Tuesday, March 31, 2015

An ELEPHANT Never Forgets

Today ended up being completely different from what I anticipated.  The plan was to take my mother to lunch with her friends in San Rafael again, to celebrate another birthday.  To my amazement when I called to make sure she was awake she remembered that we were supposed to go out, but she was not feeling well...said she "ached all over" and that she didn't feel like going anywhere.

Of course I worried about her all day, but when I called in the afternoon, she felt just fine and didn't remember feeling bad in the morning.  The woman is a constant enigma.  I admit that the thought crossed my mind this morning that she might have claimed illness because she didn't want to go to lunch, but we'll never know.

With the day stretching out ahead of me, I got a couple of letters written and then sat down 'for just a minute' to read a bit more of the book I'm reading, "Leaving Time: A Novel," by Jodi Picoult. My friend Pat said she had it on her old Kindle and thought I'd like it, so she was willing to loan me the Kindle (since she has a newer one anyway).  I started reading it on our way down to Santa Barbara and could see instantly why she thought I'd enjoy it.

The story is told from the point of view of four people -- 13 year old Jenna, whose mother disappeared under suspicious circumstances when she was 3 years old, Virgil and Serenity the retired detective and the psychic she hires to help her find her mother, and Alice, the mother, an elephant researcher whose observations of elephants, in Africa and in the sanctuary in the U.S. that she ran with Jenna's father, make up a huge chunk of the book.

Well, it was the familiar old story ...  Yeah, I know I have stuff to do and I'll get to it after I read just. one. more. chapter.  It was so interesting and gripping that I finally just gave up and decided to read until I finished.

I took a brief break to make bread again (yes, I remembered to add yeast), which is about ready to come out of the bread maker as I write this.

I also had to stop at 4:30, with only 10% of the book left to read, so I could watch the streaming concert from Berklee that Jeri had told us about.  Unfortunately, I could get the stream, but the speakers to my computer are terrible and I missed everything that the faculty said, but remembered to plug in my headphones and at least heard the students in concert, even if I wasn't sure exactly what I was hearing.


Oooo....bread just came out of the bread maker.  Looks beautiful.  Smells better.

Monday, March 30, 2015

R.I.P., l'empress

People who read Funny the World may not be familiar with Harriet Vachss Harris who used the nom de plume "l'empress" for her journal, A Place of My Own, and for writing comments on blogs, but for those who read these entries on my mirror blog, Airy Persiflage, her name will be familiar, as she frequently commented on entries there.  In fact she was almost the only one who ever commented there.

Harriet lost her battle with lymphoma yesterday.  Always cautious about revealing too much about her personal life, we knew that she had battled cancer, but did not know that she had recently been given "six months, if you're lucky."  Sadly, she was not lucky.

She was such a loyal commenter, always one to hold my feet to the fire in the way that the late Jim Lawrence used to do that when I noticed in February that she had not commented on anything in a long while, nor had she updated her own blog, which she usually updated several times a week, I dropped a note to her daughter, who is on Facebook.

"It hurts my heart every time I have to type this," she wrote, "but my mom's time is more finite than most. We're going to offer her one more option but her steady response is that she simply cannot undergo treatment."

Even then I didn't understand that she was in the hospital.  Her daughter talked about her returning to the assisted living home where she had recently moved and where she seemed to incredibly happy to finally really have "a place of her own."

But that was not to be.  In short order she was in a nursing home and it was clear that the family was on a death watch. People all over the internet sent messages of love and support to her daughter, who spent Harriet's last days reading them to her.  In fact, she was reading them to her shortly before she died.

"I have said since the beginning that you and my mom are so alike that I feel you're more like her than her sister is," her daughter wrote to me.  Harriet and I never really had much in the way of direct exchanges.  Mostly our interactions were comments made on each other's blogs or comments that we both made on That's My Answer each day and we did seem to have an awful lot of things in common.

Harriet had a hard life.  She lived in a house with her daughter and son-in-law.  Her husband had been moved to a nursing home awhile ago.  I never could figure out what his mental state was and whether he had dementia along with his many physical problems, but it was clear that she was devoted to him and just had reached the point where it was physically impossible for her to care for him any longer.  And she wanted desperately to move into her own place, when she could afford it.  I gathered things were cramped in the place she always called "the cracker box."

I know it didn't help when the basement flooded a few years ago.

But she is finally at peace.  She was not a good friend, but she was a presence nearly every day and I will miss her.  I suspect that if we had been neighbors, we might have become good friends.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday Stealing

The Dirty Dozen Meme
Stolen from: The Archives

1. This weather is really.....
Well, beautiful right now...mid 80s, sunny, clear.  But like the record snow in Boston, this, too, is worrisome because we have had so little rain and they say California will run out of water in a year.

2. You think you've seen it all, you should see me....
Try to dance.  Not a pretty sight.

3. I'm sure you would still love me even if....
I were in a home with dementia wondering if I was going to live to be a "hunnert."

4. I think I have finally realized...
...that I'm gong to have to learn PhotoShop Elements since it doesn't seem that I'm going to get the full PhotoShop again.

5. Since the last time we linked up...
I have shaved my head and am now bald-ish (though it is starting to grow back).  I am very proud of the fact that Ned and I raised more than $3,500 for children's cancer research.

6. I get super embarrassed...
...at so many things.  If I say the wrong thing, If I'm put on the spot to express an opinion, if I have to speak in public, if I am at a party where I don't know anybody.  The list is very long.

7. I really thought by now...
...I'd be dead (my father was)

8. If I thought no one would read it, I would write about...
...what's really going on in my head ... and you would be amazed!

9. I knew I was in the wrong place...
...when I walked into the Shakespeare book club.  I thought it would get better and that I would feel I fit in...but it didn't.

10. I am so not above...

11. Let's pretend...
...Paul and David are alive again and Lawsuit is having a grand reunion. One more time...thank God we'll be doin' fine!

12. Just you wait...
Until we see what the history books have to say about this period of our country's history.  I wish I could come back in 50 years (assuming the world hasn't burned up by then) and find out how the politicians of today are viewed.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

My Rising Up ... or Not

I had lunch at Atria on Wednesday.  I realized I was dragging my feet about going there again.  Just didn't want to get back to that world right away, and it was as I suspected.  I answered the question  "what are you doing for the rest of the day" a hundred times and she told me a hundred time that everything was very quiet there.  That is pretty much our visits lately. 

But lunch is a nice distraction and we ate with a lovely woman, whose name I did not get.  She was telling me that there is (another) new chef at Atria and the lunch was really good.  I still remember the totally inedible "Chef's platter" I had a few weeks a go.  This day it was a shrimp salad on avocado with a louie dressing.  And it was good.  Very good.  It was big enough for a meal, especially when paired with little slices of dark raisin bread.

So good, in fact, that I decided to have it for dinner at home in the next day or two.

I bought a package of frozen little shrimp at the store, brought them home and divided the bag into two portions, one of which went into the freezer, the other into the fridge to thaw.  We had leftovers for dinner that night.

I was looking forward to the shrimp salad and when I was at Logos, I found the book "Bread Machine Magic, Book 2," the sequel to my bread making bible, "Bread Machine Magic."  That has been my bread guide for decades.  There was a time when all of us in he Women's Discussion forum on Compuserve got bread makers and we were all experimenting with bread, and we all decided that Bread Machine Magic was the best of the bread recipe books.

So I was happy to see Book 2.  I read cookbooks the way I read novels and sat there happily perusing recipes, thinking what kind of bread I could make to accompany my shrimp salad, when I decided to make it.

On Logos night, there would not be enough time to make focaccia unless we wanted to eat dinner at 10 p.m. I had some hamburger to use up, so I left the shrimp for tonight and made my old standard, "Joe Special" (hamburger browned and mixed with a package of chopped spinach, cooked, about 6 eggs, and some Parmesan cheese).  It goes together quickly and it's probably the dinner I make the most.

But today I had nothing to do and it was time to use the shrimp.  I was going to get the focaccia into the bread machine to make the dough at 4 p.m.  Before that, I whipped up some louie dressing, kind of making my own mixture of mayo, catsup, chili powder, Worcestershire, and a dash of Sriracha to give it a kick (that's a phrase I learned from the Food Network).

At 4, I got the ingredients into the new bread machine, given me by a Facebook friend who doesn't use it any more.  The timing would be perfect.  The dough would come out around 6 and I'd get it rolled out and rising before the final bake.  I'm never sure if this machine is going to work or not because it takes about 15 minutes before it starts, but it does work and it works well.

I was sitting there reading my latest Ruth Rendell book and listening to the bread machine mixing, then noticing when the mixing stopped and figured it would take about an hour to rise and then beep to let me know it was done.

All of a sudden, I leaped out of the chair.  SHIT!!!  The dough was beautiful, nicely formed, felt good...and I had forgotten to add the yeast.  How could I have forgotten the yeast?

Nothing to be done at that point.  I could either just throw this beautiful ball of dough out, or I could try to salvage it.

I decided to cook it anyway as a flatbread and figured that anything with a topping of butter and garlic couldn't be all that bad.  It looked fine in the oven except for the huge blister it developed in the last 15 minutes of baking.

But it was awful, in fact.  It was heavy and tasteless, despite the garlic. All it was, really, was flour, water and olive oil. Walt took a bite and agreed with me.

I'm not sure if I'll give it to the dogs with their morning kibble or just throw it out.  I suspect I'll just throw it out.  No need to make the dogs suffer too.

Fortunately the salad was a big hit and big enough that it filled Walt up without needing the focaccia after all.

My lovely, inedible flatbread

Friday, March 27, 2015

Imponderables and Logos

Before the lighthearted account of my day at Logos, I can't not mention things I don't understand.  How in God's name does a young man get on a plane knowing he plans to kill himself and more than 100 people?  Such a terrible, terrible tragedy.

I also can't wrap my head around two police officers, married or in a relationship, who beat their 3 month old baby so badly the child is now in a vegetative state and not expected to live.  What sort of monsters do something like that?

And it is beyond belief that the governor of Indiana has now signed legislation which makes discrimination legal in the state.  Businesses are now legally permitted to discriminate against gay people.  What's next?  Gay and straight water fountains?  Anybody gay must ride at the back of the bus?

These are the things that make me want to cry, even though I can do nothing about them. I almost wish I had a trip planned to Indiana just so I could cancel it.

But I can report on the fairly quiet day at Logos yesterday.  The most exciting thing that happened for the first half hour was a guy walking by the place outside playing a drum and the crowd of people, munching ice cream cones, standing around looking in the window at the display table.

A couple came in who was noteworthy.  She definitely should not wear a clinging shirt if she is going to go bra-less.  It's OK if you have perky breasts, but if your breasts tend to reach to you waist, wear something else!  As for him he was wearing those earrings that go in huge holes in your ear.
This isn't him, but this is what I'm talking about.  I had to look it up and found out they are called "gauges."  Reminds me of a Bozo the Clown record I had as a kid and the Ubangi warriors who stretched their lower lips to impossible sizes.  As I watched him walk around the store, I was trying to imagine him old enough to live at Atria and wondering what he would look like at "almost hunnert."

There was a very thin young Chinese woman with her UCD hat worn backwards on her head and her arms crossed tightly across her chest as she browsed.  She ended up buying a book called "You're Less Dumb than you Think" and her friend bought Khaled Hosseini's "A Thousand Splendid Suns."

A young man was carrying a large piece of abstract artwork in pastel colors that, from a distance, looked like a visualization of an audio recording.  His arms were covered in tattoos.  I wonder, too, what he will feel like at Atria with the gouge guy!

A young woman needed a bathroom, but ours is not for customers so I sent her across the street.  Usually customers like that don't return, but she did later.

A father and son (looked kind of like Harry Potter in his glasses) were looking for a specific series of kids' books, which we did not have, so I sent him to the new bookstore down the street.

A woman wearing an eye-blinding combination of a very bright tie dyed shirt and a short cream and black colored skirt with a busy leaf pattern on it came in to donate a book about crocodile hunter Steve Irwin.  She wanted to know if we would be interested or not, since he had been dead for so long.

A couple came in.  She was looking for a book on hair braiding, but didn't find one.  Her companion bought three books on playing chess.

The next couple was a study in denim, as they were both dressed in denim from head to toe.  Her jacket and pants were heavily embroidered with a lovely design and she wore tall leather boots, also with a design cut into them.  She had platinum colored hair and dripped silver, from the 3 earrings on each ear to the multiple necklaces, bracelets and rings that she wore.  

Her partner, whose brown hair was twice as long as hers, was also in heavily embroidered denim, but his was more raggedy than hers.  He had many rings with very large stones.  The two of them sat at the front table and he read to her for awhile.  He finally bought "Le Mot Juste," a dictionary of foreign words and phrases, and a cowboy dictionary (didn't realize there were enough words specific to cowboys to warrant a whole dictionary!)

My friend arrived at 4:30 and bought a coffee table type book on the Tower of London.

The next interesting looking couple (who did not buy anything) was a guy wearing a shirt that said "The enemy's gate is down."  She wore an ankle-length skirt made of some sort of lightweight grey jersey material and a black camisole.  She had a tattoo on her back, below her shoulder and aqua flip flops.

The last customer was a grandma with her granddaughter, who looked to be about a year old, in a stroller.  She bought four kids' books while the little girl was gleefully saying 'Mama, Mama' over and over again, like it was a new word she had just learned and wanted to try out.

There was a poetry reading scheduled for the night so Susan arrived early with munchies and did some book shelving of donated books while I worked the last half hour.

It was not a big money day, but there was a goodly share of people of interest, and I made a big dent in the book that I'm reading.  This is the third week for this Ruth Rendell mystery and I should finish it before my next day at Logos.  I finished my last book, "Trousering Your Weasel" yesterday.  One of the funniest books of essays you'll ever want to read. I so wish I could write like that!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Creatures of Habit

Some folks have a regular routine that they follow every day -- breakfast at the same time, lunch at the same time, dinner at the same time, washing on Monday, ironing (ironing? on Tuesday), dusting on Wednesday, etc.

I have never been that kind of a person, and more's the pity for it.  But I do have a nighttime routine, one perhaps I wish I did not have.

The night starts out with the dog sandwich.  I settle myself on the couch like the patty in a hamburger.  Lizzie, who lies on the table behind the couch is the top part of the bun.  Sheila, after she walks, first west, and then east in front of my prone figure so I can skritch first her backside and then her head and chest, lies down on the floor alongside the couch and is the bottom part of the bun.  Polly, who immediately crawls under my blanket and curls herself into a ball on about my waist, is the "pickle."

We all fall asleep like this.  At some point, Lizzie moves to a chair, Sheila may or may not crawl under a table, and Polly may or may not move to either a chair or the table that Lizzie has left.

At some point midway through the night I wake up.  I'm wide awake.  I sit up and Polly moves to the spot I vacated and I cover her with the blanket.  I sit on the side of the couch and try to determine if I'm wide awake-awake, or if I'm just sorta wide awake.  If I decide I'm sorta wide awake and could really fall back asleep, I move my pillow to the opposite end of the couch and lie down there stealing a little corner of the blanket from Polly.

However, if I'm wide awake-awake (or if I have to visit the bathroom), I then move to the recliner in the family room, passing en route through the kitchen so I can see what time it is (hoping for 4 a.m., fearing for 2 a.m.), where I cover up with a quilt and try to go back to sleep.  After awhile I hear the pitter patter of little feet and there is Polly.  She's weird, this little dog.  If I'm asleep (or feigning sleep) she leaps right up onto the chair.  If she knows I'm awake, she sits there and whines and whines until I encourage her to jump up and then she makes half a dozen 'practice' jumps before she actually gets onto the chair, as if she's not sure she can really make it that high.

Once in the chair, she digs her way under the quilt and squirms and squirms and squirms until she finds the place she wants to sleep and the comfortable position she wants to sleep in.  Sometimes this involves walking across my stomach and settling on the right side instead of the left.

If I am not asleep, I am aware that within half an hour, Lizzie has come in from the living room and settled herself in the other recliner (If I am asleep, I don't notice this until morning). Sheila may or may not arrive wanting to go outside.  I open the door for her and then she, too, settles in the family room, on the Chihuahua-sized bed there (I really must buy a bigger dog bed for that spot!).   We are, after all, a "pack" and the pack sleeps together.

As for me, it's a toss-up whether I go back to sleep or not.  Sometimes I have the TV off but if an hour has passed and I'm not asleep, I may turn on the Hallmark Channel, with reruns of Golden Girls, Frasier and Cheers.  When I Love Lucy comes on, I know it's 5 a.m. and I change the channel.  For some reason I just can't stand that show.  I know it's the most popular show in television history, but I'm not into either slapstick or put down humor and Lucy's voice is so irritating it's like nails on a chalkboard to my ears.  So after 5 a.m., it's the local news up until The Today Show.

Sometimes, like last night when I went to sleep early, I may watch something that was recorded during the night instead of the Hallmark line-up.  Or I may choose something that I know is boring in the hope it will put me to sleep (any Jane Austen movie is sure to do that)

If I'm lucky, at some point during all this TV, I will fall asleep.  But on nights like tonight, when I've tried to sleep for 3 hours, I end up writing blog entries at 5 a.m., disappointing Sheila who was sure that when I stood up, I was headed back to the couch (poor Sheila is so attentive and gets so frustrated with my nocturnal habits!)

When morning comes, the dogs are incredibly polite.  They don't move until I do.  With my iPad at my elbow, I can check e-mail, Facebook, and That's My Answer all without them realizing I'm awake.  I can (and have) gotten away with that for as late as 9 a.m., if Walt doesn't come downstairs.
But the second my hand hits the lever that lowers the leg rest of the recliner, Polly starts her "she's awake! she's awake!" bark, Sheila and Lizzie come running for morning loving and when I stand up I practically get knocked over by joyous dogs leaping on me, knowing that breakfast is about to be served.

Once dog breakfast has been served, all semblance of routine and order around here end and it's all random, except for Walt and me settling in to watch Jeopardy every night.

I guess this is what it is to be old and set in your ways, whether human or canine.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Do Nuns Eat?

The first nun I ever met was Sister Mary St. Patrice, my kindergarten teacher.  She was a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, an order which I believe originated in Ireland, though the sisters I had for grammar school were not Irish.  I was four years old and I don't remember what my first impression of her was, so I guess I wasn't too traumatized.  I recall she was a very nice, gentle lady.

You wonder what sadist decided that the holy women who do God's work, whether teaching or nursing, should wear such outlandish costumes.

I don't have a clue what the significance of this habit was, but it had that hard tightly pleated/stiffly starched piece that went around the face, with a strap that fit under the chin, and a tight starched collar around the neck and the big stiff box over it all and a veil on top of that.  Then there was the black dress that went down to the ankles, a kind of a long bib that went over the top, and the rosaries around the waist.  There were tales of nuns bonking kids on the head with the large crucifix, but I don't think I knew of any such event personally.

They were all bald, of course.  We didn't know that for a fact, but we assumed that taking the veil meant shaving your head.  It was a shock years later when I saw The Nun's Story and realized the hair was just clipped very, very short.  We weren't sure if they had ears or not, but since some wore glasses and the earpieces hid behind the headgear, we assumed they probably rested on hidden ears.

When I got to high school, we were taught by Daughters of Charity, "God's geese," as they were affectionately known. Anybody who remembers Sister Bertrile, "the flying nun" has encountered the Daughters.

Different costume, same problem.  Only it was worse for the Daughters because it was difficult to know how close you were to a wall or a door or another sister (these were "sisters," not "nuns" we were taught, but I have long ago forgotten the difference). I suppose if you wore the habit for any length of time you got your own sense of radar for spatial situations, but I wore the habit for a career day one year and I could see neither to the right nor to the left and if I hadn't had someone to guide me along, I don't know that I ever would have gotten anywhere.

The headpieces were called "cornettes" and they were washed, starched and folded in the laundry at the school I attended.  But I don't think that as a grammar school child I ever gave a thought to how the nuns kept their clothes clean.  I think I thought the angels probably did it.

In fact, you couldn't imagine holy women doing anything that us mere mortals did.  I know for a fact that they never went to the bathroom. There was no nuns' bathroom in the school and we certainly never saw them in any of our own bathrooms.  (I didn't know about such things in grammar school, but I'm sure that no nun ever had a menstrual period!)

I remember being scandalized once when I saw a black stocking-covered ankle on a nun whose skirt was just  tad shorter than the others, so that there was actual flesh--covered flesh, to be sure--between her hem and her shoe.

The Daughters wore heavy woolen habits and it was probably a clue that I didn't really have a vocation when the only thing that worried me about leaving home and joining the convent was how I would cope with a hot, humid St. Louis summer in wool.

I'm sure the BVMs drove a car, but I never saw it.  The Daughters had a car, a large station wagon, and  they had clips they used to bring both tips of the cornette together and clip them so they could fit inside the car.  Lord only knows how they saw anything behind them, especially if there were a gaggle of geese inside the car!

In San Francisco, there was a benefit to wearing habits.  Out of gratitude for the work nuns did during the 1906 earthquake and fire, they were given free bus rides forever.  All a nun or sister had to do was board pubic transportation and they never paid a dime.

We never saw nuns eat, but given the size of a couple of my teachers, I'm sure they got their share of food.  But we knew it was a sin if we ever saw them putting food into their mouths.

In my senior year in high school, my plan had been to enter the convent but I needed to prepare for college.  To do that, I needed to take Algebra II, which the school didn't offer, so dear little Sister Benedicta tutored me every afternoon after regular class (I was a terrible student....still can't understand the math concepts she tried so patiently to teach me), but my make-shift classroom was right by the door that led into the sisters' living quarters and I got to glimpse a bit of their non-school lives, not enough to see anything (still never saw them eat), but enough to wonder if I was sinning by seeing what I was seeing. 

It was quite a change when I was an adult sometime in the 1980s and was in St. Louis for a meeting.  My typing teacher and lifelong friend was retired by then and living in a retirement house a few hours away.  She drove in to St. Louis to get me and bring me back to the house to spend the night, so we could get caught up.  What a revelation!  By now the cornettes were gone and the hems were shorter (but still below the knee) and the sisters had more physical freedom in their clothing.  They had a swimming pool.  (Nuns swim? Who knew?)  But the thing that got me was visiting the convent BREWERY and learning that Sister Anne was the brewmaster.  In fact, after dinner that night (yes, I ate with the sisters and can attest that they do eat) she came back to the guest house with a couple of bottles of her special beer and we sat there drinking and visiting.  It was surreal.

She's gone now and I miss her.  She died about 20 years ago.  But I still have fond memories of my time at the retirement home and feeling like a little kid getting a peek at all that forbidden stuff that I knew was sinful when I was in school.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sunday Stealing

The I Meme

Stolen from: The Archives

I am...
A woman, a wife, a mother, a grandmother

I want...
World peace and a clean house
I have...
overcome a lot of loss in my life...and I'm still here

I wish...
Congresscritters could return to the days of bipartesan agreement on anything

I hate...
Homophobia, Bigotry, Stupidity, liver, and Donald Trump

I fear...
becoming incapable of caring for myself

I hear...
The sound of coffee brewing

I search...
for the mates to all my unmatched socks

I wonder...
If Congress will ever do anything substantive

I regret...
not finishing college

I love...
spending time with our granddaughters

I never...
sleep the whole night through

I ache...
all over when I first get up in the morning

I always...
think there's a band, kid

I usually...
read whenever I have any empty time

I am not...
a good housekeeper

I dance...
like the hippos in Fantasia

I sing...
not nearly as well as I did when I was younger

I sometimes...
wonder what life would be like if I had gone into the convent

I cry...
at the least little thing

I am not always...
as patient as I should be

I lose...
lots of things all the time

I am confused...
By what in the world is in the mind of some politicians
I need...
positive reinforcement

I should...
get packed up for the long drive home.

Monday, March 23, 2015


We got to Tom & Laurel's for breakfast a bit after 9 and the kitchen was a beehive of activity, as Lacie was making pumpkin pancakes and Brianna was making regular pancakes, both with Jeri's assistance, Tom was making coffee and cooking sausage and Laurel and the girls had picked blood oranges off their tree for fresh orange juice and Laurel was busy squeezing them.

Tom has always used cooking as a teaching tool and Brianna knows so much about cooking already.  She can tell you about mis en place and mirepoix, she can cook pancakes on the griddle by herself.  I've seen her do such complicated cooking procedures and love watching Tom (and Laurel) teaching both of the girls how to do it all safely, and why they choose the healthy foods they do.

Lacie is such an organized, regimented 3 year old.  After breakfast she wanted us to read books to her (she has always been a voracious reader).  But she laid out a series of books all over the floor and then picked them one by one to say who she wanted to read which book.

We each had our turn, and as we took our turn, she would then put the read book on a chair, get a new book and choose which of us got to read the new book to her.

Jeri got to read the first book, then me, then Walt.

She eventually got to Tom, but he was busy using the basketball tournament to help Bri learn how to do math in her head (she's very good in math!). Tom says she's even better with football scores.
Brianna is a whiz at some computer games and everybody watched her solve some of the adult-level picture puzzles.

In time we went to the Farmer's Market to pick up veggies for the week, and for tonight's dinner.  So cute watching the kids walking with Jeri.

There were kids performing on the courtyard and Jeri and Bri, and eventually everyone sat and watched them do a medley from Frozen (which the girls had already done here at home before we went to the market)

We ended up at "Blenders in the Grass," for "smoothlies" (Lacie corrected me when I erroneously said "smoothy") and then to our respective houses for our respective naps until time for dinner.

At 5, we went back to Tom & Laurel's where they were in the middle of putting together Pho (pronounced "fuh"), a Vietnamese noodle soup, this version with chicken and fun toppings like mint, basil, cilantro, lime, chilis.  Delicious.

As usual, there were books to read.

Lacie also drew this picture, which she says is her "homework."

The biggest figure is Jeri's dog Lester (you can tell it's a dog by the ears on top of her head).  The figure in red is Jeri, wearing a dress.  The figure in black is Phil, who has brown eyes, though you can hardly see them.  Also, Lacie spelled out "Lester" on the top right corner, though it takes some imagination and concentration to make it all out!

After baths. Lacie had to tell me a "little scary story."  

She was very intent, very dramatic and knew exactly what her story was about and where it was going, but I couldn't hear a word she said because she said it in a voice softer than a whisper.  I told Laurel I hoped there wouldn't be a test!

So our weekend is coming to an end.  Jeri flies off to Boston tomorrow (Alice Nan is driving her to the Los Angeles airport), Tom and Laurel go to work, Brianna and Lacie go to school.  With nobody to play with, there is nothing left for us to do but drive home.

Ashley tells me she wasn't able to coordinate with our server, so we will still be without wifi when we get there so my Tuesday is already planned!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Adrenalin Keeps You Going

22 March 2015
I was favorably impressed at how much Brianna's baseball playing abilities have improved in a year.  (Photo by her other grandma)

We went to her softball game today and she is one of the best hitters on the team and definitely one of the best runners (this may be, Laurel tells me, because when you misbehave in her classroom, you have to run laps on the school playground, so she's had lots of practice!)  In fact, after being "scouted," she was just picked to be a substitute on another team, so she may end up playing two games on some Saturdays.

But all the girls on her team have learned how to play their various positions, most can hit a pitched ball and they were all head and shoulders above their opposing team today.

Many have not played T-ball, so this is their first experience with baseball.  Bri, who was on the  all-boys T-ball team last year, has a leg up on all of the girls who are just learning the game.

I had to laugh at the other team, though.  Their girls wore pink batting helmets, used pink bats and many had pink shoes.  The smallest on their team makes diminutive Bri look big and she was so small that whenever she swung the bat, it pulled her around in a circle with it!  Such fun!

Tom was one of the coaches (3rd base),  This is a job he was destined to do...coach his child's sports team...and he was in his glory.

 After the game, we went to our respective homes and napped, then regrouped at Tom and Laurel's for a family birthday party for Bri, who turns 7 next week.  She had party games, like Limbo

...and demonstrations of feats of strength.

Everyone had to perform, and some of the "acts" were hilarious (especially Auntie Nan as a cheerleader).  Then it was time to make pizza and pasta.  Bri is getting to be an old hand at making pasta.

Even Grandma got to test her hand at making pasta.

As for Lacie, she is very particular about how pepperoni is arranged on her pizza.

Our dinner was not only beautiful, but delicious too.

After dinner there was music.  Brianna is learning to play the bass guitar and she and Jeri did some jammin' 
And, of course, since this was a birthday party, the evening ended with cake.

I don't know how those girls kept going through the busy day they had.  The adults were exhausted.  Bri finally hit the wall around 9 and we took our cue and came home to collapse ourselves.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Today was a crazy day.  The plan was to leave for Santa Barbara sometime between 10 and 11.  But there was so much to be done first.  With first my computer problems and then Walt's computer problems (he's now dealing with the guru), and Jeri arriving, and so many shows to review and a feature article to write...things just kind of got away from us ... me, more than Walt, who has been doing the yeoman's share of getting the house cleaned up for Ashley and David to move in.

Jeri planned to go to Atria at 8 and have breakfast with my mother and then we would pick her up on the way out of town. But I was dubious about the "8" part.  She says she's always up at 7, but I don't believe it.  And, in fact, Jeri decided to make it 9, called her at 8:30 to let her know she was coming and woke her up.
While waiting, she made yet another attempt to make friends with Polly, who is much more willing to be friendly if food is involved, but the minute Jeri stands up, it's bark-bark-bark all the time again.

In the meantime I was still struggling with no Internet and trying to decide where I could go to post yesterday's journal entry...and then in a doh moment remembered that Atria has wifi, so I drove Jeri over to my mother's and planned to do the few things I had to do on the internet and then go home and finish the other things I had to do.

We took our annual "Grandma and Jeri" photo and Jeri had to take a Baldy and Grandma picture.

Unfortunately, the Atria wifi was being temperamental and I got this journal uploaded but it stalled when I tried to upload Airy Persiflage.  I completely forgot that I needed to e-mail the article I finished writing at 1 a.m. to the Enterprise.

I went off to the store and bought goodies for Ashley and then came home to call Omsoft Technical help.  I ended up practically in tears and pulling the "old age" card by wailing "Look.  I'm 72 years old and I just can't follow what you're saying," as he tossed question after question to me that I couldn't answer.  

Ultimately, he agreed to send someone out to fix the router, if Ashley will let him know when it's convenient for her.  In the meantime, Walt managed to connect the modem to the computer so at least my desktop has internet access and I could upload Airy Persiflage and send my article to the newspaper.

I wrote a long note to Ashley telling her about certain things and then discovered that when Steve set up the new computer, he set the printer to be wireless, which means I can print from any wireless device, but I can't print if there is no wifi.  So I left the note on the computer screen and left Ashley a note to check the screen to read it!

There was still the house to be cleaned.  Walt was working like a champ, gathering mountains of dog hair and dustbunnies, changing the linens on the guest bed and anything else that needed to be done.  I found the kitchen table under all the stuff piled on it, folded some laundry and did a little cleaning in the guest bathroom.  I also packed my suitcase and got ready to leave.

We finally got on the road at 1 p.m. and picked Jeri up at Atria.  The plan was to drive down I-5 and then cut over to 101 using Hwy 37 (the highway on which James Dean was killed--there is a small memorial to him there), which, in previous years, has presented a glorious display of wildflowers in wet years.  Someone had posted a photo on Facebook of an unbelievable field of poppies which looked like it was in the area I was thinking of.

Jeri had mentioned wanting to try 5 Guys for burgers for lunch and there are several locations along 101, but only two along I-5.  We tried our GPS to find the first one and though it got the address right, it led us to a cul de sac of private homes instead of a fast food joint.  We gave up and headed for the next one, which ended up being about 15-20 miles out of our way.  Jeri decided that since it was now about 3 p.m. and we still had about 6 hours of driving ahead of us, 5 Guys was not a priority.

We found a Carl's Junior, and as we pulled into the parking lot, I was checking my "boycott" list of businesses run by the Koch Brothers.  Carl's Junior was one of them, but at that point I decided I just didn't care.  I would give them my business.  But just this once.  (It was heartening, though, to see that of all the fast food joints in this particular area, this was the one with almost no customers)

When I returned from a trip to the ladies' room, Walt and Jeri looked so cute, I had to take their photo.

Just 90 miles until we turned off onto Hwy 37.  I got my camera ready.  It is an hour from I-5 to 101 and the wildflower place is about halfway, so I waited patiently.  And waited.  And waited.  There were no wildflowers.  Well, that's not true.  Jeri saw ONE poppy, but the colorful fields I had hoped to see were nothing but brown grass.  Such a disappointment.

But we continued our way down 101 to Santa Barbara and it was so good to get here finally.  Jeri got a chance to show Alice Nan and Joe the photos on her iPad from her record-shattering Boston winter.

And there is wifi here, so I don't have to deal with anything technological for two days.  In the morning we are going to watch Brianna play softball, which I know will be fun.

I hope my bald head doesn't scare the kids!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Today at Logos

Well, lord knows when this will be posted.  My server did an upgrade that is going to make things faster and cheaper.  There's only one thing wrong:  I now have no internet connection at all.

They planned it really well.  They sent out a notice when it was to be done and that it would be finished by the end of March 19.  They sent a telephone number to call if I had problems.  When I got home from Logos at 6 p.m., it didn't work (we had been without internet all day).  I called and was told that it was guaranteed to be fixed by 8 p.m.  I asked if I would be able to call them if there were problems after 8 and was told that no, they were closing their office at 8.

So 8 came and went, and there is no internet.  I know it's probably a simple fix but...the office is closed, so I can't get it fixed.

But I have to get it fixed in the morning because Ashley and her husband are moving in tomorrow when we go to Santa Barbara and I don't want to leave her without wifi.  I am started to feel very technologically defeated.

BUT, it was Logos day, so I spent the day unable to worry about it.  As days go, it wasn't all that busy, but there were some nice interactions.

When I got there, my friend Peg was there waiting for me.  She was the one who used to live at Atria and then moved to a new place on the other side of town.  We had a really good visit about all sorts of things...and she got to feel my fuzzy head.  While we were talking a woman from Montana joined us.  She was also "of an age" and could identify with the themes we were discussing.  She ended up buying two books of plays and one of short stories.

Peg had to leave quickly when the bus she had called for arrived to pick her up, but it sure was nice to have time with her again.

A woman bought a book of Emily Dickenson poems and a student bought a bargain book.  A few folks were in the store when Bruce came in.  All in white, as usual, but dingy this time, as if they needed cleaning.  He had a low slung white sweatshirt around his hips and had made a new hat for himself.  He didn't say hello this time though and he didn't buy anything.

Customers came and went.  A guy brought in some books to donate, carrying them in an Olaf (from Frozen) bag, but had to unload them because he didn't want to give up his bag.  A guy who looked like any of the thugs that Wallace Beery played in the 40s came in.  You'd expect him to buy a book on monster trucks or guns or something, but he bought "The Alchemist" and "The Bridges of Madison County."  Don't judge a book...or a person...by its cover!

A woman came looking for a book titled "Guns, Germs and Steel," which we did not have, but it sounded like an intriguing title.  I'd look it up but, you know, I have no wifi.

The guy who runs one of the newer theaters in town came in and asked if he could post a notice about auditioning for their next show.  He didn't recognize bald me but I told him who I was and we had a rather long conversation about his problems with the facility they had been using, his frustration trying to find another place to perform (and, more important, to rehearse) and the history of theater in Davis.  He is such an intense, dedicated guy and looks so terribly defeated by the brick walls he has continued to run into.  I hope he sticks with it because his theater fills a theatrical niche not otherwise filled in Davis and I would love to see it grow.

An old guy wearing shorts, sandals with white socks, with "white monk's hair" (imagine a monk's haircut in white and wispy and you get the picture).  He had a camera slung around his neck, so I assumed he was not a local.  He asked if I was the owner and I explained I was a volunteer, which shocked him. I told him about the policy of the store, donating to charity and that all of us who worked there were volunteers. He said that he "loved to meander around book stores" and asked where our books come from.  Then he meandered and as he passed by my desk, I could tell he smelled of baby powder.  Ultimately he left without buying anything, but said he would return.

My friend showed up at 5.  He told me he was kind of rushed, but that he had come to see my new hairdo.  He found a book by the publishing company he collects (Tuttle Books) and when I asked him how he happened to start collecting those books, he pulled up a chair and sat down and we had a nice visit about books, collections, and other stuff.  We've never really had a visit before. 

After he left, I noticed that the radio station which plays in the background was playing one of my favorite classical pieces, based on "La Chi Darem la Mano," (I think that's right, but won't know until I get...you know...internet access!!)

Jeri is having breakfast with my mother in the morning before we take off for Santa Barbara.  I just remembered that Atria has wifi.  Maybe I'll go there and post this then....

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Kingdom of Lost Socks

I'm convinced that there is somewhere a Kingdom of Lost Socks, a place where little sock monkeys go out in the night, sneak into people's homes, and somehow remove socks from the dryers as they are being dried.
I don't know why they need the socks.  Perhaps it is very cold where they live.  And I also don't know why they only take one sock, but maybe because they don't want to be greedy.  Or maybe they are just mischievous enough that they want to cause consternation.

Whatever.  I have been hit hard by the sock monkeys lately.

It was a lovely day, yesterday. Jeri got up in the morning and looked out the back door and said "you mean I can just open the door and walk outside."  She didn't need parka or gloves or hat or boots.  Just walked outside and enjoyed the sun, that strange phenomenon in the sky which has not visited Boston in awhile.
She spent the morning with my mother, so I had the "day off."  I know my mother was disappointed that I didn't join them, but I had a lunch date with my friend Kathy, our monthly visit.  We tried a new Davis restaurant this time and I ordered a Thai chicken salad, which was ok as a salad, but there was nothing Thai about it.  No cilantro, no Thai seasonings, no peanuts on top (which was promised in the menu).  I was disappointed.  

At night, we went to San Francisco to join Charlotte for dinner and the SF symphony.  It was a program of Handel (Water Music) and Haydn (Trumpet Concerto in E-flat Major and Symphony No. 98 in B-flat major).

Mark Inouye, principal trumpet for the symphony played the Trumpet Concerto and it was perfect that Jeri was there because Mark is an old friend of hers.  Actually, his brother Steve was her friend and they were in bands together in high school.

We told Char about the "Rebel Band" they formed out of frustration with their band teacher.  They would march at local events, dressed in camouflage uniforms.  Walt remembered that Mark's brother played the xylophone which they somehow rigged on a wheeled platform that someone could push for him.  Kind of like Woody Allen playing the cello in Take the Money and Run.

Mark was a talented kid from the get go.  I remember when Wynton Marsalis came to town and Mark had the opportunity to play with him.  He went off to college to study engineering before admitting that his real love was music, so he attended Julliard and graduated from there.

He's been principal trumpet in several orchestras and has traveled all over the world performing.  He's in his late 40s now but I still think of him as the kid I knew when he was growing up.

What I remember most about Mark was the "party" he and his brothers held for their dying mother.  She was in the last days of her cancer, her husband having died of a heart attack a couple of years before.  The kids rented the city's mobile stage and set it up in their back yard and invited all of their mother's friends to come for food and music -- all three of the boys played instruments and they played all afternoon. We all got a chance to say goodbye to their mother and I told her how proud she should be of her sons.

It was the way a funeral should be...while the about-to-be-deceased can enjoy it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

7 Deadly Sins of Reading

I'm getting ready to answer some questions for a SwapBot swap and thought I'd test it out here.  I'm supposed to answer the following questions.
  • GREED: What is your most expensive book? Most inexpensive book?
  • WRATH: What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?
  • GLUTTONY: What book have you deliciously devoured over and over with no shame whatsoever?
  • SLOTH: What book have you neglected reading due to laziness?
  • PRIDE: What books do you most talk about in order to sound like a very intellectual reader?
  • LUST: What attributes do you find most attractive in male or female characters?
  • ENVY: What books would you most like to receive as a gift?
Maybe THE most expensive book I own is the one I typed -- "Fundamentals of Statistical and Thermal Physics," a textbook by Frederick Reif.  I don't remember how much it cost when it was published in about 1965, but it is still being sold today for $107.  You can get it second hand for $76.  Of course my copy is autographed, so it is probably worth more.  I looked up reader comments on the book on Amazon today and was pleased to read this comment:  "For a book that never saw a second edition, it is remarkably free of typos and errata."  Yay me!

As for the most inexpensive book, there are some that I have purchased on line for 1 cent.  The postage to mail them was significantly more than the cost of the book!

The love-hate relationship is with two authors:  James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell.  Patterson because he was one of my favorite authors before he started becoming an "industry," co-authoring with others and cranking out two or three books a year.  I strongly suspect that his "co-author-ship" consists of putting his name on the cover.  Some of them (Like "Zoo," the worst of the lot!) are godawful, but some still retain the magic that they had when I first discovered him.  Detective Alex Cross deserves better treatment than he has been getting lately

As to Patricia Cornwell things happened when she wrote "Blow Fly," which was the first dreadful book of hers.  I keep hoping to find what I found in her first several books, and occasionally there is a spark of the old Cornwell, but usually I am disappointed.  Again.  Kay Scarpetta seems to fare all right, but what Cornwell has allowed to happen to Merino and to her niece Lucy is unforgivable.

As for gluttony, it would have to be the "Outlander" series by Diana Gabaldon, of course.  I've read the books more than once and listen to the audio books frequently.  It's my go-to thing to listen to in the car if I'm not currently listening to a new book, and at the book store, if I only have an hour to read, I'll pick up one the books and just read at random.

My slothful confession is I have often not finished the more serious books, even those I really want to read, like Rachel Maddow's book.  I tend to be very shallow and stick with the easy to read thrillers.

Pride, hmmm?  Well any of the aforementioned "more serious" books that I actually finished I'm more likely to mention than to say that I read Rob Lowe's autobiography.

I like my female characters to have spunk and pride and to be able to survive on their own, if necessary.  I like the men to be gentle and polite and have a good sense of humor...and totally devoted to the women to whom they are attracted. And definitely not into S&M or sucking anybody's blood ("50 Shades" or "The Twilight Series")

The books on my Amazon wish list are usually the more expensive ones, usually something to do with show biz, either movies or theater, like "As You Wish: Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride," or Alan Cumming's autobiography, or "Nothing Like a Dame: Conversations with the Great Women of Musical Theater."

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Graduation Day

Deb, my therapist, and I parted company today.  It was bittersweet.  I've really enjoyed her a lot, and she enjoyed me, so there were hugs and she asked me to keep in touch and to come back if I felt I needed to talk again.

I was so lucky in getting her as a therapist. I remember when I had my first appointment back in December.  I had made an appointment with a woman I had picked at random.  She was young and thin and blonde.  When this short, chunky, middle-aged brunette came out into the waiting room to get me, I was confused, but I figured one therapist I didn't know was as good as another that I didn't know.

We bonded instantly.  

I had decided to talk with a therapist to help me deal with my response to my mother's dementia, and also, to a lesser degree, come to some peace with all the losses in our lives over the past few years.

Just getting it all talked out was a tremendous relief.  I don't really have a sounding board in my life, except for Char, who is too far away to chat with most of the time.  And getting the opportunity to say everything I needed to say to someone non-judgmental was a tremendous help.

She also started me on an antidepressant and suggested I might just stick with it indefinitely.  It has made a 1000% improvement in my mood overall.  I'm taking the lowest dose and I noticed within a week that I wasn't so morose any more, nor have I been since then.  I also started taking my other medications, which I had not been taking, regularly again.

The other problem I had with meds before is that I was reluctant to take them because of the low grade nausea that I seemed to have all the time.  But for some reason, there has been no nausea at all this time, so I don't even think about skipping my meds.  And as a result, my blood sugars have come down significantly.

She said today that she noticed a huge change in my attitude.  Where I had been very down and internal, now I seem to be up and external and that was a good sign.  In truth, we might have ended our session at the last appointment, but I decided I wanted to see her one more time to show off my new bald head.  She wants the St. Baldrick web site URL so she can donate, which touched me tremendously.

She has short spiky hair herself and I told her that when my hair gets as long as hers, I'll try that look and see if it works for me.

After I left Deb, I drove to Atria to drop off my mother's laundry, which I had picked up and washed the day before.  I didn't know what reaction I was going to get when she opened the door, but she opened the door and said "Oh.  You got a haircut.  It's very short."

Sigh.  Better than acting like I'd tossed dog feces at her face, I guess!

Someone visited her this week and brought one of those metallic coffee mugs, which I found on the floor next to the chair where I always sit.  I asked who had come to see her and, of course, she didn't remember anybody and said she assumed the cup was mine.  When I said that it was not, she thought maybe Jeri had left it, though Jeri won't be here until tomorrow night.

So I don't have a clue who visited her and that always makes me sad because to hear her tell it, I'm the only one who ever comes to see her, and I'd like to find who else does!  I know Ed does, but he's down to about once every month and a half now because he's found out about the drive I used to make 3 times a week for many years!

Monday, March 16, 2015

An "Animated" Discussion

Turner Classic Movies was having some sort of mini Disney festival yesterday, starting with Darby O'Gill and the Little People, a story of an old man who cavorts with leprechauns, but isn't believed because ... you know ... leprechauns.  

I watched a lot of it, but finally gave up because, honesty, Darby's teeth bothered me.

(You can't see the upper ones, some of which are missing).  I was wondering what it must have been like to see his face on the theater screen.  Might have given little kids nightmares.

Sean Connery was in the film and I almost didn't recognize him for a long time until he smiled and raised those unmistakable eyebrows.  He must have been a little kid when he made this movie.

Later in the evening, TMC ran the full length movie, The Three Caballeros, starring Donald Duck and his pals, Jose Carioca, a Brasilian parrot and Panchito Pistoles, a Mexican rooster.

This 1945 movie was the first animation that Disney made after Bambi, made in 1942.  The financial problems during the war, and the need to make ready cash had Disney making less time consuming movies instead.
They were also letting their stars perform in war-related movies...

But The Three Caballeros  was a return to full length animation, in addition to some of the most ingenious photographic processes, blending live action with animation, that had been seen to date.  Mixing animation with live action goes back to silent film (anybody remember the Out of the Inkwell cartoons?)

It was Disney animator Ub Iwerks who developed the technique which would allow the three caballeros to interact seamlessly with humans in the movie.

It was a technique which would continue to improve through the 1946 movie Song of the South

and reach its height with Mary Poppins and the dancing penguins.

I learned this stuff and lots more when I was working at The Lamplighters.  My friend Gilbert Russak, actor, director, musical director, conductor, was one of the most intelligent men I knew...and he loved animation.  It was his passion. On the days I worked in San Francisco, we would frequently go out to dinner, stopping first at his apartment, where we would spend an hour or so watching cartoons.  He had lots of books about animation and knew the most interesting trivia.  He lived by a book called "Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons" (by Leonard Maltin), which he referred to almost every day to share some new bit of trivia that he thought about.

As much as he loved Disney animation, particularly the Silly Symphonies his all time favorite cartoon character was Betty Boop.  He loved Betty Boop and had lots of VHS tapes of some of her cartoons.

It was from Gilbert that I learned that Betty started her life as a dog and that in her very earliest appearances, she had long ears, which eventually morphed into earrings.

I loved those discussions I used to have with Gilbert.  I don't watch cartoons much at all any more, but I remember fondly my years sitting with Gilbert and learning about animation.  We attended an animation festival held in San Francisco a couple of years and I remember the first computer animation that we saw.  It was a simple, brief cartoon that had some sort of a ball moving through the screen.  He was fascinated, but we agreed it would take too much money to ever be feasible.

How amazed he would be to see where animation has come in 30 years!