Friday, September 30, 2011

Back to Back Babies

I don't know why I'm so tired. All I did today was sit and hold babies. But I'm exhausted and it's not even 11 p.m. In fact, I may finish this entry tomorrow if I don't pick up some energy soon.

The morning was quiet. I sat around, wrote post cards, took a shower, watched Jon Stewart's interview of Bill O'Reilly and waited to hear from Tom

At about 1:45, I arrived at Tom's house. Bri was off at her nanny's for the afternoon so it was just Lacie. I had lots of Lacie time.

Tom was tickled that he'd found this perfect "Lacie bug"

He also decided that maybe she's still a little too young to do Bri's trick.

I kind of sat and held her off and on until time to go to the train station to pick up Walt, who had flown into Burbank and then took the train up to Santa Barbara. Fortunately he had brought with him gifts for the girls that I ordered and hoped would arrive before I left (they arrived just after I left).

(there are also clip-on bows for Brianna...they're all set for the next 49er game!)

Tom and I drove to the train station to get Walt so he could meet his new granddaughter. It was hard to tell who was the prouder, Walt or Tom!

Bri got home from the Nanny's and exploded into the house. I gave her a plate I had picked up that afternoon, something that I hope will make it more fun for her to eat, since she still is a very picky eater.

I don't know if decorating a face on a plate with food will help her eat better, but it was a cute idea anyway.

We finally had to leave to drive to Alice Nan's stepdaugter's house. Jocelyn and her husband David are two of my favorite people. It was beautiful watching their courtship, attending their wedding and now, today, meeting their daughter Charlee (Charlotte).

Charlee was born about 10 days before Lacie and the difference really shows. She tracks you with her eyes, for example.

We were all going to a Mexican restaurant in Montecito, not only Walt and I but also Joe, Alice, the baby's parents, and Joe's older daughter with her own daughter. Naturally, Charlee, at the head of the table, got all the attention.


(these are NOT the faces of proud parents, of course!)

And Grandpa Joe took his turn at keeping Charlee entertained.

But now it's late, everyone else is in bed and I am going there myself very, very soon. A day filled with cute little babies is always a happy day! But tomorrow we are already headed in the car, back to Davis! Both little girls will have changed a lot by the time we see them next!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Jeri would be so proud

I turned around and waved goodbye to Brianna, wrapped in a towel and standing in the doorway in her Dad's arms.

I had been at Tom and Laurel's for two hours, from 6 to 8 p.m. and I had not taken a single photo of Lacie!!!!

Jeri would be proud; Ned would be astonished.

This is not to say that there were no photos. I had Tom take a picture to send to Walt to let him know I had arrived safely.

But I had just enjoyed the moment, cuddled with my new granddaughter until it was time for her dinner and didn't think (much) about taking pictures. These pictures were posted on Facebook by Laurel this morning.)

It had been a long day. Oh, how I long for the invention of a transporter when I start that 8-9 hour drive from our house to Tom's. The variation in time depends on (a) traffic and (b) whether I eat lunch in a restaurant or at a drive-through.

I drive down I-5, which Walt hates because it is drab and boring--but you can go 80 mph a lot of the time and make better time. Walt prefers 101, which is not my favorite (except when they are selling cherries in the early summer!) because it seems slower, you run into traffic going thru small towns, and it seems to take forEVER to get to King City. So I drive I-5, when I am driving alone.

My first stop is about an hour out of Davis, at the first rest stop. By then I'm ready to visit the bathroom and replenish my bottle of water...and usually buy a snack from one of the machines.

The next stop is in Santa Nella, a couple of hours later, at Pea Soup Anderson's restaurant.

There are two Pea Soup Andersons, this one being the second.

Dutch settlers had begun to move into the area around Solvang and Buelton and in 1924, Anton and Juliette Anderson opened their first restaurant there. The restaurant became famous for its pea soup, which is still the favorite dish today. It comes in a generous size bowl (and you can have refills) with toppings like scallions, cheese, and ham and a nice roll. I opted for the mushroom Swiss burger today, though, and it was perhaps the best mushroom Swiss burger I've had in a very long time.

Then it was back on the road again but after that heavy burger, I was having a hard time staying awake. The last time we came down here, I fell asleep at the wheel and almost drove off the road until Walt's screams woke me up. I still had about five hours to go on the road today and I was a bit scared.

I definitely didn't feel like one of McDonald's iced mochas after the heavy lunch, but it has been my saving grace when I get sleepy, so I stopped and got a large one. Thank goodness it did the trick. The combination of sugar and caffeine woke me right up and I was fine the rest of the trip.

I stopped again in San Luis Obispo (3 hrs from Santa Barbara) to get gas, and got a text from Tom telling me to come over whenever I wanted. I decided to go directly to his house when I got to town, rather than to Alice & Joe's house first.

As I started to get close to the ocean, out of San Luis Obispo, I got socked in with delicious, heavy, wet, grey fog. If there was ever weather guaranteed to wake me up, this was it. It was so heavy, I couldn't even see the ocean, though I was driving along the shoreline part of the time. I loved it!

Also, my audio book ("The Collectors," by David Baldacci) was finally getting exciting and that helped keep me awake.

Laurel was feeding Lacie when I arrived at their house, so I gave Bri the 3 books I'd brought for her and she wanted me to read them to her right away. I had chosen books with funny words and I had made good choices, because she seemed to like them.

Laurel brought Lacie out and handed her to me, while she took Bri in to have her dinner. I sat there and cuddled the baby for a good half hour or so. So sweet. So cuddly. At this age, Bri was being swaddled because her startle reflex was so strong and it calmed her down to be wrapped tightly in a blanket. So I never really got to cuddle her because all I could touch was her face. But I played with Lacie's fingers and her incredibly tiny toes and let her body mold itself to mine when I held her over my shoulder. I got my baby fix!

When it was time for the next feeding, it was also time for Bri's popsicle treat, so we sat outside for popsicle time and I took the only photos I took all evening.

After watching Bri play in the bathtub for awhile ("I want Grandma to watch"), I finally left and came back to Alice & Joe's. It's been a long day and I'm ready to sleep...but at least I remembered to post a journal entry first!!!

Thursday Thirteen

Families in Movies

1. The Corleones (TheGodfather)
2. The von Trapp Family (Sound of Music)
3. The Griswolds (Vacation, etc.)
4. The Hardy family (any of the Andy Hardy movies)
5. The Smith family (Meet Me In St. Louis)
6. The Fockers & the Burns (Meet the Parents)
7. The Meecham family (The Great Santini)
8. The Brown family (National Velvet)
9. The Simpsons
10. The Banks family (Father of the Bride and Mary Poppins)
11. The March family (Little Women)
12. The Spencer family (Spencer’s Mountain – later became The Waltons)
13. The Gilbreth Family (Cheaper by the Dozen)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Well THAT's a First

It was about 1:30 a.m. I finished writing my review of Shrek, The Musical, which we had just seen in Sacramento, and mailed it off to the newspaper, then quickly headed off to sleep, hoping I would wake up in time that I could get on the road by 9 a.m. I was hoping to get to Santa Barbara while it's still light.

No problems getting to sleep, or staying asleep and I woke up at 7 a.m., right when I wanted to. All I had to do was pack a few things, have breakfast and I would be on my way.

Then I read my e-mail.

Only one "personal" e-mail, from Char. It read "Are you ok? No Journal today??? Is it the chicken??"

Omigawd! After nearly twelve years, I hadn't posted a journal entry, not because I had no access to a computer, not because I had developed food poisoning because of that chicken the other night, but because I forgot!!!! Is this the beginning of the end? Am I really getting old and forgetful??

Well, to quickly summarize yesterday and still get on the road by 9 a.m., it was a relatively uneventful day. My plan had been to go and visit Kathy, by myself this time, since Peach was going both earlier and later in the week with her husband. I usually leave around 11 a.m. to visit her. It's about a 40 minute drive and that gets me there around lunchtime, which is when she's alert.

But then I thought about the upcoming trip to Santa Barbara and things I wanted to do before I left and decided I wouldn't go this week, but would go after I got home instead.

And then I thought of Kathy lying in that bed she seems to never leave in the semi-darkened room. I thought about telling her about Lacie's birth and I decided I would go anyway.

"Get back as soon as you can," said Walt. Our washing machine went out two days ago and either needs repair or replacement. In the meantime, he needed to get his washing to the laundromat, but needed the car to take it. (Walt has done his own washing ever since the kids were babies.)

So I got in the car and drove to Sacramento, unhappy to realize that both of my electronic gizmos had nearly dead batteries. This meant I could not listen to my audio book, and there might not be enough juice in my iTouch to even show her pictures of Lacie. I chose to power up the iTouch and gave up trying to listen to my audio book (since I can only plug one device into the cigarette lighter at a time). By the time I got the the care center, I had about 1/4 of the power in the iTouch, which was plenty to show a few pictures. And while driving I had been listening to Jack-FM, the station where Ned works, and was able to hear three of his commercial spots, 2 jingles and an announcement. It's always weird for me to listen to my son on the radio.

Kathy was awake and alert and eager to talk. She was happy to see the pictures of Lacie, and pronounced her beautiful (well that was worth the drive right there!). She chattered a lot, but again from her fantasy world (this was the first time I'd heard that she traveled to the care center in Gaddafi's airplane. When I asked her how that happened, she rolled her eyes and said "you don't even want to know.")

It seems easiest to buy into her fantasy and talk as if she is making sense. It seems to help her think that someone is actually listening to hear fears. I really want to talk to my old boss, The Psychiatrist, to find out if this is the best way to deal with someone going through what Kathy is going through.

I got home in plenty of time for Walt go to the laundromat while I took a nap (I have started taking a nap, whenever I can, on days when I know I am going to have to review a show at night). I even managed to get back to sleep again after a phone call 30 minutes into my nap.

Shrek, the Musical was lots of fun. Not as good as the movie, but a lot of fun stuff. One problem with taking a popular, well-known cartoon like Shrek and giving flesh and blood actors the job of bringing well known cartoon characters to life on the stage is that a lot of the elements get lost in the cacophony of orchestra, sound system, and characters talking together. Much of the movie’s charm came from in-jokes and visual effects and being able to snicker at the lesser characters who each brought a funny part of a familiar fairy tale to the story.

That is there in the stage show, but somehow it lacks the charm of the movie.

That said, however, the stage show delivers some really spectacular effects, particularly the Tony award-winning dragon, created by Tim Hatley, as impressive as some of the costumes from "The Lion King." The dragon swoops and flies and turns in circles on stage and above the stage and is amazingly lifelike (if there had ever been such things as fire-breathing dragons!)

It also has more fart and belch an jokes than you'll probably ever see on the stage. One song, "I think I got you beat" is almost the Shrek equivalent of Annie Get Your Gun's "Anything You can Do, I can do better," with the contest being who can fart or belch in the most spectacular, disgusting fashion possible.

This is where American theater is today, folks!!!

So that was my day. It ended with writing the review and getting it to the newspaper in time for it to be printed, I hope, today. And now it's 7:30 and I'm going to get ready to go to meet my new granddaughter! Walt can't drive down with me because he has a meeting to attend tonight.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Don't Touch That Dial

We had a momentary power failure here today. An eyeblink of a power failure. Here's what it did.

* Obviously the computer turned off and turned on in an error-checking mode, which always strikes fear and terror in my heart because I know I should be checking something but I never know what I need to check. I always just start it in normal mode and hope I didn't screw anything up.
* It reset the clock to October 2003

* It somehow erased one of my virus checkers--I got notice that I had to reinstall it.

* It erased this brilliant journal entry that I had written for this entry and I've been trying (unsuccessfully, so far) to recreate it.

* It also erased the notes I had made for the brilliant journal entry I have been unable to recreate (trust me, it was probably the best entry I had ever written, now lost forver! :) ... and I have this bridge I'm trying to sell...)

* The printer went off line

* All the titles and descriptions of all programs were wiped out of the Comcast box. (Takes about 24 hours to get them all back after a power failure). Fortunately I am a TV addict, so know what programs I want to watch and what channels they are on, because if I call up the list of programs, every slot just says "To be announced."

I spent a long time getting things (except the cable box) back the way they should be, including re-installing the corrupted software. When the printer came on line, I found out I was out of ink, so I had to go out and buy more printer ink. This took about an hour because they didn't have ink for my printer's model at the local CVS which meant I had to drive across town to Office Max and, of course, you can't just go through Office Max and only buy the thing you came for. Half and hour and nearly $100 later, I was headed home.

There was a chicken cooking in the crock pot and I was thinking, as I drove home, that it should just about be done, but when I went in the house, the crock pot had, of course, also gone off when the power went out, only I didn't realize it until the chicken was nearly cold...tepid, actually. I don't know how long it had been standing in the barely warm crock pot and I had visions of food poisoning.

But I stuck it in the oven and cooked it for an hour...then cooked it for another 30 minutes when I realized that it still was raw near the bone.

At least it was juicy and tasty, and so far no signs of food poisoning, but I may be a bit premature to declare the all-clear.

We are so complacent about the electronic gadgets in our lives and it's hard to realize that in literally an eyeblink, our entire life could change. Of course nothing that happened this afternoon was catastrophic, but it does make you think about how dependent we are on that little connection to electricity!


I had a big surprise when I woke up this morning. I went to get my Birkinstocks, which were lying beside my recliner and when I picked them up, this huge worm fell out of them.

I don't have a clue where it came from. I was wearing the Birkinstocks yesterday, so wherever it came from it had to be during the night. I somehow can't imagine the thing crawling in here from outside, especially over the metal tracks of the sliding glass door.

I couldn't have carried in on my shoe yesterday or I would have squished the thing flat.

I guess I'll never know...but the dogs sure enjoyed checking it out, until I scooped it up and tossed it in the tall grass by the back fence.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Miles to Go Before I sleep

I've had longer days, with lots more miles, but this one just seemed very long, starting with getting home from the internment at 5:30 last night and being so exhausted I wanted to go to sleep at 8:30, but staying awake until nearly 11.

This morning I was going to the Bay Area for the second of our two Lamplighters interviews this week. The time was set for 11 a.m. at the home of a lovely woman who lives in Oakland. I kind of got the times mixed up and actually left Davis a full hour before I meant to, but it turned out to be a good idea because I missed a crucial turn on the freeway. Since I last drove that road, they had apparently built a new offramp that was on the left side of the freewayinstead of the right side, which I didn't notice until too late to change 4 lanes of traffic, and I ended up getting hopelessly lost in an area with which I used to be pretty familiar. I eventually resorted to using the GPS to get me back on track. The entire mis-adventure took about 20 minutes but I still arrived half an hour before the appointed time. I drove around for a bit looking for somewhere to get a cup of coffee (unsuccessfully), and finally went back to the home of our subject, all of which meant I arrived only 20 minutes early instead of nearly an hour early.

The interview was delightful. Both of the women we interviewed this week are "new" to the company (which means they joined within the last 15 years!) and were people we did not know, and both were just so interesting.

This particular interview today was so emotional that both our subject and I ended up fighting tears.

When it was over, Alison and I went to have lunch. Now this should have been a simple exercise, but there was no neighborhood coffee shop, so we had to decide where to go (we each had our own car). I made one suggestion of an area I know fairly well, since we lived near there and Alison and I had already had lunch there once, but she preferred to head in the opposite direction, which would take her closer to where she lives. We decided to eat in Alameda, but we didn't know where. We were going to do this all by cell phone. The original plan was to head to Alameda and then call each other to suggest places.

I got my GPS to direct me to Alameda and poor old "Nigel" didn't realize he was guiding me through some of the scuzziest parts of Oakland, which was not particularly comfortable. After two phone calls, we finally decided to head to the mall, which I knew I could find (it's only about 4 blocks long at the dead end of the street we were one, so I figured my chances were good).

We chose a restaurant and had a lovely lunch, where we taked over where we are in the book and what we need to concentrate on next. This book is quite different from our other two. I was struck by the fact at both interviews this week that the "new" people we are interviewing are speaking with awe about current designers and directors whom we remember when they first entered the company as lowly choristers or seamestresses. It makes me feel so old. Today's subject commented on a woman who sings in the chorus now and remarked that she remember when she was just a kid in high school...I admitted that I remembered when her parents met!

When lunch was over, I had to get to my mother's, on the other side of San Francisco bay. My route for the day looked something like this:

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It's not nearly as long as driving to Santa Barbara, but it sure seemed long. I was going to my mother's to show her pictures of Lacie and to meet Walt and his sister. Walt had spent the night at his brother's, along with his sister and her husband, and she was bringing him to meet me so I could drive him home. She also wanted to visit with my mother.

It was fascinating watching my mother in action today. She couldn't remember why I was there, didn't know why Alice Nan was coming to see her, didn't remember that I was going to Santa Barbara this week, thought I was going there for some other reason than to see the new baby, asked me the same thing several times, couldn't seem to remember anything, but when Walt and Alice Nan arrived, she was sharp as a tack and didn't seem to lose her memory once. I guess she just needs constant stimulation....or to be the hostess at all times, working hard to make everyone comfortable!

It was aboaut 7:30 when Walt and I got home and the dogs were happy to have dinner. I had left dinner in the crock pot, so it was all cooked by the time we got here, which was nice. Then we settled in to watch the opening of Desperate Housewives and asked ourselves, not for the first time, why we are continuing to watch this show!

I am feeling better as the day closes, but there were times today when it just seemed very long indeed and I'm glad that it's over.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Nickel Sandwich

No, I did not mean a "knuckle sandwich," I meant a nickle sandwich. I drove Ned home from the Bay Area this afternoon and we plugged in his new iPod. He serenaded me with lots of Judy Garland and then he played a few other things, including the Kingston Trio's "MTA." Every time I hear that song I keep asking myself, if Charlie's wife could go down to the Scollay Square station every day at quarter past 2 to hand Charlie a sandwich through the window as the train came rumblin' through, couldn't she have dropped a nickle in the bag so Charlie could have gotten off the damn train?

Just wondering....

We were all in the Bay Area to bury grandma again. While we had the formal memorial service in Santa Barbara, where she died, the final resting place for her ashes was going to be in the crypt in Kensington (near Berkeley) where her husband was buried in 1955. Since there was no great rush to bury Grandma, it took six months to get it arranged, but it all took place today...and I think Alice would have been very pleased, as I'm sure she would have been pleased at how her memorial service was handled.

Unlike the previous memorial service, this one was very small and very private. Attendees were just the family (Ned represented the kids, since Tom is home with the new baby and Jeri is 3,000 miles away). Also attending were Mike & Char, and Alice Nan's roommate of 40 years ago, along with her husband).

Walt and I were last at the mausoleum after our wedding reception, on the way to our honeymoon. Norm, and possibly Alice Nan hadn't been there since their father's funeral. Ned, of course, had never been there.

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The new look on the crypt face was on the floor waiting to be reinstalled.

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The musicians ran through some music before we got started.

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Alice always had M&Ms around her house, so they brought a big bag to eat while we told Alice stories.

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(that's a LOT for 9 people!)

We sat around telling Alice stories and laughing. It was very upbeat...kind of, Ned and I decided, like a planned Hour Baur!

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Then there was music. Alice Nan started taking ukelele lessons before her mother died and she had learned how to play a few songs, which we all sang. It was perfect, for their Hawaiian history.

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When we had finished our "hour Baur," a rep from the mortuary came and loaded Alice's ashes into the crypt. Before they placed the bag with the urn in it into the crypt, everyone took a few M&Ms from the huge bowl and added that to the bag. It just seemed right. Ned played "Amazing Grace" on the ukelele (while singing the words to the Gilligan's Island theme under his breath!)

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When it was all over, we packed up the rest of the M&Ms and headed off to Spengers Fish restaurant in Berkeley, where I had...what else?...a delicious Dungeness crab salad.

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Walt's long hours getting the floor ready for the new Pergo over this past week, along with a tall frosty Guinness, began to show.

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All in all, it was a good day, mostly filled with happy memories, and the reuniting of Alice with her husband, after 56 years.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Prioriies

Unless you have been living under a rock, you should know that the Salahis are back. Now I haven't been living under a rock, and I was vaguely aware that at some point some other rich woman was reported kidnapped by her husband and that this week there is news of some woman previously reported kidnapped who just ran off with a singer from a rock band. It's the sort of news that interests me not one whit, but it wasn't until this morning when I accidentally paid attention for a few minutes that I realized that this warring couple was the Salahis, the couple who crashed that party at the White House a few years back.

I don't know whether Mrs. Salahi is one of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, but that show was mentioned.

“It’s not a publicity stunt. I wish it was. I wish Ashton Kutcher would jump around this corner and say, ‘You’ve been Punk’d' … But this is our (life). We had a beautiful marriage. This was real love. I think everybody, all of our friends, the people who know us, know that we thought it was real love. I’ve been duped. I’ve been lied to. I’ve been cheated on. And our family and our home was destroyed. It was full of love and now it’s an empty home.” said the tearful Mr. Salahi on TheToday Show this morning.

Now. Why have I devoted three whole paragraphs to a story and to a couple of people that I clearly have zero interest in?

Well, it's because of two other stories that I heard today. One was on the Internet and one was on the BBC news (which acknowledges that there are other countries in the world and other problems than those experienced by the United States).

The internet story was about three women who are trying to raise funds to build a school in Ghana. Why? To save at least a small number of children from being sold into slavery by their parents who cannot afford to feed them.

It all started when a 36 year old mother of three somewhere was doing research on the country of Ghana, from which she had just agreed to sponsor a child, through Compassion Int'l.

During her research, she saw pictures and read stories about little boys as young as four years old sold into slavery by their parents and then forced to work under cruel and inhumane conditions.

It's estimated that one in four children in Ghana work as child laborers, many of them in the fishing industry where they work seven days a week, 14 hours per day paddling long distances, diving into dangerous waters and pulling heavy fishing nets from lakes. Little girls are often forced to work as servants and eventually sex slaves.

The woman, who sponsors a total of 13 children through Compassion, got together with two American friends to volunteer with Partners in Community Development Program, a charitable and non-governmental organization which works to eradicate poverty and cultural practices such as slavery. The woman decided to raise $30,000 to build a school where children in one community can study and hopefully have a better future than just being sold into slavery while they are still just babies (slightly older than Brianna).

If you would like to know more, you can check this blog, which also has a link to a place where you can make a contribution. They have only raised 12% of their goal and must raise $30,000 by November 6.

Then came the BBC report of the results of a devastating flood in Pakistan. You've seen these disaster pictures before--tent cities, streets filled with sewage, children dying. Over and over again Mother Nature inflicts her wild weather conditions on an area and leaves a path of devastation in her wake.

In this particular report, they focused on a toddler who had the bloated stomach of malnourishment, the lackluster look in her eye of someone who has given up hope. An adorable little girl who was dying in front of the camera. Rescue workers attempted to get her to a hospital, constantly prevented by impassable or flooded roads.

In the end they got her to the hospital and got her started on IV fluids and we will probably never know if they saved her or not.

I have stated here over and over again that it seems that the woes of the world are insurmountable but the problem with us in this country is that our major news gathering agencies are focusing on the warring Salahis and what outrageous thing Charlie Sheen has done today and stories like a young woman trying to save a handful of kids from slavery in Ghana, or a little girl dying in the sewage of a flooded village in Pakistan just get passed over.

The woes of the world are insurmountable, but little pockets of hope appear here and there...Joe's well in Kenya, the school in Ghana...people who have little money to spend are putting themselves out there and making a different, even if they will never know it.

Will you?

Do your little bit of GOOD where you are. It's those little bits of GOOD put together that OVERWHELM the world.

--Desmond Tutu

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sisters

I was looking over the pictures of Brianna, taken in the hospital after her birth and noting the difference between her and her sister.

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The one thing that was striking about Bri right off the bat was that little rose shaped mouth of hers and pursed lips. It appears that Lacie doesn't have it.

Lacie is also a bit more of a chunk, and definitely has more hair than her sister did.

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(this is obviously my kid...look at those fat rolls on her arms and legs!)

In 2008, Dad started teaching Bri about the 49ers right from the very start.

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Apparently Lacie is getting the same treatment (and is just as impressed!)

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We talked with Tom this afternoon. Walt and I are going to have to stagger our trips down to meet Lacie. I am going to drive down after I've reviewed Shrek next week. He can't go down until later because he has a meeting, so he'll fly down and then we will both drive home together so he can be back in time to do his ALS Walk.

I can't wait to meet our new granddaughter.

Thursday Thirteen

A few of my favorite things (in no special order)

1. Stacks of books, each one more inviting than the next
2. The smell of a freshly opened book (so why am I reading on a Kindle?)
3. Warm donuts
4. Polly snuggled in my armpit
5. Riding alone in the car with a good audio book
6. An NCIS marathon
7. The power of the ocean–the smell, the sound
8. Sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf
9. San Francisco on a crystal clear day
10. A good mail day
11. Coffee with a friend
12. Heartfelt chats
13. Writing a good journal entry

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Emotional Roller Coasters

7:53 a.m.: Text message from Tom: "We're heading to the hospital." I call my mother and send e-mail to Char. Walt asks if I'm going to drive to Santa Barbara. I consider it, but I had made plans with Peach to visit Kathy and Walt needs the car tomorrow, so I decide not to go, figuring that baby will probably be born before I can get there (it's an 8 hr drive and this is a second baby). Wait for updates.

10:14 a.m.: Text message from Tom: "10 min apart. May induce. More later."

11:00 a.m.: Drive to Sacramento to meet Peach and visit Kathy. We watched her sleep for about 25 minutes and then, when we were beginning to leave, they delivered her lunch and Kathy came to instantly, sat up and started eating (more than we have seen her eat), chatting constantly.

The business of dementia is very strange. Though she made sense throughout, she was talking at great length concerning the fantasy she is living. Author Michael Connelly now owns the home where she is. He hides in her closet at night and wants her sexually. She has decided not to commit suicide (this is the first we have heard the word "suicide" mentioned) and instead is going to get healthy so she can go out to lunch with Peach and me, but she is going to continue living at the center where she is. She is also going to fix all the problems of the care center because she has "access to a lot of money."

We just agreed with everything she said, but when I thought about it later I decided it was like someone took her brain and shook it up in some cocktail shaker, allowing the most important things in her life to rise to the top. All of her life Kathy has been the caretaker, the one who solved all the problems. She recently was the executer of her mother's estate and handled all of her siblings and half-siblings and their eagerness to get their inheritance.

She is also an avid reader of crime novels and was the only who introduced me to Michael Connelly. She also loved him and had read all of his books.

So it's like all of these very strong elements of her history came together and created this delusional fantasy that is her reality right now.

Over lunch, Peach said that the doctor says that what is happening is that she is taking deep breaths, but because of her diminished lung capacity, she can't exhale completely, so CO2 is building up in her body and affecting her brain. She will eventually suffocate, but it may take several weeks for this to happen.

It breaks your heart, but by the same token, I am glad that we can be there for her for as long as she is still with us.

2 p.m.: Arrive home. Walt has had word from his sister, from the hospital, saying that contractions are now 5 minutes apart.

3 p.m.: I take a nap, holding my cell phone in case there is news.

6 p.m.: Word comes from Alice Nan: "Laurel is having contractions about a minute apart but no other news. Water hasn’t broken. Baby isn’t coming yet. They arranged to go to the hospital today and so is hopeful the baby will arrive before the end of the evening – that is the plan. She hasn’t begun pushing yet."

I watch the season return of NCIS and NCIS-LA, both of which were very good. I'm glad to be seeing new episodes after a summer of marathon reruns. Decide that I don't know if Unforgettable is a good new show or not, but 3 different crime dramas in one night is kind of "overkill" (pun intended)

9 p.m.: Word from Alice Nan: "She is progressing slowly. Not pushing yet."

I send back question: "And contractions are a MINUTE apart?"

"I think so," responds Alice Nan.

I decide not to post this entry until we have a baby, so putting it on hold until I can make the Photo of the Day of my new granddaughter... I am also thinking I worked in ob/gyn too long..and just enough to be concerned. I'm also sorry, now, that I decided not to drive down.

9:30 p.m.: Message from Alice Nan: "Pushing." I reply "Yay!" Alice Nan reminds me that last time she pushed for 3 hours.

10:00 p.m. Walt says he's an old person and has to get up early in the morning so he is going to bed.

10:30 p.m.: I get a text message from Tom. She's here. Lacie Ann. No stats yet. I run to stairs to call up to Walt, who has also received a text message and is running to the stairs to call down to me.

Welcome little one!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Penmanship

Now that I'm doing all this letter writing, I am finding that sometimes I am doing actual letter writing. I used to have fairly good handwriting, but over years of disuse, it has deteriorated. But there seems to be a conspiracy afloat to get me back into the business of writing again.

Today I received a letter from my new pen pal Troy (Penpalling Dad), who is very proud of his handwriting, and proud he should be. There is no way I could produce something that looks like this.

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There is not exactly a great emphasis, but definitely a trend toward hand writing letters in the on-line community. There is no doubt that many of the letters I get these days are handwritten. I've also written a few myself, especially if I have some cute stationery that seems to need a pen rather than a printer.

On CBS's Sunday Morning this week there was a segment on handwriting and penmanship, asking the question whether cursive writing is even necessary any more. It covers various forms of teaching handwriting, including the odious Palmer Method that caused me such pain in school.

I went to see if there was a copy of the segment on You Tube and there was. It covers the history of handwriting and is really kind of interesting, but my favorite part starts at about 7:30 minutes in (of a 9 minute segment), when there is an interview of calligrapher Margaret Shepherd, who discusses the value of hand writing, specifically in writing letters and how much more personal is a handwritten letter.

The interesting thing is that she holds up a letter written by her mother and she talks about how just holding the letter in her hand conjures up memories of her mother that she would not get with an e-mail. If you look closely, the letter starts "Dear Alison..." Margaret Shepherd is the sister of my friend and co-author, Alison Lewis. I have known Alison for 40 years and she used to give me one of Margaret's calligraphy calendars every Christmas, but I have never met Margaret herself...though she seems to be popping up in letter-writing blogs all over the place right now.

I have some problems with handwriting. I learned the dreaded Palmer Method in school, but I never got good marks and a glance at the videotape will tell you why. In all of the video and photos that the segment includes of children practicing their letters, there isn't one child who is left handed.

Palmer, the sadist, never took into account that people who are left handed can't do those damn exercises neatly and even if they somehow manage to tilt their hand in the right way, it means that everything you write gets smeared by your arm, which must follow the hand along as it draws lazy circles on the page. Of course Palmer was probably of the era where children were not permitted to be left handed. Fortunately, my school did not try to force me to write with my right hand. But they also made no accommodations for my left handedness either.

I know many left handers (Peach, for example) who have perfectly fine handwriting because they were taught to let their hand do what came naturally, which is to slant the letters to the left rather than to the right. I can do that, but it doesn't feel comfortable to me because of how many years I wrote the other way.

pens.jpg  (50261 bytes)The other problem I have with handwriting is the use of the writing implement. Right now I have a number of pens on my desk (I use the Sharpies to write addresses on dark-colored envelopes). But none of them feel right in my hand.

When I have a pen that doesn't feel right, my handwriting is much worse than when I have something comfortable.

So I've been on a casual hunt for The Perfect Pen.

Yesterday morning I happened to spy a "uniball" pen lying on the kitchen counter. Lord knows how long it's been there but I kinda sorta remembered that it had a good feel to it, so I decided to experiment and I chose a postcard to address.

It did, indeed, feel comfortable in my hand and the tip of the pen glided very nicely over the surface of the post card. It may have been the best example of how my handwriting looks at it's best.

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But as you can see, it has the old Palmer Method problem. The letters are a bit smeared, which may be partly because of the slickness of the postcard surface, but I hate sending something messy like this.

Fortunately, the letter-writing community is forgiving with people, like me, who prefer to type their letters. In the book "Good Mail Day," by Jenni Hinchcliff, she says that most people have difficulty composing at the typewriter. For me it is just the opposite. If I have to hand write something, I often type it first because then it reads better and I copy it onto paper with pen (of course I also throw caution to the wind and occasionally actually compose with a pen too,but it's not as interesting as it is if I type it first).

I guess that I will always continue to type most things, and occasionally write a letter. But in the meantime the search for The Perfect Pen continues.

Monday, September 19, 2011

My Emmy Party

One of my three favorite nights: The Oscars, the Tonys and ...The Emmys. Tonight it was the Emmy. I always feel sad that I don't have an Emmy party to go to. I went to an Oscar party once and it was great fun. Walt sits and watches the Emmys with me, but he doesn't know most of the shows, even the ones he watches, and it's no fun when you have to explain why you're cheering for this or that person, or identify people in the audience.

But I decided to "blog the Emmys" as I have done in the past and set my laptop on the kitchen table so I could watch on the big TV. During the first commercial break, I decided to check in with Facebook and lo and behold my friend Jennifer, in Colorado, had posted a comment about the first award. I couldn't get the chat function of Facebook to load, but we kept writing notes back and forth through the entire show and it was so much fun! The next best thing to having an Emmy party. Looking at the whole thread of conversation I see that we wrote nearly 200 messages!

So here are my (edited) notes on the show. I was looking forward to Jane Lynch hosting. I have liked her even before Christopher Guest discovered her. She's beautiful, she's funny and she's clever and I thought she would do a great job. Sadly, I think it was only ho-hum. I don't know how much control she has over things, but I didn't think the opening segment was a home run (though bits of it were nice, like having Leonard Nimoy as head of Television, and the business with Mad Men). I thought the musical group, the Emmytones were a bust throughout the show.

COMEDY AWARDS
So nice to see Julie Bowen (Modern Family) win an award, even tho she beat out both Lynch and Betty White. I thought for a minute that her boobs were going to fall out of her dress, but her acceptance speech sounded just like her Modern Family character.

And it was nice that her co-star Ty Burrel also won, which set off so many wins for that show that Lynch started calling it the Modern Family awards show.

By 30 minutes into the show, I was texting to Jennifer that it was seeming tired. Much more low key than the Ricky Gervaise of last year (which is maybe a good thing!)

Charlie Sheen as a presenter?? Whoda thunk. He did give a nice speech eating humble pie. He looked almost sincere.

I loved that Jim Parsons of Big Bang Theory won. He has one of the quirkiest characters on TV and he does it so well.

The announcement of the women nominees for best actress in a comedy was great. Sophia Vergara, the presenter, was not funny at all, but when Amy Poehler jumped up and went onto the stage when her name was announced, and then all the other nominees did too, even though some looked a little unnsure of whether they should or not. It was such a great moment that the audience gave them a standing ovation. And then best of all, Melissa McCarthy of Mike and Molly (a show I have not seen) won the award. Jennifer, her wife, and I, all of whom are people of size, said simultaneously "The fat girl won!" We were very happy about it.

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The same thought occurred to me that has before...these are all actors, used to speaking into microphones. The mics are positioned so that almost everyone can be heard from where they stand (the only exception being Peter Dinklage, winning for supporting actor for Game of Thrones, who is a "little person.") Why does everybody feel the need to lean over or lean in to speak into the mics?

Thrilled, of course, that The Daily Show won for best writing and best comedy show, though not surprised when Saturday Night Live took the award for best directing--I suspect there is more directing in that show than on The Daily Show.

REALITY SHOW
Amazing Race won again. No surprise. I would have been happy with that, Project Runway or Top Chef, but I don't see where American Idol fits in the category.

DRAMA
It was only at the end of the show that I realized something odd. NO cop show was even nominated in the drama group and Mariska Hargitay was the only actor in a crime drama nominated and she didn't win. Very strange, after all the clips of the two NCIS shows and pre-show publicity showing Mark Harmon. But no NCIS, Criminal Minds, Bones, CSI, Law & Order, White Collar, The Closer or any other crime drama. Not one nomination.

However, I was just thrilled that awards went to Friday Night Lights for best writing and to Kyle Chandler for best actor. His acceptance speech was just as uncomfortable as Coach Eric Taylor, his character in the show.

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I had never heard of the show Justified, but I have seen character actress Margo Martindale in many shows over the years and am just so happy she won (another "fat girl") She gave a lovely emotional speech and trembled noticeably through the whole thing.

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Most of the rest of the awards didn't interest me because I hadn't watched most of the shows. I was happy for Julianna Margulies' Good Wife win, though I would have preferred Connie Britton, who played the wife on Friday Night Lights.

I think it was Mildred Pierce for which Kate Winslet won. I didn't see the mini series (I think we were in China), but I just loved how sweet and effusive her acceptance speech was. I especially loved her thank you to her mom. Paul was supposed to thank his mom when he won his Emmy, but had to go and die before he had a chance.

Lots of nominations and awards for shows I never saw, so I ended up cooking dinner toward the end of the show.

The In Memoriam montage was nice and I guess that was the 4 Canadian Tenors who sang "Halleluia." The song always reminds me of The West Wing because the first time I heard it was in that show.

Jennifer missed some of the "Emmyage" (as she called it) because she had to take her dog for a walk, but I kept up a running commentary on the awards she missed so she could catch up when she got back.

So it was a fun night and it was fun chatting with Jennifer throughout and, all things considered, I enjoyed the show, even if it was a little low key for my tastes.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dreams and Nightmares

Sheila is lying on my feet as I write this.

Sheila never sleeps on my feet.

Lizzie is spending her time pacing back and forth, making a bed in the cage, on Walt's chair, or on the patio.

Polly is spending most of her time in my recliner, as usual, but gets very nervous when I suggest that she and I go outside. She stands far away from me and won't come when I call because she knows I'm up to something, but she can't figure out what. I have not seen her pee outside.

The dogs don't have a clue what is going on in the living room.

Walt is just working himself to the bone, having now painted the room and then making arrangements for the Pergo installation, only the Home Depot rep said we would have to shampoo the rug before they would take it up because of the dog urine embedded. I can't say as I blame them.

We talked about the shampoo, but it would take a day to dry and then we would have to lock the dogs out of the room to make sure they didn't pee in there again until the new floor was installed. Finally, Walt decided it would be easier for him to take up the rug himself, so he bought a rug cutter and has been cutting it into manageable swatches and carrying them out to the yard.

As it turned out, it was probably a good thing. The rug was much worse than we realized, with almost NO areas that were not soaked with dried urine. I have felt very guilty watching how hard Walt has worked cutting up the rug, but it's all out in the back yard now and the cement slab is ready to receive the Pergo when it is delivered.

But the dogs aren't sure what to do, since their beds no longer exist. Lizzie used to sleep on the rug behind the couch, and Sheila, on nights when I slept in the family room, slept at the other end of the couch, hidden under the end table. Neither of them slept on the big dog bed that is in that room.

Tonight will be the first night with no rug in the room and it will be interesting to see where everybody decides to sleep...and where Polly will pee.


We went to see a production of Midsummer Night's Dream by the fairly new Davis Shakespeare ensemble. It was basically a fun production but I have stated often that Shakespeare is not really my forte. I always feel lost through a good portion of whatever play I'm seeing, and it takes doing a lot of research afterwards to put together a review.

Others probably feel the same about Gilbert & Sulllivan, which I can review without batting an eyelash.

But I had particular trouble with last night's show. I've seen Dream several times so I kinda sorta know what's going on, but this production was kind of a salute to bicycles and in the opening scene Oberon, the king of the fairies is angry with Tatiana, the queen of the fairies about this figure made of bicycle parts which was supposed to represent someone that I couldn't figure out.

Well, when I checked my last reviews for Dream, and the script for the play, I still couldn't figure out what the heck this figure was supposed to be. I was tearing my hair out trying to put it in context and wondered ... was there an alternate version of the play I didn't know anything about?

I finally decided to admit my ignorance and sent an e-mail to my contact in the cast. Then I checked character descriptions and figured out that the figure was supposed to be a young Indian prince whom Oberon wants to train as a knight, but Tatiana refuses to relinquish her control.

OK. Now I felt stupid for having written the e-mail, but I sent a follow up saying "nevermind. I figured it out." But I hadn't really, because this scene opened the play last night and I even read the script and couldn't find it. But I went ahead and wrote the review without mentioning it at all and submitted it to the paper.

Well, then I got a reply to my note and learned that what was, in this production, Act 1, Scene 1, in the original is actually Act 2, Scene 1, but they needed to use it to set up the whole bicycle theme, since the figure is made of bicycle parts, so they reordered the scenes.

I'm not sure if I still feel stupid or relieved that maybe I had a good reason to be confused...except now I've aditted to the Shakespeare people that I'm not really all that intelligent when it comes to Shakespeare!

And now I have to rewrite my review.


BTW, thanks to reader Ginni, I found out that Kiva is trying to raise money for My Charity Water, an organization trying to bring clean water to areas which have no water. Check this page for information. 100% of anything you donate will go toward the water project.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Good Mail Day

It's a new day in letter writing to the Compassion kids! Compassion has made templates avalable so that you can write on a patterned piece of paper, upload photos and it's all printed electronically and sent off. Makes it quicker to send photos, since you don't have to print them.

Here's a test letter I sent out today. I actually sent ten of these because you can keep the basic letter and use it to write to another child.

ComLtr.jpg  (73860 bytes)

This is only page 1. The actual letter is 2 pages long. I write to the kids frequently, but now I think I will probably write more often because I can take pictures and send them instantly, without having to worry about getting them printed (my printer does a lousy job on color photos).

I will still write once a month to send little goodies like coloring books or stories or stickers or something else made of paper. But all of the sponsors I've been hearing from today are very excited about this improved method of communication with our kids. In the first hour nearly 200 letters were sent, the report goes! (And, amazingly, they weren't all from me!)

Another improvement Compassion is making on its web site is that they are starting to post videos from different centers, starting with two centers in Ghana. The videos seem to run about 9 minutes and take the viewer through the center and explain what happens on a typical day or week. Along with that, there are individual videos of children who are hoping for sponsors.

Low blow! Who is going to be able to resist those sweet faces.

Someone on the Compassion social networking site suggested that we make it a project to get all the kids in the center sponsors. Several people have either agreed to add one or two to their family of Compassion kids or they have spread the word to their friends and relatives.

I just recently completed a year-long sponsorship of Clarisse Niyonsaba in Rwanda, who was trying to get back her life after atrocities committed against her and other women in that country. I never had much interaction with Clarisse. I wrote regularly every month and I got kind of a generic brief thank you note from her a few months ago. I decided that with so many children needing help, I would consider using the funding that had gone to Clarisse for another child, so I wandered over to Compassion's "sponsor a child" page--always dangerous.

Theresa.jpg  (11579 bytes)The first child who caught my eye was this cutie. Now I generally prefer the older children, who have more difficulty finding sponsors...but the look on her face won my heart instantly.

This is Theresa. She is 4-1/2 years old and she is from that particular project in Ghana.

She lives with her father and her mother. Her duties at home include running errands. There are 3 children in the family. Her father is sometimes employed as a farmer and her mother is also sometimes employed as a farmer.

Theresa is not presently attending school. Playing house and playing group games are her favorite activities. She also attends church activities and Bible class regularly.

So...what the heck. I sponsored her. I mean...look at that face! Sponsoring her not only insures that she will continue at the center, but it also means that all these little girl gifts I've bought for little girls over the years will now have someone to go to, since my "little girls" are getting too old for some of them!


Walt is over halfway to his goal of $600 in the October 1 ALS Walk. Thanks to those who have sponsored him already!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Making a Difference

So often we "little people" think that the problems of the world are so overwhelming that how can we possibly make a difference. We aren't Oprah, we aren't Angelina Jolie, we aren't George Clooney. We don't have lots of money to spend on special projects in developing countries, we don't have influence with world leaders, or even the ability to travel to those countries to "do something."

Some of us are like Walt's sister's husband, who headed up a Rotary Club project in Kenya, bringing water to a village that didn't have a well before. Water is a hug deal in many countries around the world. I can't think of a single bio of a kid that I've read on Compssion's web site that doesn't include, as one of the child's tasks, "carrying water." Even the little guys. Some people walk five miles to a water source where they get water for cooking, bathing, cleaning, etc.. I am so proud of Joe and the Rotary Club for building this well. They have helped one village in one African country. There are thousands of villages in countries all over Africa that need wells. But Joe did something and it made a difference.

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Today I saw a wonderful message from UNICEF, which says that in its most recent estimate on worldwide childhood mortality, compared to figures for 1990, in 2010, 12,000 fewer children under the age of 5 died each day than they did in 1990.

An annual report on child mortality found that in sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest number of under-5 deaths in the world, the speed at which the under-5 mortality rate is declining doubled from 1.2% a year during 1990-2000 to 2.4% a year during 2000-2010.

"The news that the rate of child mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa is declining twice as fast as it was a decade ago shows that we can make progress even in the poorest places, but we cannot for a moment forget the chilling fact of around 21,000 children dying every day from preventable causes," said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. "Focusing greater investment on the most disadvantaged communities will help us save more children's lives, more quickly and more cost effectively."

The improved rate of childhood mortality is due in large part to the effort of the big groups which are working to solve the problem.

"Reductions in child mortality are linked to many factors, particularly increased access to health care services around the newborn period. As well as prevention and treatment of childhood illnesses, and improved nutrition, immunization coverage, and water and sanitation," said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director General. "This is proof that investing in children's health is money well spent, and a sign that we need to accelerate that investment through the coming years."

But I can't help but think that those of us who sit in our homes and sponsor kids or write checks to organizations that work with children, or give our pennies at Halloween to UNICEF have been a small part of that improvement.

The biggest factor in helping improve the lot of children around the world is care. Care which leads us to contribute money, write letters in support of big projects, and write letters of encouragement to children struggling in conditions we couldn't even begin to imagine.

At the time it seems like such a teeny little thing to do when the need is so great.

The improvements and progress are encouraging – but stark disparities persist. Sub-Saharan Africa is still home to the highest rates of child mortality, with one in eight children dying before reaching 5 – more than 17 times the average for developed regions (1 in 143). Southern Asia has the second highest rates with 1 in 15 children dying before age 5.

But if nobody cared, if nobody did anything, nothing would ever get done, and there would be no improvement whatsoever in child mortality rates. It's not up to the other guy, it's up to me.

So never discount the impact of a quarter dropped in a UNICEF box, or a Christmas box packed for a child somewhere in the world through Samaritan's Purse, or a contribution to Compassion, International's Rescue Babies and Mothers program. Save the Children says that as little as $1 a day can keep a child alive. Can keep a child alive.

You can keep a child alive for less than the cost of your Starbucks Coffee each day.

Don't ever think that you are too small to make a difference. To the children who benefit from whatever you do, you are a hero indeed, and even if they never know your name, or you never know what was done with your money, know that you made a difference.

A handful of the more than 1700 children, age 3-18
currently awaiting sponsors through Compassion International

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Suppertime

One of my favorite songs from You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown is "Suppertime," where Snoopy dances on his doghouse because he's so excited about Charlie Brown about to arrive with his supper dish.

Polly sleeps most of the afternoon, but around 5 p.m., she comes into my office and stands under my desk and begins to whine very softly. I look down and pet her on the head. She does a little dance, but it's too early for a meal, so she eventually goes back into the family room. When Jeopardy is over, I look at her and say "Polly--do you want dinner?" Her ears pop up and she gives her happy bark and goes into Snoopy's dance as she waits for me to put food in the bowls and stir in a spoonful of cottage cheese.

There is the sound of happy eating as the dogs eat from their individual bowls and then check out everybody else's bowls, after which they settle down, with full tummies.

I was thinking about family meals and how they differ from Snoopy's meal and the dogs' meal time.

When I was growing up, we had breakfast and dinner together around the kitchen table every day. My mother was an excellent cook, but a basic cook. She was a meat and potatoes cook, for the most part. The first time she made lasagna we thought it was so exotic. Peach always loved her meatloaf, a taste I have not been able to duplicate, which is strange because she swore she never made it the same way twice. She started with hamburger and added whatever leftovers were in the fridge. But it was unique.

My 100% Irish father always joked that he was really part Italian because he loved Italian food so much. We had Italian dishes so often that I never choose Italian as an ethnicity when I'm asked where I would like to eat, if we are going out. Italian never feels "special."

My father was out of town at least two nights a week and my mother took a night off, sort of on those nights. We might have scrambled eggs or pancakes or, a real treat, Swanson fried chicken dinners, when the TV dinner first made its appearance on the scene. Sometimes we had milk toast, pieces of lightly toasted bread spread with butter in a bowl of warm milk, sometimes sprinkled with sugar. I loved those weird dinners.

When I think about the family dinner of my childhood, I know that my memories are tinged with the unpleasant times. I know we must have had fun meals, but I only remember the tenseness, hoping the telephone would not ring. We could eat at 4 p.m. or at 8 p.m. but if the telephone rang, it ruined dinner because my father would be furious that someone had dared to interrupt his dinner hour. He then would be loudly silent for the rest of the meal, and the rest of the evening...and sometimes for a day or two afterwards.

You never knew what he would be angry about. I was a fat kid yet I remember the night that he got angry with me for saying I was too full for dessert (dessert was always part of our meal) because I was supposed to eat all my dinner, even the sweet dessert.

As Karen got older, dinnertime was the time when the two of them would get into arguments. She had very strong political, philosophical and moral opinions and they were usually totally different from his. The two of them would yell and scream at each other, while my mother silently cleared the table and I hid in the bedroom. I can't even tell you what they argued about, because as soon as I could tell where the conversation was headed, I got the heck out of there.

When Walt and I married and our kids came along, I was determined we would have pleasant family dinners. I really don't know what memories our kids have of family dinners, but what I remember is that I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, getting more food, or dishing up someone's plate (my mother always dished up servings of food for people, so I did too). It took me years before I had the a-ha moment of realizing that it made me nervous to just sit at the table with the family and have a good old conversation because I was so programmed that any serious conversation could lead to unpleasantness.

Things were fun for me when we had foreign students at our table and I remember when Nelson and Sonia were living with us and Nelson decided that we would only speak Portuguese one night a week. The fact that only Nelson and Sonia knew Portuguese made the conversations rather stilted. But we tried it. And I remember when Chieko from Japan, Ndangi from Zaire, and a guy from Venezuela were all here at the same time and how funny some of those conversations could be.

With the kids all adults, on those rare occasions when someone is here for a meal, it is more fun now. I don't feel uncomfortable any more and can enjoy sitting and talking and laughing.

When it is just Walt and me, dinner is pretty silent. We often seem to have run out of things to talk about after nearly 50 years. So we eat silently and watch television -- something else I never thought we would do. Or we laugh at the antics of the dogs, waiting for handouts from our plates.

I love having meals at my mother's now because we do sit around and talk to each other, and that is very special.

Though I notice that if a serious discussion erupts, my mother generally gets up and starts cleaning the kitchen.

I understand why.

Thursday Thirteen

Things about Autumn

1. The temperatures are finally cooler
2. Color. We don’t get the display of a lot of places, but we have enough to satisfy the eye
3. falling leaves
4. crunching leaves underfoot
5. raking leaves (ok–that’s not a GOOD part)
6. Pumpkin patches
7. Pumpkin pies
8. Thanksgiving
9. Some day I’m really going to go to Apple hill again
10. Wild turkeys parading down Pole Line Rd.
11. Shorter days
12. Little kids in funny costumes
13. Football (not that I pay much attention)