Sunday, May 31, 2009



"Our target that day was Hanover, Germany. Right after bombs away we received three close hits that not only knocked out number 4 engine and caught number 3 engine on fire but also injured my co-pilot in the right leg and my bombardier also wounded in the upper leg. We went from 27,000 feet to approximately 5,000 feet in a spin. As we got it under control at 5,000 feet the fire went out on number 3 and we were able to feather it. By throwing out most of our equipment we were able to maintain altitude across the North Sea. The crew took care of the wounded and the co-pilot stayed in his seat to help me control the aircraft.

When the crew inspected the aircraft prior to trying to land my ball turret gunner told me that the left main gear was partially hanging down and was held on by hydraulic lines only. I couldn't get any indication of gear condition so the engineer tried to crank it down. It still didn't come down and I elected to land it in that condition as I couldn't have gone around after an approach and sure as hell didn't want to bail out when I might be able to save it. I made a good landing as far as it goes until I lost control speed.

At that time we started swerving off of the runway to the right. I was headed toward another B-17 which was parked and could do nothing about it. My navigator saw what was about to happen and threw himself over the bombadier to protect him. The wing tip of the other plane came in through the nose of the aircraft and hit my navigator in the face, caving his face in from the eyebrow to his chin. Out of the nine crew members that were aboard, six walked away. They had to sedate me after this one. Col. Preston called me in - had a long talk with me and stopped me from grounding myself. But you know, during this talk there was no mention of a DFC but he did suggest a 48-hour pass! We were back on duty and flew another mission six days later on August 13, 1944."

Crew members were

Pilot - 1/Lt Byrd W. Ryland
Co-Pilot - 1/Lt James C. Denny
Navigator - 2/Lt Harry A. Braswell
Bombadier - 2/Lt Harold Frankle
Engineer - Sgt Joe V. Jewell
Radio Operator - Cpl Bernard L. Dolan
Ball Turret Gunner - Cpl. Herbert O. Lawton
Waist Gunner - Cpl Charles D. Bush
Tail Gunner - Cpl Harold V. Lehman

Byrd "Bert" Ryland was my uncle.


Saturday, May 30, 2009


There is nothing as tasty and easy as throwing together a good soup. The following recipe is one of those that begs to be tried.


1 14-1/2 oz can chicken broth
1-3/4 cups water
1/2 pound already-cooked boneless chicken cut
into bite sized pieces
1 to 2 tsp chili powder
1 11-oz can whole kernel corn with sweet peppers,
1 cup chunky garden-style salsa
3 cups corn tortilla chips, broken into bite size
2 oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese

In a 3 quart saucepan, combine water, chicken
broth, chicken and chili powder. Cover and simmer
for 8 minutes. Add corn. Simmer uncovered for 5
minutes more. Stir in salsa. Heat through.

Ladle soup in bowls, top with chips and sprinkle with
cheese. Makes 4 servings.

Once you see how simple this is to make (and how good to eat) you can play around with the ingredients. You can use cumin instead of chili powder. You can add diced avocado as soon as it comes off the stove. You can add sliced green onions to it.

I always serve it with a big bowl of extra tortilla chips on the table, because I like to keep dropping more chips into the soup as I eat it.

The soup is a hit at our house. Why not give it a try?

Friday, May 29, 2009


September of 1947 was the year all of us from Whittier Elementary School in Long Beach, California moved into Hamilton Junior High as 7th graders. The kids in the two higher grades called us “scrubs,” which we would remain throughout our first year. I’m sure they meant it as a derogatory term, but we scrubs really felt proud that we were away from the little kids and headed toward being counted as a real teenager.

One of the mandatory classes that first year included studying the history of Long Beach. In elementary school we didn’t give much thought to our home town. We had studied about Indians and California Missions in the upper grades, but now, at least for that first semester of our 7th grade we would be learning about how Long Beach became Long Beach.

Our scout troop was still active and for the most part we still considered each other as our “best friends.” Some of the girls, those who had matured a little faster than others, were starting to become interested in “boys.” There were school dances to look forward to, and those more mature girls couldn’t wait to participate in them, even if they were held after school instead of at night. The rest of us were doing just what we had always been doing – which in the case of the three girls above was to form a “club.” What was the club about? We called it the Willmore Memorial Club, so called after William Erwin Willmore, founder of Long Beach and who was buried in a nearby cemetery on the slopes of Signal Hill.

Although I can’t remember for sure, apparently there were no other kids in our circle of friends who were so intensely interested in Long Beach History as we were. Either that, or we decided to be exclusive and keep our “boy-crazy” friends out. I just can’t remember. The picture above is of the founding (and only) members of the WMC. I am on the left, Dorothy Allen in the middle, and Rosalie “Ro” Lorenzen on the right.

What we had learned about Long Beach was that in 1881, real estate developer William Erwin Willmore entered into a lease provided by Jotham Bixby. The lease had an option to buy 4000 acres which was to be developed into a city and agricultural community along the coast. The township of Willmore City was established in 1882 and was promoted throughout the United States. Unfortunately, the response was dismal and two years later, there were only about a dozen homes.

In 1884, the Long Beach Land & Water company bought out Willmore's lease option and the city was renamed Long Beach. Willmore's unique design and layout of the city, however, was not discarded and the extra wide streets and Lincoln Park are still in existence today. The city of Long Beach was incorporated in July of 1887.

For three young studious “scrubs,” knowing this history of our town was enough reason to form a Willmore Memorial Club. Our meetings, which were called every week or so, consisted of a pilgrimage from the school up to the cemetery, a very walkable trip, and then paying homage at Willmore’s gravesite. Once that was done, we photographed tombstones and then headed down the hill for home.

At one time we discussed whether or not we should adopt some kind of a uniform, but that idea went by the wayside. The WMC didn’t last long, as we were discovering lots of other possibilities open to junior high school kids – extracurricular activities such as band and orchestra, and sports events. The Willmore Memorial Club eventually disappeared, but the three of us – Dot, Ro and me – still see each other on occasion and one of us always mentions the WMC. We get a good laugh out of it.

I must tell you a related story. Some years ago shortly after Jerry and I were married we went to some kind of banquet held in Long Beach, and to warm up the group (as I recall there were a lot of awards to be given out and because it was going to be a little boring, we thought, the Master of Ceremonies had a list of questions to read. He wanted people who knew the answer to jump up and shout it out. First one up got something like a pat on the back – it was all in good fun, of course. Some of the questions were easy, some very challenging. Finally he asked, “Who knows the name of the Founder of Long Beach?” Two hundred of us sat in that room and no one knew the answer. No one, that is, but me. Finally I got brave enough to stand up and shout, “William Erwin Willmore.” The fellow acknowledged that my answer was correct and wanted to know how I knew that. I did not tell him about the WMC club; I think I just mumbled something about learning it in school. I don’t do things like that well. But I just couldn’t let that bit of knowledge pass unstated. I didn’t win $100 or anything else except a ribbing from my husband’s co-workers. But I do admit to a little self-satisfaction that I knew a little piece of trivia that 199 other people didn’t know.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Before I ever made my first trip to Hawaii, several of my children had already been there for one reason or another – the Navy, a graduation present, to visit friends, and so forth. And actually, most of my friends also had been there on a vacation once or twice. So when in 1984 Jerry and I settled on a two week trip to those “magic” isles, thanks to the use of a company timeshare with one week in Honolulu and a second week in Maui, I was really primed to go and enjoy myself at long last.

I really didn’t know much about Hawaii but on top of my “must do” list was a luau at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. This was what my dreams were made of, and even if I did nothing else I would be satisfied with fulfilling that one dream.

Looking back on those two weeks I have to chuckle; while in the long run we accomplished everything we wanted to do, we did have some minor mishaps getting to that point. The first happened on our first evening there. The timeshare was at a high-rise smack in the middle of Waikiki, along a street near the beach that was lined with other high rises. For me it was a perfect place to stay. I love cities, and the crowds of people of all races and nationalities excited me. We arrived and took possession of our room, which unfortunately was on the back side of the hotel and looked over land, not sea. We opened our suitcases and put all our clothing on hangers. We peeled off our now-too-warm California clothing and slipping into our nightwear. Then came the long awaited Sunset Cocktail and pupus. We kicked back on the balcony and prepared to enjoy our first lovely nightfall in Hawaii and then ….our phone rang. It was the management company for the timeshare, notifying us that the particular unit we were in had just gone into bankruptcy and we would have to move to a different apartment. You can imagine our chagrin.

We were shown to a new apartment, this one on the front side of the building overlooking a major street and beyond, the sea. As we began the process of relocating into this new unit, we discovered it was woefully lacking in most of the amenities -- not only bereft of kitchen utensils and linens, but cleanliness. Another contact with management corrected those conditions, and we settled in. But the next morning at 7 o’clock, instead of awaking to the tunes of Aloha Oe, we were regaled with jackhammers, which heralded a weeklong repair of the street in front of our hotel. The buildings lining the street acted as a funnel for the sounds of the jackhammers, and for the entire week it seemed as if they were working right outside our window.

The following week when we moved to Maui, we were in an entirely different environment, a lovely resort-type apartment on the waterfront, but our apartment there again was on the street side and that street too was under repair, unfortunately right outside our window. The only time it bothered us at either place was early in the morning if we tried to sleep in. However, it did take a little something away from the ambiance of the trade winds!

Back in Waikiki, though, our first duty after arrival was go to the Royal Hawaiian and get tickets for the first available Luau, which turned out to be on Thursday evening. We showed up at the right place and the right time in our best Luau get-up, only to discover that it was billed as “Country Western Night at the Royal Hawaiian” and for the entire evening we saw hulas done by Cowgirls and ukulele songs played with steel guitars. “Blue Hawaii” was sung by Johnny Cash look-alikes.

I LOATHE COUNTY WESTERN MUSIC, so much that on a phone call if I am put on hold and country-western music plays in my ear, I hang up. To say that I was horribly disappointed in my hope for a romantic Hawaiian luau is an understatement. Yes, we stayed, because it cost us an arm and a leg, but it was certainly the biggest disappointment of the trip.

Luckily, we were able to have a semblance of the real thing when we went to the Polynesian Cultural Center on the other side of the island. It was everything I had hoped I would find at the Royal Hawaiian, so it somewhat mitigated my disappointment. And of course the most important memory that still lingers in my mind is the visit to the USS Arizona, a somber, respectful reminder of an infamous moment in our country’s history.

I also brought back a renewed love for the ukulele that I played in junior and senior high school, as well as a discovery of Hawiian music sung, played and sometimes written by the Cazimero Brothers, whose tapes I still play when I’m on a trip down memory aisle. My dream is to get all their music on CDs instead of the old tapes that I still use. Things don’t always turn out exactly the way I expect, but in this case I truly did come home with a smile on my face and a challenge to get strummin’ on the old uke again. And lots of funny things to remember scattered among the good memories I have of the Islands.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Oh, it is another new word today. How I love new, delicious words.

How is this one: BOMBINATE: To buzz, to hum; to drone. It comes from a Latin word meaning “a boom.” And the second “b” is pronounced - bom-bin-ate.

Examples of its use are as follows:

“He is often drunk. His head hurts. Snatches of conversation, remembered precepts, prefigured cries of terror bombinate about his skull.”

“Sometimes the computer bombinates way into the night, stops for a bit of rest, then resumes its hum at the early hours of the morning.”

Oh my gosh! I like this word almost as much as I liked “peculate.”

Perhaps the reason I like it is that I personally have experienced both uses. For the first example although I was not often drunk I did have one spectacular episode when I was in that lost time after my divorce and didn’t know how to drink. As many of you know, I married Joe when I was not yet 21 and we were not drinkers, though we did on occasion have a beer. After we’d been married for a few years we tossed our lot in with an evangelical church and at that point we didn’t drink at all. So after my divorce when I would have one of the rare dates (not many man wanted to date a woman with 4 young children), we often went to dinner and then dancing afterwards. It only took one time of drinking and then experiencing a bout of bombination for me to get hold of myself and vow that it would never happen again. And it didn’t. (Brendan, are you listening?)

But also while I was sitting here at my daughter’s computer this morning (I'm in Los Angeles house-sitting)readying to log on, I once again realized how much noise her computer setup makes. It sounds like someone in the neighborhood is mowing their lawn... and mowing...and mowing. It has a faint hum with a pitch that waivers up and down. They have way too much hooked up to it for me to figure out just what or why it is doing this. (Well, I learned early on anyway not to ask “why” a computer does anything, because even if someone knows, you’ll never understand their answer.) Anyway, that little foray of thought reminded me that when I first got on the internet back in 1997 I had a dial up modem. Not knowing much about the internet, or my computer either for that matter, I set it so that AOL would send out all my e-mails at 2 a.m. I don’t know why I did that. I guess I thought one was supposed to do it that way. But in the middle of the night I was awakened by my computer automatically using my dial-up modem by itself and then sending all my e-mail before shutting itself down again.

Now that isn’t quite what the second example above is talking about, but I think anything the computer does while a body is not sitting at the controls can be considered some form of bombinating.

So there is my word for the day – and a special thanks to the people who wrote those very interesting sentences that caused me to reflect on things past. Be assured that I will be adding bombinate to my vocabulary and will be eagerly waiting for just the right opportunity to use it!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


One of the most dynamic things we saw when we were in Turkey was at a museum in Antalya. The pretty mediterranean city of Antalya is mostly noted as a resort town and the place where the Blue Cruises originate. When Jerry and I knew we would be leaving Turkey sometime in the late fall of 1992, we decided to take a weekend trip to Antalya, as it was in an area that we had previously not investigated. We were there after the summer season, and since we were not of a mind to throw ourselves on a beachtowel and work on our tans, we used the time for sightseeing. Antalya is not particularly known for its museums, but there was one we just couldn't pass by. We had heard and read about their Gallery of the Gods, and that is what we decided to see on our first day there.

To say it was stunning is an understatement. To do the museum justice, what you read below is from Frommer's website and will give you an idea of the treasures that this smallish museum has in it.

If you do only one cultural thing in Antalya, make it this. Antalya province is endowed with one of the richest cultural heritages in Turkey, and much of it can be seen at this museum. More than 5,000 archaeological works are displayed in 14 thought-provoking exhibit halls. The Prehistory section includes an amazing collection of artifacts recovered from the Karain Cave at Burdur -- the largest inhabited cave in Turkey, with findings dating back 50,000 years and representing the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic, and Bronze ages. The Gallery of the Gods gives you the chance to walk among the protagonists of classic mythology, through grand statues of Zeus, Apollo, Athena, Aphrodite, and the like, followed by statues of the emperor/gods Hadrian and Traian in the Roman Room. The Sarcophagus Gallery is a rich exhibition of intricately carved tombs, one of which was considerately returned by the J. Paul Getty Museum, after having found its way out of the country. There are also small but important exhibitions featuring the Byzantine period, which houses a collection of religious icons, and the Selçuk and Ottoman periods, where you'll find ceramic artifacts, calligraphy, copper, carvings, and carpets. The Antalya Museum devotes an entire room to coins; the chronological display represents 2,500 years of Anatolian history. Considering that this is such a rich collection

Jerry and I spent an entire day there. And we would return for another look in a heartbeat. We are not sorry we missed lolling around in the sun on the beautiful beach with turquoise water at our toe-tips; what we saw in that amazing museum and what we learned that day was plenty good enough for us.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


There was a big article today on Glassy Winged Sharpshooters in the “Local” section of our newspaper. I found the name so peculiar that I just had to read the whole section in order to find out just what this bug was shooting at. I eventually learned the answer, but not in the article.

This particular bug is a nasty one if you own a vineyard. Ten years ago, a grapevine-killing virus threatened to wipe out the vineyards of our Temecula Valley Wine country. Seems the Napa Valley got hit pretty hard too. More than 1,000 acres of Northern California vineyards were lost between 1994 and 2000.

The bug is native to the southeastern US and northeastern Mexico and it has a “favorite food” list of more than 100 plants, including citrus crops and vineyards. What happens is that the sharpshooters suck on the plant and in the process transmit a bacterium that clogs the vine’s water-conducting system. It also lays eggs on the plants and keeps the cycle going. Within three to five years, the vines’ leaves turn brown and the plants wither and die.

University of California Riverside is conducting a study to find ways to combat this destructive disease and the exceptionally pesty pest.

While the entire article was quite interesting, it did not clear up for me the bug’s name. I could figure out on my own why it was called Glassy-Winged (DUH!) But I had to do some further searching to find out what the “Sharpshooter” referred to.

And here’s the end of the story: Both nymphs and adults filter a huge volume of dilute liquid through their digestive system to extract the trace nutrients, and much of the water and carbohydrates are squirted forcibly away from the body in a fine stream of droplets, thus earning them their “sharpshooter” title.

I was a little disappointed. After taking a whole page of reading and another fifteen minutes of checking out sources on the internet, I hoped at least to find that the bug did something like grasping its tail, pulling it around to the front of its body and aiming it at something, like a sharpshooter of the old west. But no. No such drama. Nothing more than what seems like emitting a bit of body fluid out of its back end. That’s not a sharpshooter in my book. I feel misled.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


The picture above is of author Richard S. Wheeler. He is one of my favorite authors. He writes good books. Let me back up a bit...

You all know that I am a "reader." I like a good novel and I like non-fiction. I like biographies, autobiographies, histories, historical fiction, Maybe it would be easier to say what I don't like: I don't like poetry because I don't understand it, and I don't read romance novels. On occasion I'll find something that falls into a Science fiction or a fantasy genre that I can tolerate, and some westerns, as long as they are written by Richard S. Wheeler. He is considered a "western writer" but since my introduction to his books was with his book on the San Francisco earthquake, I've found it hard to pin the label of his books as being "Western." Anyway, probably most of you are not familiar with his works, so I've taken the liberty of posting reviews (and their sources) on the blog today so you can think seriously about reading his works. I'm a sucker for a good story, and this man really tells a good one! These are easily read, easily understood and easily obtainable. Go ahead, make your day by reading some of his good works:

Again depicting characters with frailties as well as heroic qualities, the prolific Wheeler's 25th novel (after Aftershocks) is a sprightly romp of revisionist western history. In 1919, legendary gunfighter Bat Masterson is a 64-year-old New York City sportswriter who suddenly becomes worried about the inglorious and mostly false reputation he has endured for decades…. Accompanied by his common-law wife, Emma, Bat decides to return to Dodge City, Tombstone and Denver to clear his name and to establish that he killed only one man, who richly deserved it, and that he is really a nice fellow if folks would just get to know him. This journey is a hoot as the old lawman finds that the public wants the legend, not the truth. When Bat visits his old friend Wyatt Earp in L.A., he meets actor William S. Hart and learns about why western films are so popular in Hollywood. Bat reminisces with Emma and a few old saddle pals, but finally gives up his quest when he realizes that folks want mythic, infamous heroes, and "you may as well sit back and enjoy the ride because there's no way to get off the train." This is classic Wheeler, a solid story about real people told with wit, compassion and a bit of whimsy. (Review by Publisher’s Weekly)

Wheeler jumps ahead a few years to the San Francisco earthquake. The cataclysm that leveled the city on April 18, 1906, was one of the greatest disasters of modern times, and Wheeler portrays its impact upon the high, the mighty, the desperate, and the scoundrels: people like Ginger Severance, the missionary with a heart of stone; Carl Lubbich, the corrupt city engineer who learns too late the price of his own venality; Harrison White, an ambitious architect who sees the making of his career in the ruins of a city; and the bohemian Katharine Steinmetz, whose idle photographs become keys to the city's rebirth. Real-life figures such as Caruso and Jack London also make their appearance, although the true star of this history is the city itself, as it struggles to survive the wrath of Nature and God. Formulaic in the extreme, but the local color and historical detail move the story briskly on its way. Wheeler writes to entertain, and he succeeds admirably in his task. (Review by Publisher’s Weekly)

Picking up at the end of their journey, the Lewis and Clark Expedition arrives at the city of St. Louis tired and filthy from their multi-year trek. While deftly alternating chapters between the first-person voice of Meriwether Lewis and the perspective of William Clark, the personalities of both men are beautifully drawn. The well-educated, wife-seeking Lewis wrestles with his guilt over having succumbed to his lust with a Shoshone woman while basking in the glory of his new fame. His night of passion has caused him to contract syphilis and his slow physical and mental degeneration results in an addiction to laudanum. William Clark is also shown with all his flaws. As he courts his young bride and begins a family, he must contend with the increased independence of York, his slave, who was treated as an equal member of the exploration party and now chafes at the return of his role of servant and property. The author based this novel on the new interpretations of research into Meriwether Lewis and the strange behavior witnessed prior to his mysterious death. Excellent author notes at the end of the book detail the research process behind these findings. (Reviewed by Courtney Lewis – KLIATT)

In case you want to read more about him, he's where he can be found:

Friday, May 22, 2009


You all know about Murphy’s law: “If anything can go wrong, it will.” I believe there is a corollary to that: “Nothing will be completed with only one try; if it does, you are allowed to faint.”

The first inkling I had of this was when we were in Turkey. A very large “membership” box store had arrived in town, much on the order of Costco but even larger. Our young driver had suggested to us that we might want to join it, as we were having to buy all kinds of things for the furnishing of our flat and being able to find many of them in one place would be an advantage. He said he would call the store and find out what was needed to join. He gave us the list of what the store membership department said we would need to take with us, and we set about collecting the information.

On the day we set aside for the trip, Ahmet picked us up, ascertained that we had everything we needed and off we went. The big box store was on the far side of the oldest area of the city, and we were on the far end of the newest area. The drive from our place to the big box store was on a “ring road” that made a huge arc between the two areas and it took almost an hour’s drive to get from our house to the store.

We arrived at the store and laid out our documents as requested. We were turned down. We were turned down, Ahmet told us, because we did not have a little booklet from the Belediye meclisi – or the town council in the area of the city (Goztepe) where we lived. Ahmet asked why they hadn’t told us that. The answer he received was, “You didn’t ask.” They were adamant. No booklet, no membership. Those at Jerry’s place of employment who were setting thing up for us had just not gotten around yet to getting done this bit of bureaucratic trivia. It took about 2 weeks to clear up, and finally Big Box allowed us to join.

That was in 1992. It took a while for my corollary to make its way to the United States, but in recent years I’ve discovered that it is almost impossible to get anything done in only one shot. If you buy something and start to install it, you will find that you need XXXX. If you go to the bank to open an account, you will need something that is at home. If you are promised that pants you have taken to the cleaners for altering will be done on Thursday, they will not be ready when you arrive and necessitate a trip back on Friday. If you need five items from the drug store, they will only have 4 of them. Honest to God, anymore it takes at least two tries to get any one thing done.

I hate to admit this, but I think the e-world has caused this to happen. As much as I hate to say it, I believe computers and allied e-equipment have so overburdened us with multitasking and information that as a culture we are losing the ability to focus our attention like we used to. I have lowered my expectations because my aggravation level was getting way too high. Now I just assume I will have to do something twice before it is done, and I have given up on expecting a “doing it right the first time” result so I am much less aggravated now. I may not like it, but I know I can’t do a darn thing about it, so I have simply stopped sweating it!

What brought this diatribe about is that I am changing my internet connection from one provided by our apartment complex to AT&T. It’s a little more expensive, but at least it will be more reliable than the one we’ve been using, one whose latest problem ended up with having no internet for 3 days. So AT&T sent me the equipment and instructions and said that my equipment could be set up any time after Tuesday night at 8 p.m. But nothing works the way it should, and not all the phone calls in the world have elicited from AT&T any indication of when I will be able to get connected. It’s the old “we’ll call you within 3 hours” that doesn’t happen; then “You’ll hear from us in 1 to 8 hours,” but no phone call ever comes.

So I’m sure it is the corollary hard at work.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I don't remember how I came to own it; probably I sent in a cereal box top and twenty-five cents. It was called an "Atom Ring," and for me, a skinny, shy ten year old girl, the ring was magic. The time was toward the end of World War II.

The ring had a bullet-shaped "Atom-holder" mounted on top of it. To see the atoms one would pull a cap off one end of the bullet and peer into a small piece of glass that fitted like a lens inside the half still attached to the ring. It was inside this half that the atoms could be seen.

You would have to take the ring to a dark place -- a closet or inner hallway -- and then hold it close to your eye. If you looked carefully, you could see little white sparks whizzing around inside the bullet. I shared the ring with my teacher at school and with my school friends. No one made fun of me or told me that I was imagining things, because everyone could see very plainly that there were, indeed, atoms in the ring. They were there, like a display of shooting stars.

Thinking back on it, I cannot imagine what it was that I was seeing. It wasn't atoms, of course, but certainly it was something, not just my imagination. That ring was my most prized possession and I felt important for having such a wonderful thing.

My closest friend sent for one of the rings, too, and this was enough reason in those days to form a club. The two of us had weekly meetings; we put dues of 5 cents in a black bank I owned. We could withdraw money for penny candy but had to sign our name on a paper and place a drop of our blood next to it. To us this was serious business, for we had atoms in our possession.

Eventually my bullet fell off the ring and I placed it for safekeeping in that black bank alongside the red-splotched paper and the noisy nickels. My best friend and I joined the Girl Scouts and the atom club faded out of our lives. As I grew out of the cereal box top stage and into my teen years, I gave many of my childhood toys away, but the ring always remained safe in that black bank. Even after the key got lost I could pick the lock open when I wanted to see if the atoms were still whizzing around. And they always were.

Somewhere during my dating years I forgot all about the ring and the bank. College, marriage and babies took up the future, and I never thought about the ring again.

Many years later, sometime after my daughter Bryn left for college, I was sorting through the years of accumulated trivia in her room and I thought again of my atom ring and wondered what ever happened to it. Probably during one of her yearly spring cleanings my mother tossed it out, just as I was doing with some of my own daughter's childish leftovers.

It would be fun to have that ring today, because I certainly would enjoy an adult look into it. I have no doubt that the atoms I saw as a child would still would be whizzing around inside. I would like to share it with my children and grandchildren, letting them touch a small bit of the past. And best of all, perhaps they could feel with me some of the magic of that time so long ago, when cereal box tops provided treasures of metal instead of plastic, when clubs and candy could be had for nothing more than a pinprick of blood, and when the only things children knew of atoms were that they were confined to rings.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


As many of you know, in 2006 Jerry had an “ostomy.” We belong to a support group of people (who are referred to as “Ostomates”) with colostomies, ileostomies or urostomies that meets monthly. What most of you don’t know is that ostomy supplies are very expensive, and lucky is the person who has either Medicare or private insurance to help defray the cost. There are many companies that make ostomy products and the choice of what to use depends entirely on what works best with your own skin, with your own type of ostomy and what you find the easiest and best to use and look at! Caring for an ostomy, not to mention living with one, can be fraught with day to day nearly unanswerable questions of “how come?” or “why?” or “what do I do now?” This is why the support group is so invaluable, because there almost always are others who have walked that road before and can give us some guidance. Theoretically there are trained ostomy nurses that one can contact, but in actuality they are few and far between, are limited by restrictions placed on them by insurance companies, and their ranks are thinning.

For people who have Medicare or other insurance plans, the quantities they must order at any one time are dictated by their plan. For Medicare, it is a three-month supply of equipment. Most everyone knows that people with ostomies require a collection bag or pouch that is worn on the outside of the body in the abdominal area and that is secured to the body by an temporary adhesive “plate.” This equipment can either be in a single unit or a two-piece unit that seals together with a Tupperware-like seal. What I have found amazing is that for the most part the adhesive really does stick well to the body, and trying to peel it off when it is time to change the pouch can be a real tough job. However, what happens sometimes is that the body develops an allergic reaction to the adhesive and it becomes necessary to switch to a product from a different company until something is found that the body will accept. Not doing so may mean the pouch simply falls off the body or the irritation begins breaking down the skin.

Products that have suddenly become unusable by an ostomate are often donated to our support group, and of course there is also an occasional donation of items because of a death. By keeping a supply of unused, donated products on hand, our support group can step in and help people who must use a pouch but do not have any insurance to help defray the cost, which is really, really expensive. Our support-group’s secretary has been keeping these supplies in her house, but it was hard for her to keep track of just exactly what we had on hand, as she also maintains a business out of her home. Jerry offered to inventory the supplies and make a computerized list of what we have. Once put on her computer, she could keep the list current and will know at a glance what we have available to provide, if needed. Jerry made it clear to her that he would have to do this at her house, as we did not have room in our apartment for the supplies.

However, at last Sunday’s meeting the secretary brought four tubs full of supplies for Jerry to bring home to inventory. Apparently she just forgot the plan. He and I were both shocked but there was no sense in having her drag them all back home again, so we just rolled our eyes at each other and piled the boxes in the car. Once home, the option was to put them in the middle of the living room floor, or put them in my office.

All this is a preamble to what I intended to say in today’s blog. My office might as well have a sign on it that says “STORAGE FACILITY.” Sitting around the perimeter of this small room are our gardening tools, a chest of drawers which contains all of our linens, two legal size file cabinets, two bookcases that take up 5’ of space, a round table that holds the phone and a lamp, a 30” small bookcase, a large foldable pet cage, and a vacuum cleaner. My clothes closet is behind the file cabinets! Within the space in the center is my L-shaped desk, computer, printer, scanner, a case of 10 reams of paper, a cat carrier, several archive boxes containing files that won’t fit into the metal file cabinets, a small cart laden with tape transcriber, a borrowed scanner, a few empty boxes that I need to save for whatever one needs a box for, my craft holder, and two 24-can Coke cases. Added to that now are all the ostomy supply boxes that Jerry and I will inventory – he at the boxes and me at the computer.

Why do I tell you all this? I want you to commiserate with me for having such a distressing office. I have been working so hard to clear things out, to get things in our little apartment to a workable quantity. And it seems the harder I work, the more comes. The picture below is of the ostomy supplies and the corner into which they have been shoved. My whole room looks like this now. There is a teeny tiny possibility that we can accomplish the inventory before Sunday. If we don’t, it will have to wait until June 1 to be tackled. I think I may have mentioned before that Jerry’s most valued contribution to my modus operandi has been to help me stop fussing and just methodically get things done. It will be done when it is done, he says. And he is right. After almost 34 years of married life, I still need to remind myself of this daily, because at heart I am a fusser. So I know this too shall pass. But I still like to have people commiserate with me!

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Have you ever had a “spa” pedicure? It sounds much more elegant than it really is, but it means sitting in a cushy reclining chair that vibrates and has rollers giving your back a good Rolfing while you are having your feet gussied up. If you don't want to pay for the fancy pedicure, the other option is sitting in a swiveling secretary-type chair and crimping your knees up so your feet will fit on a little stool in front of the pedicurist, which for an old lady can be awfully uncomfortable. Anyway, lying on a vibrating chair is certainly more my style.

So imagine my surprise the day I opened the newspaper and found a story on Page One about a new “Pet Depot” in La Verne, accompanied by a big photo showing a white rat lying on her back, feet extended, with a groomer nipping at her toenails. The white rat named Jewel got the full treatment, the article said. Her body was sprayed with a waterless shampoo and then rubbed down with a flea and mite removal product. The pedicurist says trimming their nails is the most difficult part of the rat’s standing monthly appointment. “They have very small feet,” she says by way of clarification. She also says the rat smells good when she goes home.

I also should clarify that the rat was not in a vibrating chair but instead was lying on her back in her owner’s hands. The grooming session is a bargain at $10.

At the time I hoped that Associated Press would pick up this story and that some of the TV stations would find it worthy of a few minutes of discussion by the talking heads. I laughed myself silly at the pictures that accompanied the article, though the subject itself, even without photos, was worthy of a huge guffaw. I never saw the story anywhere else, so I guess AP thought it was too frivolous for today's intense world. In trying to find a copy of the rat picture on the internet, I found pictures of fish performing pedicure duties in a tank of water containing the toes of a young woman (toes hooked on to her leg, of course.) But no rat having its "day at the spa."

From time to time I think about finding a part time job but as yet haven’t found anything that tickled my fancy. The article says that no special education is needed for becoming a rat pedicurist but that it is learned from on-the-job training. So this is something I just might think about – rodent pedicurist might be an interesting and profitable thing to do in my waning years.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


I have often considered, when realistically reassessing what on earth I could change to make my little cramped apartment more functional, throwing everything out and substituting "Danish Modern" everything! The sleek and clean lines have always appealed to me, and at one time I had one wall of my house headed in that direction. But it just really never happened. Yet now, if my boat comes in, I think I will toss out all the cups in my cup collection, the busy floral print of my couch, the gee-gaw things in my curio cabinet and the country-style kitchen table, to name a few items. Out with the Early Salvation Army, in with the Danes.

But of course the ship isn't on the horizon and likely has been captured by the pirates, so I can only dream. I think I have mentioned in another blog just how small my miniscule bathroom is, and the other day when I opened up the LA Times and saw a whole-page layout on designer toilets, all of which were sleek and clean, I thought in my dreams that I might be able to use one in this apartment. My first choice, (above) while a little short on ambience, certainly seemed to have "BOBBY" written all over it. Look, another file drawer for my genealogy. Of course it is possible that the designer intended for that drawer to hold toilet paper and assorted items for one's ablutions, but I immediately saw GENEALOGY as its purpose.

My second choice, granted a little more esthetically pleasing, I think, was the egg-shaped toilet below. I am totally charmed by this toilet. The bidet I can do without, but the toilet really touches the "Danish" part of my soul. Having a toilet like this in my bathroom would please me greatly, and I would be much less likely to try to keep visitors to my little apartment from going into that postage-stamp sized room. I couldn't paint my walls red, as management would have a stroke, I'm sure, but perhaps I could buy bright red towels to hang around it.

In going online to try to find good pictures of these most-interesting toilets, I came upon all kinds of things about them. The picture below, if I understand the information online about it, is actually a public toilet in London. I think the egg-shape is a delightful touch, although I am not sure that anyone with even a tinch of claustrophobia wouldn't rather wet their pants than close themselves up in that egg. However, can't you just see big eggs like this being used as Porta-potties? It would be much more interesting seeing a bunch of them go down the freeway on the back of a truck to be delivered to a fair or perhaps to the men and woman doing community service along the freeways. No squarish PortaPotties any more; just sleek eggs!

But actually, now that I think of that scenario, I think there might be phone calls to the authorities about an invasion of the body-snatchers. Oh well.

Now the last thing I found on the net would obviously be for the person who had everything (or perhaps for the Madonna Inn). Take a look at this: a toilet by Herbeau.

Here is some of the promo listed on the internet site to explain what this design represents:

"As there was a French expression to go to the throne to say to go to the Toilets, Herbeau realized the combination between the Merovingian throne style and the holed armchair toilet of the XIXth century.

Merovingian is the king dynasty in FRANCE at 7th century and the most famous of them was DAGOBERT. There is a child song about this king who arrived at the minister’s council with his trousers on the wrong side. You obtain this music LE BON ROI DAGOBERT when you raise the lid.

When you pull the chain for the flush, you have a bell, which informs you that the operation has ended.

Included in the arm, you have the ashtray, and the candle is ready to help you in case of electricity breakage.

This throne highlights the toilets of many Restaurants and private homes around the world."

Now in case you are interested in this last one as a replacement for your old worn-out commode in your very large bathroom (it won't fit in mine), the cost has been reduced to just a little under $10,000.

Needless to say, but I say it with regret, I will not be Danishizing my apartment anytime soon, pirates notwithstanding, but at least I see now that if I did, I would certainly have a bunch of options to think about.

I have located some interesting tubs, too, but that will come at a later date.

Friday, May 15, 2009


In 1992 when we were staying in Amsterdam for a couple of months, we stumbled upon a papercutting museum. In it I saw some of the most amazing sights I had ever laid eyes on. I can’t remember which cut document I spied first – it might have been the Declaration of Independence, or the Gettysburg Address – but it was one of the “biggies” of American History and it was completely cut out of paper. That is, the words existed inside a paper frame but every bit of paper that wasn’t a letter was gone.

Let’s say you took a black marker and made a thin black edge around a sheet of 8-1/2” x 11” inch paper. Then in the middle of the page you drew a black line from one edge to the other, and then drew a large round ball in the center of that line. Your next step would be to cut away all the paper that wasn’t black and what is left would be called your “papercutting” design. Now that simple little thing wouldn’t be hard to do, but what you see at the top of this page is what papercutting really is all about! The design is cut out of a single paper and the design is in one piece. Nothing is glued together.

The Dutch museum we saw was filled with things that looked like old embroidered samplers, paper “documents” and beautiful floral drawings done with pen and ink, but were all cut out of paper. There were some of the most intricate designs I had ever seen – and they were all cut with either scissors or knives. I was totally fascinated. And dumbfounded, because I had never heard of the art of papercutting before.

Sometime after I returned from Amsterdam I found a craft book on papercutting. It seems that all cultures at one time or another have had papercutting as one of their art forms. I saw a couple of things in the book that I thought I might be able to do myself, so I kept the book on my shelf for when I could call my time my own.

A year or so down the road I decided to make very simple papercuttings for the female office staff where I worked. We exchanged small gifts at Christmas and I always tried to give something home-made. I made my little gifts using my handy Exacto knife and some very sharp blades. I bought 7 small frames. I found the word NOEL in a nice Christmasy font, enlarged it a bit on a photocopier, and then purchased 4 rolls of shiny wrapping paper – one each of red, green, blue and gold. I cut the paper to fit into the frames I was going to use, then very carefully cut the letters of NOEL out of the red, blue and green. I put that paper on top a solid sheet of the gold. Some were green and gold, some red and gold, etc. All the NOEL’s appeared as gold. Once done, they were placed in frames and wrapped. They looked suitably Christmasy and I gave them to my friends at Christmas. Everyone was duly impressed, but what I did was merely a baby-try at what papercutting really entails. It sounds easy, but I had to work very slowly, very carefully and very intensely. It was not fun at all, even though I was pleased at the results. However, I knew that from then on I would have to be merely an appreciator instead of an artistic paper-cutter.

I kept that book for a long time, loathe to give it up and loathe to try anything more. I finally gave it to my daughter Kerry, thinking perhaps when her girls were raised and she had a bit of spare time, she might want to give it a try. (She’s artier than I am).

I have found a website where the pictures on it are every bit as amazing as what I saw in that Dutch museum. However, I need to warn you it also is the most confusing website I have ever stumbled upon. Most of the time I end up looking at pictures of “Wolverines” but with patience I was able to finally see all their cuttings. I am hoping that the link I’ve given you below will take you to the exact place of the cuttings, and that any of you who want to see these unbelievably intricate works of art and keep running into the “Wolverines” will persevere in finding and staying in the right place. It will be worth the hunt.

So don’t take my word for it. Take a look and I think you’ll be just as shocked as I was at what some artists are able to do. Good luck, and enjoy.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


It's baby bird season at our place. We have several different kinds of bird feeders in front of our apartment unit, arranged so that we can sit inside our living room and see through the sliding glass door just who is having meals with us. We do not seem to have a plethora of varieties visiting us; it is mainly the ubiquitous sparrows, house finches and hummers, with an occasional female oriole, a single mockingbird, and in spring, a family of blackheaded grosbeaks. We have a resident phoebe, but of course it simply uses our feeder as a place from which to launch when he (or she) sees a flying meal go by. We get huge crows having shouting contests in the trees on the property and an occasional hawk looking for an interesting breakfast of small birds. One year we had a flock of cattle egrets march back and forth on the lawns clearing out the grubs, and this year we've had a group of starlings doing the same thing.

But for our little feeders, we mainly get the sparrows and the house finches. The sparrows are prolific breeders, and we love to watch the babies learn how to be birds. I call out a lot of instructions to the momma birds while they are tending to the little ones. Sometimes the little ones flutter their tiny wings and open their mouths and cheep when they see their mommas, but if momma doesn't feed them, they simply shut up and go on looking about for seeds on the ground anyway. But I still encourage the momma birds to be a little more attentive. No one likes a squalling baby!

When we moved in to this apartment we bought a small decorative cement fountain. If we had rigged some kind of pump up for it we would have had a nice "water fountain" but since we mostly wanted it for decor, we figured that wasn't necessary. However, we did set two custard-cups full of water in the bowl of the fountain, so the birds would have drinking water handy. What we have discovered is that that the sparrows also take their baths in the bowls of water.

I can't get close enough to them to take photos of all the thrashing and splashing that goes on in the custard bowl when the bathing starts. Sometimes there are as many as 5 or 6 sparrows trying to take baths at the same time. Water flies everywhere! However, the best of times comes when the new little fledglings get to the point of taking their first bath. These little guys are well on their way to becoming adults, except they still are very fat and puffy-looking. And sometimes their balance isn't all what it should be. The other day I watched a baby take his first bath. He did quite well until he got out of the cup and settled on the edge of the fountain to preen his feathers. He pulled a foot out from under a wing and tried to scratch his little head. He lost his balance and fell backwards into the bowl of the fountain. I did not think birds ever lost their balance, but this one did. He picked himself up and tried it again, with success this time. Jerry and I did a lot of laughing over that.

Most of the pictures I take of them are from inside the house and shot through the glass door and through the vertical venetian blinds that cover our apartment windows. If I pull the blinds out of the way, the birds can see us inside and will not even come to the seed bells. So my photos unfortunately have many distractions in them. However, for my own use it is worth it. You can see below one of the shots I got when the hawk decided he was ready for lunch. I was both fascinated and horrified. Once I got the picture, I ran outside, flapping my arms and yelling "NOT MY BIRDS!" as he flew away.

Once in a while we get a nice mourning dove that comes for a treat. It doesn't happen often, but when it does I worry considerably that the hawk is going to come after the dove (because that dove is slower than an old lady driving on the freeway). I always love it when the dove shows up and am relieved when it flies away.

Our Squeaky cat isn't as interested in the birds outside as one would think. If I were a cat, I'd perch up on the back of the davenport, where I could view all the birds and their provisions (a seed bell, a block of suet, hummingbird nectar and the fountain) and watch all day long. However, for the most part Squeaky pretty much ignores them. However, one day (for whatever reason I can't remember) I put a bowl of seed on my front porch and the birds had a party. I pulled the blind back, and little Squeaks found her own perch from which she could do some birdwatching of her own. For some reason the birds didn't fly away, and I think the picture I took was just about the cat's meow, blinds and glass notwithstanding.

Our little apartment has many limitation. But having birds so close at hand is a real plus.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


You will probably know at the first glance that this blog today is going to be about June bugs. A friend and I got talking about them last night and we both agree that the only good June bug is a dead June bug. I know, I know, even these revolting things appearing on earth have a purpose, but frankly, I don’t know if the June bug knows what its purpose is.

I can tell it what it’s purpose ISN’T. It ISN’T to fly into my hair and get tangled up, and then make a terribly loud and raspy and buzzing “todo” because it can’t find it’s way out. In fact, it more often than not thinks the ear canal is a tunnel to freedom. Oh ICK!

So after Patsy and I had this discussion, I wondered just what the purpose of June bugs was. Here’s what I found from a little bit of research.

First, the technical stuff. This "June bug" is a member of the scarab beetle family. Scarabs are stout beetles with large heads and pronotums. Many scarabs have beautiful metallic colors. Neither Webster or Dorland knew what a pronotum was but Google did: "Dorsal surface of the prothorax.” (You yourself can take it from here if you are really interested in a pronotum; I’m not). These beetles are nocturnal, coming to lights in great numbers. The adults feed on foliage of trees and shrubs and may cause significant damage when emerging in large numbers.

More revolting in appearance is the larvae, and in my youth I saw a great many of these and had no idea that they were anything but some weird kind of worm. The larvae (called white grubs) feed on the roots of grasses and other plants. To test for the presence of these beetles, one can drench an area of lawn with water and the larvae will emerge at the surface.

The grubs sometimes attack vegetables and other garden plants. Injury to the roots and rootstock causes small saplings and tender tap-rooted plants like lettuce to wilt suddenly or to show stunted growth and a tendency to shed leaves prematurely. Plants growing in rows are usually attacked in succession as the grubs move along from one plant to the next. Grubs feed below ground for 3-4 years before changing into adult beetles.

I also learned that fish can’t resist grubs on a hook, so if you want to insure fish for dinner, go find yourself some of the white grubs lurking in your soil. Gross!

Now here is something you might find coming in handy if you ever run short of food on a picnic or a hike: A chemical analysis of the June bug revealed it is full of edible fats and proteins, the bug is a rich source of food and appetite stimulating medicine when prepared correctly. When toasted in hot ashes, the internal body parts and juices of the bug congeal into a nugget of pure golden nutrition. After peeling off shriveled legs, wings, and wing case, the remaining orb of nourishment can be eaten one at a time or by the handful. Toasted June bugs have a surprisingly sweet delightful taste. The flavor closely resembles thick raw molasses or crudely made ribbon cane syrup. It is difficult to eat just one. (OH YEAH?!)

So you can see that the dreadful June bug does have some plusses going for it, but only if you are of a mindset to consider them seriously. I simply cannot abide June bugs and almost hate Spring because of them. I do believe they can make their little bodies flat as tiny pancakes to enable them to slip in over the top or under the bottom of my screen door in that ever so miniscule space where the door sill and screen bottom meet. That space is so small that it doesn’t even let light shine through it, but a June bug can somehow manage to sneak through and torment me. I will be innocently sitting on the couch merrily reading away in the spring or summer evening and a damn (sorry!) June bug manages to get into my living room and tangle itself in my hair, making that horrendous buzzing noise as it gropes for my ear canal.

If left up to me, June bugs would probably need to be put on the endangered species list, because I am not above flushing them down the toilet. (I don’t step on them because the popping/cracking sound makes me shudder to just think of it.) Anyway, as far as I am concerned, the only good June bug is a dead June bug.

Monday, May 11, 2009


A woman was leaving a Starbucks with her morning coffee when she noticed a most unusual funeral procession approaching the nearby cemetery. A long black hearse was followed by a second long black hearse. Behind the second hearse was a solitary woman walking a pit bull on a leash. Behind her, 200 women were walking in a single file.

The woman couldn't stand the curiosity. She respectfully approached the woman walking the dog and said "I am so sorry for your loss and I know now is a bad time to disturb you, but I've never seen a funeral like this. "Whose funeral is it?"

The woman replied, "Well, that first hearse is for my husband."

"What happened to him?"

The woman replied "My dog attacked and killed him."

She inquired further, "Well, who is in the second hearse?"

The woman answered, "My mother-in-law. She was trying to help my husband when the dog turned on her."

A poignant and thoughtful moment of silence passes between the two women.

"Could I borrow that dog?"

“Get in line”

Sunday, May 10, 2009


I almost qualify for the sobriquet "Quadramom." I'm not sure that word exists yet, but I think having four children in a 4-1/2 year period - none being duplicates - should bring it into existence. My son Sean was born in June of 1956 and he was 4-1/2 when the last of my four was born in January of 1961. In practical terms, that meant I had four pre-schoolers for 9 months until little Sean headed off to kindergarten.

I was a lucky young mom. I had a husband who was very good with kids. I had a mother living close at hand who thought my kids were the cat's meow. And I lived in a newly built tract neighborhood where all the husbands had just come from serving in the Korean conflict and were starting the next part of their lives. We all were about the same age and having children at the same time. We established a great babysitting co-op, had a Wednesday Wives early morning bowling group (10 cents a line), belonged (in between pregnancies) to a local square dance group, and made friendships that last until this day. This wonderful neighborhood made having four children in 4-1/2 years much more tolerable.

Time has caused me to remember only the good things about having these four little tykes. When they now sit around and tell me all the sneaky things they did when they were little, I simply don't believe them. They were genuinely good kids. From time to time one of them had a little slip up and required a swat on the bottom. And surprise! They didn't get damaged little psyches from being spanked.

One of the ladies down the street had more kids than I did. She had a batch of cherubic little daughters. When her little ones got into an argument, they became very physical with each other, hitting and pulling hair and kicking and the like. My little ones fought verbally, which often caused my husband and I to have to turn our backs so they wouldn't see us laughing at their worst epithet - "poo-poo head."

There was one time when I needed to run into the library to pick up a book. I parked directly in front of the library and left the kids in the car while I ran in. (In case you are horrified, back then it was a kinder, more gentle society and doing such a thing was not a problem and was not dangerous.) It was summer. The car windows were rolled down, the library doors were open, and from inside the library I could keep my eye on them. I no sooner got into the library than my four decided to have an argument. I could hear it start and I heard it get louder. I quickly grabbed a book and headed to the circulation desk, but before I got there the argument had exploded into far worse than "poo-poo head," with my oldest son and daughter using words that let me know they had been listening to my husband and me when we had an occasional spat.

At that point I noticed that all the library patrons and employees were craning their necks to see what on earth was going on, so I dodged back into the stacks until it quieted down. There was no way at that moment I was going to claim ownership of those kids! When the "fight" ended and peace reigned again, I checked out my book. As I walked out the door and headed to the car, the kids could tell from the smoke coming out my ears that they were in for it. By the time I plopped down in the driver's seat, there were four little meek, placid tots sitting primly in their assigned places. They knew exactly what to expect when they got home, and I didn't disappoint a one of them. Luckily there was a 10 minute drive to get home; if we had lived closer they might have gotten a far worse spanking than they actually received.

I loved those four children and thought I was awfully lucky to get such good kids. And except for their teenage years, which taxed my soul sometimes, I've enjoyed every minute of being a mother to them. They have grown up nicely and are still good kids. Most importantly, they are good parents to their own kids. Sean lives in Sonoma, Erin in Rialto, Bryn in Alaska, and Kerry in Los Angeles.

They remember me on Mother's day with cards, or trinkets, or phone calls, or e-mails or breakfasts, which is plenty, as far as I am concerned. When my own mother died, she left a little handwritten note to my brother, my sister and me telling us she had a good time being a mom to us. And I know exactly how she felt, because I certainly have had a good time being a mom to my four. So Happy Mother's Day to me! Thanks, kids.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Don't you get tired of hearing that something is safe to eat and then the next study says it isn't? Or that something is effective and then the next study says it is not?

One of the latest about-faces in the medical community comes because of a prostate study. Two screening tests that doctors are performing millions of times a year - a PSA test and a digital rectal exam - apparently now are thought not to be especially effective and, in fact, may lead to more problems than they cure. Seems most men who show an elevated PSA and have a biopsy do not have cancer. And some men with a low PSA level do have cancer. Some cases of prostate cancer are so slow-growing that they never cause symptoms, much less death. In addition, surgery and radiation treatment for prostate cancer can cause incontinence and impotence. So for some men, detecting prostate cancer early through screening can do more harm than good.

The newspaper article that announced the results of this new study suggests that for the time being, until the results of two very large studies of prostate cancer screening appear in a few years, doctors should simply tell men that these test are not perfect, tell them the risks and the benefits and the "what ifs," and then let them choose.

Last month when I saw one of my doctors he asked me why I was taking Vitamin E. I said because of that big study several years ago that said it was found to be of value in warding off Alzheimer's. He said, "Oh well, a later study said it didn't have any effect at all." I told him I'd keep taking it and take my chances!

The first year I took statistics in college my professor jokingly said, "Give me a set of numbers and I'll make them say anything you want them to say." I think he wasn't kidding.

Friday, May 8, 2009


I am a person of many questions. Even things that seem very straightforward engender questions in my mind. I read something and invariably will find some tiny smidgeon of information that seems sitting there waiting to have a question raised about it.

Here’s an example. I just this week read an article about cultivating a positive outlook in everyday life. Now to be explicit, the article was a recap of a lunch-time presentation by a female Ph.D. at Loma Linda University. It didn’t go into great detail about what she said but here is what got me: “Living in an age of anxiety, it is easy to incorporate negative thoughts into routine activities. She showed some research results revealing that an average of 40,000 thoughts run through the human brain each day. It is estimated that nearly 80% of those thoughts are negative.”

I looked at that and blinked. 40,000 thoughts a day? Is that possible? If a person sleeps 8 hours a night, that gives them 16 hours a day in which to have those 40,000 thoughts (assuming that what goes through one’s mind at night via dreams doesn’t count as thoughts). And to get that number down to a workable concept, that is 2500 thoughts an hour, of which 2,000 (80%) of them are negative. Or 33 negative thoughts a minute.

No wonder people go to bed tired every night. Perhaps we go to bed and to sleep because the burden of all those negatives thoughts cause us to be depressed.

According to the article, she says the main thing in life is not to worry.

Let’s see, somehow we have to come up with 33 happy or good things to think about per minute in order to get rid of negativity in our lives. Well, if you can do that you are a better person than I am. Taking full charge of your thoughts is the only way it can be done. No more of this random or unconscious thinking. You and I must make sure, before we think it, that whatever is coming down the pipe heading toward becoming a thought will have to be good.

Oh, this kind of stuff is just too tiring to think about.

I once knew a fellow who believed that all the Bible required for believing anything God had for us was to act as if it was already done. As the world was preparing for an overseas Olympics, this fellow felt that he wanted to go there and witness for the Lord. Now as it happened, he had previously been married but he wanted to be available for the Lord’s work, which he felt precluded his having a job. So he quit his job, divorced his wife and let Welfare take care of her and their two children while he “did the Lord’s work.” He solicited funds from Christian acquaintances to finance his venture, but they didn’t quite see it the way he did. But he was sure that God was going to provide, so he made his reservation on a LA to Europe flight. On the day he was to leave, he drove into L.A., went up to the counter and asked the clerk if his ticket had been paid for yet. The clerk said said no – and my friend said to her “My father was sending the money.” When the plane took off without him, he figured God just had some other plan for him.

Now I say all this because I never have and never will think it is possible to change much just by positive thinking. I know this Loma Linda lady says, ‘Don’t worry.” All well and good to say, but to try to unconsciously substitute a positive thought every time a negative thought comes toward my mind somehow seems to be exactly the kind of process my friend went through.

And at any rate, I wonder how it is this lady (or whoever) came up with a way to measure how many thoughts go through a brain in a day. And how can it be determined if a thought, which might only be “fleeting,” is positive or negative.

I try not to think complicated thoughts. I do, however, have a lot of thoughts that need answers. Jerry rarely crawls into bed at night before I tell him I have to ask him a question, something I’ve been thinking about. He is patient, which is good because that doesn’t disturb my positive to negative thought ratio. Once in a while he snores before I get to ask the question, so I simply save it for the next night. And instead of being aggravated that he is able to fall asleep so quickly and not have all these questions in his mind, I smile and am thankful that at least one of us can fall asleep so quickly.

Now THAT is a positive thought!

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Sylvia died a few years after Ed’s recovery. The Swift territory that Ed was working included the area around the Salton Sea, and at some point down the road he became friends with a Mexican woman in Mexicali who worked in a bar. He arranged it so that he would end up on Friday down in that area and he would spend the weekend with her. Jerry cannot remember exactly how long this lasted but one evening he went there and she was not at work. When he asked after her he was told that she had died.

Ed never remarried. He had always suffered from stomach and intestinal problems. He loved to eat but doing so always caused him great distress. He would always keep one hand pressed on his stomach, as if trying to dull a pain. He would often let out a huge belch, after which he would say, “God Damn, that felt good.” He would take another few bites and belch again, always ending it with some epithet. It was very sad to see a person in such distress, but it also was very shocking to someone who didn't know him.

Now when Jerry and I married, Kerry and Bryn, my teenaged daughters, lived with us. I wanted to invite Ed to dinner at our house, but before I did, I had to sit down my girls and give them a lecture on appropriate behavior. I explained what Ed’s problem was, how he sounded when he belched and what he said afterwards. I told them somehow they were going to have to keep from laughing because it was not a laughing matter. I told them in no uncertain terms that they had better act like adults. I had to demonstrate to them just how bad Ed’s belches sounded, and I couldn’t even come close but at least I made a good try. I will have to say that during that meal or any others, none of us made eye contact with anyone when the belching and swearing occurred. I knew that if the girls looked at me or each other, they would break into hysterical laughter. The girls made it through the dinner like troopers and I was very pleased. It is hard to exaggerate how bad Ed sounded. And it is hard to exaggerate how much Ed liked the dinner. He came every time we issued an invitation and always said it was the best “chicken” - or whatever the entrée was - that he had ever eaten.

Several years after we were married, when his grandson had graduated from college and taken a job in New Orleans, Ed decided to move back to Baton Rouge. He piled all his belongings into his station wagon and set out to drive cross-country, sleeping in a bedroll in the back of his wagon. He arrived safely, and it was there that doctors performed stomach surgery on him. He always said they took half his stomach. He stayed there for a relatively short time – maybe a year or so – but ultimately he returned to Southern California. Too damn hot in the summer, he said! He moved between Pomona and Baton Rouge several times in his old age via the trusty station wagon but finally figured out he’d better stay put with us close by.

His final years were not good ones. His stomach and his intestines just did not function right and he kept losing weight. I found a whole drawerful of medical bills which should have been sent to Swift for insurance reimbursement but Ed was too confused to understand what he should be doing. I worked for days with the insurance company to make sure Ed received the insurance benefits he was owed. Finally we helped him get situated in an assisted living home in Fullerton that had a little kitchenette where he could do his own meal preparation if he wanted, and then as he got worse, he went into a nursing home about a mile from where we lived. Jerry had put him under the care of his own personal physician in Orange, where we were living at that time. Dr. Maizel took care of his medical needs for the last year of his life. One evening we got a phone call from the doctor saying that Ed was near death and asked if we wanted “heroic measures” taken. Ed had told everybody that he was ready to die, and in fact wished he would. Jerry told Dr. Maizel that Ed specified that he wanted to die quickly, so the decision was made according to his wishes and Ed passed away comfortably at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange.

Grandpa Ed is buried next to Sylvia in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Ed "Swifty" Kaufman - 31 January 1897 - died 25 September 1984

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Gambling was legalized in Nevada in 1931 and the gambling at that time was done in downtown Las Vegas, where the customers were mostly the men who were working on the Hoover Dam. There was no “Strip” as we know it today. In 1937 the East Coast mob sent Bugsy Seigel (a Jewish mobster) to Los Angeles to try to develop Syndicate gambling rackets. Seigel recruited Mickey Cohen, who incidentally was a childhood friend of Jerry’s mom. In his travels back and forth between L.A. and Chicago, Bugsy got the idea of building a casino and resort in an area outside of Las Vegas that he called “The Strip.” The Mob financed Bugsy’s venture, which was called “The Flamingo.” It was a costly and unsuccessful endeavor and ultimately was the cause of his death in a Los Angeles mobster shooting in 1947. Eventually “The Strip” developed exactly the way Bugsy envisioned it, under the control of the Chicago “Mob.” In the early days there was a fairly large group of Jewish mobsters, and early on, the entire Flamingo Casino would be shut down on the High Holidays and services held in the Ballroom.

Since gambling in California had been made illegal, many of Ed’s gambling contacts moved up to Las Vegas and became pit bosses, floor managers and the like. Whenever Ed or any of his family would go to Las Vegas, arrangements would be made by his friends to “comp” them. Jerry remembers once going with Carole to Vegas and finding themselves sitting in the front-row left at one of Frank Sinatra’s shows when he was at the height of his career.

One day Jerry and Carole were in Los Angeles in front of the Biltmore Hotel and they saw Ed walking toward them. He had just come from the horse races, and he handed Carol a crisp $100 bill and told them to have fun. That was in the time when $100 was BIG BUCKS, when a pack of cigarettes or a loaf of bread cost less than 25 cents and gasoline was less than 75 cents a gallon.

Ed was a real character. The family remembers him telling a story about in his youth being romantically involved with a married woman. He was at her house one time frolicking in bed when her husband unexpectedly came in the front door. Ed jumped out of bed, grabbed his pants and flew out the window, running as fast as he could, naked, down the street to avoid getting caught.

He also said he began smoking Chesterfield cigarettes – the old, unfiltered, really strong kind – when he was eight years old and he smoked every day of his life. He is proof that if you have the right genes and good luck, you will not get lung cancer from smoking. Nevertheless, he cautioned people not to get involved with tobacco in the first place.

He and Sylvia belonged to the Jewish Temple in Riverside but they were not religiously observant Jews. They had a large group that they socialized with, all members of the Temple. On weekend get-togethers, the women would all play bridge, while the men played gin rummy. Ed was an excellent gin player and occasionally Jerry would sit in as Ed’s partner.

Ed’s lung condition was greatly improved by the mellow California climate, though of course smoking wasn’t helping it any. Sometime around 1953 or 1954, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was put in the Riverside Community Hospital. He was there for a month or so before a bed became available at the City of Hope in Duarte. Ed spent a year there recovering. Since Sylvia didn’t drive, every Sunday morning she took a bus from Riverside to the Pomona bus station. Carole, who was then living in Pomona, would pick her up and they would drive in to the City of Hope to visit with Ed. Sylvia and Carole would come back to Pomona and have dinner, sometimes with Jerry’s mom and dad, and then Carole would put her back on the bus to Riverside. At the end of the year, Ed was released as recovered, and he went back to Riverside and to work.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Grandpa Ed, as he was called by the family when I married into it, had already retired. He lived alone because his wife Sylvia had died in 1956 and his only child Carole in 1974. His two grandchildren, Kathie and Garry, were living in San Diego so my husband Jerry was the closest family he had. He’d had several stomach surgeries in his old age and was not really in good health. In fact, he had just a small portion of his stomach left, and while he still enjoyed good cooking, he always paid a price for eating. He was always grateful for any attention lavished on him. Jerry and I kept a close eye on him.

Ed was born Jan 31, 1897 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the fourth of six children. His parents were Henry and Carrie Kaufman. According to his story, he joined the Marines at a young age, probably somewhere near 17, and by June of 1918 he was fighting against the Germans in a very famous WWI battle at Belleau Woods, 70 miles outside of Paris. The Germans used gas warfare (a poisonous mustard gas) and Ed was taken ill from the gas and was hospitalized. We have tried to get his military records, but the government says it does not have any. He was released from the service with severely impaired lungs. In 1920 he was back home with his family in Baton Rouge, but the doctors advised him that if he intended to continue living, he needed to get out of the humid climate of Louisiana and go to Arizona. He did, but he found way too much desert in Arizona so he decided to try California. He was able to find a job with Swift Meat Company in Los Angeles and settled in Glendale.

Eventually he married his Louisiana sweetheart, Sylvia Asher. Sylvia had been raised in Opelousas, but at the time she enrolled at LSU she boarded with the Kaufmans in Baton Rouge. She graduated with a teaching degree, and after a few tries at teaching in the South, she followed Ed to California where they were married in 1926. Sylvia was "starstruck," and living near Hollywood was right up her alley. Sylvia and Ed's only child, Carolyn, was born at a hospital in Hollywood, and the senior Kaufmans bought cemetery plots at the Hollywood cemetery, now called "Hollywood Forever."

However, after working a few years in Los Angeles, Ed was assigned the territory of East Riverside County. The family, which now included little Carolyn (whom Ed always called Caroline), moved for a short while to Banning and ultimately settled in the city of Riverside, where they lived the rest of their lives.

Ed was the consummate salesman. He made friends easily, could talk a good talk, and made money for the Company. He was known to his customers as “Swifty.” Those customers were buyers of large quantities of meat – restaurants, hotels, resorts – and a great deal of his business was done in Palm Springs, which in those days (1930s) was to Southern California what Las Vegas became later to Nevada. In the course of Ed’s sales trips, he became well acquainted with Louis B. Mayer, whom most of us recognize as the Mayer of MGM – Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Louis was not only involved with the movie industry but also he owned a large thoroughbred horse ranch in the Coachella Valley. There were always Mayer-bred horses running on one race track or another. And it was through this contact that Ed began betting on Mayer’s horses.

Jerry recalls Ed telling the story of getting a call in the middle of the night from one of Mayer’s associates asking him to go to a certain jail and post bail for one of Mayer’s sons. There was nothing more explained and Ed asked no questions. He posted bail and that was that. At some later point Ed was contacted and given a list of horses on which he should place bets the following day at Santa Anita. He was told that he should “let the money ride” for all six races. Ed did as he was told, and he claimed that he won over $10,000, which in those days was a huge sum, especially to a meat salesman.

One time he was asked by someone in the Mayer association to take the movie star, Jimmy Stewart, duck hunting at Salton Sea. Ed was happy to do this, and both he and Jimmy brought home ducks for dinner that night.

Being supplied with good meat was not one of the perks offered to its employees by Swift Company, but Ed had another buddy in the desert, a butcher, who provided high-quality steaks and other good meat to Ed for his family. This, of course, often ended up on the plates of Jerry and Carole. Ed would drop by the house, hand his daughter a package of meat and announce "Here's your dinner!" There was some kind of association between Ed and the butcher; no one asked what it was, but for Ed’s part the payoff was in fine-quality meat.


Monday, May 4, 2009


Many many years ago I had a small cookbook with the most scrumptious recipes in it. Somewhere in the 33+ years of marriage and living in 7 different places in 2 different parts of the world, that cookbook escaped. I cannot believe I got rid of it; I certainly wouldn't have given it away. Nevertheless it is gone.

Luckily I had put this recipe on the computer, so in the interest of sharing something tasty, visually appealing and easy to make, today, in the middle of strawberry season, I'm going to give you a chance to try something that you'll find yourself serving over and over.

Makes 4 servings

2 eggs
½ cup milk
½ cup all-purpose flour (Dash Nutmeg)
½ cup butter
½ cup thickly sliced filberts (about 2 ounces)
Juice of half-a-lemon
2 T confectioners’ sugar
1 pint fresh strawberries, slices and sweetened
Sour cream or whipped cream (optional)

Beat eggs lightly in mixing bowl. Add milk, flour and nutmeg and beat until blended. Batter may be a little lumpy.

Melt butter in a 10-12” skillet with heat-proof handle over medium heat until butter begins to foam. Stir in filberts. Pour batter into hot skillet over filberts. Bake in 425 degree oven 15 to 20 minutes, or until pancake is puffed and golden brown. Sprinkle with lemon juice and return to oven for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove.

Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and serve at once. Cut into wedges and serve with strawberries topped with sour cream, if desired.

Eat and enjoy.

And when strawberries are gone, you can change the fruit to fresh peaches, or plums, or in the fall, apples. They all do well and are yummy.