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.