top Ten—like blogging regularly, submitting stories for publication, or finding a literary agent.

But 2016 wasn’t all failure for me—I can be proud, walk tall. I lost another eight pounds, worked out every week and kept the weight off during the holidays.  I actually do see friends and enjoy life more. And maybe during those work-outs I'll determine a course of action for making my 2017 a happy and prosperous year.  Yeah, and the New Year’s baby will finally go down for her nap.