Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I have just learned that a former archivist at The Mariner's Museum in Virginia sold more than 3000 documents from the museum's collection on e-Bay over a five-year period. It was, of course, a money-making venture for him. His wife aided and abetted his scheme by letting her name be used on the internet, obviously to shield his connection to the source of the documents. They made money, they got caught and are now being punished. Just desserts, I say.

Those who steal disgust me. I just don't understand wanting something so badly that one simply takes it from its owner.

I am fortunate in what I have had stolen in my adult life (those things that I know about, of course) were not of particular value. Nevertheless, I was shocked and disgusted at the act.

When Jerry and I married, one of our friends gave us a really lovely hanging Charley plant for our front porch. It was in a handmade macrame hanger and as such was a very a sentimental gift for us. It hung on our front porch in our nice neighborhood for a year or so before someone, in the night, swiped it.

Years later we had a beautiful Royal Cape plumbago plant in a barrel sitting in front of a cinderblock wall between our house and the neighbor's house. It's wonderful lavender-blue blossoms turned that space, which previously had the look of a prison wall, into a piece of art. The barrel and the plant were huge, and the look was very dramatic. Whoever stole it from us in the night had to have at least two husky men to hoist it into a truck and make off with it.

And finally, when we moved into a senior apartment complex - a lovely, high class place, I set a paper turkey decoration at my front door as the first Thanksgiving approached. It lasted one night before it too was snatched.

These were not valuables. Not rings or cars; not break-ins or hold-ups. Everything physically could be replaced, though maybe not emotionally. But nevertheless someone wanted my things and felt no moral compunction about taking them. Had someone stolen a piece of jewelry I might have felt very sad and angry. But with these things I felt mostly disgust. I do not understand this kind of thievery and I find no excuse for it.

I'm glad the archivist's greed and dishonesty was discovered and he's gone to jail for it. Even if my little losses went unpunished, I must admit that I'm always glad when the bad guy gets his comeuppance.

Monday, June 28, 2010


The picture above is of our grandson Andrew when he was a senior in high school -- probably getting ready to go to a prom. I've had the hard copy of this picture residing for a long time in my photo album. Once my computer learning curve got to the point where I could actually figure out how to digitize these photos, I uploaded a goodly amount of them and can look at them with the flash of my fingers on the right keys. These all are from printed photographs.

Now the time has come to do something about all those slides that we took over the years. Although Jerry and I had thinned them out several years ago, tossing out most of the scenery pictures and sorting into logical order the ones of our families growing up, we had to decide whether to send all 380 of them out to be digitized, which was guaranteed to produce good quality but break the bank in doing it, or to buy an inexpensive slide scanner and do it ourselves. We knew if we took on this chore, it would be a long arduous process, but definitely better on our budget. After all, isn't retirement about having lots of time to do things?

I did a bit of searching and found a little piece of equipment under $100 that I thought would work. I assigned Jerry the job of learning how to do the initial scanning and I would use my rather rudimentary Photoshop skills to do what I could to make the images acceptable. So far we are doing ok. He's scanned 80 of them and I am hustling to keep up at my end, although there is really no rush to get them gussied up. I can work on them as I have time.

But here's the fun part. In all the years we've been keeping those slides, we didn't look at them very often. Oh, our intentions were good, but like everyone else with their family history on slides, we never see those images enough to get well acquainted with them like we do with photos in an album. Jer and I had made one Kodak carousel up of family pictures and showed it occasionally at Christmas when the kids and grandkids all got together. Each generation of children (we now have teen-aged great-grandchidren) has gone through the floor-rolling, fist-pounding hee-hawing when they saw their dad or grandpa lying on a towel naked as a jay-bird in the front yard. And although we know they enjoy seeing these slides, due to all the effort of getting the equipment set up, furniture rearranged, and family in one place at the same time, we just don't tackle a "showing" nearly enough. And this, of course, means that when Jerry and I look at these photos as we scan and correct them, we are going through a lot of floor-rolling, hee-hawing too.

The picture of Andrew below is one we had totally forgotten about, as it was on a slide and not on print film with a copy in my album. It captures the essence of Andrew. He has grown up to be a fellow who surprises you with his wit, his visage and his uniqueness. Now in his 20s, we can still see in him the kid who looked just like the star of "Home Alone" and who had the conviction that he knew more than the teachers. (He mostly did.) With this slide digitized, no matter how primitive the effort at color correction and such, this photo will be available for us to enjoy whenever we want!

I'm funneling the photos out to the kids as I finish them. Their parents get one too. I know it will take a long time to get the job done, but I figure barring any complications I can get them all done by Thanksgiving.

Understand, this is not a tedious job for me. It is like having our legacy in my hands and each picture brings to mind good memories and fun times and the making of a blended family. And for Jerry and me, it reminds both of us how much fun we have had in our 35 years together. We did good!

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Many of you know that at two different periods in my life I worked for The Salvation Army. The first time was in Ontario, California when I worked for the "church" wing of The Salvation Army. There were two local "disasters" during my time there, one year experiencing an awful fire that swept through the foothills at the edge of our community and the next year an awful flood that sent torrents of water rushing down the roads and gullys from the hills on the north to the valleys on the south.

The second time was in 1994. I had just been hired by the "adult rehabilitation" wing of The Salvation Army and in fact, I started the week of the Northridge earthquake. At each of these disasters I saw The Salvation Army at work, and I couldn't help but notice that there wasn't a lot of "horn-tooting" going on. Rather, the people connected to this organization focused on the business of helping others and didn't spend time making sure the news organizations had photo-ops and the like.

The upshot of the matter is that the public doesn't really get to see and understand the extent of The Salvation Army's reach. I wish they did.

I receive a bi-weekly publication called "The New Frontier" published by The Salvation Army USA Western Territory, and it is there I can see the work that is still going strong. I'd like to share with you a synopsis of an article in the recent edition, as it represents just how little we know of the monumental work that is a continuing role assumed by this organization.

According to this article, Craig Arnold, of Concord, California, is two things: first, he is a lifelong Salvationist and has served in lay positions in the church, as well as serving on the Advisory Board. He also is a UPS executive.

"After the January 12 earthquake, he helped secure landing slots on the airport schedule for planes carrying Salvation Army supplies and arranged for UPS to land their cargo planes with large quantities of food, tents and water. He assisted in persuading the US Army 82nd Airborne to provide The Salvation Army with security while they distributed thousands of meal packets - handing out more than a quarter million meals in a single day."

Where ever he has lived, he has worked to educate his co-workers on the needs of the poor, the homeless and victims of disasters. And he has shown them that The Salvation Army is always there, quietly helping.

This June 13 issue of the New Frontier is full of stories that should be told. Printing them in an organization's newspaper is like singing to the choir. There is much good going on in the world that we don't hear about in either our newspapers or our televisions. But be assured, The Salvation Army stays very busy, but the only horn-tooting you'll hear about is from their traditional brass bands that on occasions grace a community with a concert.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


One of the finest gifts my mother ever gave me was keeping a baby-book chock-full of ephemera! I am documented within an inch of my life, both in pictures and in words.

I do believe a picture taken at every one of my birthday parties from age 1 through 10 is in that book. All my little schoolmates appear in those pictures, and to look at them now is a real trip down memory lane.

Unlike one of my daughters who has always felt disappointed that as she got older no one made a big hoopla out of her birthday, I don't like hoopla. And I am especially glad that no one ever gave me a surprise party. It has nothing to do with aging; it does have to do with the fact that I don't like attention drawn to myself.

Through much of my working career I used a temp agency to keep myself busy. I loved the challenge of new places, new things and new people. I always made sure I wasn't working on my birthday and I planned things that I wanted to do to celebrate. I did throw myself a nice birthday party when I turned 50 -- enough friends to sit around the dining room table and share a dinner that Jerry and I cooked. Later when I worked for six years at the Salvation Army, I never told anyone when my birthday was, but on that day I always brought in some wonderful dessert that I made and shared it with my office colleagues, telling them that I wanted to try out a recipe but Jerry and I didn't need to eat the whole thing ourselves! They were happy to have the goodies, and I was happy to share. "Birthday" was never mentioned.

When I turned 70 I invited 38 family members to join us at Yangtze Restaurant in Ontario for a wonderful lunch of #7 - as only Yangtze can do it.

This year Jer and I are heading into Los Angeles to have lunch at our favorite Greek Restaurant, Sofi's, and then to West Hollywood to see a documentary that is only playing at one theater in all of Southern California. Then we drive home. This is exactly what I wanted to do today. It may not be a celebration for some, but for me it is perfect.

So all's well on the birthdy front. I just can't figure out how 75 got here so quickly!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I have been doing genealogy for 24 years. I have been given many wonderful gifts of family research: old photos, old love letters, as well as odd things like the handle of a toothbrush and a bottle from the privy digging at my great-great-great grandpa's property in Illinois. As wonderful as these "things" were, it has been the discovery of distant but real cousins that has been the most delightful.

Leonard Myers of Overland Park, Kansas, was one of those relatives. His great-grandmother Cosby Jane Corel Justice and my great-grandma Nancy Maryland Corel (widow LaHay) Dobbins were sisters, making us fourth cousins. From 1984 when Leonard and I "connected" until he died in 2004, we shared ideas, theories, and research. A Corel reunion held in Lawrence, Kansas in 1990 allowed us to meet and spend some time together. He missed the 1995 reunion, but I drove to his house in Overland Park and spent a few days with Leonard and his wife Juanita. Only another genealogist would understand that it is possible to talk genealogy for three days running and still have things to talk about!

He gave me a ride to the airport for an early-morning flight back to California and as I got out of the car he handed me a batch of homemade Ginger Cookies, warm and fragrant. He had bad emphysema and he said he'd had a hard time sleeping the night before so he got up in the night and made me some cookies to take home with me. Tucked in the bag with the cookies (which didn't last long, let me tell you), was his recipe.

Leonard's friendship, researching acumen and talents were all very important to my genealogy successes. Leonard's Ginger Cookies were like a special bequest to me! I share them with you today.


2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup sugar
¼ cup molasses
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
¾ cup shortening
1 egg
Sugar for coating

Mix flour, soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt in separate bowl.

Cream shortening with 1 cup sugar in separate bowl until fluffy. Beat in egg and molasses until blended. Add flour mixture, 1/3 at a time, until well mixed.

Roll dough in balls, a teaspoon at a time, the size of small walnuts. Roll each in sugar to coat. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 exactly 13 minutes, until tops are cracked.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


It was with conflicted feelings that I opened a letter from the "powers that be" in Riverside County that advised me I was permanently excused from jury duty. It would have been nice if the county had a cut-off age for jurors, so that people like me who have certain health problems that would make sitting on a jury extremely difficult wouldn't have to plead their case on an official request form.

I didn't much like having to put down in black and white the details of why the Miralax I take daily would cause a problem in the jury box; it would have been much less embarrassing for me to merely check the box that said simply "Too old to serve." However, what I wrote did the job, and I now am among those retired from work and also retired from jury duty.

I always wanted to serve on a jury, and Lord knows I was called enough times, but for one reason or another I was never selected. My first call came when I was 21 and very pregnant with my son Sean. The next call came when I was nursing my first daughter, Erin. With those children being 14 months apart in age, you can see that I am not kidding when I say my name as a potential juror came up almost yearly.

In the early days, we had to spend 10 days sitting in the courthouse waiting for our panel to be called. Later we only had to spend the first day in the courthouse and be near a phone for the rest of the time. In the 1980s a 6 p.m. call-in system was put in place where you only reported the next day if your panel number was on a recorded message. All through the decades I could count on a yearly summons for Jury duty. Rarely did I even make it out of the jury holding room, and the few times my panel was called, I was never chosen as a juror.

After I retired and moved to Loma Linda, I was called 4 times in the five years we lived there. And here in Riverside I also have been called regularly every August. Now I will never be called again. On the one hand I feel I am shirking my duty as a law-abiding citizen, and on the other hand I feel great relief (which is a funny way to phrase it, considering the Miralax!)

Those of you who know me are aware that I do not handle violence and gore well. So the only time I ever made it to the point of being questioned by the judge for suitability as a juror, it was for a murder trial. A young male teen was on trial as one of the accomplices to a brutal murder of one of his female classmates. Three boys under the age of 17 were involved, and they beat her to death with a log, raped her after her death and then chuffed her body down a well. Her body wasn't found for several days.

Not only could I not have been an impartial juror, much as I might want to try, but having to listen to all the stories and see all the pictures would have totally done me in. When it was my turn to be questioned by the judge, here's what I told him: "Your honor, I have always wanted to sit on a jury and I would try my best to be impartial, but I don't do violence and gore well." I went on to explain that I leave the room when violence is shown on TV. I don't watch National Geographic specials when they show animals in the wild, and I have my kids screen even PG-13 movies for me. I told him that seeing gore causes me to wake up in the night and not go back to sleep. I told him I was too old to go to a shrink to find out why I am so affected by this and didn't have the money to embark on a course of therapy to desensitive myself. I courteously asked to be excused.

The courtroom full of prospective jurors laughed at my plea, which was the effect I wanted, and so did the judge. I was excused.

But the really funny part of this story is that during the two days I was sitting in the courthouse waiting, I was reading a book called "Stiff, The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers" by Mary Roach. Her book is exceptionally funny and does not have the kind violence and gore that so upsets me, so there was no conflict at all between what I stated in court and what I was reading. I will say this, though: I kept that book well hidden in a tote bag while I was in that courtroom waiting to make my case before the judge! I'm not sure he would have believed me if he had eyeballed that book.

Monday, June 21, 2010


It is true. Jerry and I both were born and raised in a more gentle, or genteel, time. Our graduation activities may seem awfully stuffy by today’s raucous rituals, but we didn’t perceive them as stuffy. We did what was expected of us, and that did not include bouncing balls or flying tortillas.

It was a shock to us the first time we went to a high school graduation for one of our grandkids and heard all the yelling and hollering that went on when the seniors walked across the stage to collect their diplomas. About a week later we found the same thing at a college graduation ceremony, which was even more riotous. What kinds of graduates were we producing, we wondered? And why did the administrative staff allow this?

But then I had to think back to some of the “goings on” my dad told me about in earlier days, like how on Halloween evening young teenage men, just for fun, would tip over the family outhouses, and how excrement-filled paper sacks would be put on porches and set afire, hoping that the homeowner would come out and thoroughly stomp out the fire!

Even later when Jerry was at MIT he remembers two specific things, called “hacks,” that happened because of the traditional rivalry between Harvard and MIT. One year the main gate to Harvard Yard was mysteriously welded shut. The other, which is still mentioned from time to time and in fact is listed in Wikipedia, happened in Jer’s Sophomore year during the 1948 football season. The night before the Yale-Harvard football game a group from one of the MIT fraternities buried primer cord (a mild explosive) out to the 50 yard line of the football field, where it was then laid out to spell MIT. The young men intended to set it off during the game. Had it worked and not hurt anyone, it would have been spectacular. However, the grounds men discovered the cord prior to the game and quietly removed it. During the game the perpetrators were identified because they were all wearing long heavy coats on the fair-weather day. Inside these coats were batteries which would be used to set the primer cord off.

Now granted, these latter events didn’t take place during a solemn ceremony. And I would suspect when it was time for those young people to receive their diplomas, they did so with decorum. And you have to admit there is not all that much drama among our local students and one probably should not be too concerned about something as simple as a flying tortilla.

However, I truly wish I could sit at a graduation and not have all these extraneous annoyances going on in front of me. There is some kind of a correlation between societal changes and personal changes, and I suppose it is easier to blame society for a loosening of its standards than to think one’s own actions have that much power. I may get irked at a flying tortilla, but is it a change in society’s values that allow it to be ok to sling one of them across an auditorium or is it just a playful kid?

In the old days townspeople took sport in public hangings. We have moved from that, thank goodness, so I suppose a big vinyl ball being batted back and forth among college graduates should be considered progress and I should save my fussing for something really important.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


I remember: very early memories of earaches as a tiny little kid and my daddy blowing warm cigarette smoke in my ear. This was folk medicine. Whether it was the smoke or my parents’ loving arms around me, I always felt better afterwards.

I remember: every Sunday morning in the ‘40s sitting on one side of my daddy, with my little sister sitting on the other side, while he read the newspaper “funnies” to us. Long before we understood what we were hearing, we listened while he read Dick Tracy, Li’l Abner, Moon Mullins, Gasoline Alley, Little Orphan Annie, Krazy Kat, Blondie and Dagwood and all the others.

I remember: we took lots of “drives” – around Rainbow Pier in Long Beach, through Belmont Shore where we bought a “Mile-High” Curries Ice Cream Cone. We learned about alfalfa because Daddy often drove out to the Bellflower area where the dairies were and he couldn’t resist stopping to pick up a handful of alfalfa to let us bury our nose in the fragrant leaves with the pretty little purple flowers. Driving through Wilmington, where the smell of oil refineries was all-pervasive, Daddy always told us that was the smell of money!

I remember: on Friday nights Daddy would always come home from work with a paper sack full of penny candy from the little corner shop across the street from his appliance store. The living room door would open and he would step inside, holding the bag in the air and shaking it so the candy rattled around inside, tempting us. Ginnie Lou and I were always waiting; it was the highlight of our week.

I remember: every morning my dad driving my friends and me to school, making a swing through the neighborhood to get them all. And later, always being available to take us to the football games and pick us up afterward. And even later than that, driving up to Pepperdine College in Los Angeles to pick me up on Friday after classes were over and driving me back on Sunday night. This was before freeways, but my dad was always happy to do it, chugging along surface streets for what seemed like hours.

I remember: Daddy was generous to my mother’s large family. His success in business meant he could help my aunts and uncles, all younger than my mother, when they started out in life; our house became the center of activities, ranging from barbecues, poker games, croquet, badminton, horseshoes, pancake dinners and New Year’s Eve parties. He was just as generous to his children when we started our married lives, helping us over the humps when we needed it.

I remember: For his 90th birthday we threw a party for him in the assisted living home where he spent his last few years. We prepared a book of letters so after everyone went home he would still have the memories at his fingertips. A few old employees of his appliance store came, along with his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, and some old friends. All had been touched by his life.

He died at 93. His last years were not easy and he often made it difficult for his family. That person was not my real dad. My dad was the one we always honored on Father’s Day, the one with a sharp mind, a generous spirit and a willing hand. And I remember him today with things that were "Particularly Daddy."

Friday, June 18, 2010


Sometimes I have a funny story to share. It usually involves Jerry, but I have been known to tell a good one on myself, too, so I’m not picking on him. This one really involved the two of us.

One Monday past, Jerry had two places to go. The first would be stop at the urologist’s office. His PSA had gone way high again and Jerry was sure the doc was going to say he needed to schedule another biopsy. Poor Jerry. These biopsies aren’t particularly painful, he says, but of course they are far from fun to undergo. When he undergoes a biopsy, I have to go with him because I need to drive the car home, due to the relaxant they give him. But I didn’t need to go this particular day, as it was just conjecture on Jer’s part that the doc would want to schedule another one.

The other place he needed to go was to his auto mechanic’s shop to have him look at the cruise control mechanism on our car. It had stopped working. One other time the same thing happened and the mechanic fixed the problem by twisting together two little wires that had come loose. Jerry figured his mechanic could take a minute out of his busy day to take care of this little problem again.

Off he went, while I stayed home and puttered around the house.

Anyway, Jerry was gone quite a long time, much longer than I expected, and I was starting to get nervous. Finally the phone rang and it was Jerry, who told me another problem had developed, that the vacuum hose had broken and they were looking for another one. Still concerned about his possible biopsy, I said, “Gosh Jer, I didn’t know they were going to do the procedure today! Are you ok by yourself?

He burst out laughing right into the phone and said, “I’m at the car dealer. It’s the vacuum hose on the car, not on me!”

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


When I needed to replace the mattress on my bed some years ago I splurged and bought one of those big thick mattresses with a puffy top. It was to be my dream bed: comfortable and fit for a queen. It also needed to be fit for a person whose back problems required a lot of tossing and turning in the night, which meant fitted sheets.

At first, I had a hard time finding sheets the right size. The sheet industry had not kept up with the mattress industry, and for a while I ended up using funny little elastic “suspenders” which, if applied correctly to the corners of a flat sheet, would keep the bottom sheet in place. Later “pocket sheets” came into being. Even so, I had to measure the depth of my mattress and make sure that the fitted sheets I bought were that deep. It was a big pain in the patoot.

Finally the mattresses were made even deeper and the sheet makers had to make sheets with REALLY deep pockets. All other sized sheets disappeared. Presently, and probably for the rest of my life, I will be sleeping on a bed in which all the excess yardage of the too-deep-pocketed sheets gathers in the center directly underneath my sleeping body. See picture above. It is not good. I have considered getting out my trusty old sewing machine and making my own fitted sheets, but I guess I just don’t want them that badly. Like with many other things in my life, I just grumble and make do.

I saw online this morning an article called “Bedmaking (and Faking) 101” and I read it, thinking maybe something would be in it that might give me an alternative to my bunched-up sheet. The first thing I found is to be modern I should have a duvet on my bed instead of a bedspread. Well, I’m not going to do that. But I read on...oh, the next paragraph says I might want to ditch my duvet for a quilted coverlet, which doesn’t wrinkle. Next, it says “Pull a long one forward about 1/3 of the way, stack pillows so they hit the crease of the coverlet, and then pull coverlet over to hide the pillows for a very retro, 1950s style, that designers say is making a comeback.”

This made me laugh. On my bed I presently use a chenille bedspread and I do pull it up so it covers the pillows, just like my mother taught me to do when I was a little girl. Believe me, that predated the 1950s. The article went on to mention “ironing sheets” at which point I clicked on the red “X” in the upper right hand corner of my screen and left the bed designers to their own ruminations.

So what I got out of this little foray into the internet world this morning is that I am a “retro” woman. I already had this pretty much figured out, because I do find that I am teetering on the edge of being “superfluous.” I do not carry around a laptop computer, or an IPod or an IPad. I still write letters and have a land-line phone. I read from a book, not a Kindle. I give genealogy talks using transparencies, not Power Point. I watch movies at the theater and on my TV, but not on my computer. I eat on real plates, not paper plates. And so on.

I really prefer being thought of as Retro rather than superfluous, so I’ll change my thinking along those lines. Retro will always be in. And that’s where you’ll find me, and I'm just fine with that.

But I still can’t figure out what to do with my bunched-up sheets!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


My office is showing the signs of my hard work in getting file cabinet drawers cleaned out, papers thrown away, superfluous books removed to good homes, and empty boxes thrown in the dumpster across the street. It’s been hard work, but I’m feeling really good about what my effort has accomplished. So good, in fact, that I’m very close to picking up an unfinished cross-stitch project and putting the last few threads in. A picture of that project is shown above. The cross-stitch is adapted from a painting by the late Walter Anderson. I just saw one of his paintings sold for $55,000.


Seeing the pelicans makes me think of those poor birds, turtles, fish and people along the gulf coast who are fighting for their very lives and livelihood. I heard our President in a talk say, in an encouraging way, to “hang in there folks. One of these days, things will be back to normal again.” But when I hear that said after a disaster I think that is poppycock. Can anything ever be “normal” again with such death and destruction in one’s life? The bigger picture may be normal but there never will be a normal for those who have sustained such a monumental loss. As in New Orleans. As in Haiti. As in the death of a child. I would say “things will be different” (that is, never the same) is more like it.


In last week’s LA Times there was a report on a paper published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, “Abraham’s Children in the Genome Era” where it stated that “scientists report that the Jews of the Diaspora share a set of telltale genetic markers, supporting the traditional belief that Jews scattered around the world have a common ancestry. But various Diaspora populations have their own distinct genetic signatures, shedding light on their origins and history. In addition to the age-old question of whether Jews are simply people who share a religion or are a distinct population, the scientific verdict is settling on the latter.” Up to this point I understand what they are saying. But from there on I cannot make heads or tails out of what the Times article was trying to say. I had Jerry read it and that made two of us confused.

Today online I tracked the origin of the story to Newsweek. I read their article, written by a different person, and I don’t understand that one any better. It is very frustrating to not understand what you are reading. I should have known better. I thought maybe since the subject, Jewish DNA, was of interest to me I could do better, but alas, my brain isn’t wired for scientific things, so I just have to let it go. RATS!


I drove into Los Angeles yesterday to drop off some borrowed books at my daughter’s house and then to have lunch with my cousin Nancy. She has just moved into a lovely 8th floor of an apartment from which she can see the sun set each evening. She’s smack-dab in the middle of LA, but from her apartment you can safely have the windows open (as she says, only Spiderman could break in here) to catch a refreshing afternoon breeze, and you have just a short distance to walk to the LA Museums on Wilshire Boulevard. Her apartment is just perfect for her and reflects her artistic and intellectual sensibilities! On the way home to my little rural enclave in Riverside I reflect on how much I would like to live in a building like she is in.

Then last night about 9:30 p.m. we had a sharp earthquake. And my first thought was how lucky I was that I didn’t live in L.A. because if/when the big one hits I DO NOT want to be there!


I am on a hunt for the family of a cousin who recently died. Long ago I had two cousins a few years younger than me, Sandra and Susan Ryland. Through a divorce these kids were taken by their mother and raised elsewhere. I never saw them again. My uncle paid child support for them through the years but because he was military and often was stationed overseas, he didn’t get to see them often. My uncle eventually remarried. This morning an aunt, who now lives in Colorado, got a phone call from a man who said he was Sandra’s husband and she had recently died. He thought perhaps my uncle (her father) would want to know. My aunt informed him that Sandra’s father had died a few years ago, and the phone call ended. I received an e-mail about this, because I am the family genealogist. No last name. No phone number. I do have one tiny clue as to how I might find her family but all the stars will have to be lined up correctly for this to happen.

Monday, June 14, 2010


When we retired, we knew our goal was not going to be something like traveling around the United States in a motor home. Starting in 1990 we had traveled and moved enough to last us the rest of our lives. But we also didn’t want to be stuck in an apartment looking at the boob tube, either. Somehow we had to figure out what would be fun and different. And we knew if we were creative, we could figure out some “different” things that would be “firsts.”

The first thing we did was to move to a new area, still in Southern California but not where we had spent the first 25 years of our married life. Then we came up with an idea: an alphabet lunch program. We decided to eat our way through the alphabet by finding towns starting with letters of the alphabet and where we had never lunched before. The first town would need to start with an “A” and the next with a “B” and so on. As the spirit moved, we would drive to the chosen town and find a place that looked like we might get a decent plate of food. The quality of food was not the determining factor; the town was. We didn’t try to critique the restaurant or the food. We were simply out for fun and for something different. We knew there would be a time – maybe at X and certainly with Z – where we would have to bend our “rules” but so what? We set the rules and we could change them.

Our alphabetized eating took the better part of a year. We were in no hurry to finish the alphabet so we slowly lunched our way through Southern California. There were three times we were in Northern California visiting our kids and we found ourselves in a town with the needed letter. We simply suspended the rule for having to be in Southern California.

Here’s where we ate: Azusa, Banning, Colton, Duarte, Eagle Rock, Fairfield, Garden Grove, Hemet, Idyllwild, Jackson, Kramer Junction, Lake Elsinore, Mira Loma, Nuevo, Orinda, Pearblossom, Quail Valley (no restaurant there but we counted it anyway because it was a long drive to make that discovery!), Rubidoux, San Jacinto, Torrance, Upland, Venice, Wrightwood and Yucaipa. We were right. X was impossible to find and Zzyzx was simply too far away.

We surely did have fun. We found delightful places, and wondered how on earth we could both grow up in Southern California and never have been in Eagle Rock. We really didn’t even know where it was. We met a few challenges: we had noticed a tiny town called Keene in the hills between Tehachapi and Bakersfield, so on our next drive up to visit our Northern California kids we scheduled our K lunch for Keene. Wouldn’t you know that when we arrived we found a sign on the door saying, “Closed Mondays.” So on our trip back home the following Monday, we put our contingency plan in place and drove instead to Kramer Junction out on the Mojave Desert at the junction of the 58 and 395. There we ate at a restaurant nestled between service stations and big semi’s being refueled! Another time we ate at a restaurant in Idyllwild that henceforth we referred to as the Fly Inn. We did not enjoy our meal because we had to eat with a flyswatter in hand.

The year of the alphabet lunch passed quickly. Both Jerry and I had found our retirement feet and we no longer needed to manufacture our fun. But I did have one funny episode in which three “firsts” happened on the same day: I went to Calimesa, a little town I had never even heard of before; I attended a Seventh Day Adventist Church, which was a first (it wasn’t strange, except knowing I was among a huge roomful of vegetarians was). And finally, I played the ukulele at a funeral there. Earlier I had joined a group of ukulele players at the Loma Linda Senior Center. About a year into the activity one of the older gents died and his wife wanted our group to play during the meal to be served in the church hall after his funeral service. We did, of course, but I think playing the uke at a funeral was about the strangest thing I’ve ever done – and certainly a first for me.

As time passed in our retirement mode, we found we no longer wondered if we should try sky diving or bungee jumping or surfing just because it would be a first. We have settled for computing and Net-Flix, volunteering for various organizations and visiting old friends, attending grandkids’ graduations, lots of reading and trying to keep ourselves healthy. We find it wonderful to get up when we want (which has turned out to be 5 a.m.) and go to bed when we feel like it (which is 9 p.m.) We have a master calendar affixed to the refrigerator where we post our upcoming commitments as well as notes to remind ourselves of obligations! Grass is not growing under our feet.

For me, this June is the 10th anniversary of my retirement. We are as busy as we want to be and no longer think in terms of finding things to do. But if anyone offered me a ride in the Goodyear Blimp, you can bet I’d sure turn that into a first!

Saturday, June 12, 2010


I had to laugh when I saw the picture above. Not so much that someone chose to wear socks like that, because I'm sure he was doing it to make a point, but because it is a very creative and practical idea for using up all the single socks we accumulate from losing them in the wash/dry process...

...which reminds me of two episodes in my recent past that beg for a reason besides mind-slippage from aging.

Jerry and I had a funeral to attend. It was for a very close friend , and after the formal service we all went to the gravesite for the lowering of the casket into the ground. It was a gloomy day in winter and we were bundled against the cold. The cemetery was lush and green, very lovely because of all the moisture in the air. Just as lovely were the tributes of friends and family members being shared around the casket. A young child's tribute was in process when Jerry nudged me and pointed to the ground at his feet. I looked but saw nothing that would cause him to call my attention to the ground, no grass or bug or whatever. I resumed looking and listening at the speaker, and then came another nudge. Thinking it must be very important for him to interrupt me again, I looked down where he was pointing - and then I saw it. He had on one black shoe and one brown shoe.

How I managed to hold it all together I'll never know. There is such a tight space between laughing and crying that I wasn't sure which was going to happen. All I knew is that it would not at all be appropriate if I unloosed a shriek of laughter or sorrow. I wouldn't have been able to guarantee what would have come out of my mouth. I took a deep breath, told myself to get a grip, and I managed to compose myself outwardly. Inwardly was harder, but I just had to make myself think of how ugly those skinned sheep heads in Turkey looked when I tried to take a picture of them -- and I got through the rest of the service without embarrassing myself. Luckily it ended shortly and I'm sure anyone seeing me in the front seat of the car with a hankie at my eyes assumed I was crying. However, they would have been very surprised to see Jerry sitting beside me laughing. We laughed for a long time.

But what made the incident especially funny was at a funeral we had attended several months prior to this one (yes, at our age we do have lots of funerals to attend), I discovered, also at the gravesite, that I had worn a black dress and black shoes but had inadvertantly put on navy blue pantyhose. I did not find this funny at all. I was SO embarrassed and as soon as we left the gravesite, on the drive to the family gathering at their home I insisted that we stop at the nearest drug store where I could run in and buy a pair of black pantyhose. Then I made Jerry drive (I usually drive) while I shimmied out of the offending navy pantyhose and shimmied myself into the black pair. All this transpired on Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley. I tried to accomplish this switch very unobtrusively and I had to camouflage this personal procedure when a bus or a truck or a big SUV pulled up beside us. It was not easy. But I did it and was able to walk into the family home with my confidence restored.

So this earlier episode was lurking in the back of my mind when I looked down at Jerry's feet and saw a black shoe and a brown shoe. On the one hand it was going to even-up the score, because Jerry got a lot of fun out of teasing me about my faux pas. I could understand how I could make such an error - black and navy are not all that far apart in shading. But for Jerry to mistake black and brown? And then I remembered that he is "color-inhibited" - not color blind but he has a difficult time discerning light shades from each other. Light grey, lavendar, beige, light blue, sea-foam green, soft gold - they all look the same to him. So I am sure that both of us had a good reason other than old age to account for these momentary slips.

You can be assured that we check each other over very carefully now before we walk out the door - especially to funerals, because that is the one place you don't want to get into a laughing fit!

Friday, June 11, 2010


I've had this piece in my files for a long time, and I think it is just as funny now as it was when I read it the first time.

During an Ecumenical Conference, someone rushed in and shouted “The building is on fire!”

The METHODISTS raised their hands in horror and cried, “This interferes with our plans.”

The BAPTISTS cried, “Where’s the water?”

The PRESBYTERIANS elected a chairman who was to look into the matter.

The CHRISTIAN SCIENTISTS agreed among themselves that there was no fire.

Some FUNDAMENTALISTS shouted, “This is the vengeance of God.”

The PENTECOSTALS all started talking at once, but no one could understand them.

The LUTHERANS, after debating the matter, posted a notice outside the door declaring that the fire was evil.

The QUAKERS quietly praised God for all the blessing which fire brings us.

Some JEWS, who were present as observers, went around posting a symbol over the doors, hoping the fire would pass over them harmlessly.

The CATHOLICS quickly started a raffle for the building fund.

The CONGREGATIONALISTS and the UNITARIANS shouted, “Every man for himself.”

The EPISCOPALIANS formed a recessional and marched out of the building in grand style.

The JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES went knocking door to door to tell everyone about the fire.

The MORMONS started checking the ancestors of the fire fighters.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Cemeteries reflect cultural and religious views of a location. A very helpful article I read back in 1992 said that the Islam view of a cemetery is that it is functional for the living, not for the dead. The burial of earthly remains of a person is a temporary site and is considered important only as long as there are people who remember the deceased. When that time passes and there is no longer any present concern for the site and the tombstone, and as the mortal remains are no longer “evanescent,” the gravesite/tombstone is no longer necessary. In some cases certain groups require that the tombstone itself be simple and of a perishable material. This is a much more pragmatic approach to life and death than westerners hold. In Turkey, which of course is a multicultural, secular state, one can find cemeteries and tombstones along the whole spectrum of both religion and history.

I don't believe there could ever be a more beautiful artifact connected with death and burial than this lovely Roman sarcophagus, which of course we found in a museum.

An Armenian burial ground in Istanbul has beautiful tombstones. I was in this cemetery during winter, on a cold, bleak day. Finding the tombstones embedded with pictures of the priests in their black robes was touching and, as I had not seen such religious garb before, somewhat eerie. The statuary in the cemetery was breathtaking.

The Protestant cemetery in Ferikoy, the one that I did the research in, was a much more familiar setting to me, with tombs and memorials much more similar to what we find in the west. The land for this cemetery was given by the Ottoman government in 1857 to the leading Protestant powers of that time: Great Britain, Prussia, the USA, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Hanseatic Cities.

I know that not everyone feels about cemeteries as I do. For me they are places of beauty and peace, even when they are run-down and unkempt. I trust that you all will find something of interest in these various burial sites in part of the world that you may not have the chance to visit.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


My interest in cemeteries goes way back to when I was a child and my father used to take my little sister and me for a walk in a lovely old cemetery in Whittier, California. In junior high school some friends and I formed the "Wilmore Memorial Club" in Long Beach, the express reason being to visit the burial site of William Erwin Wilmore, founder of the city of Long Beach. And of course, taking up the hobby of genealogy in mid-age was a natural extension of those early interests. Later in Istanbul I researched a cemetery where Americans were buried. And I took lots of photos of various cemeteries and tombs throughout Turkey. Today and tomorrow I will share some of those photos.

The picture above is of a burial site in the old area of Istambul, although it is not an especially old site and is quite nicely maintained. Not all sites are. Tomorrow I'll have something more to say about what one can generally expect to find in muslim cemeteries as contrasted with those of non-muslims. But for today, I'll just start with two diametrically opposite burial sites.

On a trip into central Anatolia during the winter I saw the vista above and at first glance I thought I was seeing cacti on a barren hillside. However, I soon discovered that it was not cacti at all but tombstones in an old burial site. It actually was quite some distance from where I stood; by using a telephoto lens I was able to show more clearly what I was seeing. The starkness of that area was such a change from the other areas I had seen of Turkey, and I must admit that it certainly has its own beauty. I don't remember where it was exactly, but on that visit we were near Sile and Catalhoyuk.

This cemetery is in an area near the Black Sea, taken as I remember, on a trip to Tonya. The Black Sea coast is hot, humid and so very lush and green. You can see in this photo how the plant growth has taken over this cemetery. I'm sure most of the stones were hidden by the plants; you can see a few with their tops peeking up among the greenery.

More tomorrow.

Monday, June 7, 2010


It seems to me that whenever I make a pronouncement of some sort, at some point in my life it will come back to bite me. And usually it isn’t even a dramatic pronouncement but something I mostly forget about until the moment down the road when I say “ouch.”

The most recent happening is all due to the fact that I am on a mission to get rid of all the papers in my file cabinets which probably should have been dumped at least ten years ago but to which I have been inordinately attached, as I am to most of my things.

In looking at the files I’d kept, I had to acknowledge that for the most part 1) I hadn’t looked at them in the last 10 years, 2) they weren’t anything my heirs would be interested in keeping, and 3) in all honesty I probably wouldn’t ever need them again. Doing what needed to be done was hard, and I admit to wavering a lot. But I did it.

Some of you know I spent two years in Turkey back in the early 1990s researching the lives of Americans who were buried in an old cemetery in Istanbul. My beginning research was on-site, as I spent hours transcribing the tombstones. Then it moved to the various places in Istanbul where I might find records of these people, which I found in the registers of two different churches and at a major library. Knowing I would probably not get back to Istanbul again, I made sure I had photocopies of all my backup to use once I started writing. Once I arrived back in the US, I spent many Saturdays at the LA Public library, a week at the Maryland Branch of the National Archives where the original state department records are kept, and then did lots of letter writing (all still in pre-internet times).

I finally had the book printed in 1998 and the material posted on the Internet shortly thereafter. In the ensuing years I’ve had lots of people e-mail or write me because they have found their families in my “published” research and wanted to know more. It was the “more” that I kept in my file cabinet and that filled more than half a drawer.

Yesterday I threw it all out. All that is left is what is published. The sources are all cited, but I can no longer provide further details. The people will have to go to the original source now for more. And simply trust what I said is true.

That’s where I got bit yesterday.

Back in 1983 when I started into genealogy I purchased a book put out by a lady in Kentucky. She had my Higdon family in her book. All the later stuff was taken from the same sources I had dug up prior to finding her book, but she took the line back much further than I had. And in it she indicated my line was actually related to Pocohontas. A newbie to research, I was SO excited and I quickly phoned my family members to tell them of this wonderful find. How excited I was.

But as studied her book more, I discovered there was no good documentation for this claim. What I saw was a giant leap of faith that this connection was what she claimed. I wanted to know how she came to this conclusion, so I wrote her. She kindly wrote back and said she had written the book some time back but once the book was published she had thrown away all her notes and documentation. At the time, I really thought no one who wrote a book would throw away their backup material once the book was published. I figured this lady probably said what she did because she really never did have any source to prove her statement.

Without documentation, I absolutely refused to give any credence beyond a “theory” to her claim, and with egg on my face I again phoned all my relatives and withdrew my happy claim.

As I was tossing my Turkish Cemetery notes into the trash yesterday this little episode with my Kentucky ancestors came to mind. By throwing my papers away, not only was I was basically taking away the possibility of “proving” what I wrote to anyone who might contact me in the future, but also with being able to provide all sorts of additional information contained in my files – things that would take their ancestors beyond being just a “name, rank and serial number” Yes, this information still exists but just no longer is it in my files.

“Oh-Oh,” I thought as I recollected my thoughts about the Kentucky lady who threw away her research paperwork. Yesterday I saw I had been too critical of her. Yes, people DO, at some point, need to clear out their file drawers and they have to make a decision to toss out old things. I think I just wasn’t old enough yet to understand that there comes a point when life needs to be simplified a little, when you understand your research and your letters are not going to be put in a library somewhere and you don’t need to leave things in your files for your kids to deal with when you die.

Now if you are wondering if I kept anything at all, I assure you I did. Two files worth. In those two files are things that make me happy – mainly e-mails from people all over the world who have been helped by my book. Those kinds of things are worth saving….and for passing on to my kids, who probably sometimes wonder why their old mother keeps so much junk around.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Today I share pictures, not words.

My cousin Shirlee, a native Southern Californian, retired to the North Carolina coast. She bought herself a house and a camera. Her house backs up to a forest, and she, with her keen eye and sharp powers of observation, has provided me with some amazing photos, which are the ones you will see below. First is a walking stick, which rested on her window long enough for her to grab her camera and snap away.

Can bugs be adorable? Here are newly hatched praying mantises, who shortly after Shirlee took the picture, followed mama mantis into the forest.

Look at the colors of this katydid!

Has a grasshopper ever been so interesting?

Here's a Goldenrod spider. He's a little hard to see. His legs are those jointed white "things" and he hides inside the flower to snatch his meal as it flies by.

In addition to the bugs, her yard visitors include deer, snakes, possums, turtles, crabs, and racoons, in addition to red cardinals, bluebirds, and too many other birds to name. Shirlee is certainly making good use of her retirement. Thanks for the use of your photos, Cuz! I miss you.

Friday, June 4, 2010


I wouldn’t swear on a stack of bibles that this fruit is an UGLI (which is a registered trademark of a certain brand of tangelos from Jamaica). The other UGLIs I have seen are yellowish-greenish and are more the size of a grapefruit. This fruit pictured above was coded in the supermarket’s cash register as a mandarin orange – so I am hard pressed to tell you exactly what it is, except that it for sure is ugly.

The supermarket today had a big arrangement of them in the produce section, and people just couldn’t pass them by without making some kind of unkind remark or giving it a quick squeeze. Jerry and I, on the other hand, stopped to give it a thorough inspection, and I served up the authoritative word by remarking that this was exactly how the skin on my face was starting to look!

Tell me truthfully, those of you who have seen me recently, don’t you think I’m telling the truth and not exaggerating except for maybe a tiny bit. Here, look, and see if you don’t see me in this photo:

Even the hair looks like mine anymore.

That picture of me cost $1.99 – it was quite expensive and ugly to boot, I thought, but a price I was willing to pay for. The cashier said to us, “What is this?” and we said we didn’t read the sign on the produce display but we assumed it was a mandarin orange. (I think we meant tangerine, which probably would have rung up as 47 cents or something, but if you don’t pay attention to things you end up paying more!) Anyway, everyone got a kick out of it, me most of all, because I knew that I had was holding today’s blog in my hand.

I’ve had my fun and as you can see below, the UGLI or tangerine or whatever you call it is now on its way to being “et.” Doesn’t take much to make me see the humor in things!

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I haven’t had a good new word in a long time. Until yesterday.

According to my rules, to rate as “good” a word has to have the cachet of “crapulous.” (And in case you don’t know the word “cachet” - which also is a good word - it means a mark or sign showing something is genuine, authentic, or of superior quality)

Anyway, yesterday I came across a good new word quite by accident – the accident being my old beat-up red Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary falling to the floor and opening to a random page. And as I looked down I saw the word “vomitory.” Upon seeing it, I hoped it would prove to have a meaning that I could remember if the occasion arose.

Vomitory is a splendid word that should be used in crossword puzzles. Perhaps it IS but maybe I just don’t work on the kinds of crossword puzzles that might use it, like the Sunday New York Times Crossword.

But in reading on in good old Webster’s, I realized I have used a vomitory many times in my life. Just saying that would mislead someone into thinking that maybe a vomitory is a toilet bowl, but no. It is one of the tunnel-like passageways of an amphitheater or stadium between the seats and the outside wall. Simple, huh? I would guess most of you, like me, have ambled through a vomitory many times in going to football or baseball games, rock concerts, horse races, or Billy Graham Crusades.

Further descriptions of this word indicate a vomitory is any kind of passage through which material (animal, rock or mineral, I would guess) is disgorged. So I see where the word “vomit” comes into play. I am imagining that our esophagus could actually be considered a vomitory.

Oh dear, there are all kinds of things one thinks of as possible applications of this new word. But as for me, I’ll merely save it until the next time Jer and I have occasion to enter a stadium. Right now, in my mind’s eye, I can see Jerry standing in his gladiator costume, helmet on and sword in hand, saying in stentorian tones “Lo, the Vomitory.” Can’t you just see it too?

Oh what fun to have a new word! Let’s use it, folks!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I am not a person you would call “particular” about things. Of course I’ve got my likes and dislikes but mostly I just kind of roll with the punches. However, there is one thing that is really important to me – I don't want my hard boiled eggs (which we refer to as HBs at this house) to have a grayish-greenish ring around the yolk when I slice them open.

These rings don’t kill you, but in my own mind they signify in a very unappealing way that the egg has not been cooked right.

Julia Child taught me how to cook the perfect HB egg. Here’s what you do.

Take your eggs out of the refrigerator, place them in a pan that will allow them all to lie on the bottom, and fill the pan with cold water, making sure that the eggs are well-covered. Place on stove.

Turn the burner on. Watch like a hawk for the water to come to a good boil. When that happens, turn the heat down a tiny bit. Immediately set your timer for exactly 5 minutes.

When your timer dings (or in my case the chicken clucks), turn the burner off, set the pan on a different burner and place a lid on the pan. Set your timer for exactly 12 minutes.

When the timer dings this second time, carry the pan of eggs over to the sink and run cold water into the pan until the eggs are cool enough for you to hold.

At this point your eggs are perfectly cooked. There will be no surprises when you crack them open and do whatever it is you are going to do with them.

The catch, of course, is not to get sidetracked and forget to be precise, like if you get a phone call, or someone knocks at the door. If you want perfect eggs, you have to put them first during that short period of time.

Julia Child said this is a fool-proof method.

So now you know everything Julia and I know about perfect HB eggs.