June, 2017
After Aaron and Tina’s wedding, Bob and I took a much needed rest in Mendocino. The village was originally built by New Englanders who came to CA for logging and fishing. It really has the unique feel of an old New England town, so much so that much of “Murder She Wrote” was filmed there. We came back refreshed to start again to finish our barn.
Bob and bay - Copy

September, 2016
Alison was my first voice student after we moved to Ashland. She was a wonderful student, a beautiful singer and over all these years has become like a daughter to me. We have visited her in Chicago many times, she annually came to our home in West Salem during garden harvest and created fabulous meals from the front yard and she has visited us in Slovenia. Such a precious friend!!!
Since she was having a “big” birthday this year we decided to meet in Portland, OR. I know not a convenient locale, but a first for her and I could also visit Sandra and Jeff [friends from Oxford], Tracey [foster daughter], and Matthew [helped build our OH home].
We stayed downtown, went to interesting restaurants for delicious meals, wandered the city, the Saturday market and spent lots and lots of time chit chatting. Fabulous!
Next time London?

Alison and me

Alison and me

Iconic sign

Iconic sign

View from around the corner

View from around the corner

Saturday arts market - so much to look at

Saturday arts market – so much to look at

We rented bikes, but Portland was really too hilly for us!

We rented bikes, but Portland was really too hilly for us!

Chinese Garden

Chinese Garden

September, 2016
Bob’s birthday is soon and his Ohio license will expire, as will the Ohio license plates on both of our vehicles. So it was finally time for him to bite the preverbial bullet and become a citizen of California. For some reason he feels disloyal to his home state and the culture of corn, the Amish, fall leaves and polka bands. But it is time!!!!
So we decided to take a couple days along the coast and travel to Crescent City and visit their DMV for all his test taking.

Bob in Redwoods

Bob in Redwoods

The trip north is through the Redwoods where we hiked deep into the gigantic forest. The energy of calm in these immense trees is overwhelming, with a deep profound silence that caresses every aspect of my being.

On the other side of the Redwoods are vast meadows where elk graze, long stretches of beach, lagoons that call for a kayak ride [I’ll bring it next time], more trees than one could begin to count and sad little towns in need of love hosting oversized chain saw sculptures of bears and eagles and of course Big Foot.

Crescent City Lighthouse

Crescent City Lighthouse

Crescent City is aptly named for the shape of the sandy beach. It has only 7,000 residents, but boasts a prison, Redwood National Park, a lovely lighthouse that can be accessed in low tide, the fishing industry and the nearest Home Depot to us [3 hours drive].

We had a tough time finding a really nice restaurant that served fresh seafood, but fast food is available along the “strip” [a sure sign of a typical American town].
We enjoyed the sunset 
a walk on the pier4-crescent-city-pier

and the next morning a visit with the sea lions.
Unfortunately Bob came without appropriate documentation to prove that he exists. His Ohio driver’s license with his picture was not enough. We were able get plates for the Jeep that we drove there, but the truck that stayed at home needed to make an appearance and be weighed [it’s just a little Ford Ranger] so Bob gets another visit to the CA DMV.

The trip was worth each and every frustration because of our elk encounter. On the way home we saw a line of elk, we pulled into the drive of an abandoned warehouse and sat for 45 minutes surrounded with these glorious creatures.8-all-elk9-elk-nursing10-buck-elk12-elk-by-car
Oh the magic of it all!!!!!

10 January, 2015

We arrived safely!!!!
The most difficult part of the trip was traveling in California through the Sierra Nevada Mts. We had beautiful weather, but the climb through the mountains was slow for Bob’s heavily burdened Ford Ranger on the highway. Much of the trip was on 2 lane windy roads. After Elle’s death on a windy road in this area, we both were more tense but also more cautious.
But this is what we saw.

Fields in the Sacramento Valley


Clear Lake

Clear Lake


View to “our” valley

9 January, 2015
As we planned our trip, we had hoped to stay in interesting courtyard motels or B&Bs along the way, but finding the unique place to stay or place to eat is sometimes nearly impossible. All that is available directly off the interstate are national chain motels and fast food eateries bathed in neon lights. Too many towns have rolled up their streets and sold out to large corporations making it difficult to support local businesses and delight in that which is unique to the area. But each day we drive in to a town, take Drago for a walk around the center, look for the personality of the community and try to find a place for at least one meal or mid-afternoon coffee in a small local establishment. Too bad it is so difficult.

Frozen fog leaving Elko, NV

After breakfast at The Coffee Mug in downtown Elko, NV we cut through the fog for much of the morning. Fortunately there was not much traffic so the risk of crashing into something kept us alert, but not afraid.

The other side of the fog

We knew the mountains surrounded the Nevada plains, but it was late morning before we had a hint of what was just ahead.

Sierra Nevada Mountain Range

We stopped in Lovelock, NV for lunch in a cafe near the only round courthouse still in use in the US. The town has built traditions and festivals around their name which includes the Lovers Aloft hot air balloon race Valentines Day weekend and chains on the courthouse grounds where lovers can lock their love for safe keeping.

Lovelock, NV

locks of love How did the families in wagons, pulled by oxen, manage this trip? Miles stretch with no water, no shelter, no services and the mountains loom all around. By the time they arrived in NV they, and their animals, must have been exhausted, short on supplies and dealing with the difficulties of weather, rough terrain and broken equipment. And then they had a salt desert to transverse and high mountains to pass before winter set in. This is an interesting description of the difficulties of The Donner Party in 1846-1847.
My ancestors came from the British Isles early in the formation of The Colonies but they never wandered further than central Pennsylvania. I am of the same inclination. I don't think I would have had the stamina to pile all my worldly possessions and my countless children in a wagon and walk 3,000 miles in hopes of cheap land. And I can be pretty certain that there would have been some pretty serious marital discussions along the way. Even if I don't know where we will be living, or how much electricity we will have, or if I can remember to buy all the groceries we'll need for an entire week, driving a car for 10 days across the country listening to books is profound luxury compared to the pioneers. Perspective is a great thing.

CA trees

There were no trees between Ohio and California and the minute we crossed the border to CA trees were everywhere.

near Nevada City, CA

Now we are finally in California, our new home state, and the adventure has just begun.

8 January, 2015
We have been traveling west now for 7 days, and it’s not really too bad being cooped up in the car surrounded by so many of our worldly possessions with not a smidgen of room left for a travel souvenir. The trip has been so pleasant because the weather has not been dangerous, the scenery is fascinating in its sameness or in its contrasts, the vehicles are driving smoothly and comfortably, I am listening to books through and we have had wonderful visits with friends and families.

From I-70, Missouri and Kansas seem like one huge duo-crop farm growing only corn or soybeans. The fields extend as far as we could see with no fence rows or wood lots to break the view. As a vegetarian it is impossible for me to believe that there is such an expansive need for cattle feed, and how is it possible that anyone in this world can live hungry when we traveled for 2 days with farms to the horizon. We were also surprised by the enormous windmills planted on either side of the highway.

Windy Kansas

Almost a religious experience

Our overnight stay 1/4/15  was with Milka, David and Ana in Hays, Kansas. 32 years ago we hosted Milka when she was a graduate student at Miami University, she lived with us, cooked for us, traveled with us, entertained us and I was the matron of honor for their wedding. Although our contact has been sporadic in recent years, we jumped right back into the banter, laughter and story telling routine.

Colorado was much of the same, but the land waved a little more with a touch of snow.

Lonely road

1/6/15 night we stayed in Denver with Bob’s cousin Monica and her family. They have 5 children under the age of 8 and Drago got lots of chasing and petting. They live in one of the many large developments outside of Denver with a view of the foot hills.

Backyard view

Denver neighborhood

We spent extra time on Tuesday with Monica and the children, getting to know each one just a little bit better. For years all of Bob’s family stayed in the Cleveland area and we were the ones who had moved away, but we were still in Ohio. Close proximity meant that we could share Christmas Eve gatherings, weddings, birthdays, funerals and summer gatherings. But in recent years the next generation has stretched the family boundaries and some are living in California, Oregon, Colorado, North Carolina, and Florida. Miles and miles of distance between family members means that the children grow up without intimate knowledge of their distant cousins and we miss the richness of sharing in each others lives.

We had a short driving day on Tuesday. We drove just an hour to Fort Collins, CO and wandered the town. Bob and I knew each other from high school, but never dated until he came to Fort Collins, where I was living. We have warm memories of wandering hand in hand along the snow covered streets, sharing a calzone for the first time at the downtown pizzeria, and looking over the city from Horseshoe Reservoir. We expected to take a romantic stroll through our memories, but everything had changed so much that we recognized very little. Fort Collins now has a thriving downtown with a huge variety of quaint shops and restaurants, but it was much less vibrant 40 years ago. The center of the street parking remains, but the cowboy shop is gone and so is the stage coach that decorated the main intersection. The house where I lived has been remuddled to a point of unrecognizable ugliness and all the trees are 40 years taller. The streets are wide and unplowed, that hasn’t changed, but nothing looked the same.

1/7/15 evening we stayed with my Fort Collins boyfriend, from 45 years ago, and his wife and wished that we lived closer because we had such a fun time together. How nice that a past flame can remain a good friend.

Colorado stretches into Wyoming

We stopped in Rock Springs, Wyoming to wander around. Bob’s great grandfather and grandfather came from Slovenia to Rock Springs to work in the coal mine. The downtown still has skeletons of buildings that the grandfathers would have recognized, but the derelict disrepair is heart breaking. Modern development near the highway has stolen the spirit of this and many small towns throughout the US. How can we let our traditions and history die and be replaced by a tacky gaudy fast food row and yet claim a historic downtown with a walking tour brochure of buildings which no longer exist or are at risk of falling down?                                                               There is a very nice memorial to the miners who lost their lives in the tunnels which run below the city and a woman assured us that the downtown is coming alive again.

Mine memorial – Rock Springs, WY

We tried to imagine what it must have been like for these men to come from beautiful Slovenia to the snowy, wet, muddy plains of Wyoming, work and die in the mines with men from all over the world and never return home. Profound hunger, poverty and desire for a better life is a great motivator and continues to draw people to the US today.

Wyoming rocks

1/8/15 We stopped for lunch with the cousin of Bob’s mother in Salt Lake City. They are both in their 90s and entertained us with their curiosity and remembrances. Bob’s family vacationed each summer beginning with a trip “out West” in 1956. Bob has amazing memories of that trip and visiting cousins along the way. It became a family tradition that we continued, but it has been 17 years since we have shared a meal with the western relations.

Thursday images:


East of Salt Lake City

1st snow capped mountains

Park City, Utah farm

Bonneville Salt Flats

Salty stone

Welcome to Wendover, Nevada

2 January, 2015
Today was a fuzzy drippy day.
For 451 miles, Bob and Drago led in the Ford Ranger and I followed in the Jeep.

My travel view

We had icy conditions when leaving Chicago, but once we got on the highway we just had rain, rain and more rain.
Fortunately there was very little traffic and on 55 and 72 there were almost no big trucks spitting all over us.
Just after crossing the Mississippi River, we stopped in Hannibal, Missouri for a mid-afternoon respite.

A western coffee shop

Hannibal’s claim to fame is the boyhood home of Mark Twain and birthplace of Molly Brown [Unsinkable Molly Brown]. The town sits on a rise above the Mississippi River and was a transportation hub on the river with over 1,000 steam boats landing in one year.

Highway bridge across Mississippi River at Hannibal

The town seems to be trying to hold its head above the river as it claims all things Mark Twain: the Twain Museum, a light house, the home of Twain, the home of the girl who inspired Becky Thatcher, river boat rides and lots of antique shops. But on a rainy day in January there were very few celebrating the unique history of Hannibal.

Hannibal, MO

We passed up the tempting opportunities to stop at the Walter Cronkite Memorial, the birth place of Walt Disney, the J. C.. Penny Museum, the park named after General “Black Jack” John Pershing and everything about Abraham Lincoln.
Maybe the next time we drive East from CA we will stop at each and every historical site……………..maybe not.

1 January, 2015
The sky was a sharp clear blue. The heat of the sun countered the below freezing temperatures but the tears still iced on our cheeks.

Saying good-bye to Thistlefink Gardens was profoundly difficult.
We planned for this bit of paradise to be home for the rest of our lives.
We never imagined leaving it.
But the first day of 2015, wrapped in sunshine, we began a glossy shining new adventure.

Today we traveled 301 miles to Brwyn, IL outside of Chicago to visit Alison.

Alison was my first voice student in Ashland. She was a high school senior with a talent that matched her hunger to perform and her successes did as much to build my reputation as a voice teacher as any of my greatly honed skills. We have had a wonderful mother/daughter relationship ever since.

We are exhausted!!

Stripping the house took months and months of choosing, boxing, pitching, recycling and then choosing again and again and again.
The items we think we will need for the next 2 years are squeezed into the Ford Ranger and the Jeep like a well endowed woman sausaged in stretchy jeans.
So what exactly do we need for the next 2 years?
1. A suitcase for the drive cross country to California.
2. A suitcase for 3 weeks in Petrolia, CA in the rain.
3. A suitcase for 3 months in Slovenia as winter turns into spring.
4. Necessities for living for 2 years in a tiny house off the grid. [Kitchen supplies, bedding, building tools, books, sewing supplies, instruments for music making, art supplies, gardening supplies, a few pieces of household furniture, important personal/household documents, accoutrement for Drago our Havanese pup, and maybe even a pretty treasure or two.

So the Ohio house had to get naked!!

Kitchen to Great Room


Master Suite

November 2014
All life is a journey
How much risk am I willing to take?
How much comfort zone do I shed?
Where will I wake up next?
And where will I lay my head?

12 February, 2014
My Mama pass on after 2 months of Hospice care in our home. That phase of our journey has come to an end.

March 2013
Bob and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary with a 3 week trip to Slovenia. Aaron and Tina joined us for 2 weeks of our journey and we experienced soooooo much. The weather was not as ideal as spring usually is in Slovenia, but the wild crocus blanketed the forest, the apple trees were blooming along with garden bulbs and I had lovely use of my orange umbrella. It seemed that every time we needed the sun to shine it cooperated so our day at the seaside was brilliant and we had clear skies driving both times into the mountains.

Kay, Bob, Aaron and Tina

Bob sitting at Tartini Square, Piran

Bay of Piran

This was Tina’s first visit to Slovenia so there was much to share with her. She is a fabulous traveling companion because she found everything A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!
We took her to our favorite spots and even some new adventures like a tour at the stud farm for the Lipizzaner stallions.

Lipizzaner; dark are young, white are older


The highlights of the trip were the anniversary party, the countless hours we spent with our friends, the overnight stay with friends at their B&B and the visit to Bob’s family and homestead. We were so wonderfully busy connecting with people that I had to carry a calendar; a coffee here, a lunch there, a glass of wine or two, followed by another meal. We were well entertained with stories, laughter, song and good food.

Party guests

more guests

Aaron, Miloš, Tanja, Tina

Teachers from Technical School

Kay and Iza and the book we wrote

Matej’s birthday

Such a precious time to share with Aaron.

Bob and Aaron

August 2012
We do not journey far from Thistlefink Gardens, but Mama was able to stay with my sister Judi and we went to the seaside. In Slovenia it seemed that everyone had a summer holiday at the seaside, so we chose to follow their inspiration and went to the coast of Maine for a week. Our dear friends of 35 years rent a cottage in Friendship, Maine every August and we had a relaxed week of great companionship, lots of laughter, a little bit of song, yummy food and peaceful views of the bay. It could not have been better.

The light at the end of a long bike ride

Peace beyond measure

May 2012
It seems that Aaron lives at the end of the world. California is only a phone call away, but it is troublesome to meet for Sunday dinner.
So I went for a week to share his wilderness and take some time for myself.
I hiked, walked the beach, shared the view of the eclipse, had fun filled meals with Aaron’s friends, sang some rounds and 3 part tunes, helped him at work and I even spent a day coaching the school cast of West Side Story.

Petrolia is a magical place out of step with the wild speed of modern life. People there seem to take more time to absorb the world they inhabit and find ways to share and entertain with friends.

If it wasn’t at the end of the world I would go more often.

Where the fairies live

Nature’s art gallery

Ellen & Michael watching the eclipse

The eclipse

The end of the world

February 2012

Resting in the Garden Room

Mother and Drago nap a lot, but seldom do they nap together. We bought Drago thinking that he would be a sweet companion for Mama, but a puppy was just too energetic for her comfort. But today in the garden room he jumped up on her lap, she enjoyed having him there, and they napped together.
September 2011
If my mother does not remember that I am her daughter, then who does she think I am?

The former majorette keeping time with the band at the Woolly Bear Festival


July 2011
Anja and Sara came from Slovenija for intense voice lessons and to live for a month in the US.

Sara and Anja

We shared some of the highlights of the mid-west.

Fireworks at Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls at night

Camping and trying to put up the tent

Singing together


Visiting my first “great” student and Anja will probably be my last “great” student

The recital they gave

We had a brilliant time with these precious young women and we can only hope that their journey to Ohio in July will be a cherished memory.

June 2011
We are becoming the link of understanding for my mother.
We translate the world and help her feel apart of the events that swirl around her.
We repeat and say things in new ways and repeat again and search for creative explanations and repeat again.
We remind and cajole and encourage and love.
June 1, 2011


May 2011
Our focus has been grand-daughter Katie’s wedding.
So much to do!!
Clothes to try on, buy, take back, buy again.
Gifts to buy and more to buy and give and then buy more.
So many changes.
So many decisions.
So much confusion.
Familial relationships seem to be very turned around.
Who is Katie? Is she a baby or a young woman ready to be married?
Why would Katie want a photo with Nana she is no one special?
She is not the grandmother, or is she?
Aunt Doris [mother’s sister] came for the wedding, but was she coming? How was she going to get there? Does she know the way? Where will she stay? How long will she stay?
The day of the wedding it rained and rained and rained.
Should she wear her black winter boots with her green suit?
The umbrella is wrapped in an a black plastic bag so that it doesn’t get wet.
Too many changes, too much stress and too many people telling her what to do.
None the less a good time was had by all, especially Katie and Tom.

Katie, Nana, Tom

APRIL 2011
Alzheimer’s Disease surrounds us with confusion. Why my mother has degeneration of the brain cells is confusing. Every day functioning for my mother is confusing. How to help her is confusing. How conversations and understandings can be so confused is confusing. Logic is no longer understandable in the ways that before have always made sense. Everything is confusing!

Alzheimer’s Disease [AD] is a disease of the brain. People often suffer with manifestations of the disease for decades before those in contact with the sufferer realize that the behavior exhibited is not eccentric, or strange, or difficult, but the result of a disease.
[Information and photos from Alzheimer’s Foundation]

Healthy cells in small box – Alzheimer’s in large

“The real work of your brain goes on in individual cells. An adult brain contains about 100 billion nerve cells, or neurons, with branches that connect at more than 100 trillion points. Scientists call this dense, branching network a “neuron forest.” Signals traveling through the neuron forest form the basis of memories, thoughts, and feelings. Neurons are the chief type of cell destroyed by Alzheimer’s disease. Signals that form memories and thoughts move through an individual nerve cell as a tiny electrical charge. Nerve cells connect to one another at synapses. When a charge reaches a synapse, it may trigger release of tiny bursts of chemicals called neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters travel across the synapse, carrying signals to other cells. Alzheimer’s disease disrupts both the way electrical charges travel within cells and the activity of neurotransmitters.”

“100 billion nerve cells… 100 trillion synapses… dozens of neurotransmitters… This “strength in numbers” provides your brain’s raw material. Over time, our experiences create patterns in signal type and strength. These patterns of activity explain how, at the cellular level, our brains code our thoughts, memories, skills and sense of who we are. Specific activity patterns change throughout life as we meet new people, have new experiences and acquire new skills. The patterns also change when Alzheimer’s disease or a related disorder disrupts nerve cells and their connections to one another.”

Comparison of healthy and Alzheimer’s brain

“In the Alzheimer brain:

The cortex shrivels up, damaging areas involved in thinking, planning and remembering.
Shrinkage is especially severe in the hippocampus, an area of the cortex that plays a key role in formation of new memories.
Ventricles (fluid-filled spaces within the brain) grow larger.”

The patterns of the disease are surprisingly consistent, considering that the patina of each sufferer varies so greatly.

Early stages:
Struggling with retention of new information learned and confused thinking and planning.

Mild to Moderate stages:
The disease begins to interfere with social life; confusion in handling money, difficulty organizing, expressing and articulating thoughts, speaking and understanding speech becomes more difficult and body movements change. Changes in personality, behavior and difficulties recognizing those normally familiar are also signs of the progression of the disease.

My mother lives within the limitations of mild/moderate Alzheimer’s. Balancing her check book, following a recipe or a pattern, staying on a linear path during a conversation, following through with a project or activity, understanding the relationship of time to daily activities, knowing where she lives, and sometimes knowing who we are are, all the tangles she struggles to sort through each day.

My struggle as her daughter and care-giver is that she lives with such profound denial, and as a realist it is difficult for me to know just how to adjust daily activities to her fantasies. She believes that she can drive. She believes that she could live alone, prepare meals, pay bills, do laundry, bathe, go to the store without getting lost and function with an independence that she has never had in her life. Yet she has shown no inclination to do any of these things in the past 4 months. The hardest thing is that we have a person living in our home with whom we can not have a “normal” relationship and I am watching my mother fade away little by little each day.

MARCH 2011

Nana and Maliq

The greatest joy is holding new life, cuddling, smelling the sweetness, snuggling, touching delicate skin, kissing and allowing the tenderness to wipe away all the scratches of life.
Mama begs to hold great grandson Maliq when he comes to visit.
She sings to him with a high silvery pitch, and all is right with the world.


Mama was medically diagnosed with AD this past year, but as I reflect on the past 20 years I think she has been struggling with the symptoms for a much longer time. For years she could putter all day long and never seem to accomplish anything. For years it has appeared that she was overly focused on tasks that should not have taken so long to complete or made so complicated. For years conversations seemed to be difficult when we came to visit and all the excitement of having family around seemed to be overwhelming. In recent years her walk changed and she began to shuffle, and sway when she walked. In recent years she became obsessed with clutching her purse and protecting and hiding her money. But for years my father protected her, tucked her under his wing, finished her sentences, lead her around by the hand and I was not aware how much she was failing. I was often exasperated with him, because he was too often frustrated with her, too abrupt with her, too protective, too possessive and too controlling. Now I am beginning to realize that his behavior was a response to the changes in her and he was trying to protect every one; especially her, but also my sister and me.
He and I started to have a conversation about the changes he was seeing, but she walked in the room and he didn’t finish telling me and the next week he was gone.
The conversation started with him saying, “Look at her she walks like an old lady!”
and I said “But Daddy she is an old lady.”
“But she doesn’t have to walk like one, I don’t walk like an old man!”
“But Daddy she is 84 years old. She walks like an 84 year old woman.”
He started to tell me that he is seeing other things that concerned him, but then we heard her scratchy shuffle coming down the hall and the conversation ended, never to be resumed.

Daddy has been gone since May 2009 and my only regret is that we didn’t finish that conversation. There are so many questions that I would like to ask him now that she is living with us, so many memories I would like to have clarified and so many explanations that will never be shared.

So our journeys are no longer to memorable places in the world, but the path of loving and caring for my mother with all the confusions along the way.



Our son Aaron has moved to Petrolia, CA. He lives in a wilderness cabin with no electricity, heat from a wood stove, a single gas burner for cooking, running water that comes directly from the spring up hill and an outhouse with a view. He loves it!!!

Petrolia Cabin

Cabin interior

Visiting him for 2 weeks was a “back to nature” experience. We took our sleeping bags and tent and he created a soft pad for lovely sleeping under the tall trees. Unfortunately we had lots of rain and the first night the wind and rain blew so hard that the tent was blown over the ravine. Fortunately we were not in the tent, but Bob and Aaron had to fabricate a “fishing” line and snag the tent and bring it up out of the depths of the ravine without anyone needing to climb down through the poison oak.

Tent before the rains

Beginnings of the front yard garden

Newly fabricated outhouse

View from the outhouse

The outhouse also serves as a great bird blind. In the summer one can enjoy viewing the Metole River and when the leaves are off the trees the view is of the ocean.

Petrolia Beach, a short walk from the cabin

Mouth of the Metole river – the sand bar closes in the summer and the river becomes a lake

Sea Lion sunning himself on the beach

Many people choose a wilderness vacation. Arron has chosen a wilderness life.

Kay Jul 6th 2016 08:05 am No Comments yet Trackback URI Comments RSS

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