Monday, May 2, 2016


It should come as no surprise that "cleaning" is going slowly.

I'm doing a bit every day, but every box I start to go through gets sidetracked.

Yesterday, for example, I came across the scrapbook I came which contained greeting cards.  Dozens of greeting cards.

In the years when I first knew him, Walt lived in an old house in Berkeley, which was owned by the priests of Newman Hall on the other side of campus.  It was going to be torn down when the new building project was ready to start.  In the meantime the Newman Center could make a few bucks out of the 7 guys who lived there for a year or so.

We called them Inn-mates and I became the house cook.  I didn't really like living in the dorms and when I learned that the guys didn't know how to cook (nor did I, actually, but I was willing to learn), I ended up cooking for the group five or so nights a week (we had lots of breast of lamb which, in those days, could be found on sale for 25 cents a pound!)

If the house were not going to be turn down in a year or so, it probably would have been condemned.  I remember the kitchen slanted.  Once it flooded and all the water ran down into the low corner of the room and out the small hole someone drilled in the lowest spot.

It had one thing I just loved, which was a huge walk-in pantry.  Oh to have something like that here!  In the pantry there was a closet where the guys would keep gin for me, since I loved gin and was underage.  But it was also a "mailbox" between Walt and me.  For 25 cents a pound you could get breast of lamb but you could also get greeting card, and I left a card a day in there for him.  (When he decided to give me his pin to wear, he left that in the closet too).  I don't know if I saved all of the cards, but a whole book full of them.  They have all long since lost their ability to stick to the page, I discovered when I opened the book yesterday.  I could have tossed the whole thing in the garbage and Ned would have been so proud of me, but I took time to sit down and read all of those corny cards.  What's even more interesting are the things written inside of them, most of which concern drinking and/or gin.  I was a big drinker in those days and today, when I rarely drink anything but water, it's embarrassing to see how big a role "gin" played in my life.

I did throw the scrapbook away, but kept the cards, some of which I think I can use for pocket letter projects.

I also found a binder of old copies of the "Hot Flash."  Throughout my life, I think I have created newsletters for every group of which I was a part. The "Hot Flash" was the newsletter I designed for the ob/gyn office for which I was transcriptionist (and later office manager).  The newsletter was pubished monthly for three years.  I skimmed through some of the issues and...damn, I was sometimes a good writer!  At the end of 1994, for example, I wrote a 7 stanza poem detailing all of the things which happened to the people in the office ovedr the year.  This one was about daughters, and grandchildren:

With blowing and panting and hullabaloo
Little Miss Natalie made her debut.
PM and RM are grandmas again
And Judie decided to marry her swain.
Lynne gave a luau when Meredith turned one
As hostess, our doctor is second to none.

I haven't decided if I'm going to keep these yet or not.  Probably.  I'd like to go back and read more of them. That office was such a wonderful place in which to work, and totally destroyed when it got taken over by the Big Corporation. It's nice to remember the good old days, when we all liked each other and had fun together.  When we joined with six other medical offices and moved into the new building, I started a newsletter then too, called "The Well," but that never really took off.

I also came across the first Albert Peyson Terhune book I ever read, "Lad, a Dog."  I went on to read all of Terhune's books (and think I have most of them).  I think this particular book is a duplicate and so it went into the "take to Logos" pile, but I had to take time to read the first chapter (it's a book of short stories) and by the end of it I was sobbing, as I did the first time I read the book.  I decided not to read further!

Then there was "The Book of Reflections," by Marie L. Scott Broderick, my aunt.  Marie is my mother's oldest sister and probably the one she knows the least.  She was grown and gone long before my mother was born.  I actually only remember meeting her once or twice.  I have lots of weird relatives, but Marie may be the weirdest.  She claims to have been visited by a being she calls "Bertie" (who I think is supposed to have been Queen Victoria's husband) and this nearly 400 book tells the story of their interactions and her meeting with just about every famous person in the world, including folks like Abraham Lincoln, Lenin, Daniel Webster, Henry Kaiser, etc.  I've tried to read it, but it reads like so much gibberish to me.  I have the book because my mother had it and I think I rescued it when we moved her to Davis.  Why, I have no idea.

I offered it to the family on the family group on Facebook and the granddaughter of my cousin Ken said she'd like to have it.  "I don't believe that anyone in my part of the family has a copy and we would love to read it! I'm one of Ken Eckstein's granddaughters. I don't know who Aunt Marie is but I love to read and am always interested in a bit of family history!" she said.  I told her it wasn't exactly a family history, but she wants to anyway, so I'm going to give it to a niece who is more likely to see her than I am.

By the time I'd done all this, I'd finished half a box and added more to the garbage can, but it was time to think about cooking dinner, so that's all that got done.  

Slowly, slowly.  It's difficult to decide which pieces of your life to throw away and which to keep.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sunday Stealing

A) What does the last text you sent say? And to whom?
I sent a text to Ned that said "just to let you know, I THREW SOMETHING AWAY"

B) What does the last text you received say? And from whom?
Walt sent me a note that said "wc," which means his BART train had arrived in Walnut Creek on his way back from San Francisco. (He's a man of few words.)

C) What time do you wake up most mornings?
First at 3 a.m., then later sometime between 6 and 9.

D) Are you afraid of walking alone at night?
Afraid, no.  Nervous, sometimes.  I don't walk alone at night much.

E) What do you do to relax at the end of a stressful day?
Watch TV.

F) Where did your last kiss take place and with whom?
Walt kisses me goodnight when he's heading off to bed.

G) Do/did you get into trouble a lot at school?
Almost never.  I can't remember a single incident.

H) Do you enjoy your job? If unemployed, are you content being so?
I am retired and love it!

I) Do you often pick up on double entendres and innuendos?
I pick up double entendres and innuendos when people don't even realize what they've said!

J) Have you ever been offered drugs but declined?
When our kids were in nursery school, we went to a party hosted by the teacher.  They passed around marijuana, but since I don't know how to smoke, I passed it on without trying it.

K) Have you ever met someone who has completely altered your way of thinking?

L) Have you ever been offered drugs and accepted?
Only once.  My friend was smoking marijuana and offered me some.  But as I said, I don't know how to smoke, so it did nothing for me.  Essentially I didn't inhale!  (So I understand Bill Clinton's comment.)

M) Tell us something weird that turns you on.
Beautiful sunsets...but I guess that's not really weird.

N) When did someone last admit romantic or sexual feelings for you? Was the feeling mutual?
Walt, yesterday, and of course.

O) What is something you have given a lot of thought to lately?
My mother's mental health is uppermost in my thoughts at all times.

P) When did you last swallow your beliefs to avoid an argument or confrontation?
In this election period, you do that more and more.  Fortunately, most folks in this town think like I do (at least the ones I talk with).

Q) Do you usually initiate hugs?
I guess so.  Mostly it seems mutual.

R) Are you a very affectionate person?

S) Can you roll your own cigarettes?
I've never smoked.

T) What are you looking forward to?
The next episode of Outlander tonight.

U) Do you have any tattoos. Do you want any/more?
No, and no.

V) Are you mentally strong?

W) Are you physically strong?
I am a first class wimp.

X) Do you think you’re a good person?
I hope so.

Y) Name one thing you wish you could change about your life right now.
I wish I could see my grandchildren more often.

Z) What do you usually eat for breakfast?
Some mornings, cereal.  Some mornings toast or a bagel.  Occasionally scrambled egg on a tortilla.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Best Day of My Life (2013)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) This song begins by mentioning clouds. Do you see clouds in the sky this fine Saturday?
The one thing I love about living here is that on a crystal clear day, like today, when there is a chance of rain in the mountains (2 hours away), the skies are filled with fluffy clouds against a bright blue sky.  It is so beautiful, it almost hurts your eyes!

2) Lead singer Zac Barnett sings that, "Everything is looking up." What are you looking forward to today?
Today not much. We are going to a play tonight, but that's "work" (I'm a theater critic) and I'm not exactly looking forward to it.  Looking at my calendar for the month of May, there is nothing I'm really "looking forward" to.

3) 2016 is not yet half over, but what's been your best day so far this year?
When our daughter was here, visiting from Boston, and we went to our Mexican daughter's restaurant, with Jeri and our son and his wife, for dinner.

4) The members of the group, American Authors, met in college. When is the last time you heard from a school chum? Do you know them from grammar school, high school or college?
I had lunch with 3 friends from grammar school sometimes toward the end of last year. And, of course, I get together with Char (college friend) regularly.

5) One of the all-time best-selling American authors is romance writer Danielle Steele. She's been writing for more than 40 years and has sold more than 800 million books. Have you read any of her work?
I think I read one to find out what all the hullaballoo was about. It was OK, but not my genre.

6) Have you ever dreamed of being an author?
I am one, sorta.  I co-authored a book, wrote most of a second, and write theater reviews for two local papers at the present time.

7) Do you have an e-reader?
I love my Kindle.  But I also like "real" books too.

8) American Authors rang in 2016 in Chicago, giving an outdoor concert on New Year's Eve on a stage not far from Lake Michigan. There are 5 Great Lakes in all, including Lake Michigan. Without looking it up, name the other 4.
Huron, Ontario, Eerie, and the one that starts with S.  (Superior...I looked it up)

9) Random question: You see photos on Facebook of a dinner party hosted by a friend. You recognize most of the attendees, yet you weren't invited. How do you feel? Left out and angry? Do you wonder what you may have done to offend your friend? Or do you just forget about it and move on?
I don't really think like that.  Glad they had a good time, probably relieved I didn't have to go (and happy that my friend realizes that).

Friday, April 29, 2016

Today at Logos

I brought two big bags of books to Logos today and Walt was able to find parking right in front of the store, so he carried them in for me and then decided to browse.  By the time he and Sandy left, there was a dad there with a son who was about 2-3 (probably 2, but nearly 3).  Dad wore a shirt with a big smiley face on it, his son was in a shirt with the Count (from Sesame Street) on it and "1, 2, 3."  It looked homemade.  Dad and son sat at the front t able reading, and son would run back to the kids' room when Dad finished one book and get another. Mom later joined them at the table. They were probably there in total about 20 minutes.  When they left, Mom bought 8 kids' books, 2 contemporary fictions and a health book.  My first and biggest sale of the day (nearly $50).

They were there with friends and the friends bought a kids' book and 4 sociology/political books which, at $30 was my second biggest sale of the day.  The woman handed me a stack of 7 boks from all over the store that she was not buying.  Usually people put them back rather than hand them to me!

A friend of Susan's came in with four milk cartons full of books he said were all literary criticism.  Never knew there was that much literary criticism in print!

When I got the books settled in the back room and came out to the store, I found an older man sitting on a ladder in the back corner of the room, reading.  The store was looking like a library today.

A British guy with a big backpack rushed in, looked at a shelf of books, told me he was just curious because he had just arrived in town, and rushed out a few seconds later.  About 10 minutes later I saw him back again, this time looking through the bargain books outside.  He never did buy anything.

A grandma arrived pushing a baby stroller and with a lovely big dog on a leash.  "Can I just hang out here for about 45 minutes so he can sleep?" she asked, as she pushed the stroller to the back aisle of the store and settled herself in at the desk with me.  She said the baby was having sleep problems and she didn't want to chance his waking up because of the noise of the street.  The dog, Buck, was very nice, very well behaved.  We made friends instantly and he kept coming to me and putting his head in my lap.  The woman and I talked, awkwardly off and on.  I kind of resented her intrusion and wished she had settled at the front table with a book.  The baby finally woke up and was not. happy.  He cried all the way out to the street again, despite grandma's giving him something to drink and trying to hold him, Buck's leash, and push the stroller all at once.  (She didn't buy anything, by the way)

 As they were leaving a guy came in, who tried to be friendly to Buck but buck did NOT like him and shied away from the man's outstretched hand.

About this time,  broke the cash register.  I went to ring up a sale and brushed some key.  I heard it "ding" and afterwards I couldn't get the cash register to record anything or to open.  I tried everything I knew from turning it off and unplugging it, but nothing worked.  I finally had to call Susan, who told me how to turn it off properly (not the "off" option) and after that it worked fine.

A woman popped her head out of the kids' room to ask how much the books were.  She didn't buy anything, but her friend handed me an unopened bag of Sun Chips someone had left in the room.  They were delicious.

A gay couple who come in regularly looked around for awhile and finally bought a book called "Soutine," about a painter in Paris.

My friend arrived at 5.  After two weeks of finding nothing to interest him, he left with a sci fi book.  I didn't notice the name, but it had a forward by Ray Bradbury.

Two women came in together.  I decided they were probably sisters.  The younger one wore a shirt with a full picture of the cast of Boy Meets World (I had to ask her what it was).  Her older sister had long hair, almost to her waist and lovely purple trainers.  The younger one chose "Miss Pickthorn and Mr. Hare, a fable" but neither had enough to pay for it, so they were going to go away and get money from their father, which they did and the young one returned to pay for the book.  She told me that she doesn't read much and she'd like to get into reading, so she likes short books (this one is 96 pages long).

This was one of Amazon's Best Books of the month.  Author May Sartorn, who described in 1995, is described as "an acclaimed poet, novelist, and memoirist."  I'd like to be an "acclaimed memoirist"!

The next customer was a woman in a hurry, who rushed in and went right to the show biz section to pick out "The Colaboration:  Hollywood's Pact with Hitler," which tells a story I certainly had not heard before.  "To continue doing business in Germany after Hitler's ascent to power, Hollywood studios agreed not to make films that attacked the Nazis or condemned Germany's persecution of Jews."  

I commented on how quickly she had found a book she wanted and she told me she had seen it in the store the day before and was coming back today to buy it.

She appeared, from her accent, to be German and when she handed me money, she had no problems with the paper money, but struggled with the coins.  I identified with her difficulty  When we are in a foreign country, I often either pay with too much money and get change or I just hand over a pile of change and have the clerk take out what is needed.

There was a mini rush just before Peter relieved me.  One woman was looking for a bathroom, One woman was looking for a specific book, which she didn't find, but bought a contemporary fiction.  A woman looking for information on the California gold rush found one and bought it.  An Indian woman with the flashiest purple trimmed shoes I'd seen browed for awhile, but left. A guy was looking for a specific book by Augusten Burroughs and when he didn't find it left to check the SPCA book store.

The last woman bought a book on folk art.  And that was the end of my day!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

"Making Memories"

It was Christmas 1953 when I got a Brownie box camera.
I was incredibly excited and set out to "make memories."  I used that phrase in my mind many times, that the camera would help me "make memories," which was very important to me.

Over the years since then, I am always the one with a camera, sometimes to people's frustration, sometimes to their relief.  Sometimes the Piñata people don't think about bringing a camera to a social occasion because they know I will be there with my camera.

I can't possibly list the number of cameras I have had over the years, from this simple box camera to more complicated cameras.  I got my first digital camera as a gift in 2000.  It had no internal memory, but all photos went on 3½" disks that went into the camera itself.  When we traveled, I would bring a lot of floppy disks with me.

 I never made it to DSL cameras -- too expensive, but did buy cameras for their zoom ability.  
Now I have a Canon point and shoot.  It doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles, but it does have a 16x zoom, which I love.  It goes most places with me.  I'm not so sure I'm "making memories" any more as I am being a news photographer for Funny the World.

The nice thing about having a digital camera is that you can take hundreds of pictures and only save the good ones.  You never knew what you had until you developed a roll of film in the old days.

So the end result of all of this photography is that I have photos.  Hundreds of photos.  Thousands of photos.

I knew a lot but didn't really have a feel for how many until I started going through stuff in the "staging area."  I was pretty good in the early years about keeping them in photo albums.  As I mentioned here recently, I stopped making scrapbooks after David and Paul died.  Trying to go back and design happy pages for people that I missed to sorely was just too difficult, so the pictures began building up.

I'm very good about moving digital photos off of disks and onto organized albums on my computer. 
But the years between David's death and the digital camera are years filled with envelopes of photos and loose photos.  Everywhere.

I sent Ned a text message yesterday morning which said "I THREW AWAY something!"  The "something" was the brace I wore during a carpal tunnel period.  Lord knows why I kept it, but there it was in among a bunch of other things and out it went.  It was the first item into the big garbage can that I have been tasked with filling twice by the time Ned returns in a week or so.

In the afternoon I went through a few boxes and most of them were photos.  And negatives.  Lots and lots of negatives.  At one time I was very organized about negatives, keeping them all in a box and labeling each envelope.  I opened that box and saw what was there and chucked the whole thing in the big garbage can.  Does anyone even develop negatives any more?  And even if they do, I can't think of any photo from 30-40 years ago that I would want to make copies of...and if I do, there is the scanner.

I threw away a good number of photos too, but it's time consuming because you can't just throw away a box of photos, but need to check for the good ones.  It was a pleasant afternoon reliving all the old memories but I fear I didn't make a big dent in the photos.  I just have to figure out a better way of storing them in my soon-to-be organized office.

The other things I threw away were 5¼" floppy disks.  As organized as I was with photo albums, I was organized with my correspondence.  I started keeping carbon copies of all my typed letters back in the 1960s (I haven't unearthed those yet and don't know what I will do when I find them), but when I got a computer, I kept all the letters on floppy disk.  Two big boxes of them, all labeled with the person to whom the letters were written and the date range.  I think this was also part of "making memories" and trying to whole life.  Maybe I thought that at some point my kids might be interested in what I was like when I was whatever age they are at whatever point it is that they might be interested in reading them.  

I don't think that any more.

As I don't have a 5¼" floppy disk drive now and have no interest in reading what I wrote to someone I can't really remember 20 years ago, I tossed both of the big boxes of disks and we'll never know.  (I haven't come across the 3½" disks yet).

At the end of the day yesterday, I had probably filled 1/8 - 1/4 of the garbage can.  A long way to go and I have barely made a dent in the "staging area."  But it's a start.  I hope Ned would be pleased.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Clutter is FEELINGS

Ned came to do a massive clean out of my office today.  He told me to just sit somewhere and do something and he would do it all.  And he did.  The only direction I gave him was that he could only clear out one half and had to leave my desk half alone, since he would not be back for 2 weeks and I couldn't go two weeks with a makeshift office

All the while he was hauling boxes and furniture out, Walt kept asking me if I'd read my friend Debra's column in the paper this week.  I finally had him hunt for it and as Ned was still hauling boxes and furniture out, I read it.  It's called "It really is going to take a year to clear my clutter" and talks about a new program she has found to help her clear out her clutter.  She was starting with her clothes closet, and I was dealing with paper stuff ("all this crap") but it amounted to the same thing.
I immediately sent her a note saying how much I identified with just about everything she wrote.  She replied almost immediately and I loved this:
Those who say "Oh, I can help you clear it all out" just don't GET it.Clutter is FEELINGS.
That's IT.  That's why it's easier to clean up someone else's junk than your own, because you have no emotional attachment to it.  But when you have a room like this that contains everything high school memorabilia, to college stuff, to wedding stuff, to having babies stuff, to kids growing up stuff, to dead friends' stuff, down to today's stuff, you just keep finding stuff that you know is crap, but how can you throw it away?

How do you throw this away?

It's Jeri's drawing of all the foreign students who stayed with us in 1981.

I thought I could at least get rid of ONE thing when I saw Ned brushing cobwebs off a small pillow.  "I don't need that," I thought, seeing that the two corners of it were torn, I think by a dog.  But then he brought it in and it was this:

I think it was David's teacher who embroidered this drawing of David's onto a pillow.  Now how do I throw that away.  Or this photo of Tom with one of our favorite Brasilians, Marcio de Vassimon, standing in the snow.

How do I throw away the dozens of things I have already looked at today, and have not yet made a dent in what is to be looked at.

Progress has been made, and Ned let me keep half my office as is for now.  But the the other half of the office went from this:

To this:

Of course the living room (i.e., the "staging area") now looks like this:

Ned says that my task between now and when he returns in about 2 weeks is to fill up that brown garbage can at the right twice.  Then we do it all over again with the other side of the room.

I can't tell you how grateful I am to Ned for forcing me to do this much needed and long-overdue task.  But, as Debra says, clutter is feelings and I know that there is going to be much grief as I throw away some of this lovingly saved "crap."

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

50 Years Ago

This was originally printed on this date in 2000, but I want to repeat it today, Jeri's 50th birthday, updated a bit.

It was 11 p.m., April 25, 1966. I’d been having contractions since about 8 and it was time to go to the hospital. We got the suitcase and started toward the door. Suddenly I stopped and looked around at our apartment, where we had spent the first 10 months of our married life. I realized that it would never again look like this. The next time I saw it, it would be the home of our new child. I turned to Walt. "It’s never going to be like this again," I said, somewhat wistfully. "No," he whispered. "It will be better..."

Two days old

We returned home with our little bundle. Walt had filled the house with pink flowers. The sound of music box music was playing in the background. We introduced our new daughter to her room. We were a family.

It’s been a wonderful adventure watching Jeri progress from that little blue thing they plopped on my belly after she took her first breath. I first learned of Dr. Seuss with Jeri. We watched the very first Sesame Street together. I remember her first ballet recital (when I spent so much time taking pictures I forgot to enjoy the show--I still feel bad about that). She created "stuffies" (stuffed animals) and loved to perform for anybody who'd watch. 

Tragedy came the day she learned to roller skate, and then broke her leg the same afternoon. The hardest thing ever is holding your terrified child still while strangers inflict horrible pain on her (older and wiser now, I’m still angry that they gave her no pain killers whatsoever before they pressed her greenstick fracture back into place. I still hear her screams...). 

Off to school and a series of parent-teacher conferences all saying how wonderful Jeri was. She got into the fledgling Gifted & Talented program. That year she had a fantastic teacher in her regular classes and it never made sense to me that she would be taken out of her German class to be put into a room to learn how to type, just because she was gifted and talented (I think the program has matured a bit since then.)

Music has always been a big part of her life--piano for 12 years, clarinet she more or less taught herself, with minimal assistance, because it was the only instrument in the school closet that she could play. Years of following the high school marching band around to competitions (they never won, but the trips were fun). 

Children’s theatre. Jeri took to it like a duck to water. Oh, not performing. She’s capable, but not outstanding. But she loved all the backstage work. And at age 18 she directed her first production, You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown

On to college to study theatre design, ending up with a master’s degree from UC Davis. Along the way, always music, music, music. She joined the band Lawsuit, where she played clarinet, saxophone and flute and arranged music for the horns. Some of our happiest days were spent watching Jeri, Paul, Ned, Ned’s wife Marta, and the other members of Lawsuit cavorting on stages all over Northern California.

Tragedy. Jeri and Tom met us at the airport when we rushed back from vacation in New York following David’s death. Standing at the San Francisco airport hugging and crying. 

Recovery. All working together to learn to live in a David-less world. 

Jeri was hired three years in a row as lighting designer for Weathervane Theatre, a summer theatre in Newark Ohio. We were able to travel to Ohio to see some of her productions
She drove across the country in her Toyota truck, visiting all the off-road sites along the way (e.g. the Elvis-is-Alive museum and the "Corn Palace"). She has now driven coast to coast, visiting most parts of the country more than once.

Lawsuit came to an end and Jeri, who had been working freelance in theater in San Francisco for five years, enrolled in a program at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and was offered a job on her graduation. She has now been on the faculty for about 10 years.

She performs with pit bands for musicals around the Boston area. She works with high school kids teaching them technical aspects of theatre.  She's the person who can design your lights, play in the band, and then fix the lights at intermission if something goes wrong during the first act.

More tragedy. Meeting her at the airport after Paul’s death. More hugs. More tears. More pulling together to learn to live in a world that is just a bit smaller with yet another hole in it. "I hate it that we know what we're doing," Tom said.

So much happiness on the beach in Santa Barbara when Jeri and Phil finally married, running off into the waves after the ceremony and playing softball in their wedding finery.

Jeri is a kind, caring, compassionate, intelligent, talented, fun-loving person. She lives simply and devotes herself to her passions--music and theatre. She loves her husband, their dog, her friends and her family intensely and the bond between her and her father is beautiful to see.  She loved both her grandmothers and has always been very attentive to them the older and more feeble they got.  She is my mother's "precious child," even if my mother doesn't remember that any more.

She's the best aunt ever and absolutely loves spending time with Brianna and Lacie, and they with her.

I am so proud of our daughter. Walt was right, all those years ago. Life was never the same again--it was better than we ever imagined it could be.

Happy Birthday, Honey!  (Have you joined AARP yet?)