Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I have always acknowledged my husband’s engineering acumen and praised those traits that go along with it – exactness, tidiness, abilities in math and sciences, logic, and concentration. Moreover, the top of this man’s desk is a work of perfection: a place for everything and everything in its place. I have tried to take lessons from him, but I cannot live that way. I must have a little chaos around me.

To understand how it is we have been able to stay married for so many years, I have always maintained that I need him for his order, and he needs me for my creativity. The balance seems to have worked, though I suspect my creativity was the cause of his ulcer many years ago.

However, just this week I have had a glimpse into Jerry’s dark – or better to call it his “other” side. He has a desk drawer that I open whenever I need a postage stamp. I never paid much attention to what else was in it but I knew that there was at least a tiny screwdriver, a pair of old beat-up scissors, and a magnifying glass. I don’t go into his desk drawer much, but this week I needed a flashlight and while he was standing close at hand, I delved into the drawer and brought one out. “Oh, that’s not a good one,” he said. “There’s a better one in here.” He rummaged around and came out with a flashlight I’d never seen before.

I remarked on his need for two flashlights, and while pulling the drawer fully out I laughingly asked him what else he was hiding in there. I was astounded. I won’t say his drawer was as full as mine is, but considering his tidy engineering traits I was shocked.

It was the multiples that amazed me. I know he owns three magnifying glasses because I took one for use in my office. But who needs five measuring tapes? “Ah,” he explained, “one is metric.” The last time he measured anything in metric was in early 1993 when we returned from living in Istanbul. Maybe he is emotionally attached to it, although engineers aren’t noted for their emotionality over things.

His earliest ruler, showing a business name and address, says “Los Angeles 1” for a zip code and Lucas 0189 for a phone number. We decided it pre-dates 1955. He keeps it for sentimental reasons, he says. But he has 5 rulers in his desk drawer – just in case.

How many screwdrivers does one need in a desk drawer? 6? That number must be added to the number in the tool chest he keeps beside his desk. What about 3 flashlights, 3 tubes of pencil lead (for the pencil he no longer has.) He keeps a tiny bottle of ink for his long-gone ink pad. He has an old bi-color school eraser and half of an art-gum eraser. He doesn’t use those, either. And just in case you are wondering about the item that goes across the bottom of the picture: it is a telescoping back scratcher. It’s cute, but not as cute as the person who gives him a back scratch every time he asks.

Finally, he also has the world’s longest eye-brow pluckers, which he advises me are really for stamp collectors. He stopped collecting stamps a long, long time ago. Apparently he thinks he might take on that hobby again and wants to be prepared. What isn’t shown in this picture are the postage stamps that are most often my reason for getting into the drawer – those and the old beat-up scissors, which I declined to put in the photo, since I didn’t want anyone to think that we used such decrepit things!

Now just remember that this is his DESK drawer. I find it full of amazing, yet very undesk-like implements. It has made me revise my thinking about the secret life of engineers. I think my own engineer has unneeded multiples of odd things in his desk drawer. The contents of mine are much more mundane.

But before I show you mine, I have to explain that my desk does not have drawers. It has shelves on one end and a file cabinet tucked under the other end. There is a space between the top of the file cabinet and the underside of the desk, so that is where I keep my makeshift “desk drawer,” which actually is an old metal baking pan that my mother used, but which has long been repurposed into a desk drawer! And before you take a good look at it, I want to explain that it is also a multi-use drawer, a “Fibber McGee’s drawer par excellence.”

My secretarial treasures are in there, all willy-nilly for sure, but close at hand when I need them. So please don’t laugh. Just remember, I don’t have 5 rulers, 3 flashlights, 6 tape measures, etc. etc. etc. I have creative things!

Thursday, August 25, 2011


I am not the most sentimental person in the world, and I always have to laugh when I see "Memorials" on the obituary page where the living address the dead as if they were sitting somewhere in the big yon reading that day's newspaper.

But in August, the month of Ginnie Lou's birthday, I always think of her in a very sentimental way ... not of addressing her in the newspaper but just making sure that in my own way I can make known the fact that I once had a sister and she died too young and that I sure miss talking to her.

This year is the year that I found some old friends - sisters, themselves - who were good friends of Ginnie Lou and me when we were teens. These friends, Audrey and Ruth, spent a year living in our neighborhood while their father's job brought him to Long Beach. Ginnie Lou and Audrey Maynard were very close friends, being the same age. Ruth and I had the same kind of friendship.

When I located Audrey early this year she was saddened to learn that Ginnie Lou had died in 2004. She forwarded to me a whole bunch of snapshots that had been taken of them during that year in Long Beach ... pictures I'd never seen before. And then when I was lucky enough to have lunch with three of the Maynard kids in Bakersfield this summer, Audrey gave me the picture above that Ginnie Lou had given her.

It was a school picture taken in 1951, when my sis was in 8th grade. And in looking at it, I had just forgotten what my sister looked like at that time in her life. That picture reminds me that during that period of time it was fashionable to wear a "collar" at the neck of our sweaters. There was a flap that went around our necks under the sweater, and a button or snap that held it in place. In looking at an old junior high school yearbook, almost every single girl in each class is wearing a sweater and a collar. And each girl had many of them, so we could look different each day.

It also reminds me that the time of hair-rollers had not yet come, and the best we could do to make our hair curly was either to use rags, if we had long hair, or set our hair with bobby-pins if it was short.

The picture also reminds me that she had her braces off before she was in 8th grade. Ginnie Lou had fallen off a bicycle when she was 7 or 8 and had broken off her two front teeth. Temporary caps had been put on them (caps made of celluloid, which yellowed with age.) Because she needed braces on her teeth, the dentist put the braces on over her temporary caps -- and as they aged she became terribly self-conscious about her yellowing front teeth. She began pulling her upper lip down when she smiled so they wouldn't be so obvious. And they were awful looking, but she just had to bear with it until they came off and permanent caps were put on. So here she is with perfectly suitable white front teeth. But to the end of her life she still had a tendency to smile very carefully.

I am so grateful that Audrey passed this picture on to me. It was kind of her to do so, and I decided to pass on some photos I have to people who likewise would enjoy having them.

I do miss Ginnie Lou; we had our difficult times, as most sisters do now and then, but I think of her daily and remember all the good times we had. I know some of you readers remember her too with love and affection, and I'm sure you'll join me in a sentimental "Happy Birthday" to her.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


1 Thing I wish I had done
--> Graduate from College

2 Colors I don’t wear
--> Fuschia
--> Mustard

3 Things that make me sad
--> Dog Pounds (animal shelters)
--> Parents who yell at their little children
--> Caught fish

4 Things that make me mad
--> Tailgating drivers
--> People who don’t clean up after their dogs
--> George Dubya
--> Tea Party Philosophy

5 things I must have on my desk
--> Cupful of pens
--> Sticky notes
--> A box for Squeaky to lie in
--> An art gum eraser
--> Box of Kleenex

6 good books I’ve read this year
--> Richard Stewart’s The Father Damien Story
--> Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
--> Joshua Kendall’s The Forgotten Founding Father – Noah Webster
--> Darin Strauss’ Chang and Eng
--> Natasha Solomon’s Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English
--> James Mauro’s Twilight in the World of Tomorrow

7 Places I’d like to go
--> England (always!)
--> Holland (but in the summer this time)
--> Jamestown, CA
--> Chicago
--> North Shore of Lake Tahoe
--> Anywhere in Turkey
--> Isle of Bute in Scotland

8 Hobbies I’ve had
--> Canoeing
--> Archery
--> Square dancing
--> Chinese Cooking
--> Photography
--> Genealogy
--> Collecting cups
--> Counted Cross-stitching

9 People I’d like to see again (living & dead)
--> Jerry Russom
--> Fifi
--> My sister
--> Leonard Myers
--> Cousin Shirlee
--> Ahmet Akaylar
--> Dokey
--> Susan Ryland
--> Hannie Nicolai

10 Thing that make me happy
--> Music (except country western)
--> My camera
--> My computer
--> Eyedrops for glaucoma
--> My family
--> Knitting hats
--> Reading
--> Finding the Maynards via F B
--> Watching Dudamel conduct
--> Nanette, our Mazda Tribute

Saturday, August 20, 2011


I am sort of out of sorts. I should be happy that I have a new computer with Windows 7. With Microsoft Office 2010. A new laserjet making a trip through the mails from my son Sean in Sonoma. A new scanner on the way from Dell. But starting on August 11 when my old computer died a sudden death, nothing in my life has been easy. I’m sure down the road I’ll be back to my normal sunny self; in the meantime I am a bit out of sorts about not exactly knowing what I’m doing on the computer.

But it’s not just me. I’m seeing a lot of confusion everywhere. I see the grammar police are after our Governor Brown for saying, “He should have went…” Fie, Governor Brown! You should have known better than that. But now there’s a big deal in my favorite newspaper about whether or not the writer (or the editors) should have put a (sic) after the quote. And there is no consensus. Are we going to be polite and not correct our Governor’s boo-boo in front of God and everybody by using sic? The newspaper says let his words stand there, glaringly wrong. So a big grammar brouhaha is fomenting.

But there is more: A lovely young oriental pianist appeared this month in a most untraditional dress at a Hollywood Bowl concert. As she walked out on stage, the audience’s collective mouths dropped open. I suspect the male patrons were exceedingly delighted at her visage, but their wives/girlfriends may have delivered jabs into their companions’ ribcage to encourage them to get their eyeballs back in their heads. Apparently orchestra members are told what they are to wear, but the featured soloists can wear whatever they feel like – no holds barred. I hear lots of disgruntling is going on among concert goers.
Now there is a stunning young organ player on the music circuit and he sometimes appears as flamboyant, in his own way, as Liberace did in his heyday. His name is Cameron Carpenter, but once he puts his fingers on the organ keys it is impossible to think about what he is, or isn’t, wearing. Again, the rule is that he can wear what he wants. More tsk-tsk-tsking.

You won't be surprised that there are a group of people – traditionalists, mostly – who are out of sorts by the lack of more formal attire. And the newpaper articles and letters to the editor fly back and forth. They make me laugh, because my minor little concerns can at least be eased when I get my hands on a “Windows 7 for Dummies” book.

You may remember a month or so ago I wrote a blog about whether graffiti, some or all, can be considered “street art” and whether such “street art” can really be considered “art” at all. Some say yes, some say no. Everyone digs in and no one is really very happy about it. The discussion is still going on.

Here's a new idea to get people's gruntles going:

Seems an Orange County orchestra is trying to entice the younger adults to come to more classical concerts. The average age has of attendees has risen to, well, lets say “senior citizen age.” And this orchestra doesn’t like that trend. So they are considering how to use electronic gadgets to make the younger group of patrons feel comfortable in a concert hall and come back. They did a test with a young mid-twenties professional woman in OC and offered tweets that corresponded to what was going on musically. She could read thing like the following:
The tweets popped up as real-time program notes. During Saint-Saens' ‘Carnival of the Animals,’: "The 'kangaroo-hopping' effect you hear is accomplished musically via the use of grace notes: small quick notes added just before each beat."
The idea of a little music education in real time can certainly makes it easier to get more out of the concert itself – and the test was to see how a real live twenty something liked it (she did). But if I am to believe the letters to the editor that poured in after this article appeared, a whole lot of concert subscribers with grey hair didn’t like the idea of having brightly-lit electronic media assaulting their eyes in the darkened concert hall. Put the younguns and their gadgets in the balcony was one suggestion. More than one were a little out of sorts about the whole thing -- “If ears have been good enough for listening to Saint-Saens all these years, then they should be good enough now! Oh my, I do tend to agree with them.

On the political front there are all kinds of grumpy people too; the grammar police are vigilant, the religious police are going at it tooth and nail – and as a nation we just seem to be at a point where nothing seems to be working very good. It’s not just me that gets out of sorts on occasion.

Although I admit to being a tinch out of sorts now, I must add this in my own defense: It doesn’t happen often and it doesn’t last long. I do have a lot of new goodies to play with. All my kids are exceptionally solicitious of me, giving me every kind of help, encouragement, and advice I could ask for. My husband right now is down at the Laundromat doing a wash. And most wonderful of all is that I have a brand new tiny great-grandaughter in Florida with the amazing name of NaomiHope. So what if I have an out-of-sorts kind of a day? Look what is “in-sorts!” And there’s just no comparison!

Friday, August 12, 2011


I have never been too knowledgeable about the first world war, not having any ancestors who fought in it or anyone in my family talk about it. And having grown up in California, our world history classes never went very deeply into the latter wars. So when I read the following in a most interesting book, I just had to share it with you, in case you also need to be enlightened.

The army would require as well at least one hundred thousand officers. The Student Army Training Corps was to provide many of that number: it would admit “men by voluntary induction…placing them on active duty immediately”

In May 1981 Secretary of War Newton Baker wrote the presidents of all institutions “of Collegiate Grade,” from Harvard…to North Pacific College of Dentistry in Portland, Oregon. He stated Military instructions under offices and NCO’s of the Army will be provided in every institution of college grade which enroll 100 or more male students…All students over the age of 18 will be encouraged to enlist….

In August 1918 an underling followed Baker’s letter with a memo to college administrators, stating that the war would likely necessitate “the mobilization of all physically-fit registrants unde 21, within 10 months from this date. The student, by voluntary induction, becomes a soldier in the United States Army, uniformed, subject to military discipline and with the pay of a private on full active duty.” Moreover, “In view of the comparatively short time during which most of the student-soldiers will remain in college and the exacting military duties awaiting them, academic instruction must necessarily be modified along the lines of direct military value.”

“Therefore, the teaching of academic courses was to end, to be replaced by military training. Military officers were to take virtual command of each college in the country. High schools were ‘urged to intensify their instruction so that young men 17 and 18 years old may be qualified to enter college as quickly as possible’!

How's that for government control!

The well-researched and well-documented book is "The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History" written by John M Barry. It's very, very interesting, and I haven't even gotten to the "flu" yet!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


My feet do not have cooties. They may not be the prettiest feet in the world, but at least they are honest 76 year old feet. They've served me well, bunions and all, and I'm hoping for a few more years without additional hammertoes. They'll never win a "Foot-Beautiful" contest, for sure, but I'm here to tell you that at least they don't have cooties. Visible ones, anyway.

I have always gone around barefoot. In my youth, from the end of the school year to the end of summer I rarely put a shoe on. Young people's shoes were sturdy and mostly ugly. When we walked a mile to the beach each day, we went barefooted. There were no things like flip-flops. Our feet just adapted to hot pavement and sidewalks and sand (and I suppose cooties, but I didn't know about those things then). As I grew up, the first thing I did when I got home from anywhere was to kick my shoes off. And I still am mostly barefoot in the summer by choice. But the shoes on my feet, above, are what summer shoes I wear when I HAVE to. They are old and comfy and kind of beat-up, but I use them instead of Flip-Flops to hide a multitude of those old-age ugly-foot occurrences when I can't go barefoot.

And now someone is telling me that I shouldn't wear even my old faithfuls because foot cooties can breech the gap between the sidewalk and the sole of my shoe and give me horrible things -- germs that are being called "cooties" in a spate of cleverness by the author of an article on foot care.

Here's his quote: "When walking on the street in something like a flip-flop, you are exposing your foot to vomitus, human waste, some of which may have microbacteria -- and a wide variety of other things..." He adds that if your feet have cuts or open blisters, you may unknowingly be laying out a welcome mat to "norovirus, resistent superbugs like Pseudomonas, Klebsiella Pneumonia and MRSA." Apparently the summer heat causes massive breeding of these cooties (his word) on the street and they particularly like to jump up onto the soles of your feet and lay you low."

The author of the article says our skin is the first line of defense against cooties so it behooves us to keep an eye on foot blisters or cuts to keep the skin on our feet healthy. And keep strappy sandals and Flip Flops off our feet. To be safe, I suggest, wear hip waders.

I really don't think I'm going to change my foot habits all that much. The article gives a few things that might help foot health maintenance at the end of the day, such as soaking feet in a blend of water and grapefruit juice, or making a foot scrub using a blend of granulated sugar, olive oil and some kind of smell-sweet essential oil. And when all that's completed, it's recommended to rub Petroleum jelly on both feet, put white socks on, and jump in bed.

If someone offered to do a soak or a scrub on my poor aging feet at night, I'd probably let him (hint, hint), but I know it's not going to happen. Nor is the vaseline and sock bit. Nor is throwing away my beat-up old summer shoes for Doc Martins. I've started using antibacterial hand wipes when I push a grocery cart around, and that's my one concession to cooties of the hand. I guess cooties of the feet are just going to have to stay there.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


I am a fairly composed person. Actually, I think that's an understatement; it really takes a lot to make me laugh, or cry, or even get excited over something. But I have to tell you that this morning I really got excited over something I found in the LA Times.

Just look at the picture above. It is one of the shadow-box scenes of African American history crafted by a Compton woman over the past 15 years. Presently displayed in her house, these boxes previously have been taken periodically to various classrooms in Compton, Inglewood and South LA for students to see. But beginning on August 28, they will be placed in The Sisters Market Place in Leimert Park Village. There you'll see representations of Martin Luther King Jr., Maya Angelou, Harriet Tubman, Thurgood Marshall, Florence Joyner -- as well as of just ordinary black families going about their daily lives.

The Times online article has a gaggle of pictures that leave me drooling, and convince me that I will need to satisfy my hunger for experiencing this wonderful folk art by making yet another trip to LA.

The story of why artist Karen Collins started making the shadow boxes in the first place is a sad one, and because of that she took what had been a little hobby and turned it into something of great interest and education. You need to let her tell her own story.

And be sure to look at the pictures that accompany this article. The whole thing made me lose my ordinary placid self and get really jazzed about this! Such a talent she has! I can't wait for August 28th!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Yesterday Jerry and I celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary. We married on August 1, 1975 in Orange County, California and lived there, except for 22 months in Turkey, until we retired in June of 2000, at which time we relocated to the "Inland Empire." We decided that a fitting celebration this year would be repeating one of our favorite things to do on a summer evening in the OC. This included eating our dinner at our favorite local deli in Santa Ana, driving down to Newport and walking out on the Balboa Pier, eating a frozen banana, looking at the lovely views, and then heading home, happy and content.

We started off at Benjies, the best Jewish deli in Orange County. Our repast included matzoh ball soup, potato latkes, and a plate of chopped liver, egg salad and potato salad, accompanied by genuine Jewish Rye bread! There are no comparable delis within driving range of where we live, so when we dine at Benjies it is like being in heaven.

Next we drove down to Balboa, parked the car at the foot of the pier, and headed out to see if the fish were biting. The air was fresh and clear as a bell, the evening warm with a slight breeze. Jerry led the way.

The fish were, in fact, biting. Since we aren't fishermen, we can't tell you what was being caught, but all up and down the pier I, being a tinch squeamish when it comes to caught-fish and cut up bait, simply had to keep my eyes focused straight ahead, because there was a lot of flopping going on around the pier edges!

There's a cute little restaurant called Ruby's at the end of the pier, and if we hadn't just had our Benjies meal, we wouldn't have been able to resist the wonderful smell of fried fish and chips!

The frozen bananas used to cost $1.25 but now were up to $3.25. Nevertheless, we didn't let price stop us. The bananas were huge, covered with chocolate and nuts, and totally wonderful. I took my own picture while I was eating mine, and while it isn't all that flattering, it will certainly show you what we have been missing all these retirement years!

After finishing our special treat, we took a walk along the Balboa bay. I grew up going to the beach at Balboa, lying on the sand at this very location. But now, it is a private beach, set aside for owners (or renters) of houses that line the bay side of Balboa. But what a view those people have.

We finished off the evening by walking back to the pier, retrieving our car, and taking a picture of the sunset as we called it a day.

The "going home from work" traffic was off the freeway by the time we got on it, and in an hour we were pulling up to our snug little apartment in the IE. It was a wonderful celebration!