Thursday, October 31, 2013

Old Friends

I love watching my mother with her friends, old friends with whom she has laughed for years, and who know she is has memory loss, but don't realize how extensive it is.  It is almost like having her back, briefly.
Wednesday is my usual day to have lunch with her (we started it because of the Brain Gymnasium.  Now I just go for lunch.  She doesn't remember it, of course, but is pleasantly surprised each week.)

When I got to her apartment this morning, I heard voices inside.   It's also the day the housekeeper cleans, so I thought she was talking with the housekeeper, but when I opened the door, there were her two good mah jongh friends, Paula and Dodie.  

They had a mah jongh group going for many years.  It was kind of like our Cousins Day, without the overnight.  There was eating and drinking and laughing and even a little game playing.  Before my mother moved here, the group had disbanded.  One woman died and someone else took her place, but was never up to the hilarity of the original group.  Dodie moved to a facility with her husband and could not come--and then her husband died.  Another woman developed Alzheimers.  So what is left of the original mah jongh group is happy memories.

I think Paula is the youngest in the group--she will be 90 in January--and she's the one who is still the most "with it" and this was her second visit to Atria.  She picked up Dodie, who had never been there, en route.
Dodie is entering her own tunnel of dementia, though not quite as bad as my mother.  She mentioned her husband dying, which I had known about for years, but my mother was shocked.  How terrible that nobody told her!  She apologized for not sending a card, but Dodie didn't remember that my mother had been at her husband's funeral.

But mostly it was fun listening to the three women joking and laughing and teasing each other.  I was not going to stay for lunch, but they talked me into it.  Paul and my mother had wine.  Dodie and I were the tea-totalers.

AtriaToast.jpg (78059 bytes)

It was fun listening to her tell them about living at Atrial, how she joined an exercise class but halfway through her back would start hurting (she's never been to an exercise class and doesn't even know where they are held), how she participates in all the activities (nope)...I just marveled at what she was saying to keep up with the conversation, but she was keeping up with the conversation and having a good time, and who cared whether Paula and Dodie knew there were part of her fantasy or not.

AtriaLunch.jpg (92150 bytes)

I had received a phone call from Kaiser this morning, saying that the doctor wanted me to get another chest x-ray and I had planned to do that after lunch, but we lingered so long and Walt was going to San Francisco...and who knew if my "short trip" to Kaiser would turn into another 3 hour visit again, so I put it off, probably until tomorrow morning (or maybe Friday, since I'm stopping by Logos to take pictures of some of the trick or treaters and Walt needs the car again tomorrow)

I spent the evening watching the Red Sox win the World Series.   A great night--and text messages were flying fast and furious between Davis and San Francisco until the symphony started in SF.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

God's Laughing

Alcoholics are famous for saying "if you want to make God laugh, just tell her what your plans are for the day."  God is having a jolly good time tonight laughing at all the curves she threw me.

My plans:  Have "high tea" with my friend Ruth, then pass by Kaiser to have my blood pressure re-taken, now that I've been back on my medications for a week.

What could go wrong?

Well the first thing wasn't exactly something going wrong but I was going to read for half an hour before leaving, and then fell asleep, waking with a start 15 minutes before our reservations were.  I got dressed and raced off to Ciocolat, which is fortunately nearby,  and found Ruth waiting for me.

Let me talk about high tea.  It's a nice, genteel concept that reminds us of a bygone era.  Lovely china, lovely tablecloth, delicious tea, and usually a very nice presentation on a triple-layered tray.  I love high tea in England, where they do it right and I don't remember having to mortgage the farm to pay for it.  They also have the very best scones ever.  Everywhere there are wonderful scones.  In this country we don't know how to do proper scones, though Ciocolat's are better than most.

Ciocolat is a small place, so there is nowhere to put the three-tiered tray, so you get served three courses, and then a "surprise" fourth course.  If you go to a place like the tea room in Dixon, where I took my mother, you may find ladies (and sometimes daughters or granddaughters) dressed to the 9s, pinkies extended, enjoying the food. 

But what "high tea" is is damned expensive!!!  Susan, from Logos, took Char, me, Susan's sister, and herself to a tea house near the book store and it cost her over $100 for the four of us.  I only go to high tea when I have a darn good discount.  Today's tea cost $32, with a Groupon discount, which is in itself expensive, but when the bill came and the waiter added the value of the meal (so I knew how much to tip), it was $76 for two of us.  What you get for $76 is 2   small scones each, with a tiny pot of lemon curd, three finger sandwiches, 3 tiny (but very rich) desserts, and some berries with cream.  And the tea.  But it's the ambience that you are paying for, and I enjoyed the ambience.

Our first course was the scones...white chocolate and cranberry scones with that lemon curd.  Ruth ate both of hers, I only ate one and was happy, later, that I brought home the second scone.  I didn't take pictures of the scones, but I went to take a picture of the sandwich plate and discovered that my camera batteries were dead, but at least I had the cell phone.

TeaSand.jpg (44194 bytes)

They were all very tasty.  This was followed by our dessert plate.

TeaDes.jpg (44277 bytes)

The frosting was to die for, and the chocolate thing with the expresso bean on top was also close to committing suicide for. I'm not a huge fan of hazelnuts, though they are OK, so the chocolate cup was OK, but not up to the standard of the other two.

Then there was the "surprise" course, which was a bowl of chantilly cream (sweetened whipped cream) with berries.  A bit too sweet, I say, surprisingly, but it was great.  We couldn't finish it.

I drove out to Kaiser to get my blood rechecked.  When I was there last week with my mother, for our flu shots, I stopped by to get the pressure taken and it was very high (156/90-something).  I admitted I had not been taking my blood pressure medication.  The technician wanted to send me to the nurse, but I told her I had my mother with me and it would be difficult,but I promised I would get back on my meds and return early this week for a recheck. (Given how today went, I am SO glad I said that!!!)

I have been faithfully taking my meds since.  And it showed.   When I got there, the BP was only 113/62, which delighted the technician.  But my pulse was 117 and her instructions say that she can't let me go without seeing a nurse unless the pulse is under 111.  I was alone today, so I dutifully went down and registered to see a nurse.  I waited about 20 minutes and was taken into a room and seated in the most uncomfortable chair in the world.

KaiserChair.jpg (28167 bytes)

She went to find a doctor and I was left with nothing to read.   I had brought neither my Kindle nor a book to read (because I was only going to be there a couple of minutes.)  Not only did I have nothing to read, but my cell phone battery, which was nearly full when I left home now appeared to be empty, so I couldn't do any internet stuff..  I dashed off a quick text message to Walt and then shut the phone down.  And I waited.
and waited.

and waited.

At one point I almost went out and got a collection of brochures they give to patients about various maladies, because I'd read all the signs on all the walls and machines.

An hour later, nurses were asking me if I had been forgotten and were going off to find the nurse who plunked me there and then came back to report that the doctor was busy.

Finally, after an hour and 15+ minutes, the doctor arrived, telling me my paperwork had gotten buried and he didn't realize I had been waiting.  He also agreed that the chair was, indeed, the most uncomfortable chair in the world--and that the only thing that was more uncomfortable was a gurney. He took my blood pressure and...whaddya know.   It was high.  He asked questions, then he went off to check previous readings that had been done in the last six months.  Whaddya know...they are ALL high (except today's was a little higher).  He said he wanted to get a heart x-ray and some lab tests done, so sent me off to x-ray and to the lab.  I came back looking like a zombie.

KaiserArms.jpg (54601 bytes)

But finally, at 4 p.m., just about 3 hours after I had stopped by "for a minute" to get my blood pressure taken, I was out of Kaiser and back in the car, hungrily chomping down my leftover scone and heading home where I could replace my camera battery, recharge my cell phone, and get something to read.

And yes, God, I heard that snickering...!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Flat on the Hill

I saw a writing prompt this afternoon in a blog from a woman whom I have been following for awhile.  She has a writing group where she gives them various simple suggestions and what follows can apparently be quite extraordinary and the group has bonded over the 7 weeks they have been meeting.

One of the topics she listed as things she has discussed with her class was to "describe a place where you live or have lived."  I thought it would be fun to describe the place where I grew up, a five room flat on one of the steeper hills in San Francisco.

It belonged to Irma and Joe, friends of my grandparents.  Joe was an old Italian and I never could understand him because his accent was so thick, but my father worshipped him and treated him like a second father.  Irma was a large woman of German descent and the thing I remember most about her was that when she found a dress she liked, she bought it in three sizes, because her weight fluctuated so much.

My parents must have moved in in about 1941 or 42.  They had lived in So. California and were moving back to San Francisco and housing was in short demand. Irma had this flat available and offered it to them for something like $37 a month.  They moved in, intending for it to be a short term thing, but it was more than 30 years before they left the flat (and when they left in about 1973, they were paying $43 a month rent, because my father had taken over managing the property for Joe). I lived there until 1961, when I moved across the bay to Berkeley, to attend UC Berkeley.

The building itself had four flats and a corner grocery store.   One flat was the "penthouse," with a commanding view of San Francisco.   There was an apartment that was partly underground, because of the slope of the hill.  Irma and Joe's apartment was next in line, separated from the small apartment (where my aunt Jean eventually lived for awhile) by a very small concrete yard, where my mother hung clothes and tried to plant vegetables in a teeny concrete planter box.   Apparently the guy who owned Seabiscuit lived in the penthouse of the apartment house across the street and my mother became friends with his maid, who told her he used to look down into our yard, watching us play, and saying that was real happiness.

Then came our apartment.  To get from Irma and Joe's you passed by the two windows which looked in on the bedroom my sister and I shared.  When we slept my mother always wanted the curtains tightly closed so nobody could see us, but because of my fear of the dark, I always propped the curtain open a bit with a kleenex box. 

There was then a very large basement under our apartment, which you accessed from the concrete yard or from a door on the sidewalk.  (Now I think there is a garage there---you can see the garage door underneath the left end of the box) 

LeavenworthStsm.jpg (38203 bytes)

The front door was made of glass and to the left of the door, my mother used a clothes pin to clip a sign that read "Day Sleeping -- do not disturb," because my father worked nights so often and we had to be very quiet during the day. If anybody rang the doorbell, there would be hell to pay for the reset of us. The front door opened onto a very short hall.  To the right was the bedroom Karen and I shared and directly ahead was the kitchen.  The other rooms were down the hall to the left.  

Karen and I had a small bedroom with twin beds on the walls opposite each other and a desk that my father made between the beds.  We each had a headboard that he made, in which we stored books.  I had a radio in my headboard and the two of us, with my mother, often listened to radio programs like the evening soap opera, One Man's Family or the weekend kids' shows like Big John and Sparky.

On the walls over alongside our beds were "story book dolls," beautifully dressed little dolls, about 8-12" high.  My father built glass boxes to put them in so they could decorate the room and it was always a sadness that I could see them, but was never allowed to touch them.

We had a tiny closet that was tucked in under the stairs that went up to Irma and Joe's apartment.  I was terribly claustrophobic and I still remember the day Peach decided to lock me in that closet.  She laughs about it, but I was terrified.

I think the room was designed to be a dining room because it had a built in cabinet which really was more fit for holding dishes but we kept our games and puzzles in the upper cupboard and our clothes in the drawers.  I remember that there was as break-in one time when we weren't home and the thief stole my piggy bank and I felt violated for years that he had rifled through my underwear to get it.

A thief tried to break in one other time, but my father was sitting at the kitchen table, directly opposite the front door.  Since he worked mail on the train, he was licensed to carry a gun and he sat there with his gun in his hands waiting for the thief to come through the door, after which he held the gun on him while waiting for the police.

If you stood in the door of the kitchen and looked to the left, there was what we called a pantry, though it wasn't the kind of pantry you think of today.   This was the tiny room with the sink in it, so where we washed our dishes.  To the left were cupboards where we kept dishes and the small counter on which my mother made wonderful things like chocolate cream roll, which I haven't had in decades.  To the right of the sink was a window which opened out into a "light well," a space between our building and the next building.  When we still believed in Santa, we knew we didn't have a fireplace, so we were told that Santa came down the light well and through a window into the dining room.  When I was older, after I'd seen the movie Interrupted Melody, about Australian opera singer Marjorie Lawrence, I decided I was going to be an opera singer and I would skreech out scales and songs in a register so high that my mother would beg me to stop.

The rest of the kitchen contained a cabinet where my parents kept a lunch box where they put all of the cash from my father's paychecks, kept in envelopes for each bill that would have to be paid.  (Apparently this was a short-lived system, when my father decided he wanted to take over doing the bill paying.  It was, my mother tells me, a disaster she soon she took back the job of bill paying.)

At the end of the kitchen table there was an "ironer," a big machine on which my mother ironed everything flat -- sheets, towels, dish towels, diapers, handkerchiefs, etc.  It looked sort of like this.

ironer.jpg (59670 bytes)

Notice that the legs to the machine look like they must be hollow.   Karen, who hated to eat, was always the last one at the table and discovered that there was a small opening where the legs joined with the table part of the ironer and my mother, after some time, discovered she was pushing her food down inside the hollow legs.   Who knows how many dinners were in that thing when my mother finally got rid of it!

There was a stove across from the ironer.  It had 4 burners and a griddle, on which my mother frequently made pancakes or potato pancakes.  

Over the kitchen table, and over the refrigerator opposite it there were two very dark, large Italian frescos that made the whole room dark.  My father asked Joe once if he could paint over them.  Joe said yes and then nearly had a heart attack when he saw that his beautiful paintings were now a lemony yellow color.  It took awhile before he forgave my father for doing it, even though he had given permission.

There was a door from the kitchen out into the "back porch," where there were tubs for washing, a washer that looked like this.

ringerwasher.jpg (53272 bytes)

The clothes washed in the tub and the water drained from the hoses into the big tubs against the wall.  You took the clean clothes and ran them through the wringer on top to push the water out before hanging them on the line.  I was always terrified that I would catch my hand in it (fortunately I never did).  My father also built a swing on the "back porch" where Karen and I could swing, at least until he added a stand up closet to help with the clothes two growing daughters needed when the tiny bedroom closet became too small.   When our kids were little, he changed the swing to a baby swing and we had a good time pushing the kids in that swing.

I can see I'm not going to get to the back part of the house, but I wanted to mention that our heat came through square heating vents on the floor and it was my greatest comfort to get dressed standing over the vent in the living room.  In all the houses we have had since, I have never had such a comfortable heating arrangement.

Maybe some day I'll get around to the rest of the house.  It was fun taking this trip back down memory lane!

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Sporting Apocalypse

I feel like I've spent the afternoon at Walt's sister's house, without leaving Davis. They are sports people and we all know that I am not. At this time of year, my brother-in-law watches every football game broadcast and subscribes to something called "the red zone," which puts up a screen of every game that is going on at the same time, so you don't miss anything.  When there is no game on, he often replays a game that he has recorded, even if he's already seen it.  No watching endless NCIS reruns with Joe around.  

When the seasons change, the games change.  I don't think he watches curling or equestrian events, but there are precious few sports that he does not follow.  Baseball... basketball... soccer (I think).  

Don't get me wrong.  I love the guy and he would give you the shirt off his back.  His love of sports (in addition to their meshing personalities) is what made such good friends of him and Tom, when he rented a room from Joe "for a couple of months" (which turned into more than a year) until Tom met Laurel.
It's just that his and my tastes in television definitely do not mesh.

However, this morning Walt and I watched the 49er game from London (they won!).  

9rsLondon.jpg (77963 bytes)

It was followed by the end of another game with two teams, both in blue (one light, one dark) that had an amazing literally last second touchdown that won the game for one of the teams.  I wasn't rooting for either one of them, but cheered when the guy got the touchdown.

Suddenly I was watching the end of the Redskins game.  Of course, since Walt is from the DC area and his cousin, who lives there, broadcasts sports for Fox, we always cheer for the Redskins. Walt was,by this time, outside doing yard work, but I reported excitedly that the Redskins had scored two touchdowns within five minutes (sadly they went on to lose spectaculary, 45-21).

I can't remember if there was another football game on after the Redskins game, but it was either after the Redskins game or the one after it when the 4th game of the World Series started.  Naturally, we are hoping for the Red Sox to take it all, because that is Jeri & Phil's team.

By now I had been immersed in sports all afternoon and I really wanted to watch the Series game, but also had become interested in zombies.   (How's that for a non-sequetur?)

See, someone in a discussion group happened to mention that she couldn't see what the big deal about zombies is, and how they seem to be all the rage these days.  I said that I didn't get it either and then posted a question on Facebook to find out what the big deal was.  Here are some of the answers I got.
  • They eat brains! What's more exciting than that?
  • Walking Dead had the temerity to be a brilliantly acted, directed and written show. Everybody wants on the band wagon.
  • 3 words: The Walking Dead. And a few more words: best TV show to air since Breaking Bad, and just happens to share the same network. I had never watched a zombie movie or show (0 interest) until my son got me to go back and watch the first season, right before the second season was to start. Now I can't wait for Sunday nights!
  • The Walking Dead...Am glued to it!!
Well, by this time, and having heard lots of good things about The Walking Dead, which several people says has some of the best writing on television, I decided that I would watch the first couple of episodes (streaming from Netflix) while I was watching the baseball.

After I had finished 1-1/2 episodes, I posted this to facebook...
Ok. I watched the first episode. I have questions. Why do all zombies have bad teeth?
zombie.jpg (9759 bytes)
zombie2.jpg (10835 bytes)
If you are DEAD why are you hungry? If you are the "walking DEAD" how can you be "killed"? If you're shot, and have no beating heart, why do you bleed?  Why aren't all dead people zombies and who decides who gets to be a zombie? And if you're killed, can you come back as another undead?   I assume that if I watch further I will eventually find out what the hell happened in the first place.
"What the hell happened in the first place" would refer to the zombie apocalypse that apparently occurred while the hero of the show was in a coma. 

I wasn't liking this show so I checked out the synoposis of Season 1 and it appears it's just more of what I didn't like in the first place -- dazed dead people wandering around moaning, eating flesh (for reasons I'm still not sure of), and chasing "normal" people -- and the remaining "normal" people banding together and bringing out the worst in each other.  I'm sure Walt will be happy to hear that I am not going to be doing a marathon of Walking Dead.

But it was a good afternoon, overall.  The game was very good and the Red Sox won (yay!), and Walt decided to give me the night off from cooking and went out for Chinese food from our favorite Chinese restuarant.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Walter White Does MacBeth

The main problem I had with the production of MacBeth we went to see tonight was that the title character looked so much like Breaking Bad's Walter White.  In fact, if he had a pork pie hat, you'd have been hard pressed to tell the difference.

MacB.jpg (52456 bytes)

The review is going to be difficult to write because I liked a lot of it, but there were a lot of reasons not to like it.  It was like the difference between Star Trek, the original series, and Star Trek   the movie, where we get to know Kirk and Spock and all the other familiar characters in their youth.  In the TV show, they didn't rely on high tech stuff to make a point.  In fact, it's pretty laughably low tech, by today's standards. Now, though, they have perfected CGI and blowing up stuff and people seem to expect the special effects, and so the movie was more about this or that special effect than it was about the development of the characters.

So it was with MacBeth (which I refuse to call "The Scottish Play," because I'm not in the theatre and I think it's an affectation to do so otherwise!) (According to a theatrical superstition, called the "Scottish curse," speaking the name Macbeth inside a theatre will cause disaster. A variation of the superstition forbids direct quotation of the play (except during rehearsals) while inside a theater.)

This was a revised version (which already is suspect...who revises Shakespeare?) which was set in some post-apocalyptic time when everyone is at war with everyone, but apparently all the guns have been destroyed because they are still fighting with swords and daggers.  But everybody is dirty and torn all the time.  And some men's roles are played by women, which is disconcerting especially when talking about "Banquo's seed," when Banquo was played by a woman.

They shortened the script a lot and I don't know the play well enough to be able to know when they cut lines or scenes the way I could do if they truncated any Gilbert & Sullivan play.  But Lady MacBeth never wailed that the perfumes of Arabia couldn't sweeten her little hand...her famous speech was cut short.

But it was powerful.  And intense.  And that was a big problem...there was no nuance in it.  It was an intense ride from the GetGo. It seemed that they went from MacBeth being named Thane of Cawdor to Lady MacB instantly deciding to kill the king.  There was no lead up to it.  "Hi, Honey, I'm home."  "Good--go kill the king."  Whereupon this towering hulk of a man becomes a quivering idiot afraid of his own shadow.  It was just....too much.

And the three witches suffered from excessive technological assistance.  Their voices were run through some sort of synthesizer, designed, I guess, to make them sound more "other worldly," though they sounded so other worldly that you couldn't understand what they were saying.  And in Act 2, either the special effect gizmo failed or they were allowed to use their own voices for clarity, but they had so much head gear on that it was like trying to speak through a heavy curtain and so they were difficult to hear.

We had gone to the show with the Grand Old Man of Sacramento Theater, a 90 year old friend who had performed with the likes of Katharine Hepburn and a host of other luminaries in his day. His apartment is filled with such mementos he could charge admission to let theater afficionados come in and just browse.

When the show was over, I asked him what he thought.  "Not much," he said and went on to explain that in their desire to reshape the show and give it a unique quality, they had forgotten the power of Shakespeare's words. I was glad to have my opinion backed by a competent authority.  I knew that I was disturbed by the production, but couldn't put my finger on why.

At the after-show reception, Lady MacBeth, whom I consider the grand dame of Sacramento theater, came to where we were sitting.  She's a longtime friend of my friend and they are in the process of creating a special project together next year.  He started telling her of his complaints about the show, though told her she was the only one in the cast who got Shakespeare's words "right."

She told him he should not talk in front of me because I would take what he had to say and write it in my review.

Actually, even if I could remember all that he said, I couldn't do it because I don't have the expertise in Shakespeare to get it right.  But he did kind of tacitly give me "permission" to complain about the show and his words pointed out to me why I was uncomfortable with a lot of it.  I valued his opinion.

We had some of the goodies at the opening night party.  I fell in love with a huge bowl of hummus.  I'm not ordinarly a great hummus eater, but this was almost as good as some that I had on our cruise, which I thought at the time was some of the best hummus I'd ever tasted.  The wife of another critic told me she thought it was from Costco, so now I have to go to Costco and buy hummus.  

Imagine...a healthy snack food that I actually LIKE.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Do You Remember...?

My mother said one of the saddest things today, and something that I understand very well.

As usual, she was questioning why all of her siblings are dead and she is still alive.  My aunt Barb, the writer in the family, once wrote a poem, as the siblings started to die.  She figured someone would finish it after the last one died.  You can read it here.

Barb was the most recent to die, and she died in 2008, so my mother has been without any of her siblings for five years.  They were a close family, all ten of them.  

ScottsOlema.jpg (111802 bytes)

(This was the only photo that was taken of the entire family, since by the time my mother came along, the older ones were out of the house.  My mother was #7 in the list...and that's her in the dark jacket next to my aunt Marge, with the scarf around her neck and Barb on her other side.  I'm not sure the date of this photo, but somewhere around 1940, I think.)

This morning, when asking why she was still alive when all her siblings are gone, my mother said she was never lonely at Atria, but that she missed her siblings.  That there was nobody who "remembers when...."  It made me feel so sad for her.  That's probably the biggest sadness of living a long life, if you live it fairly healthy, as my mother is.  There is nobody who "remembers" your past.  There is nobody to giggle with about funny things that happened when you were children. It's like your past dies, but you are still alive.

I think the reason Walt and I ended up having five children was because I was so jealous of how close my mother and all of her siblings were.   Despite the fact that my father considered them all "hicks," and resisted family get togethers, we did see the family two or three times a year.  I watched how close my mother was to her sisters, especially the ones who were closest to her in age. Marge was 2 years older, Barb 4 years younger and Betsy, on Marge's other side in the photo, was 2 years older than Marge (there was a son, Paul, between my mother and Barb in the list).  I wanted our kids to have the kind of sibling relationships that my mother did (in that, I think, we have probably of my favoritest things is watching Jeri, Ned and Tom whenever they are together).

Having someone who "remembers when" is so important.   I watch Walt and his brother and sister and I listen to them reminiscing about things that happened when they were children and I'm jealous.  

I only had one sister, who died when she was 24.  Before her death, we were never close.  We were oil and water and it was only the very last time I saw her, a  week before she was murdered, when we had such a fun dinner together, that I thought that maybe now that we were adults, we might finally get to be friends.   But that never happened.

I had about 32 cousins, but because I rarely saw my aunts and uncles, I was only friends with a few of them.  There was Shirley, Betsy's daughter, who died of lung cancer several years ago.  There was Kathy, the third in our triumverate for Cousins Day, who died of COPD two years ago, and there was Peach.  I was closest to Peach throughout my whole life and was the maid of honor at her wedding and godmother to her first child.  Then she and her husband moved away for several years.  They eventually moved back here and I was pleased when Walt and I moved to Davis because it was only a few miles from Peach and Bob.  But Peach had no interest in resuming our friendship, so it was more than ten years after we moved here before I saw her.  She told me later that because I had young children and she found raising young children an unpleasant time in her life, she didn't want to be around me at that time because it brought back bad memories.

Our uncle Paul died in 1985.  He had been a sculptor of very weird monster statues that he gave to many people in the family.

PaulStatue.jpg (83093 bytes)

He left a lot of statues behind and his girlfriend wanted them out of her house, so I volunteered to go down and pick up a box full of statues that I would bring home and anybody who wanted one could pick them up from me. When I got the statues, I invited Peach and Bob to come to dinner and take their pick.  I cannot tell you what a wonderful evening that was.  We talked and laughed about things that had happened throughout our lives (and, since Bob came into her life when she was in junior high school, he remembered most of the things we talked about too).  It was so refreshing -- as W. S. Gilbert writes, "like six months at the seaside."

Fortunately, we reactivated our relationship, which has continued to this day, though with her now living in Iowa and not being very good at written communication, I feel a gulf again...but I'll be in Iowa next year to help them renew their marriage vows, and that will be very nice.

So I identify with my mother when she thinks sadly about having nobody to share her memories with.  I would be willing to bet there are an awful lot of residents at Atria who are in the same situation.  

When I see articles about prolonging life or people who have lived well into their 100s, I am not impressed.  I feel very sorry for them.  I know how lonely that can be.

Friday, October 25, 2013


I hope you will be relieved to hear that neither Walt nor I seem to have ptomaine poisoning.

Today was book store day.  Last week I took a pork roast and found a nice crock pot recipe and when I got home from work, dinner was all ready.   Much preferable to having to come home and fix a meal.
So I found this nice recipe for a Mexican dish, with pork cubes and black beans and spices and prepared that.  Timing is tricky since I can't make it too early or it will finish before I get home from work, and if I wait too late, we eat at 9 p.m.

But this time I got the timing right and it was cooking nicely for a couple of hours before I went to Logos.
Where last week had been deadly dull at the store, this week was fairly steady. At one point I think I had 6 of 7 people all wandering around looking at books, and Susan, who always sends an accounting after you work, says that we made nearly $300, which is a good day.

Shortly after I arrived, this big Santa Claus type guy came in, fixed me with a steely gaze as he walked across the store and up to the desk.  He stuck out a hand and introduced himself.  Oh my goodness.  It was a guy I knew from decades ago.  He pointed out that he had added several pounds and his hair was white now (I told him I could identify with that remark!).  

I remembered him and his family well, and was pleased that for once my own pre-dementia brain had no trouble doing so.  His son and Paul had auditioned for the same role in the very first production of the Sunshine Children's Theater.   Ultimately the role went to Paul and the mother was quite upset, because she obviously felt her son would have been better in the part.  She accused the director of playing favorites because I had agreed to help with the founding and running of the fledgling company.

I don't remember if the kid ever got involved with other productions at STC, which became a home away from home for Jeri, Ned and Paul.  I asked the guy how his kids were and he mentioned that this particular child (well, he's in his mid 40s now) was an attorney in San Francisco and had worked with the mayor at one point.  I remembered reading about him and a very exciting project he had spearheaded for the mayor.   So I guess the disappointent of losing the role of Paul had not devastated him for the rest of his life!

I read "The Bonesetter's Daughter," which I was enjoying very much, and left behind on the shelf at the end of my stint.  I hope it will still be there when I go back to work next week.

Walt came to pick me up at 6, reporting that the 2nd game of the World Series was 0-0 in the third inning.  We had cheered the Red Sox onto their win in last night's game.  If you can't root for the Giants, might as well root for the team that Jeri is a fan of.  In fact, her dog, Lester, a female dog, is named for one of the players on the Red Sox team.

When we got home, and after I'd given the dogs their expected treats, I went to check on the crock pot and that's when I discovered it was not on.  In fact, it had been off so long that the pot was cold.

I asked Walt what he'd done, but he denies having done anything.   All I know is that the thing was cooking away nicely when I left and was off when I got back and I didn't think the dogs knew how to operate the cooker.

Having no idea how long the meat had sat there, first hot, then cooling off, and then cold.  I didn't know how long it took for all those bacteria to build and I didn't know if it was safe to eat...and I also didn't know how cooked the meat was.  Was it still partly raw?

I decided to throw caution to the wind and turned the thing on to high and let it cook for a couple of hours while we watched the Red Sox lose the second game of the series.

I served the dinner and it was delicious, and the pork cooked and tender.  But I still wasn't sure if it was safe to eat or not.  But as I write this it is 3 a.m. and I seem to be fine, so maybe we dodged a bullet.

I still don't know what happened that the crock pot got turned off but if it turns out that the dogs have actually learned how to operate the pot, they have some 'splaining to do...and they need to take a turn making dinner for us once in a while, for a change!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ten Years

Ten years ago -- how has the time passed so quickly?? -- I had been back from Australia for two days, when Walt and I drove to Santa Barbara to prepare for the wedding -- two days later -- of Tom And Laurel.

I think it was 2000 when we first met Laurel and realized that this was a special relationship.  I mention in my journal for 2001 (which is no longer on line) that it was nice to realize that after a year together, things with them were going well.

(Everybody hated this picture, but I've always liked the
sunbeam between the two of them)

I loved Laurel the first time I met her.  And when I got to know her better, I laughed to Walt that I wondered if Tom knew he was dating his mother.   It was even funnier, when, years later, they were planning their wedding and Tom turned to me and said "you know how they say you marry your mother....?"   That was nothing Ned or Paul did (Marta and Audra are both quite different from me, I think), but Tom's chosen is a photographer, a scrapbook keeper, a cake decorator and the more I  got to know her, the more I realized how much alike we were.

There are many ways that we are not alike, and organization is one of them.  Of course Laurel is a bank executive and juggles a successful career with motherhood and so she has to be organized.  When we arrived for the rehearsal there was Laurel with "the book."

laurelbook2.jpg (19990 bytes)

For the past year, she had been planning the wedding and had everything organized down to a gnat's eyelash.  There were no questions about who was supposed to do what when.  It was all in "The book."

(Going back over my journal entry for that weekend, it was bittersweet to come across this photo, taken at the rehearsal dinner...

gmas.jpg (21789 bytes)

...when Walt's mother was still with us, and my mother looked happy and engaged.)
The wedding was wonderful...

familyshot.jpg (14374 bytes)

And obviously it's been a good ten years, watching them settle down and begin raising their family. 
Ten years later, I still love our daughter-in-law (both of them!) and watching Tom and Laurel and the girls together makes me smile every time.

Happy Anniversary, Tom and Laurel!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

That Elusive Card

Today we were good people and took a step toward remaining healthy.   The main thing was that my mother and I were going to get flu shots.  She didn't remember that, of course, but the nice thing about her is that I tell her we're going somewhere and she never questions it. 

So I got to the apartment and first she had to find her Kaiser card.   This has been going on for about five years now.  Her Kaiser card is in her wallet, in a little plastic folder that has Kaiser's name on it, and she has to have it in her hand before we leave the house.  But she can never find it.  I told her where to find it.  She found it.  Then she put it back and we went to the car.

When we got in the car, she said she knew she would need her Kaiser card, so I had to help her search for it again.

Then when we got to Kaiser, she had to go searching for it again.   Every time it's exactly where she puts it every. single. time.

So we headed for where the flu shot were being given, but it was a mob scene.  That's when I remembered that she was also supposed to get blood work done, so I decided we'd do that first, hoping the crowds would thin by the time we finished at the lab.  

She found the Kaiser card to register and the phlebotomist told her to hang on to it and show it again before the blood was taken.  (This is kind of weird since we were the ONLY people in the lab waiting area and the woman who told her to keep her card with her so she could show it again before the blood was drawn was the same person who would be drawing her blood in 10 seconds!) 

The blood draw went uneventfully and we walked out of the lab and literally ten steps to the hall and she asked if she would need her Kaiser card again for the flu shot.  I said yes...and she couldn't find it.  It wasn't in her wallet.   It wasn't in her purse.  I searched her wallet and her purse 3 times myself.   I went back to the lab and it wasn't there.  It had just disappeared.  In literally ten steps!  

We sat in the lab and went through everything again, both of us and eventually she was the one who found it--in her purse.  I sure don't know where it was hiding because I swear I went through every pocket in that thing.  

But eventually we did have the card and we signed up for flu shots.   The line was, as I hoped, much shorter and we only had a couple of minutes to wait.   In case you have not had your flu shot yet, let me tell you that the needle for this is so small that you literally can't feel it at all.  There were toddlers having shots without even blinking.

When we got back in the car, I took her purse away from her and made sure that the Kaiser card was where it should be so we don't go through this all again.

We took the long way home.  I drove her around a little bit of the campus, hoping to get her interested enough in Putah Creek, which runs through the campus, that she might be willing to try walking there, but though she gave it passing notice, she just kept mentioning over and over again how many cars there were parked in the parking lot.  You'd think she'd never seen cars before.  And there was zero interest in Putah creek or the vegetation there, which a year ago would be a huge draw for her.

Plants and flowers are something else she seems to be losing interest in.  This is the woman who could make a dry stick bloom and whose house was always filled with lush greenery and the most incredible violets and orchids you can imagine.   But she seems to have lost all interest in gardening so much so that in the aftermath of my cousin bringing her about 8 different kinds of plants to put on her patio, she constantly talks about how much work it is to water them and how a couple of them have died.  And she keeps telling me that she thinks my cousin just had some old plants around that she didn't want and thought she would dump them on Aunt Chubbie. I know my cousin would be very hurt to know that since she has been so wonderful to try to make things look nice for my mother.

But today was another day when I realized that there are perks of dementia.  There is a beautiful street in town which has upscale unique homes, lush old greenery and is really one of my favorite places.  I took her for a drive along the street shortly after she got here, but it's now fall and the trees are starting to turn color so I took that drive again and, of course, she had no memory of having been there before, so it was like seeing it all over again for her--and that was nice, because she loved it.

We had a nice lunch at Atria, then I had her write a couple of checks to pay bills and I came home to spend the whole afternoon on Snapfish, working on arranging nearly 300 pictures from our trip in a photo book.  I forget that Snapfish can be clunky and take a long time, but by the time I got halfway through the project, I was working it more easily. 

So in a couple of weeks, we'll have a book of the best memories of our trip, to put together with the books I had made of the other trips.  And I guess that the trip, now, finally is completely over!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Look, Ma

Remember that old commercial?  "Look, Ma, no cavities!"

Oh right.  "Look, Ma" isn't the right title for this entry.  I have a cavity.  A baby cavity.  But a need-to-be-filled hole in my mouth anyway. 

I knew I had it.  I've been feeling "something" for the last week and figured it was probably a cavity, but knew that I had a cleaning appointment coming up and figured it could wait that long.

I love my dentist.  Seriously.  I love going to the office.

A long time ago, before I had "readers," I recounted my dental history, which included being yelled at for not flossing, and being so humiliated that I decided never again to go to the dentist (which was a lot easier than flossing, of course!).  I come by this attitude naturally, since I am the daughter of a mother who a few years back decided that she didn't like the sales pitch of her dentist and that at her age, she didn't need a dentist and would never go again.  So far she has not.   I hope she doesn't get serious problems.

I met Cindy, my dentist, when she first arrived in Davis, a new graduate of her dental program, and was trying to set up her practice.  She was working in another dentist's office and to make money while she was establishing a practice, she worked in the typing service where I worked.  It was a small office and all of us became good friends.  

We got together frequently for social events, and I always arranged that I sat at the other end of the dinner table from Cindy.  By that time I had broken back teeth, halitosis, and lots of plaque.  I didn't want her to notice. I couldn't chew and learned how to eat using the roof of my mouth to grind the food. I had given up things like corn on the cob, apples, spareribs and anything that needed to be bitten with the front teeth. Also at that time I went through periods of such pain it would keep me awake all night, but I still refused to see a dentist, because I figured I had destroyed my mouth and to repair it would cost too much money.  Walt never said a word about my not going to the dentist.

Anyway, I reached a point where I thought my front teeth were about to fall out and couldn't bring myself to call Cindy (who by this time had her own office), so sent her a letter to confess my dental mis-deeds.  She called and asked if I wanted an appointment.  By the time I was working for Sutter and had dental insurance.  Good thing or I would now be toothless.

The day of the appointment, I was a total wreck.  I couldn't tell anybody I was going, but because I was convinced that I would return home missing several front teeth, I left a note for both my boss and Walt warning them of what it would be like when I returned...and then went to see Cindy.

Bless her, she scheduled me for the last appointment of the day, so I was the only patient still in the office, and you could not ask for a kinder, more gentle touch.  I learned, for one thing, that dentistry had advanced a lot in the 20+ years since my last apointment.  For one thing, it was now pretty much painless.

As it turned out, my self-diagnosis was wrong.  I was not going to lose my teeth, though I had the biggest plaque deposit Cindy had ever seen.   She told me years later that she was sorry she had not taken a picture of it because it was certain to be published in some dental journal.  But she didn't want to make me uncomfortable.

Over the next several months, I put at least two of her three daughters through college, but fortunately the dental insurance paid for a big chunk of it.  By the time my mouth was up and functioning, I was leaving Sutter and losing my dental insurance again.  Perfect timing.

I now see Cindy and her hygienist, Christina, three times a year for cleaning.  I'm still not religious about brushing and flossing, but between us--and having those frequent appointments, my teeth are in relatively good shape, except for the baby cavity.

As I said early in this entry, I love going to the office.  The staff is strictly female.  I don't know if that's deliberate, or coincidence.   The atmosphere is like going to a beauty parlor, with the radio playing, interesting posters on the ceiling and paintings on the walls.  You sit in a chair that has a wonderful view of the lawn outside the office.  

As the hygienists work, there is chit chat back and forth and just a very friendly feeling.  When there is more major work to be done, the patients are taken to the back office, where Cindy holds court.  I actually enjoy when I have more work to be done because it gives Cindy and me a chance to get caught up on what is happening with our families.

In my biking days, she and I used to ride about 10 miles around Davis nearly every morning.  Hot or cold, she would be there with her bike and I would drag my body out into the morning air and follow her out into the country and around town.   It was really a special time and I did all of my best biking during those days.   I don't miss going out on a cold winter morning and riding 10 miles, but I do miss the camaraderie we had at that time.

Now our camaraderie comes over crowns and other dental paraphernalia.   But I don't dread it.  I look forward to it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sunday Stealing

(My answers to this one are pretty boring!)

1) What room are you in?
My office

2) Can you solve a rubix cube?
Not if my life depended on it.

3) Are you psychic in any way?
Not at all.  My dogs are more psychic than I am.

4) What star sign are you?
Aquarius.  You know--the messy sign.

5) What's your favorite color?

6) What's your lucky number?
I don't have a favorite "lucky" number...but my favorite number has always been 7...and I don't know why.

7) Do you have any chores that should be done now?
Bwahahaha.  The better question is "do you have any chores that you've finished by now?"

8) Did you have a cherished childhood teddy bear or other toy?
No.  I don't think so.

9) What was the last thing you bought from a vending machine?
Not sure.  Probably Cheetos at a rest stop somewhere.

10) What shoe size are you?
10-1/2 WW.  And nobody makes them any more.

11) How many pairs of shoes do you own?
I own about a dozen.  I only wear about 3.

12) If you were prime minister/ruler of the world what laws would you make?
How many can I make.  I'd end all wars, make prejudice against any group illegal, destroy all weapons of destruction (mass destruction or simple destruction), legalize gay marriage, re-open all Planned Parenthood Clinics that were closed by fear and intimidation, pay teachers more and politicians less (perhaps equal pay for equal work!), life in prison for any animal (or human) abusers--especially ivory hunters ...and free chocolate croissants every day for everyone over the age of 60.

13) If you were a super hero what powers would you have?

Invisibility and the ability move from place to place instantly, without being seen.

14) and what would your hero name be?

15) and what outfit would you wear?
If I were invisible, my outfit would be irrelevant

16) What was your last dream about?
I rarely remember my dreams, but this week I dreamed I was driving a car and suddenly someone on a motor scooter was right in front of me, in my lane, facing me.  I ended up hitting him and killling him.  When I woke up, the dream was still very vivid and I realized that I had been driving in Australia and was driving on the right side of the road, which, in Australia, is the wrong side of the road!  Weird dream.

17) What would you do if you won the lottery?
Faint from shock.

18) Would you like to build/design your own house?
No, but if I won the lottery, I might hire a first class architect to design one for me. 

19) Which form of public transport do you prefer?
The cable car (which is kind of difficult to find out of San Francisco).

21) Can you juggle?
Schedules, sure.  Anything else, not so much.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Check Crisis

Oh life can be so interesting.

First of all, I decided to make potato bread this afternoon.  I had potato water left over from potatoes I had cooked the other night and I know that potato water makes great bread, so I ended up using one of my favorite recipes from the days when I used to make all of our bread (in the days pre-bread maker, when I kneaded it all by hand).  I figured I'd make it with the bread maker and see if it would work.   I couldn't figure out why it wouldn't.

I got all the ingredients in the bread maker except for the yeast.   I made pizza recently and used the second to the last envelope of yeast so I knew there was at least one package of yeast in the cupboard.  Only it wasn't there.   I searched everywhere.  The only thing I can imagine is that I left it on the counter and somehow it got swept up with the garbage. 

Walt agreed to go out and get yeast.

While he was gone, my mother called, all a-twitter.  She has no checks.  (Oh dear God let her eventually remember that she has checks!)   I asked her what she needed checks for.  She said she had a bill to pay but she had no checks.  I told her that yes she had checks, and told her where to find her checkbook.  While she was going to get it, I asked her what check she needed to write.  She said it was to B of A.  I asked her what it was for and she said she didn't know but that it was over $500.  She got into her bedroom and asked me what she was looking for. I told her she was looking for her purse.  She said she couldn't find it.  I told her where to look.  She finally found it and then asked "now why do I need my purse?"  Told her she was looking for her checkbook.

She found the checkbook and asked me why she needed it.  I told her to look inside and see that she had, in fact, written a check to B of A.   But she has no check register.  She has a carbon copy of her checks and because she couldn't check the register, she didn't know how to find out whether she had written a check or not.

I told her I would be there as soon as Walt got back from the store and we would look at it together.
He returned and I put the yeast in the bread maker container, put it into the machine and it didn't feel right, so I took it out and put it back in again.   It felt just the same so I decided to start it anyway.  Then I went off to Atria.

I knocked on the door to my mother's apartment and she was delighted to see me.  She didn't know why I was there.  I said I was there to help her with the bill she thought she had to pay.  "What bill?" she asked.


I told her she had just called me five minutes before, but she didn't know about a bill and couldn't find any bill.  Finally she found it and it was for her Kaiser coverage.  They billed her on October 10 and she had written a check on the 12th, so they just hadn't received it yet (the bill was double because they thought her original bill was overdue).

I told her to get her checkbook and we'd check to make sure that she paid the bill.  She said she had no checks.  I told her that yes, she did have checks and that Ed had brought them to her.

"Well, where are they?" she asked.

I told her that her checkbook was in her purse.  She went into her bedroom and then returned to ask me what she was looking for.  I told her she needed her purse because she needed her checkbook.  I told her where to find it.   Turns out she had put it in a different place this time, but she eventually found it and I showed her that she had, indeed, already paid the bill.

While we were talking, she picked up two pictures that Ned had brought with her birthday flowers.  She asked me who had brought them.  I told her Ned had given them to her on her birthday and she responded "so how much money do I owe?"  I told her she didn't owe anything yet.

I THINK she kind of sorta understands, and to help her I brought the bill home with me so I can call B of A on Monday to make sure that her check arrived (god help them if they refuse to talk to me because I'm calling for my mother!)

When I got home, the bread machine had been running for 30 minutes and, as I feared, the yeast was still sitting on top of the flour.  I removed everything from the machine, added more water, put it all back in the machine and started it again.  Twice.  

I think I have now added too much water, but I'm having it run on the "dough" setting, so I can eventually add more flour and knead more.   It may make a terrible loaf of bread, but it should be wonderful for hockies (fried bread dough) for breakfast tomorrow).

And I hope that when I see my mother tomorrow, she's not going to complain that she needs checks because she has to pay her bills, but I'm not betting on anything any more.

(Maybe it will be OK after all...)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

For the Birds

I was made aware of the group MickaCoo for Pigeons and Doves this morning.  It's a group, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is a volunteer-powered, donation-supported adoption agency for domestic (unreleasable) pigeons & doves that would otherwise be killed in San Francisco Bay Area shelters for lack of homes. 

"We are always full and have a waiting list of at-risk birds waiting to come in to our foster care."
I really know nothing about birds, but it seems that these folks do good work and are overwhelmed and desperately in need of help.  If you are a bird lover and can either foster, adopt or help get some birds adopted, check their web page to learn how you can volunteer or donate to help them with their work.  There is also a page for upcoming events

According to their volunteer page, they need:
  • foster volunteers
  • Outreach/Tabling assistance
  • Grant writing and fund raising
  • Transportation
  • Bird care coaching and "hotline" response
To that I would also add web design assistance.  I find their web site not very user friendly.  I promised someone I would give them some publicity and I have now done it.  If I were in the Bay Area, I might volunteer some time, but...can't.  I have enough with that lady bird I'm dealing with at Atria.

dove copy.jpg (16753 bytes)

We've never done birds -- dogs, cats, fish, rabbits, and all sorts of rodents, but no birds -- but I've always loved watching birds.  When my mother was living in her house, to get there I drove through a 21 mile bird sanctuary and always saw lovely birds that I desperately wanted to photograph, but there are precious few places where you can go off the 2-lane road and park, and usually those places are far from the birds I wanted to photograph.

Driving down I-80 you often see giant hawks sitting in trees or on fence posts, but driving 65-70 mph you are long past the bird before you can stop your car.  I have yet to take a really good picture of one of those beautiful raptors. 

The best bird-photographing I did was in Australia.  My favorite birds to photograph were the cute little gallahs (called "pink and greys") that you saw everywhere.

galah.jpg (42681 bytes)

We would see them in flocks in what I called the "bird tree" where we took the dogs to run every morning.  We saw them in the tree and could hear the cockateels and crows flying overhead (did you know that crows in Australia sound different from crows here?  I decided they caw-cawed in an Australian accent!). Often we saw the parrots that some called "28s" (because of their multi colored feathers).

28b.jpg (34107 bytes)

Those exotic birds are such fun.  I remember a day when I was working at the Lamplighters office on Dolores Streeet, a street that has a row of huge palm trees down the center of it for many blocks.  We heard this huge racket on the street and went out to look and there in the tree was a big flock of exotic birds.  I had never heard that apparently birds which are taken in as pets and then escape banded together to become on flock.  There was every color imaginable in that tree.   They eventually ate their fill, flew on, and I never saw them again.

Years again the movie about the parrots of Telegraph Hill came out.   I wondered if it was the same flock of birds I had seen years before, but no, this flock was all the same breed of escaped birds.

I have to admit that I never had a great love for pigeons (sorry, MickaCoo), but doves are something else. One of the cool things about my mother's house for several years was the basket that the doves commandeered, which hung just outside her living room window.  Many families of baby birds were hatched in that basket and it was fun to be able to stand there, just about a foot from the nest, separated by the window, and watch those babies grow, from bald newborns to adolescents standing on the edge of the nest trying to get the nerve to take their first flight, while Mama and Daddy sat on the porch cooing encouragement to them.

Sadly, after about four years, cats discovered the porch and found the nest to be their own private cafeteria and several babies met their end in a neighbor cat's mouth.  Not surprisingly, the parents never came back, but I did love having the opportunity to watch so many babies grow up there.

My mother, these days, often says "life is change" and as I look back over just my life "around" birds, I can see how that happens.   The doves brought her so much happiness over the years, now she could care less.   Birds nested in a tree right outside the upstairs window of Atria and she had a "ho hum...more birds" attitude.  She forgot about them as soon as we left the window.

It's sad that she finds so little true "joy" and excitement in things these days, but "life is change."  I sometimes feel like a cat has come into her apartment and stolen the mother I knew and left behind this very nice lady, who is not really the person I have known all my life.

Damn cats.  :(

Friday, October 18, 2013

More than Petticoats

Today was a good day at Logos.  I like the days when we have lots of interesting (and some quirky) customers, but today it was dead as a doornail.   I think I made fewer than 10 sales in the four hours I worked (and one of them was me!)

But I was able to find an interesting book that was the right length to complete while there in the store (and I did).  It was called "More than Petticoats: Remarkable California Women" by Erin H. Turner.  (Apparently "More than Petticoats" is a series of books about women in various states around the country.)

The author sets out to debunk the common saying about talented women "imagine what she could do if she had been a man." "The women who were chosen for this book are remarkable because they are women, not in spite of it," she writes.

I was hooked from the first chapter, which tells the story of Mary Ellen Pleasant, whom I remember hearing about, growing up in San Francisco as "Mammy Pleasant," and only knew that there was something negative about her.   Apparently the scuttlebut about her was that she was a "Voodoo priestess", a baby stealer, a baby eater, a multiple murderess, a madam, a lying, conniving, and cunning, schemer."  How far from the truth!

It turns out she was called "the Mother of Civil Rights in California" from work begun in the 1860s, her achievements went unsurpassed until the 1960s. Pleasant was once the most talked-about woman in San Francisco. When other African Americans were rarely mentioned, she claimed full-page articles in the press. Her dramatic life was part of the story of slavery, abolition, the gold rush, and the Civil War; she helped shape early San Francisco, and covertly amassed a joint fortune once assessed at $30,000,000. She became the business partner (and perhaps more) for wealthy Thomas Bell and lived with him and his wife for many years until his death, after which Mrs. Bell accused her of murdering her husband and sued her for the home that Pleasant had designed for the family.

She died, penniless, in 1904, but finally got public recognition in 2011, when a memorial was dedicated in Sonoma.

PleasantMemorial.jpg (49870 bytes)
(if you can't read it it says "mother of civil rights in California)

Winchester.jpg (8266 bytes)
The book goes on to give thumbnail sketches of people like Sarah Winchester, heiress to the fabulous Winchester rifle fortune.  She was the woman who built the Winchester Mystery house, which I have wanted to tour for decades.  I learned the back story (which includes the death of a child and then her husband.

Isadora Duncan is in there.  I never thought of her as a California woman, but apparently she was born here, though she didn't really achieve fame until she moved to Western Europe and later Russia.  American audiences weren't ready for her scantily clad modern dances.

IsadoraDuncan.jpg (20869 bytes)

There are several other lesser known women, but eventually you get to Mary Pickford, who really helped create the movie business as it exists today.  With her tiny stature and bouncy curls, she was playing young girls into her 30s (sounds like Gilbert & Sullivan tenors!)

pickford.jpg (30656 bytes)

The book ends with the story of documentary photographer Dorothea Lange, who took the definitive photo of the Depression.
Lange.jpg (8861 bytes)

She was born in New Jersey but she died in San Francisco at age 70.   She said that contracting polio as a child, which left her with a weakened right leg, led to her pursuing a career in photography because of feeling shy and self-conscious around people. 

It was really uplifting to read this book and realize that there were women in an era where "women" seemed to do little but take care of the house and raise the children, accomplished great things.

Kinda makes me think of congress this week.  Some male congressman interviewed today pointed out that it was the men that caused this mess and it took the women to bring an end to it.

Yay for us!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Christmas in October

Taking a second day off from Atria, though I actually feel fine today.  Sneezing mostly gone; sore throat gone, still coughing, but what else is new?   But just in case...

So I spent today doing "Christmas."  

The other day I used two different online places where you can do fancy stuff with photos.  At PiZap, I made this...

XmasPizap.jpg (314751 bytes)
..and this ...

ShalXmaspizap.jpg (176278 bytes)

And then I also tried Loonapix, where I made this...,

Xmasloonapix.jpg (98125 bytes)

BanXmasloonapix.jpg (105886 bytes)

...and this.

ThXmasloonapix.jpg (118409 bytes)

(with this photo, I asked her if she thought Santa was hoping she would one day smile...I am determined to get a smiling picture out of Kukuwah some day!)

But the problem with both of those sites is  that while they have lots and lots of options for backgrounds, stickers, etc., nothing is religious and I was feeling a little uncomfortable sending these very secular, materialistic pictures to the kids (the problem with an un-religious person sending things through a very religious organization!). So this morning I rummaged through my printed stationery and found a nice one with a baby in a manger on top of it, that I bought to print our annual Christmas letter to our very religious friends!) and I wrote letters to accompany these three pictures, all about how materialistic we get in this country and what was really important about Christmas.

Then I decided that heck, I'm a creative person.  I can do Photoshop as well as the next person, so I decided to try making my own Christmas picture.   I came up with this one.

XmasPS.jpg (134123 bytes)

This enabled me to put a few of the remaining kids at the manger, looking over the kings visiting Jesus.  This needed no apologia from me and I liked it.  I was also tickled with how good it turned out.  I made a couple of those and then made this one...

XmasPeanuts.jpg (39029 bytes)

...which allowed me to talk about singing Christmas carols and to ask if Leniel liked to sing songs at Christmas.  I still have four more to do and am trying to think about what I'm going to do with them.  I have to do these in October because it takes that long for the letters to get to all these countries (going through translators en route).  Actually I may already be a little late, but they should arrive near Christmas if not close to it.  I already sent advent calendars a month ago.

By the time Christmas gets here I'll be figuring out artwork for Easter!