Monday, September 29, 2008


Who of my generation can't remember these eyebrows? Yes, they belonged to John L. Lewis, president of the United Mine Worker's Union. In my childhood his face (and his magnificent eyebrows) appeared so often in the newspapers that their image is imprinted on my brain. Obviously I didn't know much about the fellow, as I was an elementary school student during the 1940s when Lewis was active in newsmaking. But I'm sure the only reason I remembered him is because of these eyebrows, long and hairy and undisciplined and apparently untended.

Now all this is to say that I looked in the mirror this morning upon arising and found myself growing John L. Lewis eyebrows. Oh, I try to keep them under control, snipping here, pulling there, combing, geling, brushing, all accompanied by great gnashing of teeth as I wonder why in my old age I have to be going bald but yet growing John L. Lewis eyebrows in spite of my best ministrations!

And just for the record, since I know you will want to know this, my eyebrows refuse to turn grey like my hair, instead being black -- which wasn't the color of my own hair even in its heyday. (Except once in a dream I looked in a mirror and noticed that I had long black hair, which startled me enough to wake me up!)

There are just things about aging that I don't understand. I won't go into the details about chin hairs, which I used to be able to cajole my lovely daughters into plucking out for me. Now my presbyopic eyes can't even see them, although my arthritic fingers can feel them. Oh dear, so many things to try to tame as we get of an age.

The last thing I want to say about my personal eyebrows is that at one time I had a small growth in one and the doctor made a tiny little slit to remove a cyst or whever it was. This doc was a surgeon and when I asked him if I was going to have a big gap in my brow, he said no one would ever know that anything had been removed. "I am a good surgeon," he said huffily. "You will have no problems." Well, I am sure the doctor would be able to remember his handiwork now (if I could remember who he was) if I sent him a picture of my left eyebrow laterally ruptured in the middle with a neat but totally hairless white gap that refuses to accept eyebrow pencil color. The only thing that mitigates this catastrophe is that this scar almost matches the lateral scar I have on the bridge of my nose from a cat's claw (another story altogether).

Ah well, there are not beauty pageants to worry about, or finding spouses, or being photogenic....all those things that cause consternation when one is young and upcoming. To that extent, age may be a blessing but it is still a pain in the ass. Who wants John L. Lewis eyebrows at any age?!

So I do what I can do -- snip, comb, pluck, gel, brush -- and figure that at least I am alive to face another day, eyebrows and all.

Now so as not to slight John L. Lewis, who may be rolling in his grave to have only his eyebrows considered, here is the man full blown.

You can find a bio on his very interesting life (if you think labor union development is interesting - and I do) here :

And finally, just to let other generations see that these eyebrows weren't a one-in-a-lifetime appearance, here's a caricature that you are sure to recognize

Yes, it is CBS's Andy Rooney, who seems to have the same problem as I have!

I could not find the name of the artist who drew this caricature so I could give him credit; but I certainly do think he has the right touch, don't you?

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Do you read the Legal Notices in the newspaper? I find them very interesting, especially the ones regarding name changes. The most usual, of course, are where one parent petitions for a surname change for a child or children. Probably mom has remarried and the children will, through this legal action, assume the name of the new father. That is, of course, if the old father agrees.

A little harder to understand is why Petunia Clapsaddle chooses to change her name to Aphrodite Clapsaddle. Name changes like this usually cause an interruption to my husband’s newspaper reading when I say, “Hey, can you believe this?” And I would think it might behoove poor Ms. Clapsaddle to get rid of her surname as well.

Another change that is hard to understand but probably perfectly logical if one were familiar with names from other cultures is when someone by the name of Zeynep Erkut changes to Yaprak Erkut. I can’t help but wonder if this is a male or female doing the changing. And why he or she just didn’t pick a name easy for Americans to identify. (When I lived in Turkey I had my Turkish name all picked out – Canan, pronounced Jahnan, - but since I didn’t live there the rest of my life I never had a chance to use it!)

I am always surprised when I see a male name being changed to a female name. We know it happens, and I personally am okay with it (as if I were asked!), but it is nevertheless a surprise to me and maybe to his/her co-workers. Changing from Petunia to Aphrodite is much less startling than change from Dick to Jane.

A couple of years ago I was listening to a genealogical talk on using newspapers published in the county where an ancestor lived. The speaker, a fine researcher herself, was stimulating us all with her success stories, amply illustrated with overhead transparencies from old newspapers. She ended her talk with the importance of also reading the Legal Notices in old newspapers from the area where our families lived. As she prepared to put up the final illustration, she said, “Now look at this next legal notice. Think how lucky you would feel if you discovered your family like this in a newspaper.”

Up the illustration went – and darned if it wasn’t a Pomona newspaper from 1947, showing a Petition for Name Change of Julius, Bertha, Jerrold and Judy Teitelbaum to Julius, Bertha, Jerrold and Judy Title! I could hardly believe what I was seeing. I am embarrassed to admit I yelled out quite loudly, “THAT'S MY HUSBAND'S FAMILY!”

Now as it happened, none of this information was new to me, since my husband had the original court documents in his files. But to be sitting in a room and find your husband’s family being used as a really important illustration in a good genealogical talk was just too funny! Luckily it was a fairly small meeting and the people there knew me and forgave my outburst. But it certainly did confirm my thinking that reading Legal Notices sometimes can be exceptionally interesting.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Tonight I was nosing around in my scrapbook and came upon this picture of my sister, Ginnie Lou, and me. Mother was usually pretty good about putting our ages on the back of the pictures, but she missed this one, so I'll guess I was 8 or 9, making my sister 6 or 7.

But what caught my eye was its coloring. That was Mother's handiwork and it brings to memory a time when there was no color photography and hand-tinting was commonly used on portraits. When mother graduated from Colorado Springs High School in 1928, her first job was at Spofford's Photography Studio there in the city. I am not sure exactly when she started working there, but in 1930 they sent her to a school in Effingham, Illinois to learn retouching and hand-tinting.

As life often does, her world changed in 1931, when her mom's farmhouse in Mulvane, Kansas burned to the ground. When the insurance money came through, my grandma Jessie decided to take the 4 younger children to California to start a new life and called on my mother to come with her to help with the children. Mother gave up her job, and her boyfriend, and went. As it turned out, her boyfriend followed her and in 1932 they married. My sis and I came along in 1935 and 1937. Mother didn't bring much with her, but she did bring her hand-tinting paints and equipment.

As little kids we used to watch her "practice." She tinted all of our portraits as well as some older pictures that she had in her possession, and when she ran out of those, she practiced on snapshots. We loved hanging over her shoulders, watching her bring us to life in living color. As we got a little older, she let us try our hand at tinting, but we really didn't have the fine muscle control yet for doing a very good job of it. And soon there was color photography.

What so strikes me about this is that life was slow enough in those days that we could savor our mother's attention for hours at a time. What mother nowadays has that kind of time to spend nurturing her kidlets. And what child nowadays can sit anywhere for an extended period of time other than at the computer.

It never occurred to me to ask Mother if she regretted leaving a job she loved to help her mother out. When the little family arrived in California, Mother became the caretaker of her younger siblings - Marie, Bert, Hugh and Margie -while her own mother sought out almost non-existent work because of the depression. My grandma ended up being a live-in caretaker for a cantankerous old woman, while my young, vibrant mother and soon her new husband became instant "parents" of four little kids.

I think of Mother often when I start feeling put-upon or regretful for certain decisions in my life. My mother had no option. That she made it clear to Ginnie Lou and me that we were exactly what she wanted out of life is a real testament to the loyalty that was inbred in earlier generations to take them through the tough times, and that giving something up was not the end of the world.

Friday, September 26, 2008


And speaking of more delicate matters, I have to tell you that I have never owned a pair of real silk pajamas. My friend Lucy, who worked in the office next to mine on the job I held before I retired, waltzed into my office one day and said, “I just got a new pair of silk pajamas. I love them. I have 12 pairs. How many do you have?”

I looked at her like she was crazy. Well, she kind of was. Or eccentric is more like it. Except that she came from a very well-to-do family and I think having 12 pairs of silk pajamas would not have been considered eccentric in her milieu.

Lucy was a walking anachronism. Although just a few years older than I was, her world was the world of the 1940s. If you closed your eyes and envisioned a movie with Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Susan Hayward, or Gene Tierney, you would see Lucy in it. She dressed very stylishly, though with a definite 1940s flair. At 70 she had a trim body, a firm bust line, hair that had only just started getting a few gray hairs and surprisingly few wrinkles on her face. She did not have a crepey cell on her arms or neck. She denied ever having plastic surgery and there were no telltale signs. She simply came from good stock, and probably the use of good creams and potions kept her skin firm and moist. The songs she hummed were wartime songs (That’s WWII, for those of you who don’t know which war I am talking about.) Her ideas on morals and manners were fixated in that time period too.

On that day when she asked me how many pairs of silk pajamas I had, I simply considered the source, although I could hardly imagine how anyone could make use of twelve pairs! So I asked her.

“Oh, I sleep in some of them and others I just wear around the house on Saturdays and Sundays. I always keep a couple of new ones in the drawer. I don’t bother to get dressed on the weekends unless I am going somewhere, though I actually feel quite well-dressed, quite elegant when I have my silk pajamas on.”

She was very distressed to learn I not only didn’t have a single pair but that I never had a pair and furthermore I never intended to have one. She said I was missing out on one of life’s luxuries. I half-expected her to give me one of her unused pairs for Christmas that year, as on every Christmas we worked together the gift she picked for me was from her overabundance stored in the hall closet. She always told me up front that she hadn’t bought the present for me but that she had received it from someone else and thought it was nice enough to pass on (now called “regifting,” thanks to Seinfeld). And I never took offense, because we really only were expected to exchange token gifts anyway. Besides, her friends had really good taste.

I did, just this past spring, buy myself a pair of silky pajamas, except they were 100% polyester from Target. I let my little granddaughter pick out the color. I must say, combined with my non-utility underwear, I’m beginning to feel quite elegant in my old age.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


When I was a kid and lived at home, white cotton underpants were de rigueur. Now that was a long time ago and I have no idea whether decorated undies for children - like my little granddaughters' Dora the Explorer panties - were even on the horizon, but even if they were, my mother's fascination with all things white leads me to believe that regardless, I would have had white ones.

Mother always thought white signified total cleanliness - and if a choice had to be made in colors, such as when colored kitchen appliances came into being, Mother always opted for white and made sure we knew why she was choosing it. "White always makes your kitchen look so clean," she would say. Trendiness was not a consideration; cleanliness was.

So my underpanties were always white, and my first training bra (although we didn't call them that in those days) was also white. I was inadvertently brainwashed into thinking that I was making a choice of my own free will when I marched up to the cash registers to pay for my white cotton underwear. And I did it for years, always feeling very clean and very virtuous.

So I was thunderstruck when, back in the early 1970s, Jim Sanderson, who wrote very helpful newspaper columns about recovering from divorce and whom I read faithfully in my efforts to recover from my own unhappy split, made this trenchant pronouncement: "Ladies, the first thing you need to do it get rid of your utility underwear." He was talking about white cotton panties and encouraging us to go out and buy ourselves some lovely feminine underwear, silky and ranging in colors from the palest pink to the hottest red. He said it was a start to making us feel better about ourselves. Oh, I ran to the store and grabbed up pink, blue, lavendar, yellow, red and black silky underthings, and some in wonderfully sheer lace.

Did it make me feel better? You bet. And here I am at 73 still in fancypants.

Today, I still cannot look at a pair of white underpants without mentally pointing a finger at them and saying "Ugh, utility underwear!" It may look funny for a happily-married 73 year old to be standing at the counter buying lovely soft, silky and colorful underwear, but at least no one is ever rude enough to say to me, "Oh, are you buying these for YOURSELF?" Let them think what they want. I simply no longer wear utility underwear!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


One of the most fascinating things I found in Turkey was the way that goods for sale were displayed. First, of course, is that you could find displays everywhere you went, sometimes in front of shops and other times in the street markets that moved around the cities on different days. Things you wanted to buy, such as the shoes above, were not hidden in boxes, with only a single pair of shoes to tell you what was in the rest of the boxes, but pairs and pairs and more pairs of every style and color were there for you to touch and feel.

If you think of how many kinds of olives we might have in any one place - black, green, tree-ripened, and a few imports - in Turkey you will soon realize that you have never, ever seen how many olives were possible to name and display. There are no two baskets of olives alike in this display. I was simply stunned, not only at the multitudinous types but also at the wonderful display arranged by the owner of the stall.

The most dramatic arrangement I saw was the one below. It was, to a city-girl's sensibilities, gruesome and grotesque but I still had to give the butcher credit for a fantastic arrangement. To be very honest with you, it was difficult for me to look at these things, and because I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible, I really didn't do a very good job on focusing the camera. But I'm sure you can understand why I wanted to get it done quickly and move on to something else. Nevertheless, it certainly proves my point that Turkish displays of merchandise are truly a marvel to behold.

Yes, it is okay to say "UGH!"

Sunday, September 21, 2008


When I posted the picture of little me sitting in a goat cart (August 28 entry), I was curious as to what breed of goat that was. Actually, since moving here to Mira Loma in a very rural area I have found many goat farms scattered around. I'd like to think they are here because there is a big demand for goat cheese in this area. I do not like to think that the goats are used for meat, but I'm afraid that is part of the equation -- a part I'd rather not think of.

Anyway, I found a wonderful website that listed every breed of goat known, along with pictures of most of them. If I had to make a best guess, I'd suspect the cart goat might be a San Clemente breed. The picture of that goat on the website looks much like "my" goat. The description in part reads: San Clemente Island is located off the coast of southern California. It is owned by the U.S. government and used and managed by the U.S. Navy. Feral goats, probably of Spanish orgin, have inhabited the island for several centuries, possibly since the 1500's. Later introductions may have come from the mainland Franciscan missions during the 1600-1700's, while farmers were responsible for later introductions. If you want to read about it, the URL is and go to "San Clemente Goat."

Now why do I have a goat at the top of this blog that obviously is not a San Clemente Goat? Stay with me. You'll be glad you did. In reading this article on goat breeds, I learned that there is a breed called the Tennessee Fainting Goat, although it goes by several other names, such as myotonic goat, stiff leg, and so on. According to the website "Myotonic means when they are frightened or excited they "lock up" and often fall over (faint) and lie very stiff for a few seconds. It is an over-simplification, but the chemicals which are rushed to humans' muscles and joints to prepare them for "fight or flight" are withheld in the Myotonic under exciting or frightful circumstances. "

The goat at the top of the page is a Fainting Goat, but they don't all look like this. They mostly look like ordinary goats and you wouldn't notice them unless they keel over. I can't remember when I was so excited by a goat. (Well, I can guess it was 71 years ago.) Now I think I'm going to have to go around to these local goat farms and maybe yell at them to see if any faint.

There is a nice video on YouTube that is a wonderful "show and tell" about these goats. Give it a try:

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Spiders are persona non grata at my house now.

I have always been a live-and-let-live kind of person when it came to spiders. I didn’t tolerate black widows or brown recluses, but the others mostly had free reign in my house. I’d occasionally find a daddy long-legs in the bathtub and I’d get a soft Kleenex, very carefully balloon the tissue over the spider so as not to break his legs, and move him outdoors. In my book he was nothing but a “friendly” house spider.

Until recently.

Apparently one unidentified spider snuck under my nightgown as I slept and bit me on my right breast. I discovered it when I woke up, but I thought it was a mosquito bite and didn’t pay much attention to it. The following morning there was a quarter-sized red spot just above my bra line on my chest. The third morning the red blotch was as big as a 50-cent piece. I worked at the library that afternoon and showed my “wound” to my friends. With one voice they yelled “SPIDER BITE!” and tried to convince me to go to the doctor then and there. I refused to do it, but when I went home, I took a ball point pen and as best as I could drew a ring around the edge of the red spot so I could be sure what it was doing.

By Friday morning, the red swelling was the size of a silver-dollar on my chest, the red extending way beyond my ink mark. I hate to go to Urgent Care, because I always get triaged into the lowest priority group. So this time I wore a scoop-necked t-shirt and when the receptionist asked me why I needed to see a doctor, I quick as a flash pulled the neck of my t-shirt down and said, ‘This,” pointing at the bite on my breast. I was almost hand-carried into the doctor’s office. I got a tetanus shot, an antibiotic shot, some salve and a BIG lecture on not waiting so long to see a doctor when you get a spider bite. The doctor drew a ring about ¼” outside the red area and told me if the red got to that mark, I was to come back immediately. He started mumbling about not wanting necrosed tissue – and I didn’t either, believe me! Luckily the red began receding almost immediately and within a week I was all better, except for a permanent brown spot as a memento.

I do not tolerate spiders anymore. One friendly house spider bit the hand that fed it and that was the end of our relationship. None escape my vacuum or my fly swatter. None get a free ride in a Kleenex anymore. Only fools suffer spiders gladly!

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Things that happen in elementary school usually are of such a mundane nature that they are just not retrievable from the mind years later. That is, unless they are in the nature of a shock. And I guess I'd have to put today's entry in that category. It happened in 1947 when I was in the sixth grade. Some boy in class, probably Tommy Graves, had just used the word “busted” instead of “broken.” Mrs. Peterson, our teacher, drew herself up in to a formidable presence, looked down her long nose at the class and said in very loud, precise English, “The word you want to use is ‘Broken.” And then she added even more slowly and distinctly, “A bust is the breast of a woman.”

I can still see that event play out in front of my eyes. She has her dark blue polka-dotted dress on. Her hair is upswept with a rat under her pompadour. Her purse, made to be a handbag but carried by her with the straps over her shoulder and tucked ever so tightly in her armpit, looks ridiculous even to a 6th grader. Her long face is serious and dark. She says one more time for emphasis, “A bust is the breast of the woman.”

Society was less sophisticated and more naive during that time, at least as far as what was appropriate for children was concerned. I have mentioned earlier that my family never called any part of the anatomy by its real name. As far as my family was concerned, saying the word “breast” was not even in the realm of the possible. Any word describing a bodily function or part had to be spoken by employing a euphemism. Had my sister and I ever said “breast,” we would have been warned the first time and our mouths washed out with soap the second time. These were forbidden words in the Dobbins household and were not to be uttered at all, for any reason.

So you can imagine my shock, and my total humiliation, when Mrs. Peterson uttered that statement in front of Tommy Graves and Sammie Collins and Charles Clifner and Allan Austin and Bob Becott and Joseph Fayant and Chucky Newmyer and Bernard Barrad and Donald Watkins and Larry Baldwin, and the rest of the boys, all of whom we girls were beginning to be aware of in a totally different and puzzling way. My shock imprinted this episode on my psyche for all time. Sixty years later I can close my eyes and see this event replayed in my mind.

Today, older and wiser I grudgingly make allowances for the term “drug bust”. After all, even I know it is not correct or meaningful to say “drug broke” when you mean a drug bust. But if I hear a cop or a TV commentator say something like having to bust down a door, I feel myself automatically drawing up into as near a formidable presence as I can, tucking my invisible purse tighter in my armpit and saying, “We do not say the word ‘bust.’ A bust is the breast of a woman.”

I somehow cannot make my peace with this breech of the King’s English, regardless of whether “bust” in this day and age is now sitting comfortably in one of the dictionaries that also allows "funner" to be an acceptable word. My husband is now sensitized to this particular use of “bust” and I know that what he is saying under his breath when he hears the offending word emanating from our television is nothing more than an advanced rendering of what I am probably going to be saying in a few short seconds – and for the umpteenth time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Today Jerry and I are leaving for a short trip up North. I'll be posting intermittently, depending on internet and time availability. But for now...

I am starting to see why some people can spend hours and hours a day on the net. I am developing some "favorite" blogs and it is just downright fun to avail myself of some of the amazing things other people come up with. Today's blog comes from this website - which I learned about from Tom McMahon's blog, which is one of my favorites (except for his political rants). Anyway, this blog is all about the end of people's life, and I found this interesting posting today.

When Mourning was a Solemn Duty

From Roman Christendom Mourning: to comfort the bereaved and to pray for the dead.

Praying for the dead is, for those who have forgotten it, a grave duty for all Catholic Christians and one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy. The purpose is to deliver one's loved ones out of the painful, suffering process of purgation that all but the most perfect must endure after death before they are sufficiently pure and holy to be ushered into the presence of Almighty God who is all love. No taint of self-love must remain to those who come before God.

-- Now this duty is easily forgotten in a busy world and so we wear mourning to remind us to pray regularly throughout the day and night for our dead.

(In the past,) the length of mourning depended on your relationship to the deceased. The different periods of mourning dictated by society were expected to reflect your natural period of grief.

  • for a widow 2 to 2 and a half years and a widow did not enter society for a year (although she could re-marry after 1 year and 1 day if financially necessary);
  • for a widower 2 years;
  • for a parent 2 years;
  • for children (if above ten years old) 2 years;
  • for children below that age 3 to 6 months;
  • for an infant 6 weeks and upward;
  • for siblings 6 to 8 months;
  • for grandparents 6 months;
  • for uncles and aunts 3 to 6 months;
  • for cousins, great aunts and uncles, or aunts and uncles related by marriage from 6 weeks to 3 months;
  • for more distant relatives or friends from 3 weeks upward.

Drew Gilpin Faust, in a new and eminently readable book - notwithstanding the somewhat grim title, This Republic of Suffering : Death and the American Civil War - has a chapter on how difficult the Civil War made mourning. She reminds us that the carnage was so great that there was no way bodies could be handled expeditiously and there was no system in place to notify relatives. Often, the first inkling a family had that their loved one might be dead was when nothing was heard from him for a period of time. If they supposed he was dead, it behooved them to put on mourning clothes, the kind also circumscribed about as carefully as the time frame noted above. In society at that time it was very important to mourn in the proper garb, as a matter of respect to the deceased, and the Civil War simply threw families into total confusion about what they were to do.

The point of her book is to show that many modern military procedures are a direct outgrowth of the terrible lessons learned in the Civil War. It is a good book to read, and not at all as grim as the title would suggest. And as a matter of fact, the new blog I found also is worth a peak. I don't have hours to nose around in it today -- but believe me, I will.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


One of the problems of getting old is that a person only gets to do it once, so you we really novices at how to do it gracefully. Our role models, in fact, were our parents, not aging celebrities. So we have to be willing to not have all the nips and tucks and shots and grindings and camouflage clothes that keep the latter group looking so swell, and settle for whatever our parents modeled for us as they went into middle age.

My mother did well, I think. The only complaint I ever heard her voice was that she had a finger with arthritis in it, and sometimes she would unconsciously rub the joints of that finger while we were visiting. If asked, she'd simply say it was just a touch of arthritis. And consider that until he was 75, my dad had never, ever been in a hospital and never had an operation at all in his 93 years.

I watch the obituaries and find that lots of people younger than I am have died. Living in a senior apartment complex makes me very aware that there are people younger than I who look much, much older and are really in very sad shape. So I tell myself that I'm not doing too badly. This morning Jerry and I went to the Los Angeles County Fair and I wanted to wear my Nikes, which are good for walking, so I jumped into a pair of jeans and a tee-shirt. It flashed through my mind to wonder just how many 73 year olds run around in jeans. I smiled to myself, because I think I am a jeans kind of girl (woman!). One time many years ago, my teenaged granddaughter said to me, "Grandma, you just don't look like other grandmas! I love the way you look." Of course when I look in the mirror now in my own mind's eye I see myself as that same Grandma April was talking about, but I suppose I have aged in my looks in 20 years! But just a little.

I try to be "up" and chipper as I go about my daily ministrations. Unless I'm with a group of old people who are moaning and pissing about their aches and pains, I keep quiet about mine. Yes, I have them. But I don't want them to define me. Nevertheless, there is a race going on in my body that I can't deny: which is going to disappear first, my teeth or my hair. I honestly can't say which is winning. A hairpiece (not a wig, yet, just a large hairpiece) covers my head, and so far what teeth I have left are mostly mine. Not counting the gaps, the roots of them are all mine, but some have caps on their heads too. My retirement budget does not allow for implants, in spite of what my dentist tries to tell me.

I cannot find any muscle anymore when I grab my flabby upper arms or my gluteous maximus. I'm not yet like poor old Spotty, our senior citizen cat, who before she died I described as a bag of fur with some bones rattling around in it. I don't think I'll get that bad, but even so, I try to wear clothing that hides some of the flaws and still am vain enough to put a "face" on whenever I leave my apartment other than to feed the birds outside.

So I guess I'm doing as well as I can, and I certainly don't moan and groan to people about it. But I gotta' tell you this, when 5 a.m. comes and I have to crawl out of bed, I am stiff as a board. Every joint hurts, sitting up hurts, standing up hurts, and I limp into the kitchen to try to get things to work normally again and to get oiled up with some strong coffee. That, and a hot shower, usually put me back together into my 73-year old form.

The other day I saw a picture in the newspaper that might as well have had my name in the caption: BOBBY TITLE WHEN SHE GETS UP IN THE MORNING. I share this with you, and now you all know how the real me looks at that ungodly hour!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


This morning I came across this picture of my dad, Scott Dobbins, on a dozer up at the ranch. He's been dead 7 years now and I was cleaning out some old material I had in my files -- and if I ever saw this picture I don't remember it. And I was quite taken with it, because it represents about the apex of my father's life. It was after this time that everything went downhill for him.

The ranch was 640 acres of land he owned in the canyon on the way to O'Neill Park in Orange County. There were two houses on it, the larger one was for the Dobbinses and family members, and the other one was where Fred, the caretaker and artist, lived. Dad had bought the land I'd guess in the late '50s with the idea that somewhere on that land there was something to be mined. In his files I found the geologists report that there was nothing of mineable worthiness on this property. I imagine dad was very disappointed, for he had mining in his blood. But for the period of time he owned the property, he and the family made good use of the house and nearby property. Dad did not have any relatives in California but my mother had plenty, and dad was very generous in loaning the house out to them for weekend stays. Besides that, he and my brother Steve, who was just a little tyke then, spent lots of time there during the summers, shooting at cans, moving earth around, and just in general having a good time.

It also was at this time that his drinking became a major problem and his family's life began falling apart. He sold some of the property, carrying notes on it so that he and mother would have income in their old age. The rest of the property he gave away to various people, mostly to his drinking buddies, but saved none for his family. From the early '70s to the end of his life in 2001, he became a problem for everyone. After mother's death in 1982 he became my problem, and from then on I cried many, many tears at what he and I both had to go through. As awful as it sounds it was a relief when he died, and I have since had a hard time thinking good thoughts about him. "Let bygones be bygones" has not come easily.

But I have a new friend who unknowingly helped me get back to a more realistic picture of my dad. In 2003 I wrote a booklet "Growing Up In Long Beach, 1935 to 1953" and in mentioning it to my friend Nancy in San Francisco, she said she'd be interested in reading it, since she too grew up in Southern California in about the same time period. I sent the booklet to her, and when we got together last July she said she was really amazed at what an important role my father played in my life. She said she just didn't ever remember of her father, or the father of her friends, being so involved in their children's lives. She said I was very lucky to have had such a father.

All that came to mind when I saw this picture this morning. This was Dad at his best. I got the best years of his life -- and it truly was, as Nancy said, a unique thing to happen at that time. I was very, very lucky. Most kids didn't have fathers like mine. He and I were buddies. And I must never forget that, because I really do see so much of him in me - his work ethic, his values, his drive.

All my relatives, old and young, remember those good years and what a swell fellow my dad was. And regardless of the end, I can honestly say I was proud of my father for what he accomplished.

Monday, September 8, 2008


I am always surprised at what selective vision we have.

The most obvious examples are done with a camera. We pose a friend in a desert setting and when the film is developed, a cactus appears to be growing out of her head. We take a candid shot of people picnicking and fail to see the behind of a bending woman in the lower left side of our visual field. Or we see a beautiful sunset and shoot what we think will be the world’s most gorgeous photograph, but the finished print shows telephone wires running horizontally across the beautiful view, wires that we didn‘t notice when we framed our shot.

I’m sure professional photographers are trained to be so aware of these extraneous intrusions that it rarely happens to them. Perhaps that is why it takes them longer to take a photograph. We amateurs are usually not aware of anything except what we are focusing on. And we often end up with big surprise.

Secretaries are very aware of a different kind of selective vision. We type something and then proofread it. And we are the very worst possible proofreaders of our own work, for we see what we expect to be there. We may have tried to write “in the manner” and our fingers came out with “on the matter.” Our eye will likely as not miss the mistake completely, because more times than we would like to admit, we see what we expect to see instead of what is actually there. This tendency is so pervasive we often ask someone else to help us proof the paper, or barring that, with another paper we mask out the body of the letter except for the line we are reading, to force ourselves to really look at the words.

The most critical kind of selective vision is the way we see our children. I am reminded of the old joke about the woman who puts her new baby in a stroller and goes outside for a walk. While she is gazing down admiringly at him, a man comes out of a market, looks down at the baby and asks, “Can I give your little monkey a banana?” I have seen other people’s homely babies and always do what my mother told me was the correct response if I didn’t want to tell a white lie: “Now THAT is a baby!”

I have had four children, all of whom were adorable when they were born, and even more so as they grew and developed their own unique mannerisms and personalities, I thought they each were adorable. Their baby books visually chronicle their development and if at any stage there was something not so attractive about one of them, I could usually attribute it to it not being a good picture -- one taken by a school photographer, most likely.

I never stopped to wonder why I seemed to be the only one who got really cute babies. I looked at my friends’ newborns and some of them were down right homely, although of course I would never tell the moms that. Furthermore, their less-than-beautiful babies kind of stayed that way as they grew through toddler-hood and on into school, while mine seemed still look like “magazine” babies – always my standard of totally adorable offspring.

So it is that I have come to understand that we look at our children through selective vision. Whatever mother love is, it surrounds our babies and makes them look to us as perfect as a mother could want. And even if we have a wee suspicion that one baby’s nose might be a little big, or another one’s ears might need “pinning”, we don’t need to be rational and critique their parts. The sum total of that baby is perfection, and Mother Nature gives us selective vision to see it that way.

We may not be good photographers or proofreaders, but those things don’t count for much in the scheme of things. Mother Nature knows what she is doing when she gives us selective vision.

My children (above) the exception, of course. They are ALL adorable and absolutely perfect!

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Shortly after we arrived in Turkey we noticed a little fellow in what we thought was a “band uniform” standing on the street corner with an older man, probably his dad. The little guy, who appeared to be 6 or 7, was wearing a satin uniform with a fancy cape and hat; to us, it looked like maybe what a drum major would be wearing. Within the next couple of months we saw several other boys wearing similar outfits. Needless to say, we were very puzzled.

Finally we learned that these young boys, who soon were to be circumcised, were participating in a tradition unlike anything we have in our country. In Turkey, boys are usually circumcised somewhere between the ages of 2 and 12, and the family plans a big ceremony and feast to honor this event. Family, friends and neighbors are all invited. All bring presents, which are placed on the boy’s bed in his room, which has been festively decorated. The boy wears a special costume that consist of a suit, a cape, a scepter, a sash and a special hat with the Turkish word “Mashallah” on it, which means “What wonders Allah has willed” or “God preserve him” or “Wonderful!”

When the boys appear in costume on the streets, the onlookers know what is going to be taking place – which actually is considered a step to manhood for the little fellow – and good wishes and coins are often given by passersby. On the morning of the event, the children of all the guests are taken for a tour in cars or, if they are in a rural area, on horseback or in carts. A group of musicians follow this “parade,” making happy music.

Eventually the boy is brought into his special room, circumcised usually by a surgeon, and to ease his pain there are music, jokes, and lots of presents to open. Words from the Koran are read, and the feast of wonderful Turkish food begins.

Why do I tell you all this? Because I have a darling little 5-year old great-grandson who is shortly to be circumcised. And in thinking of the pain he will be going through, it reminded me that Turkish boys can expect lots of gifts to help ease the pain, so I have decided to find a really good gift for my little guy. I can’t do much, but at least I can do something!

And who is this little fellow? It’s little Tyler, who actually doesn’t look like this anymore, but this picture of him in HIS costume was so cute I just had to use it!
A special thanks to Serif Yenen in Istanbul for the use of the circumcision photo. If you are ever lucky enough to plan a trip to Turkey, use this fellow’s travel service for help and good advice.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


If you are part of my family you will recognize this photo as being of "the Four Cousins." If you are not, then let me explain this picture. First, it was taken several years ago and probably isn't the picture any of us would like you to see - but it is the only one we have with the four of us. We have all changed somewhat since then. It was taken on a very hot, sultry day in Orange County, and as far as I am concerned, it is a fairly grim photo. But we do have to own it, that's for sure.

I am sitting in the white shirt. I am the oldest cousin. My cousin Shirlee, who is standing behind me, is the next cousin in age. She is the one who now lives in North Carolina. My cousin Sharon, standing next to Shirlee, is younger still, and cousin Nancy, sister of Shirlee and seated in blue, is the "baby" of the group. The four of us all were born between 1935 and 1947. My sister Ginnie, who died in 2004, would have fallen into this age group.

Our mothers were sisters. Our grandma Jessie had four daughters. The youngest daughter did not have children. We have a great picture of grandma Jessie and her girls -- taken, I'd guess, in the mid 1930s if one can judge by the hair styles and the clothes.

Shirlee and Nancy's mom, Marie, is on the left. My mother, Virginia, is next to her. Grandma Jessie is in the middle. Sharon's mother, Florence, is next to Grandma, and little Margie, the youngest daughter, is hanging on Florence's arm. If I had to take a guess, I'd say that the occasion of this photo was that Aunt Florence had come to California from Kansas on a visit

Anyway, now you know the Aunts and the Cousins. Cousin Sharon was raised in Kansas, Texas and Colorado. The rest of us were all Californians. When the Ryland family moved from Kansas to California in 1931, they settled in Long Beach, and I grew up with a passel of cousins close at hand. Grandma Jessie had two sons who were born in between Marie and Margie - and those fellows also lived in California and added more cousins to the mix, although they were a bit younger than this first batch of cousins.

The point I am making is that for the most part, we had shared childhoods. Sharon's family came to California every year for a vacation and she was also a part of our growing up. And now for the past 10 years, more or less, she herself has lived in California, which is why we are able to have our wonderful "Cousin Brunch" every other month. Shirlee was able to participate before she moved, and of course we keep her updated on what we talk about at these brunches.

And what is it we talk about? Family, first. Old times, second. Then Books. Genealogy. Ikebana. Travel. Politics. Art. Everything is on the table, and we find much to laugh at. We have made lots of discoveries -- such as Sharon had the old family bible but I had the "family records" that had been torn out of it sometime in the past. (They are now reunited). Nancy has given Sharon a picture of her mom as a tiny girl that had been in the possession of Aunt Marie for many years. Nancy didn't even know who it was, but I matched the picture up with some old ones in the family album and confirmed that it indeed was wee Florence at 18 months old. We have come up with a photograph of a lovely young girl who was thought to be our Grandma Jessie but I'm still trying to prove my theory that it is, in fact, Louise Hall Ryland. Every time we meet for brunch one of us brings a "Show and Tell" -- and I'll tell you we've had a lot of fun with those things, even if they don't pertain to family.

Some time back I found the picture below in, I think, Vanity Fair magazine. The minute I laid eyes on it I knew it was the four cousins in our next iteration. It made me laugh a lot. I won't tell you which one I think is me. Each cousin probably has her own opinion of who is who. When you get right down to it, I think it is a much more flattering picture than the one at the top of this column where we all look so ..... so..... grim, I think is the word.

Friday, September 5, 2008


The newspaper this morning had a very unusual story in it, as reported by the Associated Press. Here's what it said:

"The Orange County coroner's office says a woman and her brother found dead in their home under unusual circumstances on Easter died of natural causes."

By the time you've read this far you can't help but wonder what is going on. Both dying of natural causes at the same time? So we read on.

The man, who was 41, had swallowed three bullets and had black shoe polish smeared on his face, but apparently the coroner found he had died of a stroke.

His older sister was found with blood on her mouth and bruises on her face and neck, but the coroner found she had died of heart disease.

According to the article, another sister found the bodies when she went to her father's house (where the two dead siblings lived) to pick up their father for an Easter celebration. Apparently the father had advanced Alzheimer's disease and may have lived with the bodies for up to two days.

That is about the most bizarre report I've read in a long time. I can't even begin to imagine the scenario for this all to happen as reported. If the coroner report is correct, it would appear there was no crime.

Makes me wonder why this is just now being reported in the paper, considering that Easter was a long time ago. Did it take that long for the coroner to come to his conclusions? So many questions.

What are we missing. This might be a plot for a new "who done it" if someone were so inclined.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


In Turkey, the fasting period is called Ramazan, rather than Ramadan. During the 18 months we lived in Istanbul - actually in the picture above if you pinpoint the floor with the open front window on the left hand apartment building you'll see exactly where we lived - we experienced this most interesting time. The reading we had done prior to our arrival there had told us what Ramazan was all about and what we could expect during that time as far as what kind of an impact it might have on our daily living.

Because we were living in such a big city, and on the more modern side of Istanbul (on the Asian Continent instead of the European continent) we were not so aware of how it affected people, because many people really didn't observe it. I'm sure we would have experienced it very differently if we had lived in a more rural area. Our young driver, Ahmet, advised us he was going to try to fast but admitted he was not ever very successful. (After about three grumpy days, he quit early again).

But all the reading we did really didn't prepare us for "the drummer." On the first morning after Ramazan started, I woke up hearing lots of drumming noise in what felt like the middle of the night. Ramazan that year was in the early spring and it was so cold out that I didn't think I needed to go out on the balcony to find out what was going on. I decided I'd just call friends the next morning and inquire of them. When Ahmet picked Jerry up for work that morning, he asked us if we had heard the drummers. And it was he that suggested that the next morning I hang my head out of one of the windows and watch as the drummer came by, that people hired drummers to walk up and down the streets beating on drums as loudly as they could to wake them up so they would have time to prepare and eat breakfast before dawn came and the mandatory fasting began.

That night I set my alarm clock for 2 a.m. and when it went off I bundled myself up in many layers of clothing, determined to watch from the balcony. But those layers weren't enough; it was still bitterly cold, so I did as Ahmet suggested, stuck my head out a window and kept my body in the slightly warmer living room. In the stillness of the morning, I began hearing drum beats -- and before long a drummer came around the corner and onto our street - Tutuncu Mehmet Effendi Sokak - and whoever was to be awoken certainly must have been, because he truly BEAT that drum! Ahmet had said that Gypsies were the ones who did the drum beating, but that is not necessarily so. Sometimes it is a highly coveted job.

I loved every minute of that experience. Yes, I was cold, but when we went to Turkey I said I wanted to experience as much of Turkish life as I could, and I certainly relished what I saw that night. Every year when our U.S. newspapers make mention of Ramadan coming, I always think back to that wonderful time when I saw something I knew I would never in the world get to see again. I am only sorry I didn't hang out the window with my camera hanging from my neck.

The following link will take you to an article in the Turkish Daily News (the only English-language newspaper available when we lived there) that will give you an interesting and educational peek at Ramazan in Turkey.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


...but Google does.

In an old suede-bound High School Memory Book circa 1923 that I temporarily have in my possession I found a clipped newspaper article about a girl, probably the Memory Book owner, who appeared as the Queen in a play entitled "Six Who Pass While the Lentils Boil."

Such a name for a play! I had to laugh about it, thinking how much things have changed over the years. Never could I imagine a play with a name like that would come to light in this day and age.
But just wondering about it sent me to good old "" - and sure enough I learned all about it - and learned that it is still available through the Samuel French, Inc., distributors. Here's the description from their website:

“While the Boy watches boiling lentils for his mother, six people pass: the condemned Queen (who he promises to hide), the Mime (who tempts him abandon his duty), the Milkmaid (who tells him about the reward offered for the Queen), the Blindman (who shows him why it is best to keep a promise), the Ballad Singer (who would wander all his life rather than break a promise) and the dreadful Hangman (who is outwitted by the boy). Her majesty gratefully knights David Little Boy (who has done his duty and kept his promise.)”

The photograph, found by looking in Google Images, appears in an issue of the University of Rochester "Review" dating back to 2000. Aside from this very interesting photo, the little newsletter has an interesting commentary on it and other events in the University's past history, found here: This was my mother's era and I can visualize her in plays exactly like this!

In any case, if any of you are looking for a good relevant play to produce, this one seems to stress values that have fairly been forgotten nowadays!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


This is another grandmother story, one that happened about three years ago but good enough to remember well!

My daughter was out of town and I was babysitting. The girls’ dad hadn’t left for work yet. Olivia was still in bed. Little Justine, aged 2-1/2, asked me if she could have an egg for breakfast. I had seen her mom scramble an egg using the microwave so I figured this would be an easy breakfast. I told her that would be fine.

I took the carton of eggs out of the fridge, set one egg on the drain board and turned to put the carton away. At that very moment Justine shrieked at the top of her lungs, "I CAN DO IT MYSELF!" and before I knew what was happening, she grabbed the egg, ran to the kitchen table and smashed it on the edge, causing yolk and white to fly across, down and around the table, chairs, rug and wall. Her big hazel eyes fixed on me as if I had been the one that had done the deed. "SEE WHAT YOU DID?" she shrieked again, chin a-quivering and steam shooting out of her ears, and ran off upstairs to tell her dad what Grandma had done. (Two and a half is a bad age to expect taking responsibility for one's own actions.)

In reconstructing the story with their dad, I learned the two little granddaughters had come to enjoy hard-boiled eggs for breakfast. The girls are notoriously poor and picky eaters, and keeping pre-cooked eggs on hand helped the girls with their breakfasting process. To differentiate the hard boiled eggs from the uncooked, both of which were placed in the egg carton, mom and dad cooked the hard-boiled eggs with some onion skin, which dyed the shell brown. Neither the girls nor I knew of this little trick, but when Justine grabbed the egg, she was supposing it was one of the hard-boiled ones. Obviously it was not.

Anyway, while Justine was upstairs tattling on me, I was trying to find, and wipe up, all the raw egg of any color spattered around their kitchen. I even called in their dog, a master at the art of eating food scraps off the floor, but the dog turned me down flat! When Dad came downstairs with a still-steaming Justine, he told me about their system. In my kindest way, I said that Jer and I always wrote HB on the shell of our hardboiled eggs. Dad reckoned that it was easier our way.

In spite of all this, I had a hard time not laughing through the whole episode, except when I was down on my arthritic knees trying to find runny egg white on the cold, hard white designer tile floor. While I was thus occupied, Tini’s dad offered her a carton of yogurt instead, which she happily accepted in place of an HB, and during the eating of the yogurt with sprinkles, she decided to be friends with me again.

Monday, September 1, 2008


Every once in a while I read a book that is so very good I just can’t keep quiet about it. This past week I started – and finished – “The 19th Wife” by David Ebershoff. As many of you know, I am especially interested in books that have some kind of a religious theme in them, and this particular book does. Here, the religion is the Latter-Day Saints.

The book is a novel through and through, although as you read it you have to remind yourself of that fact. There are actually two stories running side by side. One is the life story of Brigham Young’s 19th Wife, Ann Eliza Young, who was the only one of his many wives who filed for divorce. She and the divorce really existed but the story is fiction. Along side her story is one in a modern-day setting, with events happening when a young teenaged boy, a member of the fundamentalist sect of polygamous Mormons, is taken outside his city limits and dropped off on a highway by his mother. He is being banished because of his purported involvement with a young girl against the wishes of the town fathers. This too is a fictionalized story, but you all have probably been following in the newspaper the events in the real fundamentalist communities and know that such communities still exist.

The writer of this book keeps his storylines straight, though intertwined; it is not difficult to read and switch back and forth with them. The stories themselves are so fascinating that you simply can’t put the book down.

In case you are not sure whether it would interest you, I suggest going to the Barnes and Noble website and doing a search for “The 19th Wife.” You will find detailed reviews and you can tell from that if you think you might want to read it. But just today I found this article in a Salt Lake City newspaper that pertains to the fundamentalist young boys who leave those communities. Take a peek here, and reading it will help you see just how relevant this novel is: