Sunday, January 30, 2011


In the last year Jerry and I have had to make a major adjustment in our married life. This change has come about because he was elected to a position in one of the local organizations he belonged to and he quickly needed to become computer literate, which he definitely was not. And I needed to teach him what he needed to know.

Except for being able to check his e-mail and use Quicken to keep track of our bank account, he really hadn’t a clue as to how to produce a document, or a file, or a chart. He had never taken a typing class, and as far as he knew, his left hand was supposed to hold down the “Shift” key to get a capital letter and his right hand – or right forefinger, more explicitly – was supposed to produce the words. His WPM was probably off the chart on the low end.

But he was game to learn. Both of us thought what he had to do was do-able, but he really hadn’t reckoned on all the “Save As…”,.pdf and .docx. He didn’t know simple things like how to get additional space between paragraphs or centering headings, or pagination….but he knew I knew how and would help him. Compounding the problem for him was that many of the younger men in the organization liked to show off either their expertise or their chutzpah by manipulating the reports they sent in to him with some fancy stuff, like a background logo or complicated headers or footers that I had to deal with before Jerry could tackle them.

He did well, and finally came to enjoy being at least semi-literate on the computer.

However, as you know, the computer can be very frustrating at times, and when Jerry was doing his group’s work, he often had to call me to come bail him out. For the most part he wrote down what I told him, but when everything is new, sometimes it is simply easier to call for help. Nevertheless, you all know it is quite common to talk to the computer when it does its little “things,” so many times I thought he was asking for help and I ran to help him, but he was just scolding the computer. Normally Jerry does not cuss when he is frustrated, but if I ever heard the word “C - - p” emanating from the computer room, I knew he needed my help badly.

I worked in the same company he did before we married, and I admit at times I heard him cuss like a longshoreman. When we married I figured there wouldn’t be any surprises, but there were: he did not cuss at home. I was shocked. He literally left that part of his Modus Operandi at work and brought the nice part home. And that was why I was so surprised when at the height of his frustration with the computer he only used the relatively benign word “C - - P”

His special time on the computer was in the morning before I got up. Sometimes if I stayed in bed a little longer than usual, I could hear the “C” word make its way from the computer room to the bedroom, sliding under the door and into my ear, which was still lopping around on my pillow. It was a wake-up call to me and I always hustled in to lend a hand. It made me laugh, because it was so un-Jerry like.

His term of office is up the end of this month. I really think he enjoyed the work more than he let on. At 81 he’s not apt to take on any more responsibilities of an elected office, especially any that require heavy computer work. But this last year has been good for him. He’s proven he is an old dog that has learned new tricks. And that makes me smile.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Jer and I went to a little out-of-the-way restaurant yesterday in Chino and while waiting for our food we got to talking about odds and ends. He didn’t know the answer to one of the questions I asked him and said I probably could find an answer on Google. Ten minutes later we made another reference to Google and I thought I’d better write down these two things, lest I forget.

I dug into my purse for paper and pen, wrote “To Check on Google” at the top, and poised my pen to write the first thing that we’d talked about. My pen stayed up in the air. I could not remember what it was that I was going to check on.

I asked Jer if he remembered what it was I was going to check. His face was as blank as mine was. I have always kidded him about us having superior brains – and we may have had them in the past, but what has happened now is that those brains do not function very well in the memory department. In fact, they are doing a downright lousy job of retaining even important stuff.

Not only did we not remember what the first item was but we also didn’t remember the second one. There I sat with my paper as blank as our brains. Neither of us could come up with what we had talked about not ten minutes earlier.

This is old age.

My cousin called me last night from North Carolina and we chatted for a while. She has had surgery on her legs and she tries to keep them elevated as often as possible, so she was telling me about engineering some kind of a tray that would fit on her “---------- chair” to hold her computer mouse. The “----------“ was because she could not bring into her mind or her mouth the chair she was referring to. The word was totally gone. I asked if she meant “recliner” and sure enough, it was the word she had lost. We commiserated with each other about what aging does to our brains and how funny but discouraging it is. We agreed we didn’t think we had a serious problem, yet. We agreed that everyone who is aging experiences glitches like ours, and we admitted these things also happened in middle age but we just didn’t assign such a dire prognosis to it.

I told my cousin I’d read that nothing we learned was lost; it was just rolling around somewhere in our brain and might make an appearance again, or might not. The minute I said that I remembered what it was that I wanted to look up on Google! Just like that! I told my cousin to hold on while I brought a book down from the shelf behind me which probably contained the answer – but I wanted the book in front of me so I’d have less chance of forgetting the question again! Cuz and I finished our conversation satisfied; she had her recliner chair and I had my answer book. All was right with the world again, for a while, at least.

I know we aren’t the only ones who go through this. I try to be nice to myself and not stress unduly over these little lapses. I am sure I still have all my marbles --- somewhere. I just have to wait for them to appear, sometimes. And so far I keep laughing at them. What I don’t understand is how I could have gotten so old so fast? Does anyone have a sensible answer for that?

And just so you will know, there IS a town in California called Jolon, which was a real surprise to me. GoogleEarth showed it to me. It is in a valley between the Pacific Ocean on the west and Highway 101 on the East, and is north of Paso Robles. Six miles north of Jolon is the third mission (San Antonio de Padua) that was founded by Father Junipero Serra back in September of 1771.

Why all this was so important for me to know is a mystery but at least now I can put it to rest. Perhaps one of these days we will decide to take a drive and head up toward Jolon, unless old age strikes again and we forget all about it.

Monday, January 24, 2011


I have always been charmed by photos of adults and small children together. You expect to see pictures of mothers with their babies, but there really doesn't seem to be nearly as many taken of the male relatives gazing with fond eyes at their tiny little kin. But maybe my family was different. Here's a few I have in my albums:

In 1906 James Arthur Ryland became a grandfather for the first time. He owned land near Caldwell Kansas and among other things was a gentleman farmer and stockraiser. In this picture, he is looking at his first grandchild Nevalyn Eugene Ryland, who was always called "Bob" or "Bobby." Grandpa Ryland was my great-grandpa, who died long before I was born. Bob was my Uncle Bob, who I never met except by photograph.

We'll skip to a later generation for the next pix - which actually is of me as an almost 1 year old in 1936. I was the first grandchild born in the next Ryland generation. The Ryland family, represented above by my two teenaged uncles, Bert and Hugh Ryland, had traded Kansas for California in 1930. The depression was still going strong and my mother, Virginia Ryland Dobbins, was surrogate mom to her younger brothers and sisters, which included the two boys above and two sisters not shown, while their mother worked during the day. It was wonderful growing up amidst a whole crop of aunts and uncles. Let me tell you, I was one pampered baby!

The picture above is of my cousin Shirley, who was born in February of 1937. As you can tell, she was a darling little tyke, and what tickled me about this photo is how big her dad, my uncle Sam, seemed. Well, he was big, but I don't remember him that way. Shirley and I grew up in the same town and our Ryland aunts and uncles were close knit and we saw them often. Uncle Sam was married to my Mom's younger sister Marie Ryland. He was a Merchant Marine and as such was gone to sea a great deal of the time. But whenever he came home he always brought wonderful things for my sister and me -- like wooden shoes from Holland and costumes like belly dancers wore from the near east. We had a steady stream of "show and tell" items to share at our school.

In my dad's later life he often got to reminiscing about "the old days" and he told me he had never known a man who was so comfortable around babies as Uncle Sam was. He said Sam could change a diaper better than Aunt Marie could and always carried Shirley around tucked under his arm like a football. My dad was not a hands-on father, as he had not been raised around little children, but Sam had been, and to the end of his life my dad was in awe of Uncle Sam's wonderful talent! I think this photo of my cousin Shirley and her daddy is just about my favorite of all the family photos I have.

Lest I do my father a disservice, I do have him in a couple of pictures holding his kids when they were little. This one above is of him showing off my little sister, who was born in August of 1937. He had wanted to name me, the firstborn daughter, after my mother, but Mother wouldn't give up the name Barbara! So when my sister came Dad insisted that she be named Virginia Louise after my mom. My mother was always called "Ginnie" and my sister was "Ginnie Lou."

I think the picture shows that my dad wasn't actually "afraid" of holding his girls, and his face certainly indicates that he was tickled pink about this one, but I think overall he wasn't as much a hands-on father as he was one who constantly showered his kids with surprises and gifts. I don't remember him so much for hugs and kisses as I do for bags of penny candy, bags of freshly popped popcorn, and later, making pancake dinners for any friends we wanted to have over for dinner.

It's fun to look back through the old photos to see what one can see. And sets a person thinking about those old times, remembering things we haven't thought about in years. And I can't help wondering what it is that down the road my kin are going to remember about me.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


If you like reading about things medical then you already may have found the website And if you haven’t found it yet, you really should.

KevinMD is Dr. Kevin Pho. His blog runs a daily collection of writings by those in the medical professions. Of special interest to me is watching the docs and the administrators try to figure out how to bring the best of medicine and the best of electronic charting into a workable relationship that is accurate, quickly available and constantly up to date (something I always wonder about, since as yet my own doc doesn’t always have in my computerized chart what I am asking him about.)

I had to laugh at one blog the good doctor wrote about last week. He starts by giving the illustration of doctors rolling their eyes when patients bring in a handful of printouts gleaned from a Google search. Right off the bat this blog captured me, because I have been known to do just that, although the last time I considered doing it was when I speculated I had Sjogren’s Syndrome and printed out what had to say about it. (However, I used my better judgment and did not take it to the appointment with me, instead opting to stick it in my own “pending” file for future reference, just in case…).

Dr. Pho then commented on an article by Zachary Meisel in where he describes such an eye-roll coming from a medical intern who mentions a patient had some blood in the toilet that morning and came in armed with internet printouts listing a bunch of diseases and conditions that blood in the toilet might indicate. The intern then offered that she herself thinks the patient might have a hemorrhoid.

I just laughed my head off. That could have been me. Me, the patient.

The point of the blog is that whether doctors like it or not, the internet is here to stay and because so much undocumented junk gets put on the internet for everyone’s eyes, it would serve medicine better if doctors stopped the eye-rolling and give some thought to providing the inquiring patient with sites that “exclusively present current, peer-reviewed and evidence-based health information,” which is Dr. Meisel’s recommendation and has Dr. Pho’s concurrence.
And in fairness, I think probably those people who might fit the term “cyberchondriacs” would be just as well served by putting more of their own printouts in their pending files.

And you can learn more about Dr. Pho here:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I am going to the dentist today. I have always had very nice dentists, but I still hated to go see them. Today I am having my first appointment with a new dentist. Well, she isn’t new, but she is different than the one I had been going to for the past 10 years.

The reason I am changing is that our senior advantage plan has added dental insurance as a benefit. Our former dentist was in Loma Linda, near where we lived for the first five years of our retirement but about twenty miles away from where we have been living since then. It was comfy to think of staying with the same dentist, but with the new plan it made sense financially to change to someone who was a provider (the old dentist wasn’t) and who would be much nearer to where we live now. I met this new dentist, a “she” in Riverside, at an introductory appointment last week, and I start my dental work today.

I like to think of myself as fairly laid back and accepting of what has to be done, but I’ll confess that I simply hate going to see the dentist, any dentist, even if he/she is someone that I like personally. There is nothing about going to a dentist that is pleasant. What they do usually falls in one or more of these categories: deliver bad news, cause discomfort or pain, and most especially lighten a wallet. I know, it is not the dentist’s fault that I need a root canal; actually it’s not mine either. Teeth just don’t last as long as they should. Also, although it probably isn’t a fair comparison, with the co-pay system my senior insurance plan has, I could see 50 specialist MDs for the price of what I will pay for my root canal. To be honest with you, I hate the idea of investing $500 in a single tooth, especially when I am getting of an age that I just might not get my money’s worth out of it. If I didn’t have to chew food, I might simply have this tooth pulled. However, drinking meals for the rest of my life is not something I want to seriously consider.

I asked my last dentist if it was true that dentists had the highest suicide rate of all professionals. He said he couldn’t prove or disprove it, but he’d known a lot of dentists in his life and he’d never known one to take his or her own life. He said he thought some studies had been done but there really was no agreement on whether or not the data was interpreted correctly. He did say that dentists are in a fairly solitary profession; that is, there may be an office full of young office help, most of whom are female and, he says, hoping to find a dentist husband, but there are not usually professional peers to provide a more collegial atmosphere. He added that dentists know people hate to come see them, which is a somewhat depressing in and of itself. Dentists also know they are, in the long run, making people feel and look better. Now from a patient’s standpoint that is true, but most of us still don’t like to go to the dentist!

The worst dental trip I ever had really had nothing to do with my teeth. I was sitting in the chair having a cleaning when the receptionist came in and asked if I was the owner of the blue Oldsmobile in front of the office. When I said I was, she indicated that a neighbor had just come in to report two young teenaged boys had broken the passenger side window and run off with a tote bag I had left in the front seat. She said they disappeared down the alley. I burst into laughter in spite of myself, because all that was in that bag was a used washcloth, a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste that I had brought to work with me that day to brush my teeth before my dental appointment. In spite of that broken window, I just had to laugh wondering what those little twerps thought when they found my accoutrements!

So off I go this morning, ready for the needles and the prying and the grinding. You know the old saying, “No pain, no gain.” Well I guess this is just going to be one of those times when I have to bite the bullet and do what has to be done.

However, I don’t have to like it!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I have been saving up a few odd words to share with you.

I particularly like words I might easily haul out of their resting place in my brain to use in the blog, or in conversation with some ordinary person – that is, not an egghead. I don’t want to seem pretentious when I use them so they need to be words that trip off my tongue without a big “to-do” and seem to be a comfortable resident in my existing vocabulary. I think these fit.

In case you too are one of the odd people for whom words provide a great source of fun, you can surely have fun with these.

The first one today is “horripilate,” which means to have your hair stand up on end (goose bumps) from cold or fear. “Look, ma, I’m horripilating!” Now I do think this is pretty much a eggheady kind of word, but I do like to know exactly what the hair on my arms is doing when I watch a scary movie, although I must admit I don’t watch those kinds of movies anymore. But if I ever do again, at least I can now talk intelligently and precisely about my physical reaction if anyone wants to know.

The next word I found and fell in love with is pelf. Now this word has been around a long time, but I’ve just become aware of it and once understanding what it means I find it all around our society:
late 14c., from Anglo-Fr. pelf, from O.Fr. pelfre "booty, spoils" (11c.), of unknown origin, related to pilfer (q.v.). Meaning "money, riches," with a pejorative overtone first recorded c.1500.

The TV and radio news lately has talked about WikiLeaks receiving, and possibly later making public, financial information about well-known personages around the world with Swiss bank accounts and who shelter their wealth to avoid taxes or whatever. I think it’s entirely possible this money could be considered pelf. But certainly the riches accumulated by all those sleezy guys at the top of the “pyramid” scams could be considered pelf.

Anyway, it’s good to know this word. I don’t think any of my friends have pelf, and I certainly don’t, but if I find any at least I’ll know what to call it.

The final word today is ort or more commonly, orts. If you do crossword puzzles you may have come across this word, which is where I first saw it. Scrabble is where you’ll find another use of this word. Orts simply means scraps of food.

When we had our dogs, there were rarely any orts left on our plates after dinner. When we ceased having dogs, Jerry stepped in and took over, until his doctor insisted he stay on his diabetic diet. That was about the same time we had to use a dictionary to discover what an “ort” was when we got stuck at a crossword puzzle. So now we are pretty much ortless; if you don’t cook too much you won’t eat too much, I learned.

I do find the definition of orts is not totally restricted to leftover food scraps. I find it is also used for leftover scraps of yarn and embroidery thread that those of us who do needlework end up with. I personally have lots of orts in my yarn storage box. Never give away an ort; the minute you do you’ll need it again.

So today I’m pleased to share with you three new words. “Horripilate,” “Pelf” and “Orts.”

You may not find a way to comfortably use them in the next few days, but you still can be very proud of yourself for adding these three new words to your storehouse of knowledge.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Every woman who doesn't have a cleaning lady to do some of the nasty chores for her will recognize the setting above. Yes, it's that area under the sink where all kinds of "miracle" cleaning products are stored.

Keeping it neat and tidy is a thankless task. Nine times out of ten when you reach for something in this area either 1) you won't have the right product, or 2) you are almost out of what you need, or 3) what you've bought and stored there - and haven't used yet - is discolored or so old it not effective anymore.

I had been aware for some time that this area in my little apartment needed cleaning, but I find it such a distasteful job that I'd just been putting it off. I finally told myself that I simply had to bite the bullet and get it done. So yesterday was the day. As it happened, I had also arranged to meet my two cousins for lunch, so I asked Jerry if he would get everything out of that cupboard while I was gone. I wanted him to save a few pages of the morning newspaper for me to use in relining the cupboard, and then I asked him to bring in the little plastic stool that was serving as a temporary base in the living room for a large rubber plant. I needed the stool in the kitchen to sit on so I wouldn't have to kneel on the floor while I cleaned. My ulterior motive (knowing how I often can come up with some excuse NOT to do a distasteful chore) was to be forced into cleaning up the mess that Jerry would create.

I shared with my cousins at lunch the directions I gave Jerry regarding his part in helping me. They looked at me like I was a idiot. "Why didn't you just ask him to clean it?" they both asked. I had to admit the thought crossed my mind, but for some reason I just felt I should do it myself. It probably was a subconscious punishment for my not having done it sooner.

Nancy, Sharon and I spent about half an hour laughing and sharing about the kinds of things we find when we clean under the sink. You can see in the picture that there are two boxes of "Dip-It" for cleaning our one little percolator coffeepot. I have enough furniture polish to clean all the furniture in "Living Spaces." I have ammonia to use for something I can't remember -- and at any rate it is a half-gallon of ammonia which for our 780 square foot apartment is enough to last far longer than we will. And so it goes.

Sharon shared that she bought a special polish for her stainless steel refrigerator and by the time she got around to using it the contents of the bottle were as hard as a rock. I know how that feels. We also talked about how there was nothing, absolutely nothing, under any of our sinks that could be used to remove soot. My latest try is with Murphy Oil Soap for Wood Furniture. And of course if your sink itself is an old white cast iron sink, the kind they put in when the apartment complex was built in 1962, it is impossible to find any cleaner - Ajax, Comet, Barkeepers Friend - that will make it white again. The only thing that works is straight bleach.

I always seem to want to blame a lot of this on my apartment itself, but it really is a ubiquitous problem experienced by those who don't have a big back porch or a big pantry of some other specific place where all the cleaning supplies and equipment go.

The picture above at least shows that I did follow through with what I said I was going to do. My pledge to myself, which I say every time I do what I consider such an onerous chore, is that I will keep it neater, cleaner, nicer, more organized, and clean it more often. I will get rid of duplicates, things that don't work, things I don't need any more and things I'm likely not to ever use or ever use again. That about covers the pledge, I think.

All I have to do now is live up to it. I do have the consolation of knowing that I am not the only one who has this "under the sink" problem! Misery loves company, they say.

Friday, January 14, 2011


I remember this well: I was about 9 years old and already an avid reader. Mother always read to us when we were small, and in those days it was thought that kids weren't ready to read until first grade, which was when I was taught to read. (Educators later realized that plenty of kids can read at age four!) But once I started reading on my own I made up for lost time. Then, as now, I was almost never caught without a book in my hand. My sister and I walked to and from school each day, reading as we walked. I do remember once walking into a wooden post that held up a bus stop sign and after arriving at school with a big red knot on my forehead, having to call my daddy to come get me because the school nurse thought I should stay home for the day.

Now I don't walk and read any more but I do keep a book in my car. I think waiting anywhere is such a waste of time and it begs to be filled with reading. I generally have at least two books going at the same time. And I rarely go anywhere without a book in a tote bag hanging from my arm.

I know I am not alone in this love of books, so today I've picked out my 20 favorite books from my 2010's list of "Books Read" and will share them with you. Since I am not writing a review of them, just so you'll have some idea of what kinds of books that I read I'll tell you this: I don't normally read romance or gothic novels, westerns, science fiction or fantasy. I read more non-fiction books than fiction. I read lots of book reviews (NY Times, LA Times, and a few online lists) and almost always choose my reading material based on a review. I don't seem to be any good at plucking books off the library shelves. I do follow certain authors, whose names appear almost yearly on my own lists of "books read." And in the non-fiction category, I pick my books more for subjects of interest than for excellence of writing, but I must admit that if a book isn't well written I am just as apt to "quit" midstream as to continue to plow through it.

So with that all said, I'll give you my 20 favorites for 2010:

Ireland by Frank Delaney
Remembering the Bones by Frances Itani
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliviera
The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosely
Oscar Wilde & A Death of No Importance by Gyles Brandreth

Dorothea Lange by Linda Gordon
The Man who Loved Books too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
We Two: Victoria and Albert by Gillian Gill
188th Crybaby Battalion by Joel Chasnoff
Exiting Nirvana: A Daughter’s Life with Autism by Clara Claiborne Park
Furious Love: Liz Taylor & Richard Burton by Kashner and Schoenberger
Lives Like Loaded Guns – Emily Dickenson by Lyndall Gordon
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe by J. Randy Taraborrelli
Robert College: The American Founders by Keith Greenwood
The Sisters of Sinai:How Two Lady Adventurers Discovered the Hidden Gospels by Janet Soskice
Orange is the New Black by Piper Kernan

So there it is. One of the nicest things about being retired is that I can read to my heart's content. I always have time to talk "books" with anyone who has similar interests in reading matter, and welcome suggestions from any of you for something I've just got to read!

Thursday, January 13, 2011


The first thing I noticed about living in a senior complex - and this has been true both in the Loma Linda Springs apartments and Country Village here in Mira Loma - is that people are always being carted off in an ambulance. It is very disconcerting, since in all the years I lived in ordinary houses in ordinary neighborhoods, I never laid eyes on an ambulance in our area. That was probably just luck of the draw - and perhaps that is what made it so downright discouraging for me to live in the midst of ailing and aging people. In the first year we lived in Mira Loma, the fellow in the apartment that adjoined ours on the east was taken to the hospital a couple of times, luckily to return but more incapacitated each time. The fellow in the apartment abutting ours on the west was carted off only once, and he died shortly thereafter. And a woman in the apartment across the street was in such fragile health from diabetes that the paramedics arrived weekly, sometimes leaving her at home and other times taking her to the hospital, at which time she screamed bloody murder not to take her. Within a few months she disappeared, whether she died or just moved to another place I don’t know.

Now mind you, Country Village is advertised as "resort living" for seniors over 55, the same nomenclature used at the Loma Linda complex too. Neither were in any way assisted living facilities. But I have to tell you that I see some pretty funny things going on here that I can't imagine seeing in the "under 55" world.

One day Jerry and I were having a small afternoon treat at our "Country Village” coffee shop when I saw a lady in the booth across and down a bit from ours licking her dessert plate. No, she wasn’t lapping at it like a dog would, or running her finger around it to catch all the melted ice cream. She was holding it up to her face and was licking every square inch of it with her tongue. I was horrified and revolted. She was a decent-looking lady, well groomed and alone. She was probably in her late 70s and obviously was able to function well enough mentally to dress herself appropriately and take herself to a restaurant. But licking a plate? My God! I wondered if her mother just didn't teach her that this was not polite thing to do, or if she was just senile.

In a grassy area out in front of our apartment is an old, unusable shuffle board court, with benches at each end where the players used to sit in between their turns on the court. Nowadays it is used only by people needing to rest a minute on their walk around the complex. A few days ago I heard some strange loud vocal noises outside, and when I looked to see what was happening, I spied a fairly substantial older woman coming down the walkway headed for one of the benches. She was wearing a headset and though I couldn’t see a Walkman I figured she must be singing along to some music in her ears that I couldn’t hear. She sat down with her back toward the apartments and began throwing her hands up in the air and singing “Hallelujah” rhythmically at the top of her lungs and then she launched into a gospel song with handclapping. The only thing was that she could not carry a tune. It sounded so funny that I had to quit looking at her so I wouldn't burst out laughing. After she sat for about 20 minutes, she resumed her walk, still singing away. You have to give her credit for having a cheerful spirit. As for a singing voice, she gets only an E for effort. As far as I was concerned she really made a spectacle of herself, but maybe that is just my repressed side’s interpretation.

Now this morning I was out early working in the garden. The rain and cold weather we’ve had recently is headed east and it was a lovely day to do some trimming. I had on my old Levi cut-offs (just above the knees), a tank top and a baseball cap. I also had on a pair of brown Crocs, which you all probably know are not the most beautiful of shoes. I know that I looked really stupid. There is no 75 year old that isn’t going to look ridiculous in that getup, even me. But I was going to get dirty, I knew, and I was going to work up a sweat. I decided I didn’t need to look like a Martha Stewart gardener. The concern I had was that I wanted to avoid leaning over with my backside pointed toward the street. I did not want that picture to be what people saw when they walked or drove by my apartment. Bad enough that I was bare-armed with baggy upper-arm skin hanging in plain sight. And my resolve to not wear shorts anymore, which came about because I happened to see the back of my legs in a 3-way mirror in a dressing room, apparently didn’t apply when I was gardening. After all, large rear end and varicose-veiny legs were not the way I wanted myself noted. Yet here I was, out in the open doing everything I said I wouldn't do -- and frankly, at the moment I didn't care. It was hot, I wanted to get the job done dressed as comfortably as I could, and the neighbors be darned.

So I ask myself, why is my gardening in shorts and a tank top any different than a lady licking her plate? Or singing in an off-key voice in front of God and everyone in the neighborhood? I suppose in the long run it really isn’t. Or at least I shouldn’t put myself in the position of deciding that one is probably senile and one probably just doesn’t give a damn! So I was reminded once again that I really am far more judgmental than I should be, and I resolve again to take it as easy on other people as I do on myself. I always laugh when I think of my very favorite bible verse that says, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” I have enough to take care of with myself without having to look for others to whip into shape, right?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Did any of the rest of you happen to notice that Murphy's Law (If anything can go wrong, it will!) was especially active yesterday?

Jerry and I set out yesterday with a list of "chores" to accomplish. First was a visit to a new dental office, as our former dentist was unwilling to accept the new dental plan we were provided by our HMO. We had phoned this new dentist ahead of time to make sure she was accepting new patients. I had my initial visit with x-rays, and as she prepared a suggested plan for what work needed to be done (the first being a root canal) she discovered that the new dental plan was unworkable for her and that we would have to pay the full amount for each procedure. The items she had on the "must have done" plan (nary a cosmetic procedure in the bunch) was over $7,000. So that was that. No dental work for us at the moment. We are still recovering our breath and trying to decide what to do.

Next we went to Staples to purchase a small packet of 160 Avery #8395 White Name Badge Labels to be made on the computer. I needed 20 and only had 8 left. As most of you probably know, with the advent of big box office stores, the small stationery stores just don't exist anymore, and what we found yesterday was that the only packs they carried consisted of 600 cards and cost $35.00. We went out of the store empty handed.

Pep Boys was next on the list. The battery gauge on our car had been reading very high, almost into a red area at the top. Since the usual loss of battery power puts the needle into the red area at the bottom of the gauge, Jerry made a phone call to his usual mechanic in San Bernardino (20 miles from us) to ask what that meant. He was advised that it meant the battery needed replacing. So Pep Boys was where we headed. Of course they were busy and said there would be a half-hour wait, but before they did any replacing they'd check the battery to make sure it needed replacing. As it happened, we had to wait an hour, but when they finally pulled the car in the bay their check showed the battery still had full power and certainly didn't need replacing. They did not know why it showed so high and suggested we see our mechanic. So there.

Finally, on the last stop before we called it a day, we swung by the library to pick up a book I had on reserve. It showed on my computer that it was in, and we had received a phone call to that effect also. But alas, in true Murphy fashion the book was, in fact, not in. No one knew where it was, or why it wasn't on the shelf for reserved books, nor why we had been notified at all. No one knew anything!

What's going on??????

I don't know anything. I go about my business trying to take care of chores, problems, exigencies, and the like .... and it seems Murphy is there working harder than I am.

What's a poor girl to do? I don't know if I am irritated, discouraged, distressed, dismayed or just plain irked. Seems to me that yesterday was a wasted day, and I am not happy about wasted days.

We have another list of things to do today. My optimistic side says I couldn't have two bad days in a row. But I wonder.....

Saturday, January 8, 2011


For many years my cousin, a veterinarian, received Christmas cards from her clients that she displayed on her office walls. Almost without exception these cards were made from photographs of those dogs, cats, birds, and other various little pets that she had cared for throughout the years. It was worth a trip to her office just to take a look at them, because few of those photos were of the pet "au naturel" -- no, instead we saw dogs with reindeer antlers protruding from their head, Santa hats lopped over the ears of rabbits, cats with big jingle-bell collars, and any other kind of costume that their proud owners could sweet talk their pets into wearing long enough to be photographed.

But far and away the funniest was the yearly picture sent of one family's pets - daddy dog, momma dog and baby dog - in the costumes and the pose of Joseph, Mary and the baby. The "baby" dog was of a small breed and stayed the baby for a long, long time. I kept a picture of this most-interesting family for a long time, but of course now that I want it, it is not to be found.

Now if one is apt to be easily offended and/or scandalized by such a representation, all I can say is that I know some people would be and I can allow them their feelings. But for me, this idea and its execution was hysterically funny and every year I got a fresh laugh over it. To me, it is more about people and their pets than people and their religious sensibilities.

So if you fall into the latter category, you might want to close your eyes as you come to the next picture. Because I think it runs the Joseph and Mary idea a close second.

Probably most of you are unaware that there are "denominations" within Judaism just as there are in Protestant circles, although there is a bit of difference in usage of that word. The Jewish denominations are Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist, which equate more to the protestant fundamental, evangelical, and liberal movements. (In Christian circles the use of the word "denominations" signifies various groups within each of those major groupings.) Jerry and his family belonged to a Jewish Reform temple and that is really the only Jewish "denomination" I am personally familiar with. Sometimes when I see something happening in Jewish circles, usually in a different denomination, that is so different than I expect, I can't help but laugh at it. This is one of those times - and it is the picture below that made me laugh.

In the last ten years or so a number of the Reconstructionist groups have wanted to have something within their religious framework that is the equivalent of the Catholic Church's "Blessing of the Animals." Out of that desire the various rabbis have risen to the challenge, integrated Jewish prayers and blessings into a form comfortable for their congregations, and now are setting aside their own ritual "Blessing of the Animals." And no animal at all cares who blesses it or where the blessing comes from.

It is not the slip-sliding of this practice from the Christian to the Jewish religion that makes me laugh. I laugh because in the picture I see a darling little white poodle wearing a kippah, a yarmulka, just like the male members of Jerry's temple. That's downright funny, not sacrilegious or offensive. It's just funny, and clever.

There is a delightful Jewish blog I follow that has a video of this blessing:

Furthermore, there is an interesting blog called "Heeb'n'vegan" that also sheds some further light on this practice and I think you all would enjoy a quick read.

If I had something to dress Squeaky up in, I might have had a second photo to share with you on this matter. But I do not. However, I can share with you that she eats Matzoh crackers!

Friday, January 7, 2011


In sorting through some old photos today, I found this one of the attendees of the rural Spring Valley School, located about 6 miles east of Caldwell, Kansas, and taken sometime close to 1915. The smallest girl in the front row was a visitor. Her name was Virginia Louise Ryland and she was born on June 14, 1911. How do I know this? She was my mother, and her mother (my Grandma Jessie)was very careful to label this photograph -- for posterity, of course. The little boy on the far right is my Uncle Bob, the oldest child of the Rylands and the little girl next to him is my Aunt Florence, the second of the Ryland children. My mother was the third.

Having grown up in a city, I really had no real perception of what a one-room schoolhouse was like until this photo -- in an old album that passed into my mother's hands at some point -- came to light. Of course I had always heard about these one-room schools and even had read about them in novels of "the old days" but when I saw my own mother and aunts in that setting, saw the age range of the kids that the schoolmarm was paid to teach, and saw the bleakness of the Kansas prairie in that part of Kansas down near the Oklahoma border, I better understood what shaped my mother and her siblings.

I remember mom telling us about the cold winds and trying to keep the schoolroom warm in winter, the hot winds and hanging wet sheets in the doorways to try to cool off the inside of the wooden building in the summer. I remember her talking about the older boys bringing in the water in buckets and carrying in logs for the stove. And I remember seeing a photo of my Aunt Florence and much younger sister Marie on the back of an old horse that took them to school sometimes.

Seeing this interesting photo reminds me of how very different my own school days were. Whereas my mom started school in 1916 in a one-room schoolhouse on the prairie, I started school in a K-6 elementary school in a big city, of a size that required two classes per grade level. My own kids' elementary schools were not so different in size from mine.

As I compare the children's clothing styles between 1916 and 1940 I see such a vast difference, but I don't see that much change between what I wore in 1940 and what my kids wore in the 1960s. However, I'll betcha that my kids would see it differently. I suspect that they would look at the 1940ish clothing that I wore and say MOTH-ER! What kind of clothes did you guys wear? Look at those Peter-Pan collars! Look at the suspenders that go up and over your shoulders to hold your skirts up! Why are you all in dresses and Buster Brown shoes and bobby-sox? And look at those silly bows in your hair. And why are you always in dresses? Didn't you get to wear pants?

I'm sure my kids will see a vast difference in dress between them and my generation that somehow has escaped my awareness.

There really isn't a point to today's little walk down memory lane -- except for this. Please, please take some time to look at your old photos with the goal of putting some kind of identification on the edge or carefully on the back. I am so thankful that my Grandma Jessie did that with her album. Had she not, I would never have recognized any of my three family members in this darling photo of a time and place long past. There are no members of my mother's generation left. I am the oldest of the next generation - and yes, I have labeled all my photos too.

The acorn didn't fall very far from the tree, you see.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


At one time we lived in a house with an outdoor grill built on the patio. Jerry and his apron were a perfect match for this equipment and when called for, he often made the switch from "dessert chef" to "griller par excellence" without loss of image. He also began culling recipes from all kinds of sources, and this recipe today is one of his best discoveries. Although we now use a George Foreman grill in our kitchen, and although Jer pretty much has retired his apron and his spatula, the recipe remains!

1 pound extra-lean ground beef
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
3/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon each ground cumin, cracked black pepper and salt.

Combine ingredients, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Shape into 4 patties and grill.

That's it, folks. But this is just for a start. I like a really full-flavored hamburger patty and I use unmeasured amounts of everything! I am particularly fond of the taste of cumin, and I think the mustard in this mix is a great taste. So be brave and experiment; just make sure some of everything gets in.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


I walked into the doctor's office today and announced to him that I am now back to being my old self! What a relief, I thought to myself.

Him? He rolled his eyes (well, I didn't see him do this but I am sure that he did.) Actually he doesn't remember me from visit to visit, but I mainly was there to show him that my blood pressure was now in the healthy range and I probably wouldn't be pestering him anymore. He lifted up his eyes from the laptop he was carrying and said he'd see me prn, doctor-talk for "as needed." Out he went. And out I went to face the rest of my life.

First on the agenda is to start walking the neighbor's dogs again. I haven't been doing it until I had some assurance I wouldn't pass out while the doggies were in my care. Furthermore I'm sleeping through the night. I've scrubbed my kitchen floor, done grocery shopping and have started eating again. Not that I minded losing 6 pounds, but having that feeling of morning sickness at age 75 is a good indication that all is not well.

My good doctor did apologize for prescribing two medications that had wild side effects; the first I discovered belatedly for myself when I ran a computer search on Norvasc. The other I was alerted to by my pharmacist, who made sure I was aware ahead of time what might occur with chlorthalidone, a diuretic. He was right. I am not normally allergic to medications, but these two just about did me in. To add insult to injury, an Urgent Care doctor thought I was stressed and added Xanax, causing me to sleep for three straight days.

The mirrors at the top of the blog represent who I might have been at any one time during this past month -- or maybe not me at all. I must say that Jerry was a trooper through this all, and he's happy that I'm back.

Dear old Doc Evans, the old family doctor who cared for me from 1975 to 2000, who brought me through appendicitis and various and sundry occasional illnesses by his diagnostic skills and his warm bedside manners, would have been far more available to shepherd me through a month like this past one. He was a board-certified internist and a cardiologist. And he made time for me. I am sorry that I can't have that kind of rapport with my present doctor, who is equally certified and equally kind. He just is not available in the same way. Doc Evans was then, and my new doctor is now. There just is not time now in medicine for warmth and niceties. This is not what the doctors want either, but it's mostly the best they can offer.

At any rate, in the long run I'm probably none the worse for wear. I'm tackling 2011 changes a little belatedly but have some ideas about what I'm going to do for myself. What I've held in front of me like a carrot during this past episode is that I have friends to go visit - my friend Fran and my friend Pauline and my neighbor Bev and a stitchery group and my Los Angeles cousins -- and if I ever get brave again, my cousin in North Carolina.

But for today, I can't wait to get over to those dogs!

Saturday, January 1, 2011


I have never been one to make New Years Resolutions. But I have almost always set goals for myself - generally five things I wanted to accomplish during the coming year. This list has been affixed to my printer lest I forget. I mark them off as I complete them. At the end of each year I replace them with the next set of five. These are all outward "things." Participating in Reboot's yearly "10Q" has helped me focus on some inward changes that I'd like to make. But none of these things are what I'd call resolutions.

One thing that has concerned me as 2010 grew to an end is to find the right balance between looking backward and looking forward. As I age and as I attempt to share my past with my kids and grandkids, I find it tempting to name my regrets and my disappointments. And in looking to the future I am tempted to focus on the uncertainty and the dwindling time left to finish making my mark. Neither of these - past or future - is where I want to be. So this has given me 2011's challenge: Find new ways to embrace "Now" - to do what I can with what I have and where I am. Which is actually where I should have been all along!

Today I took a first step, tiny though it was. Let me share it with you.

Because of some health issues, some mine and some my families', I have been sleeping very poorly at night. The doctor put his finger on stress as one of the reasons and prescribed a light tranquilizer for me to take at bed time. Did I sleep? You bet! I slept all night the first night, and then slept most of the next day. Night came again and I took half of the prescribed dose; that worked no differently; I slept the day away again. I stopped taking the medicine and watched the clock all night long. Worry and tranquilizers had pretty much done me in.

It occurred to me that somewhere in a storage box I had a relaxation tape that I used to play to help me fall asleep. I recently spent a great deal of time looking for an old tape recorder and earphones that I'd stuck in a box somewhere. And I never did find the relaxation tape. But it also occured to me that I had once used an audiotape of Faure's Requiem as a going-to-sleep tool and it worked every bit as well as the relaxation tape, so I found that instead.

I put the tape in the old audio tape recorder, put the headphones on and listed to that beautiful piece of music. Only it wasn't beautiful. The tape was monaural, not stereo. And there was way too much "hissing" on it. The clarity of music on CDs has spoiled us for ever using old audio tapes again. A few years ago I bought Faure's Requiem on CD but I needed a Sony Walkman CD Player and earbuds to listen to it in bed, where I hoped it was going to do me some good.

So today, January 1, 2011, I marched down to Target, picked up a personal CD Player with little earbuds, popped Faure's Requiem in it, and set it on my nightstand where it is waiting for evening to come. My intention is to lull myself to sleep listening to the most beautiful music in the world. I had to laugh to myself because the piece actually is a Requiem Mass, all about dying and going to heaven! Oh well.

So this is an example of integrating a little something of the future (a good night's sleep) with the present (the setting up of the equipment). As for the past, it has to do with the music itself.

The playbill posted above is dated 1955. My first husband and I met in the choir at Pepperdine, and our choir director played the violin in the orchestra that played for this event. He invited Joe and me to the rehearsals preceding this concert, and it was there that we were introduced to Faure's Requiem. We had copies of the sheet music and were able to follow along as the members of the Roger Wagner Chorale worked on this piece, which was just one of a number of musical offerings the Chorale sang for that performance. We grew to love it and knew it intimately. After we married we bought ourselves a LP record of the Requiem and at bedtime would set it playing...we called it our music to fall asleep to.

(Interestingly, you will note that in 1955 Marilyn Horne was singing with the Roger Wagner Chorale. She went on to become a famous New York Metropolitan Opera singer.)

So tonight I anticipate a great night's sleep, and if not, at least a good concert!

Also, because I'm not much of a TV watcher, I've decided that when I knit or cross-stitch (two more "nows" I hope to get back into sooner than later) I can do them with other CDs providing the background music - like some of Brubeck's jazz!

It was really after hearing Dudamel at the Hollywood Bowl last August that I really became aware of how much I was ignoring the music that at one time took an upfront position in my life. I'm counting this tiny little change as the first of my attempts in 2011 to better integrate the Past and the Future with the Now. If Jerry hears humming coming from the vicinity of my bed this evening, he'll know that its me, just making progress!