Monday, December 31, 2012

'BYE, OLD 2012

I always feel that while one year is being bundled up to put in storage and the next year is being shaken open like a new set of bed linen, one ought to mark both events with a comment or two:  How did I do this past year?  Would I give myself a plus or a minus, and what were the key issues that I used to determine the answer to those questions. Did I hold my own against 2012?  Was it a good year, a bad year or simply mediocre.  Do I have hopes, dreams and plans for the next?  Or am I past the point for hopes and dreams?   All things considered, should I be content to simply be happy with the “here and now” and put the hopes and dreams, reflections and judgments in storage alongside the past year? 

Believe me, coming up with 10 or 12 resolutions for 2013 would be a whole lot easier than what I intend to mull over in the next few days.  The fact of the matter is that I feel 2012 was kind of a wash – a few good things and a few bad things, nothing of great import – which made for a pretty boring year.  I’m tempted to say “wasted” year, but I think maybe that’s too harsh.  So here’s my judgment of 2012 so far:

2012 – I say a PLUS for pushing the medical poo-bahs to give me tests to rule in or rule out Pulmonary Hypertension. The answer was:  It’s out, and I got my life back.

2012 – I say a MINUS for not having a major project to work on.  Oh, I gave a bunch of home-made knitted items to the homeless group here in Riverside, but this somehow didn’t have the feel of a “project,” merely a decent use of my spare time.  Though I hate to say it, I don’t consider that very notable.

So in anticipating 2013, here’s what I need to do:

2013 – The PH doctor asked me how much I exercised.  I said to him, “How much is a 77 year old supposed to exercise? My exercise is actually done by curling up on my couch and making my eyes go back and forth across the pages of a book.”  He laughed when I told him that, but he asked if I could walk?  Of course I could walk.  I wouldn’t like it, but physically I could do it now that I’m not sick.  So for the last 5 days I’ve been out the door between 6:30 and 7 a.m., bundled up like the abominable snowman in a SoCal cold snap, walking a mile while listening to “The Best of Chicago” on my iPod,   I’ve made myself an Excel chart – and type A personality that I am, I will make sure that it doesn’t end up an embarrassment.  Keep at it, kid, I tell myself!

2013 – I have found myself a book club to belong to.  I am determined to be an eager participant and not a critic.  It is a non-fiction book club, so I’m less apt to feel myself a total dumbbell when the literati begin talking about all the things in the book at a deeper level than I could even process. 

2013 – My children gave me a year’s subscription to Ancestry, which I’m activating on January 2.  My intention is to go after some of the hard stuff that I don’t have and would sure like to discover before I can no longer research!  I want their wonderful gift to COUNT!  The worst thing I can think of is that my kids consider me a redundant dunderklumpen.

2013 – Most importantly, I must find a big project – or a couple of them.  Until last year, each year I drew up a list of 5 projects I wanted to complete, scotch-taped that list on my printer and was reminded of them every time I sat down at my desk.  I was constantly motivated to complete the list and most every year did.  However, I didn’t do that last year.  But I can see that this is what I need to do.  I wonder if I still have any bright ideas lurking around in my heart and soul, not to mention my brain.  Do you suppose?

I wonder how much expectation an ordinary person of my age can reasonably have about structuring a rich, productive year?  And this then reminds me of an old Ann Landers column about the middle-aged woman who was consulting a counselor about going back to college to finish up her degree.  She said, “I’d love to go, but it would hardly pay to do so, because when I finish I’d be 55 years old.”  And the counselor she was talking to said, “Well, how old will you be if you don’t go back?”

So there’s where the year of 2012 ends and where 2013 begins.  Right now I’m standing between them, glad to be past one and a little anxious about the other. 
HI, 2013!

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Today's the day I purge some detritus off my hard drive.  In a file labeled "Bobby Personal" I found a Word document titled "Good Ideas."  I had no recollection of what it contained, not suprising since the date I put it there was 6/7/2007.  I find the best way to get rid of things is to delete them sight unseen;  if I look at each item, I will find a dozen reasons why I should keep it.

However, "Good Ideas" got looked at and just maybe if I pass it on to you, I can safely let delete it.  I would certainly give credit to the person who came up with these good ideas if I could, but unfortunately I didn't save that part.  Nevertheless, good ideas always should be passed on, don't you think?


Easy Deviled Eggs - Put cooked egg yolks in a zip lock bag. Seal, mash till they are all broken up. Add remainder of ingredients, reseal, keep mashing it up mixing thoroughly, and cut the tip of the baggy, squeeze mixture into egg. Just throw bag away when done.  It's an easy clean up.

Expanding Frosting - When you buy a container of cake frosting from the store, whip it with your mixer for a few minutes. You can double it in size. You get to frost more cake/cupcakes with the same amount. You also eat less sugar/calories per serving.

Newspaper Weeds-Away – When you start putting in your plants, work the nutrients in your soil.  Then wet newspapers, put layers around the plants overlapping as you go, cover with mulch and forget about weeds. Weeds will get
through some gardening plastic, but they will not get through wet newspapers.

Squirrel Away - To keep squirrels from eating your plants sprinkle your plants with cayenne pepper. The cayenne pepper doesn't hurt the plant and the squirrels won't come near it.

Flexible vacuum - To get something out of a heat register or under the fridge add an empty paper towel roll or empty gift wrap roll to your vacuum. It can be bent or flattened to get in narrow openings.

Measuring Cups - Before you pour sticky substances into a measuring cup, fill it with hot water. Dump out the hot water, but don't dry the cup. Next, add your ingredient, such as peanut butter, and watch how easily it comes right out.

Good-bye Fruit Flies - To get rid of pesky fruit flies, take a small
glass fill it 1/2" with Apple Cider Vinegar and 2 drops of dishwashing liquid, mix well. You will find those flies drawn to the cup and gone forever!

Get Rid of Ants -
If you use chalk lines where the ants are coming in, they won't cross it, so I think this is even BETTER - as we need ants to aerate the soil and clean up dead bugs as they are great scavengers!!  Put small piles of cornmeal where you see ants. They eat it and carry pieces home, but because they can't digest it, it kills them.  It may take a week or so to stop the ants, especially if it rains, but it works and you don't have the worry about pets or small children being harmed!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


A decade ago I found this list and have enjoyed using it so much that I'd like to share it with you again for 2013.

1. I will reread a book that I loved as a child.

2. I will finally read that classic from high school that I’ve been avoiding.

3. I will find a book of poetry and read some aloud.

4. I will spend an hour in aimless browsing at a library.

5. I will read a book written in the year I was born

6. I will create a journal and keep notes about the books and magazines read.

7. I will assemble a list of my favorite people and send them my ideas about
books (favorites, recent reads, and the like)

8. I will read a book to a child.

9. I will gather a few friends and read a play out loud

10. I will read a book on the history of my town.

11. I will read a book written from a political point of view totally opposite my own.

12. I will read a book about a place I’ve never been.

13. I will reread a book that I just didn’t “get” when I was eighteen.

14. I will read a book written by a non-American.

Monday, December 17, 2012


Dearest Caitlin:
It was so nice to see you last weekend.  I can hardly believe you are in your THIRD year at USC.  Seems like just yesterday you were moving into the dorm as an excited and somewhat nervous freshman.  Time surely flies.

I was interested to learn that you have changed your major, moving out of the engineering field and into the science field.  Neuro-science, I think you called it.  Your poor old grandma, who always was much more interested in people than in things, is pretty much out in left field when it comes to understanding that kind of study.  Regardless, I know you will do well.  I asked you what you intended to do once your academic training was finished and you said, “Probably some kind of research.”  This letter is to give you a suggestion.

But first, I need to tell you a little bit about me that you don’t know.  I don’t tell everybody, because they will think I am weird.  But here’s the scoop.  I see faces.  I suppose finding faces started out with your great-grandma telling me to look at the lady in the moon.  Yup, I saw her!  If my sis and I were bored with nothing to do and if it was a lovely day with nice puffy white clouds, she would suggest that we go out and find faces configured in the clouds.  So from an early age I was predisposed to see faces.

Now let me get the record straight.  I am NOT one of the people who sees faces of saints, angels or deities in fried eggs.  Some people do, though.  One lady in the south saw a face in a bun, a woman’s face that looked kind of like a nun.  She put it on display for everyone to see; most called it a nun in a bun.  The owner eventually sold it at auction for $28,000.  Now that lady was one smart, not crazy, person.  She simply saw a face….and shared it.

 But – and here’s where I want you to not think me weird – I tend to mostly see faces in linoleum flooring used in bathrooms.  In our house on Greenwood we remodeled the master bathroom and I picked out a very pretty blue and white piece of flooring that when laid, looked like a tile floor.  However, the minute I sat down to use the commode, I found every fourth tile to have a  face looking at me.  I knew it was simply a random pattern repeated stamped ever so many inches or feet.  But those faces looked back at me. To say it was a bit disconcerting is an under-statement.  I tried to get your grandpa to take the time to look at the face when his turn in on the commode came, but he never even tried.  He had previously told me that when he started MIT he went in with the intention of becoming an architect, but shortly his professor told him to change to engineering because he had absolutely no imagination.  So frankly, I don’t think he’d ever have seen a face in a floor, even if he had tried.

In our little apartment here in Mira Loma we have a bathroom floor that really isn’t conducive to having faces, but it does have tiles. One time I DID see a face in it but I’ve never seen it a second time. Which is really too bad because it was the face of a handsome man. Nevertheless, looking for him does give me something to do while I….(harrumph) sit.

The other day I googled “seeing faces” and learned that such a thing has a name – “Pareidolia” and there are neuroscientists all over the world studying this unusual propensity.  I also learned that even Leonardo da Vinci knew of pareidolia and encouraged young artists to look for examples of it to stimulate their creative juices. 
I don’t know where you are going with your interest in neuroscience, but should you think to study faces – perhaps how it is that some people see them and others don’t -  I’ll be happy to offer myself as your first guinea pig.  I can come into LA to pick you up at SC and we can then go hit a few linoleum stores.  Surely there will be lots of little faces to find; if you can see them too, you then might understand what I’m talking about. 

We might even want to drop in on a bakery where we just might use our talent to find a source of financing your Ph.D. when the time comes.  Helping a bright granddaughter earn her Ph.D would be a real treat!
....................................... from your loving grandma.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


I started blogging in mid-2008.  One of my favorite blogs was an early one, worth repeating now that I'm 77-1/2.   It was about white cotton "utility" underwear.


When I was a kid and lived at home, white cotton underpants were de rigueur. Now that was a long time ago and I have no idea whether decorated undies for children - like my little granddaughters' Dora the Explorer panties - were even on the horizon, but even if they were, my mother's fascination with all things white leads me to believe that regardless, I would have had white ones.

Mother always thought white signified total cleanliness - and if a choice had to be made in colors, such as when colored kitchen appliances came into being, Mother always opted for white and made sure we knew why she was choosing it. "White always makes your kitchen look so clean," she would say. Trendiness was not a consideration; cleanliness was.

So my underpanties were always white, and my first training bra (although we didn't call them that in those days) was also white. I was inadvertently brainwashed into thinking that I was making a choice of my own free will when I marched up to the cash registers to pay for my white cotton underwear. And I did it for years, always feeling very clean and very virtuous.

So I was thunderstruck when, back in the early 1970s, Jim Sanderson, who wrote very helpful newspaper columns about recovering from divorce and whom I read faithfully in my efforts to recover from my own unhappy split, made this trenchant pronouncement: "Ladies, the first thing you need to do it get rid of your utility underwear." He was talking about white cotton panties and encouraging us to go out and buy ourselves some lovely feminine underwear, silky and ranging in colors from the palest pink to the hottest red. He said it was a start to making us feel better about ourselves. Oh, I ran to the store and grabbed up pink, blue, lavendar, yellow, red and black silky underthings, and some in wonderfully sheer lace.

Did it make me feel better? You bet. And here I am at 73 still in fancypants.

Today, I still cannot look at a pair of white underpants without mentally pointing a finger at them and saying "Ugh, utility underwear!" It may look funny for a happily-married 73 year old to be standing at the counter buying lovely soft, silky and colorful underwear, but at least no one is ever rude enough to say to me, "Oh, are you buying these for YOURSELF?" Let them think what they want. I simply no longer wear utility underwear!
Now here's what this new blog is all about:  I feel honor-bound to advise you that yesterday I went to Target and bought 10 pairs of white cotton utility underpants!  I can hardly believe I did such a thing!  I am quite sure Jim Sanderson, wherever he is, is turning over in his grave, or if he's still with us and writing in some other newspaper, is horrified! 

But there is a good reason I did it.  I am not a shopper; actually I hate shopping for anything and for such a thing as mundane undergarments that goes double.  So of course I always wait until I am desperate, at which time I MUST buy what I need.  And yesterday's foray to Target was a must.  The awful laundromat here at the adult complex where we live had all but cremated my lovely little dainty wearables over time, and with the elastic not functioning any more and the nylon of the panties now stiff as medieval armor, I was desperate enough to go shopping.

But Jim, the racks of lovelies were all but decimated by Santa Claus, I suspect.  There were a few thongs left (don't even imagine a 77-year old in a thong!).  What WAS available were....yep, you guessed it, only white utility underwear.  I refuse to get my knickers in a twist over a shopping glitch, so I grabbed a pack of ten on sale for 50% off and against my druthers paid for them and went home.  There was no way I was going to go from store to store among the throngs of Christmas shoppers for exactly the right kind.

I probably will have these ugly white things for the rest of my life, since the laundromat will never damage them.  Yes, I will miss those little lovelies that Sanderson wrote so authoritatively about, but so be it!  I'm guess I'm really past the age of being too particular. 

77 will do that to you! 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Although technically I MIGHT still be able to read a book in 2012 that would bump one of these off the list, at the rate my life is moving that probably isn't going to happen.  So here they are - my 10 favorites.  Not all are fine pieces of writing, but they appear here because I liked them, sometimes for the subject matter, sometimes for the story and sometimes because the encompassed all three: good writing, good story and good subject matter.  And they are listed in no particular order.  My biggest surprise, however, is discovering Willa Cather so many years after I had to read "My Antonia" in 10th grade.  I remember nothing about that one, but her "Archbishop" book has certainly put her on my list of very readable authors!
Death Comes for the Archbishop - Willa Cather
Willa Cather loved the land and cultures of the American Southwest. Published in 1927 this book has claimed for itself a major place in twentieth-century literature. It’s a simple story that follows Bishop Jean Latour and Father Joseph Vaillant, friends since their childhood in France, as they organize the new Roman Catholic diocese of Santa Fe subsequent to the Mexican War. While seeking to revive the church and build a cathedral in the desert, the clerics, like their historical prototypes, Bishop Jean Laury and Father Joseph Machebeuf, face religious corruption, natural adversity, and the loneliness of living in a strange and unforgiving land.   It is a beautifully told story.

Wartime Lies – Louis Begley

The book is a novel.  The narrator is a Jewish man who tells the story of his early years in Poland during WWII and how he learned to stay alive by lies, deceit, cheating and creating fantasy backgrounds while he was just a tot.  The author says to the extent that he himself was a Polish Jew, lived through those times in Poland and survived, the book is autobiographic, but the story itself is fiction.  That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.  The author simply means he told of the era and of the way people had to live in a made-up story form.  His fictitious family were “assimilated Jews” – the father a medical doctor trained in Vienna; the grandparents were landholders, well-off and well-to-do.  They were professional, educated people, people who couldn’t believe that they needed to flee their own country.

I have read a lot about the holocaust but not about the facts that this story is built on.  I needed to hear it.

Alice I Have Been - Melanie Benjamin
Have you ever wondered about the little girl who was the inspiration behind Alice in Wonderland? Her name is Alice Liddell and she grew up in Victorian England. The author of this book takes the facts and figures from Alice's life and intertwines them with fiction, creating a unique story. The narrative follows Alice throughout her life, including her childhood relationship with Charles Dodgson (also known as Lewis Carroll) and the mysterious end of their friendship.

 Six Exceptional Women - James Lord
Commenting upon the nature of friendship, loyalty, patronage, creativity, and moral courage the author explores the lives of Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Arletty, Marie-Laure de Noailles, Errieta Perdididi, and Louise Bennett Lord.  Not all the stories carry equal weight, but all are interesting and one in particular almost unbelievable.  It’s definitely an interesting book.

Clara and Mr. Tiffany - Susan Vreeland
 The Washington Post Review says this:  Clara and Mr. Tiffany is about art and commerce, love and duty. Peopled with characters both imagined and historic, it is also a study of New York's ultra-rich and desperate poor, its entitled men and its disenfranchised women. And it is the story of one extraordinary woman's passion and determination…Vreeland's ability to make this complex historical novel as luminous as a Tiffany lamp is nothing less than remarkable.

Caleb’s Crossing - Geraldine Brooks
Brooks is just about my most favorite writer.  In this book, the  New York Times says, one will find a tale of passion and belief, magic and adventure.

The setting is Martha ’s Vineyard in the 1660s.  Bethia Mayfield, young daughter of pioneering English Puritans, meets and grows up with Caleb, a young son of an Indian chieftain.  Bethia's father is a Calvinist minister who seeks to convert the native Wampanoag, and Caleb becomes a prize in the contest between old ways and new, eventually becoming the first Native American graduate of Harvard College. Inspired by a true story and narrated by the irresistible Bethia, Caleb’s Crossing brilliantly captures the triumphs and turmoil of two brave, openhearted spirits who risk everything in a search for knowledge at a time of superstition and ignorance.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen - Paul Torday
This is a delicious book, with a wacky plot and vivid characters.  The author hits politics and bureaucracy directly on target, and you find yourself laughing and nodding your head in agreement on every page, even when that page is laying out a preposterous happening.  A first novel for Mr. Torday, this one is a pure delight, and much, much better than the movie.

The Life of Van Gogh – Naifeh & Smith
The authors of the recently published “Van Gogh: The Life” indicate in the book that their intent was to reach general readers as well as specialists. I can’t speak for those specialists but as a general reader I will say that they, Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, have spectacularly succeeded.  There are 800 pages in this book, and I’d read it again in a flash!

The Chicken Chronicles - Alice Walker

As some of you know, I am pre-disposed to like chickens and often bemoan the fact that in my lifetime I've never had one to call my own. So I was set to like this book from the outset.  Now I have always known of the author Alice Walker -- I mean, how can one NOT remember that this is the writer of "The Color Purple," a Pulitzer-prize winner and an advocate for the world's dispossessed. That alone should make a person want to see what she has to say about chickens. That, and wondering what kind of person would name a chicken "Agnes of God?"

 Waiting with Gabriel - Amy Keubelbeck

When the author was told that the child she was carrying had a fatal heart condition, she and her husband were faced with an impossible decision: to give their baby a chance at life -- and with it, enormous pain and suffering -- or to let their baby die naturally, most likely just a few weeks after birth. The unforgettable journey that ensued would change not only their lives, but also the lives of everyone who came in contact with them, from family and friends to healthcare workers and complete strangers. This story is not simply one of personal tragedy -- it is a story of deep parental love, of the blessing of supportive family and friends, and of cherishing life. It is the story of one family, and one baby, but it will touch everyone.  I have read it twice and still am deeply touched by her words.

Monday, December 3, 2012


He was such a cute, smart and verbal tyke.  His use of the King's English, seemingly so advanced for his age, made everybody laugh.  One afternoon in 1959 when he was about three I walked into the front yard and found him standing near the sidewalk in his little red wagon with the end of the garden hose in his hand.  He was using the nozzle as a microphone to interview the neighbor kids as they came by.  Another time I got a phone call from a neighbor a few doors down, advising me that Sean had just knocked on her door, telling her that he was selling tickets to the Billy Graham Crusade and did she want to buy one so she could be saved.  She could hardly explain to me what had transpired because she was laughing so hard.

But his language wasn't always this precise.  He hit a period in his threes where he tested word-building and my patience. He was my first child; everything he did was a surprise to me, so imagine my shock when he turned to his friend Calvin one day and out of nowhere said, "You are a big poo-poo head!"  Because I like to think that we, his mom and dad, were fairly free of major epithets in our day-to-day living, I was sure he hadn't picked this kind of language up from us.  Nevertheless, when he said this - and soon other similar verbal descriptions - I just had to turn my back so he wouldn't see me laugh.  I was sure it was a stage and it too would pass, though I could see that he probably would need a little help from me.


Our nation's 2001-2003 poet laureate Billy Collins wrote about this very thing in

Child Development

As sure as prehistoric fish grew legs
and sauntered off the beaches into forests
working up some irregular verbs for their
first conversation, so three-year-old children
enter the phase of name-calling.

Every day a new one arrives and is added
to the repertoire. You Dumb Goopyhead,
You Big Sewerface, You Poop-on-the-Floor
(a kind of Navaho ring to that one)
they yell from knee level, their little mugs
flushed with challenge.
Nothing Samuel Johnson would bother tossing out
in a pub, but then the toddlers are not trying
to devastate some fatuous Enlightenment hack.

They are just tormenting their fellow squirts
or going after the attention of the giants
way up there with their cocktails and bad breath
talking baritone nonsense to other giants,
waiting to call them names after thanking
them for the lovely party and hearing the door close.

The mature save their hothead invective
for things: an errant hammer, tire chains,
or receding trains missed by seconds,
though they know in their adult hearts,
even as they threaten to banish Timmy to bed
for his appalling behavior,
that their bosses are Big Fatty Stupids,
their wives are Dopey Dopeheads
and that they themselves are Mr. Sillypants.


He also must have had a Sean in his family!

I personally think a book of Billy Collins' poetry would be a marvelous gift to give at Christmas.  And to be honest with you, his poems are about the only kind I understand.  And really, really enjoy.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


No, not Turkey or dressing or giblet gravy (although I don’t think Jer’s side of the family go for giblet anything….chopped chicken liver, yes, but Turkey giblets, no.)  Instead, I’ve got just a few leftovers I’ve been thinking about and that should have already appeared here except for my laxity in wielding the pen….er, the keyboard.
I took all the scarves and hats that I’ve been knitting all year down to the place in Riverside that provides services and things for the homeless.  It is a good feeling to walk in with a bag of pretty, usable goodies, hand them over, refuse a receipt and walk out empty handed.  Especially when it takes place on a cold, drizzly day in November and the place is being used at that moment for feeding a hot lunch to those same people. 
It is at that moment that my religious background kicks in and I am reminded that Jesus said, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.”   I believe we are not called on to judge whether or not one is deserving of our help but to provide it.

I don’t know how many of you were touched, as I was, by the TV report of a smallish 14-year old girl who gave birth to a baby in her bathroom at home and then strangled the baby.  She had hidden her pregnancy from her parents, and when asked why she killed the baby she said, “I was afraid I would get into trouble with my parents.”  Such a sad, sad story. 

On a lighter note, I have had a real hoot this last month making phone calls to members of Long Beach Poly High School’s Class of 1953 in preparation for our 60th reunion.  I was handed a list of about 300 grads with some addresses and some phone numbers, charged with updating the list, and notifying those I talked to about the scheduled October 2013 reunion.   More detailed information will be sent based on the accuracy of my handiwork.  Let me tell you that I have had to put all my genealogical researching skills to work; names change, people die, people move, land lines disappear, cell phones appear and then there seem to be big plots afoot somewhere to keep me from finding absolutely everybody!  But I’m sure giving it a good try. 

Mostly when I get a “hit,” the conversations turn into one big laugh fest:  How could we possibly be 77 years old?  It was just yesterday that we girls were wearing Joyce and stepladder shoes, cashmere or Lanamere sweaters, poodle skirts and the guys were wearing hand-knit argyle socks made with angora yarn in the patterns, if they were lucky enough to have a girlfriend who knit.  How is it that we now find grandchildren and doctor appointments as main subjects of conversation?  We shake our collective heads and wonder just how it happened that we are now so old in our bodies but still feel so young in our minds?

And just as I’ve eaten the last bite of Turkey, so I’m letting November go.  It was a good month: a little rain but which hopefully was a harbinger of more to come, a pretty heavy social schedule with lunches and birthday meals in abundance, and a paucity of doctor visits, which is always a nice thing to happen.  The cars have been running well (I say that with crossed fingers), projects were finished and decisions were made on Christmas gifts.  Old friends were contacted, new friends made, and everyone except the Turkey seems to be in a good place.  (Well, it is too, actually, but you know what I mean!)

It’ll be 2013 before we know it!

Thursday, November 22, 2012


In 1997 Chicago Tribune writer Joan Beck, now deceased,  wrote a wonderful Thanksgiving column.  With her permission I used it in a Christmas letter I sent out that year.  I'm sure she wouldn't mind my repeating it here for you.

After the last few rancorous months we Americans need so much to be reminded of all we have to be thankful for, and I can't think of a better way than sharing her Thanksgiving prayer. 
Thursday, November 27, 1997
For these things, we are thankful ...
By Joan Beck

As we gather together to count the Lord’s blessings, 376 years after the first Thanksgiving, we are grateful, Dear God, for Mir if it’s safe and the mars pathfinder when it worked and the bull market while it lasts, for browsers and brownies and brothers, for cells and cell phones and cedars, for plans and plumbing and e pluribus unum, for tea and T-shirts and a T-rex named Sue.

 God of grace and God of glory, we thank you for this day for stock prices that go up and a budget deficit that went down, for the fragile peace in Bosnia and for Wei Jensheng who is now free, for dividends and diversity and one nation indivisible, for e-mail and eagles and Edison and Easter, for salsa and cilantro and cinnamon.

For new drugs that fight cancer and new techniques for heart surgery and new progress on a vaccine for AIDS, we are grateful, O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, and for newspapers and newborns and new jobs and new years, for cats and catalogs and catfish and CT scans, for caterpillars and calculus and cathedrals and catsup.

O Lord, our God, when we in awesome wonder consider all the worlds thy hands have made, we offer praise today for modems and mothers and grandmothers and Mother Teresa, for the infinitesimal mysteries of the genome and infinite stretch of the heavens, for bonding and books and brooks and bootstraps for carryouts and carryons and carryovers.

For teachers and preachers and all creatures great and small, we thank you, Lord God who made them all, and for vacations and cash stations and gustations and Dalmatians, for faxes and fairies and fathers and farms, for fireworks and fireflies and frequent-flyer miles, for health and hearths and hearing and healing.

O God who is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble, we are grateful this day for the World Wide Web and weddings and weekends for galaxies and galas and gardens, for hymns and hugs and heffalumps, for cars and caramel and carnivals, for carols and carillons and cancan, and for and and hhtp://

Septuplets when they are all healthy and normal we count as blessings this Thanksgiving Day, our Father who art in heaven.  We thank you, too, for nests and nest eggs and neonatal intensive care, for mentors and Mendel and Mendelssohn and positive mental attitude, for Disney and Dilbert and dill, for caregivers and carpools and “I now pronounce you husband and wife.”

 Lord of all to thee we raise our grateful praise for 911 and 1-800, for 98.6 and 20/20, for 401Ks and 403Bs, for I Corinthians 13 and John 3:16, for Beethoven’s 6th and Brahm’s 4th, for 12 step programs and three-ring circuses and second-day mail, for Title IX and a half point over prime and 8 gigabytes of hard drive space.

Daughters and daisies and daydreams we count among thy blessing this day, O God, who moves in mysterious ways thy wonders to perform.  So, too, sons and soul and soup and soap, comforters and comfort food and common stock, flextime and flu shots and flags and flamingos and “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”

Our Father who art in heaven, we thank you for general assemblies and general practitioners and generics and Genesis, for GenX and geniuses and the Geneva convention, for solitude and solitaire and serendipity, for sequels and soccer and Sesame Street, for “It’s benign” and “You’re covered” and “I lift my lamp beside the golden door” and “when in the course of human events” and “They all lived happily ever after.”

For sisters and salads and salmon and saints, for Seuss and Sousa and Santa and Strauss, we give Thee thanks this special day, O God from whom all blessings flow.  And for docks and doctors and doctoral dissertations, for Meals on Wheels and blood banks and food banks, and shelters, for psalms and samaritans and salt and salvation and that “surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.”

Our Father’s God to Thee, author of liberty, we count as blessings this day 1215 and 1492, 1620 and 1776, 1997 and 1998, milk and Milky Way and millennium, snow and mistletoe and presents under the tree, Jefferson and Josefina and jazz and jam and “that government of the people, for the people and by the people shall not perish from the Earth” and “In the beginning, God…”

Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices for angels and auctions and anesthesia, for potatoes and poems and Poe and Paine, and for Lincoln and liberty and libraries.

Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, we thank you once again for dawn after dark, for rest after work, for healing after hurt and for life after life, for a bridge over  trouble and a shelter from the storm, for love that will not let us go and an eternal home and always, that “neither death nor life nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God.”








Sunday, November 18, 2012


I'm leaving you!  I'm sure it won't matter much to you, but I want to get the reasons off my chest. 
1. I have been increasingly unsatisfied with what most of my "friends" have been posting lately -- specifically all the little post-it posters, sayings, advertising, etc. instead of just sticking to chit-chat. Some of these little "post-its"  are cute, some are stupid, some funny and some downright offensive; but regardless of content I don't want to have that kind of stuff in my face when I log on. I am just not interested in what canned material my friends think I need to read.

 2. I haven't liked the meanness I found in some of my "friends" when it came to posting of their political leanings prior to the election - and the fact that those same "friends" aren't letting go of it. I am loathe to say it is primarily the Republicans and my religious friends who are being particularly nasty. The partisanship side I guess I can understand, but not the meanness exhibited along with it.  And what is in the mind of my religious friends flies against everything I read in the Good Book, beginning with "Be ye kind, one to another!" 
I don't want to discuss politics with my friends - and I sure don't want to read three months of diatribes both before and after the election.  I have been waiting to see if these two things would blow over or change; they have not.    I can't stop them without unfriending them; better that I remove myself from the fray. 

3. Today among my friends' postings there was one big photo of a man beating up a dog, pinning him to a fence and with his fist pulled back to hit him in the face, as well as another smaller photo I didn't want to see. This awful picture was a poster to enlist people to join PETA or SPCA or some such thing. A second one was a dreadful shot of a dead horse, which I think had something to do with the Civil War (I didn't stay around to read it.)  This was the decision-maker.

Facebook has changed so drastically from what it was when I first started with it that for me the bad has now far exceeded the limits I can tolerate.
It's not entirely your fault. I am growing older and honestly I am becoming a little less tolerant than I used to be. I guess maybe I really want to use my remaining time in a different milieu.  Yes, I find I am having "withdrawing symptoms" but they will pass. And I already feel that the FB time is changing to a breath of fresh air. 
What I will miss most of all is just seeing all my friends in one place, chatting comfortable about generalities and specifics of their lives, their families, their activities and sharing their own photos.  I will miss seeing all the pictures of NaomiHope and my other beautiful and smart grandkids, my genealogy cousins who are scattered over the U.S., and my cousins overseas.  I know I could put further limits on who and what I can see, but I can't change myself to accept what I consider the attitude of inappropriateness and meanness that I have recently seen in my daily dose of FB.  Best I leave.  
I have let all my family know why I am leaving Facebook and am going to trust them to make sure I get the pictures via my regular e-mail.  Good by, Facebook.  Have a good life!

Saturday, November 17, 2012


On alternate Tuesdays, Jerry and I meet for an inexpensive dinner with “The Judies” – his sister Judy and her friend Judy, both single ladies.  They live in a town nominally 15 miles west of us, and we figured having a meal together on a regular basis was a good way to stay in touch.  We’ve done it now for about 2 years and it has worked out well.  We all know the menu so well we don’t even have to look at it to place our order.
But imagine our surprise when last week we saw a new menu – one I would never, ever expect to find in a place like Denny’s restaurant.  All I can say is that whoever heads their creative department sure had a good idea this time.  Everyone knows “The Hobbit.”

But I have to confess that while I know “about” them, I have never read the book and couldn’t give you a list of their names if my life depended on it. At my house, crossword puzzles that have squares for Hobbit information go empty and will stay empty. I am not the least bit interested in reading fantasy.
However, that was not always the case. In 1972 the book Watership Down came out. I picked it up and absolutely couldn’t put it down. It was a fantasy. You don’t remember it? Here’s what Barnes and Noble shows:
Fleeing the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their ancestral home, a band of rabbits encounters harrowing trials posed by predators and hostile warrens — driven only by their vision to create a perfect society in a mysterious promised land known to them as Watership Down. First published in 1972 to world-wide rave reviews and now a modern classic, this is a powerful tale about the destructive impact of our society on nature.

Now you have to admit that is fantasy.  Were I to re-read it now (which I won’t), I don’t know how I would feel about it.  Maybe at this stage in my life, I’m just not “into” it.  I used to read science fiction when I was in Junior High School, my favorite author being Robert Heinlein.  But it’s like that phase ended and I’ve moved on.

EXCEPT, I do like time travel stories, and as yet they are still in the “fantasy” category.  The first one I can recall reading was called “Lady of Hay” (Hay being the town of Hay in Wales on the Wye River).  In 1988 we were in Hay and the book was recommended to me there.  It had been published in 1986.  It too was one that I couldn’t put down, although a second reading some years later didn’t “grab” me like it did the first time.  Ah well, that happens. 
Since then I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the movie “Kate and Leopold”, the books “The Time Traveler’s Wife” and “Her Fearful Symmetry.”  All fall into the realm of fantasy but I guess the difference is that a) the latter deals with people as opposed to animals or weird beings, and 2)  the “fantasy” part is different – although I really do think “different” is really almost the same.

Anyway, I am not apt at this stage to read The Hobbit, although to add to what cachet I have I probably should.  I do put it in a different class than The Harry Potter series; I saw the first movie and decided life wasn’t long enough to bother messing with all that fantasy, people or no people involved. 
There may be some part of my brain that inexplicably is turned off by all fantasy except time travel.  I don’t know why.  I do know that I won’t be ordering anything remotely close to Hobbit food off the Denny’s menu.  I may be missing out on something WONDERFUL!!  But so be it.  Seeing such a charming menu is close enough!

Saturday, November 10, 2012


This morning early I ran for my home-made cookbook to find a particular recipe.  Tonight’s dinner "piece de resistance" will be Dutch meatballs, made from a recipe I found in an English-language cookbook purchased in Amsterdam.

I found the recipe in the cookbook easily, but I think probably from being so involved recently in tracking down old friends for a reunion and trying to match names and faces, I was suddenly struck with how many of my recipes have names that remind me of their origins -- mostly old friends from long ago.

  • "Donna's Chicken Wings" - Donna was my daughter-in-law Nancy's mother.
  • "Vera's Molded Salad" - Vera was the mother-in-law of my neighbor Pilar Umness, and the recipe dates from the early 1960s. It was a Jello salad, probably originally from the Jello Company itself. And yes, I am still making it.
  • "Aunt Dorothy's Carrot Pudding" - My Dad's sister lived in Colorado and during the years I was growing up we got a coffee-tin full of this steamed pudding from her every Christmas. It was SO good. Years later I mentioned to her how much I had enjoyed that pudding, and she gave me her "secret" recipe.
  • "Phyllis' Bean Pot" - Phyllis was my father's secretary. When I married in 1955 this recipe came tied to the wedding gift she gave me.
  • "Medora's Swedish Meatballs" - a yummy dish brought to a church potluck in 1963. (It was the church potlucks that started me on the road to being overweight all my churchgoing life!)
  • "Betty's Angel Pie" - Betty Hood was a sorority sister from my years at the old George Pepperdine College. As I recall, she and I hosted a sorority alumni lunch some years after we both married and had kids. This was her recipe and it earned its place in my culinary file.
  • "Isa's Ginger Cream Dressing" - Isa was a Scottish lass married to a friend of Jerry's. I doubt if this is a particularly Scottish recipe but gosh, it was good.
  • "Bill Sontag's Whiskey Sours" - Bill was a civil engineer who worked with Jerry at Pascoe Steel in Pomona, and when I went to work for Pascoe in 1972, I met them both. Bill had a touch with both steel buildings and bartending!
  • "Leonard's Ginger Cookies" - Leonard was a 4th cousin I met during my early period of genealogical research. He and Juanita lived in Overland Park, Kansas and we shared great-great-grandparents.  After discovering a whole bunch of "kissing cousins" in that part of Kansas, I made a trip back in 1985 to meet them all. When I got on the plane to fly home, Leonard put a bag of warm Ginger cookies in my hand; he had gotten up early to bake them ‘specially for his new cousin, he said. Everyone on the plane knew that SOMEONE had something that smelled very good. They tasted even better!
  • "Lynette's Sangria" - Lynette Serna was an Istanbul expat at the same time we were there – 1991-92. During our two year stay, the one thing we Americans missed terribly was Mexican food. When one of Jerry's USA contacts needed to make business trip to Turkey, he hand-carried 24 corn tortillas for us. We invited Lynette and Buddy to our house for a major taco feed - and Lynette's contribution was a most wonderful Sangria.
  • "Bert's Lukshen Kugel" - Bert was Jerry's mom, a sweet lady who introduced me to good Jewish cooking. Her noodle pudding was a lovely rendition of a traditional dish that I had never even heard of before. It's really, really good!

The only recipe I have in my collection named after a person unknown is "Helen's Cranberry Sauce." I haven't a clue as to who Helen is, but I make her sauce every Thanksgiving. And I think I've posted it on my blog before. It's easy: 4 cups of cranberries, 2 cups of sugar, and 1/3 cup of brandy. Place in a baking pan, sprinkle evenly with sugar and stir in brandy. Cover and bake 1 hour at 300 degrees. Voila!

So this past week I took a trip down memory lane with my old high school chums, and today I crown the week with my old cooking buddies.

Such fun.  Lucky me.  A tip of the toque to everyone!


Friday, November 9, 2012


It hardly seems possible that I could be working on a committee that is planning our 60th anniversity of graduating from Long Beach Poly High School.  This first picture was taken in spring of 1947, when we are graduating from 6th grade.  I will be calling many of these same kids on the phone during the next month or so, most all graduates from Poly too, as I make contact with them and gather updated information.

Poly was a big school, and we had 900 kids in our graduating class!   When the Reunion Committee met a couple of weeks ago, because I'm comfortable on the computer, I offered to update the list for them.  There were lists from several past reunions hanging around, and I took them, consolidated names and have ended up with 350 names.  Like all the other projects I tackle, I laid out a time frame to completion, figured out a logical way to gather the information, and I've been working away at it each day. 

But I just didn't figure on how many memories this would bring back!  At least half of the kids shown above went all through school together; we go back a long with with lots of good times in common. 

In the fifth grade a girl scout troup was formed, with all the members being pictured above.  Then when we moved into junior high school, we took scouting with us.


This same bunch of girls graduated in 1953 from Poly High Schoool, and we all either went to work or to college.  We mostly stayed close to Long Beach, and we held reunions every so often.  In 1988, we piggybacked on a Poly High School reunion.  One of the fellows in our 6th grade class photo came to the party and took the picture for us.  We positioned ourselves in approximately the same order as above. 

While the Girl Scouts provided a good extracurricular activity for us, we all really were a part of a bigger group, that of being connected to Poly High School.  In addition to our friends in the scout troop, we all had good friends in our high school classes and the fun of those days has all come back as I've made phone call after phone call, re-connecting with my past.
With a class as big as ours, there are many of the people I've called that I really didn't know in school.  I was pretty much a nerd at Poly, not at all one of the "Soshes" (what we called those teens who were far more socially advanced than my group was called.)  I worked on the school newspaper and in the print shop, and one of my pleasures at the 50th reunion was finding my old linotype-buddies looking for the world like the middle aged people they are, not the strong young teenaged men I remember.  It is nice to be a part of a group now - both a small committee and a larger "student body" - where age is a great equalizer and we are not divided by sororities and frats and student body elections!  It's just all fun now.
And I am reminded of the senior prom I attended -- yes, with one of the linotype buddies that I grew particularly fond of - and who I've yet to find on the list I'm calling. 

Some things in life are just simply fun!  And working with this committee and making these phone calls and talking over old times with whoever answers the phone -- well, it's worth every minute I spend on it.   The reunion isn't until October of 2013 - and it may well be the last one.  But in the meantime, I am sure enjoying my "old" friends!

Monday, November 5, 2012


Recently we read an article in the newspaper about an Orange County couple, both local school teachers (husband and wife), who plead guilty to charges that they had sex with a  17-year old high school student.  The teachers, both in their 60s, befriended the youth over a period of time and entertained him at their house.  What transpired was what the newspaper called "group sex" between these teachers and the student in the family's hot tub.  Alcohol was involved.  The relationship between teachers and student lasted over a period of time, during which he turned 18.  Later the student told his mother about this and it was she who contacted the police. 

What drew our attention to this article was the penalty for this crime: 

Both husband and wife were sentenced to three years of formal probation as well as counseling and 60 days of community service. Additionally, the wife was sentenced to four years in jail while her husband was sentenced to two years in jail. Both jail sentences were stayed.

Now I don't know enough about the case or about law or about evidence to say anything for sure, except that I believe this is an egregious miscarriage of justice.  Something kept these sexual predators from being thrown in the clink for a long time.  Whatever it was was wrong. 


Saturday, November 3, 2012


I must admit I don't look look like this anymore and actually I don't think that I ever did, being somewhat more on the fluffy side, but the idea of the graphic is this:  Time Flies!  I didn't intend to be so busy I couldn't find time to blog, but then I didn't think I was going to be so busy at this stage in my retirement, either.  But I just finished up another one of my multitudinous projects and hopefully will find myself at the blog more often.  I do miss it!  

But here I am today, ready to share with you a few little things that I am very fond of and have accumulated over the years. 


This ewer came to us as a wedding gift from my Uncle Bill, who if you have followed my blog you will know was really not my uncle but my father's best friend.  Uncle Bill, my dad and my mom knew each other from their younger years in Colorado Springs, where the Van Briggle Art Pottery company has been in business since 1901.  Artus Van Briggle was with Rookwood Pottery company first, and he and his new wife settled in Colorado Springs and set up shop there.  I grew up knowing about the pottery from stories my folks told.  Their earlier pieces fetch high prices now; this is not an early piece and is not really a collectible, but for me it has a special connection to my own family, and I treasure it. 

Jerry and I took our "retirement" trip in 1980, long before either of us had any intention of retiring.  But a change in company ownership initiated a change in retirement plans and we decided we'd take that trip before we got too old to enjoy it.  A week in Zurich, a week in Egypt and a week in Israel was IT!

Relationships in the mideast were already rather "iffy" and when we had an overnight stay in Amman, Jordan to see Petra and in preparation for moving on into Israel, it was suggested by our tour guide that we not wander the streets but rather hit the sack early to catch up on some sleep.  Jer and I were the youngest folks on the tour; most of them were almost elderly and they RAN for their beds.   Jerry and I went down to the bar and spent the evening talking to two bartenders, Egyptians working in Amman, about the middle east and all the problems, and about how amazing we found Egypt to be. 

At the time Jerry was sporting a beard, a rather scraggly one but which I just loved on him, and these bartenders kept asking him if he didn't have some arabs in his background.   At a certain point Jerry went up to our room to phone his office (night in Jordan was mid-day in California) and when he left I quietly told the fellows that he was not arabic but Jewish.  They apologized all over the place, thinking they had been "rude" to us.  Before the end of the evening came, we purchased this little 2" high bottle of Dimple Scotch and both fellows signed their names on the label, which you will note is arabic.

We have never opened it; it has been in our curio cabinet since June of 1980. What is missing has simply evaporated over the years, though there have been times I've been tempted to help it out.  The names have faded away.  Within a year of being in Jordan, Sadat was assassinated, and I wrote a letter of condolence to those two fellows who were still at work in Jordan.  That was the last contact with them.  But the little Pinch bottle always reminds us that good people can be found anywhere.

In case you don't recognize him, this is NIPPER, the RCA dog that is usually pictured sitting at a Victrola.  Toward the end of 1985 and through part of 1986 I worked fairly steadily on a temporary secretarial assignment in Tustin, California at a small district sales office of RCA.   I normally didn't take on long-term jobs, but this one was so close to home and had such a nice assortment of people there - probably 8 or so - that I just felt really at home.  I quickly became one of the gang.  This office was being closed and the employees integrated into other RCA locations, so they also were clearing out stuff that had been stuck in closets and forgotten about. 
One day toward the end of my time there, Bill, the director of that little office, came to my desk with Nipper in his arms.  "Here, Bobby, is something for you to remember us by.  It's your very own Nipper."
And I have always remembered them, because Nipper also sits in my curio cabinet watching what I do.  I remember being at RCA when the Challenger exploded; I was on the phone with a vendor and I heard her scream, because they had a TV going in their office to watch the takeoff.  I had to tell our office what had happened.  Seeing Nipper reminds me of that sad time, but also the good times with my pals there at the little RCA office. 

Jerry has a cousin, Barrie, who lives in Southgate - on the north edge of London.  Barrie's mother was a first cousin of Jerry's mother.  How this came to be is that Jerry's grandpa, Israel Mark, had an identical twin brother named Eli Mark.  In 1906 Israel, his wife Kate and their children (including Jerry's mother) emigrated to the United States.  Eli, his wife Dora and their children stayed in England.  In the ensuing years, all contact was lost between the two families.  And when I started researching the family history in 1984, I determined to find the Mark family in England and reconnect!
In 1988 we finally did.  Eli had a daughter Jean, and Jean had a son named Barrie.  We found Barrie, his wife Lea, and their children Lisa and Robin and since that time we have become far closer than kissing cousins.  It was obvious from the time we met them in 1988 that we were related.  Jean looked exactly like Jerry's mom for starters!  And initially we weren't sure whether we were going to meet up with the "English Reserve" or the Jewish "Mishpocha."  As the train pulled in Victoria Stations, we identified Barrie from the picture he had earlier sent to us, and believe me, it was "Mishpocha" all the way.  We have been friends and relatives since then.
Lea had the adorable egg-holder sitting in her kitchen.  I couldn't keep my eyes off it.  I wondered if I might find one just like it to take home with me when we returned to the US after our first trip.  Lea removed it from her counter, put it in my hand, and with a big grin on her face said, "It's yours, Cousin Bobby!"  I have used it every day since then.  Those monks have aged plenty since I got it, and I still love them just as much as I did then.  Such lucky people we are to have found our dear cousins.
And last of all, a batch of glass beads blown by beadmakers in Turkey.  These are not the beads of artists.  I first saw the beads used on the part of a horse harness that fits over the head.  Somewhere in my Turkish trivia I have a picture of a harness, but that particular one had plastic beads for decorations.  But the glass beads are more traditional and of course make much more of an impression -- perhaps not on the horse but certainly on the observer.  I was fascinated by the decorative "eye" of the turkish people.  And I simply fell in love with these beads.  I bought a book (long gone) that talked about how these beads are made, with the "ovens" that heat the glass in the center of the floor, and the rods on which the beads are formed leaving soot marks in the big holes.  I brought dozens of them home with me and have given some to a school librarian who was creating a display on Turkey for her school. 
Periodically I take the bowl of beads out of the curio cabinet and run them though my hands.  I love their feel. I love their designs.  And I think of those men in Turkey who still do such rudimentary things and decorate the harnesses of horses with such things.  I loved those two years in Turkey -- and wish I'd had more time there.
So now you see some of my little "things."  I don't save much unless it has a special meaning for me.  No, I am not a hoarder nor even suffer from OCD.  But I sure love my "things" and hope you understand.