Wednesday, February 29, 2012



Picture this: you’ve parked your car, done all your errands with great success and now it’s time to head for home. But wait, some jerk has squeezed his car in behind you, leaving you with about 6 inches of space in which to maneuver.

Thinking maybe he’ll be back soon, you kill some time getting your coffee at Starbucks and then head to your car again. Nope. Nothing has changed. You’re going to have to see if you can work some magic and get your car out of that space.

You know you not only are going to have to work your car forward and backward but you must also insure that you move laterally toward the street. You don’t dare get your back wheel against the curb because if you do, you’re going to find yourself SOL!


Now picture this: The big 340 ton rock that you’ve waited to see leave its quarry in Glen Avon is on the move. It started about 10:30 pm and right now it’s getting ready to make a left hand turn from a two lane frontage road onto a freeway overpass. It’s a four-lane overpass but with high metal fences, big metal pole holding stoplights – and not a whole lot of options for that huge rock strapped into its 200’ transporter.
It starts the turn – and at that point there is no difference between the car that has 6 inches to play with and the transporter that simply has to make that hard left turn happen.

So this is where we were last night. We arrived at our chosen vantage point at 10. We posted ourselves at the south end of the overpass, where we could see the rock coming down Granite Hill Road, make the turn onto the overpass, come up and over – and then pass by in front of us.

No one told us that it was going to take an hour and a half to go around that corner. At 1:30 a.m. the rock was still maneuvering. We had been alerted to the possibility of “something” happening by two loud honks from one truck and two smaller responding honks from another. But to our eyes, there simply was no movement. I could picture, as clear as day, that transporter going forward two inches, backing up one, manipulating the steering wheel, cranking it in the opposite direction.

I did not ever in my dreams picture 90 minutes of seeing nothing – added to the already almost 2 hour wait we’d already experienced for the rock’s three mile trip west on Granite Hill Road. We had come prepared: I was wearing jeans, a tee shirt, a sweat shirt, a car coat, gloves, hat and a warm blanket. Jerry was similarly attired. We had brought camp chairs to sit in but quickly learned that if we didn’t stay moving we froze in place. It was one of those rare COLD California nights, and only pacing or jumping jacks kept us from leaving prematurely. We may be old but we aren’t sissies, we thought.

However, at 1:30 we called it a night. No turn yet, no waving as the rock went by, no being one of the few who actually was there to see it pass. But sad to say, we gave in and headed for home. And even more sadly, from the warmth of our bed about a mile from this overpass we heard the big truck lay on its horn twice, the little horn respond twice, and then all the horns honk as the transporter obviously made its laborious trek across the overpass while we were flat on our backs, warm as toast.

In light of missing the big show, was the evening an entire flop?

Well, not exactly. Our son Garry was there with us, as the company he works for has produced the steel frame that will hold the rock in place at LACMA. It is always fun when you can spend quality time with your kid. And there was a documentary company on site who asked if we could be interviewed about why on earth we were there at such an ungodly hour watching a stupid boulder move. We may never see the documentary, but of course Garry, whom they interviewed mostly may turn out to be the next Brad Pitt or George Clooney.

So all was not lost. Still, I admit to disappointment. Today we can run down to the nearby corner of Mission and Bellegrave and walk around that rock and its amazingly-engineered transporter. But it’s not the same as watching it successfully navigate the turn off Granite Hill Road onto the overpass and come charging down Mission Boulevard at its maximum speed of about 8 miles per hour.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Surely you have heard that big things come in little packages. It's never been truer than with this amazing memoir of Alice Walker's hands-on affair with her chickens.
In case you can't read the cover of this book, after "The Chicken Chronicles" Alice adds "Sitting with the Angels Who Have Returned with My Memories: Glorious, Rufus, Gertrude Stein, Splendor, Hortensia, Agnes of God, the Gladyses & Babe: A Memoir." Now if that doesn't entice you to read this book, perhaps the rest of my blog will.

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. I have always known of Alice -- I mean, how can you 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 you want to see what she has to say about chickens. That, and wondering what kind of person would name a chicken "Agnes of God?"

Even though I admit to not understanding poetry - and there was a tinch of poetry in this book - nevertheless I found this one of the most touching, life-affirming and thought-provoking books I've read in a long time. Made up of 37 small entries, her words encompass everything from her back yard to her past to her family, to world leaders and, of course to her beloved chickens. Her sensitivity to both big and small often made her words carry with them the ability to put a lump in my throat.

Here's an example: Babe, one of her chickens meets an accidental death. She find the chicken, holds it on her lap for a while and thinks about suffering before death, hoping that Babe didn't experience it.
"On one of his tapes, my teacher Jack Kornfield talks about what we are likely to think about as we are dying. The most important question we will ask ourselves - having long given up asking such questions of others - is, "Did I love well? After all, we're the only ones who could know. I think an acceptable answer is: I loved as well as I C\could.

"What helps me with Babe's death is that the day before, not knowing the future, I sat with her on my lap, stroking and admiring her. It delighted me that her experience of being a chicken on Earth among humans was a loving one. That she ate only the best food, slept in a clean chicken house, had a nest ready for her and her eggs, should she ever happen to lay any. If someone had tried to tell Babe about the cruelty done to chickens by humans, and she could understand the language, she would not have believed them. Her experience, until a human accidentally closed the door to the outside world on her head, was that we are OK. Decent creatures to have in the service of chicks. For that, too, is how she had experienced humans."
This is a tiny taste of Alice's words and, well, of her nature.

I can't remember when I've been so touched by a book. And a writer. The books calls out to be read again and again. Even in its small size, it's too big for just one reading.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


1. California Department of Transportation has given up on a surface connection between the end of the 710 Freeway now near Alhambra and the 210 Freeway in Pasadena. However, there is SOME discussion of a 4.5 mile tunnel connecting the two.

MY TAKE: NO WAY! Not in earthquake-prone Los Angeles, where we are vastly overdue for another big one. We had major earthquake in the 70s (Sylmar), the 80s (Whittier Narrows), the 90s (Northridge) – and no biggies since.

I consider myself, as a native California, not all that concerned about earthquakes, but I do admit to being nervous whenever I am caught at a red light while under a freeway overpass. There is NO WAY would I ever travel in a 4.5 mile tunnel in the L.A. area.


2. Headline: Porn studios weigh fleeing or fighting L.A. condom law.



3. Story about what Republicans need in a candidate: “We need to have somebody who brings us back to the basics of home and family” – spoken by a middle aged woman.

MY TAKE: Whoa! Our country is not looking for a PTA president or a church leader. Parents, not Presidents, are in charge of home and family.


4. OP ED: “The risk factors are well known: potential Iranian retaliation in the Levant, the Persian Gulf and perhaps against Israeli and American interests abroad….”

MY TAKE: There is lots of thought-provoking material on an Op-Ed page. I’m not saying writers need to talk down to readers, but let’s face it, the use of “Levant” will cause many readers to skip over it because it is NOT a common word in today’s vernacular. Not knowing the huge area covered by that term lessens the very impact the writer is trying to make. (Or maybe she’s only aiming at the educated elite.)

Thanks to Wikipedia for image above.



5. Family ties in governmental departments: City policies on nepotism are in place but no one pays attention to them. Professor of Political Science calls it “Political incest.” Case in point was 12 positions available, nepotism policy on the books, 40 applications for those jobs; 12 picked – one was son of the Mayor and another was the husband of a councilwoman.

MY TAKE: Ah yes. I know someone who works in a government department of 12 employees, of which two are blood relatives to higher-ups and two are related by marriage. Is a nepotism policy in place? You bet. Is it ignored? You bet. Not good, not good, but apparently everyone all the way up can't say no because they might want a piece of the pie at a later date.


Saturday, February 18, 2012


I was lucky enough to give birth to three daughters. Whereas some families have children who bear a physical resemblance to each other, and some have children who have the same temperament (making them kind of like peas in a pod), the three girls that I have are as different as finding in that pod -- a string bean, a lima bean and a black-eyed pea – all members of the bean family but oh so different.

I should not have been surprised; my sis and I were not at all alike either. What I was, she wasn’t, and vice versa. Our commonality was parents and reading. That’s about it. I’m not really going to compare my daughters here, but begging the pardon of my middle daughter, I’m going to share with you my surprise at the way her life has gone.

Bryn was the smallest of my children, built very daintily if there is such a word. She also had blond curly hair and a fantastic temperament. She always went along with whatever was called for. She had no tantrums, made no demands on anybody; she smiled whenever she had to wait and charmed everyone she met. Her big brother and sister catered to her, causing her to call on their kindness to bring her what she needed. Because of this she didn’t need to walk early to get things herself; she just sat and smiled until she was 16 months old, when she upped herself and took off. She was baby #3 and I truly appreciated this sweet child.

Growing up she was the one who liked dolls of any kind, loved pink and purple in her clothing, in her hair ribbons, on her bedspread and on her wallpaper. She loved her cat Babby, her pajama holder “Peli” and her cedar chest stuffed with things like Beatle Bobble-heads and all kinds of saveable things.

She married, had two sons, became the forerunner of today’s “soccer mom,” and ran a sno-cone booth singlehandedly for all those years the boys were in AYSO. This and holding down a full-time job. She never met a person who was a stranger and for the most part kept all of them as friends through her whole life. She navigated through a divorce, several years of single life, and then…

...she remarried and went to Alaska when a job opening happened up there. This is when Bryn became someone else. I need to preface the rest of this by saying that I genetically haven’t an athletic or sporting gene in my body. I didn’t think Bryn did either, so this is the biggest surprise.

I started getting pictures of moose standing in the snow in her front yard, along with tales of trying to find a place to let her doggies do their business without meeting a bear nose to nose. I got e-mails from her describing how her job was to hit the salmon over the head to dispatch them after they had been caught. I read all these things with interest, but honestly, I could hardly visualize my dainty little daughter killing anything, much less in such a gruesome way. I, who can hardly bear to kill a spider, breeding a daughter like this? How did it happen?

Well, in Alaska it does. I suppose Bryn put aside her early sensibilities and simply went with what Alaska had to offer. However, who ever thought MY sweet daughter would morph into someone who sends her mother a picture like this:

I have never been to Alaska and in spite of Bryn being up there, probably won’t. My idea of fun is being in San Francisco or even Los Angeles. I love big cities. At one time I thought living in a rural area would bring contentment but have since learned that even as slightly rural as Mira Loma/Jurupa Valley is, I’ve just not the temperament for it. So the majesty of outdoors Alaska does not call to me, although my daughter, of course, does. But I prefer that to be on my turf, not hers, and age has its privileges!

When I received this picture from her, I wrote back and said, “Tell me this isn’t you!” But alas, it was. I think it is a great pix, taken by her husband, obviously, and it shows Bryn in the full glory of her new life. However, I can’t help but laugh at it. Where is that dainty daughter I once had?

Ah, she’s out having fun in the cold Alaska sunshine. I think she’s buried somewhere down inside that bundle of coats and jackets. And if I were to guess, if you could peel a few layers of her wrap off she would no longer be wearing pink or purple, either.

Can we change as we mature? You bet!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I'M JUST SAYIN'........

Douglas Laycock, Professor of Constitutional Law at the U of Virginia, said it: January 11th's Supreme Court decision holding that ministers cannot sue their churches for employment discrimination was a huge win for religious liberty. It was unanimous, it was sweeping and it was unqualified. This decision was about separation of church and state in its most fundamental sense. Churches do not run the government, select government leaders, or set criteria for choosing government leaders. And government does not run the churches, select religious leaders, or set criteria for choosing religious leaders. The Court unanimously reaffirmed that principle on January 11.

From “ – Intelligent Life on the Web” comes this helpful hint: "One of the simplest and effective ways to whiten teeth with baking soda is to mix with a small amount of salt. Mix about 3 teaspoons of baking soda with one teaspoon of table salt and then gently apply the mixture on your teeth. This homemade tooth powder can help you to get rid of stains from your teeth.” The article doesn’t say that after brushing your teeth with this powder, rinse your mouth properly with clean water and don’t swallow it!


A doctor says: “ Even though families witness their loved one growing increasing ill, few physicians feel comfortable confirming the unthinkable: that Mom will not walk again, Dad will not wake-up again, Jimmy will never fish, laugh or say “I love you” again. In many ways, doctors skirt around the big picture, preferring to emphasize issues that can be controlled. This translates into physicians sharing only small pieces of information, such as “We have corrected her magnesium level” or “the tumor has shrunk by 14%.”

In an article entitled “Are Mormon’s Christian? It’s complicated” writer Daniel Burke offers this: According to “The Atlas of Global Christianity,” there are 41,000 Christian denominations. No definition of Christianity could encompass their doctrinal diversity, said Martin Marty, an emeritus professor at the U of Chicago Divinity School. “I wish there was some official place where you could determine who’s in and who’s out, but there’s not. No one can speak for all of Christianity in all its nuances." The atlas lists Mormonism as a “marginal” Christian group, along with Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, primarily because it deviates from traditional Christian teachings on Jesus and claims sources of revelation beyond the Bible.

A brochure from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) suggests prior to an emergency, which in our area might be either an earthquake or a wildfire, plan how your family will stay in contact if separated by disaster:

A. Pick two meeting places:
1) a location a safe distance from your home in case of fire, and 2) a place outside your neighborhood in case you can’t return home.
B. Choose an out-of-state friend as a “check-in-contact” for everyone to call.

Even if you haven’t make yourself a Emergency Disaster kit, you can easily do this. It’s important.


Jack Wafer Appetizers: Arrange ½-inch squares of
¼-inch-thick jack cheese well apart on a baking sheet generously treated witih nonstick spray. Bake in a 350 degree oven until bubbly, 5 to 7 minutes. Cool just until set, then lift off.

I'm just sayin'............

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Our genealogy society usually has a "Show and Tell" program in December and it's always a challenge to think of something that will be of interest to the members and at the same time be helpful in their own research. Last December I was able to come up with both. The picture above was taken as I showed the blanket I was wrapped in when I was brought home from the hospital after being born on June 26, 1935. I also am holding my first pair of baby shoes.

What came next in my "Show and Tell" presentation was from a tiny little book given to my mother. That book was to be her guide for the next few years. In 1935 my family was still suffering from the Great Depression, and my post-natal care was provided by the "Parents Educational Center of Long Beach Social Welfare League." Inside this little book produced by the Welfare League was a monthly handwritten record of who brought me in to see the doctor and what was to be added to my diet.

On the page for September 27 (my 3-month checkup) I was given these feeding instructions: 2 oz evaporated milk mixed with 3 oz of water and 1/2 teaspoon of Karo Syrup. My mother was to continue nursing me. I was to drink water from cooked carrots, peas and spinach - 1 teaspoon to about 2 tablespoons at 2 p.m., Fruit juice and cod liver oil. I continued being taken to these monthly sessions through February and dietary additions are noted. The entries quit after I turned 7 months old.

However, it is not these items that made the most interesting reading. Here’s a photo of a page from the book. I show it in this form because if I didn’t, you might think I had made it up.

First of all, please notice what the expectations are for a child at 1 year and again at 15 months. Now I gave birth to smart kids, but not a one of them could carry glasses of water to and from the table at that age! I don't think I could do it either but I'll betcha' my mom checked to see if I could. She DID think I was pretty smart, if I'm to believe her entries in the actual baby book she kept on me.

On the next page, which covers ages 18 months through 36 months it states that at 18 months the baby should be setting and clearing off the table, wiping dishes, using a handkerchief and replacing it in his pocket and unpinning safety pins in clothes. At 24 months baby should be able to sew buttons on his clothes. Can you believe this?

When I read these pages to the "Show and Tell" audience, they began to laugh (which of course is what I wanted them to do!)

But the best was yet to come: Back in the 3-month category it says, “He should…use the vessel.” That "vessel" meant an old-fashioned chamber pot, baby-sized, of course.

I reminded my "Show and Tell" listeners that my mother kept a baby book on me, and she faithfully recorded everything I did. So I read to them this entry: “When Barbara was three months and 22 days old we began training her to ‘to-to.’” (For you uninitiated in the Dobbins euphemisms, “to-to” was my family’s word for urinating.) Yep, my mother began my toilet training when I was just a little over three months old. She took off my cloth diaper, slipped a little white tin “potty” under my tiny behind and waited to hear the magic tinkle.

She was doing exactly what the book said to do. She does not record when I finally obliged. It suspect she had a long wait but I know for sure is that I didn't show up in kindergarten in diapers!

Those were awfully preposterous guidelines, it seems to me. But I reminded the genealogy group, now composed of men and women considerably younger than I am, that when they see my generation having unusual expectations or being somewhat obstinate in a Board Meeting, consider that we were brought up with very strange goals, very different from the loosey-goosey guidelines of more contemporary child-raising.

Being placed on a cold chamber pot at three months of age has to have left some kind of residual but excusable bumps! So I begged the "Show and Tell" group to please make allowances for us.

I got a good laugh!

Saturday, February 4, 2012


A few months ago I was traveling through Long Beach, the town I grew up in, and decided to detour past 1620 Gardenia Avenue to once again take a peek at the house I grew up in. We moved into that house in August of 1945, just before I started 5th grade, and I called that place “home” until I married in 1955. The husband and I then moved into an adjacent triplex, and later a duplex, that my father built on lots that he purchased on that same street, so being that close to my folks seemed like I still belonged to their house. Every important event, and even the unimportant events, of that time period is imprinted with the image of that house. It was 1959, when our third child was on the way, that needing larger accommodations sent my kids’ dad and me to nearby Orange County where we bought our first house.

My father continued to live in Long Beach until about 1996, and often when I came to visit him he’d suggest we drive by the old neighborhood, so it wasn’t like I hadn’t seen 1620 Gardenia off and on through the years. Early on I was surprised that the front lawn seemed so much smaller than I remembered it, but of course I was just a little kid when we used to play “jump the hedge” off the front porch, sailing over the smallish Eugenia bushes that dad planted along the porch. In fact, even the side yard where we used to put up our badminton set seemed way too small for the game, but when I lived there my dad had not yet built the duplex next door, so we could extend our games out into the vacant lot. In that lot beside the badminton court my dad and uncles drove horseshoe stakes into the ground for their Sunday horseshoe games. The large back yard was reserved for the croquet games that both children and adults played.

A couple of years ago at a high school reunion one of my friends made a remark about how lucky I was to live in such a big house. I was shocked to hear that, because I never considered it a big house…not then, and not now. But in actuality, many of those kids who were my 5th grade friends were from families that had come to California from Oklahoma just before the war and they were basically starting life over again. I remember being in my friend Dokey’s house and it was hardly more than a shack, so I can understand why they thought my house was big. It actually was an 1800 square foot bungalow, only 2 rooms wide but on a deep lot. We had a living room, a dining room, a den, 2 bedrooms, 1 large sewing room with its own outside door used as a bedroom, and 1 narrow added-on room also used as a bedroom and which opened onto the inside back porch. There was 1 bathroom inside the house and 1 fairly rudimentary bathroom (commode and shower only) attached to the outside back porch.

For as long as I lived in that house on Gardenia Avenue, we always had at least one member of our extended family living with us in one of the back bedrooms. For a while it was my mother’s youngest sister after she graduated from high school. Once she left, my father’s maiden cousin lived with us until one of the duplex apartments became available. And from 1946 on, my Uncle Bill lived with us. The house accommodated 6 people nicely.

I loved that old house. I think it was built about 1916 or so. It had a warmth and character that tract housing – the typical cookie-cutter housing that came into prominence after the Second World War – will never have. We had a single telephone, no extensions. In the living room we had a large wooden console containing a radio and a record player; later models came with a small TV. We had a floor furnace that depending on which way you aimed the vent heated either the hallway and bedrooms or the dining room/living room area. In the morning dad, always the first one up, would turn on the heat; my sis and I would get dressed for school standing over the floor furnace.

A gas stove with the oven lit provided warmth for the kitchen. Dishes were washed and dried by hand. Clothes were washed in the machine on the inside back porch and hung out on the clothes line to dry. The inside bathroom only had a tub, so when we came home from the beach in the summer we had to shower in the outside bathroom. Mother didn’t want sand tracked through the house.

Pal, the indoor dog was shut up at night in the large storage closet where the water heater was, and Susie, the outdoor dog who was somewhat handicapped, lived in her dog house in a large pen behind the garage. She had lots of running room, though she ran sideways.

Later dad built an outdoor “rumpus room” in the corner of the backyard, which we girls were to use for entertaining our friends. My parents used it on the weekends for family gatherings. We were lucky to have lots of aunts, uncles and cousins living nearby, and our home was the gathering place for all.

When I drove by that house a few months ago, it seemed that somehow the whole neighborhood had been squashed together. The street seemed narrower, the houses closer together, the yards more compacted and definitely the houses seemed much, much smaller. In thinking about this later, I decided it was because many of the houses had been converted into two dwellings; more people meant cars were parked and packed along both sides of the street, and all the shrubs and trees were old and oversized, dwarfing everything around them. Yes, it was the same house -- a bit modernized, fenced and painted, and it's borne the years well. The neighborhood? Well, a neighborhood is really for those living there now to say how it is.

However, I believe that I couldn’t have grown up at a better time and in a better place than in Long Beach at 1620 Gardenia in the late 1940s and 1950s.