Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Mystery

I am on a hunt to solve a mystery.  You may recall that I talked about how beautiful downtown was the night we arrived, with all the shops lit up like Christmas.  Well, in addition to the shops, it looked like there were leaves of light suspended everywhere.  How I wanted a picture of those leaves lit up.  I'm not going to get one, but I did get them in the daytime.  I've circled a couple so you can get the idea and if you look you can see other leaves surrounding the statue in the center.


I didn't think much about it until I was packing up today and noticed that the curtains in our room have a leaf motif, the desk has an inlaid leaf, the table has a leaf, the mirror is leaf shaped and there is even a cutout on the end table that is leaf shaped.  When we were down in the bar, I looked at the overhead lights and they were leaf shaped.


I was going to ask someone about it, but in all the confusion of packing the bus and leaving, I didn't and then tonight at dinner...well, look at the Dinner of the Day picture below and look at our main dish.  The vegetables are cut in leaf shapes.  Tomorrow I am definitely going to ask someone about this.

Char and I had a fairly quiet day.  Mike and Walt went off to a science museum.  Char and I finished packing up and checked out of the hotel, then sat in the bar for a couple of hours talking and playing with our iPads.  One reason we didn't get up is the chairs are so low that it practically takes a derrick to lift you out of it.  We were convinced this woman would never get up.


We finally did get up and go out to walk around a bit, but it started to rain, so we returned to the hotel.  Walt and Mike came back, reporting having had a wonderful time.  None of us was particularly hungry, but everybody decided that my potato pancakes (deruns) last night looked so good, they would have some too.


We finally boarded the bus and headed to the ship.  I took some pictures on our travels, but they aren't very interesting, and we will be in the same area again tomorrow, with better opportunity to take better pictures (and maybe even better weather).  

We boarded the ship and were played aboard by a guy with an accordion.


Our cabin may be the smallest we've had with Viking, but nicely compact.  Lousy for working on the computer, but there is this wonderful library, with lots of tables and chairs and plugs and cooler air conditioning than in the cabin, so I've chosen this is my place to work, though in a pinch I can be in the cabin too.  It amazes me that it's only 10:30 and there is nobody here but me!


They had a late lunch for us, but since we had just finished deruns we opted out, though Walt couldn't resist the carbonara sauce and I guess had some pasta to go with it.  At 7 we all gathered in the Sky bar, which is on the top deck, for a briefing.  (Aside:  I'm going to come home needing either knee surgery or some sort of cardiac care.  It's 4 floors up to the Sky bar, where all the educational stuff is held.  This is the first Viking ship we've been on without an elevator, and the steps are very narrow, so it's a real climb up and down.  I should be in great shape, if I'm not dead, by the time we get home!)

The briefing was nothing new.  Walt and Mike (I couldn't get a picture of him) really enjoyed it (I think the guy in front of Walt was napping too).


After the briefing it was time for dinner.  There are 2 dining room on this ship, and the Kiev room, the larger of the two, is almost next door to our room, so very convenient.  We hope to snag a table for 6 or 8 tomorrow, since we have found that when we take a table for 4, we never get to meet new people...and this is the most congenial crowd we've had on a Viking cruise.  But for tonight, it was just the 4 of us.


Char, the wine connoisseur asked to see the labels on the wine they were pouring and asked the waitress what the labels said, thinking it might be some vineyard she had heard of.  Can you guess?


The label on the left says "merlot" and the one on the right says "chardonnay" !!

After dinner we started to unpack and Walt noticed there were fireworks outside.  Our cabin is on the water side of the ship and Mike & Char have the dock side and we didn't alert them to the fireworks because we thought we would miss them if we did.


I tried convincing some other passengers that this was they way Viking welcomed us to the ship, but they weren't buying it.  Someone on the crew said that it's not a special holiday, so this was probably a wedding celebration.  Nice in any event.

Now I'm going to see if I can get an internet connection (it only connects for 30 minutes and I knew I couldn't get this written in 30 minutes) and then go to bed.  We have a full day tomorrow, but I'll write about that tomorrow.

DINNER OF THE DAY

I had such a good time making the collages of dinners last year
that I decided to make this the Dinner of the Day section.

 
Our first night on the ship we started with bruschetta,
then had honey melon with Ukrainian ham, followed by
butter fish in some fruit sauce and topped by veggies (notice how they are cut in leaf shapes)
Dessert was apricot ice cream with butterscotch sauce.
2 weeks of this.  A girl could get spoiled!


Friday, August 30, 2013

Alone and Hryvnia-Less in Kiev

After our huge breakfast this morning (we'd have to stay here at least a week to sample all of our options!), we went outside to (a) check how bad the rain was and (b) look at what it was that we were seeing when we arrived last night.  


The activity for the day was to take a walking tour of Kiev.  It was raining, but not badly.  I did not take a jacket, but brought a poncho.  I was loving the sensation of cold and wet!  When our group started out, Mike and Char weren't there.  We didn't know what happened to them and were worried as we walked along and still no Blackfords.  We saw lots of interesting buildings, most of which I lost the description of because I was hanging back, watching for Mike and Char.  But I did take pictures.  This building, for example has been a few types of theaters.  It may have started out as a synagogue but I didn't hear that part.


 Later, when I was able to get close to it, I saw that this is the sign posted at the front right of the stairs.





Obviously my kinda place!


We traveled along to Kiev's "Golden Gate" (no resemblance to San Francisco's!)



Built by Yaraslav the Wise (same guy who founded the town of Yaroslavl in Russia, which we visited 4 yrs ago) in 1017-1024, it was one of three gates that gave entrance to the then-walled city. It was officially known as the Great Gate of Kiev and is now the Golden Gate of Kiev because of its golden domes (not shown here).

As we were leaving the Golden Gate, Walt spied a stand selling water and he figured I'd want some (good guy!). The group moved on while I held back waiting for him, trying to see where the group had gone so we could catch up.  Turned out the clerk at the stand had to go to another stand to get him change and by the time he finally rejoined me, the group had disappeared.  He went racing off to find them and I stayed behind to get more pix of the Golden Gate.



Walt finally returned, huffing and puffing, and said the group was 2 blocks away.  By the time we reached the place where he could see them, they were about 3 blocks away.  I decided there was no way I would ever catch up and told Walt to go on and I would meet him back at the hotel.  I was sorry to miss the tour, but the same tour is being given to people on the ship in 2 days and maybe I can take it then.  But I was able to take some nice pictures myself, on the way back to the hotel.  Like this cat, made out of plastic forks, for example.



and this wedding limo, apparently at the Golden Gate to take wedding pictures.  It was raining and the bride was inside the car crying.  I would have taken better pix, but I didn't want to intrude.



I realized that I was all alone, in a country where I did not speak the language.  I had no hryvnia (the local currency) but fortunately I did know how to get back to the hotel, since we hadn't gone off the main street. I decided to just enjoy being alone.

I liked this view of a statue inside the grounds of the home of the Indian ambassador.  Our tour guide told us that the building had once been the office of the doctor who first identified myocardial infarction (but I don't remember his name).



Back at the hotel, I tried to watch the next episode of Orange is the New Black on my iPad, but Ukraine doesn't get Netflix, so that didn't work.  I lay down on the bed for "a few seconds" and must have slept an hour.  I was surprised since I had a good night's sleep...in the bed!


It sounds like the tour was extensive...and exhaustive.  Char says she may never walk again, so I guess it was a good thing that I told Walt to go on without me.  (We learned, by the way, that Char and Mike were in a different tour group, which Walt finally joined--I hadn't realized there was more than one group).


We had a mid-afternoon meal...not sure if it was a late lunch or an early dinner.  We picked a place at random and discovered it was just charming, or as charming as a dungeon can get!  You walk down some rickety steps to the lower dining room (we were the only customers there), which is decorated with replicas of costumes and implements of war, probably from medieval times.




We had a difficult time interpreting the menu...




so the waiter gave his recommendation, which was veal with a cherry sauce which was delicious. The potatoes, liberally sprinkled with dill, were even more delicious.




(Someone on facebook asked if we had the Deruns.  I told her we were trying to avoid deruns, though the guide book tells us to expect a bout of it.  We don't use local water for anything, even brushing teeth.  The room is filled with bottles of water.)





When we got back, Walt went out for a walk.  While he was gone, I discovered that my camera was taking pictures at the wrong size and tried for more than half an hour to figure out how to change it back to what it had been before.  Desperate, I posted a message on facebook and within 10 minutes, my friend Ron, in New York, had answered and showed me how to do it.  I love the internet!


We decided lunch was so big, we didn't need a real dinner, so we just went to the hotel bar, got some drinks and bar food.  Char didn't have anything to eat, but Walt had borscht, Mike had a burger, I got some deruns, because it said on the menu they were potato pancakes.  So now I know!  They were delicious, and served with sour cream.
Char and friend at lunch

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Beautiful (?) Kiev


I don't mean to cast aspersions on what I am certain is a beautiful city, but we arrived here after 11 p.m., in pouring rain, so all we have seen is the city in the dark, through the rain.  I saw 3 McDonald's between the airport and here and the downtown is absolutely lovely lit up like it is Christmas time.  I hope I get a chance to take pictures of the floating leaves over the town center before we leave--it won't be the same in daylight.

We left home around 2 p.m., I guess (it seems like it was a week ago!) and drove down to Mike and Char's to get them.  On the way down we saw this historic sign, never seen in my lifetime and never to be seen again in my lifetime, I assume.

 
You may recall that little temblor we had some 24 yrs ago, when part of the Bay Bridge collapsed.  It was determined at that time that we needed a new bridge and now, just a short 24 years later, the span is ready to open, so they are completely shutting down the bridge for several days in order to make the new bridge ready to open.  We will miss the whole thing.  But at least I got the sign.
 
Driving down to the airport from Mike and Char's the city was so gorgeous, with the foggy accents between the city and Mt. Tamalpais.  It took me several attempts to get a good picture of it.


We got to the airport and Walt, Mike and Char gathered around the kiosk trying to figure out how to check in.

Then we went out to wait for our plane.  Some had told me Lufthansa was "the best," but you couldn't prove it by me.  Oh it wasn't any worse than any other airline, but nothing to write home about.  You barely had room to put your knees and that meant, on an 11 hr flight getting up a lot to let other people out to go to the bathroom.  I figure I got my exercise just getting up and down from my seat.  

I was excited about the in-the-seat TV monitors but the selection was pure crap. 



Some 30 movies ranging in "new" as The Place beyond the Pines down to When Harry Met Sally.  There was also some TV and nothing there I wanted to watch either.  Even The Big Bang Theory episode they chose was one I didn't like much.  I finished my book and started another.

The food was edible, but that's about all I can say for it.  For dinner we had pasta, which I figured would be easier to handle since I had to rest the dinner tray on my backpack since there was no room to lower the tray table. I don't expect gourmet cuisine on an airplane, but I had just finished reading "Orange is the New Black," which describes the horrible meals in women's prison ... and this would have made it as a possibility for one of those meals.  The pasta was undercooked in spots and stuck together in hard clumps.  The part with the sauce was better, but too highly spiced.


The roll was hard as a rock, but the dessert was good and I ate that.  I left half of the rest of the dinner.
 
Almost everybody went to sleep after dinner, but I could not sleep for love or money.


 I decided to listen to the German cast recording of Sound of Music, which was interesting!


We changed planes in Munich and had two amazing experiences.  First, we were headed toward our gate when someone called me.  It was John and Martha Vlahos, from the Lamplighters.  John was board president for decades and he and Martha both sang in shows for a very long time (which is how they met, actually).  They are returning from a vacation in Switzerland with 3 days in Berlin and were as shocked to see us as we were to see them.

We joined Mike and Char at the gate, where we all found a wifi hot spot and took advantage of it.



Then as we were sitting at our gate came a loudspeaker announcement calling for passenger Lee Foster to get to his gate.  Lee is Laurel's brother and we knew he was traveling to Ukraine (not Kiev) today but had no idea we would be in the same airport.  It was too late to catch him and say hello, but we did send Tom a text message about it!

We boarded the plane with what seemed like 30 grade school kids.  I don't know where they all came from.  Most were very good but the two boys in front of us talked (LOUDLY) throughout the whole 2 hr flight.
 
When we arrived it was after dark and it was pouring rain.  Getting our luggage and going out of the airport was no trouble and we met our Viking escort, Irina, who took us to the hotel (there were 4 Viking couples on the flight.  Besides the 4 of us, there is a couple from Reno and one from the area where Mike and Char live.)

Of course seeing a city after dark, in the rain, is useless.  It looked just like driving through Prague after dark on our way to the folk festival, or driving around Florence at night.  (And we passed 3 McDonald's between here and the airport.)  By the time we got to the city center, though it was beautiful, lit up in decorative lights as if it were Christmas.  We will be there tomorrow on our walking tour, I think, but it won't be the same as seeing it at night.

It is predicted to rain for the next 3 days.  Some are upset about it.  I really don't care much.  I'm loving the cold and the rain, but it may affect our desire to do the 3 hour tour of a traditional village, as it is an outdoor tour.

Viking always put us up in 5 star hotels.  This may be 5 stars, but it is five tiny stars.


We are pretty cramped here, but it's only for 2 nights before we transfer to the ship.  The beautiful hotel I posted a picture of a few days back is under construction and is covered with plastic, with street torn up and doors hanging off the side.  I don't know what kind of view we have because our window is set a ways back from the room...



...and since it's dark outside, you'd have to climb up and stand on the ledge to actually see anything.  I think I'd rather see it tomorrow.

I think it's about 3 p.m. California time, but since I haven't slept in 3 days, I think I'm going to have NO trouble getting onto Ukrainian time tonight.  I'll either sleep like a baby...or not at all.  Either is a possibility!!

(
(Walt can sleep anywhere!)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Yes, I've Started

Packing.jpg (57783 bytes)

If the Jello shirt has been packed, that's half the battle.  The thing with the butterflies on it is a scarf.  I know we will need them for religious buildings this trip, so I have a couple.  This particular scarf is one I bought in Hong Kong.  Our trips are starting to blend together.

The day started very early, so I am groggy as I type this.  Both my mother and I had doctor-ordered blood work to be done and it was supposed to be fasting blood work.  I had no expectation that my mother would remember not to eat, so I went and posted a big sign on the inside of her front door and then decided we would go at 7:30 before she forgot, didn't see the sign, and went to breakfast anyway.

We didn't have to be there at any specific time, we just needed to be fasting.  I went over to Atria at 7:30 and let myself in quietly.  She was still in bed.  I quietly let myself out onto the patio and sat there reading.  It was a gorgeous morning, sunny, cool, but not chilly, the trees glowing from the sun.  I sat there reading for an hour before I heard her up and moving around.

I decided to let her do whatever it is that she does in the morning and when she came out into the living room, she would find me on the patio.

When she did come out onto the patio, it was to tell me that she had a fall in the bedroom.  There is nothing someone wants to hear less from a 94 year old woman than "I've fallen."  Her hip was hurting from where she hit it, but she seemed to be able to get around OK, so we went off to Kaiser and got our blood work done.  

We came back and had breakfast at Atria.  Her hip was hurting more now, because the pain had more chance to settle in, but she still seemed to be OK.   But to be sure, I came home and wrote a note to Ned, telling him that she had fallen, and giving him all of her medical information--medical record number, name of her doctor, phone number of the Kaiser advice nurse, etc.  All that was left for me to do was to worry.

Ed was coming to see her in the afternoon and I asked him to get her some Aleve, which he did.  I took the afternoon off and went with Walt to our local outlet store, where he was looking to get a new suitcase and I figured I'd tag along and see if I could find Omar the Tentmaker and see if he had any pants in my size.

fittingrm.jpg (38267 bytes)In all honesty, I cannot remember the last time I bought clothes that weren't ordered by mail from a catalog.  I would rather visit my dentist than go clothes shopping because it's so depressing.  

I can't remember the last time I looked at myself in a full length mirror, or really looked at myself closely in any mirror.

The first look reveals how shabby I look...fat lady in ill-fitting clothes that are threadbare in some of the seams.  The ugly truth of all of my fat rolls is there and can't be ignored.  It's enough to shoot yourself right there, if you were into that sort of thing.

But, miraculously, I did find a couple of pairs of slacks that fit me.  I also discovered that in Lane Bryant pant sizes, I am a "petite."   That refers to length, not to circumference.  The "average" pants dragged on the floor.  I remember when I was a cross between "average" and "tall."  How I have shrunk!

I also managed to get some bras.  The last bra I bought was in 2003.  I bought four bras at that time and only one remains and I wear it all the time.  As with shoes, it seems impossible to find my size.  I finally discovered that I wear a 40-something (it's too embarrassing to state the real number) and they had a ton of them in a D cup size, but I am a C cup size and I couldn't find a single one in that cup size.  But I need the bra now so I went with the D cup.  It's not like I'm going to be glamorous anyway.  If it works more or less, I'll take it.

When we returned home, I went back to Atria to pick up my mother's laundry to get it washed so she will have NO dirty clothes when I leave and should be able to last 3 weeks without my doing a laundry.

Ed was there and had been visiting for a couple of hours.  We walked out together after telling my mother goodbye.  He said she had told him she fell twice, once in the bathroom and once on the patio and that later she told him she had fallen in the kitchen.  I assured him that I was there and that she did not fall in the kitchen, bathroom or patio. He is amazed at how much she doesn't remember and told me to get a good rest, and that he realized how intense this has all been for me.

Yeah, I'm going to enjoy the time away...but I'm also going to worry the whole time that everything is going all right with her.  I'm just so glad that she's at Atria and not living by herself in Terra Linda!

Monday, August 26, 2013

"All This Crap"

I guess it was never "easy," but it seems that it used to be easIER.

Back in the 1960s Walt and I went camping with the Blackfords.   They were married, we weren't so Char usually packed most of the equipment.   We each had our lists of food to bring and they brought their first (and at the time only) daughter, Tavie.
 
There came a time when we were going camping in Death Valley but Tavie had a cold, so they decided to postpone the trip.  We could not so we were going by ourselves and would take Char's kitchen box with us.  We would then meet them a week later at Blackwell's Corners to give them back the box so they could continue on their own trip.   These were days before cell phones and, miraculously, we managed to meet there, out in the middle of nowhere and make the exchange.

But before that, Walt and I went to make breakfast in the morning of our first night of camping and discovered we had no utensils.  Well, almost no utensils.  I had brought a pancake mix and we had picked up canned bacon, with which I figured I would grease the griddle I intended to make pancakes on.  But there were no spoons, and no spatula with which to turn the pancakes.

As it happened, Walt had an old Boy Scout camp set in the car and in it were a Mickey Mouse spoon with a handle that was about 3" long and 1-1/2" wide.  I somehow managed to use the spoon to make the batter and the handle to flip   the teeny dollar cakes (spiced by the sand that whipped up in the sand dune!)

We eventually got better about packing for camping trips for a family of 7, including tent, coleman lantern and stove and all the rest of the stuff.

This new way of traveling is significantly better than the old camping days, though I always seem to put off packing till the last minute.  But it used to be just a matter of deciding which clothes to bring  and then packing them.  

When we went on our first river cruise, it was up the Thames from London to Oxford (took us 7 days to get there and 40 minutes by train to return to London!).  There were no cell phones in those days and I didn't have a laptop computer.  I managed to keep journal entries by using computers in whatever village we happened to stop for the night (this was a canal boat with a total of 8 passengers, 4 of which were us!)  

By the time we took our first Viking cruise, to Russia, and the second to China, the ship had wifi and I had a laptop, so now I had to pack clothes and computer and the plug that would let me use the ship's electricity.  (On the trip to China, I forgot my credit card and medical I.D., but let's not talk about that.)  I also had devised a system to set up shells for my journal entries to make it easier to write them each night.

Last year, when we went down the Danube and Rhine rivers, I had a laptop and also a Kindle, so in addition to packing clothes, there were also two machines and the requisite cords and plug for them.  I also set up the shells for the journal.

This trip, I have a laptop, a Kindle, and an iPad.  I also have an iPod Touch to listen to audio books on the plane and on the ship when I wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep.  And I have a cell phone. Each of these machines has its own cord to recharge and I have to remember to bring all the cords in addition to the plug adaptor.  I also have to get the journal shells set up again.

Oh yeah--and clothes.  I have to think about which of my 10 pairs of black sweat pants I want to pack and how many of my t-shirts.

But this year there's another wrinkle.  This year I have to make arrangements for my mother as well.  When I see how she is now, I am eternally grateful that she is here in Davis, surrounded by people to help if there is a problem.  I really don't know how I could have gone off on this trip if she were still in San Rafael.

To prepare for leaving her for 3 weeks (which she is giving me a very bad time about -- "Fine thing--I move all the way up here where I don't know anybody and now you're leaving me for 3 weeks."  She's joking ... sort of. I can tell she's feeling nervous about it.) I wrote out a big plan for Atria, where we will be, whom to contact in an emergency, the name of my mother's new doctor, and a reminder about my plan to send e-mail to her via the Atria general manager.

Next, I ordered flowers delivered for her 94th birthday, which will happen while we are gone.  I also wrote lots of people in the family to ask them to call her on her birthday, and sent a note to Peach and to Ed's sister asking them to call her a couple of times while I'm gone.

I'm taking her to get her blood work tomorrow morning and then wrote her new doctor (she will now be seeing my doctor) to let her know that if anything needs followup I won't be able to do it for 3 weeks, or she can call Ed.  I then sent Ed Ned's phone number in case he can't get up here to handle whatever imaginary problem I envision.  I'm doing her laundry tomorrow so she will have all clean clothes to last her 3 weeks. 

I went shopping to make sure she is stocked up on vodka, tonic, toilet paper, ice cream and cookies.  All the necessities of life.

I made sure she has a hair appointment for a cut and perm this week.

We're having lunch with my friend Peggy and our mutual friend Nancy, who has moved in 2 doors down from my mother and whom my mother seems somewhat frantic about meeting (though she has met her twice, but she doesn't remember and Nancy doesn't remember either).  At her request, I also sent an itinerary to Peggy so she could talk to my mother about where we are on specific days.

I also let Michael know she will be gone from the brain gymnasium for 3 weeks.  He asked if maybe someone in the group could come and remind her and my mother was adamant that she wouldn't come without me.

I think I have done it all for her.  But I haven't started packing for me yet.  And I'm trying (it will probably be unsuccessfully) to straighten things up a little for Ashley to move in.  Today I actually got the suitcase downstairs and started to think about what I want to pack.  

It's when I realized that I completely understand my mother's paralysis at the thought of dealing with "all this crap" before we packed up her house to move here.  I pick up something to put away or think about a piece of clothing to pack and end up sitting in a chair, staring off into space not knowing what to do next.

It will be the gadgets that will get me started.  By the time I get all those cords and machines packed, it will be just a hop, skip and jump to folding the Jello t-shirt and starting the whole process another time.

Must remember credit card...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunday Stealing

1. Are you a young heart or an old soul?
I think those aren't the only two options.  "Old soul" implies someone who has lived many lives and you can read the wisdom of the ages in their eyes.   "Young at heart" implies someone who sparkles despite age.  Im somewhere in the middle ... weather-beaten, but still here.

2. What makes someone a best friend?

Someone who is always there for you, with whom you can laugh and discuss anything, and who isn't going to rip your heart out and stomp on it.

3. What Christmas present do you remember the most?

Oddly enough it was a gift I didn't really like very much.  My parents bought me a faux fur jacket that my mother was so enthusiastic about, but which never fit me right and I rarely wore.

4. Tell me a movie/song/TV show/playbook that has changed your life.

Probably the 1954 "A Star Is Born" because it made a Judy Garland fanatic out of me.  The fanatacism died a long time ago, but it certainly shaped my life for many decades.

5. Name one physical feature that you like about yourself and one that you dislike.

My hair has always been my best feature, though with age it is starting to thin and beauticians no longer tell me what wonderful hair I have.  As for what I dislike, obviously it's the avoirdupois.

6. Can money buy happiness?

Absolutely not.  But if you are already happy, it can allow you to have a lot more fun.

7. What’s more important in a relationship: physical attraction or emotional connection?

Looks are fleeting, emotional connection lasts (or should last) forever

8. Is there anyone close to you that you know you can’t trust?

I can't think of anybody offhand.

9. Where was your favorite place to go when you were a little kid?

I liked to escape to a hill in San Francisco, three blocks from our house.   There was nothing there, really, except rocks and a view of San Francisco bay, but I spent many hours contemplating the world from that spot.  (It now sports a fancy schmancy high-rise.)

10. Have you spent a night in the hospital?

When I had my tonsils out at age 4, and each time I had a baby.

11. Do you enjoy being only with 1-2 friends or with a large group of people?

It depends on the friends and it depends on the group.  I don't like a large group of people, but a small group of like-minded people (I'm thinking of our New Year's Eve group) can be delightful, 1-2 friends can be very special.

12. Have you ever been bullied?

Not really.

13. If your partner wanted to wait until marriage until having sex, would you stay in that relationship?

We both did ... and we did.

14. Do you believe in God?

I believe in "something" but I'm not sure that it's an old white man with a long beard sitting on a throne.

15. Out of all the social networks in the world why use a blog?

Because I started my "blog" before the term "blog" was created when I called it a "journal" (and still do) and long before social networks existed. 

16. What is your quirkiest habit?

I'm a Gilbert & Sullivan fan. (I'm "dull-quirky"!)

17. What is normal? Are you normal?

I don't know...and I hope not.

18. Someone close to you is dying! You have the choice to let this person live for 10 more years but if you do you cause the death of 10 strangers.

And your question is?  Look.  I've lost too many friends unexpectedly to even offer an opinion on this scenario.

19. What is one thing you could never forgive?

There are a handful.  I'm not going to list them here.

20. When you’re alone in your own home, do you talk out loud to yourself?

It's when I use most of my 4-letter words.

21. Who is your favorite super hero?

Superman, of course.  I'm his mother (and today is his birthday -- Happy Birthday, Ned! -- hope I didn't blow your secret cover identity.)

22. Could you be in a long distance relationship?

After being married 48 years, I'm not likely to be up for any relationship, long distance or not.

23. Do you know what makes you happy?

A good book.  A good TV show.  Puppies.  Family.  (Not necessarily in that order)

24. Who was your first crush?

I was in grammar school.  He was a high school kid who used to play at the same playground (only he stuck to the basketball area and I was out by the swings and sandbox).   I think I remember his name was Joe Tupo.  I never met him, but I was sure we would marry some day.  It was a short-lived crush.

25. Where is your favorite place to go out and eat?

There is a place in San Francisco that serves obscenely large whole crabs.  I've only been there once, but it's high on my list of favorites.

26. Are you an early bird or night owl?

My answer to this question used to be "yes," but the older I get the later I sleep in ("late" being 7)

27. Give me an unpopular opinion you have.

I love Rachel Maddow (an opinion that is not shared in this house)

28. Do you believe in giving kids medals and trophies for participation?

I don't know.  I was just listening to a radio program where they discussed how that has warped our children by making them less willing to work hard for honors.  I suppose I agree with that.  Sorta.

29. What song best describes your life right now?

"This Old House"

30. How do you express your creativity?

Yer lookin' at it, Baby.

31. Describe your neighborhood.

Suburban area, nice houses, big trees, wide bike lanes.  Feeling of security and safety.  Makes me feel guilty knowing what conditions my Compassion children live in.

32. Give me the story of your life in 6 words.

Wife, Mom, buried kids, saved puppies

Saturday, August 24, 2013

I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Print Myself a Letter

Some time ago, when I was participating in a Swap Bot letter writing exchange, I got a complaint from my partner, to whom I had written what I thought was an interesting letter.  She couldn't read it.  The exchange specified that letters had to be written vs. typed and this girl had never learned to use cursive.  I expressed shock that she could not read cursive and she said that never in her life (she was a college graduate) had she needed to use cursive and that everything she did in college she did on the computer, or else she printed.
The thread I read this morning started out with a report of a newspaper article which said that a teacher somewhere was teaching a course in cursive writing as an extra subject because the schools had stopped teaching cursive.

The writer talked about a man she knew whose daughter was in the Navy. When he wrote his daughter a letter, she had to admit that she couldn't read it because she never learned cursive.

Two others said they had learned it in school and felt it totally unnecessary.  One guy said he hadn't used cursive in 20 years.

I started a thread on another discussion group and got some strong reaction.
I was appalled to find out that my two older grandchildren did not learn cursive. One (age 12) said that he can't read the notes I write in his birthday cards, because he doesn't know cursive, so I asked hiscousin if he knows it, and he said no as well. GEEZ!! It's not a foreign language!! I loved being able to write in cursive when I was a little girl. Loved learning it, practicing it, and using it.  My sons went to Catholic school, where good handwriting skills were stressed! I guess maybe handwriting (as we were taught) is a lost art. What a shame.
I sure identified with her, especially about handwriting being stressed in Catholic schools.  They made no allowances for lefties either.  I never got good grades in handwriting because I always smeared my letters, running my arm across them trying to get into the Palmer method position, which was definitely NOT leftie-friendly!

An older woman (i.e., older than I am) took a slightly different view.
My cursive has, with years of typing, deteriorated to simple "curse" -- my daughter tells everyone that when I used to send them post cards during my travels it took every member of the family working together to figure out just 25 words or so. I just received a letter in cursive which is very readable by a woman in her 40s; no real problem but I'd have enjoyed it more if it were typed. I think a handwritten note of condolence or congratulations is a courtesy that all should be capable of and a cursive signature for legal reasons should be required. But in the age of key boards and texting I'm happy with printed messages.
Obviously my druthers are to type...and, truth to tell, I prefer receiving typed messages, though I have had some very inventive prined letters.  I don't really mind much at all, one way or anther, though I think kids should learn cursive if only to read their grandparents notes!  (Those who write them, that is!)

But I remember the letters my great-great grandfather wrote to his son, my great-grandfather.  GGG was a farmer in Iowa and he didn't spell very well.   His spelling was very creative, perhaps spelling the same word three different ways in his letters...but his penmanship was gorgeous.  He could have helped with writing the Constitution.  It seemed like most of the documents that still exist from that era show a definite emphasis on good penmanship.

This woman sounds like what I do with a pen:
Isn't that ridiculous that someone can't read cursive? My handwriting is a bastardization of cursive and printing, and I print very clearly when I want something read easily (i.e., instructions for someone).
I have found that as I have become involved with SwapBot, where I am creating and sending journals to other people, that I'm writing more.  My hand doesn't get as tired as quickly, and my penmanship is improving...it's still not beautiful, but I notice that it's not totally illegible all the time any more.

My mother has always had beautiful penmanship and it is only very recently that I start to see a bit of the old age quiver in her signature when she writes a check.  But perhaps that's because with her new situation, with Ed taking over paying most of her bills and having nobody to write to any more, her handwriting muscles are starting to forget how they used to work.  She still has a more legible and more beautiful cursive hand than I ever have.

Whaddya think?  Is cursive dead?  Should it be?  Will there be a generation of grandparents who can't communicate in writing with their grandchildren?  In the future, will we all be printing...or will pens and pencils become obsolete too?

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Babysitter

I read the blog of Mayim Bialik, who plays Sheldon's girlfriend Amy on The Big Bang Theory.  She's an interesting woman with an interesting background and I've enjoyed many of her entries.

Today's (Meet Miam Bialik, the Babysitter) brought back memories of our Babysitting Co-Op days.  We were in a co-op connected with Tiny Tots and when we moved here, we joined a co-op here.   It was the Davis co-op that did me in completely and ended our stint as taking care of strangers' children for brief amounts of time.

I don't remember a lot of the kids we took care of in Oakland.  They were mostly children of friends or kids that we knew from the nursery school (or Pinata kids who all blended together and all 22 of them were one big extended family), kids who might have come by our house to play whether I was babysitting for them or not.  

I do remember the baby who was allergic to cow's milk.  They had him on a soy formula instead.  I am sure that soy formulas have improved a LOT since then, but that stuff smelled so bad it made me retch.  It smelled making it, it smelled when I fed the baby, it smelled ON him, so I didn't even want to touch him, and it smelled awful coming out the other end.

His father was an Orthopedist and I remember the day that I was getting a roast out of the freezer and dropped it on my toe.   I was in extreme pain when he came to pick up his kid and I mentioned dropping the roast and that I thought I might have broken the toe.  He looked down and said something profound like "oh" and left.  Not a single word about what I could do or anything.  Yeah, he probably was afraid I'd sue him if he offered an opinion but even a "I'm so sorry you're in pain" would have helped a little.

Then of course there is the story, which I have mentioned here a time or two, about the night we were at a Lamplighter Gala, where in those days the champagne flowed copiously, and our kids were being taken care of by a very proper British gentleman.  I was definitely in my cups that night coming home from San Francisco.   I had worn an outfit my mother had given me, a purple lamé one-piece coulotte that was a tad too long for me.  As I staggered out of the car and tried to go up the stairs, while trying to hold in a very full bladder, I tripped on the damn hem of the outfit, fell flat on my face on the stairs and peed all over the place. 

The babysitter looked a bit bemused and made some dry comment about my having had a little too much to drink.  I was mortified.  I will admit that it did make me feel a tad less mortified a few years later when I discovered that he and his wife were "swingers" and had propositioned another couple that we knew to come and share their bed for an evening of fun and frivolity.  It makes me laugh now to picture our friends in a four-some with these folks. A more incongruous coupling I can't imagine!

Ahhh...we never know what goes on behind someone else's closed door.

That was kind of the problem with the disaster that we encountered here in the Davis babysitting co-op.  I didn't know the woman, who was new to the co-op, but she had two boys who were, I don't know, young grammar school age, I guess.   She said she needed to go shopping and could I watch the boys for an hour.  I said sure.

I opened the door to see the boys for the first time.  She handed me a bag with...something...I don't remember what was in it, kissed her kids goodbye and left.  I expected to have her back in an hour.  This was in the days before cell phones, so I couldn't get hold of her when I needed it.

She didn't return for more than eight hours.   She apparently had a date with her ex-husband and didn't want me to know.  I was frantic by the time she came back.

The fact that she was 7 hours later than she told me she would be was bad enough, but it turned out that one of her kids was autistic and she never told me.   She just handed him to me as if he were a normal kid and left.  A few suggestions for how to handle him would have helped just a tad.  All he wanted to do, as I remember all these years later, was to play in the water of the aquarium we had.   That, and run around the house and cry for his mother.

That may have been the closest I have ever come to really wanting to kill someone.  Not the kid, his mother.  She could have warned me.  I would have tried to work within her rules and how she handled the kid, but to just give him to me as if he and his brother were both alike and then to go off for eight hours....

I don't remember when I learned he was autistic.  Maybe I just thought he was retarded and found out later that he was autistic.  Whatever he was, I didn't have a clue how to handle him and I was not warned ahead of time.  It was 8 hours of sheer hell.

When she came home and I exploded at her for what she had done to me, she got angry with me and accused me of trying to keep her from getting back together with her husband. This was obviously a woman with some serious problems.

I never saw her again and I suspect she was not allowed to be a member of the babysitting co-op again either.

I wonder whatever became of her son.  I feel sorry for him that she didn't apparently care enough for him to help a stranger take care of him.  I'm sure she felt that just not saying anything about his condition was the only way she could get a babysitter, but jeez!  How unfair to both the babysitter AND the child!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Long Day

It is the very, very late end of a long day.

I got up early to make coffee cake for breakfast, and then Phil went off to do some banking and Jeri and I went to pick my mother up for the Brain Gymnasium. As usual, she didn't want to go. 

It was good for Jeri to be there today.  She got to see my mother at her best...or, more appropriately, at her worst.  She threatened to walk out if Michael didn't stop asking her questions.  The exercise we were doing at the time was to think of something that you can't do now because the means to do it no longer exist.  Things like crank telephones, ice boxes, 78 records, and things like that.   It should have been a piece o'cake for my mother.  She's the oldest one in the class and has seen a lot of things come and go in her lifetime, but she couldn't think of a thing and it made her so angry that Michael would even ask her...because she's 94, you know, and her brain doesn't work like that (this is a recording)

But Michael jollied her through it and by the end of the session, as always, she was feeling OK and even figuring some things out on her own.  The thing that makes me so frustrated is that in her anger at feeing "stupid" and not wanting people to see that she is "stupid" she doesn't even notice that every single person in the class makes mistakes.  Heck, even Jeri and I made mistakes today.  But all she can see is that she makes mistakes and that embarrasses her.

We then went to lunch and sat with my friend Peggy, who is such a delightful woman and looks forward to spending time with my mother while I'm away because I will send her photos that she can share with my mother on Peggy's computer.  I decided not to mention that I will be keeping this diary daily...that seems too much to ask her to bring my mother to her apartment every day, so I will just send off maybe the Photo of the Day each day, or a few times a week.

For dessert my mother ordered an ice cream cone.  So did Jeri.   Peggy and I each got the smaller frozen drumsticks.  My mother sat through her whole cone talking about how big it was, how she could never finish it, why do they make servings so big, etc...but she has that cone every. single. day. for lunch!  It was like she had never seen it before.  The only difference between that cone and the cone she usually has is she usually asks them to pour a little chocolate on it.   And she finished it all with no problem at all.

After that morning, I left the others at home and drove to San Francisco to meet my friend Lynn for dinner.  Well, not exactly.  I planned to drive to Walnut Creek and take BART to the city, since parking at the Hyatt Hotel, where Lynn was staying, would cost me $62 so I decided to take BART in...not realizing that the BART stop is almost directly in front of the hotel so it's almost more convenient in addition to being significantly cheaper.

I have an unerring sense of direction.  No matter where I am going, I always take the wrong turn.  and so it was that I didn't find the Walnut Creek BART station and in trying to get to it, stumbled across the Concord BART station, so I gook BART from there.

I got to the hotel about an hour before Lynn's meetings were finished and I sat and read.  Ironically, there is a display in the lobby of the Hyatt about Alcatraz prison and I am currently reading "Orange is the New Black" about a woman's year in a prison, so it all felt too chillingly familiar!

Lynn finally arrived and we went to her room on the 15th floor to look at the view, which is spectacular.

LRView.jpg (47134 bytes)

We then walked two blocks up California to Tadich Grill, the oldest restaurant in California and a place Forbes named one of the World's 10 Great Classic Restaurants.  

LRTadich.jpg (49679 bytes)

Which may explain why the bar was jam packed at 6 p.m. and why they told us it would probably be 45 minutes before we could get a table.

LRTadBar.jpg (63309 bytes)

But we were in no hurry, so ordered wine..
.
LRWine.jpg (77631 bytes)

...and sat at the bar chatting with the bartender...

LRPaul.jpg (38206 bytes)

...and getting caught up on all the news in our lives.  Lynn has just bought a house and is all excited about things surrounding that, I got great feedback (and moral support) about my mother, we both shared the most beautiful, intelligent grandchildren in the world.  In short, girl talk, the thing I miss most in my life these days. The time passed so quickly we didn't even notice that our wait was an hour and 10 minutes.

But the meal was worth it.  Tadich specializes in seafood, so naturally I ordered crab, this time sauteed in a wine sauce with mushrooms that was worth the mortage I've put on the house...

LRMydinner.jpg (51109 bytes)

The original plan had been for me to spend the night in Lynn's room (they even have a comfy chair with a foot stool, which would have been perfect), but with Jeri and Phil leaving in the morning, I wanted to be home to tell them goodbye.

The immediate problem was finding my way out of Concord.  At least I knew where the car was parked but, especially in the dark, I didn't have a clue where the freeway home was.  Nigel to the rescue.  I hauled out the trusty GPS and set it up for about 10 minutes, which was all it took for Nigel to direct me to the right freeway.  Then it was clear sailing home.  

Nobody was here when I arrived, as everyone had gone out with Ned and Marta on Ned's friend Greg's boat for a sunset dinner cruise, and then back to Greg and his wife's house for chit chat until about midnight.  Now all have gone to bed and I will soon follow them!

Jeri and Phil are going to have one last visit with Grandma in the morning, but it's my day to work at Logos and I think I'll take a day off from Atria.   My days off are becoming precious to me and what allow me to be patient with her the rest of the time.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pee Me a River


As we were about to leave the house to go to Sacramento to review Chicago, I heard a cry of anguish from the living room.  Walt had discovered a lake of dog urine under the dining room table.

Poor Lizzie (we assume it was Lizzie...Sheila will hold it untilshe explodes, though exploding in this instance could also have become a possibility).   She really is very good about peeing where she is supposed to--outside--but she also is so damnably insistant about barking at the back fence that she spends more of her life inside than she does outside.  Because of our long feud with Mr. McCoy (our Hatfield-McCoy relationship), we are very aware of the dogs barking, even though he has not lived in that house for about two years and we have had no complaints whatsoever from the current tennants, who have a big dog, who barks at our dogs.

I keep letting the dogs out when they get restless, Walt keeps bringing them in when they bark.  I tend to let them bark longer than he does because most of the time they will stop after 5 minutes or so, and I figure they have to get along with that big dog sooner or later.  There are times when they are sleeping in the house and the big dog comes out and barks.  I really think the three of them (Lizzie, Polly and Big Dog) like each other and as soon as they are let out, they come to the back fence to bark and see if their friend(s) on the other side can come out and play.   When Big Dog barks, Lizzie and Polly are like cartoon characters, their feet slipping on the Pergo as they try to race outside instantly. 

Sheila is calmer.  She barks occasionlly, but does not respond to Big Dog the way the other two do.
Also, I have been unable to housebreak Polly.  I tried the first year she was here, but she was so scared of anything and everything, that whenever I took her outside she would stand there trembling and cowering, as if I was about to beat her.   I would eventually give up, come back into the house and within seconds, she would pee on the floor.  

Life changed when I found puppy puddle pads, designed to help housebreak puppies.  Polly took to those like a duck to water and always peed on the pad, so we just use a couple of pads in the house and she's semi-housebroken, like a cat with a litter box.

When nature calls Lizzie, and I'm not able to read her need to pee, she will also head for the puddle pad.  But Polly is a tiny thing and Lizzie is a 33 lb terrier and her bladder holds considerably more than Polly's does.  I can only assume from how much she peed last night that she had been holding it in for hours.
The puddle ran from next to the puddle pad (her aim isn't very good) under the dining room table and halfway across the living room.  It was a 4-towel job and Walt's pants got wet in the process, so he had to change them before we could leave for the theater.

While the natural reaction would be to get angry with Lizzie, I realize that the fault, dear Brutus, was not in Lizzie, but in my own failure to let her out when she had the need.  I was more intent on keeping the dogs locked up while we were gone, so they wouldn't bark and couldn't be called back into the house, than realizing how long Lizzie had been locked up.

Of course when I let the dogs out for one last relief before we left, the first thing they did was to race to the back fence to bark.  Sigh.  Remind me again why I have dogs?

LizzieCar.jpg (48900 bytes)

Maybe it's because their joy is so infectuous.  I took Lizzie to the vet yesterday to get updated shots and a clean bill of health.  She loved the car ride.   I don't roll the window all the way down because I'm sure she'd leap out if she saw something she wanted to investigate, but rolling it down just enough that she can stick her face out delights her and she had a great time sniffing all those strange smells coming to her.



Jeri came with me to the sing-along at Atria yesterday afternoon.  She and her grandmother had a good time singing to all of those songs from popular musicals.

SingAlong.jpg (61471 bytes)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Golden Girls and the Giants

That sounds like the title of some kids' book, but it's actually a literal title.  

In the morning, I went to Atria to bring my mother her laundry, which I had done the night before.  It as a real shock to have her open her door and show three women sitting there visiting with her.  Well that was progress!!  But then she introduced me to one of them (she couldn't remember the name of the other two).   It was a good friend of hers, a former bank colleague, whom I had not seen in so long I wouldn't never have recognized her.  The women had been visiting relatives in a nearby town and decided to stop and visit my mother as well.

I sat there listening to them and realized, with a laugh that I was hearing The Golden Girls.  The three women have lived together for years and run a business together.  One of them was tall, very intelligent, and did most of the talking.  Dorothy, obviously.  Another was perfectly coiffed and more quiet and while not exuding sexual overtones, she was very definitely Blanche, which made the remaining one Rose (and I guess my mother as Sofia).  I enjoyed my mental image as I watched the four women enjoying their visit.  The nice thing about visits like these for my mother is that when you have someone like "Dorothy" taking over the conversation, my mother can laugh and enjoy herself and doesn't have to reveal the extent of her memory loss.

In the afternoon, Walt and I drove down to Walnut Creek, where we left the car at the BART station and took rapid transit to AT&T Park, where we were meeting Jeri and Phil and other friends to go to a Giants-Red Sox game.  I figured that with us rooting for the Giants and Jeri & Phil fans of the Red Sox, somebody was going to go home happy,

We got there earlier than expected and had time to kill, so I stopped by the Giants' store and finally got myself a Giants t-shirt, which I have been wanting for a long time--and even found one for sale.

MeShirtsm.jpg (52313 bytes)

It was perfect in the park, with our seats giving us a sweeping view of the Bay and the low-lying fog creeping into the financial district.

ATTPark.jpg (43789 bytes)

We had left 103 degree heat in Davis and it was delicious to shiver as the night fell and the air began to get cold.  Fortnately, with my 2 layers of shirts and my jacket, I was comfortable.

The Giants didn't do well though.  It's never a good sign when your team looks like this on the field.

mound.jpg (37966 bytes)

Jeri was not at all gracious as she watched us go down to defeat.

JeriCheer.jpg (67795 bytes)

But the evening wasn't a total loss.  There was a full moon and with my new camera, I was able to find the setting that would allow me to get the photo I've been trying to get with a point-and-shoot camera for years.

moon.jpg (21244 bytes)

Starting at around the 6th inning, the seagulls began arriving, circling the field over and over again, trying to tell all of us humans that it was time for us to leave their park and let them do some clean up of all of our leftover nachos, hot dogs, and soft pretzels.  I tried to get a picture of them, but they were too fast.  But as the park began to empty after the game, they really took over and it was easy.

seagulls.jpg (61636 bytes)
 
We took BART back to the car and came home.  I discovered as I got out of the car and was so completely exhausted that I staggered  right to the couch, went to sleep almost instantly and for the first time in so long I can't remember, I slept 7 hours without waking once.