December 24, 2012 Christmas on Skid Row

Christmas is everywhere, even Downtown Los Angeles Skid Row.  For the last 24 years on Sunday evening the church we attend, Central Community, has gone to Skid Row to feed the homeless and on the Sunday before Christmas they give out backpacks filled with goodies.  Last night was Backpack night.  Over 800 filled backpacks were given out by about 200 volunteers along with oranges, sandwiches, chili and hot tea.  Everyone on Skid Row who showed up walked away with at least one backpack, a belly full of food and at least 100 “Merry Christmas”s.

All these backpacks were filled by members of Central Community or by another local church.  About one month before backpack night Pastor Eric buys as many backpacks as he can as begins distributing them to the church members with the following instructions; “Put in the backpack anything that YOU would like to have if you were homeless”.  With those words people begin filling backpacks and returned them to the church ready for Backpack Night. 

When we arrived at 3rd and Main in Los Angeles there was a line of people at least a block long with a big huddle of people at the start of the line.  The beginning of the line is reserved for the children and the disabled.  It took about 1 ½ hrs to hand out all the backpacks and all the food.   It was great to see the kids carrying their backpacks away with a smile on their face.  Each person who received a backpack was quick to find a place to start going through their backpack.  Everyone seemed happy, even though no one found a $100 bill in their backpack.    

It was a true blessing to be a part of this ministry. The ministries of Central Community still are an amazement to me.   How one church of so few members is able to give so much to the community shows that there is a Loving, Giving God.

December 23, 2012 Christmas pageant

Tonight was the Children's Christmas pageant at the church.  The lady who organized knew she would not be available last week or tonight, so I've been attending the practice sessions and last week I stepped into her shoes, taking over the last practice and tonight's performance.  We had about 15 children, ages 5 to about 10, and about 8 speaking parts.  Three of the speaking parts went to siblings from a family with 7 children.  Those kids are amazing - very well mannered, well spoken, happy, outgoing, friendly - I told the Mom that she could make a million if she could bottle her parenting formula!  But it's really no mystery - both Mom and Dad spend a lot of time with their children, teaching them how to be good people and showing them by example.

I admit, I was sort of worried about how the play would actually work - last week some kids didn't know their lines and some of the older ones didn't want to focus.  But tonight they all came through.  The play was lovely and all the parents, grandparents and friends were well-rewarded for coming out to see them.  A nice start to Christmas week!

2012 December 22 RV remodeling - final phase

Randy has been working to finish our RV remodeling before Christmas.  He's been getting lots of "help" from Shorty, who wants to be in on everything.  This much help could set the whole project back a few months. . . 
But either in spite of Shorty's help or because of it, the kitchen/living room changes are done!  The new refrigerator is set in, with a small broom closet on the side, which I love. It still sets over the furnace.
Next to the fridge is the new stove and sink.  Randy build in a small shelf above the stove and I added the copper backsplash.  The cabinets are stained the same color, they just don't look like it in this picture.
And Randy added a new bookcase to hold (most) of his cookbooks, with space for the DVD player.  This is a real blessing because, as noted earlier, he has a TON of cookbooks.
And this bookcase has a secret - it has a trap door on the top, and with a push of a button the TV slides into view!  Available when we want it, and out of site when we don't.  Very, very cool!
Now our RV looks more like our home.  There are a couple of loose ends but it's all functional and I love the way it looks.

Randy has a few things left on his to-do list, but these were the critical changes for now.  If he wants, he can stop now and enjoy the holidays.  Good thing, because Shorty is getting tired!

December 13, 2012 RV Remodeling Phase 3

The kitchen remodeling is almost done.  Randy installed the cabinets for the sink and a drawer base, followed by the countertop and sink.  We needed something heavy to put on the sink corners to hold it steady while the silicone dried - I've always said Randy has a TON of cookbooks, and they came in handy here.
Then he hung the cabinet doors on.  It's not quite done but I love how it's looking.
On another topic, Shorty has recovered from his surgery and dental work.  Now if only he could learn to relax. . . 

2012 December 2 Remodeling phase 2

Randy got a lot done today.  Right after church he started working on the refrigerator.  He removed the doors and unloaded its contents into a cooler, then Jack helped us move it into position.  Jack had already made a steel frame for it to sit on, which holds it above the furnace and keeps it from slipping forward.  The fridge was a bit of awkward to move, but we got it in and when Randy put the doors back on and plugged it in, it started working just fine.
Next he took the door off the stove and we moved it into its position.  It's not ready to be hooked up yet, but soon!

December 1, 2012 Remodeling Fever hits again

Generally speaking we really like this RV (although we'd trade it for a Prevost if someone offered) . . . it has got a lot of storage space, it runs well, and the new paint job looks great.  But one thing we’ve never really cared for is the kitchen.  It has a stove top but no oven, and the refrigerator is both small and inefficient - it doesn't stay closed.  Replacing all this in an RV can be a pain so we haven't rushed into it,  but this week we bit the bullet and got started.

The kitchen area is along the wall on the passenger side.  The sink is in the middle of the room, followed by the stove top, then the refrigerator.  There is some storage under the sink and stovetop, but we decided it would be a worthwhile trade to give that up for bigger, better appliances.
First to go - the refrigerator, which Randy pulled out piece by piece.   And there are a lot of pieces in an RV refrigerator.  Ours sat on top of the furnace.  Moving the furnace is not a reasonable option, so we won't be able to put in a standard height refrigerator.
Next he got rid of the stovetop and its cabinet.
 Then he dismantled the sink and its cabinet.
So now we have a big space to work with.  
The water pipe has to stay but Randy was able to find an alternative to the furnace duct that lay behind the cabinets, so most of this space is usable.  Next challenge:  putting in the new refrigerator.

2012 November Tia's Tacos

Tia's Tacos is a Riverside Mexican Restaurant with reasonably good food, but the real attraction is outside.  The  back and side yards are filled to the brim with . . . stuff.  Someone with a lot of time, money and a ton of imagination filled the area with odd creations.  The ground is covered with tiles, mosaics or concrete filled with whatever they had on hand.  "Whatever they had on hand" includes oyster shells, hand tools, old calculators, even a bicycle.  
They made a credible effort to create topiaries by making wire cages around the trees, but the trees don't always cooperate.
There are several huge wire sculptures, filled with all sorts of things.  Plastic bottles, shoes, shells, beer bottles, tools - everything is put to use, including the palm trees fronds, which serve as head-dresses for the enormous sculptures.

Of course, if the sculpture is standing on it's hands, there's no need of a head-dress.
Someone had a great time creating whatever fantasy pieces they thought of, and the results are funny and unexpected. 

2012 November 27 - Calendar Pin Up Queens!

Time for a change of tone - a very special Pin Up Calendar!  This is the calendar put together by the group of ladies mentioned in my November 6th blog entry.  They put together their own costumes, we all created the sets, and I took the pictures.  I can't even begin to describe the fun we had making the calendar, but every one of our Pin Up Queens want to do it again!  We'll see what the future holds, but for now - here are the 2013 Mission Village Pin-Up Queens!

Miss January - at 77 years young, she is an updated version of the New Year’s Eve Baby, wearing Depends instead of diapers and sipping Champaign instead of a bottle! 
Miss February - 76 years young and her sweet, shy smile is misleading as she flirtily lifts her skirt to draw attention to those long, fishnet-covered legs!
Miss March - 65 years young and a real fan of au natural sunbathing!  For our calendar she is modestly screened behind shamrocks and wearing a St. Patrick’s hat . . . What, you didn’t notice the hat?
Miss April - or as we call her, Miss Legs!  84 years young with legs that Tina Turner would die for!  
Miss May - just 83 years young, our Queen of May is as fresh as her springtime flowers.
Miss June - 63 years young, making waves at the pool and ready to play ball!
Miss July - 55 years young, hot as a firecracker and ready to light up the night sky!
Miss August - at 60 years young, she’s a sexy mermaid looking for a hot cabana boy.  
Miss September - Just 84 years young, here she is, showing off the other side of Rosie the Riveter, our #1 Mile High Club Recruiter! 
Miss October - the Lady of Darkness is 66 years young, showing off her famous cleavage and long legs and ready to surprise you!
Miss November - Here is Miss January again, ready for Thanksgiving this time; forget the turkey, just meet her in the teepee!
Miss December - 82 years young and ready for the holiday party!  Naughty or Nice -   Does it matter?

November 23, 2012 Goodbye, Manna

Our little black cat Manna finally reached the point where she was not having a good life anymore.  We had to fulfill our last responsibility to her, no matter how much it hurt us, and she is gone now.  She was my little girl and I am in a lot of pain right now.  

Eighteen years ago, right before Halloween, a stray cat had a litter of kittens.  One little kitten was black and a neighbor worried about what might happen to a black kitten at Halloween.  So he advertised to find a home for her, and we were fortunate enough to answer the ad.  

Most of Manna’s youth was spent with her adoptive mom - not me, but our sweet gray cat Princess.  Princess loved Manna like her very own and even when Manna was a big girl, Princess would bath and groom her like she was still a kitten.  

At 18, Manna was the last of her generation.  During much of the time that we had her, we were a 5-cat family that included Princess and Manna, plus our beloved Snowball, quiet Blackstar, and a beautiful but not-too-bright calico cat named Angel.  
Angel and Manna were just a week apart in age and for awhile they got along like sisters.  They would play together and snuggle up with each other for naps, but as they grew up Manna developed true cat aloofness and didn’t have much use for Angel.  Princess was the only cat that Manna really cared about.  

I never had much success photographing Manna.  Her black coat always made her features disappear, with just those green eyes showing.  But Manna was with us through so much; she was part of our lives during the hard years working on the house on Diamond Street, and the years we lived in the Carriage House.  She was with me when Randy traveled to Israel and when he worked in Arizona.  She shared our lives through so many changes.
As she grew older her main activity was sleeping.  Our philosophy was that at her age, she could do whatever she liked.  We easily accepted the fact that she basically lived on the bed, with just a few trips down for food and litter.  And somethings she didn't even need to get down for food.  She was a skilled people-trainer and eventually was able to teach us to give her treats on the bed.  Feeding Mana was a tricky business; as a diva, she kept her girlish figure, and like many divas, she did it by being bulemic.  If she ate very much, she would just throw up.  Since she lived on the bed, that created issues.  We learned to give her just a few pieces of treat, but to do it several times a day.  It got to the point that when we went into the bedroom for anything, we automatically gave her a treat.  Didn't even have to think about it, just did it.

Her affection for the bed made her transition to RVing very easy. The only real difference was that we occasionally need to raise the bed to get to the underneath storage.  Manna didn't mind; in fact, she seemed to like it.  She just rode the bed up and down, like an amusement park ride.
Manna didn't even get off the bed in the morning when I made it.  She was amazingly skilled at stepping around whatever area I was working on.  I kidded her about being in the way but the truth is she never was.

For several years Manna slept with me at night.  Not snuggled up next to me, of course - that would not be becoming to a diva.  Instead she slept on the bed just above my pillow.  Which means I scooted down on the bed, to be sure she had enough room.  People who don't live with cats don't understand, but people who do, will understand this perfectly.   

In spite of her aloofness, Manna held the record as the best purr-er ever.  Whenever I scooped her up, even if she didn't want to be held, she would automatically purr loud and steady.  One of my favorite things in the world is that warm purr against my ear.  
During our 18 years with Manna we developed routines and habits around her that we were barely aware of.  Feeding her treats, making the bed around her, leaving room for her above my pillow - what will it cost my heart to stop doing these things?  How long will it hurt, when I start to do them and then remember there is no longer a reason?  She was our smallest cat, just a tiny, aloof kitty, and I will never stop missing her. 
 I wish I could turn back time.

November 22, 2012 Happy Thanksgiving!

Shorty is such a joy.  In just one week he has really fit into our family, although he still likes to chase the cats. One thing he doesn't like is his after-neutering collar.  Hopefully just a few more days of this!
Last night we went to Bann Thai, a great Thai restaurant in Riverside.  The owner/chef is an old family friend of Teresa's family and we always have a good time there.  Randy ordered the coconut soup, which was not only delicious but also came in a really interesting serving dish.
Later we headed over to the church to work on their big Thanksgiving dinner.  For 25 years this church has been making dinner for the needy.  It started small and now they feed somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 people.  And most of those meals are delivered!  This year Randy and Aunt Jean spent hours and hours cooking about 35 turkeys.  That is probably 1/6th of the total turkeys cooked.  As usual, I did clean-up and helped de-bone the cooked turkeys.  

On Wednesday night the big job is making mashed potatoes.  They have a big potato-peeling session and fortunately a lot of people show up for that.  Afterwards (around 7-8 pm) the peelers head home and the cooking starts.  Cousin Mike brings several burners and a few guys cook about one ton potatoes in big pots.  
And then the potatoes get mashed . . . by hand.  Small household appliances would burn up against this volume and the church doesn't have a big professional mixer, so 6 or 7 people line up and just mash away, using old-fashioned hand mashers.  There are just enough people to switch out occasionally, giving arms a short rest.  Since Randy was cooking, I took my turn here.
Today we will be spending Thanksgiving with the Booth and Burns families, which means good company and too much food.  
Happy Thanksgiving!

November 21 2012 Getting used to the family

Shorty has a lot to learn about living with a family.  He hated the leash - he tried sitting down, whirling around at the end of it, and when that didn't work, he tried to bite it.  He also wasn't any good at staying inside; he would try to slip out the door every time it opened.  And he double-hated his kennel.  Randy took on the task of fixing all this.  He took Shorty for walks every day until Shorty learned to enjoy it.  He is still in the process of teaching him "Stay", but Shorty does much better and doesn't always try to sneak out now.  And to fix the kennel problem, each night Randy put Shorty in the kennel, put the kennel on one recliner, and slept in the other recliner next to him.  That way Randy could comfort Shorty when he whined and take him out in the middle of the night, until Shorty understood that the kennel is just a bedroom for sleeping, not a jail for punishment.  It took 4 nights in the recliner to get to that point across, but now he sleeps through the night.

Then yesterday, when everything was much so better, we complicated the situation by taking Shorty to the vet to get fixed.  Some of Shorty's baby teeth were still in his mouth, crowding his adult teeth, so he also got 4 baby teeth removed.  Now he is sore on both ends.

Meet Shorty

We had some changes this week, and here's my theory as to how it came about:  Sugarbaby has been on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge for 6 weeks, and he is tired of seeing his best buddy in pain.  So he asked an angel to fix the problem.  The angel looked around for a someone who could reach Randy through his sadness.  And one skinny little stray said "Pick me!  Pick me!  I can do the job!"
So the little stray went up to Randy and said "Look deep into my eyes....."

"Got him!"
Meet Shorty.