Friday, June 29, 2012


Steve Lopez, one of my favorite LA Times writers, told a story this week about meeting with a retired fellow who twice each year placed an “in memoriam” ad in the paper’s obituary section – once on his wife’s birthday and once on the anniversary of her death.  It is always just a small little ad; in his words “It isn’t much, just a few lines.”  But the words are personal and heartfelt, something she would have understood, and it is his way of “honoring his wife’s life, showing his respect for her and getting it on the record that ‘the feelings are still there.”  Lopez wrote that the elderly gentlemen noted “when she was gone, he knew the true depth of his love for her, and he wished he had done more to make his feelings known when she was alive.”  (See below),0,6597043.column

And that reminded me of something I witnessed, and later read about, when we first retired out to Loma Linda.  We lived next to a cemetery and in our comings and goings past the cemetery we noticed an older fellow on a folding chair, sitting by a newly created grave.  This was not unusual, but after seeing him there every day, and when the days become weeks and then months, it becomes unusual.  Finally the newspaper wrote a little human interest article that told the story; this man had been happily married for many years, and in the manner of the little games we play with our spouses, she always asked him if he loved her, and although she knew he did, he never said so.  It was always light-hearted and seemingly of no special consequence, but after she died, all he could think of is that he never told her that he loved her, the only thing she really ever asked him for.  And he said this recollection just tore him up.  “She always wanted me to tell her I loved her and I wouldn’t.  That’s not so hard, is it?”

I couldn’t help thinking about the difference in how each of these two men handled their grief: one with honor and the other with guilt.  It made me think of the difference in the way families show love.  My own family was very undemonstrative.  I knew my folks loved me, but I have no recollection of either of them saying it to me, nor me saying it to them.  We also weren’t touchy-feely people either.  To be honest with you, it wasn’t until I married first into the Kirkpatrick family and had children that I learned to loosen up.  Having my children did it!   I mean, how can you not hug and kiss your babies?  I finally learned to be verbal in expressing that love.  And then later I married into a Jewish family where the hugging and kissing was both verbal and physical at every greeting and every parting.  I joined a mishpocha that included family, friends, relatives and acquaintances and it has been great fun expressing my love for them.

But don’t misunderstand; there is also a necessary expression of love that must be expressed and acknowledged between husband and wife, an expression aside from the purely physical, that may be fulfilled by hearing your spouse tell someone else he or she is proud of you. Or by making an effort to figure out a special gift.  Of not assuming that your spouse knows you love him/her.  Of hearing that you are still “the one.” 

When Sept 11 demonstrated in such a dramatic way that life and love can be taken from us in an instant, I determined to stay, as much as possible, up to date on my expressions of love, appreciation, pride, encouragement and care for all those whom I count as important people in my life.  I don’t want to write my feelings in a letter of condolence; that’s too late.  Some of the blogs that I wrote have been for that very reason, but they have been for people already dead.  So I’ve also been sending some letters out to old friends who might not know how important they have been to me.  I could have phoned, but I wanted them to be able to see the words whenever they wanted.  And I’m upping my verbal touches with family and friends too – so they know where they stand right now.   I suppose doing this is what I would call my own personal bucket list, not things I want, but things I will feel good about doing.

 Like the man who still sits by his wife’s grave says, “That’s not so hard, is it?”

Thursday, June 28, 2012


My ideas for birthdays is that the best kind is one that you plan for yourself.  Others can participate but the day is yours to make it what you want!

In Newport Beach there is a nice little restaurant - an independent, not a chain, that Jer and I have gone to for many years.  Woody's Wharf holds lots of memories for us, so that's where we went.  It sits on the bay side, not the ocean side, and from the outdoor eating area you can watch the yachts and other boats (canoe, kayaks, etc.) pass by. 

Tuesday was a gorgeous day.  The deck set up for al fresco dining was fairly empty, as we timed our arrival for about 4 pm, too early for the rowdy working bunch to arrive for the "2 for 1 Cocktail Hour."

Not being a very big eater, for my birthday meal I ordered from the appetizer menu: Ahi Tuna slices, served with wasabi mustard, ginger slices and white rice -- everything for sushi except for the seaweed.  I had some crusty bread with it, and a lovely glass of Mondavi's Sauvignon Blanc. 

The birthday cake was, instead, a little bowl of Creme Brulee, taken with a cup of strong black coffee.  What a nice birthday meal it was!

My dinner partner was, of course, Jerry.  He was pleasant and comfortable to look at, and we began discussing what we will do for my birthday next year.  I've already got the place picked out.  At this stage we don't need a lot to entertain us; it's enough to figure we'll both be around to enjoy another meal like this again next year.

As for the birthday girl?  Here's what a happy 77 looks like!


Monday, June 25, 2012


 By one glance at the picture above you can tell exactly what irked me this morning.  I don't like to start any day, especially Monday, especially at the beginning of a new week, being irked.  But if that is when a person decided they are finally going to get to the ironing that's been hanging in the closet for many too many days, then it is truly regrettable that IRK is the word and the feeling.

Penney's had a big sale on NO IRON shirts.  Under their new policy they do not offer special prices unless it is truly on sale.  If it is not a sale day, then the marked price is the every-day honest-and-truly-patootie price.  When I arrived at the store, the "sale" price looked suspiciously half-again as much as what I paid several weeks earlier.  Howver Jer needed the shirts so I bought a couple.  From being folded on the shelves, I had to wash them before they could be used, and that is when I discovered that they are far from NO IRON, label notwithstanding.

All I can say is that it is a good thing I don't mind ironing but since I am a woman of a certain age, I'd like to think I can put ironing in the past like climbing up on chairs to get things out of distant cupboards, or washing my kitchen floor on my hands and knees.

But apparently that is not the case.  I certainly won't be buying any more of Jerry's shirts at Penneys.  If Jerry liked to wear knit polo shirts, that would solve the problem, but if I want him happy, and I do, I'll find and iron shirts for him.

In the meantime, while I write this blog about being irked, I look out the window of my office and see a beautiful California morning.  The birds are at the feeder, Luciano Pavarotti is singing away on my computer, the sweet Squeaky is lying beside me in her watching box.  How can I stay irked, I ask myself? 

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Thirteen is a goodly number of grandchildren to have.  Not too many (though I don't know anyone who would think they had too many grandkids) and not too few. 

We actually have quite a spread in ages.  Jerry's two children and my four children are not all that far apart in age - ranging from births of 1952 to 1961.  But the spread in our grandchildren ranges from 1974 to 2001.  We have several great-grandchildren who are older than some of our grandkids.  (That's like one of those "I'm my own grandpa" things.)

These last six grandchildren range in age now from 29 to 10.  The pictures which I have picked for this blog are there because I happened to like the shot.  There are some photos that are not particularly flattering but make me laugh.  I could have chosen to show a granddaughter who now is in college and gorgeous, but it is the picture of her years ago wearing glasses that I love the most. 

So we'll start today with granddaughter Jill (1984), the only grandchild we had who refused to go in our swimming pool.  She was scared spitless of it, in fact.  So when her family came to the house, we prepared a sheet cake pan full of water for her to sit in.  We put the pan besides the chairs we were sitting in, and she spent her hours by the pool using a plastic spoon and a cup for her entertainment. 

Grandson Brendan (1987) and family lived up north and we didn't see them much, not nearly as much as we would have liked.  The image I have of him growing up shows him in karate garb, as he and his younger sister both were very interested in that particular sport.  His folks often sent us newspaper articles in which their picture appeared, mostly for earning another belt.  We didn't have many snapshots sent to us, and newspapers just don't do him justice.  Also,  I don't think he ever saw our swimming pool, as we sold the house when he was just three years old.  To be honest with you, I don't know if Brendan even swims.  But as his whole family is musical, he plays a mean french horn.

Sweet little grandaughter Katie (1988) was the quintessential teenager.  For those middle years she and her music equipment were rarely separated.  It is true that family gatherings sometimes can be boring for a kid, but she always enjoyed herself because she came prepared.  She and Jill are siblings.  I wish my own sister and I had formed the kind of loving relationship that these two  have.  

The next grandchild, Caitlin (1992) , is Brendan's sister and is the one I said is really quite beautiful now.  These pictures are always so funny to look back on, if you are not the one with the big glasses and a pacifier stuck in your mouth.  But to make sure she doesn't become unhappy at being reminded of her childhood image here, I'll note that at the present time she attends USC and plays flute (or maybe piccolo?) in the USC marching band.

The last two grandchildren are the babies.  Well, none of these kids are babies anymore but I should be more precise and say "the youngest."  Olivia (2001) was born in Los Angeles, and since I retired in 2000 I have been able to be much more accessible to do grandmotherly things for O and her sister than I was with the other kids.  She starts middle school in the fall, and her folks, along with us, can't believe time has passed so quickly.   Seems like she was just a babe in arms...

Justine (2002) is Olivia's sister, and is the last grandchild Jerry and I will have.  She has the biggest eyes and the biggest smile that a child has ever been given, but my favorite of all of her pictures are the few that show her with a pensive look.  She's heading to fourth grade this next year, a voracious reader.  In fact, both girls are "readers" and think nothing of tackling a 300 page book.  And as you can imagine, this does my heart good!  Incidentally, the cat is Lucky, who was rescued twice - once from being dumped at 6 weeks of age, and the second at 8 weeks when he fell through a floor heating vent in the girls' LA house and had to be rescued by LA's finest.  Lucky is right!

Thus ends the Grandchild saga.  We couldn't be more pleased with them if we tried!  We think our kids have done a good job of parenting and luckily, negative outside influences have not played many tricks on them. 

How lucky we are.

Friday, June 22, 2012


In my past blogs I have tried to play down the fact that I have 13 grandchildren, all of whom could be blog fodder if I allowed this to happen.  But this morning I was shuffling some photos around in my albums and kept finding pictures of them that I had always loved - some because they are funny (either the picture or the kid), some that I took myself, and others that were sent to me by doting parents.

This is not a "My grandkids are cuter than your grandkids" kind of blog.  I'm merely sharing with you snippits of those who have enriched my life.  I'm giving only first names and dates of birth, for privacy's sake.  You'll see seven of them today, and six of them tomorrow.  All except the final two are adults now.  But no matter how old they get, I will always remember them as they were in these photos.


Here is Stacey (1974) and Carley (1976.)  They've just gotten out of our swimming pool and now are having the outdoors washed off their bodies.   They lived in San Diego so during the summers they and their folks were frequent weekend visitors.  Jerry really didn't want us to buy a house with a pool; he was sure it would go unused.  It didn't.  All our grandkids learned to swim in it.


Next are April (1975), Robyn (1979) and Jimmy (1978).   Siblings, they also spent lots of time in our pool.  Often I would go to their house, bring them in for a couple of days to give their mom some peace and quiet. They also learned to swim in the pool.  Robyn was fearless.  Even as a tiny little thing we had to put floaties on her arms the minute she hit the front door because she would just walk right off into the pool if we took our eye off of her.  

We didn't give swimming lessons to the kids.  Rather, we put floaties on their arms and tossed them in, figuratively speaking, among the older kids.  It didn't take them long to realize that while the floaties were holding them up, they also were impeding them to go as fast as the older ones.  When that realization hit, the little guys took the floaties off and immediately swam like fishes!

I took a photography class through UC Irvine Extension and the teacher gave us instruction on how to take a portrait like this one below using natural light.  I had to practice on everyone and Christopher (1982) happened to become a very fetching model.  The more I took, the better I got on the focusing, but still, this photo made its way into my heart and my memory.

Christopher's brother, Andrew, (1984) was one of those kids whose ordinary actions were reason enough for a picture.  My scrapbook is peppered with funny shots of him.  He and his brother played AYSO soccer throughout their growing up, and now in their late 20s and early 30's, they have started up again.  Well, Andrew never stopped. I understand Chris just recently rejoined him for Sunday morning games.

 I had a hard time learning to be a grandma.  In 1975 I was in a new marriage and was working full time.  My pattern of a grandmother was my own mother, who was a real old time, hands-on grandma to my own kids, and her idea of fun was to sit on the floor and play card games and board games - and especially Yatchzee - with my four kids.  I was not that kind of a person, and my kids were a bit confused as to why I wasn't.  But thank goodness for the pool.  It was a great learning tool for me, and the fact that my grandchildren have grown up remembering all they fun they had with "grandma and grandpa" means that I did O.K., I guess.

So this is the first installment of my super-duper grandkids.  Tomorrow I'll share the remaining 6 grandchildren.  I know....


Thursday, June 21, 2012


I keep swearing I am not going to buy any more books.  I’m trying to pare down my bookshelves, not fatten them up.  But on balance, I’m not adding many but I am adding some.

Most of what I add is because I cannot find them in a library within half-a-day’s drive of my residence.  My local branch of the Riverside County Library caters to children and rarely adds the kinds of books I want to read.  Granted, I have eclectic (maybe make that “unusual” or “bizarre”) tastes and probably not a whole lot of big libraries have them either.  And since we live in a fairly rural area, it is no surprise to me that my tastes are not those of the majority of local consumers.  Nevertheless….

The last book I added, thanks to, is Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Apocalypse. The review of it was so enticing that I just HAD to have it.  No library had a copy, or had ordered a copy, or expressed any interest in a copy.  When I finish it I will try to find a good home for it, though I know that will be difficult to do.  In an online review, the author (Jay Rubenstein) said the following, in answer to the question “What are some of the biggest misconceptions about your topic?”
“The biggest misconception is the belief that, at the time of the crusades, everyone understood them as religious wars between Christianity and Islam.  Latin Christians understood it in that fashion – a war fought against an unbelieving enemy for control of Jerusalem, the center of the earth and the place of humanity’s salvation.  For Greek Christians, on the other hand, the crusaders were essentially mercenaries employed against a rival empire, governed by Seljuk Turks.  Both the Sunni Turks and the Shi’i Egyptians probably understood the crusades in similar terms.  It would take the Muslims several decades to learn to think of the battles against the Franks as religious wars rather than as conflicts over the control of frontier settlements.”

I’m finding the book exceptionally interesting, not the least because the author writes so his readers can enjoy history! 

The second to the last book I bought, again via AbeBooks, was “On the Pig’s Back” – purchased in a quest to read another book with “Pig” in the title.  The author of this one is Bill Naughton, author of “Alfie.” He calls this book an “autobiographical excursion” that takes him and us back through war-time London to County Mayo, his birthplace, and to pre-war Bolton (up near Manchester), scene of his later boyhood.  I had to investigate just what his title meant and discovered it is an authentic Irish expression meaning to be in a fortunate situation, or living an easy or luxurious lifestyle.  The book was tender and touching; when I read books like this I always have to be thankful that I’ve had it so easy in my lifetime.

The books I bought before that were two that I wanted to have and keep so I could read them over and over.  One was "Esperanza’s Book of Saints" by Maria Amparo Escandon, a book full of magical realism (a concept I still struggle over) and of which I understand more every time I read it, and then Alice Walkers’ "The Chicken Chronicles", which still makes tears jump out of my eyes with each reading.

Every time I buy a book I try to choose one on the shelf to part with so I can keep the size of my “collection” under control.  But that’s SO hard to do.

Books I can’t part with:  "Cloudsplitter" by Russell Banks; "Son of the Morning Star" by Evan Connell; "The Provincials" by Eli N. Evans; "Moon River Anthology" by Edgar E. Masters; "Stiff" by Mary Roach; "Gilead" by Marilynn Robinson; "Golden Dreams - California in an Age of Abundance - 1950-1963"  by Kevin Starr; "Just My Type" by Simon Garfield; "Architectural Excellence: 500 Iconic Buildings" by Paul Cattermole; and the one that would be the last to go – given to me at Christmas of 1945 and well used since – "California Missions and their Romances" by Mrs. Fremont Older. 

Do I have any I might part with?  I don’t think so.  Because my reading tastes are so weird, I would have a hard time figuring out where I might put them where they stood a chance of being read.  I’m afraid none of my kids would think any of my remaining books are especially readable, so these have to stay on my shelf until I’m not there to read them any more, at which time they can be donated to whatever place still handles real books instead of e-books.  In the meantime, I try hard not to buy more books to keep my shelves thin. 

But that is a really hard job!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

DAD & HIS GIRLS - about 1942

It is hard to describe my dad.  Do I talk about the man who was my buddy, who made my childhood one that any kid would love and remember?  Do I talk about the man who was successful in business and provided our family with lots of things we never imagined we would have but who lost himself in John Barleycorn and ultimately became so besotted that he ended up familyless and living in a board and care hospital?  Or do I talk about the independent and growing senile old man who in the years after 1982 wanted to do life his way and made me more often than I like to remember cry at the difficulties I had in being a "good daughter?"  He was all these things, and when I remember him on Father's Day it is with a mixed bag of memories. 

I loved him though all those periods.  He wasn't always like he was at any one point in my recollections.  I keep hoping that the last part of his life and the awfulness of that period will fade from my memory and I'll only remember the good times.  His time of drinking didn't affect me as much because I lived in a different town, was married and busy raising my kids, but I saw what it was doing to my mother and my little brother. 

Each Father's Day I remind myself that this was the man who began at the age of 10 taking care of his widowed mother and his sister by dropping out of school in Colorado and selling newspapers on the street corners; burning the trash, a janitorial chore, at the incinerators of Glockner Sanitarium in Colorado Springs; washing dishes at a Manitou Springs cafeteria to help make ends meet.  This was the man who in 1932 married my mom, and began taking care of his mother-in-law and my mom's younger siblings through the Depression.  This is the man who provided rent-free housing in some apartments he eventually built to my mom's younger brothers and sisters as they each started out their married life.  And he did it for me and my sister too when we married.  This is the man who in his old age kept sending me to See's Candy stores to buy boxes of candy for his friends and family, something he was known for during his adult life in Long Beach.  And this was the man who was honored on his 90th birthday by his family and any old employees we could find still living locally, who all agreed that he was the best boss any employee could have.

And each Father's Day I look at the picture above, my favorite, and remember that this was the man that made childhood so good for my sis and me.  We agreed that we had the best childhood a kid could have.  Each Sunday we took drive somewhere -- to Balboa for a ride on ferry, to Anaheim or Montebello Park for a jar full of pollywogs, to Belmont Shore for a Currie's Mile High Cone, to Wilmington where the smell of the refineries was strong and he told us that the smell was the smell of money, which we believed.  He drove us out on Atlantic to a feed store each spring when they put all the fluffy newly-hatched chickens in a window where we could get up close and see them.  And many a game of Miniature Golf was played at Shady Acres, with him always whipping the socks off of all of us.  He drove me around wherever I needed to go, and since I didn't drive many a time I called him from college in Los Angeles, asking him to come pick me up, that I wanted to come home for the weekend;  he happily drove up on a Friday and took me back on Sunday, pleased to do it for one of his girls.  He did the same for my sister.

He was a good father.  That he had a serious personal flaw was no different than many others have and I work on finding a perspective that allows me to celebrate the goodness and set aside all the other stuff.  What I want to remember on Father's day is my dad, dressed to the nines, with a smile on his face and his arm around his two little girls, my sister Ginnie Lou and me.

Friday, June 15, 2012


Chapter 14 of Kevin Starr's 2009 Book, "Golden Dreams" is entitled "Brubeck! Jazz Goes to College."  It was at tiny little George Pepperdine College at 79th and Vermont in LA where I first heard of progressive or "cool" jazz.  The big bands of the late '40s and early '50s that sent swarms of couples onto the dance floor were being moved out by a smaller groups of jazz musicians whose followers listened instead of danced, according to Starr.  In 1954, '55 and '56 I started listening too.  The college was right in the middle of this west coast music development and we were able to hear what was going on at Shelly's Mann Hole in Hollywood and at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach.  Later in 1955 I discovered Chico Hamilton and his Quintet at the Strollers night club in Long Beach.

To read Starr's book, particularly the 14th chapter, is to take me on a visual treat back during those years.  There were a lot of people who didn't think that what these fellows were playing was music.  But to use an old phrase, it was music to my ears, then and now.

Through the years I've had various recordings of these jazz legends: Dave Brubeck, of course, Charlie Mingus,  Buddy Collette, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Cal Tjader, Shorty Rogers, Shelly Mann, Oscar Peterson, Chico Hamilton and jazz cellist Freddie Katz.  There were others, but these were the ones I teethed on.

The post-college years of marriage, children and work opportunities took me out of the little hole-in-the-wall jazz venues, but I've always had that time in my life - the college years - still lurking around in my soul, reminding me of good times, good friends and good music.  However, for the most part whatever recordings I had in the past - 78s, 45s, LPs and then tapes - all disappeared. When CDs appeared there was never a section set apart in Sam Goody's and other music stores for much of a cool jazz selection, and finally music stores themselves disappeared.  Except for finding a nice 2-CD set of Dave Brubeck, I had to depend on my memory for the rest of the good stuff.

However, recently I was given an iPod and I decided to load it up with whomever and whatever I could find from those "cool jazz" years.  And I pretty much have been able to give myself an "aural" treat to go along with Starr's "visual" treat.  These were my first, and favorite, choices!

I found Cal Tjader:

I found Chico Hamilton & His Quintet (with "Fred" Katz):

I found Stan Getz:

I found Chet Baker:

And here's Dave!

I cannot listen to these recordings as "background" music.  I've discovered that I need to sit somewhere comfortable, plug in my ear buds, close my eyes and simply listen.  Anyone passing by may be startled by my visage, thinking that perhaps I died sitting there, or have segued into a catatonic condition.  No, it's just me, still living and enjoying it, being transported back to being that young 18-19 year old college student, not yet old enough to drink but sitting in a quiet little club somewhere in LA getting acquainted with the most remarkable music!

Monday, June 11, 2012


I don’t like crows, and when one flew right into the grill of my car yesterday my first reaction after hearing the big thump was to think, “Well, at least it was only a crow.”  However, I don’t much like to know that I was an inadvertent participant in ending a crow’s life, either. 
That probably is the reason that one of the first things I thought about today in choosing subjects to ruminate on in the blog was strange birds in my life, none of which ever were alive.
I was putting mascara on this morning and due to my aging eyes, I pretty much had my nose touching the magnifying mirror I must use.  As I met myself eyeball to reflected eyeball, something in my mind said, “This is the Watchbird watching you.”
That was a blast from the past!  Doesn’t everybody my age remember the Watchbird drawn by Munro Leaf?
As most of you know, our minds can play loose with our memories.  My memory of the Watchbird places it in a school setting, specifically on the page of a spelling workbook, where the Watchbird, sitting on a window sill watching children at their desks says, “It is important each week to learn the words the teacher gives you to memorize. The Watchbird likes to see children studying their spelling words.  Are you studying your spelling words?”  Then the Watchbird turns to look directly at the reader (ostensibly a student) and “This is the Watchbird watching you.”
Now, in looking on the web to see what others have to say about the Watchbird, oh yes, it is there, but I must bow to the better recollections of those who say it appeared in Ladies Home Journal and all children couldn’t wait for the delivery of each month’s Journal to see what the Watchbird was watching.  All I can surmise is that there must have been something in a little flyer we regularly received at school similar to this fellow and my aging memory substituted in the Watchbird.
Be that as it may, my sister and I, mostly antagonists during our pre-teen and teen years, often glared at the other and said in dead seriousness, “THIS is the Watchbird watching YOU!” 

Another “Bird” from my past has to do with Junior Birdmen.  Many kids growing up in the early 1950s knew this song from camps they attended.  The picture above is of Troop 28 (from Long Beach, California) and is visual rendering of the Junior Birdmen song, learned at Camp Manzanita in the mountains near Santa Monica.  Our troop was formed in 1945 when we were in 5th grade, and stayed together through high school as “Mariners” which was one of the specialties Senior Scouting could have.   In fact, we are still having get-togethers, sometimes after funerals.  Although there are many variations of the lyrics, what we sang went like this:
Up in the air, Junior Birdmen, Up in the air, pilots true.
Up in the air, Junior Birdmen, Keep your eyes upon the blue (upon the blue)
And when you hear the great announcement about your wings of tin

Up in the air, Junior Birdmen, and send your boxtops in!  It just takes….
4 boxtops…
3 wrappers…
2 labels…
And one thin dime!
In the picture above we are demonstrating some of the hand signs that accompany the lyrics.  Participating are Joanne Bodtke, Kay Bostwick, Carol Smith, Barbara Aston, Dokey Mattox, Zoe McCurdy and me, Bobby Dobbins. 
And a final bird song that I pulled from my old girl scout years one day when the little granddaughters I was taking to their pre-school to help their mom out were having one of their really “off” days.  They did NOT want to go to school and for the most part I headed out with them screaming their heads off, tears flowing.

In trying to deflect their snit I started singing and one-handedly making motions as I drove west on Wilshire Boulevard in LA.  (I've always been good at multi-tasking, a necessity in raising kids.)

The song was entitled “WAY UP IN THE SKY”
Way up in the sky the little birds fly (arms waiving overhead)
While down in their nests the little birds rest (cupped hand)
With a wing on the left and a wing on the right (arms tucked in armpits)
We’ll let the dear birdies sleep all through the night. (folded hands by ear)
SHHHHHHHHH.  They’re sleeping.  (Silence)
Back in 2005 if you saw a crazy old lady in a car on Wilshire Blvd in LA with two little girls, all flailing their hands and obviously singing something, it was me and the little girls on the way to their pre-school.  As long as we sang, they weren’t yelling and crying. 

The song saved the day.  By the time we arrived, they couldn’t wait to get inside and sing for their teacher. 
These girls are now 11 and 10.  They can still remember the song.
I’m sorry that crow yesterday lost his life on my car’s grill.  Today’s blog is in memory of him! 

Friday, June 8, 2012


My blog of Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Yesterday I was in the front yard trimming the beautifully colored (but very messy) plumbago bushes and this most interesting fellow buzzed past my shoulder and lit on the bush. It startled me, to say the least, and once I composed myself again I ran for the camera. There should be some kind of blessing recited for digital cameras, because if I'd had to go get my old Canon T90 SLR out of the closet and afix the macro lens on it, I would have missed capturing this delightful bug photo.

I didn't know what kind of a bug it was. It was about as big as a bumble bee, had a somewhat furry body and most interestingly had a "cat-face" head (can you see it?), with amazingly decorated wings. I e-mailed a picture of it to my cousin in North Carolina, who is the family bug-identifier and then phoned her. After consulting her bug book she pronounced it a Tiger Bee Fly. We then Googled "Tiger Bee Fly" and sure enough, she was spot on.

I am delighted, of course, that I was able to capture a photo of it and share with you all today. The Plumbago bush flower on which it landed is what I'd call beautiful. But the Tiger Bee Fly is beautiful too in an ugly sort of way, don't you think?

I am reminded of a prayer in the Hebrew prayer book that Jerry keeps on his shelf. There is a section called "Blessings on Various Occasions" and one blessing reads thusly:
When seeing good trees and beautiful creatures:
Blessed art Thou, O Lord, or God, King of the universe who possesseth such in His world.
I see this as a very appropriate blessing to remember when seeing something as amazing as a Tiger Bee Fly, which I also learned is just one of a myriad of bee flies. Who every heard of such a thing before!

Because my cousin has a sharp eye for bugs and critters and has in the past few years, since she left Southern California and moved to North Carolina, sent me various photos of flora and fauna, I'll share a few more below that certainly fall under the banner of the blessing too.

A remarkable katydid.

The frog who came to a coffee-break.
Newly-born mantis babies.
A hiding, white legged "Goldenrod Spider"

A possum taking shelter on a cold winter night.

Neat, huh?

Thursday, June 7, 2012


From time to time I have mentioned in this blog that I am quite fond of Jewish blessings.   Actually, I mostly like all blessings, regardless of their source but the Jewish blessings seem to be exceptionally focused on things one would often not even give a second thought to. 
And the blessing are not for what is given to us, but for the Giver of the blessing.
Many of these blessing are in the little prayer book that Jerry keeps on his closet shelf; just in the reading of these I always think that if I gave a little more thought to the things we are given, I would have less time to grumble about what I don’t have:

I’ve mentioned this one before:

On seeing a rainbow

Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who remembers the covenant, and is faithful to God's covenant, and keeps God's promise.
And these too:

On seeing a giant or a dwarf

Blessed art thou, the Eternal, our God, King of the universe, who producest variously-formed creatures.

On getting new clothing:

Praised are thou, Eternal our god, King of the World, who clothes the naked.

On seeing a person who has recovered from a dangerous illness:
Blessed be the Merciful One, who hath given thee back to us, and not given thee unto the dust.

Now I never thought I had discovered ALL the blessings that Judaism has incorporated over the millennia, but today I found one that was so precise and so detailed that I just had to laugh.   And based on my own experience, I understand its truth!  It is a blessing to be said every morning and after using the bathroom.
The transliteration of the Hebrew is

Barukh attah Adonai, eloheinu melekh ha’olam, asher yatzar et ha’adam b’khochmah, u’vara vo nekavim nekavim, chalulim chalulim.  Galuy ve’yadua lifnei khisei khevodekha she’im yipateiach echad meihem, ‘o yisateim echad meihem, ‘i efshar le’hitkaiyeim ve’la’amod lefaneykha.  Barukh attah Adonai, rofei khol basar u’mafli la’asot.
And the English translation is this:

Blessed are You, LORD our God, Master of the universe, who formed mankind in wisdom, and created in him all manner of openings and cavities.  It is manifest and known before the throne of your glory that if any one of them ruptured or were blocked, it would be impossible to survive and stand before You.  Blessed are You, LORD, who heals all flesh and is wonderful in His acts.

And I, smiling, say AMEN!

Saturday, June 2, 2012


“The Pig Did It,” a fiction book languishing on the library shelf, caught my eye.  What did that pig do, I wondered.  Oink, maybe?  Not a bookworthy event, I thought.  I had to find out. 
Turns out it was a delightful book, and if one pig-themed book was good, more might be better.  I decided I’d see what other pig-writers would produce.  Since then I’ve discovered Barbara Kingsolver, who can’t write a bad book, and gave me my second pig book, “Pigs in Heaven.” Next came “Pig Candy” a true and lovely story by a young woman taking her ailing father to visit the old home place down south once more before he dies.  Book four was “As the Pig Turns,” which told a good story except that it starts with a revolting image of a pig roasting on a pit but instead of the pig body, there is a human body sewed onto the pig head (or vice-versa).  I am afraid that offputting image colored my view of the book, although I did complete the read!

Now the fifth pig book has really discouraged me!  I am giving up on a book that had real promise; the worst thing is that I appear too stupid (or too uneducated) to understand it.  The title is “The Silver Pigs” and the author is Lindsey Davis.  It is the first book in her successful series of Marcus Didius Falco mysteries and is set in ancient Rome.  The blurb on the back says “All roads lead to treachery when Marcus Didius Falco, a Roman “informer” who has a nose for trouble that’s sharper than most, encounters a pretty girl fleeing for her life and makes a decision to rescue her.”  Sound interesting?  I thought so.  I read all the Brother Cadfael mysteries set in 11th Century England, so why not give ancient Rome a try?
I got to page 110 before I gave up.  Here’s why: simply, I can’t understand what is going on.  First of all, the characters are named Petronius Longus, Decimus Camillus Verus, Attius Pertanax, Publius Camillus Meto, Julius Frontinus, Caprenius Marcellus and so on.  I could form no mental image of these people like I could if they were named Charles Smith, Henry Orson or Orville Smith.  The female characters were a little easier because they seemed to have less names per person.   But with the men I never knew who Marcus Didius was talking about. Also, every place these characters moved to was called by a Roman name;  the “silver pig” was an ingot but I could never figure out where that ingot got stashed.  I could understand a few things, but that did not include the plot!  The author says some funny things, but I don’t know what they are about, so I can’t laugh.

The crowning blow came when I hit this paragraph:
Of the four original British legions, the Fourteenth Gemima were currently held in Europe pending Vespasian’s decision on their future: they had been active in the civil war -- on the wrong side.  The Ninth Hispana were in mid-transfer north to Eboracum, the Twentieth Valeria had plunged out toward the western mountains, while my old unit the Second Augusta advanced to Glevum, astride the upper reaches of the great Sabrina Estuary…”

That’s it! I said.  I’m done for.  Close the book.  Sorry, Pig, I’m done with you.
I admit I am very mis-educated on things Roman.  The worst are Roman Gods and Goddesses, which I seemed to have missed completely in my education.  If a crossword puzzle calls for one of these, I might as well stop before my blood pressure goes up too high out of total frustration.  I have a heck of a time figuring out Roman numerals beyond Xs, Vs, and Is.  Oh, I’m OK with C’s too, but D’s and L’s refuse to lodge in my brain.  All I remember from a 10th grade reading of Julius Caesar is “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears.”  That’s it.

So I am not blaming anyone but myself for “The Silver Pig.”  I wish I were smarter; in setting it aside I did so knowing that it was not the author’s fault, it was mine.

Luckily I have another pig book that arrived in the mail today via Abebooks, since I couldn’t find it at a library.  It’s called “On the Pig’s Back” and is an autobiographical excursion by Bill Naughton, the author of “Alfie.”   It’s set in present day England and I am fairly confident I should be able to figure this one out!

Friday, June 1, 2012


When my taste went haywire back in 2006 the first thing a doctor asked me was if my sense of smell had been altered also. When I told him no, everything smelled exactly the way it should, he looked relieved. “If both your sense of taste AND smell had been affected, we’d be looking for a brain tumor,” he said.
I have tried to keep that in mind over the years. No, I don’t have a brain tumor, thank goodness, and I really still have a good sense of smell. In fact my nose smells better than my ears hear. Or maybe I should say it this way: my nose can smell better than my ears can hear. (I know, it is a strange sentence either way, but since I’m nearly deaf in one ear and can’t hear out of the other, you will understand what I’m trying to get across.

I must say that I am happyI have a good smeller. People who don’t have one sometimes get called on to do things that I wouldn’t particularly like to do. Take my uncle Bert for instance. He was in the Air Force back in the 1950s, and since he had no sense of smell, he was the first one sent down to the floor of the Grand Canyon on July 7 of 1956 when the two airplanes collided in the air over that canyon.  His job was to assess what was needed to bring the 128 bodies back up.
Jerry has lost his sense of smell in the same way I’ve lost my taste – of old age, I guess. He cannot smell anything. He does a bit of cooking and he cannot tell if the pan of vegetables run dry and begin to scorch. He can’t smell a fire or a cigar. He can't smell a strange scent on the bottom of his shoes after he walks across the lawn. He can’t smell if something sours in the refrigerator. 

The other day I was talking to my cousin on the phone and Jerry was puttering around in the kitchen.  Suddenly I smelled a horrible smell emanating from his machinations and I yelled at him, “What’s that horrible chemical smell?  What are you doing in the kitchen?”  It was awful.  He yelled back, “I’m not using any chemicals.  I’m peeling the hard boiled eggs I just cooked.”  Aha! I said.  My cousin asked me what I had smelled and I said, “Sulfur.” 

My classical “smelling” story is about the time we drove up to Idyllwild from the Palm Springs side and then drove back down on the west side of the mountains.  It’s a short, steep drive and it doesn’t take long.  It was summertime and we had our windows down.  It seemed we were the only ones on the road.  Suddenly I caught a whiff of pipe tobacco and I mentioned it to Jerry.  He told me I was crazy.  I assured him I smelled it.  About three or four miles on down the road we came upon a motorcyclist, who moved to the edge of the road to let us pass.  As we did, we saw that he had a pipe in his mouth!
Now for my ears.  The audiologist says I should use a hearing aid in both ears if possible but if not, at least in the bad ear (the one that passengers in the cars always talk to!).  In the daytime I can barely hear the high-pitched voices of my little grandkids when they talk to me.   But the crazy thing is in the dark of night when everything is still, I can hear a daddy longlegs in bedroom slippers walk across my bedroom ceiling. 
It’s all aging, the professionals say!  No disease, just aging.  So I put drops in my eyes for glaucoma, glasses for my presbyopia, crowns and root canals in my mouth to shore up my aging teeth, and supplement my taste-deficient eating diet with Centrum Silver vitamins and Ensure.  As for my good sniffer, I enjoy night blooming jasmine outside my bedroom window, the smell of coffee brewing in the early morning, and a glass of wonderfully chilled and fragrant chardonnay in the afternoon.  Best to keep my focus on the good stuff, right?