Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Back in July of 2008 I wrote my first HOT COFFEE & COOL JAZZ blog entitled Following the Heart.  From that blog I said "I'll be looking forwards and backwards -- and sometimes sideways -- in my life, sharing with you some observations and reflections just for the fun of it."

And it has been fun.

More than five years have passed, and life moves on.  I have made many changes in my life during this time.   Just as I have worked hard to accept the necessity to downsize, I also focused on setting aside the things that cause pressure in my life.  Most pressure is self-inflicted anyway, and while it is easy enough to identify what things you OUGHT to be doing, it is hard to let them go if you truly enjoy them.  

I loved my genealogy society meetings, but the night drive to attend meetings became a burden that I had to set aside.  Jer and I joined a group at the library, and I found that I did not enjoy my time there, so that too went.  And to be very honest with you, things that we face in our daily lives get harder as our minds and bodies get less facile in physical and mental areas.  It's time to sort through those things and make changes.

Several months ago I tried to climb up on a chair to reach something in a cupboard.  As I hoisted myself up, my knee gave out and I plunged down onto the floor, luckily that same chair breaking my fall but nearly murderizing my rib cage.  It was hard for me to acknowledge that I could no longer count on my knees holding me up:  moral - don't climb up on chairs anymore, a feat I've done for probably 70 years.

I find a parallel to that in what is going on in the electronic age:  AOL upgrades create a monumental connection problem on my computer.  Google takes away things that I use every day.  The internet is not for old people, unless it is kept very simple.  I thought I was doing ok until I lost the capability to upload a photograph onto my blog, which I had been able to do for five years. That did it for me.  I don't want a photoless blog.

And so in considering this, I also came to believe my brain and my mouth and my thoughts have become overworked.  My life has changed and I don't have many interesting things going on, making the subject matter sometimes awfully difficult to work with and sometimes even to find.  Every day that I don't write a blog I'm inwardly fussing about it.  And I need to remove this burden from my life, too.

So this blog will be the last one.  It's been fun for me. I actually wrote them for myself, so in that I was successful.  I hope you enjoyed a few along the way.


Thursday, October 24, 2013


Margaret Drabble is high on my list of esteemed authors but low on my ability to read her books to the end.  Throughout my reading years I've tried several, because they ALWAYS get highly lauditory reviews.  Yet  not being much of an egghead (well, to be honest not at ALL an egghead) I finally have to admit that the problem obviously is me.  But the literary poohbah's are doing the rating, and I know that THEY know what they are talking about.

Nevertheless, I had it in my heart to read her most recent book (2009), called THE PATTERN IN THE CARPET, A Personal History with Jigsaws.  It has been tough going, but so far almost every page has sent me back into my childhood in the most wonderful memories that for the most part had not yet surfaced in all the "Life Story" writings that I have done.  I started using little pieces of torn paper as bookmarks for pages I wanted to go back to and savor again.  However, by the 100th page the top end of my book looked like a Cheerleaders PomPom.

It would do no good to try to give a recap of this book.  There's way too much for a blog.  But today I will share with you a snippit from one of the pages. It has to do with death and life after death, but whatever your feeling about what's beyond this life, I don't think you can quarrel with the lovely images....

Drabble says that Bishop C. H. Brent gave a touching reading at the funeral service of her beloved aunt, Phyl.

What is dying?  I am standing on the sea shore.  A ship sails and spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the ocean.  She is an object of beauty and I stand watching her till at last she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says, "She is gone."  Gone where?  Gone from my sight, that is all; she is just as large in the masts, hull and spars as she was when I saw her...The diminished size and loss of sight is in me, not in her, and just at that moment when someone at my side says "She is gone", there are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up a glad shout, "There she comes!" 

Margaret, in her book says "And so I saw the great beached hulk of Auntie Phyl's body, stranded on her hard, high, care-home bed, launching off from its moorings, free again, sailing into another world.

The author's childhood was in England, and one of the first issues with understanding this book is that it deals with people we aren't familiar with, places that one probably should understand the differences between Engilish villages and English towns to make perfect sense of her remarks, references to older famous writers who never passed into the Enlish Lit books of college, and as usual, the difficulty with English (Is "squash" a vegetable in England?  No, it is a soft drink.")  

But I'm finding in this book.... well, here a gem of a paragraph, there a gem of a recollection, - a virtual treasure chest full of things that touch me.  I'm plowing on through the book, page by page,  It's not easy reading, but I am certainly finding satisfaction abounding.  I have no intention of stopping anytime soon!

Monday, October 21, 2013


I guess I am tired.  This morning at 5 a.m. while I was walking a grand-dog that I am tending for the next few days, the idea popped into my head and I pretty much worked it out.  I'm home now (at least until 6 p.m. when I go back to the dog house) and do you think I can remember what those ideas were?  Nope.  In fact, I feel kind of crabby.  I've got a couple of medical issues (minor, I hope) and it's possible they - or the medicine I'm treating them with - is causing this.  Anyway, the ideas are gone, but being happy and/or crabby  will have to be the subject today.


Doc Martin re-runs - I think we are in the second go-round of the series, and we are finally understanding how the English people sound when they talk!

Iced Coffee - a newly discovered treat that daughter Kerry insisted I would like - and I did!

My computer - always on the list except when it is acting up.

Knowing how to touch type - but kids today learn how to do it without having to spend two semesters in school taking typing classes.  You learn fast if you want to!

The smell and feel of the ocean - of interest is that daughter Kerry lives in LA, considerably closer to the ocean than I live.  When I go to her house I can sense a change in smell from cows to salt water, AND I always get a headache because, I say, the air is heavier there than where I live now.  Is this possible?

Rings and bracelets - I don't have much in the way of bling, but rarely do I purchase anything for my neck.  But I do like to decorate my fingers and wrists!

A workable scanner - After "making do" with a cheap scanner, I ditched it and bought another one that was the same price but is working like a charm.  Making do with the old one was the stupidist thing I've done in a long time!


Talk radio.

Putting meals on the table.  If I only count dinners for about the 50 years I have been an adult and planning meals, you can see why I am ready to be FINISHED cooking.  

The smell of freshly mown grass.  Talk about stirring up the allergies!  The minute I hear the mower coming toward us I batten down the hatches but good!

Political phone calls - even from my party.  I don't want to talk politics to anyone.

Seeing road kill - Self explanatory

Taking the written test for a Driver's License.  I beat myself up something fierce studying for it.  I never fail, but there is a first time for everyone.



Seeing a Port-a-Potty being carried down the freeway in the back of a pickup.

Listening to Jerry laugh - it's infectious!

Getting hiccups at my age.  Such indignity.

Having a hummingbird look me in the eye when I'm sitting on the porch.

The old movie "Mr Hulot's Holiday" with Jacques Tati.  

Men wearing red slacks.  Pul.....eeze!

Slapstick comedy.  A good pratfall can send me into gales of laughter.


Sunday, October 13, 2013


I have decided that I like the Mexican holiday “Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) much better than I do our own Halloween.  Actually, I don’t celebrate either of them, but I do like the creativity and the figural representations and the pomp, if you can call it that, that surrounds the Mexican Holiday.  And oh! the colors!

I recognize that the origins of both holidays are religious in nature, but that doesn’t play into my thinking at all.  And I suspect the prominence that deceased family members have in the Mexican holiday observance is what makes a natural connection to my interest in those old family connections I’ve dug up (no pun intended) in my genealogical research. 

Once past the stage of going trick-or-treating and later the participation in ghoulish and/or creepy Halloween parties, I don’t see much to be delighted in over Halloween.  I will say this:  On October 1 I removed a little blue scarf I had tied to the crook of the cane I take with me when I walk and made a little Halloween decoration using a couple of black fabric roses and an orange ribbons, so it isn’t like I’m ditching my connection to Halloween (see above), but oh my goodness, it seems that el Dia de Los Muertos celebrations and exhibits here in Southern California are just getting bigger and better.

The Halloween Gallery I recently visited at Rogers Gardens in Corona Del Mar was what I consider a blend of the two traditions.  Some of the offerings were definitely Halloweenish and others definitely Day of the Deadish.  I liked them both. 

Wonderful sugar skulls.  Who would think to decorate like this?  Not me, but I might give it a try, using this as a pattern.
More on the Halloweenish side are the black cats.  Ferocious looking, but quite ..... well, charming isn't exactly the word, but I certainly do like them!

Ah, look at the great colors.  This is definitely not OUR Halloween skull but was certainly a tribute to the typical Dia de Los Muertos style.

Are these not pumpkins to clamor for?   It's hard in this picture to see that the designs are made of chains of black sequins.  Yes, we could do it with orange pumpkins too and make this a bit more Halloweenish.

I couldn't pass this most woebegone vulture up.  Can't you just see him sitting on  your porch helping you give out candy to Trick-or-Treaters?  I just fell in love with this fellow.

And finally, for all the world to see this funny face, I'm grimacing at the owl on my shoulder.  Now he was downright cute, and as a matter of fact he DID have two eyes (and still does, I think; the second eye is just not picked up by the camera.) 
It's accurate to say we had a wonderful time at Rogers Gardens.  If it wasn't such a long drive to get there (some 60 miles) I'd go again.  This time I would come home with the colorful plate (which incidentally cost an arm and a leg!) and probably one of the cats. 
But now I have the Ontario Museum's annual Dia de Los Muertos display to look forward to.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that more artists will participate than in the previous couple of years and I'll once again be amazed at what I see.
NOTE:  In case you see strange things like white backgrounds and green bars in this blog, just pretend they are not there.  I've had nothing but problems with my computer since I accepted AOL's offer of a new version (9.7).  It has become a real miracle if I can even open AOL now, and this blog only appears after trying for 3 hours to make it have pictures in it.  So take it for what's it's worth; it's the best I can do until AOL gets the problem fixed.  If everything looks proper, attribute it to the good fairy!

Friday, October 11, 2013


In the file drawer next to my computer sits a folder marked "Computer."  The earliest material in it dates from about 1997, when I first became brave enough to go on the internet.  I chose AOL as my service provider and a dial-up modem, which if you can remember back that far tied up your telephone until you logged off the internet.

Actually, I took a job through a temp agency in 1981 with Burroughs Corporation, and it was there that I learned to work a stand-alone word processor, a Burroughs device called a Redactron.  At the time this machine mainly was purchased by law firms and was especially of value because it could save hours and hours of repeat typing of legal documents with blanks filled in with differing clients.  Being an electronic thing, it was subject to all the glitches that we still meet every day all these many years later.  I recall one phone call from an irate attorney in downtown San Francisco demanding that we get a repair man to his office posthaste or the $11,000 piece of equipment was going to be thrown out the window of his 11th floor office.

It was at Burroughs in 1981 that I heard of the development of the PC (personal computer), and sure enough, as you know it came alone in due time.  In the intervening years I learned to work most of the Word Processing systems like Wang, use most of the word processing programs like Wordstar and Word Perfect, the electronic typewriters like the Xerox Memory Writer- and finally Jer and I invested in a Tandy 1000, from RadioShack.

Then I became the inheritor of an old IBM computer that my son replaced....and that's when the fun really began.  Nevertheless, throughout all these devices and all these programs, there are a few things that have remained constant, the biggest and most consistent of which is FRUSTRATION!

Back in 1998 the magazine Salon devised a Computer Haiku contest, asking entrants to use the Haiku form to express their ideas of just what all this new-fangled way of communication was about (that's my interpretation, not theirs!)  What is interesting is that now, almost 15 years later, these Haiku "poems" are as true as the day they were printed.  With thanks to Salon, let me share a few with you:

Yesterday it worked.
Today it is not working.
Windows is like that.

With searching comes loss
And the presence of absence:
"My novel" not found.

Stay the patient course.
Of little worth is your ire.
The network is down.

A crash reduces
Your expensive computer
To a simple stone.

Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.

Having been erased,
The document you're seeking
Must now be retyped.

You step in the stream,
But the water has moved on.
The page is not here.

and my favorite...

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent and reboot
Order shall return.

I understand, at a gut level, the feelings expressed in each of these poems.  As recently as yesterday a light bulb in my mind went on as I tried to figure out what else I could do to get my computer (whose name, by the way, is TIMEWASTER) to perform normally.  Ah, I said.  Perhaps if I totally close down old TIMEWASTER my problem will disappear.

I did, and it did.

Through the years I have been given lots of good advice.  The two most important ideas have remained constant: "Reboot" and "Don't ask why!"

Now back to my file cabinet.  Except for a few pages of instruction for devices and programs I no longer have, the material in that file is still helpful and pertinent.  I dare not get rid of any of it.  Had the computer age lived up to its promise -- A Paperless Office -- I could have left all of the material on the computer.  But as much as I love old TIMEWASTER, I am not going to take that much of a chance!

Thursday, October 10, 2013


I walk into the living room to tell my husband something.   The minute I arrive, the thought is totally gone.  Wheeling around, I scurry back into the kitchen where I know the thought is awaiting my  return.  When my foot hits the linoleum floor, the thought jumps back in my mind and I manage to keep it there this time long enought to tell him what I wanted to.

Oh dear!   That is about the same as remembering something you need to buy at the market and by the time you find a pencil to write it down, you can't remember what it was you needed.

I propose these little lapses aren't exclusivelly owned by the over-55 gang, but they certainly hit us more often as we move on in years.

My friend Bev, a top-notch executive secretary, trained me when I went to work for a company in Pomona back in the '70s.  After several years of working together, we thought we were probably the best executive support team in the valley.  Both of us are now retired, and we laugh a lot over old times.  The biggest laugh can be simply stated this way:  when we were 35, our bosses could tell us what they wanted done, and we would do it.  At 45, our bosses could tell us what they wanted done and we needed to write it down so we wouldn't forget to do it.  At 55, our bosses could tell us what they wanted done, and we would write it down but then forget we had the note!  We laugh now, but it wasn't very funny then!

There were days in June before I retired from my last final when I felt I was losing ground.  It seemed that I had an allotted number of brain cells left to finish up this fast-paced job and if the boss didn't slow down, I was going to use them up well before retirement came.  It was a scary time, but luckily I stayed the course.

My sweet husband Jerry and I poke good-natured fun at each other when one of us has a momentary lapse, but we have made a pact that we are not going to tease each other in front of other people.  We will help each other out, rather than make an issue out of one of those honest but happening-more-frequently blanks!

We also have agreed that we are not going to waste time trying to remember some insigificant thing -- was it Thursday or Friday?  1973 or 1974 - you know, those times when it seems dreadfully important to get the exact jot and tittle correct while the world waits for us to get on with our story.  Jer and I have agreed to kick each other under the table when that starts to happen.  The kick will jog our stuck record and get us back on track.  It's our little secret.

We're trying to go gracefully into old age, making allowances for each other and being one of those couples younger people think of as "darling little old people."  We've got to work at staying sharp.  Techniques for exercising the mind abound, if you listen to the authorities.  I've chosen my poison -- memorizing my favorite old poems -- starting with "Abou Ben Adhem, May His Tribe Increase."  (I can hear you speculating that maybe some of my cells have already gone missing.)  I'm a firm believer in the value of memorization.  I think if I can just get that first poem down pat, the rest will be easier and I will be reassured that my brain cells are still alive and kicking.

Though Jerry may think otherwise.