Sunday, March 31, 2013


A long time ago I remember hearing someone talk on seeking joy instead of happiness.  It was probably a sermon, and I remember at the time thinking that I'd take happiness, thank you.  But of course I kept my mouth shut.  The other day I saw on the internet somewhere the darling pink pig above (I since have read Mr. Monkton's little book  - and it just made me laugh.)  Not only his pig but all his other creatures, ending with chickens, were smiling and my laugh was for them all.

Perhaps that is why, when I went on my walk yesterday morning. I decided I felt exceptionally happy.  Maybe it was because Jerry is feeling better and has actually gained some weight back.  Perhaps the endorphins I am supposed to feel when I exercise had kicked in.  Or maybe it was the Malt-O-Meal I made myself for breakfast, with my taste buds reminding me of having breakfasts as a child with my dad, my mom, my sister and my uncle Bill all at the table before we went off to work and to school. 

But the happy feeling also rolled over into today -- so I decided to share with you some of the things in my life that have made me happy.  My folks made sure we kids had a good childhood, and when I got old enough to pick and choose my own activities one of the first things I focused on that really pleased me was liking to canoe.  In my mid-teens our Mariner Scout troop often spent Saturdays at Alamitos Bay in Long Beach, and it was there I learned to canoe. 

Although I wasn't an athletic person, I did fine at canoeing, even to the extent of heading to the mountains and spending the day on a lake with a date.  Even after I became an adult I often thought of  how much fun it would be to relive those happy days, but marriage and lots of babies always put a stop to any action.

In the 9th grade students were able to choose some electives in school, and my mother encouraged me toward Journalism.  She had always wanted to be a writer; she said her grandma wrote a book and Mother felt she had those genes in her.  She encouraged me to give it a shot.  So this was the beginning of a long period of writing and editing school newspapers, and going off to college with an eye toward a future in writing.

This is a picture of me looking over the latest issue of the Graphic, our Pepperdine College newspaper.  Writing made me very happy.

Of course, a liberal arts college is where you try out 'stuff' to see if it fits, and I was hard pressed to decide what to do about sports, which I was not crazy about.  My college roommate, who was very athletic, took up archery and it seemed to me I could do that.  I had no idea it would be so much fun and that I would turn out very good at it.  I did it, of course, for the credits I needed, but even years afterwards I always though I might go back to it as a hobby.  It was great fun.

After four years of marriage my husband and I bought our first house in a newly built tract, and shortly we were introduced to square dancing by some neighbors.  Although dancing had never been one of my interests, I found square dancing very challenging and exhilarating and we took it up with a vengeance!  We probably would have stuck with it a bit longer, but I kept having more babies and believe me when I say it is very difficult to square dance when pregnant.  I also joined a young mothers' bowling league, and although I had never bowled, I fell in love with it and for about two years I spent every Wednesday morning at the bowling alley.  My children were baby-sat by the neighborhood women's baby-sitting co-op and all it cost me was (in 1960) 10 cents a line!  It was SO much fun, and my children had fun with their little playmates under the watchful eye of their mothers.

All through this time, from my earliest recollections to the present, music has been in my life one way or the other.  I was given lessons on the violin, the piano, the bassoon and the guitar.  I played the ukulele.  I sang in choirs.  Later I led children's choirs and adult choirs.  I do not care for hillbilly music but I do like real blue-grass, all jazz and blues, popular music, classical music, as well as organ music.  And stumbling upon a group of Morris dancers in Reath, England  I decided that this old form of merriment provided the epitomy of happiness for me.  Back in the states I looked for Morris dancers here, but alas, I found none.

As I've gotten older, I have gone through a lot of hobbies that pleased me.  Probably the first was taking a cooking class from a woman who grew up in China, the daughter of missionaries. She taught us to cook what the chinese people cooked for themselves.  (Since this was in 1978, they may eat differently now!)  It was SO much fun.  We used no recipes, just watched her and followed, which was how she learned to cook.  My idea of fun was to gather a group of friends over for dinner and cook up a storm for them. 

Then I went into photography.  I have always had a camera in my hand but didn't know much about it.  I did what the instructor called "aim and shoot."  His class was helpful and practical.  Some of the things I learned can be seen in the following sample photos:

That photography phase made me very happy and I put lots of my knowledge to good use when we went to Turkey. 

But also I have had little collections that pleased me.  The problem with collections is once you commit to something, then well-meaning friends and family contribute!  My collection was of cups having some significance to me.  Those coming as gifts usually didn't.   When we downsized I had to let my collection go, but I did kept three special cups shown below.  On the left is a cup given to us by a cemetery maintenance employee when Jerry and I solicited his help in finding the gravesite of a dead relative.  The middle is a cup given to me when a little RCA office in Tustin, where I had a great part-time job, shut down.  And the last cup was sold by the Los Angeles Public library as a money-raiser when they had a devastating fire and needed to rebuild their collection.   I hated to give up my cup collection, but at least keeping these made me very happy.

And if you've read my blog at all, you'll know tracing my family tree has been a real labor of love for me since 1984.  One thing I don't much talk about is that for years I have been able to schedule talks on various aspects of genealogy for genealogical societies all over Southern California.  The reception of these talks has been very satisfying.  Strangely enough, I am very comfortable going before 30 or 300 or 3,000 people and giving a talk on "Research Surprises: Making them Happen" - but I have difficulty being comfortable with social chit-chat at a cocktail party.  I find I have very little to say and come across like a wallflower!  But interacting with people, no matter how many, over a subject we both enjoy makes me awfully happy.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Have you ever set about to clean off some of the extraneous "junk" that gets saved and stored on your computer?  It's amazing what you can find.  I make good use of directories and I pretty much know where I can find stuff that has served its purpose and should be deleted.  Most of it resides in a directory I call "A Trash Folder" - and 90% of what is in there can be easily identified and deleted.  The second directory I make heavy use of is "Bobby Personal" - and that is where my biggest surprises are found.

When we were dependent on metal cabinets and paper file folders for things we wanted to keep, my "Bobby Personal" folder was like a treasure chest.  Well, perhaps that is overstating what was in there, but I always found it fun and often bittersweet to peruse through the ephemera that I had squirrelled away.  My digital "Bobby Personal" folder is much the same, except I have found that with the pace of things now, as often as not I find things in that folder that I have no idea of where I found it and sometimes even why it is in there.

This morning in my attempt to clean out that folder I had to open up several documents, because the name I gave them drew a great big blank in my mind as to what they were about.  One of them made me smile, and I'd like to share that one with you today.  I wish I had written it myself, but apparently I had read it somewhere, thought it worth saving, and luckily noted that it was written by Charles Edward Marshall, who lived between 1872 and 1922.

Do you remember how big our world was, when we were little, how important?  And we too were important.
Fearlessly parting meadows of tall grass, we swam into the unknown, daisy chains, bees and butterflies, and creepy-crawlies of wonderous hut our reward.
How big our house was, a castle, for playing hide and seek, stairs to mount and "look, I can fly", when coming back to earth again.
 And granddad by the fire, in the deep, wide chair, a fortress too high to climb, open arms lifting us to a saafe haven in a breathless storm.
Remember our street, alive with the sound of adventure; jumping gutters as deep as any brook, we crossed untamed deserts to reach the oasis of broken pavements where our friends played on the other side of the road. 
Scooters, tri-cycles, bicycles, legs pumping, we raced the wind.
How high the trees were, how loud the thunder, the snow deep as the deepest feather bed, how bright the sun, and how dark the clouds.  Days as long as years and years unimaginable.
And how clever they were, our minders and teachers,
how great their knowledge and wisdom.
They knew the way to the secrets of all the ages,
and they knew how to mend broken shins.
But all things must change. 
We grew a little, in years and in inches,
mountains became hills and chairs mere seats.
Thunder and darkness now hold no fears,
grass must be mowed and daisies are weeds.
We regret the smallness of houses,
sedately descend each flight of stairs.
Minders and teachers ourselves,
still hoping for knowledge and wisdom,
still lacking the art to mend broken hearts.
This picture above is my great-great grandmother Charlotte Bond Ryland of Indiana, who raised 5 sons and whose only extant letters are written to her grandson in Kansas, thanking him for writing her and saying she hopes to see him again before she loses her sight completely.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Well, I don’t want to be overly dramatic about losing all the fire pits along the beachfronts in our part of Southern California, but it looks like they are shortly going to go the way of the old backyard incinerators.

For you young’uns, everyone used to have an incinerator at the far corner of their back yard.  They disappeared from my life around the time I was five or thereabouts, and I just have a vague recollection of my dad shoveling out the ashes from the bottom of the contraption (what did he do with them, I wonder?) and then building a new fire inside where he could dispose of all the flammable stuff that we generated from our little apartment.  As to rules and regulations of trash-burning I have no idea.  I do know the trash truck still came around and gathered the non-burnable trash. 
Now at some point there became a good reason to not continue to use the incinerator method of disposal.  There also came a time when we could no longer burn leaves in the gutters.  I’m sure as our cities grew in population it became imperative not to have all that smoke lingering around our noses.  And soon a generation arose that had no idea that we used to do so much on-site burning of our trash. 

But all through these interim years, many of our beaches were known for all the fire rings that were made available to people who wanted to use them.  For the most part they didn’t get used in the cold months, but as soon as the warmer spring weather arrived, you could see the diehard cooks setting up for breakfast at the beach, building a fire and letting it get just the right temperature to provide bacon, eggs, biscuits, coffee and hot chocolate.  On the weekends someone would go down early and stake out just the right ring and soon either a big family, or a Girl or Boy Scout troop, or a church group would arrive and the breakfasting would begin in earnest.  We all did it!  It was a part of life for those of us lucky enough to live within driving distance of the beach.
But it was the night time “wienie roasts” that were the best.  As far back as I can remember, this was the event of choice on a warm summer evening, especially when we were teenagers.  As far as we were concerned, wienie roasts were what wire coat hangers were made for!  Someone brought the wienies, someone else the buns, and the condiments were brought by yet others.  And of course the culmination of that delicious dinner were the “S’Mores” – a hot toasted marshmallow slapped between two graham crackers with a square of Hershey’s chocolate melted by the marshmallow. 

But this wasn’t only a kiddie thing, either.  Here’s a picture taken in the 1980s of a wonderful evening Jerry and I, along with some friends, spent at the beach, eating a more “gourmet” version of the wienie roast but enjoying it every bit as much.
Fire pits aren’t only for kids.  Adults who have grown up with them will use them forever.
Unless the complainers have their way. 
Bad smoke.  Bad noise.  Bad people.  Whatever the complainers can think of to complain about, they will.  I must say that lots of housing has been built closer to the fire pits and I suspect some of the residents aren’t crazy about the smoke and the kind of noise made when happy people are having a wienie roast and eating S’mores. 
I don’t live by the beach anymore, so I don’t have a say-so in what has to go or what can stay.   But I do hate to think that the fire pits will be declared a nuisance and will have to go the way of the incinerators. 


Wednesday, March 6, 2013


It's really easy to badmouth a newspaper for printing so much bad news and neglecting the good stuff.  I know, if it's scary, dramatic, awful, horrible, gutsy, criminal or shocking, then it seems to be considered news.  In a turnabout of the old saw about no news being good news, today it seems to be that good news is NO news.

So that is probably why I opened our local paper today and was stunned to see this most interesting picture of a hawk, and then to read the story about it.  For it is truly good news! 

If you click on this picture, it will enlarge a bit, but you really still won't realize what it is showing until I tell you that you are seeing 675 plus students (and a few teachers and parents) standing on Hawthorne Elementary School property turning themselves into a piece of living art as seen by a photographer in a helicopter overhead.

Led by artist Daniel Dancer and his "Art for the Sky," he describes what we are seeing:  "The red-tailed hawk hawk has always been the mascot, so to speak, for Art for the Sky and it was great to bring this bird to life in such a magical way in the region where I grew up.  The fact that the bird was bearing the gift of an orange is highly significant because this fruit represents the sun and we are in grave danger these days in our relationship to the sun because of human-caused global warning."

Hawthorne teacher Mariana Robles wrote a grant application for the project after learning about Dancer's work at other schools.  A Riverside Educational Enrichment grant made it possible.  The upper grade students used geometry concepts to scale the large picture for the field.  Other students worked with Dancer to to define the outline in bark and sand on the field.  Robles said that a whole bunch of academic and mathematical activities were put into play as the project progressed, all offering good lessons for the children.  And probably for some of the parents, as well.

When it was ready, everyone in the school was assigned a place to stand and wore a tee-shirt of the needed color.  At that point, up went the helicopter and a video was made.  Each participant received a copy of the finished piece of art. 

While the primary focus of the project was educational awareness of the environmental issues facing our earth, there was a lesson to learn at every step of the way, not only of the academic sort but also the processes of groups and cooperation and working together -- and art itself.

With all the recent emphasis on teaching to the test, making sure our kids can pass the next test required by law, I often worry that the understanding of art and music and drama and literature are going to dry up and blow away from lack of use.  It just did my heart good to read about this very special arty activity that every child in that school became a part of.  They will never forget it.

It is good to know that a local school has done such an amazing thing.  And it is equally good to know that our local newspaper saw fit to put it right out in front of us so we would have some Good News on the front page when we opened it up this morning. 

Thanks, PE.  Don't stop!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


I can’t say as I was taught a whole lot of fancy manners when I was a kid.  Using the right fork was never an issue because there was always just one fork by each plate, not two.  I never had to learn about dipping fingers in a fingerbowl because there never were any such things on our table.  Paper napkins were de-riguer and often they could be found wherever they were probably going to be most needed – on a lap, tucked in under the chin as a bib or wadded up close at hand on the table.

What I was admonished to do was to chew with my mouth closed and not talk with my mouth full.  Beyond that, manners were really not an issue.  My folks were not hillbillies used to eating with their hands, nor were they high society blue-bloods who did, in fact, have two forks by their plates along with a fingerbowl, so I think my sis and I probably mostly learned what to do from what we saw our parents do.   
That was then, and this is now.  From reading an article in the LA Times this morning, I find that prestigious MIT has begun offering social etiquette classes so the eggheads that are so famously nurtured to genius status with their eyes focused on sine, co-sine, quarks, and the like will also fit into the business world when they leave the halls of academia.  These classes, and others like it at other engineering-type schools, range from table manners 101 to learning how to tie bow ties. 

Graduates from this non-credit course are given “Doctorates of Charm” certificates when they finish the class.  They learn that women should not wear open-toed shoes on interviews.  Men should wear socks with their shoes.  They learn that if they get to a door before their female boss, they should hold the door open for both their boss and any other of the party to pass through first.  They learned not to cut their meat into little pieces before they start to eat it.   They also learn it is proper to hand-write a thank you note, using actual pen and paper.
The kids in these classes may already be on their way to success, but MIT says social etiquette that is so different nowadays from what it has been in the past should be a part of their education and apparently those who take these classes often find themselves returning for several sessions before they move out into the big world of corporations and dinner parties and art openings.

Now I say “Bravo” for the modern etiquette mavens who believe this information is an important asset for those kids who often don’t have a clue.  But I’d like to pass on to them a few tips that over the years I’ve decided are a major turnoff at the dinner table.  Sorry to say, it mainly has to do with men, but actually it pertains to either gender.  And it has to do more with proper eating than using the proper utensil.

1.     Don’t talk while your mouth is full.  This way you will not spit food on the table.

2.     Don’t put so much food on your fork.  If you are a man, it often leaves particles of food hanging on your beard or mustache.

3.     Don’t open your mouth to add more food when you’ve still got partially chewed food still inside.  It looks gross.

4.     If your wife, friend or table partner indicates that you have food on your face, do not take offense and get stubborn about removing it.  Wipe it off, for crying out loud. 

5.     If you need to blow your nose at the table, get up and go outside or to the foyer; do not subject the rest of the table to snot on your hankie or worse yet, on your napkin.

As for females not wearing open-toed shoes on an interview, I think I would probably rather it say, “Always wear nylons to an interview.”  I know that nylons are passé and that I need to let go of thinking that a bare-legged woman in a business suit is inappropriately dressed, but it’s an ingrained value and I just don’t see it.  It shows my age, I know.  Fashions change with time, but don’t you agree a bad mouthful at the dinner table will never change?

Saturday, March 2, 2013


In case you thought I might have given up the idea of blogging altogether, the picture should be explanation enough: over the past few weeks Jerry has become seriously dehydrated, and due to no beds being available in the hospital and no appointments with our primary care physician or the gastro specialist available for three weeks, we have spent our time in Urgent Care.  Without going into detail, let me say that we spent more hours than we would have liked but at last, after three separate 3-hour sessions with an IV drip, he is now showing normal levels on all his bloodwork. 

No reason for the dehydration has been found yet, and tests can't start until a bed becomes available, but at least we get a 15 minute appointment with our own doctor next Tuesday.  In the meantime, Jerry (in the manner of his old self) has been busy trimming the bushes around our apartment, catching up on his self-appointed role as family bill-payer, and drinking Gatorade and Pedialyte to keep his sodium level where it should be!

I have mostly managed to continue my daily walking regimen and earlier this week made a startling discovery.  A tombstone appeared, leaning against the front wall of one of the apartments in our complex. 

I am completely unable to let a tombstone lie uninvestigated when it is in a strange place.  I was able to determine (with the help of a kindred soul in Northern California) that this fellow (who was known as Ellis Bell, Ellis being his middle name), was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Red Bluff, California.  He left a wife and a daughter.  His wife, Millie, died in 1970, and at that time this tombstone was removed and a replacement stone with both his and his wife's name on it was substituted.  From that point on, the travels of this particular stone are unknown.  The cemetery district did not keep track of it once it was removed from the gravesite. 

I'm telling you, walking provides lots of benefits both to the body AND the mind.  As for seeing things on my walk, I was totally charmed by a tree face I saw the other day:

I walk in the street (a quiet "circle" street within the confines of our complex so I don't have to worry about being run over), which is how I managed to see this fellow.   Had I been on the sidewalk I would have completely missed him.   There were lots of little dwarfy figures scattered around on the lawn but it was this guy who caught my eye. 

must get one for the tree in my yard.  I think perhaps the big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes and the larger nurseries might have them, but I did a Google search on "old man tree faces" and found that I have a choice of thousands of them to pick from, mostly depending on my pocketbook.  My tree isn't nice and gnarly like this one, but it still deserves a tree person.


Just recently we learned that in both July and October we will become great-grandparents again.  The oldest great grandchild is graduating from high school this year.  It's true, there is a great age disparity between the oldest and the youngest, just as with our grandchildren, who range in age from 10 to 39.  
Makes us wonder how can all this be? 


And the last thing is today I read in one of the newspapers that embroidered tea towels, place mats and pillow cases are "in" now.   Can you believe that??   Those were my "starter projects" back in 1940 when my mother put a needle, thread and embroidery hoop in my hand and said, "Barbara, it's time you learned how to embroider."  Ah, yes, it's what all young girls did then....and now it is coming back into fashion.  I remember it all -- dresser scarves, baby bibs, baby "sacques," along with the tea towels and pillow cases.  Whatever was flat, we ironed a transfer pattern on it and decorated it with lazy daisy stitches and french knots!  Just ask us how it's done; we can do it in our sleep, still!