Thursday, October 30, 2008


It was Halloween of 2003. Little Tini (Justine Ava, to you who don't know the family) was participating in her first Trick or Treating. It was a cold night and putting her in her warm jammies sufficed for a costume -- with angel wings attached, of course, to make it look like something different from an everynight appearance. She and her older sister, Olivia, were prepared to hit the neighborhood with Mom and Dad.

Tini is a sweet little thing with a sweet little face - always curious and always fairly demanding. And a very, very funny child.

Of course she didn't know what to expect, but the learning curve comes very quickly when it comes to candy.

Through the years she has chosen her own costumes and trick or treated with the rest of the big kids. But it is now 2008 and she is no longer the sweet little pink angel crawling up the stairs. The picture below, while not showing her Halloween costume, will give you an idea of her size, her shape and her interests. She certainly doesn't let any grass grow under her feet. She can kick a ball with the best of them. She is a consummate kindergartener now!

They do grow up fast, don't they?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I love words, and for that reason I subscribe to a site that each day sends me a "Word of the Day." Sometimes I am familiar with the word for that particular day and sometimes not. Other times I am not particularly interested in it, thinking I'd never ever have an occasion in which to put it to use. However, every once in a while.......

Today's word was "crapulous." I don't believe I've ever been aware of it before, and of course the sound of the word is enough to pique anyone's curiosity. Today I laughed.

Crapulous, adjective
1. Suffering the effects of, or derived from, or suggestive of gross intemperance, especially in drinking; as, a crapulous stomach.

2. Marked by gross intemperance, especially in drinking; as, a crapulous old reprobate.

The rest of the e-mail says that Crapulous is from Late Latin crapulosus, from Latin crapula, from Greek Kraipale, meaning drunkenness and its consequences, nausea, sickness and headache.

Only one time in my life have I been seriously "hung over" from drinking too much. And I have to admit that I woke up in a seriously crapulous condition, which lasted until about 5 pm that afternoon. I have never found a word to describe how bad that hangover was; to find one that is so succinct and sounds exactly like what it means is a real delight.

Yes, I do understand that word -- but mind you, only from that one experience, which came about when I was thrown into a different social life after being divorced and not having any experience whatsoever in the effects of too much alcohol. That one crapulous event was enough. Never again, said I, and there never has been and never will be.

In a sober condition that very word makes me almost roar with laughter, because I understand. And if you have a teeny similar indiscretion in your past that can best be described this way, I'm sure you will laugh too.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


In one of my past iterations I worked in a small office filled with legal and medical professionals. Initially coming from a temporary agency and being hired shortly thereafter on a part time basis for doing light medical transcription, I found great pleasure in the hours spent with people whose brains I could admire. They also were a creative bunch, and at Halloween their creative juices took flights of fancy like you wouldn't believe. The year I was there, I was enabled to become a member of the Sheet Family.

Dress for the day was a large sheet with one hole for the head and two holes for the arms. On the back of the sheet where it stretched across our shoulders was the lettering: THE SHEET FAMILY. And on the front, each one of us had to pick our own given name.

As you can see from the photo above, family members were named NO, DUMB, TUFF, HOT, BULL, OH, LITTLE, A REAL, DIP, N DEEP, NEW, HOLY AND FULL OF.

We had made 11:30 lunch reservations at a local restaurant about three blocks away from our office, and at 11:15 we went downstairs in the elevator and took off walking along a busy highway to our destination. We expected people to stare - and to laugh - at us; what we did not expect was for cars to stop in the middle of the road to see what on earth was going on. Drivers would stick their arms outside the cars and signal us to "turn round" so they could see what our "given names" meant. Some cars came around the block twice. We were stopped along the street by passersby insisting on reading every last name.

And once in the restaurant, we were hardly able to eat our lunches because of others wanting to talk to us about our costumes. We were in a part of town that was highly commercial and many of the office people were dressed in absolutely outlandish costumes. Ours were simple and clever, and they were the hit of the day.

I do think you have to suspend your sense of propriety to pull of something like this, if propriety is an issue with you. It wasn't for me or for any of my friends, and not a Halloween goes by (it's been now close to 20 years) that I don't look at this picture and remember with great fondness that group of people and that occasion.

Those of you who know me will recognize me by my "name." Those of you who don't will just have to guess which one is me, but I'll give you a hint: I am.

Monday, October 27, 2008


I know this isn't a very good photo -- but in the scheme of things that isn't as important as what I am pointing at. Let me tell you the story.

When Jer and I considered marriage - he was 45 and I was 40 - we had lots of living behind us and we needed to talk about integrating families, our different religious backgrounds, our ideas about money, sharing, entertaining and so on. We thought we were being very smart about it, and we were. Blending families is exceptionally difficult, and the less surprises you have in doing so, the better prepared you are in accomplishing it. We really made no outlandish requests of each other, but Jerry did ask for only one thing: he wanted me to take care of all the planning for my eventual death and funeral with a pre-need arrangement.

This was not a surprise because his first wife had passed away and he had to, on short notice, make all these arrangments under very stressful conditions. He did not ever want to have to go through that again. I understood and was certainly willing to accommodate him.

We married in 1975. I finally made my arrangements in 2004. This was not quite what he had expected, and frankly it wasn't what I expected either. I'll tell you why it so long to happen: I wanted to be buried in a cemetery that allowed old-fashioned headstones to be placed over the grave. And this just doesn't happen in California.

To be honest, I probably didn't look too hard during the first 10 years of marriage. It was when I started doing genealogy and became so dependent on information collected from headstones that I figured I'd better insure that down the road anyhone searching for me would find everything they wanted to know on a stone at my gravesite. And in order to get my full name -- Barbara "Bobby" Gail Dobbins Kirkpatrick Title - on a stone, along with the birth, death and a clever little saying like "She knew she was sick" or something like that, I was definitely going to need a large stone.

It is a lot cheaper and easier to maintain a cemetery with flat stones placed in the ground, and that is what is mostly offered. I did discover that if you are able to buy a plot from someone who originally bought that plot when headstones were allowed, then you can have an upright stone. But to keep this from happening, I am convinced that the cemetery itself jacks up the price of the plot so high that it just makes no sense at all to buy one of those. Better the original owner just go ahead and bury himself in it and utilize the lower rate.

Over the years I investigated tombstones and cemeteries all over the place. During several visits to family plots in Colorado cemeteries, I considered being buried there, because they still allow - and mostly expect - other than stone plaques that lie flush with the ground and get mowed over. By the time I retired at age 65, I still had not made my final arrangements. I had talked all these things over with him as I went along, and while I'm sure he thought I was crazy, he humored me.

In 2000 I retired. We moved to a lovely senior complex in Loma Linda, right next to a "country club," which is what the seniors at the complex called the cemetery next door. Montecito is a really pretty cemetery, flat stones notwithstanding. It is built in a canyon, wide at the point where it borders civilization and narrowing as it winds it way on the flatlands that go back into the canyon itself. There are lots of trees, lots of shade, lots of little running and flying critters around -- and is really a perfect place in which to end up. I had never driven into the head of the canyon, but one day in 2004, after a year when several of my friends as well as my only sister had died, I took a drive back into the canyon, saw an "ash garden" built there and immediately knew that this is where I wanted to purchase my property.

Jerry met me at the cemetery office with checkbook. Things went smoothly, except I did have a little skirmish with the counselor about the little brass plaque that will fit over my 6 square inch piece of property. The contract said this plaque would have three lines of writing on it. I told him I couldn't be buried there unless I could have more lines than three. He assured me (although he did not write it into the contract) that I could have up to 6 lines. So it became a done deal.

I am very pleased with my property and had my picture taken where I was pointing to the exact location. Even though the picture isn't so good, it sends me to the image in my head of the lovliest of resting places far back in that canyon, where all the little critters will come down for a drink of water to the "man-made" stream that flows close to my property. When I wrote my cemetery book about the Protestant Cemetary in Istanbul I called it "A Fine Place of Rest." That is what I think I have now at Montecito and I am pleased.

Oh, and what I am really going to have on the last line instead of "She knew she was sick" is "She Loved Her Kids."

Sunday, October 26, 2008


You all know about genealogy, my hobby and my passion.

I began researching my family tree in 1984, and like most people I concentrated first on my own surname - Dobbins. I worked solidly on it for a year on it. By that time, not knowing any better, I figured out I had found about as much as I could.

There were lots of little loose ends, though, and one of them was a "Missouri Harmony" that appeared on a probate inventory list of my great-grandfather's brother, Robert Gaston Dobbins, who died at age 21. I wondered what a Missouri Harmony was and I looked in every dictionary I could think of, even the huge, all-inclusive Oxford English Dictionary. But having never found a thing, I assumed the word "harmony" must simply be a regional variation of "Harmonica" and I let it go at that. That was about 19 years ago.

Some time back after a hard day doing research for other people at the local library, I came home and asked the computer if it had anything for me to "make my day." I nosed around all the genealogy websites for about a half-hour, getting absolutely nowhere, and decided before I logged off I'd give Google a try. I entered a few phrases with no successful hits, and finally out of the recesses of my mind and into my fingertips flew "Missouri Harmony." Unbelievably, I got more hits than I knew what to do with, and it was here I found out everything I wanted to know!

The Missouri Harmony was the most popular of all frontier tunebooks, with a history going back to 1820, when singing master Allen Carden introduced it into his St. Louis school. The 185 selections in The Missouri Harmony, compiled from earlier tunebooks, were old favorites used in churches and singing schools which sometimes convened in taverns. Abraham Lincoln and his sweetheart, Ann Rutledge, are said to have sung from The Missouri Harmony at her father's tavern in New Salem, Illinois. These tunebooks and others like them, used in the frontier singing schools, taught average Americans to read music. The Missouri Harmony, continuing the European tradition of shaped notes, contained the largest collection of compositions for congregations and choirs.

It was a "Eureka!" moment for me, especially since in an old Dobbins family paper it mentions that John Calvin Dobbins and Robert Newton Dobbins, uncles of young Robert Gaston, held singing schools in Fulton County, Illinois in the 1850's and 1860's. At Robert's death in 1851 the inventory showed he had his own shape-note book, a Missouri Harmony!

As if that wasn't enough, Google gave me another link, which was to the University of Nebraska Press. There, it listed a sale on the last of their Missouri Harmony books, reprints of the original. Selling price was a mere ninety-nine cents! Did I buy it? You bet!

I was familiar with the U of Nebraska Press because it had reproduced another book, Midnight and Noonday, which was ghost-written by my great-grandmother Louise Ryland and featuring many stories of her husband, James A. Ryland, who went early into Caldwell, Kansas. One of the original books remained in our family at least through the 1950s but has since disappeared. At least I have a reprint done by U of Nebraska Press.

All of you who are genealogists, or just interested in history, might want to spend some time with the University of Nebraska Press websites, as they have a wide variety of books on Western development. In fact, you may look at the catalog of other University Presses. Who knows, you may just find a Eureka moment too!

Friday, October 24, 2008


"For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up:..." Psalms 69:9 and John 1:17

Yesterday I was reading David McCullough's award-winning book "Mornings on Horseback", the story of Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy was asthmatic as a child and had terrible attacks, often necessitating an immediate change of location to bring under control - dashing off to the country or to the beach to get some relief.

McCullough says in reading of Teddy’s childhood diary entries, it becomes obvious that there is a psychological component to his asthma also. McCullough said these attacks often came on prior to church-going, and at one time when Teddy was very young his mother asked him why he was so afraid of the Presbyterian church the family attended. She discovered that he was terrified of something called the "Zeal." He said it crouched in the dark corners of the church ready to jump at him. When she asked what a zeal might be, he said he was not sure, but thought it was probably a large animal like an alligator or a dragon. He had heard the minister read about it from the Bible. The mother used a concordance and read to him every verse that contained the word "zeal" and when she came to John 2:17 he told her that was the verse he heard.

Now I was quite shocked when I read that passage, because I have read an old family story about the same Bible verse in connection with Robert B. Dobbins, an old Scots-Irish Presbyterian minister and my third-great grandfather. In 1946, during the centennial celebration of the founding of the Ipava Presbyterian church, a letter was received from a former parishioner, Phebe Easley Fitzhenry, who was turning 100 on the day of the celebration. She reflected in her letter on old Rev. Dobbins, pastor from 1836 to his death in 1853. She says, "An elderly man named Dobbins made his home with his son John. He was an ordained Presbyterian minister. 'Granddad,' as he was usually called, would go to Lewistown on Saturday to preach in the church there on the Sabbath day, then return home on Monday. I was five or six years old and would watch for him to pass by. His long silken white hair took my attention. I had heard a saying, "The zeal of thy House hath eaten me up." Not knowing its meaning, I "put that" on Granddad and was frightened. I often would hide when I saw him coming."

Churches have a powerful influence on us as children. An image was implanted in my mind from a church experience that still lurks there after all these years. During my early teens I went to a Baptist church with a girlfriend. In one particular Sunday School lesson the female teacher was trying her best to insure that good Baptist children would not dance. She told a story of how she and one of her girlfriends as teenagers went to a dance, even though her parents disapproved and the church forbid dancing. She said she was watching her girlfriend dance when suddenly the girfriend's partner turned into a big black dog, with a red tongue hanging out and an evil look coming from his eyes. She said she was so scared she ran outside and never again went to a dance. And she said if we ever went to a dance, we'd better watch out for that big black, evil-looking dog, who is really Satan in disguise.

To this day I am not crazy about black dogs. I understand why I am not, so I don't hold the dog responsible for his color. But if I were picking out a dog, a black one would be my last choice.

I think often on how much our early religious training affects our lives, sometimes in a positive manner but sometimes in a negative way. Although at this stage in my life I am probably more of a humanist than anything, if I were inclined to become a churchgoer it certainly would not be to a church that tried to scare me into heaven. I guess I’m not crazy about zeals either.

NOW A DISCLAIMER! As I write this I am house and dogsitting for a friend who has two really lovely dogs, Sierra and Blossom. Blossom is a large black dog, but I want to go on record here that she is NOT a zeal. :)

Thursday, October 23, 2008


It’s not easy, even with using Google, to learn about the reproductive organs of chickens.

Whoa, I can hear you saying. Why would anyone want to know such a thing?

Those of you who know me personally will understand that I am fascinated by all the stuff in the world that I don’t know – one of which is exactly what happens when birds and chickens mate – and whenever the occasion arises that have a few extra minutes on the computer, I can always find something to learn! Today, I was on a hunt to learn what equipment hens and rooster have to insure procreation.

When you are starting out knowing nothing, it takes a while.

First I was informed simply that chickens have vents. So of course I had to look up what a vent was. In the process of doing that, I found an absolutely amazing video on YouTube which I encourage you to watch here. It is simply a hen laying an egg, but you’ll be sweating by the time she gets this egg out her vent.

Apparently it is also correct to say the egg is coming out her "cloaca," but I did find someone who answered that question very simply: it comes out of the egg hole! (That really made me laugh, and in fact was so funny I thought maybe I should stop researching right there!) But no…

Wikipedia enlightened me by adding this: In zoological anatomy, a cloaca is the posterior opening that serves as the only such opening for the intestinal and urinary tracts of certain animal species….The word comes from Latin, and means sewer….

Now of course, I had to look a bit further once I’d learned about the vent and the cloaca, because I wanted to know specifically how the rooster and the hen mate. I didn’t think he had a penis, but what did he have that worked in its place?

Oklahoma State University has a poultry page that says the male chicken does not have a penis and therefore there is no penetration of the female reproductive tract at the time of mating. Instead the female inverts her cloaca, which comes in contact with the male’s inverted cloaca and receives the sperm. The cloaca is then drawn back into the hen’s body and the sperm are captured.

I am a bit puzzled by the use of the term “inverted” – it seems to me it would be called extruded or something similar – but I must just not know enough to understand why something that pooches out would be called “inverted.”

And as I gather from the various pictures posted on the chicken and bird sites, it is a simple matter of kind of making one’s little inverted cloaca shake hands with the other’s little inverted cloaca and – voila’ – chickies are on the way. But after all this study, I came upon one person’s very fine, correct explanation of everything I had wondered about and at the conclusion of this satisfying wrap up, the author said: “OR... Rooster hops on Hen. Rooster wiggles around and does his business. Rooster's sperm goes into Hen, thus fertilizing her egg”. Simple, Yes?

Anyway, after all this investigation I guess I don’t have any more questions. If asked, I could explain in a non-scientific way about the general goings-on and probably use the correct anatomical word if necessary.

And now I have one less thing in the world to wonder about. There are still plenty of things left to find out and share with you, although I realize some of you really may not have been interested in chicken reproductive organs.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


In 1973, when I started recovering from a divorce, I tentatively put my foot out into the dating pool. It was a time of great uncertainty in my life, but at least I was ready to try. I knew the pickings would be slim for a 39 year old mother of 4 teenagers; after all, who would want to be crazy enough to date her, I wondered. I read all the books of do’s and don’ts, and the best I can say was that I did have an occasional date but nothing I got excited over.


One evening I met an absolutely gorgeous fellow whom I had slightly known as a married doctor in a former iteration, and now here we were at the same event, both single and both able to connect comfortably with our pasts and our friendship of that earlier time. By the end of the evening he had asked me out for the following Friday evening and I had accepted. I went home “floating”…. on hopes and dreams.

That Friday he picked me up after work for dinner and then asked if after our meal I’d like to take a ride “up the hill” to see his cabin that overlooked all of the valley. I told him yes, I’d like to, but that I needed to be home no later than midnight. I was hoping that signaled to him that I didn’t want to stay all night with him. He said there would be no problem meeting that deadline.

We had a fine evening together; the meal was good, the conversation interesting, and the view from his cabin was as extraordinary as he said it would be. The back side of his place opened onto a balcony that overlooked the valley. As we stood side by side and gazed down, we picked out identifiable landmarks. We each had lived in the valley for a long time and there was a comfortable familiarity about our time together. Suddenly he let out shriek and before I could figure out what was going on I heard a loud BAM! A door had been slammed shut. And my date was nowhere to be found.

To say I was nonplussed was an understatement; there I was, thinking of future good things, and my date had totally disappeared. Then slowly, the door opened a tiny crack and I saw an eyeball peering out. “Is it gone?” he asked me? “What are you talking about?” I replied, very confused. “The bat! The bat! Didn’t you see it?” he said, with a quavery voice. “I’M SCARED OF BATS.”

Well, I didn’t much care for them either, but frankly, his way of handling something he didn’t like simply rubbed me the wrong way. I tried to tell myself that I didn’t need to look at him as potential marriage material and that he should not be circumscribed in my mind as unsuitable just because of this one incident.

We had a cup of coffee in the house while he talked at length about bats, and then we drove back down the hill where our evening ended shortly before midnight at my front door. My kids were waiting inside with baited breath (or should I say “batted” breath) for a report on my date. “Well?” they said. The best I could say was, “He was a nice fellow, but I doubt if I’ll see him again.” I didn’t.

And to this day when I think of him I don’t think of his gorgeous looks and his charming demeanor, his professional standing or his lovely hillside house. I remember him as the man who was so scared of a bat that he left his date standing alone on a porch with a bat buzzing around while he protected himself by disappearing. Nope, he was not a good candidate at all. Not for a husband and definitely not for a further date.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


To understand this entry, in case you don't know, Tippi Hedren is an beautiful actress who has had a long movie career but whose claim to fame was mostly as the star of Alfred Hitchcock's famous movie, "The Birds." In later years she also became a protector of aging wild animals such as lions, tigers and elephants, and she has a large preserve, Shambala, in the little town of Acton in the high-desert area of California. She also for a time was married to my husband Jerry’s boss.

Shortly after Tippi and Lou were married, Jerry asked me to give a dinner party for a few of the company execs and their wives as a way to introduce Tippi into the distaff side of the company. I planned the dinner as he asked, and in spite of the fact that I was a good cook and we had a nice house, I still was very nervous about entertaining a movie star. Eleven people were scheduled to attend. We were not sure if there was going to be a twelfth person but as it turned out, that was ok.

Two days before the party, Jerry's boss told him that Tippi would be bringing a baby tiger with her, as she was in the process of socializing it and needed to have it with her all the time. When Jerry laid this bit of news on me I just about had a stroke, but we discussed it and decided that we could put our dog outside for the evening and shut the baby tiger (it was actually a liger - a cross between a lion and a tiger) on the back porch during dinner. I also quickly called my cousin Shirlee, a veterinarian and real animal lover, and asked her to be my twelfth guest for dinner. I enticed her by saying there would not only be a movie star but a baby liger at my house. Needless to say, she quickly accepted.

Now you have to understand that I am actually more on the order of a farm wife than an entertainer of movie stars, but I was hopeful that something would occur that would take the onus off me and would help make the evening memorable in spite of me.

When the night of the party - and the guests - arrived and I began telling Tippi the arrangements I'd made for the cat, she informed me that the cat could not be left on the back porch, that he would be just fine in the house and that she herself would keep an eye on him (and ostensibly clean up after him, though she didn't say that in so many words).

Needless to say, this was definitely the most bizarre meal I ever served. Tippi was beautiful, gracious and very attentive to the cat. For the most part, he would sleep about 20 minutes and then wake up. Tippi would feed him a tiny bit of food, he'd roam around a bit and then go back to sleep for another 20 minutes. It was hard to focus on the food or the conversation what with the guest of honor "doing her thing," although I have to admit that my cousin was very helpful in keeping Tippi engaged in talking "shop."

But the meal came to a conclusion that I could never have foreseen. Just as I put the dessert on the table - fresh raspberries drenched in Chambord and topped with cream - the little liger, who was now sitting on the terrazzo tile in my entryway at the end of the dining room and just behind my back, let out a very tiny roar. Tippi flew out of her chair and threw herself down on the tile floor next to the liger, with my cousin hard on her heels and taking the other side of the liger.

I turned around to see what everyone else could already see -- and I couldn't believe my eyes. A lion/tiger, a movie star and a veterinarian all rolling around in my entryway, playing rub the belly or some other such thing that people deeply in love with animals do. The wonderful dessert that I paid an arm and a leg to be able to present sat untouched on the table.

How could this be? I thought. Who would believe?

After everyone went home from the unusual but apparently successful meal, I did a fairly extensive search of the rugs to see if any "accidents" had happened. The next day I called my cousin to ask if she had seen the animal going potty anywhere and she said no, but that Jerry's boss had asked her once where the papers towels were kept. I never found any trace of a misbehavior. And I never had to pull off such a dinner party again. Thank goodness.

Monday, October 20, 2008


One of life's truisms is that AOL has increasingly oriented itself to teenagers and younger people. Much of what is offered by AOL other than a connection to the Internet is of almost no importance to thinking adults. But every once in a while I break down and read something (rarely celebrity gossip) that hopefully might be of interest to someone long past her teenage years. Yesterday was an example. And what I read struck me exceptionally funny.

The subject was basically HOW TO LIVE THE GOOD LIFE IF YOU DON'T HAVE A GOOD-LIFE INCOME! Here was what AOL suggested, and my comments.

1. Learn to prepare eggs in some fancy way; let the sunny-side ups be replaced by Eggs Benedict or Eggs Florentine. OK, I have no problem with that.

2. Go running in a fancy, high-class neighborhood. I think probably that would call for some designer clothing as well, so as to make it seem as if you are running in your own neighborhood; otherwise the cops might be called on you.

3. Dress up and go to a chic hotel bar. Order a club soda with lime; if you look right, someone may order you a real drink! Imagine.

4. Wear fancy underwear. Definitely not utility underwear.

5. Go to openings at local art galleries; most serve wine and cheese. And don't make smart cracks about what is passing for art while you eat the freebies.

6. Buy a nice fountain pen to use instead of a ball point pen. What? And go back to bottles of ink?

7. Buy some pictures from thrift shops and use the vintage frames to reframe your own photos or artwork. Before the shops open you will have to go around to the back door and join all the antique dealers who are waiting to get in first to buy up the good stuff before the "riff-raff" come in the front door. (This is true. They do this.)

8. Wear good fake jewelry. But you still have to have a good eye for jewelry to know which kind of fake is good and which isn't!

9. Replace the doorknobs on your house with fancy new ones. You think THAT will make me feel richer?

10. Buy a new hairbrush at a cheap price from the 99Cent Only store. If the bristles don't stay in very well, you can always use it on the dog, because he or she doesn't much care.

11. Learn how to wrap a bottle of wine in a napkin to pour it the way fine restaurants do. That'll be the day.

12. If you travel tourist class on a plane, buy a special air-filled seat cushion which alternates pressure from the left side of your behind to the right side, back and forth in 3-minute intervals, so you will not have to squirm in your seat. This thing only sells for $255.00 but you could probably recoup your investment if you loaned it out to other passengers!

13. Arrange your bookshelves by color. And then accept the challenge of finding a book when you want it!

Am I likely to do any of these things to see what the good life feels like? AOL wants to know.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Los Angeles Times, October 19, 1960

Funeral services for Miss Diddy H. Kaerger, 25, a World Airways stewardess who was among the 77 persons killed in an explosion of an airliner over Guam on Sept. 19, will be conducted at 11 a.m. Saturday in Grace Chapel, Inglewood Park Cemetery. Miss Kaerger, born in Los Angeles, lived in Castro Valley. She leaves her mother, Mrs. Martha Keller and a sister, Mrs. Louise Strange.

Diddy was one of my college roommates and a sorority sister at Pepperdine College. She was cute as a button, smart, funny and a friend to everyone. She graduated from college in 1957 and spent a couple of years teaching elementary school. Soon she decided teaching wasn't how she wanted to spend the rest of her life, so she became an airline stewardess.

Life plays tricks on us sometimes. As far as I am concerned, it was a dirty trick played on my friend Diddy.

Friday, October 17, 2008


From KAATERSKILL FALLS by Allegra Goodman, Page 70

“Isaac,” Elizabeth asks that night in bed, “how are you so content? I try, but…
He smiles at her in the dark. She can make out the shape of his quick smile, the curve of his cheek, the parting of lips. “How are you so patient?” she asks. “Tell me.”

“Just habit,” he whispers. “It’s only habit."

“Tell me how,” she says. “So I won’t want things.”

“I couldn’t teach you that,” he tells her.

He has had his disappointments. Because he wasn’t a particular favorite of the Rav, and had no distinguished relatives, he didn’t get a stipend from the yeshiva to continue his studies. No one wanted him to leave, but his family didn’t have the money to support him for so long. And yet, for all of this, Elizabeth can see that his private learning outside the yeshiva sustains him. He doesn’t want a second purpose. His life is all one. His books are part of him. Truly, his books quench his thirst; he is more than satisfied, while Elizabeth’s reading only whets her appetite, fills her with confused longings for change and new experiences. She sighs. Too often reading makes her feel incomplete, impatient.

“Here’s the trick.” He kisses her. “You have to want what you have.”

Thursday, October 16, 2008


If I have a dilemma in my life, it is this: if I am reading, I can't be doing genealogy; if I'm doing genealogy, I can't be writing; if I'm writing, I can't be cross-stitching, and if I'm cross-stitching, well, you get the idea. I am good at multi-tasking but not that good. Still, over the years I've found time to do a little of each. Today, I'm going to share with you a few of my handwork projects.

When I went to Turkey I knew I would have a lot of time on my hands, so I picked out a bunch of embroidery/cross-stitch/knitting things to do in my spare time. I didn't know what to expect in Turkey; I just assumed I'd be the only American woman sitting over there, twiddling her thumbs. And if it is one thing I don't do well, it is twiddle.

I was wrong, very wrong, about what I would find. There were hundreds and hundreds of American women there, some connected to the Consultate, some wives of businessmen, some who married Turks when they were in University and ended up in Istanbul, and many in the education profession. I had so much social life I hardly had time to pick up a handwork project. But I did complete a couple, one of which is the white tiger below. The size of the tiger's head is about 10x12, and that was a lot of cross-stitching. It was the largest, most complicated project I had undertaken, and there were times when I thought I'd never be able to finish it. But I did, and the results are below.

When I retired, I was looking for another project and found, by the same designer, a spotted jaguar, and I took that on as my first retirement project. I found, like many others, that the first year of retirement was very, very difficult. We had moved to a different town; I knew no one, all my friends were too far away to visit, and I expected I would enjoy doing nothing all day but that was not the case. So I started on this jaguar face with a vengance. If anything, it was more complicated that the white tiger, and I struggled with it on and off for a year. But I am not usually a person who abandons a project mid-stream, so in due time it was finished and framed.

In year 3 after I retired, I came upon this black panther, done by a different designer. It was so striking I just had to do it. It was by far the easiest, except that working on black cloth is very hard on the eyes, and in this case, what I was doing was cross-stitching only the highlights. The eye of the observer ends up filling in the body itself. The end result is dramatic. One of my friends looked at it and said, "I can't take my eyes off its eyes!"

And finally my most recent, and last, cat. When I saw this lion, done by the same designer as the first two, I knew that this would complete my big cat project. I worked hard on this and was so excited to get it finished that I even forgot to take a picture of it before I had it framed. But it turned out as wonderful as the others.

I have the four of them hanging on the wall opposite my computer. They watch me as I peck away at it, and I watch them as I glance away from the screen occasionally. When I take many months to work on a project, I begin feeling a real connection to the subject. These are my big cats and they are my friends. I love being surrounded by them.

Are there any more on the horizon? Not cats. I'm finishing up on two pelicans - stylized pelicans taken from a block-print of one of Mississippi's Walter Anderson creations. I have to work on those when no one is around to distract me, as what I am doing at this point -- the finishing touches - require total concentration. I've started on another project of little pandas climbing up bamboo trees. Somehow I have to integrate these into my times for reading, writing and doing genealogy. It isn't always easy to do, but while my eyes are still good enough to find the places to stick my needle, I'll keep at it.

Hope you enjoy seeing them as much as I enjoy sharing them with you.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Over the years when I have read or seen something that tickled my funny bone, I would stick it in my "Funny File." Some I've used as fillers for newsletters I've edited, or when I'd learned something that would be aptly illustrated by one of my funny items, I'd haul it out and share it with someone.

Since Jerry and I are a little goofy about our cats, when I saw this cartoon in the early years of our marriage I thought it looked so much like our bed that I shouldn't just throw it away. It went in the Funny File. And when I saw it today, while I was rummaging around in there seeing what I had saved that might be usable in "HOT COFFEE AND COOL JAZZ" I came upon it. Now you all know our secret; yes, we have always had cats in and on our bed. (But no loud purring or kneading!)

What got me started today on funny things was reading an obituary that just about laid me out on the floor in hysterics. How could this happen? I asked myself. It may be the family didn't know the correct spelling, and then neither did the typesetter (I know there is no such thing anymore but I don't know what present day "typesetters" are called.) If you were one, would you arbitrarily make a change to someone else's obituary? Or you might not even realize it was wrong. And truly there are no proofreaders anymore. However, if any of those options had worked, I would not have had such a good laugh. The name is covered out of kindness to the poor man and his family.

Next, this engagement announcement goes way back into the 1970s. Can you imagine opening the newspaper to find this? After telling all your family and friends to watch for it? I watched for a correction or a retraction; perhaps Trudy wanted to stay real low key about this most embarassing mistake.

In an earlier blog I gave a pretty accurate rundown of my religious proclivities, and I must tell you the prayers offered as indicated in the newspaper article below are definitely not unknown to my ears. I never got into religion this deep but knew plenty of people who did. And I guess what strikes me so funny about it is that at one time, it was almost me! WHEW!

And in my Funny Book I have a collection of jokes that have made me laugh in the past. This one, called David's Parrot, is one of my favorites:

David received a parrot for his birthday. The parrot was fully-grown with a bad attitude and worse vocabulary. Every other word was an expletive. Those that weren't expletives were, to say the least, rude.

David tried hard to change the bird's attitude and was constantly saying polite words, playing soft music, anything he could think of to try to set a good example... nothing worked. He yelled at the bird and the bird yelled back. He shook the bird and the bird just got madder and more

Finally, in a moment of desperation, David put the parrot in the freezer. For a few moments he heard the bird squawk and kick and scream-- then suddenly there was quiet.

David was afraid that he might have hurt the bird and quickly opened the freezer door. The parrot calmly stepped out onto David's extended arm and said, "I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I will endeavor at once to correct my behavior. I
really am truly sorry and beg your forgiveness."

David was astonished at the bird's change in attitude and was about to ask what had made such a dramatic change when the parrot continued, "May I ask what the chicken did?"

So that's it for today. The horrible Santa Ana winds are gone, I don't have to cook dinner tonite, and I started out the day with a good laugh and with you, my friends, hopefully laughing too.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Some time back, before animal dressing became a big industry all by itself, a very inventive veterinarian in Orange County announced that he was going to sponsor a Halloween parade. Jerry and I thought that watching it might be something different to do, so armed with my little camera, we went to the festivities. There were dogs and cats of all breeds, looking as if they were going to join the trick-or-treaters that night. A sampling of what we saw is shown below.

The first fellow of note was Batdog. He was well behaved in spite of his owner pinching his rump, or at least it appears that is what is happening in the picture but may be the owner was simply adjusting the dog's tail.

Another clever costume was on the dog below. Who has ever heard of a bumbledog? The Bumbledog wasn't crazy about the parade, but the owner kept him on a tight leash and he made his appearance as scheduled.

Everyone knows that cats don't cotton much to being dressed up, but if you have a Ragdoll Breed cat, you can do anything you want with it. They are the most laid-back, flexible and good natured cats anywhere, in spite of the look on this one's face. She loved the attention of being a babycat.

Now you'd expect a Little Red Riding Dog to look exactly like this below. She wasn't crazy about the basket hanging around her neck, but decided she'd rather do it this way than carry it in a paw. What is Red Riding anything without a basket?

There is nothing quite like a bassett hound in a tutu. The picture from the front that I took of her has a big glob of spittle hanging from her mouth. It was so gross that this end was much more pleasant to photograph. The dog was a little embarrassed, however, when the shutter clicked on her behind.

And the winner was..... the miniature black doxie dressed in a black nun's habit. Of course with all the black it didn't photograph well at all, but I'm telling you she was the hit of the show. The owner should have gotten the award for cleverness in thinking up the idea of a habit for her dog. If it has been any other than a tiny black dog with a pointy nose, it wouldn't have been nearly so funny.

All in all we had a great time. I know for sure the vet's human clients and the onlookers had fun. Whether the animals did or not I can't tell. But it was an awfully good kickoff to the fun of Halloween, we thought. The vet only did the parade one year, so he may not have enjoyed it as much as we did. But I'll bet he got some clients out of it!

Monday, October 13, 2008


I had a doctor appointment early this morning, necessitating a quick drive down Van Buren to get to downtown Riverside, and I was reminded of a funny thing that happened a couple of years ago on that same road. For those of you who know Van Buren you'll know that it is not a freeway but a fast, heavily-trafficked street that takes you from the Ontario area into Riverside. It is a divided road, two lanes each way, with occasional stoplights. Car speeds range from 55 to 65 miles per hour on the long stretches. It is this street that I have to traverse to get from my place up in Mira Loma down to my doctor's office in Riverside.

On this particular day I was in the outside lane. Nearing the first stoplight about a mile down Van Buren, I passed a rather wild-looking bicyclist on my side of the road. He appeared to be in his 30's, lean and strong, and wouldn't have been bad looking if he had been clean and groomed. But he was bare-chested and grungy, and his hair was long and sprung out everywhere as if it had been electrified. He looked like a cross between an aging hippy and a wild-man. While I was waiting for the green light I glanced in my rear view mirror to see where he was, and I didn't see him at all. I wondered where he had gone, because there were no side streets where he might have turned off. I cranked my neck around to see if I could visualize him that way, and lo, there he was, next to my car by the back door.

Knowing that my doors were locked, I wasn't too concerned except for the fact that when the light turned green and I accelerated, so did he. He was holding on to my back door handle and getting a free ride!

To say I was nonplussed was an understatement. What should I do? I certainly didn't want him hitching a ride as he was doing, as it was a terribly dangerous thing. But I couldn't shake him off by manipulating the car back and forth -- more dangerous! I couldn't stop because of the speed of the surrounding traffic. And I certainly wasn't going to roll the back window down using the automatic controls on my own door and shout at him to get the blinkety-blank off.

Then it struck me funny. If I had been the car in back of me, I'd have been worried sick, like I worry about driving behind a pickup truck with an untethered dog in it. No, if he had to be on a car, I’d just as soon it was mine, as I am a kind person and a good driver. But I felt like I had a leech attached to my body. Or a bee on the back of my blouse than I couldn’t reach to shoo off. All kind of images came to mind.

He stayed on my car for probably 5 miles (at 55 mph) until we hit the next signal, at which time he let go. Then he sped on through the intersection against the red light, and if I didn't know he was crazy before, I knew it then. When the light turned green I breathed a sigh of relief. But in a little while I passed him hanging on the door of a car in front of me that had turned onto Van Buren from a side street. He stayed right with the flow of traffic all the way into Riverside and then disappeared into the Wal-Mart parking lot!

I couldn't help but see some humor in the whole thing. In fact, every time I think of it, I have to smile to myself. I'm sure there was no chance of it ever happening again, but I also knew, just in case, from then on I’d always keep to the inside lane on Van Buren.

I can’t drive down that road without thinking of him, and like I do with crazy motorcyclists on the road and young hotshot teens weaving in and out traffic, I send up a little prayer for their safekeep in spite of their strange and/or idiotic behavior. He was not there this morning, but my remembrance of the time he was caused me to once again send up a little prayer in his behalf.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Fran and I met in September of 1945, when I entered the 5th grade at Whittier Elementary School in Long Beach, California. She and I have always been friends, from being in the same Girls Scout troop, to seeing each other at periodic Scout and school reunions, to the present. Last week we attended our 55th high school reunion and Fran's husband took our picture together. As those of you who are our age will understand, we know we have aged, but we look exactly the same to each other as we always did....which certainly is some kind of magical happening, I think. Between our 50th reunion and the 55th, Fran and I decided we would be sisters. I know, it sounds strange but there is something in it for each of us that we both missed - having a sister to share with, to laugh with, to complain to, and to gain strength from.

Now there were a couple of others there at the reunion who we have known for the same length of time. On the left is Charles Clifner, my very first boyfriend, Fran, me and on the right Larry Baldwin. All four of us also appear in the class picture that is at the end of this blog.

Probably the funniest happening for me at the reunion was hearing from Charles that when I came into school as "the new kid" in 5th grade, the word went around that we lived in a very big house with very thick carpeting over all the floors. Apparently everyone was talking about it. Fran and Larry nodded when Charles spoke, so I guess everyone heard it. All I could say to them was that as I got older, the house sure must have shrunk in size. And somehow the house moved up closer to the sidewalk; the lawn was much smaller than I remembered!

And then Larry told me that he had always known all about my family, because his cousin, George Turner, was the sales manager for my father's little appliance store, and through the years Larry always knew everything there was to know about the Dobbins family. I'm so glad that we were just an ordinary, normal family and that honestly and truly, Dad was awfully good to his employees.

One other little thing happened that tickled me. I have always kept the little hand-made autograph book that our teacher gave us at the end of our 6th grade year. It had our class picture on the front cover, and we had everyone in our class sign in the book. Sure enough, Fran, Larry and Charles all put their "John Henry" in it but next to Charles' name was the following: "XOXOXO" When he looked at that, he said, "Did you put that there or did I?" I told him I thought he did.....but later I did a little handwriting analysis and I had to e-mail him and report that I do think it was MY handwriting, not his! It didn't matter, actually, because for 5th and 6th grade, we were an item. (Remember, this was a long time ago, when elementary kids didn't date and our "love affair" was never more than xoxoxox's).

Of course we are all hoping that we'll be around for our 60th reunion. There are days I think I'll make it, and other days I feel I'm lucky to make it out of bed! But it is wonderful to reconnect with all these people and share the past with them.

So you can see me in this photo, our sixth grade class in June of 1947, because at some point I drew a circle around my face. Fran is next to me toward the left side of the photo. Charles is the red-head and Larry is the one who didn't know the camera was getting ready to click!

And for all you younger people, just look at the clothing that was de riguer for that day and age.

Reunions are so much fun, even when you think they aren't going to be!

Saturday, October 11, 2008


In the course of researching my family tree, occasionally I come upon old photographs that I find perfectly charming. They don't necessarily tell me anything I didn't generally know, but they may give me little details that help me understand a little better about what life was like "then" and "there." This photo above is one of those.

This picture is taken close to 1906 on the ranch outside of Las Animas, Colorado, owned by my grandparents, Scott Walter and Maud Susan McConnell Dobbins. My Aunt Dorothy, pictured with her mother, was born in 1904 and my father in 1908. Shortly before he was born, the family sold the ranch and moved into town, where the family lived until 1920 when they moved to Colorado Springs.

This ranch was a little southeast of Las Animas; Scott's father Jim had homesteaded it in 1884 and had first tried to raise cattle on it but later opted for raising horses. Except for growing a few things for their own use, it was never used in farming. A family story tells that Scott once was raising cantaloupes for the county fair -- apparently he had a knack for doing that, as he was considered to have "prize wining" melons -- but after the goats got in the melon patch and made short work of the hand-coddled melons, it pushed Scott over the edge and he gave up ranching for city life. There were a few stories left to the family about the ranch but none about raising turkeys.

Every time I look at this photo I laugh to see my grandma holding a turkey. If she had been holding her daughter, or even the dog, it wouldn't have been funny. But she appears so nonchalant about it that I wonder why she has it in her arms. Little Dorothy is dressed warmly, so perhaps the picture was taken around Thanksgiving time and the "selected" turkey had been culled out for you know what.

The dog was named Beppo, and he lived long enough for both my Aunt and my Dad to remember him from their childhood. My grandmother Maud had always lived in a city, first in Kentucky and then in Colorado Springs, and adapting to ranch life was a real challenge to her. One family story is that she tried her best not to complain, but when a large snake got in the house and curled up on a shelf in her kitchen, she marched the kids out of the house, put them in the buggy and drove to a neighboring house until Scott came home and dispatched the snake. She was brave, but not that brave.

Scott's dad and mother, Jim and Nannie Corel Dobbins, came to Las Animas from Kansas with their two sons, Robert Gaston and Scott Walter, in 1875. Jim first worked at Ft. Lyons, carrying the mail. He was friends with Luke Cahill, who was once Kit Carson's orderly. In Luke's later years, he gave Jim a rifle that had belonged to Carson. Jim passed it on down to his oldest son, "Gaston," and it eventually was donated to the Museum of the Fur Trade in Chadron, Nebraska and there authenticated as having belonged to Kit Carson. Scott and Maude were friends with the Thompson family, whose son Llewellyn had a long career as U. S. diplomat. President Eisenhower, named Thompson Ambassador to Moscow in June 1957. But before Llewellyn became a diplomat, he was my Aunt Dorothy's first boyfriend.

Las Animas is a tiny little town but it is rich in history. It is especially rich in my Dobbins family history, that's for sure!

Friday, October 10, 2008


Somewhere along the way Jerry and I decided that rather than lug home a whole bunch of souvenirs from our trips, we would instead seek out gustatory delights that were common to each area we visited. I don’t remember how it was that we came up with this idea, but over the years we have had great fun.

In our 1985 trip to England, we ate pork pie and stilton cheese in the fox-hunting country, fish and chips with mashie peas in Brighton, strawberries and clotted cream in Betwys-e-coed in Wales, and steak and kidney pie in a pub somewhere in mid-England that I have forgotten. The “forgetting” part probably is because the taste was akin to what I imagine kidneys boiled in undiluted urine would taste like.

In New Orleans we ate raw oysters (I swallowed quickly and Jerry chewed); in Baton Rouge we had Catfish Po’boys, and in Lafayette we had crawfish etouffe. In Cape Cod we ate boiled lobster, feelers and all, and in Old Salem we went to a clam bake, in which the clams were not baked but boiled, with the clam itself having to be wrestled out of its shell. They were so ugly it was almost impossible to eat them. The only thing I saw that was uglier were mussels.

During our time in Turkey Ahmet Bey, our driver, helped us experience some of the delights that normally a tourist wouldn’t have. Some were regional and some seasonal specialties: asure, a wonderful multi-grained pudding that was made only in the harvest months, and a shredded-wheat-like dessert with kaymak, the latter being a whipped cream made from water buffalo milk.

The other very strange thing I ate, or in this case drank, was a fermented thick and mucusy beer-like substance called boza. Made of wheat berries, it is served slightly warm in a tall glass and topped with a dash of cinnamon. It is traditionally sold in neighborhoods by mobile vendors and is strictly a winter drink.

But Ahmet took me to a shop hidden in the one of the nooks and crannies of old Stambul, one that tourists would never find. He ordered the drink and set it in front of me. A room full of Turkish eyes turned to see what I was going to do. I would like to say I enjoyed the drink – but the most I can say is that I tried to enjoy the experience and I managed to gag the drink down. The way I did that was to think hard about other things as I was drinking it. It had neither a pleasing taste nor a pleasing feel to my western palate. However, all my Turkish friends assured me, after I told them exactly what I thought about drinking the boza, that I was better off for having drunk the whole glass, as it is a great health-promoter! “Good for what ails you,” is what they said.

Frankly, boza and raw oysters both rate pretty low on my gustatory scale, though neither as low at that horrible steak and kidney pie I had in England, which was the very worse thing by far that I’ve ever tasted.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Mary Roach, author of “Stiff,” one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a long time, has fairly recently come out with “Spook,” in which she reviews what science thinks about an afterlife. While not as funny as her first book, nevertheless it had my jaw dropping open about every third page. Here’s a sample of her illustrations.

Famous philosopher Rene Descartes had a sideline of trying to discover the seat of the “soul” and to that end he bought carcasses of animals and minutely dissected them, trying to discover where the soul resided. He eventually nominated the pineal gland, as it was one of the few brain structures that didn’t come in pairs. (We now know the pineal gland regulates melatonin production). He didn’t think the gland itself was the soul, but that it was “a sort of a hub, a meeting point for sensory information and the flowing streams of ‘spiritus’ that carried the self’s higher functions.

Roach admits she did a Google search for other scientists who rummaged around in corpses looking for souls. She found one link that referred to the Midrash (a collection of ancient rabbinical commentaries on the Torah) wherein a single indestructible “soul bone,” called the “luz” was discussed. Her description of attempting to get a present day Rabbi to respond to her questions about the luz was enough to make me howl with laughter.

At an earlier juncture in the book, she discusses how scientists went about discovering that sperms and eggs made a baby. Of course without a microscope to see sperms most ideas were simply conjectures, but once Antoni van Leeuwenhoek developed a microscope, things began to take shape. However, based on information he received from a French aristocrat named Francois de Plantade, he accepted de Plantade’s drawing of sperm as containing miniature people. “In this case, they were depicted outside their sperm hulls, standing with their hands crossed demurely over their little private parts.” Van Leeuwenhoek came to believe that “each sperm held a soul with the potential to become a human life, and that the woman’s role in reproduction was merely to receive and nourish the perfectly formed miniature human.” He became what was referred to as a “spermist,” and of course science being what it is, a class of scientists developed who were called “ovists” – and Mary Roach speculated that a dinner that include guests from both persuasions might have been very interesting to attend.

All this is contained in the first two chapters of her book. Luckily her writing is so good that the scientific stuff becomes wonderful reading. After reading “Stiff” I had to go buy that book. I already suspect that I shall need to do the same with “Spook.”

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


About 6 years ago Jerry was sent to a urologist because his PSA numbers were a little high. Upon examination it was discovered his prostate was enlarged. A biopsy was done and the results were negative. His urologist, a well known fellow in the realm of urology, suggested that although clinical trials were inconclusive, he had seen very good results in his patients if they daily added to their diet the following: Green tea, tomato juice, soy milk, vitamin E and Selenium. He said he couldn't guarantee that Jerry would never get prostate cancer but he said he strongly felt that this regimen was the best protection available in prevention.

Since that day, Jerry has started each day with tomato juice. He drinks iced green tea for lunch, uses soy milk on his breakfast cereal, and has selenium and Vitamin E in his pill container. He is faithful in his use of them. If nothing else, Jerry is consistent!

We moved to Riverside County in 2005 and have had two HMOs in the last three years. The Kaiser urologist had a biopsy done, which also came back negative. Finally his most recent urologist, with yet another HMO, was alarmed by his PSA and the increasing size of his prostate and ordered another biopsy. He indicated a likelihood of cancer and asked Jerry to give some thought as to what kind of treatment he would want if the biopsy did, in fact, come back showing cancer.

In order to inject a little levity in an otherwise grim situation, I told Jerry the upside to having a bad outcome is that he would get to drink real milk again! And so that became the joke of this last two week waiting period... he ran out of selenium so he didn't buy any, just in case; he checked prices for real milk at the grocery story. We tried to lighten up the waiting. I also suggested that he prepare for a good outcome and just make up his mind that he'd never get to savor the taste of cow's milk ever again!

This morning we went to see the doctor for the results. The doc came into the exam room smiling, thrusting the lab results at Jerry. He said due to the size of the prostate he took many, many samples from all over the gland, and not a one of them showed a single cell of cancer!

I'm sure doctors would a lot rather deliver this kind of news than the other kind, so he was happy as a clam. And we certainly walked out of that office with our feet off the ground. What a good way to start the day!

We will replace the selenium pills as soon as we can get to Clark's Nutrition Center in Loma Linda, where we buy lots of the healthful foods that we've learned to eat since we learned of them. It was our lucky day when we met Dr. Franklin Chu in San Bernardino, who set Jerry on this most healthful path.

Monday, October 6, 2008


Most of you know that the most important "souvenirs" we brought home with us from Turkey were our two cats, Tigger and Cipsi. By and large, Turks do not see cats as domesticated pets. Cats are given some measure of protection because, as I recall, there is some reference in the Koran to the prophet interacting with a cat; however, for all intents and purposes they are feral cats, living on the streets, feeding out of trash bins and dying young. Although initially we thought we didn't want to be tied down by having to care with animals, though various circumstances we ended up with the two who over their lifetime provided us with joy -- and yes, with blessings.

Cipsi 1992-2002
Tigger 1991 - 2008

But we considered, too, that they were the luckiest cats ever to be born in Turkey and they were blessed by us. And we told them that often, and always when we accommodated their silly habits and desires "just because."

Once a year - in October - the Catholic Church, as well as many other churches and organizations, set aside a day for "The Blessing of the Animals." Not being Catholic, Jerry and I were unaware of this particular event until one year we inadvertently went to Olvera Street in Los Angeles on that particular day and saw one of the most amazing parades we'd ever seen. Lined up along the street were people with animals of every sort and style. The line snaked around to the patio area in front of the church, where one of the Catholic officials was pronouncing a blessing on every animal. The strangest thing, however, was not so much the animals that were there but the little effigies people carried for animals that were no longer living. Those got blessed also. One lady, who later ate her lunch in a booth near ours at a local restaurant, had taken a small paper bag, drawn a face and ears on it, and wore it on her hand to receive its blessing. At the restaurant she sat the bag in its own chair. Did it look like her deceased dog? To her, it still was her dog, I'm sure.

The Blessing of the Animals, as nearly as I understand it, is celebrated on St. Francis of Assisi day. Its biblical justification apparently is understood this way:

" The range of objects that come under the influence of the Church's blessing is as comprehensive as the spiritual and temporal interests of her children. All the lower creatures have been made to serve man and minister to his needs. As nothing, then, should be left undone to enhance their utility towards this end, they are placed in a way under the direct providence of "Every creature of God is good. . .", as St. Paul says "for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer" (1 Timothy 4:4-5).

In year's past, Cardinal Mahoney offered this as a blessing:

"Almighty Father, we bless these animals for all they have done in supplying our food, in carrying our burdens, providing us with clothing and companionship and tendering a service to the human race since the world began."

I have absolutely no disagreement with any of these blessing or sentiments or events. I have never been without a dog or a cat or a canary (sometimes all at the same time) and hope I'll be able to keep one beside me as I travel into my old age.

I do need to share with you a couple of funny pictures I found that illustrate just how seriously some people take this event.

If you can take your eyes off the size of that snake, you can see a pretty good sized horn and tiny goat's feet (or perhaps sheep's feet) from the next-in-line-to-be-blessed animal. And finally....

How fitting for Olvera street this fella' is, sombrero and all. I guess we'd have to say that this truly is the Blessing of the Animals in LA-LA land.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


If I had to pick a favorite genre of books, it would have to be books with a religious theme in them. Although I am not a religious person, I have had lots of religion in my background, starting from the very first time I set foot in a church as a wee tyke to be “consecrated” (the denomination did not baptize babies). Once I was old enough to walk, Mother always sent my sister and me to the nearest church for our Sunday Schooling.

The first church I picked for myself as an adult was Quaker. I experienced organized evangelical Christianity for a few years and then during a fruitful three years attending The Salvation Army church, a divorce knocked me into the Charismatic milieu in the 1970s. From that point on, I was in and out of various Assemblies of God churches and finally out of organized religion entirely. All of these, as well as an acquaintance with the Mormon religion from my years doing genealogy and a marriage into a Jewish family have been a part of my life and my understanding, some times from an experiential level and sometimes from an intellectual position.

So when I read a book with any kind of a religious theme to it, I am most always at home with it and feel connected in one way or the other. Now I do need to say that I have not rubbed elbows (or eyeballs, more specifically) with middle eastern or far eastern religions, nor the more esoteric groups into which I would put spiritualism, yoga, etc.

In the ‘70s I began reading Peter DeVries books. Among them were Tunnel of Love, Let Me Count the Ways, Blood of the Lamb, and many other that can be found listed on Amazon or Barnes and Noble websites. DeVries’ books all have a religious thread running through them, and they are so funny that you nearly die laughing, sometimes over religious things, other times just at his funny plots. In one of them, I can’t remember which, the protagonist is awakened in the night by horrible explosions and lots of lights flashing outside his window. As a lapsed churchgoer, he feels that surely this must be the end of the world. He throws himself out of bed, runs into the kitchen, turns the faucet on, and in an attempt to get right with God before meeting his maker he sticks his head under the faucet and says, “I baptize myself in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” When he finishes, he looks out the window and sees that the firework factory across the river has exploded in flame. It is worth reading every one of his books just to be able to read DeVries own words of that episode!

In the late ‘80s I found Susan Howatch. Now I had always thought of her as writing Gothic novels (which I don’t read) but she did a wonderful batch of books with a religious theme - Glittering Images, Glamorous Powers, Absolute Truths and The Wonder Worker. The books are big and thick, set in a modern time period in England. It took a while to get through each of them but they were very satisfying and left me with hunger for more, more!

Some of the more recent books I’ve read have been Kaaterskill Falls by Allegra Goodman, which dealt with an orthodox Jewish family, Thread of Gold authored by Mary Doria Russell, which is non-fiction about the Italian partisans saving Jews in their country during World War II, and The Book Thief, a touching novel by Markus Zusak about both children and Jews trying to survive the Nazi’s machinations during that same war.

Three years ago a book entitled Gilead was published and just recently a second book, Home, both written by Marilynne Robinson and dealing with the families of two ministers of different denominations. These two books are dynamite, which is a strange word to use for books so soft and gentle and full of love.

One of my favorite religious figures of all time was Amiee Semple McPherson, founder of the Foursquare Gospel Church. I recently read the book Sister Aimee: The Life of Aimee Semple McPherson by Daniel Mark Epstein and found it exceptionally fascinating and very relevant to Southern California, as this is where she “did her thing.”

And lastly, I’ve read a couple of books about the Mormon Church that are worth noting. The non-fiction Under the Banner of Heaven, written by the well-known author Jon Krakauer (Into Thin Air) and about the fundamentalist Mormons is a must-read. And a very recently published book, The 19th Wife, is a novel that intertwines two stories, one being of the only wife of Brigham Young to divorce him and the other being of some young fundamentalist Mormon boys who are tossed out of the enclave where their families live for not toeing the fundamentalist line. In reading this book, you have to keep reminding yourself on every page that the author, David Ebershoff, is not writing biographies but a work of fiction. It has to have taken tremendous skill to keep that position.

None of these books aim to convert a person. They are not full of dogma and dogmatic positions. But they all are full of lives lived with some kind of spiritual dimension to them – and best of all, they are all good writing and good “reads.”

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Housing, and understanding housing, was such a challenge in Turkey. What we didn't see in Turkey was what in the middle east appeared to be "half-finished" housing (building with rebar sticking out of the top, awaiting another story), which of course is simply a house in waiting for the younger generation to need housing so another story can be added for mom and dad to move upwards and the younger generation to move to the main floor. But especially in the villages, we found intact houses but that mostly appeared to be in a serious state of disrepair. And as a note of clarification, Turkey is considered to be in the Near East, not the Middle East.

Turkey's housing held a real charm to me, and it was hard to make any kind of judgment as to whether any one house was good or bad. We tried our best while living in Turkey to see things simply as "different than" in the US, rather than better or worse. And we just were in no position whatsoever to determine by sight whether people, whether peasants or not, were rich or poor.

So I just kept photographing various houses and enjoying the style, the color, the inventiveness, and the "differentness." The photo below was taken in an area of Turkey just a bit inland from the Aegean Sea. I loved the application of color and thought probably a happy bunch of people lived in this little enclave. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could splash a little bit of color around in our lives and not be thought of as weird?

The central plain of Turkey around Eskisehir (meaning Old City) is dry and full of archeological treasures. It is the area of King Midas. If you like clean lines and very defined colors, you'll like this area a lot. We were lucky to have an American couple as a guide in this area. Mack and Jean worked for the US Government and lived on a military base. They took us to a town called Kumbetkoy where I was able to take some exquisite photographs of old and new things, which I'll share later. But for housing, we came upon this most interesting arrangement -- houses on a small hill with the "mangers" build underneath the houses. There of course was no smog in the area, and my poor camera hardly knew what to do with the intensity of the sky.

One of the most amazing things we saw in Turkey was the use of ancient pieces of decoration incorporated into present day buildings. There is no such thing as a "tract" home in Turkey so whatever is at hand gets utilized some way in the building of homes. At first our inclination was to be horrified that such things as we would consider of "archeological value" would be used in this way, but the practice is so ubiquitous that it doesn't take long to start visually taking for granted that the lovely-designed old Greek or Roman decoration will be recycled one way or another.

The strangest thing I found being used in this manner was discovering a tombstone of an old American missionary who had died in Bitlis (in eastern Turkey) in 1875 being incorporated into the wall of a stall in Istanbul's Grand Bazaar. As it happened, I was researching for a book on Americans buried in Istanbul and in spite of this fellows tombstone indicated he died elsewhere, I put him into my book so he wouldn't be lost forever. (A good genealogist doesn't miss a trick!)

The final photo for this entry is probably my favorite. It was taken in a town called Sile outside of Konya in the central part of Turkey. I would have given my eye-teeth to have peeked inside this house, which was built against the other side of that wall. Although hard to see, there is a #3 sign at the top of the door. The occupants obviously wanted to make sure both visitors and mail found the way to the right place. Who would have thought of having a wall for the front of your house!

Near Konya is Catal Hoyuk, which is thought to be the oldest known human community, dating from 7500 BC. The Hittites called Konya "Kuwanna"; the Phrygians, "Kowania"; the Romans, "Iconium" and the Turks simplified it to "Konya."

Sile, not Konya, turned out to be one of our favorite places. Konya is a city; Sile is a village in a stark area. At least it was stark when we were there in the winter (you can see a little snow on the ground) but that area in the center of Turkey is actually the breadbasket of the nation. Workers are mostly connected with agriculture, not industry, and visually it is much, much different from any other area.

As you can tell, we were enriched by our time in Turkey and will have more to share with you periodically in this blog.

Friday, October 3, 2008


In among the photos that families accumulate over the years, there are some that just beg for a closer look. And since I discovered this wonderful old photograph of my husband Jerry's kindergarden class (dating from 1934), I've often gone back to it for another peek to see what we looked like in those years. This photo is from Horace Mann Elementary School in Los Angeles.

My first observersation is that the photographer did a wonderful job in capturing this class picture. The images are crisp, the lighting perfect and the only thing missing is the teacher's face.

I have to think that the kiddies were dressed up for the occasion: the little boys (including Jerry, who is the blond curly-headed tyke fourth from the left in the back row) wore white short pants and shirts, the girls in their best dresses, all with high yokes and puffed sleeves. Notice the ribbons tied around the wrists of the little girls. I'm sure they did not wear this type of clothing to school each day.

I am not sure when, in California, we began letting our school children dress sloppily. I know that when my children were in elementary school (1961-1971ish), girls were still required to wear dresses, not pants, to school. At some point, perhaps in the 70s, what I would call "appropriate school clothing" guidelines went to hell in a handbasket, and now it seems to be every boy and girl for him- or herself.

My two youngest granddaughters have always picked out their own clothes each day to wear to school. Although I kept my mouth shut, I could not imagine anyone sending their children to school looking the way they did some days -- in pre-K, wearing a spaghetti strap t-shirts with a pair of short-shorts, or a floor-length dress modeled after one of the Disney characters. Or sometimes just a terribly mismatched set of clothing. However, the first time I was babysitting them and had to take them to school, I discovered that the whole class looked exactly like they did. They did not stand out as seriously out-of-step in the clothing department. Rather, they fit in just fine. Which caused me more surprise but eased my concern a bit.

It is interesting to compare the photo above -- with children looking like a batch of little cherubs -- with what a comparable bunch of kids in school look like today (anything but cherubic!). Anything goes. I am in favor of school uniforms, which I think probably helps create a better learning environment, but then I look at the education that little Olivia and Justine are getting in their weird ensembles and see that they are far ahead in their learning than where we were in ours when we were that age. So obviously clothing is not an educational determinant or deterrent, at least at this age.

Still, the picture taken in 1934 is worth a look now and then - to remind us oldsters of what we looked like when were were 5 years old, what the classes looked like, what society and the fashion industry called "the latest" in kiddie-wear was, and how interestingly our clothing ideas have changed in the last 75 years.

And not least of all, how much Jerry has changed -- from that darling little blond-headed fellow to a now gorgeously-gray-haired great-grandfather, who was given the name "Bonkers" by his youngest great-grandson.

He still has the same smile and still loves to be surrounded by girls. So it was not total change for him. Aging, yes, but change, no.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


After my sister died, I asked my brother-in-law to keep his eye open for some old scrapbooks belonging to my mother that my sis had wanted. They finally turned up and he sent them to me.

Of the three items, only one is really worth keeping in the family and I will send that one to my daughter. A second one will go to the Long Beach Historical Society, as it has a great deal in it about her work with the Community Hospital Women's Auxiliary, but I do have some ambivalent feelings about dumping the one that contained all my mother's poems.

She was an inveterate poem writer - and 99.9% of it was nothing but doggerel. They were all little cutesy rhyming things and really weren't very good. She sent all of them out for publication to various poetry magazines and greeting card companies, but never sold a thing. She saved a copy of everything, pasted it in her scrapbook and left it, I suppose, as one of her legacies.

I have consulted my brother and he is not interested in this scrapbook, nor am I, so it will go into the trash bin.

Nevertheless, it is a sorry thing to think that my mother, who was so fulfilled by her poetry-writing, will have her collected poetry, bad as it was, assigned to the trash heap.

I really think it at least it should be saluted by being burned like a flag that has outlived its usefulness.

What bothers me is wondering what if all my life's-worth of writings will meet a similar fate. Like Rev. Abner Peet says in Edgar Lee Masters’ “Spoon River Anthology”:

I had no objection at all
To selling my household effects at auction
On the Village square.
It gave my beloved flock the chance
To get something which has belonged to me
For a memorial.
But that trunk which was struck off
To Burchard, the grog-keeper!
Did you know it contained the manuscripts
Of a lifetime of sermons?
And he burned them as waste paper.