Sunday, December 4, 2011

Frank Hlebakos
March 4, 1920- December 1, 2011

Sitting in Starbucks, this sunny morning in Monterey.

My tea is finished, but I am not leaving just yet.

I have internet access here

and I am logged onto the online family album

looking at the photo of my dad taken around 1942.

He looks so confident and handsome in his sailor suit,

his whole life ahead of him, destined for great things.

This was just before he was shipped off to the Aleutian Islands

where he served as an airplane mechanic during the war.

He also had a still which he and his buddy, Dan the Mexican, tended.

From what I understand, they generously shared their moonshine up there in that cold, barren place,

which made them quite popular with the other sailors.

As tough and scary as it was, I think it was one of the best times of his life.

Dad died yesterday at the age of 91.

The last ten years or so, he was someone I didn’t really know.

Regret and resentment took their toll.

Anger and hatred popped up in unexpected places

and there was so little joy or happiness.

I never could completely understand it,

and came to accept that it only made sense

in the dark closet of his memories.

Interesting that he seems to be here with me now

just hanging out in this coffee shop--

the dad that I loved and admired when I was growing up,

the one for whom anything was possible.

And now, finally, that may very well be true.

No longer imprisoned by what might have been,

he is free to live in the eternal now,

content and at peace with what is.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Blob revisited

Judy, shown here with her award winning dog, Chip, is one of my agility teachers. She recently received an IPad from her very generous and thoughtful daughter so has renewed interest in the internet. Judy is a really good teacher and employs the same positive reinforcement with us as she encourages us to use with our dogs. Operant training. Emphasize the positive, ignore the negative (to the extent that is possible and practical).
With the onset of the rain season, practicing has become a little challenging. However the raccoons which have been terrorizing our place lately seem undaunted by the weather. Every night they tear out my tulip bulbs and throw them all over the yard and I often hear them stomping and cavorting on the deck. A couple of nights ago, they were lined up outside the French doors staring at us as we ate dinner. It is as if we are being invaded by Orcs and frankly, it is a little unnerving. We have tried the cayenne pepper mixture, the Scarecrow (motion activated sprinkler). Nothing seems to work. In desperation I have sent my smaller tulip pots off to a friend's for the time being, but I would like to solve this as I fear they will go for the koi in the pond next, if they haven't already, and I have to be really careful about letting my fearless corgis outside after dark (I keep them on a leash so they won't go after them which could be really dangerous) I welcome any thoughts or suggestions any of you may have.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Last night Wynonna Judd was at Humboldt State and Mike and I went to hear her. Quite honestly, I had never listened to much of her music, and didn't know that much about her. She was part of the Judds, the other part being her mother Naomi, another gorgeous redhead. Years ago I was seated in an airplane and a man sat next to me and started to chat. He very proudly said that he was with the Judds, to which I replied, who are the Judds? He couldn't believe that someone hadn't heard of the Judds, but there I was. He told me they were the hottest thing in country music, and now that I have heard more of their music I can understand why. But back to Wynonna, the music was great (too loud, but great---we were glad we had our custom earplugs with us), and she is, well, she's a trip. She came out glorious in black velvet with sparkles everywhere. She was a vision, and frankly, it made me want to get some of that stuff and sparkle a bit myself, but it's not really my style. She is a down-to-earth, right there kind of performer and was genuinely effusive as she expressed her gratitude for all of us turning out for the show. And she can really belt out a tune. I think the most moving moment was when she asked the audience to sing the refrain back to her, and they did. Many of those there knew the words and had obviously been singing along to her recordings so they sounded great--it was like a chorus of angels singing the refrain---"Love can build a bridge between your heart and mine. Don't you think it's time?". She just closed her eyes and let it wash over her. So did I. It was a great evening and she was inspiring in many ways. Thanks, Wynonna!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Vets, Conventions and Corgis


This past weekend was full. In fact, I don't think I have ever had such disparate activities back to back. I'll work backwards. No, I'll start with Friday which was Veterans Day when I attended the
event at the Municipal Hall in Eureka, which is presented by the Rotary Club of Southwest Eureka. Stu Russell organizes that each year, and it is always a moving tribute to our veterans. This year, Steve Colwell was the keynote speaker and he spoke about his experiences in Viet Nam, and the deep connection that veterans have with one another. He is now involved with several worthwhile organizations, and many there were especially moved and inspired by his work with Wounded Warriors. My hunch is that Humboldt County will be doing something with that organization and if you are interested, please contact me or Stu and we will put you in touch with Steve. They do great work. I am pleased to say that we had quite a few of our Honor Flight vets there as well and it was great to see that sea of WWII Veteran caps and royal blue shirts. It was a honor to have the opportunity to say a few words about North Coast Honor Flight.

My car was already packed so as soon as that finished, I drove to Redding to show my work at the Diocesan Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California. I was showing work that was featured on the cover of Forward Day by Day this past year, as well as other contemplative work, and introducing new digital prints. As always, it was good to see folks from around the Diocese that I only see every year or so. When that wrapped up (earlier than expected), I loaded up the car and headed to Dixon (near Sacramento) to show my work at the Corgi Faire. Now that was quite an experience. Imagine a very large room full of corgis. I never would have believed that corgis, who can be a little snarky, would get along so well together. It was a visual delight. Activities included races, where they tied little jockeys and cowboys on the backs of the dogs (I am including a photo so you know I am not making this up), as well as a costume competition with various categories. Proud to be an American (three corgis decked out in flags) fit right in with the patriotic theme of the weekend, and the three little pigs was pretty cute.
They also had booths with information on proper care of corgis, and I hope lots of people paid attention. There were way too many overweight corgis there (see above) as they LOVE to eat, and it takes real effort and restraint to keep them healthy and in good shape.

So, if this post seems a little disjointed, that is how life has been lately. Good, but really scattered. Now that those events are behind me, I am looking forward to studio immersion and making and posting artwork. I have some very interesting commissions and am very excited about getting back to work.

Monday, November 7, 2011

TDAA Tournament


Dogs as Body Warmers

This is Lisa, my neighbor and mentor at Del Valle a couple of weeks ago. Please note Simon, who spends a lot of time in her jacket, as shown. She makes and sells custom dog collars and leashes, and my two corgis are quite dashing in their new Celtic look.

Two Months!

How can this be? The past two months have been very busy with Honor Flight (more on that later when I figure out how to post a slideshow), when our hub took 100 WWII vets to Washington DC to see their memorial. It was a great trip. We had 50 guardians---volunteers who each paid for the privilege of helping these American heroes. But, as I said, more on that later.

I am going to do a little catch up here, working back in time. Yesterday was the Teacup Dog Agility Association (TDAA) Tournament in Grants Pass. The last event I attended was back in September, shortly before I fell out of sight on these pages. There was a heat wave at the time (keep in mind that Grants Pass is not known for cool summer weather without a heat wave). It was over 100 degrees. We were in a horse barn that was fine for us and the dogs, but heaven for the millions of flies that were covering everything, including us and the dogs. The misters that were blowing cooling water into the barn were turning the sawdust/dirt into mud, so it all added up to a memorable experience. This time, the temperature was notable in that it never reached 50 degrees, and hovered around 40. Same open barn, only this time it was rain that was turning the sawdust/dirt into mud. We were freezing. Now, please know that I am not complaining, just noting that one of the advantages to running agility is that it puts you in situations in which you normally wouldn't find yourself after a certain age and there is something to be said for that.

There is also something to be said for small dogs, as you can use them as little body warmers, as shown in these photos. Okay, some of them are just wrapped in quilts or cute little outfits, but the chihuahuas are often inside someone's jacket with just their heads poking out. My corgis are not the kind of dogs that wear clothes or could fit inside my jacket so we just toughed it out. The cold had a less than positive effect on their performance however. They were invigorated, and inspired to design their own course so that they could run really fast and work up some body heat. But the upshot of it was that we didn't do very well. Emma did place and qualify twice, and Raleigh once, so it wasn't a total bust. And even though we left a day early, it was great to see all of those little dogs and their owners, and really appreciate all of the work that goes into making an event like that happen.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Please check out the comment on the post from Mensona. This is the first one I have ever had that has a recipe, but considering that Lee (the mystery poster) and I have such a great food connection, it shouldn't surprise me. He is a great cook and has so many tricks up his sleeve, so if we are really lucky, he'll continue to share his wonderful recipes and food tips in this blog.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Dori and Ed

Yesterday Midori Fulk, a Trinidad woman, and I visitied Ed Smith. Dori is sponsoring Ed on his Honor Flight, which is coming up October 4. Her mother is Japanese, so Dori has very deep feelings regarding the Pacific theatre of WWII . Ed was on Wake Island and was a POW for four years. In Dori's own words:
"I was raised to remember to make a difference in people's lives when I could, and when I first heard Kathrin Burleson mention the Honor Flight Program, I realized that this was a way I could make a difference to someone in a way that meant something personal to myself as well. This opportunity is so important to me for many reasons, generationally and culturally. I am very much looking forward to meeting "Ed" Smith. I want him to know that I think it is important to remember what he, and all military women and men, fought for and what he lived through, to thank and honor him for that. I have heard and understand some of his story, and I will not forget it."
We sat at the kitchen table and sipped tea, as Ed shared some of his stories with us. He also expressed his sincere gratitude to Dori.
To see those two meet was one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had. Both are fine, loving people, and great Americans.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Friends at Mensona

Here is the uncropped version---Lee Klein (WWII vet whom you will recognize from prior shots of him on our deck), moi, and John and Jody Jarvis, longtime friends who have recently relocated to Sonoma County. It was such a treat to see them and have the encouragement during the rally trials. A dedicated cheering section works wonders.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Well, it was a great weekend. For those of you who have never been to a major dog show, it's really something that is worth seeking out. The Mensona Show features Conformation, Agility, and Obedience so there is lots going on. I was there wearing two hats---a vendor with my paintings, and an exhibitor with my two corgis. Both were entered in Rally Obedience, and this was Emma's first trial. Raleigh is a seasoned competitor now, and got scores of 96 and 98, earning him a second and third place, as well as a title. Emma, on the other hand, was a little overwhelmed by the experience and simply couldn't bring herself to sit on command. Consequently, since most of the stations required a sit of some sort, and the judge grew a little tired of hearing me say, "Sit, Emma" as enthusiastically as I knew how, we were excused from the ring midway through. However, on the second day, Emma rallied (no pun intended here), sat beautifully, and got an 85.
But, as most of you know, the real purpose for being there was to show my art, and it was great to meet and greet so many dog/art enthusiasts, especially the corgi lovers out there. I will be at the Corgi Fair sponsored by the Golden Gate Pembroke Welsh Corgi Fanciers Association in Dixon on November 13 (more on that later). It was so good to see friends who live in the area, and I have some photos to post, but for some reason Blogger refuses to upload anything but images of the paintings that I showed. So there you have it. Lee, Jody, Jim, and Lovie----thank you for coming by. I hope to get your pictures up once cyberspace cooperates.



Tuesday, August 23, 2011



One of my favorite cookbook authors and food experts was Lee Bailey. His books are all about easy living, good food, and finding pleasure in simple things well done. Last year I had the good fortune to meet Lee Klein, a good friend of Lee Bailey's on an Honor Flight trip. Lee, shown above with a photo of him in one of Lee's books, was in the Navy for years, and of course is a WWII hero. He is also a great guy who is lots of fun and we enjoy sharing recipes and food tips. It was great to get him up here for a visit and we look forward to many more.

It only seemed fair to include this video of Raleigh's clean run.

Not to brag, but . . .

We had a great time at the CPE Agility Trials in Eureka hosted by Humdog. Emma and Raleigh each ran in 12 runs each which makes for a pretty active weekend. Actually, while Emma did run each course, but as you can see from the video, it wasn't always in the right direction. However, her enthusiasm and speed make up for her unpredictability. Raleigh on the other hand, was on his game. He qualified in 11 of 12 runs, and got 9 firsts. He is a solid competitor, and if I give him correct guidance, he shines. These videos were taken by 4 Legged Flix, really nice guys who do good work. While one crew was videoing our rather uneventful event on Saturday, the other crew was in Walnut Creek videoing a horse running through a dog agility course, which makes Emma running off course look very mild. As soon as that video is reposted on YouTube I'll give you a link.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

L'absinthe avec des amis francais

Never did I imagine that I would be sipping absinthe on a sunny Pacific afternoon, let alone with good friends from France that we haven't seen in over twenty years. But, here's the photo to prove it. We are enjoying a visit from the Petri family, wonderful people that we met many years ago when they visited relatives in Eureka. We visited them in France and have kept in touch by Christmas cards all of these years. Through those annual photos, we have watched Candice grow up to be the lovely young woman that you see here, and it is a real treat to finally meet her. She will begin an internship in engineering in Austin next month, and we are so happy that they ventured up north before starting their tour of the Western states en route to Texas. Today we will go to the Humboldt County Fair---a slice of rural America--where they plan to try their luck at the races. It's great to be with them. Bienvenue Francois, Catherine et Candice. Nous attendons la prochaine visite!


Friday, August 12, 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dental Teams

Today I went for a check-up with my oral surgeon to see how the gum is healing after the work described in an earlier poem on this blog. The good news is that it is progressing nicely. The better news is that I have such a good team taking care of this rather complicated procedure. Shown here is Dr. William Martey, who in addition to being an oral surgeon, is also an M. D. He is originally from Ghana, educated at Oxford and a very nice guy. Also a great surgeon. His surgical assistant is Kim, also great at what she does. I think it is sometimes too easy to take the remarkable skills of people like this for granted. Not only are they well trained, but they are so kind and helpful. Thanks you two! I'll see you in November.

As promised, one of Connie's ceramic sculptures . . . pretty wonderful, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Salmon Dinner

It had been way too long since we shared a meal and conversation with our good friends Connie Butler and Janine Volkmar, so we invited them over for a spur of the moment dinner Sunday evening. These two women grace my life and I feel so blessed to travel down the road with them.

It is also good to know that these pages have a bit of influence. After reading the post about my new camera, and seeing it in person on Sunday, Connie was so inspired that she went to Costco and got herself a Nikon Coolpix, which seems to be quite a trend these days. By the way, Connie is also a world class sculptor, so Connie, I know you will be reading this, please send an image the whale, or the mermaid or another piece so that I can post it here on the blog. Oh, she also spends time at Fire Arts and makes the most amazing ceramic pieces. Connie, please send an image of one of those as well.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pat and Kai

Pat Johnson is the owner of TNT Agility, and the central figure to much of what goes on in the dog world of Humboldt County. She is a terrific handler, wonderful teacher, and works tirelessly on behalf of dog training and education. I don't know where she gets her energy, but I think she has met her match in her new puppy, Kai.

Jan and Nina

Isn't this a soulful moment?
Nina usually starts her jump about six feet in front of the hurdle, and we all hold our breath as she sails across the pole.
As I've said, I have met the nicest people (and dogs) in agility.

Impulse purchase

When I was at Costco last week, I happened to be strolling through the camera section, and a little Nikon caught my eye. It is less than an inch thick, and seemed just the thing to carry in my purse at all times, since so many times I wish I had a camera on me, but my others are too big to have with me all of the time, so, I picked up this little maroon Coolpix thinking that it was quite an extravagant thing to have, and as the name implies, quite cool. Now it seems that just about everybody I mention it to already has a Nikon Coolpix. But it is a great little camera and small enough to be really handy. I had it today so that I could get these pictures of Alice and Gretta (above), and Nora and Tucker. Alice is 81 years old and a very good handler. Her husband Bob was on our Honor Flight in May and they are really an impressive couple. She tried to call him after class but he was out riding his bike so she couldn't reach him. He also swims every morning. I am not at liberty to share his age, but he's a WWII vet, so do the math. Inspirational folks. Gretta is an awesome dog, too.

Nora and Tucker are also great to watch in action. Tucker is such a classically beautiful dog---to me he's the quintessential American dog, and for all I know he is descended from a German breed, but he's like the dog next door.


Emma also loves Beverly, who owns two corgis and those two bonded when Emma was just a puppy.


Tonight at agility class, I mentioned to Judy and Mel that they had been featured on my blog yesterday and I wanted to have a photo of them. Well, here it is. As you can see, Emma adores Judy, and so do the rest of us. Mel's okay too.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Modesty Aside

I hesitated to post about this, but Raleigh did pretty well at the trials---you can see his ribbons displayed in the tent behind me. By the end of the weekend, he had won six blue ribbons (and a toy for each) and one second place. Emma didn't fare quite so well, but she did get one blue ribbon (Raleigh came in second in that trial). This photo was taken by Mel Sample, one of our teachers at TNT Agility. He and his wife Judy are real naturals at the sport, as well as being patient instructors. It's been such a gift to get to know the agility community---as I've mentioned below, they are so down to earth and real. I can see why some people get on the circuit and go to a trial nearly every weekend. How can you beat running around with your dog and hanging out with great people? It's something that most of us thought we had to give up once we reached a certain age---and then we discovered agility.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Meeting a Mentor

As I was setting up my canopy the afternoon before the trials started (just before the Fun Run) I heard a familiar voice out on the field. It was one of those times when something is familiar, but you know that there is also something different going on. "Quill, Quill! Come!" I thought wait a minute, that's the voice from the DVD I have been watching and learning from for the past six months. And indeed it was Sandy Rogers, a well-known and respected dog trainer from the Bay Area, here in Humboldt County to compete with her dogs. I had a chance to get acquainted with Sandy over the weekend, and to tell her how much I have learned from watching her DVD demonstrations. It seemed only right that we have a photo taken in front of Raleigh's blue ribbons (the athlete himself is in his crate just below the frame of the photo), since much of Raleigh's success is due to her long-distance training. Her DVD is called One Jump, Two Jump, and it is an inspired approach that uses only jumps to learn and practice basic, essential, agility skills. As you can see from her site, she is an accomplished competitor, and she and her partners have won many impressive titles. Plus, she is a very down to earth, friendly person. I couldn't resist asking her if I was hearing the DVD correctly when she was demonstrating playing tug with Quill, her Jack Russell Terrier, and she confirmed that "girlie butt" is in fact one of her terms of endearment with Quill (the only female dog in her family). I just love that.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

AKC Agility Trials in Ferndale

Happy energetic dogs, friendly people, great weather---this past weekend was the annual AKC Agility trials in Ferndale hosted by the Lost Coast Kennel Club. There were exhibitors (not salesmen, but dog runners) from all over the western United States, and a bit beyond, with their dogs, and their tents, and all of the paraphernalia that goes along with doing a trial. Within hours, a little community gets set up, and it becomes a world set apart from the things that usually occupy us. Really, it's like summer camp for adults and their dogs, and the lucky kids who get to come along.
We corgi people tend to get acquainted right away and it was a pleasure to meet Debbie and Nancy, two sisters from Modesto, California, shown above with their corgis, who, interestingly, are also sisters. Both of them are ranchers, and Nancy (on the left) also barrel races. This is not the kind of venue for sissies. These are impressive women. But I should have guessed that, since owning a corgi is not for the faint of heart.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Drawing Group

Last Saturday, (how can a week go by so quickly?) five women spent the day at my studio (and in the garden) drawing. The weather cooperated so we spent most of the time outside, and it was so good to see how each of them really engaged the drawing process---the emphasis was on pure contours---and were able to sink into the experience of seeing and drawing. It's always remarkable to see how art can be such an effortless catalyst for the formation and comfort of a group. It really does bypass the barriers we all construct for one reason or another. It was the first time most of us had met, and by the end of the day, we felt like old friends. I look forward to more afternoons drawing with this fine group. Oh, and we took time for a leisurely lunch on the deck.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Glamor girls

You know how some people look like their dogs? Well, Marlene doesn't really resemble her poodle, but they both have the most amazing hair (in Tia's case, fur) and I just couldn't resist posting this. Marlene is terrific at agility---note the great form that both of these fine athletes are exhibiting.
By the way, I took a few shots today and learned that photographing dogs racing through a course is a lot harder than it looks. The blurred dog gives an idea of how fast she is moving.

Agility Workshop

This has been a big week for the agility community here in Humboldt County. Nancy Gyes, a world class agility figure has been leading a workshop for about 30 agility enthusiasts of all levels. I first met Nancy a little over a year ago when I attended a half-day workshop in Oregon with Emma, who was just a little over seven months old. At that time I didn't know much about her, but the folks here really encouraged me to attend. It was obvious from the start that she was not only a knowledgeable practitioner of the sport, she is also an excellent teacher---one of those rare individuals who is able to meet each student at his level, and give good constructive training and suggestions. Her emphasis on crate and circle games really took hold, and has made life much easier around here. "Emma, get to your crate!" and zoom, there she goes.

The photos are obviously of our gathering earlier today. Marlene very generously is hosting the event at her place, and with the canopies, tents, dog crates and canvas chairs it has the feel of a summer camp---a world apart from the concerns that tend to fill up our days. It is so great to be with a bunch of dog lovers, most of them women of a certain age, who are willing to do whatever is necessary to maximize a dog's performance, which more often than not involves some pretty outrageous behavior (get that toy you silly girl!), and then get out there and run around on the field trying to perfect moves that can feel a little awkward at times. Yes, it is a great sport and some wonderful athletes participate, but it takes some doing to get there, and what we go through in the process is so, well, humanizing, that it just makes for a really good community. I was an auditor today, so got to just watch the runs, and be part of the group that stood on the sidelines cheering the good runs, and come to think of it, some of the not-so-good runs as well, because support is a big part of what this is all about. It's been a great experience and I am encouraged by what I've learned this week and looking forward to practicing and developing a clear strategy for the sport.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My dentist is Dr. Karen Beck, shown here with her assistant, Kendra, on the right. I feel very fortunate to have these women taking care of my dental needs (I hesitated to add this, but it is a little odd to have a team of such capable professionals who look about twelve years old). After the extraction (described on the previous post), there is a fairly lengthy healing process which requires a stay plate (euphemism for false tooth) and they have been so good about making sure that it is just right. I confess that I am nearly fanatical about dental health and hygiene so have been in a couple of times for fine tuning. Those of you who see me smile would never be able to guess which tooth isn't mine (and none of us are telling). Many thanks to these two (and the rest of the office) for all of their help!