March 18, 2016

Minnie's Blog

First off I want to say I really love my foster mom and dad. They pay so much attention to me. I especially like my foster mom. When she leaves, I run around all over looking for her.

When I arrived at my foster home, I admit I was quite the wild child. You would be too if you had been cooped up in a shelter for a week or more and then had to stay at a vet for several days. I was so excited I leaped over sofas and tables and put my front paws on all the counters, dressers, and high places checking out what was on top. It was like I'd never been in a house before. If I could talk like people, I would tell them exactly where I used to live and how I must have been told to potty on grass or dirt. At first I did get a little mixed up and go potty in the house. I was just so excited! Sometimes I still forget; especially if it is raining.

I like my new name, Minnie. It is a good name, the lilt and emphasis fits me perfectly. I learned it right away because my foster mom played the name game with me. The best way to get my attention is to say my name in a happy way.

I have been in my foster home for a little over a month now and I am becoming quite the well mannered dog. I am good in my crate except when there is a lot of excitement going on in the house. The crate is in my foster mom and dad's bedroom where I sleep at night. My foster mom has been very patient with me and has consistently been reminding me I need to stay off counters and furniture (which doesn't make sense because Dakota, the dog who has been here since she was a puppy, IS allowed on sofas and beds). I listen to what my foster mom and dad tell me most of the time because I really like them.

I like people a lot and try to do what they ask. I even let my foster mom and dad trim my nails while laying down on my side. That's what Dakota does. As it is, when I first arrived, my nails were so long I could hardly walk so I now know short nails are a good thing.

I really do like Dakota even though she can be snarky when I try to play with her. At first when she snapped at me I would tell her where to go. I have learned to keep my mouth shut now and when I play, I keep it to myself. Instead of playing with her, I carry toys around. And boy, are there a lot of toys in this house! Sometimes I pick up my foster dad's slippers and carry them off to a place where he can't find them. He really needs to learn to put them away. After all, slippers are very hard to resist. He's lucky I don't chew them.

The first walks my foster mom and dad took me on, I was one unhinged girl. I heard my foster mom tell my foster dad "It's like she is on LSD, like she has never seen much of the world to sniff and see all there is to discover." In the beginning, they took me on walks up a hill in a woodsy area. I was just too wild. Now I am walking in nearby neighborhoods (which works out good for my nails anyway). But maybe if I learn to be better with walking on a leash, I will be able to go back to that hilly path in the woods. I am working hard at this because that is the best place ever! There were squirrels to smell and bark at, logs to crawl under, tall grass to leap through and bushes to run around.

Oh and it is just possible I have a little hound in me. Have you ever seen a hound tree a coon? They practically climb the tree trying to catch it. I know this because I did some research on the internet. I have already climbed into two trees looking for the cats that live in the barn behind my foster home! You know, cats do look a lot like coons.

Then there are my table-side manners. In the beginning, I wanted to be as close as I could at the table when my foster mom and dad were having breakfast, lunch or dinner. I wanted at least one of their hands on my head while they ate. I was so persistent, I ended up having to stay in my crate until they finished eating. Now I have learned laying on a nearby rug is acceptable behavior. I don't need to be crated anymore while they eat!

I have to say the food here is like mush. My foster dad gives me mushy stuff because I don't like eating dry kibble much. My teeth are just too worn down. He thought if he softened it, I would eat it. Nope. I still didn't like it. Now he includes a couple of tablespoons of canned food (the really good stuff with gravy) or sweet potatoes. That's all it takes for me to gobble my entire meal down (most of the time). Does that make me a fussy eater or a spoiled dog?

I especially like mealtime perks my foster mom and dad have here! For instance, whenever they have French toast for breakfast, Dakota and I share the leftover egg mix. And, if one of the grandkids doesn't eat all their food, like a hot dog or a hamburger, guess who gets it later?

I really get excited when the grandkids come to visit. I love them. They are so much more cheerful than Dakota. And they really like me. I am really good about not jumping on them especially when they say 'off" to remind me. And I am also really good about giving them lots of kisses.

When I arrived in my foster home, I didn't know many words. I am learning more all the time. However I surprised my foster mom the first time I picked up something I wasn't supposed to have and she told me "drop it." I did. She was also surprised to find out I understood "leave it." What I didn't know (and I didn't know I didn't know) was what "sit" and "down" meant. I kind of knew what "wait" meant. My foster mom uses it a lot so I am understanding that word more and more when she tells me to wait.

It took me a long time to learn "sit' and "down" because at first I didn't appreciate treats. I was too busy trying to figure everything else out. Then one day, a light bulb went off in my head and now I get it. Treats are fun. When I sit on command, I get a treat. When I do a down on command, I get a treat.

Okay, so life has been good around here but there is one thing my foster mom and dad aren't so sure about. When we are out walking and I see a dog, I bark and leap at the end of my leash. I wish I could tell them why I do this. I am not even sure. I just know, when I see a dog, it does something to me and I have to bark—with all of my body and all of my voice (and it is loud). A really nice lady from Nor Cal GSP Rescue came to visit and talked to my foster mom and dad about this and how to work with me to learn how to act when I see dogs on walks. So that is what we are doing.

I have to say though I am making progress walking on a loose leash. It hasn't been easy to not rush to the end of my leash all the time. There are just so many good smells out there! I just don't get why my foster mom and dad don't want to take the time to smell the pee and the grass and the mud and garbage cans? I have figured out one thing though, the less I pull or stop to sniff, the further I get to go on walks. Oh you know how I said I bark at dogs when I see them. I forgot to mention I mostly do this when I see them out in the open. If they are behind a fence or in a house barking, I don't worry about them so much.

Since arriving in my foster home, I have become much more calm around the house even though I still have a tendency to get in the way when following my foster mom and dad around. I am trying to be more like Dakota. She walks nicely and is so calm and hardly ever jumps around. Of course she doesn't wag her tail all the time like I do. What is up with that?

I really love going out into the field and forest behind my foster home. There is a play structure to climb all over. There are cats to hunt for (they mostly hide from me by staying in the barn) and fences to look through to the greener grass on the other side. Dakota loves to run with me when she is not busy checking out the chickens. I sure don't know what the big deal is about those chickens. I have no interest in them. They are old and too slow for me.

When I check out the wire fencing, my foster mom and dad keep a very close eye on me because I like to push my head through the holes or look for a spot to go under. Don't they know the grass is greener on the other side? They are always prompting me to leave that fence alone. I am getting better but I can still see that grass!

I am quite the snuggle girl. I love being inside a warm house snuggling up with someone who loves me and pets me. That and being outside smelling the roses (and the bugs and the flowers and the bushes and all that other stuff I already mentioned). Snuggling and smelling things are my most favorite things to do.

I love everybody and if you are my friend, I will be yours too. And I will follow you everywhere you go. Always!

October 4, 2014

Book 2 in The Sierra Series

After Sierra and I wrote the Lion and Peanut Butter book (see blog dated April 3, 2014), she was inspired to create more books. Her Mom tells me she has been talking about the Lion book and how she could make other books similar to it for quite some time. Considering it was several months since she and I made the Lion book, it is remarkable she remembered. She decided her new books would be about other animals and what they do and do not eat.

This week Sierra and I sat down to write book number two: "Why Does a Monkey Not Eat Bananas?"

Sierra really wanted it to follow the same structure as the first book. This makes sense, kids do gravitate toward repetition when it comes to stories. I went along with her wishes even though I was hoping something would be different in this second story other than the choice of food and character. Turns out, she made several changes. She decided not to use all the same foods or all the same places as in the Lion book. Originally she told me the reason monkey didn't eat bananas was the same reason why Lion did not eat peanut butter. However when I suggested an alternate ending, she was okay with it. Below is Sierra's story about monkey as illustrated by Grandma. Note Grandma's illustrations are very storyboard-like, quick and relaxed. If I were to take time to render them perfectly, Sierra would lose focus and I don't want her to do that!

On a side note, the monkey in this story is based on a stuffed monkey of Sierra's whose eyes were chewed off by her dog, Sadie. I came up with a way to give him new eyes. Sierra decided my repair made the monkey look like he was wearing a mask. She asked me to make a cape to go with his mask, thus in the story, monkey is also a super hero.

Sierra has already decided what the title of her next book will be: Why Does an Agouti Not Eat Pizza." The influence for this came from her Costa Rica trip last July. Since I have never heard of or seen an agouti, I will need to google images to learn how to draw one. I am eager to create this book with Sierra. I want to find out why an agouti does not eat pizza!

August 31, 2014

Napa Earthquake Reflections

It has been one week today since the 6.0 magnitude quake hit Napa. There have been many aftershocks. Just this morning at 6:37, there was a 3.2 magnitude quake.

When the 6.0 quake hit, we did not feel it. We slept right through it. We consider ourselves fortunate not to have experienced what had to be horrific for all those in the midst when it hit at 3:20 am in the wee hours of Sunday, August 24. We were in Bellingham, Washington for my 50th high school reunion, comfortably sleeping at my Mom's house.

Our first word was a tweet from Chris at 6:59 a.m.: "Did you miss the Napa quake?" He couldn't understand why he hadn't heard anything from us. He had forgotten we had gone to Bellingham. Kathy texted us at 7:17 to say "Good morning! I hope you had a great time last night! Have you turned on any news? There was a 6.0 earthquake in Napa in the middle of the night! It was very strong but all ok here. We're watching the news now."

We turned on the TV at my Mom's house and all we got was one sentence on a Seattle news station saying a quake had hit Napa with no report of damages or injuries. The newscast then moved onto other news! We then pulled up the San Francisco news on my iPhone and were astonished with all the reports about the quake. We reached Kathy by phone and she said she would check on our house as soon as Highway 121 opened. It was closed due to buckling.

When we arrived home two days later; lots of stuff had happened around our house. The biggest event was our aquarium, complete with cabinet, crashing onto the floor.

We are so, so thankful for Kathy and Tim, who were able to go over once the road opened to clean up the aquarium mess and pick up a lot of things that had tipped, tumbled, fallen or broken throughout the house. Even Nicole, a very good friend of theirs, drove to our house to help! Kathy took lots of pictures to show us what we missed.

Our big giraffe fell, our Ficus tree tumbled, a dresser waltzed two feet from the wall, our piano scooted a foot or so,and the arcade in the rec room fell over. Over 2000 gallons of water splashed out of our pool. Two tall ceramic pots fell and shattered onto our patio. Lots of stuff fell off of shelves and out of cupboards. We found plenty to pick up even after the initial pick up by Tim, Kathy and Nicole (and the kids). By the fourth day after the quake, we had drilled down to finding small things, like discovering the file folders for the dogs sitting on a chair pushed under the table, both of them still wet from the soaking they received from the waves of water tossed out of the aquarium before it tumbled. Easy fix: I laid out the papers one by one on top of beds. They dried out right away albeit they are now quite crinkly.

And there is a lot of stuff we haven't put away yet because of the rec room needing to be cleaned out quickly. Stuff had to be piled wherever it could in a hurry what with the aquarium crashing and dumping 55 gallons of water all over. The rug took four days to dry with the help of a blower and leaving windows open. Now it is airing out. It still smells a lot though! We may be installing a new rug. We are shampooing it first to see if we can save it. The 10-drawer flat file sitting next to the aquarium had to be completely disassembled to dry out things on top and inside. It is now temporarily set up in front of our fireplace in our living room.

And there were surprises:

1.) The woodpile Robert stacked just before we left on our trip: how it fell in waves.

2.) The fact I decided NOT to take our nice, expensive camera and left it on the edge of a shelf and it DID NOT fall onto the floor like other things from the same shelving (usually I take my good camera everywhere I go).

3.) The 60 x 30 inch mirrors in our master bathroom stayed on the wall (one did not when we had the 5.2 quake in 2000).

4.) Our wall mounted TV did not fall.

5.) Two of three heirloom figurines and one of two heirloom teacups stayed on the knickknack shelf in the kitchen.

6.) One fish, a catfish, survived nine hours on the rug. Tim gathered him up to put him into a bowl of fresh water. Unfortunately he didn't survive much more than two days after his rescue.

It wasn't until yesterday that Robert was ready to start picking up the mess in the garage. Among the items that fell out of a tipped cabinet was a can of red spray paint. After being punctured from something, it released red paint all over. I am guessing we are now going to have a big red stain on our garage floor forever. We still have lots of fallen stuff in the barn loft; who knows when we will pick all that up.

There was indeed a great deal of damage around Napa from last Sunday's shaker, a lot of people have lost so much more than we have. What happened to us is all cosmetic and nothing really serious. And for that we are very grateful!

Lots more of our quake pictures are posted on my flickr account:

A drone of downtown Napa showing damage from above right after the quake is posted at this link:

July 30, 2014

2014 Family Reunion Wrap Up

                                                                    ~~ click image to enlarge ~~

Thank you to Frank and Dawn for hosting this year's reunion! What a nice turnout we had for our "Pears in the Air" themed Gray PEAR family get together! See who attended.

And the two organized games were played by just about everyone. Winners of the first game, "Build a PEAR Bear," were:

First Place: Joanie Root
Second Place: Chris Mesa
Third Place: Tess Swavely Miller
Fourth Place: Maya Mesa
Fifth Place: Donna Spencer

And the winners of the second game, "Hot Air Balloon Trivia," were:

First Place: Chris Mesa
Second Place: Nissa Abbasi Shaffer
Third Place: Tristan Shaffer
Fourth Place: Allison Mesa
Fifth Place: Leonard Swavely
brTickets were handed out to the winners to turn in for prizes plus anyone who had a number on the back of their button also received a ticket for a prize. Tonya Miller did a great job helping by handing out buttons to each attendee. AND she also made sure everyone signed the guest book. Thank you Tonya!

Details about how to play the games are in blog dated July 19, 2014.

Alexander, Christopher, Abigail and Maya enjoyed breaking the "Pears in the Air" piñata. Once the candy and toys fell onto the ground, the kids discovered even more tickets to turn in for prizes.

Below are links to lots of photos. Thnak you to Linda and Tess for sharing their photos! If anyone else has more to share, send them to me ( and I will add them to the collection.

And here is this year's "Be Silly" picture:                     ~~ click image to see non-cropped version ~~

July 19, 2014

Pears and Bears in the Air

I have had so much fun this week getting ready for the July 26th Gray PEAR Affair family reunion. First I built a cloud, then a second one, added hot air balloon cutouts (pear shaped) and a rainbow of crepe paper, all to create this year's piñata. Next, there were buttons to make and games to invent.

Every year my Mom comes up with the theme for our annual family reunion. This year she chose "Pears in the Air" because of the hot air balloons that take off in nearby Maltby, Washington, close to where the reunion is being hosted by Frank and Dawn this year. She suggested pears floating in the air for the button design. When I created the design I found a hot air balloon basket on Google images with a bear inside to use, thus I added bears to our theme this year. Not only do we now have pears in the air, we also have bears in the air.

The last few years I really have been getting into making uncommon games for our reunions. This year, because of the bear who wiggled his way into our reunion, I came up with a "Build-a-PEAR Bear" game. I also made a related trivia question game.

The way the "Build a PEAR Bear "works is each person will receive a packet of bear parts. The bear parts will have numbers on the backs (or maybe shapes or stickers) and they will all be different. Before each person can start building their bear, they must work with other people to make trades and to negotiate until all their bear parts match. To win the game, a bear must have matching parts and be completed using brads. The bear's tummy must be signed by the builder then placed in one of five hot air balloon baskets. Each bearer's bear that makes it into a basket wins a prize!

The trivia game has seven questions to answer on sheets I will pass out to everyone. My goal with this game was to set it up so I didn't have to check answers one person at a time. I also wanted to continue the pears in the air theme by stringing up a bunch of cutouts of hot air (pear) balloons. I came up with putting the answers on the hanging pear cut-outs with instruction on each to enter a certain letter in one of seven boxes at the bottom of the trivia questions sheet; the goal being to spell a pre-assigned "real" word.

There are only seven pears that have the correct answer. Since each question has three possible answers, there are a total of 21 pears, each with one answer. I used different letters for all 21 answers for simpler tracking. There is only one word that can be spelled as a result of answering all the questions correctly. Whoever comes up with the word gets to move on to try to be one of the first five people to place their trivia questions sheet in one of the five baskets (the same ones used for the build a PEAR bear game). Those five people will all receive a prize.

I ended my week of reunion readiness activity by shipping the piñata, the buttons, the game elements and a box of prizes (from Chris) to Bellingham today!

April 3, 2014

Sierra and I are published

Sierra and I wrote and published a book today. She was the author. I was the illustrator. It all began at lunchtime.

After presenting her with a lunch menu (this works really well when she can't decide on what she wants to eat), she chose biscuits, item #4. She likes to have peanut butter on her biscuits. While she was eating her peanut butter covered biscuits she picked up her napkin rolled inside a lion shaped holder and began to pretend the lion was eating some of her peanut butter.

I said to her, "Lions don't eat peanut butter." I was being serious.

She replied with a smile, "Yeah, I know that."

I then said, "You know what, that would make a good children's book." She agreed and announced we should make a book right after lunch. We decided on a title.

I then told her, "But before we can make a book we first need to go to Walmart and the library." I expected that would be the end of her wanting to make a book.

As soon as we were back from our road trip and had walked in the front door, she reminded me with intent, "We need to make the book about the lion not eating peanut butter."

I pulled out three sheets of paper, folded them in half to make a 12 page book including covers. I then suggested we have the lion eat other things besides peanut butter.

When I asked her to remind me what the title was she and I had come up with earlier, she immediately responded, "Why does a lion not eat peanut butter?"

She decided the lion could eat ice cream, lollipops, and watermelon. She worked with me on the illustrations suggesting how they should look. Once the first three pages were done I told her we had more pages to fill and she was totally on board to see what else we could come up with. Between her, Grandpa and I we came up with more foods lion could eat like cotton candy, popcorn, pizza, macaroni & cheese, French fries, a milkshake, and pancakes—most of them were her ideas. For each yummy food the lion could eat we had to create a scene and she was great about giving direction and ideas as to where the foods should be eaten and what should be shown. For example, she was the one who came up with Round Table and MacDonald's. She decided popcorn had to be eaten at a movie and (of course) the movie on the screen had to be "Frozen." And of course the pancakes had to be special ones that lion's grandma made.

In about forty-five minutes, the book was ready to publish and publishing was done in record time. I used my sewing machine to bind it and it was ready for presentation. All during design and execution, Sierra kept asking if the book would be hers and if she could take it home. She was eager to show it to her mom, dad, sister and brother.

On the way home, she told me not to tell her mom or anybody about it because she wanted to present it herself, she wanted to surprise them. When her Mom read it out loud, Sierra beamed. Afterwards she proudly told them the details about how the book came about.

The book was a resounding success and a lot of fun to create "with" her as opposed to "for" her. I expect Sierra and I will be collaborating on another book soon!

Pages from Sierra's book are shown below.



November 16, 2013

Resolve to Draw

It is not even the end of the year yet here I am, making a resolution; a much needed one.

My resolution is to draw or sketch every day and post what I come up with. I really want to, need to, and must move forward with my goal to illustrate children’s books—for my sense of fulfillment, for my need to create, for my love of imagination, for my mind, and for self-fulfillment. My advice to others has always been, “If you are serious about something you wish to accomplish, do something toward it each and every day.” I myself have not been following this mantra.

True, I did join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators), a children’s book illustration group with the hope doing so would give me a jumpstart. I do go to meetings regularly but somehow they are not enough to push me forward—because, simply, they do not happen daily. True, I always feel invigorated and inspired after attending one of the many meetings scheduled throughout the bay area. But what I really need to move forward is self discipline thus this resolution is born out of an attempt to push myself into just that by committing to continuous, daily drawing. After all I write every day. Why can’t I draw every day?

I will be posting my drawings on Here is my first sketch.

November 7, 2013

October 2013
A Good Month To Write About

Click on image below for a downloadable PDF of an update for October 2013.

August 19, 2013

Taking time for Madison

The garden area next to our pool is known as the Madison Garden named after our Weimaraner, the dog we had before Dakota. This area used to be a lawn. After years of mowing and watering and edging I decided I was tired of maintaining a lawn. Robert and I took the grass out, poured a large oval cement slab, and planted a tree plus lots of drought resistant plants. We decided this would be easier than maintaining a lawn and would use less water. Then we let the new garden go and grow. Four years later, it became a jungle; it didn't help we used wild strawberry plants as part of our ground cover plantings and allowed wild morning glories to have their way. It really was time to save Madison's garden.

Being in Costa Rica and seeing all the beautiful plants and the many manicured gardens at different resorts helped. I was inspired. After we arrived home I decided to clean up the Madison Garden. In the past two weeks I have spent up to two hours many mornings faithfully weeding and pulling out unwanted plants—overall a total of 16 hours. This tells you what a mess it was!

I didn't think to take before pictures so the only one I could think to use is one that doesn't totally show how bad the garden had become. I did take several after pictures. Two weeks ago there were no exposed dirt areas anywhere. Everything everywhere, including a lot of the original plants purchased from the nursery, and the brick border along the fence you see in my after pictures, was totally covered in vines, strawberries and wild, white morning glories. The brickwork hasn't been completely uncovered since we first converted the lawn to garden. There are now large, empty dirt areas but I am no hurry to fill them with new plants especially since I am perfectly happy with how the dirt looks so much nicer than all the overgrowth!