Friday, November 30, 2007

I Have F.S.S.

We received notice of a lovely quasi-gift from the supermarket where I do most of our shopping. They sent a card which you could redeem for a poinsettia plant the next time you did your shopping.

My initial thought was that I could take it out to the cemetery to put on the boys' grave until Christmas, when I have a little tree that I got at Big Lots yesterday (and decorated to match the article I was working on all day!)

I checked out the plant display, took a look at the size pot that the poinsettia was in and realized that it was about 10x too big to fit in that little hole they give you for flowers and plants. There only seemed to be only one size available.

I thought about picking up a plant anyway and bringing it home, but then I realized that my F.S.S. prevents me from really being able to enjoy the lovely plant. Walt has F.S.S. too, which makes it that much worse.


You never heard of F.S.S.

Around here we call it "Flat Surface Syndrome." People with F.S.S. have this strange aversion to seeing any bare flat surface, so any flat surface becomes a place to lay "stuff."

I remember back before we moved to Davis, when we ordered a new mattress for one of the kids' beds. There was something wrong with the mattress and it had to be returned. We moved it out into the living room, awaiting the guys who were going to pick it up.

Within a matter of a few hours, you couldn't see the top of the box that held the mattress. It was covered with toys and clothes. It was a new flat surface that had to be filled.

There is another problem that people with F.S.S. have. Once you put something on a flat surface, it immediately disappears. It exists only in some dusty portion of your brain which vaguely remembers putting it down, but until you've searched the house for an hour looking for the slip of paper with an important phone number on it does the dust clear and suddenly you remember putting it on top of the box that's on top of the platter that's inside the salad bowl that's on top of the trivet on top of the kitchen counter.

I watch Oprah periodically, and I've seen other "organize your life" TV specials. Sometimes they are very comforting because occasionally the F.S.S. sufferers who are helped are actually worse than Walt and I are.

Some gallant, inspiring employee of some television program goes into the home, works with the tearful victim, gets him or her (usually her) to sort things into things that have to be thrown out and things to keep. And then they send the victim off on a spa holiday and when she returns, the house is pristine. There is a place for everything and everything is in its place.

I want to revisit those houses in six months. I'll be willing to bet there are piles all over the house again. It takes more than the housing equivalent of a Super Nannie to cure a long-time sufferer of F.S.S.

People have occasionally helped me organize my life. Or, on rarer occasions, I have tried to get things organized myself.

It's awful.

See, this house may look like something you'd see on a local news expose, while you shake your head and mutter "I had no idea she lived like that...." but when it gets cleaned up, I can literally find nothing.

It may take me a long time to find some things, but I know which pile I probably left it in and so I can spend half an hour sorting through a pile or two and generally find what I'm looking for.

When the house is organized there is no place to look. There are no piles. I don't know where to begin looking for that elusive slip of paper.

But of course, it does present a problem. You can never entertain because only your best friends and the people who take care of your dogs really know what the house looks like.

And when some store offers you a beautiful poinsettia, you can't accept it because there are no more flat surfaces left and so you have no place to put it.

Sometimes it's a bitch, having F.S.S.

I'm going off to Cousins Day tomorrow (yay!!!) so don't look for the next entry of this journal until the late afternoon. We're finally going to drink those pumpkin martinis!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thoughts at 3 a.m.

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Shhh...writer at work

This was "being a writer" day. I am in the process of writing a feature article on the 30 year history of the Davis Children's Nutcracker. I've been kind of working on this piece for several weeks now, in bits and pieces. Suddenly things kind of all got busy and all of a sudden I realized that the deadline is tomorrow.

I'd already conducted the most important interviews, but I wanted to fill in with other folks and I still had to choose photos and there was a photo shoot of this year's production. A lot to get done in a day!

I really want this to be a good piece because our life in Davis has been inexorably connected to the Davis Children's Nutcracker.

All five kids were in the very first production, in 1977, when nobody realized that 30 years later they would still be doing a show. That first show had a cast of 50, a huge undertaking by any standards, but now the show has a cast of 200, and there is such demand to be in it that the city holds a lottery to see who gets in.

Thank goodness for the age of the Internet. The entire history of this show is available on line, including programs from almost every show, lots of photos from almost every show and, from a certain point forward, streaming video of the production itself. If a newspaper article was ever written, that's there too.

Out of curiosity, I went back and checked. At least one of our kids was in the first three productions, then there was a 2 year break and from 1982 to 1989 Jeri, Ned, Paul and sometimes Walt worked tech for the show. Paul is listed in the 1992 program (I think he was running the theatre at that time), and Ned has worked the last two productions and is working again this year.

Ned came back because his best friend Greg asked him to help. Greg worked tech in his first Nutcracker in 1982, when he was 15, and now his children have been in it for several years.

So anyway, there is pressure to do this all well.

I took time off in the middle of the day to drive Walt to Woodland (10 miles away) for a 5 minute dental appointment, but then we stopped at Big Lots!, which I'd never shopped in before. I managed to run up nearly $100 in purchases because everything was so cheap.

We then stopped at a "Chinese/American Smorgi" (that was the name of it), for their buffet lunch. I don't know why I was so tickled that we were the only non-Mexican people in this Chinese deli. I loved the contrast between this man in his cowboy hat with the delicate Chinese lights.

I also loved that they served both Chinese and Mexican hot sauces along with the soy sauce.

(Walt had the Tapatio on his chow mein!)

In the afternoon, I conducted a couple of interviews over the phone, including one with Tom's friend Scott, who was the Nutcracker in the first production.

Then I went off to the theatre for a photoshoot and while there interviewed the kid who is the Nutcracker in this production. (I thought it was nice to make that little parenthesis.)

In the evening I conducted a couple more telephone interviews and worked on writing the piece. I took a break to cuddle Daisy but fell asleep, waking at 1 a.m.

It sometimes feels like I'm doing nothing when I spend all day sitting at my computer, but it really has been a "working" day for me today!

Jeri and Phil at the 1986 Nutcracker

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Keeping in Touch

Someone told me lately that she has no telephone land line and uses only her cell phone. She added that her main source of communication was either by cell phone or by e-mail and if old friends didn't use e-mail, she rarely thought to communicate with them.

I was a "mail junkie" from an early age, as early as grammar school. I wrote volumes to friends when I went on vacation. I had a succession of pen pals in England that I got from a woman with the improbable name of Mrs. Chegwidden. People used to cringe because if they sent me a letter, they would get a lengthy reply back by return mail. I wrote at least one letter a day to a friend for 3 or 4 years, sometimes more than one letter a day.

I always assured people know that I really didn't expect the same speedy or voluminous response from them, but was that I was just happy to hear from them whenever they had the time to write.

I now keep copies of all the letters I write (because I use the computer, of course). I just checked, and in the entire year of 2007, I sent a total EIGHT letters, only three of which were actually personal notes. Two were thank yous for gifts I had received, and one in October was in response to a form letter I'd been sent from someone I hadn't heard from in many years (she did not respond). The other five were letters to businesses complimenting service or complaining about service, and one letter to the editor.

Yesterday I came across an interesting blog entry by a guy who had examined the whole issue of communication in depth and actually had charted the progression of methods of communication.

(He left out Utterz, which I've started to use at least once a day.)

I realized how my method of communication has changed. The bulk of my communication with people now is by blogging and e-mail. (I am always surprised at how many people that I know in real life read this journal, so it becomes almost another way of writing a daily letter to all my friends and acquaintances, I guess. In fact, my mother told me once that people never call me because they already know what I'm doing because of reading Funny the World, so my journal was actively distancing me from people that I care about.)

I use Twitter (and Utterz) a decent amount of time, but 99% of the people with whom I may be exchanging information are strangers, or at best, people I've known on line for varying lengths of time, but have never met in person (with very few exceptions).

Jeri and I text message quite a bit. I occasionally receive a text message from Ned or from a friend, but that is rare. Mostly if a text message comes onto my cell phone, it's from Jeri. Jeri and I used to exchange e-mail more, but when texting came in (and especially after she explained that whole T-9 thing), we could communicate more often, using fewer words.

While most of the new electronic methods of communication have the advantage of satisfying my constant need for instant gratification, there is a real down side to all these new ways of communicating and our dependence on them.

I've lost friends. A couple of good friends don't really use their computers for communication at all and I just never think to sit down and write a real letter-on-paper (I'd have to buy stamps, for one thing--and have you priced stamps lately?). So I just never hear from them and I miss that one-on-one that we used to have. (It can be said that I could make the effort, but the rift has grown so wide that even if I do try, I don't get a response).

Sometimes even people who are comfortable in the use electronic communication just kind of fade away. They don't answer e-mail and don't call back when you leave voice messages. They get busy about other things and newer friends, and staying in touch with the old ones gets lost in the shuffle. I am guilty of that myself.

(Not only is making friends on line easier and faster than the old fashioned way, dropping them is also easier and faster, unfortunately.)

There has been such an explosion in technology when it comes to communication that it seems to underscore our need to be in constant touch with people, but it also seems to point out that it may be more difficult to sustain deep friendships as people branch off in excitement over the next thing to come down the pike, and forget the old friends who aren't up to speed with it all yet.

Charlotte and I went drove up to Colfax yesterday to have lunch with Richard, Michele's husband. It was a lovely afternoon and we spoke at length of Michele and how much she was loved by so many. Michele was, I fear, one of those people I let slip through the cracks. She sent e-mail, but not very often and we had only recently revived regular communication among all of us in that group. I didn't keep up my own end of the friendship by continuing to contact her, even without a response. I didn't follow through on the chance to go into the mountains to see her.

As we walked through the property that they own there, watching the trees change color, watching Kofi, the dog (yes, his last name is Annan -- these are the people who once had a dog named Milhous, after all) chasing balls, the cat batting at leaves, and Richard raking the worms he keeps in containers behind the house, I saw the peaceful, quiet almost technology-free life that Michele led and I realized that in putting off a visit and not keeping up correspondence, I had missed an important part of my friend's life.

I hope that in the future, as I get busy about many things, and enjoy all the new technology, I don't let other friends slip through the cracks. We always think that there is time for all that stuff later. "Later" didn't happen for Michele and me, and I am the poorer for it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Puppy Daisy

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Out with the Old, In with the New

Poor little Belle.

She actually was better today. I think that given enough time -- probably a long time -- she will be able to trust people and be able to be adopted. But it's just going to take time.

I took her out in the back yard on the leash and she actually walked quite well with me, so I decided to try her on a walk around the block.

Well, I don't know if that was a good idea or not. The first 2/3 was fine. She walked next to me just like a normal dog and as long as I didn't look at her or look like I might touch her, she was fine, but the last 1/3 she fought the leash, tried to bite it, and tried to twist out of it. I had horrible visions of her getting loose and my never finding her again (which definitely would have been the case had she gotten loose).

She was as relieved to be back in her cage as I was to have her there, but then something must have spooked her and she got loose. When I had fed her that morning I apparently hadn't locked the door tightly and when I looked out of my office, the cage was empty and Belle nowhere to be found.

She soon turned up at the back door, sans leash. This meant that she was uncatchable. I left the back door open and just left her alone to come and go, figuring that it would be Megan's problem to catch her when it was time for the dog to leave.

But with her running loose, I began to notice that she was becoming more bold. Oh a looooonnnng way from being able to be touched, but instead of hugging the wall and slinking around the room, she actually poked her head into the kitchen when I was there and didn't immediately jump away until I actually moved. She didn't do that 2 days ago.

Also, I've been very conscientious about being loving with Sheila and Lizzie around Belle and I had noticed she watched closely.

So Lizzie and I were in the front hall. Lizzie jumped up to rest her paws against me and I was giving her a lot of loving and I noticed that Belle, who had been standing back about three feet, actually started moving toward us. It was the closest she had ever come voluntarily. I didn't move, but just continued to pet Lizzie.

There was no wonderful breakthrough here, but I could see from just that willingness to be close and not jump away immediately, that, given enough time, gentleness and love she will come around and hopefully be able to find herself a forever family.

I wasn't here when Belle left. Megan came and, with Walt's help, was able to catch her and transport her to her next home. At least I was able to get a snippet of film before she left.

I was gone most of the afternoon, about which I'll probably write tomorrow. When I came home, I left a message on Megan's phone and within a couple of hours, she arrived with a new project for me.

"X" marks the body of little Daisy (she didn't seem to have a name when she arrived, so I named her), who is about 4 weeks old and who has been at Megan's for the last week or so. She looks like she's part lab, part pit bull and is the first brown puppy we've had in a long time.

She's already on solids, so I don't have to worry about bottle feeding her. I expect that we will start the bonding work tomorrow, though she has already spent a long time asleep in my lap.

One final note, a personal note to the actor who called me this evening and lectured me for more than 20 minutes on how wonderful he was and how he didn't understand how I could possibly have given him less than a glowing review.

It amazes me that people who rely on critics to say good things about them to bring people to their shows turn around and essentially bite the hand that feeds them. I've dealt with a lot of reviews of groups and/or individuals for which I was working over the past 30 years, reviews which I felt were decidedly undeserved, but would never, ever risk alienating a critic, especially after she has warned you not once but twice that she was finding your attitude annoying.

I doubt that the actor will check this blog, but what the heck...I'm still fuming, so I might as well get it off my chest.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Not a tip of the day

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We're in the process of "evolving" Christmas traditions around here. This is the very first year in about 40 years that I will not be hosting our Christmas party. And I have to admit that I'm kind of happy about it.

It makes sense for Ned & Marta to do it. They will have their own Christmas party a couple of days before, so their house will be all decorated, they are just finishing their "party room," so they have lots of space and I jumped at the offer when Marta suggested it. Of course I'll still take care of the turkey and the pumpkin pie, but I'll carry them to Sacramento to cook.

But, for the first time in memory, we won't have to experience "Mom's Annual Christmas Crisis."

This year it would have been particularly bad, since Walt only has the use of one arm, and with Lizzie deciding recently that "rug" = "grass" thing, we've had to go to great lengths to keep the living room a poop free zone.

I'm not sure where Walt got the orange fencing, but we've propped it with a dog cage and on the other side of it is the vaporizer that Ashley loaned us for dogs with kennel cough. The red blanket on the chair has made that chair Lizzie's bed.

To the right of this picture, there is an overturned dining room table chair to keep Lizzie from pooping on the other side of the room. She seems not to eliminate in the area where she and Sheila sleep, fortunately.

As you can see, "cleaning up" for Christmas would have been a bit more challenging this year.

We don't "entertain" and so with Ned & Marta willing to host Christmas, and with Walt's arm in a cast (or trying to recover if the cast gets taken off on December 6), it's going to be more difficult for him to do the stuff that he usually does, so I don't even want to put up a tree this year. It doesn't seem worth it, somehow.

I might dust and call that "Christmas decoration"!

Oh how I wish I were one of those people who always has cute little holiday decorations all over the house, but that's the kind of place I like to visit and, after 42 years, not the kind of house I'm likely ever to have.

Were we ever to move from here into a smaller place, which would mean getting rid of about 75% of everything we have, I might have a fighting chance, but until that day (if ever), lovely Christmas decorations ain't gonna happen here.

It will be interesting to see what happens after "Shaniqua" is born. I can't imagine not being with our granddaughter as she begins to experience Christmas, and by the same token, I can't imagine her other grandparents missing that either. I guess we just play that year by year and see what happens.

Belle lay in her cage today and literally did not move for 7 hours, other than to watch me warily whenever I got up to move anywhere. I felt so very sorry for the little dog and wonder what happened to make her so terrified. How can people mistreat innocent animals so much that they don't trust anyone?

Around 4 p.m., she suddenly sat up and started whining. Potty time! This was my chance to get a leash on her and I did, but not without a battle, which was made easier by the fact that she was trapped in the cage. I was using a leash that was a loop that went around her neck, so I didn't have to actually touch her and grab her collar. She was not happy at all, but I did get her cornered where she couldn't move and managed to slip the noose over her neck.

I took her outside and she peed forever but tried to bolt whenever I moved a muscle. I finally brought her back into the house and put her back in the cage, but left the leash on her so that I could take her outside again before going to sleep for the night.

I wish there were a way to win her trust, but I suspect that is going to take a very long time and she leaves tomorrow. But in her place, we are getting a 3-4 week old puppy who is half on solid food and half bottle fed. Now that is a dog I can work with, someone who just needs lots of loving.

I'm looking forward to having a baby in the house again.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Scared (not "sacred") dog

Sacred dog.

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Panicky Belle

This is Belle.

Belle is in the cage because, trust me, that's really where she wants to be, where nobody can get to her.

Ashley called me this afternoon on an emergency basis. They needed to find homes for Belle and her brother immediately. I'm not too clear on the details, but apparently the dogs were dropped in the night drop at the animal shelter and someone from the SPCA realized that they had already been in the foster system and apparently had escaped or something.

Ashley said I would only need to keep her until Monday and that she would probably be happiest just staying in the cage all the time.

Megan brought her by in the late afternoon and said that she had gotten bitten trying to put her in the carrying cage. I suggested we just put the cage itself inside the bigger wire cage, which we did. I didn't expect Belle to come out immediately and then, of course, have NOWHERE to go because the carrying case was taking up the whole room. My bad idea.

So I locked Sheila and Lizzie up in my office and opened the cage door to let Belle out and to remove the carrying case.

She came slinking out quickly and ran all over the house (fortunately there is nowhere she can really go with all the doors closed). I didn't even try to touch her or even look at her. I wanted her to feel unthreatened.

She peed and pooped so much it makes me think that she hadn't relieved herself all day. She ran around the house, tail between her legs, against all the walls and doors where she felt safer, not out in the open. Lizzie and Sheila were all right in my office for awhile but then Lizzie really really wanted to get out.

I decided to introduce just one dog to Belle before introducing two. Lizzie seemed to know that this was a dog who wanted to be left alone, so mostly she did. She was more interested in getting inside the cage to check it out. Belle was very leery about everything. Eventually I let Sheila out too and just left the door to my office opened.

That's when I discovered Belle knew about dog doors.

Once outside she could run very fast, with the dogs in hot pursuit. I didn't know how I would ever get her back in.

I was starting to panic myself because we had to go to a show in about half an hour. If we were going to be home, I would just let her take things in her own time, but I didn't feel comfortable leaving all three dogs alone. Belle had shown hostility toward the other two dogs, out of fear, and I didn't know if Lizzie and Sheila might gang up on her.

I put out an emergency call to both Ashley and to Megan. Ashley answered first and said she would come over and help catch Belle.

In the meantime, Belle had come back inside on her own, which made it a bit easier (I thought). I closed off the opening to the dog door, but as soon as she saw me in her line of view, she managed to sneak behind the thing that I use to block off the dog door and outside she went again.

Time was growing very short. By the time Ashley got here, Belle had, unbeknownst to me, snuck in again without my seeing her and was sleeping in one of the recliners. Walt found her. I quickly blocked off the door to my office and all the other doors. Ashley came with a leash and, when Walt and I left for the theatre, she was sitting under our kitchen table with Belle backed up against the credenza and she was trying to get her to come close enough so that she could catch her.

I wondered, several times during the show I was seeing, how the Great Belle Hunt was going, but when we got home, Ashley was gone and Belle was in the cage so whatever she did, it worked. Of course now I have to figure out how I'm going to deal with her tomorrow. She is obviously going to have to go outside at some point, and I'm wondering how to let her out and get her back in again! I suspect a leash will be involved!

We got to Old Sacramento early and stopped at a Middle Eastern deli where we had hot dogs and watched a program on TV that looked like it was either Arabian Idol or the Arabian version of that new karaoke program that is on in the States right now.

The show we saw was very funny. It was Every Christmas Story Ever Told, and it pretty darn near was. Kind of a reduced Shakespeare, only with a Christmas theme (who knew that A Christmas Carol and It's a Wonderful Life would mesh so well?).

This company holds a nice reception on opening night, with wine and hors d'oeuvres. We don't usually go -- I get into my wallflower mode in a crowd of strangers and am very uncomfortable and it's just easier not to -- but since we had such a small dinner, Walt suggested we stop by. It was quite nice, but the room was about 1/4 the size it should have been for a group that size. It was like trying to serve yourself while standing in a full cattle car. Still, it was nice and I listened to one of the actors talking about their rehearsal process ('cause I was entirely too shy to actually talk to him myself).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Tryptophan-induced lethargy

Turkey is supposed to be loaded with tryptophan, a chemical known to produce sleepiness.

I didn't have a lot of turkey at dinner last night and even less of it on my sandwich for lunch today, but I'm sticking with the tryptophan defense for my lethargy today. The very last thing I wanted to do was to hit the stores at 4 a.m. on Black Friday.

Until about 11 a.m., I worked on photos and video. Not a lot of photos, and not a lot of video, but a lot of breaks.

Then at 11, I went to a friend's house and helped her put together a video greeting which I helped upload to YouTube. It really was kind of fun doing the project, and even more fun watching her run outside to stalk a tree squirrel with a water-uzi during the course of the morning!

They had apparently had a riotous Thanksgiving with the grandchildren, including extensively decorating the house. Most of the decorations were gone by the time I got there, but they still had the "flamerky" standing in the living room greeting the guests.

Back home to catch up on more computer stuff. It had been my honest intent to do a couple of telephone interviews for my upcoming article, but it was nearly 11 p.m. before I remembered that, so they never got done after all. There's always tomorrow, right?

In the late afternoon, Luna's foster family came to pick her up. I think they really hoped that we would bond with her and agree to keep her, but in the past couple of days she has wreaked so much havoc around here, the more comfortable she became, that I was counting the minutes until she left. She tore up a large size box of kleenex, knocked everything from the end table onto the floor more than once, tore up a bag of dog food (fortunately a nearly empty one), had begun devouring my copy of "The Thunderbolt Kid," among other things.

She's a very sweet, very loving little puppy, but needs a very active lifestyle and very firm hand and I am not good at either of those qualities.

After Luna left, we all relaxed. The dogs went back to their old places and slept more soundly than they had in awhile. We closed the back door so that we could turn on the heat, finally. I could open the living room again and, I'm sad to say that we didn't miss her. Doesn't mean we didn't love her--how could you not? But we love her more from afar than up close and personal!

The evening was dedicated to watching several of the shows on DVR. I'm caught up on "Journeyman" and "House," for example and watched a Biography of Patrick Dempsey, Dr. McDreamy on Grey's Anatomy. Fascinating history he has!

I should also mention that I have thrown in the towel on NaNoWriMo. I started out going great guns on writing another novel in a month, but what with Walt's broken wrist necessitating lots of trips to various places, Michele's death and both the emotional trauma that caused, as well as the work involved in getting ready for her memorial, Thanksgiving, and an upcoming Cousins Day (yay!!!!!), a week from today, plus a couple of stories to write for the newspaper and a show or two to review, there just was no time to fit in a 50,000 word novel too.

I would like to have seen if the plot I had would have stretched to fill a whole novel. I think I'm going to shelve the idea and try the same thing again next year. What I did was actually turning out better than I had expected it to, but then I got so very little written. It might easily have petered out halfway through the book.

So I've had one year as a successful NaNoWriMo author and now one year as a NaNoWriMo dropout. Owell...there's always next year, right?

Friday, November 23, 2007


We met "Shaniqua" in the flesh last night. Well, not exactly her flesh...

When I was pregnant with Jeri, we knew that she would be a "gerry" whether boy or girl. She was to be named either for her godmother or for an Irish guy, Jerry O'Keefe, both of whom had a role in Walt and I getting married. But we didn't want anybody to know the real name of the baby, so we chose the name of an obscure saint, "Eleutherius" and we called her Eleutherius until she was born and we revealed her real name.

Tom and Laurel haven't chosen a name yet, so they are calling the baby Shaniqua for now, and so we were able to "meet" her in utero.

Laurel definitely looks pregnant and Tom likes to kid her about how much weight she has gained.

I have to admit it's very cool sitting there knowing that is our granddaughter inside that little belly.

It was a full day. I took Luna over to the puppy-sitter's house before we left. That was pretty exciting because the street where I turn had a flock of wild turkeys walking across it. Wild turkeys have become a real problem at the nearby cemetery and you do occasionally see them walking down the street.

Luna went crazy trying to get at the bird. I tried to take a photo of it with my cell phone, because I didn't have a camera with me, but the photo turned out terrible...

(I will be so glad when the contract on my cell phone expires and I can upgrade to a better one!!!)

We drove to my mother's and I decided to drive out through the country as far as I could go. It was a glorious day, sunny, crisp, pollution-free. We drive out to the town of Winters and then cut over to I-80 to meet the traffic. Fortunately most of the heavy traffic seemed to be going in the opposite direction.

This was a huge day for my mother because it was the day the doctor had told her she could finally take the elastic stocking off her leg. Her accident occurred January 3 and on November 22 she was finally back to normal again.

Ned and Marta were the next to arrive, with their dog, Bouncer, who immediately became my mother's best friend.

Tom and Laurel were the last to arrive and we sat around eating Marta's 7-layer dip and chatting. One of my very favorite things to do is to listen to my adult children talking with each other. Over dinner both Tom and Ned talked about their respective jobs and it was funny listening to Marta and Laurel comparing notes on how much alike the two brothers are.

Walt finally found a good thing about having a broken wrist: he could turn the carving duties over to Tom. Tom got the turkey carved while Ned was mixing up dinner for Bouncer.

Dinner was, of course, delicious.

After dinner we sat around chatting some more and then Tom and Laurel ran the videotape of "Shaniqua's" latest ultrasound. So cool. I absolutely love watching ultrasounds. It's like magic for me, seeing what is going on inside. Of course having worked in an obstetrician's office for 10 years, I was around ob ultrasounds a lot, but it was fun seeing one of our granddaughter.

We were home by about 11 and picked up Luna for her last night here. Her foster family has offered to let her stay here until she is adopted, but we have graciously said no. Luna is a very sweet, very special little puppy who is driving me nuts because she is just so hyperactive. The foster family has kids who can play with her, and I am more than willing to let her go back to them. (I suspect the foster mother, having lived with Luna's hyperactivity, was hoping I'd agree to keep her!)

I was so exhausted when we got home that I went right to sleep and didn't even turn on the television or think about writing this journal entry.

It was a lovely Thanksgiving. The only thing that would have made it perfect would have been if Jeri and Phil could have been with us...but they'll be here for Christmas.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

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A Foodie's Delight

This being "national gluttony week," I thought I would follow Mary's lead and make a list of foods I love. I might need 2 or 3 pages (I didn't get to look this way being picky about food!)

  • This being Thanksgiving week, I will lead off with my mother's turkey stuffing. Still the best (except when I make it, I use more butter and substitute dried cranberries for olives).

  • And pumpkin pie, of course. Unadorned with things like Cool Whip or whipping cream. Just plain pumpkin pie, made with pumpkin from the can using the recipe on the can.

  • Fresh cracked Dungeness crab. None of that stuff that has been packed in brine or topped with salad dressing, or (worst of all) mixed with Old Bay seasoning. Fresh from the boiling pot. Pure and unadulterated.

  • Cheesecake. Mostly unadulterated, but if you want to toss some berry-type topping on it, I won't stop you.

  • Roast leg of lamb. My choice over beef any day. My favorite birthday dinner when I was growing up was leg of lamb, mashed potatoes, and peas (preferably frozen, not fresh or ...bleccchhhh... canned), followed by white cake with a bittersweet chocolate frosting. I haven't been able to duplicate that frosting in my adulthood.

  • Clam dip. Of course. With nice dipping potato chips. I will hover, if given the opportunity.

  • Potato salad. My father made the best potato salad, and now my mother does. The secret ingredient is sweet pickle relish. Yum-o.

  • Chocolate. Of course. Now I do have my preferences. I prefer milk chocolate over dark chocolate (unless the dark chocolate covers some sort of raspberry filling). Sees makes my favorite boxed candies. Lindt truffles are wonderful. And, in spite of liking chocolate, I'm not really a big fan of chocolate cakes.

  • Corn on the cob. I spent years not able to eat it because of dental problems and fear I was losing my teeth. Now that I have all my teeth and they are healthy, bring it on!

  • Artichokes. Really just an excuse to scoop up Best Foods mayonnaise, but still good...especially the heart.

  • Best Foods mayonnaise. (one of my few "must buy" brand names)

  • fat-free (yes, I did say fat-free) raspberry salad dressing, believe it or not, preferably made by Consorzio.

  • Pad Thai. Most Thai food is really too hot for my taste, but pad Thai is wonderful.

  • Strawberry anything -- jam, juice, yogurt, ice cream ... even the strawberry flavored fluoride treatment my dentist uses (no I don't eat that, but I do enjoy the taste!)

  • Onion rings! I'll eat any, but prefer them made with real onions and sliced very thin...and preferably beer-battered.

  • Tomato sandwiches made with home grown tomatoes on white bread with Best Foods mayonnaise. I've been living on them lately, though having to use store-bought tomatoes.

  • Jack in the Box plain cheeseburgers. Nothing could be more boring, but I love 'em. They come straight from the microwave, so you have to eat them immediately or the bun turns hard. They always ask if I want condiments. Well, if I wanted sauce, I wouldn't have asked for it plain, now, would I?

  • French fries the way McDonalds used to make them before they got all politically correct 'n' stuff.

  • Pancakes or waffles loaded with butter and maple syrup (none of this frou-frou syrup for me). I rarely have them, but when I do, I love 'em. And, as I've talked about before, they are the perfect laxative for me!

  • Rasptinis. My own Raspberry-chocolate martinis that I made for cousins day a few months ago.

  • Macadamia nuts. Chocolate covered even better, but just plain suits me fine as well.

  • Gingerbread Latte. Damn you, Mary, for telling me about them! Fortunately they are so expensive if I have one during the holiday season, that will do me for a year.

  • Real whipping cream. The kind they still serve on just about every dessert in Ireland.

  • Mexican won ton, which Char and I used to make a lot when our kids were little, and which I haven't made for years. It's a mixture of hamburger, chorizo, green chilis, green onions and cheese all folded in won ton skins and deep fried; served with guacamole.

  • Butter. Not margarine, not "I can't believe it's not butter" (I can believe it's not butter). The real stuff that started it's journey to my English muffin inside a cow.

  • Tortellini or any filled pasta. My preference is to have it with melted butter instead of spaghetti sauce. Despite growing up in the heart of North Beach in San Francisco (or perhaps because I grew up in North Beach), Italian food is not my favorite ethnic food.

  • That said, I do like veal scaloppini, though I have to avoid thinking about the conditions under which the meat was obtained. But then that really goes for any food that was once walking around, was once newborn, once had big soulful eyes that looked at you trustingly.

  • A good chili relleno. The quality and the way of making them varies greatly. I can't remember where I've had great ones, but I know it when I taste it!

  • Real French onion soup, with the baguette slice on top and loaded with Swiss cheese.

  • Creme Brulee. Best I've had was at Higgins' Restaurant in Portland.

  • Barbequed chicken. But I'm very particular. It has to be done "just right." Tom makes some of the best I've had. I prefer the thigh to other parts of the chicken.

  • Garlic naan bread

  • Bananas. But only when they are at that "certain" stage, where they are not green, but not really ripe yet either.

  • Peanutbutter. I started eating it more when I was dieting because I could have more of it as, say, a spread on toast. I quickly started just eating it by the spoonful out of the jar, a habit I've never broken...only increased.

  • Meat pies. We ate them in Australia and that was some good stuff, I'll tell ya!

The absence of anything really healthy on this list should explain why I look the way I do. Even the healthy stuff is just an excuse to eat the un-healthy stuff (butter on corn, mayonnaise on artichokes, etc.) If it's breaded, creamed, or deep fried, I'll probably love it.

Question of the Day - Thanksgiving

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tuesday Afternoon Musings

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The Dumbing of America

I lifted the following from a blog called "Yakkety Yak." Scary stuff:

Yesterday, during homeroom, students were asked to fill out a survey to test their knowledge of world topics. The results from my class (ages 17 and 18) were disturbing, to say the least.

After looking over the survey, three students declined to participate because, “I don’t know that stuff.”

This is how the other twelve responded.

True or false: Hawaii was the 51st state. Six out of twelve said that statement is true.

True or false: Latin Americans speak Latin. Ten out of twelve said that statement is true.

What is the national religion of Israel? Four students left it blank. One said Israel is the national religion of Israel. Four said Muslim. One said Islam. Two said Christianity. Not one student got it right.

What language is spoken in the United Kingdom? One student left it blank. Another answered “Enishlish.”

Name two countries that border the United States. Two students left it blank. One answered “North and South.”

What is Darfur? Where is it located? Three students answered “I don’t know.” Three left it blank. One answered, “a country in the Middle East.” Another answered, “U.S.” Another said Darfur is “a midget.” I swear he was not trying to be funny. He read the word Darfur as “dwarf.” Yet another read the word as “draft,” and answered, “When the army pick you name to go to the army.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m scared.

The scariest thing for me is that this doesn't surprise me. I never watch "Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader" but I did watch it the other night because it was celebrity week and the guest celebrity was former American Idol finalist Kelly Pickler. I've always thought she was just the cutest thing around, not the brightest bulb in the bunch, but still very cute and very talented. I was curious to see her on the show.

It made me groan. On the question "Budapest is the capital of which European country?" she said that she thought Europe was a country. When her 5th grade partner got the correct answer, she thought they were kidding. Who would name a country "hungry"?

When asked if the piccolo was a woodwind, string or percussion instrument, she reasoned that piccolo started with "p" and percussion started with "p" and Pickler started with "p" so the answer must be percussion. That is one of those answers that make me cock my head the way Lizzie does when she's trying to figure out what I'm talking to her about.

She lucked out on the question about which of three men was a president. I don't remember the two wrong answers, but the right answer was Pierce and, using the "p" is for Pickler rationale (which worked so well for piccolo) she managed to get the right answer.

The question that stumped her was "how many canine teeth are in the human mouth." She was torn between 2 and 4 and decided that she would rather give a sure $50,000 to charity than risk it by going for $100,000.

This isn't so much an indictment of Kelly Pickler, who is still cute as a button and a heck of a lot more talented than I am, but her answers are a symptom of how our schools are no longer teaching our kids.

The "dumbing of America" has been in evidence for a long time in the popular segment of The Tonight Show, "jay-walking," where Jay Leno goes out to the street, or to Universal Studios and asks questions of people passing by. The answers, especially when they are from college students, teachers, or successful professionals is appalling.

In the case of students, these are the people who are going to be making the decisions about the rest of my life when they run for office or are in charge of deciding whether or not they will allow me to have a necessary medical procedure.

But then we have no great minds to look up to, do we?

"As yesterday's positive report card shows, childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured." -- G.W. Bush on "No Child Left Behind"

The Man in the White House is a perfect candidate for "Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader." (But at least I think he knows that Europe isn't a single country.)

Maybe he's a better candidate for Jay-walking.

"I heard somebody say, 'Where's (Nelson) Mandela?' Well, Mandela's dead. Because Saddam killed all the Mandelas."

"Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"

Monday, November 19, 2007

Hidden Treasure in my Bathroom

Who knew? These posters have hung in my bathroom since we finished writing the first Lamplighters history in 1981. I got the idea to use them for bathroom decoration from a woman we interviewed for the book. It's been driving me nuts all day today that I can't remember who it was. I only remember that I think she's dead now.

The posters are done by artist Rex May and were, at one time, the lobby cards for the theatre. Alison, Carolyn and I found them in with all the other un-treasured treasures in the Lamplighters warehouse when we started organizing the collection. I don't know if Carolyn took a set of posters, but Alison and I did. Somewhere in my house the rest of the set--four other posters, I believe--are packed away.

At one time, long after I'd left the company, someone found the posters and offered them for sale in the then-Lamplighters gift shop.

Today we went to the annual Champagne Gala at the Herbst Theatre, next to the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. This is the company's big fund raiser of the year. We had the "cheap" seats ($60 -- $55 for Walt because he's an old guy).

Before the show there was a silent auction in the outer lobby of Herbst, with different stations set up around the huge room. There were gourmet food gift baskets and trips and dinners at fancy restaurants.

And then off in a corner was a table for Lamplighter memorabilia. Imagine my surprise when I checked it out.

Yes, there on display were the very same posters I have hanging in my bathroom and "lost" somewhere else in the house. When I checked the bids, they were all each over $100. And here I had "stolen" my set from a garbage bag in the Lamplighters office 20+ years ago.

There were also some "historic" programs, which I have pasted in scrapbooks somewhere around here. The price of those was pretty amazing too. Proves that "value" is definitely in the eye of the beholder!!!

It had been a fun day. Ned came over in the morning with his new dog, Bouncer. It was pandemonium around here for awhile with the dogs racing in and out and up and down and around and around. But it was nice that Luna wore herself out because she was going to have to be locked in the cage for 9 hours while we were in the City.

Ned got the rain gutters cleaned out so Walt doesn't have to try to climb a ladder with one hand in a cast (we won't even talk about what might happen if I tried to climb a ladder to the second story!). He also brought Walt some large size t-shirts to wear, since t-shirts seem to be the only thing he can fit his cast into.

He also was here for breakfast (we have finally used up the last of the solid gold ham, in scrambled eggs) and it was especially fun just sitting at the kitchen table and chatting with him. He's always a fun/interesting guy to talk to and I treasure the times we have together.

Then Walt and I went to the City. After last week's crawl, we left plenty of time...and wouldn't you know there were hardly any cars on the road. We were in the City an hour and a half before the show, so went to either a late lunch or an early dinner at California Pizza Kitchen. We had enough left over to bring home for a late supper.

The Gala was hysterical. It was based on Harry Potter (called "Harry Patter" in this version) and was brilliantly written. I just love how professional the Galas have become since Gilbert, David and I got the crazy idea to write Major General Hospital. The torch was not only passed, but surpassed. The writing committee has gone far beyond what Gilbert and I could ever write. (To give you an example, "he who should not be named" is named Wal-de-Mart and his evil plot is to tear Hogwarts (Hogwash) down and build a strip mall.)

Particularly funny was Matt Callahan as "The Donn Auld," an ancient Druidic landlord and "Trophia," his not-all-that-ancient wife. (I asked him for a loan after the show and he told me I was fired.)

The nice thing about Lamplighters Galas is that you get to see all your old friends at the champagne reception following the show. They all seem to come out of the woodwork for a Gala and I managed to reconnect with people I haven't seen in more than a decade, which was very nice (also a couple that I hadn't seen in more than a decade until I saw them at the memorial last weekend...and then again tonight!)

We were home at a decent hour (somewhere around 9), so that Luna could have some exercise before I have to lock her up again for the night.

Harry Patter (Chris Uzelac), Hermione Stranger (Jennifer Ashworth) and Ron Measley (Mike Dederian, who wrote the book for the show)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

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Second Chances

I just finished a book called "Second Chances," by Joan Banks, which is a fast read of what are essentially short stores, case histories, really, of dogs who have been adopted from PetFinder. Each one will have you choked up, whether from the terrible mistreatment that dogs received prior to being picked up by some rescue group and placed for adoption, or from the happily-ever-after endings of the stories of the dogs chosen to go into the book.

It makes you feel good about taking care of all these dogs "in transit" from whatever situation they were in before being rescued by the SPCA and their forever homes. The stories of dogs caged all of their lives until rescued, dogs who are afraid of their shadow, the dogs (like Rupert) who were abused before being abandoned. To give these guys a little love, even for a short time, is a good thing.

We now have Luna.

Luna actually has a foster family, but they are going out of town for the week, so she is staying here. She is a 3 month old Lab/Aussie Shepherd mix and she's very sweet, but my lord is she loud. I finally had to bring her in the house and close the door because she stands outside and just barks and barks and barks.

She seems to get along fairly well with the house dogs, after the obligatory ritual of butt sniffing was finally over. She and Lizzie seem to be always vacillating among play, establishing top dog status, and fighting. It is exhausting. I also think she screwed up the TV by stepping on the remote when I went to the bathroom.

Tomorrow we are going off to SF for the Lamplighters Gala and, given the barking and the potential for fighting, I'm afraid Ms. Luna is going to have to spend several hours in a cage. Someone from the SPCA has volunteered to come and let her out to pee at some point, and someone else will take care of her on Thanksgiving, when we will be gone all day.

Every new dog is an adventure!

I've had some feedback on one of my reviews, and it's very frustrating. I seem to get more negative feedback from good reviews than I do from bad. There are some shows that I really go the extra distance to give good publicity, but some in the company feel that it's not enough.

I go by the "Marilyn Tucker school of reviews." Marilyn Tucker was a critic for the San Francisco Chronicle. You could always tell a Marilyn Tucker review because rather than say something bad about a production or a performer, she would spend most of her review giving a plot summary. I do that a lot. I long ago decided that there are community theatres that I review which are so sincere, so dedicated, so proud of what they do that I would not hold them to the same standards as I do, for example, for touring Broadway shows. My editor and I sometimes disagree on that policy because patrons are still paying for tickets and he feels that if performances are bad, I should say so.

But I have a word limit and I can either spend the review tearing down people who are not very good in their roles, or I can talk about what is good in the production in the context of a plot summary. The end result is a more positive sounding review.

Those are the reviews that I get complaints about. Why didn't I spend time praising so-and-so? Why didn't I give a more in-depth review (lord help me if I did!)

Complaints are not the way to win friends and influence critics. I think I do an overall good job for the theatres I cover and don't give harsh criticism unless a show is really bad. So I resent being taken to task when I've given a good review and still can't please the people in the show. It makes me wonder why I bother trying to help a show find an audience in the first place.