Saturday, January 31, 2009


At the time we lived in Istanbul, there was only one WalMart type store, and often it was easier to go there to find something than to hunt through the myriad of small shops that was our other option for shopping. However, this store, named METRO, was about as far from us as possible without being out of Istanbul proper. We lived on the Asian side of Istanbul, on the coast of the Sea of Marmara in an area called Goztepe. To get to the big market, Ahmet Bey would pick me up in the company car (which at the time was a very old Mercedes 9-passenger limousine, with windows so old that they were wired closed) and head out of town to catch a "ring road" that tripled the driving miles but cut in half the driving time to get to METRO. The ring road was a freeway and was sparsely used then, though by now I'm sure the city has built out beyond that area and it probably is as congested as our freeways are now.

One day I had to make a trip out to METRO and since Jerry was in an all-day meeting at the office, Ahmet was free to drive me. We got on the ring road, went over the second bridge (furthest up the Bosphorus) and then headed out in a wide arc toward the part of Istanbul that is beyond the airport. As usual, there wasn't much traffic on the road, but what little there was got conspicuously lighter as we went. At one point there was an overpass and Ahmet noticed there were some armed military guards patrolling across the overpass. He called it to my attention and said he didn't know why they were there. Shortly we came up to an on-ramp and noticed that police had blocked cars from entering the freeway. This was mighty peculiar.

Within a mile or two we noticed that we were the only car on the freeway in either direction, and by the time we got to our destination we were totally confused. Neither of us had a clue as to what was going on; all we knew is that at least we weren't being chased, so if they were trying to capture someone who'd committed a crime, they knew it wasn't us!

The next day Ahmet Bey telephoned and said the newspaper announced that President Ozel had been in Istanbul the previous day and was scheduled to fly back to Ankara in the afternoon. He said the ring road had been shut down for Ozel’s safety in getting to the airport.

Ahmet and I just laughed our heads off. Apparently seeing a long limo driving on the road about the time Ozel was expected, the governmental guards weren't sure whether or not this was the official party so they let us breeze on through rather than make an embarrassing mistake with some legitimate officials. I'm sure if they'd been able to see the wire holding the windows together in our limo they would have realized this was definitely not the car they were expecting. Ahmet and I joked that the next time we had a trip somewhere we would put little Turkish flags on the front fenders to insure that we'd have clear sailing!

In spite of the age of that limo, driving the ring road in that manner gave both the limo and Ahmet-Bey a boost in status among his fellow drivers, and when the company replaced the limo with a 4-passenger Ford Tempo Ahmet was sorely disappointed.

This episode is a memory I cherish from my time in that amazing country.

Friday, January 30, 2009


It came early in my life. It is too long a story to go into but as it happened, Danny Kaye’s dog and I ended up in the same room (Danny Kaye’s kitchen) at the same time. The dog was a very large Great Dane and never having met me before, he wanted a good sniff.

As you can imagine, I stood very still. I was wearing a knit suit that had just come back from the cleaners, a cost I could ill afford as a freshman college student. Finally the huge dog decided he had smelled enough. He took in a big breath, shook his head sideways and huffed air and dog drool out of his nose and mouth, which of course flew all over the whole front of my once-clean suit. The dog left, grinning.

The caterer, mother of my college roommate, was horrified and set about cleaning me up. When I walked out to get in the car to go back to the dorm, I too grinned. Being a Danny Kaye fan, all I could say was, “This is quite exciting! I’ve just been slobbered on by Danny Kaye’s dog!”

So there you have it.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I am trying not to think that anyone who writes three blogs, with accompanying pictures, about bathrooms must be a little weird. But my daughter Bryn has reminded me that I left my present bathroom drip in limbo and that I needed to finish up all my bathroom ruminations and not leave anyone hanging with baited breath as to its resolution. So here goes.

First things first. The apartment complex's best handyman, Jack, couldn't find where our leak was coming from but he hauled out his handy wrench and tightened all the joints under the sink -- and voila, the problem was solved. We've had nary a drip since then.

But now for the final installment on bathrooms. The picture above is how my bathroom at our house in Orange, California, looked when we finally got rid of the black and red glossy paint and the oriental theme that adorned this room when we bought the house. It was a long narrow bathroom, and a private contractor who had worked with me on other rooms of the house worked his magic on this one too.

I need to explain a couple of things. I had a half-wall built between the end of the bathtub and the wall, hiding the toilet. A full wall would have made the bathroom appear way too small, so at least some privacy was obtained with this little half-wall. And it gave me a good wall to use as a showcase for lovely piece of Victoriana that my sister had made for me.

I also told Don the contractor I didn't want to have an ugly medicine cabinet and asked if he could build me tall louvered cabinets on each side of the mirror to serve in that capacity. He knew what I meant and built them to my specs. And the last thing I asked for was a tile ledge on the back side of the tub so I could set the accoutrements (candles, etc.) in a place where they weren't likely to be knocked off. He accomplished this too.

For the space I had, it turned out wonderfully well, and I've never enjoyed baths as much as I did there. But I must tell you that there was one interim bathtub between the oriental and the present mode. We developed a leak under the bathtub, discovered by coming home from work one day and finding water everywhere! Unfortunately this house was built on a concrete slab, and the plummers had to use a witching wand of sorts to find the source of the leak.

The next step was taking a jackhammer to the bathtub, which at that time was just a standard ugly white tub. We were not ready yet to do any remodeling in this room so I told the plumbing company to just get a plain old white replacement for it, something that didn't cost an arm and a leg. The plumber said he could find a good five-foot long tub for $500 and I told them that was fine. I figured a bathtub was a bathtub. After a few depressing days having my house torn up, we were back in business again.

This was the first and last mistake I ever made in remodeling this house. The "good buy" bathtub was about as comfortable as sitting in a pew at a Quaker church. I had supposed that since I am 5'6" tall and I certainly didn't intend to lie flat out in it, that 5 feet would be a good length for me. WRONG! That was a 5 foot out-to-out dimension. Which meant that I could either sit upright in it or, if I tried to relax and lie in it, my knees popped out of the water - and the water level settled somewhere around my hip-bones. I gave it my best shot, as I do love long, luxurious soaking baths, but nothing I could do, other than drape a wet, soggy towel over my body while I laid in the tub, came up with an even close-to-satisfying bath. Since I couldn't blame the problem on anyone else (like my husband or the plumber), I simply gave up the idea of bathing and used the shower in the master bath from then on.

So when time came that my bathroom appeared on the list for re-doing, I made sure I did it up right. The whole color for it came from my finding the wallpaper in a store. I'd spent hours in this little store looking at book after book. The poor saleslady kept dragging them over to me. When I spied this brownish paper, I had a very "visceral" reaction -- kind of a low "ohhhhh" moan type of sound. The saleslady said, "Any wallpaper that causes this kind of a feeling should be immediately picked!" Was she right! Everything in my final bathroom was there because of the wallpaper.

I HATED to sell that house. When the lady who bought it told me she didn't care for wallpaper and would repaint all the rooms, I nearly cried. But I'd had my fun with it, and of course now I have my pictures to remember.

The little tiny bathroom we have now is characterless. Nothing can help it out, I'm afraid. It is so small that when we take a deep breath you can see the sides of the walls pull in toward us. It provides the necessities and that is about all. But luckily, and happily, we don't have to have the whole thing jackhammered out because of a lousy drip!

P.S. Oh, I just remembered, I do have another bathroom story to tell but it is about jazz too. So keep your eye open down the road for that one.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Each day I receive from an online dictionary a new word, its definition and two examples of current usage. Sometimes I already know the word; sometimes I don’t know it but don’t care about it – and then there are other times that I am absolutely delighted at what I find there. Finding “Nugatory” sitting on my screen today was one of those times.

NUGATORY: The simplest definition is “trifling” or “inconsequential.” It could be used to describe a useless law or rule.

Such a word! Ranks right up there with another word I received earlier from this online dictionary:

MINATORY: This word is defined as "having a menacing quality" or "threatening." Having someone shake their fist in your face is a minatory gesture (until it becomes a punch). Anyway I do think I will be able to use these two words on occasion without seeming to be an egghead.

However, there are two rather egg-heady words that have worked their way into my subconscious and occasionally they pop out at the appropriate moments: “Pusillanimous" and "Myrmidon." I believe both came from a book written by William Manchester and which I had to have a dictionary beside me while I read. I can't tell you which one of his had these goodies in it cause I've read them all, I think. Anyway, "cowardly" is what pusillanimous means, and as I recall, Manchester used it in speaking of Hubert Humphrey. "Myrmidon" means a loyal follower or one who executes orders unquestioningly. A Myrmidon was a member of a legendary Thessalian people who took part with Achilles, their King, in the Trojan War. But you don't need to know all that background. If you read in the newspaper about someone doing a really stupid thing because they were told to, that person is a perfect candidate for being called a Myrmidon. It is not a nice sobriquet.

These latter two words, pusillanimous and Myrmidon, are in my brain if I need them. Ordinarily I don’t try to use big words when I’m speaking to people. But sometimes they show up when I am intense about what I am describing. A big word will just pop out, as if to say, “SO THERE!” No one ever asks me what they mean; I'm sure they don't care. But saying them certainly seems to give me some feeling of satisfaction.

I don’t know many people who enjoy “words.” My sis, who died several years ago, was one who did and I miss the conversations we used to have over new additions to our vocabulary. She delighted in words the same way I do. She would have loved both “Nugatory” and "Minatory," the latter most of all, I think. (Maybe she already knew it, though. She was a lot smarter than I am.)

I'd like to yell up past the ceiling and say, "Here, Sis. Here's a couple of good ones!” But I don't, and won't, but instead I'll send them on to you, just in case you like good words too.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


In spite of my advanced age, I was invited to join Facebook, and upon doing so I found a bunch of my contemporaries there, admittedly somewhat buried among the teeny-boppers. I have to admit not understanding very well what I was to do, but little by little I’m learning.

Yesterday I was “tagged,” which mean IF I WANTED I could list 25 things about myself that others probably didn’t know. The person who tagged me, though young enough to be my granddaughter, was actually a real genealogical cousin whom I have known for many years, and she told 25 things about herself. I decided to participate, as actually it would be killing two birds with one stone – not being a spoil sport about the “tagging” request AND providing fodder for today's entry on HOT COFFEE & COOL JAZZ. Some of you may be reading this twice, but that’s the price you pay for ever asking me to write!

So here I am.

1. As a little kid I was very afraid of sirens and fire engines, which spilled over into fire drills at school. In either kindergarten or early first grade the principal took me into her office, stood me on a chair, and had me push the button to start the bells ringing for the fire drill. She assured me there was no fire and talked to me while we watched the children come out onto the sidewalk in front of her office. It helped me get over being so afraid but still, for another couple of years whenever I would hear a siren I’d go put my back up against a wall.

2. In first grade I wet my pants in school, a very humiliating experience.

3. I was and still am basically a shy person. I don’t mind giving a genealogy talk before 500 people, but I nearly die if I have to go to a cocktail party where I don’t know people.

4. One of the most foolish decisions I made was dropping out of college to get married.

5. I didn’t learn to drive until I was 24 years old.

6. I hate cleaning house.

7. I gave up smoking when cigarettes went up to 26 cents a pack!

8. The biggest mistake I ever made was believing everything my first husband told me.

9. In college I roomed with a very athletic girl, a real tomboy. She excelled at every sport she played. One year we both took an archery class, and at the final out on the archery field I whipped the socks off her. I got a medal for it, which I promptly lost.

10. I tend to forget secrets I’m told, which is a very good trait, I think.

11. If I hadn’t had little children at the time of the Civil Rights March at Selma, Alabama, I would have been down there marching.

12. I did not think I would survive after my divorce, and I certainly didn’t think I would ever find anyone who would marry a 40 year old woman with 4 teenagers. Luckily I did, and I did.

13. I am not crazy about flying.

14. I lived in Turkey for 19 months and would move back in a flick of a gnat’s eyelash if the opportunity arose.

15. I had four children. The youngest was born in January and my oldest didn’t even start kindergarten until September, so I had four pre-schoolers at home for 9 months.

16. I did substitute teaching for one year and loved it. In one first grade class that I was in for a long time, there was a clingy little “teacher’s pet” type girl who really got on my nerves. Her hand was the first one up, she was the first one in line, she tried too hard to be the good little girl – and I remembered that this is exactly how I was when I was in elementary school.

17. I don’t like to go to the Laundromat. I don’t like to go grocery shopping. I don’t like to have the TV on all day. I don’t like County-Western music. I don’t like bigots.

18. I do like genealogy, cross-stitching, reading, writing, cooking and Capt. Jack Sparrow!

19. When I was a teenager I disobeyed my parents one night by not coming home after I got off work, instead meeting some friends that I knew they would disapprove of. When I arrived home at midnight, I found my parents and two cops in the living room waiting for me.

20. For many years I worked for a temporary agency as a secretary, and the strangest place I ever worked was for a company that made smells.

21. I am not a very emotional person, but I do not go to movies about children or dogs because I cry my eyes out every time one of them runs across the screen!

22. From the time I was four years old I was thought to have a heart condition of some kind. In those days there wasn’t much in the way of tests that could be done to see what the problem was, so I spent my whole life being watched by doctors and limited in what I could and couldn’t do. In the early 1980s when diagnostic tests were more sophisticated, it was determined that I had a tiny hole in my heart in a non-critical place that had never closed up entirely and that was the strange sound the doctors heard. They all assured me that I never did actually have a heart problem. Of course I was pleased, but I felt very empty for not having a real reason to account for all the things I was denied growing up.

23. I have a “thing” about not having a pen in my purse when I need it, so I carry a whole bunch of pens in an old long fabric cigarette case with a clasp on top. I just counted to see how many there are right now and there are eleven. This stash of pens is like my security blanket.

24. My most precious possession is the “Baby Book” my mother kept for me until I married and moved out of the house.

25. I have always wanted to own a hen.

Monday, January 26, 2009


I knew Jerry for several years before we began dating, because we worked at the same company. After his wife died of breast cancer and in due time, we began dating. And in due time we started talking marriage. The only thing we needed to explore was whether we could come to an understanding about our religious obligations. I knew Jerry was Jewish but didn’t know how religious he was. (He wasn’t). He knew I had a Christian background but didn’t have a clue as to my practices. (I no longer had any). This we had to learn.

Yet I had two minor concerns: 1) would his family accept me, and 2) would he allow us to have a Christmas tree in our house? The answers turned out to be yes, and yes.

Probably the biggest surprise I had was in learning that his family’s practice of Judaism was least of all a religious thing. His involvement in the Jewish community was purely cultural and social. His family observed some traditions but not any that would particularly inconvenience them. His mom once said to me, ‘I don’t eat bacon, but that is not because I am Jewish but because that is the way I was raised.” I could hardly believe my ears and I’m sure I had trouble keeping my mouth from dropping open. I think that was the beginning of my understanding that all Judaism isn't as I understood it to be.

In the course of attending my first Seder at his local Reform temple, I learned that the whole event was what I would call a liturgical rendering – everything was read from a book, and nothing was spontaneous. There were lots of scriptures from the Old Testament read from a book that was not the Bible. And in the middle of the service the rabbi said, “We’re going to skip much of this because otherwise it will take too long.” Again, my mind was boggled at what I considered a rather cavalier reason for cutting chunks out of the proscribed service

Afterwards, I mentioned to Jerry that I was surprised there were so many passages read from the bible. He looked at me quizzically and said, “There were?” He did not know that the majority of the readings came right out of the Psalms. It wasn’t really until after I took an Introduction to Judaism class at a local Reform temple that I finally came to understand that because of my religious background, I simply knew a whole lot more about “religious” things than Jerry did. He attended classes with me and we both learned a lot about his religion. I came to understand that not all branches of Jewish practice - Orthodox, Conservative and Reform - use the same outward practices.

The reason I bring all this up is that I keep being surprised at what I learn about Reform Judaism. An article in recent newspaper tells about the latest movement burgeoning among 20- and 30-something Jews from New York to Los Angeles and beyond. Referred to as Hipster Jews, the article refers to “all-night multimedia celebrations of Jewish holidays; [they] fill nightclubs where Jewish storytellers are the headlining act; start magazines, journals and Websites – all while wearing a wide array of irreverent clothing. Among the edgier items is a bra made out of yarmulkes.” Needless to say, traditional Jewish leaders who for years have been wringing their hands over declining religious observance among young people and rising intermarriage rates consider this a superficial fad. But the young thinkers think the old folks should look beneath the kitsch and there they will find a religion being kept alive by creating a modern-day Jewish experience. They also believe such identification will cause an upswing in Jewish identity and Jewish marriages.

I was much more shocked at what I read than Jerry was. I guess I am still thinking that the Jewish “religion” should be as sacred as a traditional gentile “religion,” and though at an intellectual level I understand that for the most part the Reform movement is NOT a very observant form of the spiritual side of Judaism, part of me still wonders why not.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Some peaches have started showing up in our local grocery stores. They are small, ugly and as hard on the outside as the pit is in the inside. And of course the price is outrageously high. With our global trading flourishing, they may have come from China.

Which reminds me of a story.

When we moved to Turkey, we asked our young driver, Ahmet Bey, to take us to a market that would be within walking distance of our flat but big enough to contain a fairly broad range of foodstuffs. Many of the little markets around town were mom-and-pop kind of stores called "bakkals" and were nothing more than a tiny hole in the wall with very limited food choices. Ahmet located the kind of market we wanted and he took us there about the third day after we got situated in our flat. We managed to get what we needed in the "canned goods" department, and then in moseying over to the fruit and vegetable section our eyeballs just about fell out of their sockets. It was as if the Turks waited until the last moment to pick their fruit and vegetables. Everything was HUGE! Heads of cabbage were the size of a soccer ball. Onions were double the size of any I have ever seen. And oh, the peaches. They were the size of our grapefruits -- and so beautiful and ready to eat that we could hardly take our eyes off them.

Anyway, Jerry and I stood there and carried on about these beautiful peaches. But as we were discussing and making over them, Ahmet quietly pulled Jerry aside and said, "Mr. Title, may I tell you something?" After Jerry gave him permission, a process we always had to go through with Ahmet Bey, he advised Jerry that their was a Turkish word that sounds like the English word for "peach" and in Turkish it meant "bastard." He advised that all the people in the store were laughing because we kept describing their "seftali" as bastards.

Jerry could hardly contain his glee as he relayed to me what Ahmet had told him. Ahmet was looking mightily embarrassed, and while the mistake struck Jerry and me so funny, we knew if we laughed Ahmet would be even more embarrassed. So we simply thanked him for advising us of the mighty faux pas. We quickly paid for our bastards and headed for home.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I can hear you saying: Why is the cat looking at the matchbooks? I can answer you truthfully: I don't know!

Then I hear you saying: Why do you have a basket full of matchbooks? I can answer you truthfully again: I can't figure out how to get rid of them!

When Jer and I were first married, way back in 1975, we started collecting matchbooks from every restaurant, every hotel and every destination we went to. We had friends that were doing it, so we figured it would be a nice thing for a newly-married couple to do. If we wrote on the inside of the cover the date we acquired them and any other identifying information ... well, I don't know if we even had any special reason to do it. At that time we didn't think we would get old and use them as prompts for reminiscing (which we haven't done yet because we aren't yet of an age to really consider ourselves old, though 79 and 73 are getting close!)

Throughout the first 25 years of our marriage we added to the collection regularly. We kept them in a huge brandy snifter that sat on the floor in our den. Little by little we forgot to make notes inside the covers, and little by little because of the drop in cigarette smoking matches weren't such an automatic thing at restaurants and hotels. Eventually the brandy snifter broke, and we drafted this nice basket to replace it. As we downsized from large house to smaller house to large apartment to small apartment it became more and more difficult to find a suitable place for our collection. And to be truthful again, that collection doesn't matter so much now after 33 years of marriage.

But we had to figure out how we could retire our match collection honorably. Much thinking went into this. We couldn't get any of our kids to take it. We didn't want to change our wills to include the old matches as an asset to be distributed. We were sure the trash collectors didn't want to have a big bag of matches tossed into their trucks. And we were sure a fire department inspector would have a stroke if he or she saw them sitting in a corner of our little apartment eating area, where they reside now in their basket. So how to get rid of them honorably.

The answer came in two parts. One is that we could burn a lot of candles in our house. That we are doing, though you don't need more than one candle at a time in 790 square feet of living space. The other is that we could substitute burning a match for using a room deodorant spray when we frequented the commode. In case you've never heard of using a match for that purpose, it works much better than spray and is kinder to the atmosphere!

If you size up the amount of matches in the basket (20+/- individual matches per book or box), then think of how many bathroom and candle burnings it will take to honorably retire all the matches, this will give you an idea of how long Jer and I have to live. We want to be around to light the last flame.

Now why is the cat looking at the basket of matches? First of all because she is nosy, but mostly it is because I wanted something beside that basket that could give you an idea of just big that basket is -- and Squeaky obliged.

Friday, January 23, 2009


There’s a strange thing going on in our area. The local newspaper is reporting on it, and if it gets any nastier the bigger newspapers may think its news fit to print too.

Seems last fall there was a school board election. The term of several members was up and in our little area nothing gets done easily. Charges were made and refuted. Signs on telephone poles were torn down. Accusations abounded. A huge sign that mysteriously appeared in the night hanging at a freeway crossing caused an uproar and was accused of being a safety issue. But then we are familiar with these kinds of shenanigans. Although we have lived in this area for only four years, during this time electioneering has been rife with pettiness and candidates often aren’t even civil to each other.

Now in this latest election, candidates had shown their full names on their paid advertising and on the official ballot. We voters knew the backgrounds of each of the candidates from their own advertising pieces and from newspaper stories. Everyone was aware that one of the candidates was a retired military officer, but none of the candidates used a professional title, an honorific or military rank on their advertising literature or on the ballot.

At election time, voters made their choices and the new board members sat in session. According to the newspaper, the Chairman of the Board in one of the early sessions referred to one of the newly elected members by her name. However, this person stated that she did not want to be called by that name but insisted that she be called “Captain” So and So, as she is a retired Navy Captain. Another one of the members, who has been involved in many set-tos with this board, announced then that he wanted to be called by yet another name other than his given first and last names. The chairman finally said he felt it only proper that he should, from then on, refer to all the members as “Trustee” So and So. This did not set well with the Captain.

There is a gap in the newspaper reporting about how the next meeting was “worded.” However, an article appeared this week stating that the Captain is seriously considering a lawsuit over the matter.

Now here’s my thinking on the matter. Life is too short and education is too important to let “name-calling” like this take up time, space and money. The school district has enough problems without having such an issue hang over their heads and permeate their meetings. Surely the kids’ education is worth more than that. I say, with all due respect to those who have spent years earning their titles and ranks, out with what feels to me as bordering pomposity and in with good will and elbow grease – in the name of the children.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Robert Boyd Dobbins, my great-great-great grandfather, was a circuit riding Presbyterian Minister in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. From 1804 to about 1835, he and his family lived in Ohio. He bought some land in Fulton County, Illinois, and eventually his whole family moved to Illinois.

In researching this old fellow, I was lucky enough to find a man in Ipava, Illinois, who was the custodian of an original copy of the Session Minutes from the founding of the Bennington Presbyterian Church. Here is the first entry in the minutes:


The Presbytery of Schuyler appointed Cyrus Riggs and Robert B. Dobbins to organize a Church at Bennington. After publick notice the Congregation of Bennington assembled for the purpose of organization on the 25th June 1835.

The following persons presented to the Committee certificates of their membership and good standing in the Presbyterian Church, Viz, Timothy W. Robinson and Mary Robinson his wife, James Dobbins and Elizabeth Dobbins his wife, John Dobbins and Hariet Dobbins his wife, A.J. Foster and Sarah Foster his wife, Catharine Dobbins, Amanda Jane Dobbins, Abraham Miller and Mary Gage Miller his wife, Elizabeth Miller, William Thomas and Eliza Thomas his wife, and Jacob Zoll.

The above photo is of Rev. Robert B. Dobbins. In the minutes above you will see listed his sons, James and John (with their wives) and his daughters Amanda, Mary Gage Miller and husband, and Eliza Thomas and husband. Catherine is his wife. It was a small beginning for the church, and the membership was mostly made up of his own family.

The son James noted in the minutes above was RBD's oldest son, James Alexander Dobbins who had married Elizabeth Perkins in 1826. This James is my great-great grandfather, who was the father of four children, all young at the time of the founding of this church: Robert, Paulina, Elizabeth and James Sellers Dobbins.

The picture above is of my great-grandfather James Sellers Dobbins. He was born shortly after the family arrived in Illinois. In the same Session minutes there is a very special entry that I am sharing with you today.


27th June, 1835 baptized one infant, William Alexander Dobbins, son of John C. Dobbins.

17th July 1836 baptized Timothy Robinson, son of Timothy Robinson

12th Feb. 1837 baptized one infant, James Cellars Dobbins, son of James A. Dobbins.

R. B. Dobbins, Clk.

Examined thus far and approved.
Sessions of Schuyler Presbytery ) R.K. May
at Macomb April 1837 ) Moderator

It is a rare record that shows a grandfather baptizing his son's child. And rarer yet is that we have photos of all three participants in this event.

When I started into genealogy I was put in touch with my father's elderly cousin, Percy Dobbins of Manitou Springs, Colorado. I had never met the fellow before, but during my growing up years I remembered my father mentioning that he had a cousin in Manitou Springs. After locating Percy, he and I exchanged several letters. In one of them he mentioned that his father had left him three photographs, one of his grandfather (James Sellers Dobbins), one of his great grandfather and one of his great-great grandfather. He said his father did not know the names of the latter two but knew that one of them was a preacher. Percy allowed me to have copies made of these three photos, and with diligence and luck I was able to find the missing names for these fellows, plus a great deal of other information about all of them.
In my 24 years of researching, nothing I have found has given me as much pleasure as the combination of the Presbyterian Session minutes and the photographs of Rev. Robert B. Dobbins and my direct family members, James Alexander and James Sellers Dobbins. I am one lucky researcher!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


On my credenza is a hinged frame with two photographs in it. The one on the left is me in 1935. The one on the right is my father in 1908. If you look only at the faces, you can hardly tell them apart. We are almost as alike as the proverbial peas in a pod.

In my scrapbook is a Certificate awarded at the Mother-Daughter Banquet at George Pepperdine College in 1954 to my mother and me for looking the most alike of any of the other one-hundred fifty mother-daughter pairs in attendance.

So go figure!

If, in fact, my mother and I looked alike then, my cheekbones have certainly slipped downward in the subsequent years. And if my father and I looked alike then, my upper eyelids just forgot when to stop growing; mine look now like they should be on a Shar-Pei. His, at 92, were still as tidy as a reptile’s.

I don’t know how it is that we look like ourselves the whole time we are growing up, yet we still can change in resemblance from one parent to the other at various points in time.

I had one minor foray in high school into the study of genetics. At the time, because the course of study dealt with guinea pigs, and probably because the illustrations were so elementary that I could understand them, I thought genetics were fairly understandable. As nearly as I can recall it, we had several text-book guinea pigs to work with. Of these guinea pigs who were going to mate, some had rough hair, some smooth, some were brown and others were white. I don’t recall if their eyes had anything to do with it but I think not.

What impressed me was that according to the little chart in the book a certain number of baby guinea pigs, of a truth, were going to be smooth whites, another certain number would be rough whites, and the same held true for the brown ones. Or vice versa. Or something like that. Please remember that because it has been nearly 50 years since I saw this little chart, there may be some other factor that came into play but if so, that piece of information has detached itself from my recollection and it is now free-floating in my brain. But I think you get my point.

Obviously there is something a whole lot more complex that comes into play when you talk about human genetics. After all, if you look at the faces of all your guinea pigs, assuming you have any, it will not be the facial characteristics that tell them apart. One pig face is just like another pig face – no high bridge noses, no baggy eyelids, no high cheekbones. It is the rough and the smooth that tell them apart, the brown and the white. But genetics is a lot more complicated than what little I learned in 1952. (Just try to figure out Mendel and his peas!) And I sure don’t know how to relate what I know about guinea pigs to what I see in my mirror.

Nevertheless, there is something deep in our makeup that can change ever so slightly at points in our lives that make us look differently while we yet look the same. I can understand being like my dad in character and like my mom in temperament. What I haven’t figured out is why sometimes I look like one and other times the other. And still look like the same me. Who am I, anyway?

Monday, January 19, 2009


Why do I keep thinking I can learn a foreign language? I have absolutely no ear at all for it. I’ve tried three times, and each time, to the extent of my learned vocabulary I could make myself understood, although always in the present tense. Yet I have never gotten to that magical place were I could even remotely understand what was being said.

My first venture into a foreign language was the two years of Spanish I had in high school. Back then, the method of acquiring the Spanish language was to learn to conjugate every verb in the book; then with each lesson, we would memorize a few nouns and adjectives. This enabled us to translate Spanish novels, on which we received our grade for the class. To this day I can conjugate Spanish verbs. But can I speak? No. Can I understand? Definitely not. Not then, not now.

The second venture was when in mid-life my sweet husband and I took a holiday in Israel and thought we might eventually want to live there for a couple of years. I figured I’d get a head start on learning the language by signing up for a “conversational Hebrew” class at a local city college. I studied really hard. I learned how to write it and speak it – at very basic level, of course, but I was like Beetle-Bomb when it came to understanding what was being said. The much younger students all passed me by and left me in standing in the dust. Mrs. Rosenthal would ask me a question and I would freeze up tighter than my computer when there are too many bytes in the buffers. I could feel my head going “FZZZZZZZTTT” and I knew that there was no hope for me. Disappointed in myself, I dropped out after two semesters.

Finally, in 1991 my husband and I moved to Istanbul, Turkey for two years. Jerry would be working in an engineering environment where English was spoken, but I had to interact with the locals all day every day and I needed to learn to communicate. I hired a teacher and started my studies. I am pleased to report that within the limits of my steadily increasing vocabulary, I was able to make myself understood. Turkish is a difficult language to speak, since it uses German and French sounds that westerners are almost incapable of making. It is a very precise language and 100% phonetic, a language with hard and fast rules. I studied hard, learned the rules and finally impressed my husband enough that he let me became the guide on our weekend trips, as well as being the boss in our dealings with hotels, restaurants, shops and taxis. But did I ever understand a word that was said back to me? Yes, two: “Evet” and “Hayir” – “Yes” and “No”. Nothing else. It was a third failure for me!

Now that I am retired, I have contemplated giving Spanish another try. I certainly have the time. However, my problem never was that I didn’t have enough time to study. It was simply that apparently I am not wired to ever understand a foreign language. I am smart enough to know that desire isn’t a guarantee of success. If my best young brain cells couldn’t be successful, certainly my aging ones are doomed to failure.

I have tried to live my life so that I have as few regrets as possible. But not having an ear for language is one of them.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


First off I want everyone under the age of 55 to say collectively to me, “Get a life!” If you have said that, you can now proceed to read what my curmudgeonly self has to say.

I would like to know what, if anything, parents of teenagers today have taught their kids about what is and what isn’t the polite thing to say in the workplace. I also would like to know what kind of expectations and/or training bosses give to those same teenagers.

Case in point: the Jer and I went to lunch yesterday and were referred to as “You guys” from the moment our cute little hostess led us to the table (Is this ok for you guys?) to the receiving of the bill at the end of the meal (Here’s the bill, you guys. Thanks for coming.)

I’m not asking for “May I’s” and “Ma’am’s” here. And I’m not concerned that “You guys” sounds disrespectful. What does concern me is that no one apparently has told these kids in the service industries that there is a nice, polite way to interact with customers, and referring to them as “you guys” isn’t it.

The manager of that restaurant probably did not think to give his kids a crash course in appropriate language usage. But I'd like everyone reading this who employs teenagers to stop a second and think about how they want their customers to be spoken to.

Second, I would like to lodge a protest at the loss of the phrase, “You’re Welcome” which for eons past has been the appropriate response to “Thank you.” Frankly, I would rather get NO response than to have said to me, “No problem.” This last expression has insidiously crept into our language and one can hardly eat out anymore without hearing it. I understand if I have asked the waitperson for something out of the ordinary, a response of “No problem” is, well, no problem. But it somehow grates on me that when I thank a person, any other response than “You’re welcome” feels like the thanks has been rejected as not significant enough for a decent acknowledgment.

Ah, now I hear you saying it – “Get a life!” But wait, I have one more – this final one not being so much a misuse of specific language but misdirection of it.

Here’s the third scenario. I go into a grocery store, step to the check-out counter with $150 worth of groceries, and while I stand there watching the clerk ring up my purchases – no insignificant amount – I am totally ignored while I have to listen to a running commentary between the cashier and the box person over their love life or lack thereof. Where is the ethic that the customer is important, or comes first, or even should be coddled so as to generate repeat business? It is obvious that the person holding $150 or $200 in their hands is not very important to these two employees. And I wonder if management ever has taken the time to see how pervasive this behavior is and has tried to get these people back on track. I know of few other jobs where two people can stand around while they are working and carry on such a private conversation in front of customers.

Those of us over 55, who – believe it or not – do already have a life, mostly do not feel it is our job to tell parents and tell employers what they should do to prepare their kids and their employees for the real adult world. So we mainly fuss among ourselves, knowing that we are not so relevant anymore and shaking our head at the direction things seem to be going.

For the few of us who have the opportunity to put our thoughts onto paper, we implore the multitude of you parents, teachers and employers who have an opportunity to hone and mold these young people – mostly good kids to begin with – to turn them into first class young adults, setting standards for interacting properly with their elders and with customers of any age. It would be wonderful to think someone is listening to my curmudgeonly self.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Funny how some things rattle around in my mind until I finally unload them onto this blog. Today is one of those times for little introspective tidbits.


Jerry turned CNN on early this morning and although I was trying to read the newspaper, I couldn't help but keep sneaking peeks at the bundled, shivvering, steam-blowing group of people talking about upcoming events. Of course Wolf was there, along with Anderson Cooper, Soledad O'Brien, Jon King and Roland Martin, the latter a talk-show host who is often seen on CNN. Jerry and I watch a lot of CNN and these people are like friends to us because they are so often in our house. Today what struck me is the excitement in their voices as they were talking about the days ahead. It was such a relief to hear happiness being reflected; for so long they have not had a whole lot of upbeat things to say. Finally I just had to put the newspaper down and allow myself to vicariously sit with them - yes, in that bitter cold - and agree that exciting times are ahead.

And that makes me think of my daughter-in-law Nancy, who has been such a fan of Obama. Her enthusiasm has no limits, and she offered a touching grace at Thanksgiving that celebrated Obama's entry into our country's reasons to be thankful. We again can look for vision, for wisdom, for direction, for goals, and for his leadership to take all of us through these troubled times. Later I admitted to her that I was a bit jaded, that I had seen so much hope at other times just disappear into the deep vat of "politics as usual." But I have to tell you that this morning, I caught a little of Nancy's exuberance as I heard Obama talk to those who were seeing him off on the train to Washington DC, where he will take the oath of office on Tuesday, and as I heard my friends, the talking heads, allowing themselves some leeway to let their excitement show.


The "Borrowers" have returned a few of the bookmarks that so mysteriously disappeared from my keeping. This last week I opened a box that I had stashed behind me on my bookshelves, a box where I keep odds and ends for the little grandkids to play with when the come visiting. Not only did I find a handful of my laminated paper bookmarks from various libraries but I also found a missing box of personal notecards that has managed to avoid detection for the last three years. (That shows you how long it has been since I put kiddie-things in the box.) And then yesterday afternoon I managed to knock off my desk a plastic cup in which I kept my pens and pencils. Pens went flying everywhere and I thought I got them all up, but last night when Jerry was on the computer he glanced down and found on the floor one of the metal bookmarks that apparently had hidden in among the pens. Now there are only two or three bookmarks that remain missing.


When Jerry and I first went to Wichita back in 1985 on one of my earliest genealogy fact-finding missions, we made our first stop at Maple Grove Cemetery, where lots of my Stevens family relatives were buried. There was a very nice caretaker on duty that day and he personally took us out to the Stevens' plots. After we finished our photo-taking we stopped back into his office to thank him for his kindness. Sitting on his desk was a yellow plastic cup and printed on it was "Have a Cup on Us. MAPLE GROVE CEMETERY, 1000 N. Hillside, Wichita, KS." At that time I had a cup collection and seeing this cemetery cup made me want it really bad, as I certainly did not own a cemetery cup! Since it appeared to be an advertising gimmick, I asked the caretaker if he had one of the cups that I could purchase. "No," he replied, "We are out. But I'll sure give you mine." Before I could refuse, he ran into his little kitchen, washed and dried it and handed it to me. This cup never made it onto the shelf in my office that held my collection. Since that time it has always sat on my desk, used as my penholder. As we've moved and downsized over the years, I've had to pare down the cups I've kept. But I needn't tell you that this will be the last cup to go! It's my most favorite of all of them.


I had a "best friend" all through school and the friendship lasted a lifetime. Dokey was special, as all her friends can attest. She was shy and unassuming but full of fun and laughter. As we grew into adulthood our lives took off in different directions, but our common bond of being together in a Girl Scout Troop for more than 10 years and then having reunions off and on over the years, kept us minimally in touch. Today is the second anniversary of her death, and I can't help but reflect on what good fun we had in knowing each other. So here's Dokey. Rest in Peace, my friend.


October 14, 1935 - January 17, 2007

Friday, January 16, 2009


Yesterday I was driving through a rural area near us and I saw an old stucco "court" - two rows of single-story apartments facing each other with nothing more than a walk-way between them. A stucco arch joined the two buildings at the front, and across the back of the building was an enclosed laundry area. It reminded me of a place that my grandma lived when I was just a little tyke.

I couldn't have been more than three years old, and very honestly I don't think I have much other recollection of things at that age, but this building has been imprinted on my mind because of something that happened there.

Mother had dropped me off at grandma's house to be babysat. At three I would have had a new baby sister and perhaps mother was taking my sister to the doctor. I don't remember the details. What I do remember is that Grandma and I had lunch and afterwards she put me down for a nap on her bed in her small bedroom. She pulled the shade down, drew the big floral drapes across the window, and told me to be a good girl and go to sleep. She crept out and closed the door.

I can see that room in my mind's eye as if I had looked at it yesterday. The flowers in the drapes were pink with green leaves. The drapes themselves were a dark maroon color. Grandma had put a rose-colored bedspread on her single bed. I laid on the bed quietly for a few minutes and then I spied a reading light that hooked over the headboard with two metal hooks. There was a small chain that hung down to turn the light on an off, and of course I had to pull on it a couple of times. But nothing happened. So I stuck my finger up inside where a light bulb should have been - and I got a little electrical shock.

It didn't hurt, because there wasn't much electricity in that little lamp, but it was enough to imprint the curtains, the bedspread, the bed, the size of the room, and even the stucco on the outside of the house in my brain so that I have instant recall even these 70 years later. And when I saw that court yesterday I was transported back in time and remembered the whole thing all over again.

It's a funny sensation to have such a recall. I'm sure there are many things that happen when we are kids that we don't remember but still have an effect on us as adults. I had a terrible dream as a teenager in which an empty swimming pool played a prominent part in that dream. To this day I have an aversion to looking in an empty pool. The Greenwood house in Orange had a big swimming pool, and at one point we had to drain it to have some repair work done. Although I didn't like it, when it was empty I made myself walk down inside it several times, hoping this would desensitize me. It did not; I still don't look at an empty pool if I can help it.

But not only bad things get imprinted on us. As an adult, whenever it was time to buy a piece of kitchen equipment - ranging from an electric mixer to a refrigerator - or a washer and dryer for the back porch or garage, I always chose white. I thought it was my free choice, but back in the '60s when avocado-colored appliances were big, I loved the color but still picked white. When asked why I didn't want the avocado I heard myself parroting my mother: white is the best color for appliances because it makes things look so clean. Aha! Another imprinting, I thought, and I was able to erase (or probably just more "over-ride") that imprinting and choose the avocado that I really liked best.

I hope my kids have learned that they don't have to do things a certain way because of something I said when they were kids. Because they are all such free spirits now, I imagine I don't have to worry about that; they seem to happily be able to make their own decisions. Sometimes those decisions are not what I would have done, but what I wanted most of all was to raise them to be independent adults. When I don't hear from one of them in a while, I wonder if I should maybe have imprinted a connection to me a little bit more, but then I realize I got what I wanted for them, and I am satisfied!

Thursday, January 15, 2009


We're getting into the homestretch now, and while it will take some time for Bush's legacy to become fairly solidified, I'm finding lots of newsprint that offer distinctive takes on it.

The L. A. Times has a columnist, Rosa Brooks, whose work I always enjoy reading. Today's offering made me laugh all the way through it. The headline is "Bush was a uniter after all." She starts off with helping us remember some of the laughable lines that Bush has offered for posterity. "Bushyisms" I think they are called. As an example, Brooks reminds us that he said, "too many OB/GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across the country." And she adds another: "You're working hard to put food on your family."

Tangling up words or sentences is not limited to Bush, of course; I had a very educated friend who always said she was flustrated. It was a quirk and I didn't think her any less smart for not realizing that she should have said either frustrated or flustered, because "flustrated" was not a word. Another example is saying "A whole nother..." instead of "Another whole..." Even well-educated and well-spoken TV commentators say "a whole nother..." But Bush has really pushed the envelope on his chronic mangling of what he meant to say.

Her column today is well worth reading - but of course if you are one who still somehow thinks Bush's tenure has been a real plus for the country, you won't like the column one bit. And because I simply refuse to read columnists who fall on the side of conservative republicanism (I know what you are going to say, but I still won't), I imagine you aren't going to subject yourself to Rosa Brook's latest column, which I'm sure can be found on the online LA Times.

But she does end with a positive thought on Bush: "(He) broke many of his initial campaign promises but he ended up keeping his promise to be 'a uniter, not a divider,' though hardly in the way he intended: He leaves behind a united nation, brought together at last by a heartfelt desire to see him gone."

Brooks ends with "We'll miss him." And I say, Bye Bye, Bush. Have a good rest of your life.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


There was a man who had a dog he was attempting to train, but alas, he had very little success. He was on the verge of despair when he happened across a very charismatic evangelist. He unburdened his soul to the evangelist, who promptly informed him that he was also a pretty good dog trainer and if he would leave the dog with him, he would have it trained in a jiffy.

The next day the dog owner returned to see the evangelist and asked how the dog was doing. “Great,” replied the evangelist. “Watch this!” Picking up a stick, he threw it and said, “Fetch.” The dog instantly took off, grabbed the stick and returned it to the evangelist. “Drop,” the evangelist said and the dog dropped the stick at his feet. “Roll over,” and the dog rolled over.

By this time the dog’s owner was very excited and asked if he could try. With confidence, the evangelist told him to go ahead. “Heel,” said the owner and the dog lifted one paw, placed it on his owner’s head and said, “I command this sickness to leave you!”

Monday, January 12, 2009


I have been laughing ever since I saw the picture of President Bush in the newspaper with the quote "I am the Decider!" over it. That just struck my funny bone, and I do believe that particular line will live in -- well, if not in infamy, at least in today's equivalent of Bartlett's "Familiar Quotations."

But his statement struck a chord in my aging psyche, too, and I had to do some thinking as to why. This morning it finally hit me as to why it vibrated so: I also am the Decider. (Move over, Dubya!).

I am the Decider of what to have for dinner.

Now this is no small decision. I have been responsible for putting dinner on the table for family for a little over 50 years now -- 53 years and almost 4 months, to be more precise, but for the sake of lower math, we'll round it off to 50 years. That is 18,250 dinners, which of course equates to 2,600 weeks of doing the grocery shopping for those dinners. If that doesn't qualify as a Decider, I don't know what does.

I am not going to deduct the vacation time I haven't had to cook, or the time between marriages (when I still had kids to cook for) or the nights we ate out. Those absences from the dinner line have been more than made up for by packed school lunches, decisions on what restaurants to go to, etc. I think I was responsible for at least 18,250 dinners.

Lucky Dubya! He's on the home stretch. Maybe when he is out of office he'll be the Decider of which bulls to castrate or which pigs to roast and that will satisfy his desire for deciding and we won't have to put up with it any more.

Depending on Jerry's genes (they are duking it out as I speak, as to whether his dad's strain of younger dying or his mom's of older dying will win), I probably will have another several years to be the Decider. Come to think of it, if he goes first, I will still have to decide what to fix for dinner, except once he is gone there will be no dinners per se; I will simply graze my way into the big pasture in the sky.

There is nothing as tiresome as figuring out what to fix TONIGHT! It is a never-ending proposition. My mother always said there is nothing sure but death and taxes. She added washing dishes as her contribution to that little statement. My contribution will be "planning dinner."

But at any rate, I thought you all should know that there are now two of us who are going on record as saying, "I am the Decider." I hope I don't sound as foolish as Dubya does.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


My little Squeaky cat says one can't have too many mice to play with. What you see here is only part of her collection. Sometimes she has none available, and at that point we have to get down on our hands and knees to peer under every item of furniture in our house and locate the missing mice.

She is a funny cat. She will run across the room and position her left back foot over one of the mice, then do a funny kind of a two-step dance on it. She'll grab it in her mouth and run like crazy to the other side of the room. She'll put it down, watch it for a few minutes and then repeat the foot-stepping dance.

At bedtime, we put all the mice back in her "toy box" in the living room. In the morning we find mice in the bathroom, scattered all around the living room, and sometimes on top of our bedcovers. We never hear her playing in the night, but it is obvious that she does.

If I had to guess, I'd estimate that there are another 5 or 6 mice absent from the picture above. Before I took the picture I looked under the barrel chair, under the couch, and behind the china cabinet, where I was able to retrieve a mouse from each place. At least I am able to find a few more when I set my mind to it.

So the question is, why can't I find more of my multitudinous bookmarks than the four shown in the picture above? No matter where I sit, there is never a bookmark handy. If I am reading three books at a time (which sometimes I do), I might be lucky to have a bookmark in one of them, a receipt for a Starbuck's latte as a bookmark for the second, and a torn piece of newsprint in the third.

Everyone knows I read and everyone gives me bookmarks. At Barnes and Noble's today I bought myself a new one. On the way home I decided I'd get all my bookmarks and put them in a box; the box could stay on my desk so that I would always know where a bookmark was. When I came home and began looking, all I could find were 4. I have far more bookmarks than the cat has mice, but where are they?

I have looked in our kitchen's "Fibber McGee" drawer: no bookmarks. I looked in the 8x14 cake pan that I have sitting in the space between my two-drawer file cabinet and the top of my desk, placed there to catch all the little "Gadgets" I need to have at my fingertips (art gum eraser, key chains, 2 hand-held magnifying glasses, extra colored marking pens, a rabbit's foot from a Scottish tartan, several pairs of different size scissors, an emery board or two, a small staple puller, a small key-chain flashlight, a couple of AA batteries) but: no bookmarks.

I tried under the seat cushions of the couch. I got 2 pennies, a ball-point pen, a single dry "Wheat Thin" and a few crumbs, but: no bookmarks.

I have lovely bookmarks, some metal, some plastic, some paper. But today I cannot lay my hands on any of them. I suspect at least one might be under the piles of papers on my desk, but I just cannot see my way clear to clean off my desk this afternoon. Genealogists will know that this is a truly onerous chore and not to be undertaken until one is really desperate. I'm not that hard up for bookmarks at this very moment so I'll pass on the desk-cleaning. But surely I should have been able to dig up more than four!

I am reminded of the darling books about "The Borrowers," which were subsequently made into a TV movie back in 1973 and later into a regular movie in the '90s. Since learning about the Borrowers, my family has always attributed the disappearance of ordinary items (except for socks) to them. It is possible, I suppose, that the Borrowers read more than I do. If so, I hope they are finding my bookmarks helpful. If not, I sure wish they would give them back!

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I just this morning finished reading a very good book, Dreamers of the Day, by Mary Doria Russell, in which Egypt plays a very big part. (And it is a good book, by the way). It reminded me of the trip Jerry and I took in 1980, spending 5 days in Egypt and 5 in Israel.

As I was reading and as the author placed her protagonist in various places around Cairo and Luxor, I was delighted that I knew exactly where she was talking about. I have often since described that time in Egypt this way: My mouth fell open when I stepped off the airplane and didn't close until I got on the airplane to leave. And that was close to the truth!

1980 was during the time when my hobby was photography. As I recall, I had passed through the Chinese Cooking stage but had not yet reached the genealogy stage. At any rate, I had acquired two cameras, the first being a fixed lens Canon that of course became my "backup" camera after I got my first Canon SLR and some great lenses to go with it, my favorite being a 200mm telephoto lens. For the most part I used fast film in the old camera and slow film in the new. I discovered, of course, that it was imperative that I use both cameras and both hands, and I found that Jerry was a very important part of my ability to get the photo I wanted. His job was to listen to what the guide was telling us, while I hovered around busy as a bee going in and out of the camera bags he was holding for me so I could get exactly the speed film and the right lens for the shot. After I was finished with my shooting and when we got back from whatever site we were visiting, he had to tell me in great detail what I hadn't seen. This was the only drawback to all my shooting; I missed out on much of what I really needed to know.

We had two days scheduled for our time in Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. Upon alighting from the bus, I saw a smallish Egyptian man armed with a camera -- and it appeared he was taking photographs of us as we arrived. It made me laugh, because one of the things I liked to shoot was pictures of people taking pictures. Oh, they would contort themselves into an amazing stance just to get a straight-on picture of what they were aiming at. I always laughed to see them, and naturally then, I was also very aware to always stand in a normal position so no one would think to turn their lens on me. Anyway, when I saw this little man, I figured he was like a Japanese tourist in America taking pictures of the "natives" -- only in the reverse, the natives taking a picture of the tourists.

As we went from the complex at Karnak, the sacred lake, the Avenue of the Sphinxes, and the second day to Thebes, the tombs and the Colossi of Memnon, I kept noticing that this little man was hovering in the background like a mosquito looking for a bite, or a gnat not looking for anything in particular but just there. The fellow didn't bother us and was actually very unobtrusive; I probably noticed him more than the others did because he seemed to have such an old camera. On occasion I thought maybe he was a bit simple-minded and the camera was just a toy.

The morning of the third day as we walked out the door of the hotel to board our bus back to the airport, the little photographer was standing at the end of the walkway, which was lined on both sides by a huge display of all the photographs he had taken of us on our two day sightseeing venture. He had them posted and grouped by sites visited, and it was a simple matter to look at each site and see what picture he took of us there. He wasn't simpleminded and the camera wasn't a toy. He was an astute businessman with a camera, and not one of us left Luxor without giving that fellow plenty of American dollars for the excellent photos he took of us.

I only picked one picture to purchase, and that picture was what I considered the epitomy of how Jerry and I experienced Egypt. As you will note, Jerry is carrying a lens in each of his hands. I am struggling to get the big 200mm lens off my camera and I will next choose which of the lens Jerry is carrying to put on it. In the background is the funerary temple of Queen Hatshepsut and we have just learned that she was actually not a Queen but a co-ruler, that she was not buried in the funerary temple which is a monument to her but in a distant tomb, and that sometimes she is depicted as a kilted, bearded man. Jerry told me this after we bought the picture.

I made a wonderful scrapbook of all the photos I took in Egypt. I was shooting slide film then, mostly slow film so as to get good color, and in making the scrapbook I chose my best slides had had them made into prints. Now, only 25 years later, those prints are mostly brownish and the skies are almost a navy blue. The only picture that is still in perfect order is the little Egyptian man's picture of us. But that is ok. To be very honest with you, the photo above is the only one that I am really fond of and that will be passed on to the future generations. The kids will be able to find far better pictures of things Egyptian in books; they will not be interested in darkened photos of our trip. But this black and white photo of their folks is a keeper, thanks to an Egyptian businessman's business!

Friday, January 9, 2009


Often people think that in the “old days” divorce didn’t happen much. Perhaps it didn’t happen as often as it does now, but it sure happened a lot. Below is a funny divorce petition I found while researching in the court records of Douglas County, Kansas. I was looking for the divorce record of Nellie’s father, Levi J. Sperry, and quite accidently found this action put forward by his daughter.


In the District Court of Douglas County, Kansas
(Dated 9 September A.D. 1884)

Nellie S. Perry – Plaintiff Petition
vs Charles S. Perry- Defendant

Comes now the said plaintiff and for her cause of action herein shows to the Court

That she is now and has been for more than one year last past an actual resident in good standing of the County of Douglas and State of Kansas.

That on or about the 1st day of October, A.D. 1879 at Lawrence, Kansas she was lawfully married to the defendant Charles S. Perry and that they have ever since been and now are husband and wife, and that ever since the date of their said marriage she has conducted herself as the faithful, loving and obedient wife of said defendant and yet your petitioner avers that the said defendant regardless of his marital duties toward your petitioner did on or about the 1st day of May A.D. 1884 at a house of prostitution known as “Moll Butler’s” on 3rd Street in the city of Kansas City and County of Jackson and State of Missouri commit adultery with a certain woman whose true name is unknown to your petitioner, but who is known by the names of “Blondeyes” and “Ella” and who is an inmate of said house of ill fame, and said defendant has ever since said 1st day of May and up to the date hereof continually frequented said house and committed adultery with said woman.

Wherefore your petitioner prays judgment that the bonds of matrimony existing between herself and the said defendant Charles S. Perry be dissolved and that she be restored to her maiden name of Nellie D. Sperry and that she have her costs borne.


The new crop of genealogists who have come along since the advent of the Internet somehow believe that the internet will provide them will all the information they need. They do not seem to understand that it is absolutely necessary to push oneself away from the computer and get their hands into “real” research – digging into the physical records themselves either by on site research or through using microfilmed records provided by the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Who knows how soon it will be before all the divorce records in the County Courthouse in Lawrence, Kansas, will be digitized or in fact, if they every will.

The fun of genealogy is more than just finding out the birth, marriage and death date of our ancestors. The fun is finding out that “Blondeyes” obviously swept poor Charles Perry off his feet and that Nellie Perry refused to put up with it. Good for her. Her actions gave me a great story for my family history, and another confirmation that divorce has been around for a long, long time.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


A while back I was parked facing the old cannon at the San Bernardino City Library parking lot, finishing up a Pumpkin Spice Latte before I went inside. As I sipped away I could see the inscription on the side of the War Memorial monument facing me. The top line said , “Mexican American War – 1845-1848,” and under it “To those Who Carried the Flag for Freedom and Gave Us This Beautiful Southwest."

It struck me that the wording was strangely euphemistic since actually it was mainly guns, not flags, which we carried into California; we intended to take Mexico’s land from them. Land swiping and nation building have always gone hand in hand and the U.S. has done its share. But since my study of California history was so long ago, I decided to use the library time that day to refresh my recollection of the circumstances of how it was that “This Beautiful Southwest” came to be ours and not Mexico’s.

As nearly as I can tell, the War itself was provoked by President James K. Polk who, in order to establish by might and right that the southern border of Texas was the Rio Grande, not the more northerly Nueces River, ordered detachments sent to the border to build fortifications. On April 24, 1846 the Mexican cavalry attacked and captured one of the American detachments at Fort Brown near the Rio Grande. War was proclaimed by the U.S. and the rest is history.

How did California get in the act? The U.S. forces invaded Mexican territory on several fronts, one of which was California. The U.S. Navy sent John D. Sloat to occupy California and claim it for the U.S. because of concerns that Britain might also attempt to occupy the area. (Aha!) Shortly thereafter U.S. Army troops under Stephen W. Kearny and naval reinforcements under Robert F. Stockton insured that the U.S. would be the ultimate “owner” of California, not Mexico nor England. California’s ownership was formalized by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed in February of 1848.

On my way out of the library, I read that wording on the memorial again: “To Those Who Carried the Flag of Freedom and Gave Us This Beautiful Southwest.” It seems to me that California was not “given” by anyone; rather, I think it was “took.” In the case of this battle monument, it honors young men who were doing a job that their Commander in Chief asked them to do. Whether we approve or disapprove of a military action, we still need to honor patriotic warriors. But down the road I think we need to remember that reasons for battles are not always what the politicos would like us to believe. I’m not going to ask that the San Bernardino memorial be re-chiseled into something a little more honest and less euphemistic, but I do think its sentiments are more than a little misleading.

A final thought: Maybe I’d better park somewhere else next time I have part of a Latte to finish! If I don't, no telling what idea I'll come up with.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


When I was writing yesterday about our tiny bathroom and the phantom drip, I couldn’t help thinking back to the very interesting bathrooms we had in our Istanbul apartment. We had two bathrooms and both of them were a surprise to us when we first saw what would be our home away from home.

I need to state first that this blog entry does not intend to be in any way critical of anything Turkish. In fact, we were very careful to keep in mind that while things were different from what we had in the US, we chose not to place a value judgment of “better” or “worse” on anything we saw or experienced. Sometimes we just shook our head at the differences, sometimes laughed at them, but we always knew that we were having the time of our lives.

Our apartment took up the entire sixth floor of an eight-floor apartment in a fairly modern building in an Istanbul suburb named Goztepe. The living room and dining room were side by side at the front of the building. Surrounded by huge windows, we could see the Prince’s Islands off the coast of the Sea of Marmara, a very interesting park directly across the street from our building and further on around, a view of the city. Our flat was modern. We had electricity, phone service, cable TV, western toilets, an elevator to take us up to our flat – and we had no complaints.

But the bathrooms were a surprise.

Directly across from the door that opened into our flat from the landing was bathroom #1. It was comprised of a sink, a commode and a washing machine in a room about the size of our bathroom here. It was an extremely handy bathroom, as you can imagine, but it had no character whatsoever. There was no built-in drain for the washing machine so a long hose attached at the back of the machine had to be hooked over the bowl of the toilet so the water could drain into it. The bathroom was functional; it worked and was certainly better than having to go to a laundromat (if one even existed.). There wasn’t room for a dryer, but there was a back balcony with clotheslines where we hung the clothes to dry. Our Turkish cat Tigger happened to like to sleep in this bathroom’s sink, so for all intents and purposes, this was a bathroom in name only.

The second bathroom, down the hall a ways toward the bedrooms, was our primary bathroom and was spacious enough to accommodate two sinks, two cupboards, and a square dance, if one were so inclined. What was amazing about this bathroom was first, the floor and the countertop around the sinks were of marble. That bespeaks elegance, but it was truly not a very elegant bathroom.

You will see from the picture that there was no unifying element in it that you could kind of decorate around. There was red tile, black and red tile, pink tile, brown tile, white fixtures, except for a black toilet seat. Even the marble was of two colors. The floor marble was a grayish brown and the sink marble of kind of an eggshell and tan. The one thing you could say for sure about this bathroom was that it was really, really cold. In the summer it was wonderful; in the winter it was hard to talk yourself into taking a shower or a bath because all that marble and tile took on the chill of the winter and didn’t give it up, even if the day warmed.

We did try to do a little decorating in the flat. We knew we would be entertaining people while we were there and wanted to have a nice-looking place. But there was just nothing we could do about that main bathroom. It was what it was.

The flat in Goztepe was our home for 19 months. We did have a few minor problems along the way. A new refrigerator we bought upon arrival lasted exactly 2 weeks before it broke down completely and had to be replaced. The first hot summer evening that we experienced made us decide to leave the windows on each side in the living room open all night to get some air circulation (Istanbul is more humid than Palm Beach, Florida and we had neither air conditioner nor screens on the window.) By leaving the windows open we actually experienced a cooler night, but in the morning we were faced with pigeons walking around our living room. And cleaning up after them.

As to water, sometimes we had water full of rust, sometimes we had no hot water, and on several occasions we had no water at all, all of which were problems caused either by the municipality working on the water lines in our section of town, or by the big boiler in the basement tended to by our kapiji (superintendent) who lived in the basement apartment.

But even with all the minor little glitches that we experienced, we never, ever had a drip, phantom or real, in our bathroom plumbing. Hats off to Turkish plumbers and plumbing.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


What can you say about a room? Well, actually, you can say a lot if you are an architect or an interior designer, as attested by reading any Sunday newspaper where the writers assigned to such reviews don’t bat an eye at going into great wordy details. But the average joe like myself usually doesn’t have too many words for a room. They are what they are, functional but decorated living spaces.

However, several days ago we discovered water under the sink in our bathroom, and it was in hauling all the bottles, boxes and rolls out from the cabinet under the sink where our pipes are and finding it necessary to store them in the bathtub to get them out of the way, I was stunned to realize just how miniscule our bathroom really is. As most of you know, we live in a senior complex; we have a two bedroom apartment, which would lead one to think it was designed for a family of two people (although I’m sure no one actually “designed” anything in this complex, as our building looks like a military barracks). However, yesterday I confirmed just how small it was by standing in the middle of the bathroom facing a side wall and spreading my arms. My hands touched both the front and the back walls. If I turned facing the sink and did likewise, my left hand touched the left wall and the right hand ended up at the edge of the bathtub. In other words, not counting the bathtub, which abuts the front and back walls on the right side of the room, the bathroom is – well, how can I say this? – the square of my extended arms.

Into that small space juts the commode and the sink cabinet. When we moved here, one of the first things we did was to buy a big three-shelf unit that straddles the toilet tank and fills the space above, which enables us to store a few items for our daily ablutions and toilettes. A floor scale is the only other piece of equipment in the bathroom. This bathroom is so small that if the cat comes into it while we are there, we cannot turn around unless we push her out the door first. The small cabinet that hides the pipes stores a tiny storage space for a few bathroom supplies. It is impossible to decorate this bathroom in any pleasing manner, because every extra bit of frou-frou added simply makes it appear smaller. It is a most unesthetically pleasing room. It would be small for one person. It has about all the charm of an old-fashioned outhouse.

The apartment complex's maintenance man can see that there is a leak because we have been putting paper towels down on the floor inside the cabinet. When we get up each morning and check the paper, it is wet. We replace the paper and during the day it stays dry. The maintenance man has been here twice and cannot detect the source of the leak, nor can we. Jer and I talked about possible causes but of course we haven’t a clue as to how the pipes run. We do know that when our water heater ceased working one time, maintenance had to tear out walls in our pantry to find the problem. When they couldn’t, they had to call in a plumber to find and fix it and then maintenance had to repair the walls. We had to live with all our groceries sitting in our living room for about a week that time. I shudder to think that a plumber may need to be called for this new problem and our bathroom may be physically disfigured for a period of days while the problem is being researched. We cannot live without the use of our bathroom, miniscule though it is, for even one day.

So this is our first challenge for the New Year: Wait while the bathroom is being brought back to a dripless condition. Things do not move quickly around here; actually, I’m not talking about us as aging oldsters (though that is true) but about the maintenance team at the complex. So until the leak becomes a gush, I suppose we’ll just have to work around it. We do have a small amount of room on our small dining room table to store the extra toilet paper rolls and cleaning supplies until the problem is solved. Stay tuned for the saga of the midnight waters.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


When I was a little kid, the time between Christmases was oh so long. The school year was just as long. Teachers were very old. Birthdays were few and far between. We didn’t grow very fast. And it seemed like such a long time before I was old enough to “do it (whatever it was) myself.” But now I look back and wonder how I got so old so fast?

* * * * * * * * * *
The first time I realized how fast time was flying was when I took a position as a secretary for a small group of clinical psychologists. One of my jobs was scheduling regular weekly appointments for the clients. I became aware that the weeks just flew by when I blocked out a month’s worth of weekly visits. Before I knew it, it was time to do the monthly billing. Then four more weeks and another monthly billing. The intensity of looking and booking ahead is, I think, what exacerbated the feeling of time rushing by.

* * * * * * * * * *
If I take a nice long nap in the daytime I am going to pay for it either by not being able to go to sleep when I get in bed at night, or waking up in the middle of the night because I am simply slept out. Sometimes having to decide which way I want it takes the delicious spontaneity out of an afternoon nap, rendering it not one of the really good ones! However, the few times I’ve been sick as an adult, I have learned that any daytime sleep does not count against your nighttime sleep.

* * * * * * * * * *
This week while I was babysitting Olivia and Justine, I learned that they do not retain much about what we do when I babysit them. This week a neighbor couple and their young 2 year old daughter, Flora, knocked on the door to deliver a package that had been misdelivered to them. I commented on how big Flora had grown since I saw her last, which happened to be last May. After the neighbors left, Olivia asked me how I knew Flora. I reminded her the last time I babysat we went to the park and met Flora and her dad there. Neither Olivia nor Justine had any recollection of going to the park. To me, going to the park with them was a real event. For them, it was just one of many such drop-ins at the park. They also have no memory of a song I taught them a number of years ago and which we have sung together many more times than I’d like to remember but not within the last year or so. My theory is that unless a person is a constant in the kids’ lives – like living next to them, or at least in the same town and seeing them all the time – a person will not be patterned into their memory until they reach about 13 years old. So I’m intending to live at least 10 more years so that both girls will have some personal recollection and remembrance of their grandma who loved them so much.

* * * * * * * * * *
I have always been inclined to make New Year’s resolutions but found it more productive to set five goals for each year. I started doing this in the mid-1990s – and have ended each year with a feeling of satisfaction over goals set and accomplished. It is a good feeling to strike things off my list. My goals for 2008 got short shrift this year. I only accomplished three out of the five, with another being started but stopped midstream. And in thinking about whether to put those unfinished two at the beginning of my 2009 list, I decided this year not to set any goals. I have some projects underway in which the timing is not up to me, and I’m afraid seeing the goals written down in black and white will put a burden on me that I don’t want. So since it is my list and my rules, I choose not to mess around with it in 2009. My time then will be open-ended and I can just flow with what is and what isn’t. After all, I’ve got time.

* * * * * * * * * *
Finally, my friend Nancy in San Francisco, after reading my Relativity I, II and III blogs, said she is just amazed at how much I remember of my childhood, that she certainly does not have those kinds of memories of her childhood. And I told her that may be so, but she needs to know there are some days I can’t remember what I’ve had for breakfast that morning, so it all balances itself out in the end!

Thursday, January 1, 2009


And finally...

There are three big differences in what we children experienced outdoors. First, I can not remember my growing up years without connecting them to an alley that ran the length of our city block behind the houses. Alleys had a multitude of uses. One was that we got to watch our neighbors decapitate chickens for their dinner – one neighbor using a swift swing of the axe, and the other neighbor providing a more dramatic scenario of wringing the chicken’s neck. The alley was also for carrying on sneak attacks of water bombs on the kids from the “other side” of the alley. We called ourselves the “allies” and them the “axis” and from that one can read that this all took place during the WWII. But the best use of the alley was to “trash dig,” although my mother constantly admonished my sister and I not to do it because we would get a horrible disease from the trash cans. We did it anyway and never got a disease; nor did we ever find anything disgusting, but we did find lots of treasures – old pots and pans, broken figurines, books and sometimes old decks of cards).

The second difference from then and now is that there were still vacant lots in neighborhoods and mostly we used those vacant lots to build forts on. We could scrounge up old 2x4s, leftover Christmas trees and the like, which we placed around the outside of a good sized hole we would dig. We didn’t use the fort for anything in particular, but the fun was in the building. And after a good rain, the weeds and grass in the vacant lot would grow tall and we could pull out fistfuls of weeds with big dirt clods hanging on the bottom. We then would have one major dirt-clod fight. Oh how mother hated us to do this, but it was what kids did in vacant lots after a rain, and she just had to grin and bear it and wash our hair and clothes when we got through and tell us not to do that again..

The last thing that was different from now is that it was safe to play outside in vacant lots and alleys and out of sight of our house and our parents. Society was safer and kinder then, and kids could run free, improvise, create and enjoy in a way that at least in cities today is no longer possible. Outside we had palm tree limbs to swing from, sprinklers to run though in the summer, tricycles, bicycles, scooters and roller-skates, home make stilts or cans with ropes to use for walking “high” above the sidewalk, trees and roofs to climb on, and big lawns for us to put our croquet courts on.

Besides reading, which definitely was my sister and my very most favorite thing to do, was to play with paper dolls. We had dozens of them, mostly of women and children. We loved to design clothing for them. I had paper dolls probably until I was 12 but in those days 12 was still a child, not a Lolita-like nymphet. We played jacks a lot, both at home and at school. I don’t remember playing them after the age of 10, though. And although we always had marbles, we didn’t shoot them, we just counted and admired and traded. We played with a jump rope, played hopscotch and blind-man’s bluff.

Daddy had a rock collection and we spent a lot of time looking at all the different types of rocks, learning about them and later on acquiring some of our own from a nearby rock store, although Ginnie Lou was certainly more serious about this than I was.

Mother always made sure we had a Walter Foster drawing book so we could practice our drawing. Neither Ginnie nor I could draw worth a darn but we tried our hand at everything Mother gave us. I recall feeling that surely I could master cartooning if I just followed the steps in Walter Foster’s cartooning book but it just never happened. Art escaped us, as attested by the various greeting cards that we made for our parents and that were memorialized in a scrapbook that mother kept. Our poetry was only slightly better than our art. If those scrapbooks are accurate, there would seem to have been a time in our lives that we thought in rhymes. And wrote them down for posterity. Doggerel, they were, for sure.

We didn’t listen to the radio until about 4:45 in the afternoon, which is when the serials came on. There was nothing of interest to a kid on the radio in the daytime. But at 4:45 each day we plopped ourselves down in front of the radio and listened to Jack Armstrong, The Lone Ranger, Red Ryder and a few other 15-minute serials. Once dinner was over the adult programs started again and we were back to our playing.

By the time my kids were born, there was television to entertain them. Yes, they had toys and yes, they played outside with them. But their lives were shaped by television and I believe they learned by example much more than we did. Ginnie and I made up our own fun, but my kids had their entertainment available to them at the flick of a switch. For better or worse.

As 2009 begins, it is good to look back at so many good things in our lives – things that shaped us and help make us who we are. And of course it is good to look ahead and see all the good things we have in life now that make our lives so much easier than our folks had it. How lucky we are to live in America and to have a bold new President taking us into the future. I guess it all gets down to Counting our Blessings, doesn’t it?