Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pass the Chop Sticks Again, Please

The first Wednesday after we came back from China, when I was supposed to be meeting my friend Ruth for our bi-weekly lunch, I told her I just didn't want to go to our usual restaurant. We eat at The Great Wall, which is a lovely Chinese buffet, affordable every two weeks.

But...Chinese? Already? I wasn't up for an American Chinese buffet.

We went to Baja California, which is about as far from a Chinese buffet as you can get. It was a nice burrito, but, actually, I missed the Great Wall.

Today it was time for lunch again and we were going back to our usual schedule. Only Walt was in San Francisco seeing das Rheingold, the last of the Ring Cycle that he hadn't seen. He saw them all out of order this time around, but at least he got to see them all.

So when Ruth called to confirm our lunch date, I told her she would have to pick me up, which she was happy to do. I loved her little self-painted yellow VW bug. Not sure how old it is, but probably very old. It rattled along like all the VWs I remember from my years in Berkeley...but it got us there. Ruth's handicap placard lets us park anywhere, so we were able to park right in front of the front door of the restaurant.

I read recently that the restaurant had changed hands. We had noticed the last few times we were there that things seemed to be different. Basically it's pretty much the same food and the same setting, but there is a certain "something" that's different. I think I noticed it most in the rock-hard won ton, which I didn't finish. I didn'tfinish fried won ton.

But other than that it was OK...same old reliable food.

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Ruth gave me "gifts from someone who never goes anywhere," as a thank you for the little things I brought her from Russia last year and China this year. She gave me a Judy Garland magnet, a beautiful butterfly scarf that she made herself, and a necklace to match the emerald earrings I bought in China. What a sweet thing for her to do!

Shortly after I returned home, I had a disturbing phone call, relating the news that someone I love very much is quite ill and may be dying sooner rather than later. It's terrible to hear such news when you are all alone. There was nobody to call who knows her and who would understand what I was feeling. I finally called my mother just because I had to talk with someone. I knew that this day was coming but when it actually gets here it's still a shock. I have talked about this woman's condition to others realistically for a long time, and was able to be unemotional about it, but not today.

It's a waiting game. Days? weeks? months (I hope)? But the end seems to really be in sight. Her family is coming from a distance to say goodbye and Hospice is involved, so it all seems too painfully real.

I was sorry that I don't drink any more. I really just wanted to have a drink. I wanted white wine, but there was none chilled. Then I wanted a fin and tonic but we had no tonic. Somehow orange/strawberry/banana juice didn't seem like a good mix with vodka. Nor did root beer (blecchhh!) I finally had vodka and spicy V-8 juice. I guess it mellowed me out. I stopped crying anyway. And I didn't mix the other half of the can of V-8 with vodka. One was enough. But it put me to sleep and I slept for a couple of hours. I guess I feel better now.

But the dried won ton and the rest of the Chinese food is sitting like a lump in my stomach this evening and I skipped dinner.

Thursday Thirteen

Movies with memorable food scenes

1. When Harry Met Sally
2. Ciocolat
3. Lady and the Tramp
4. The Public Enemy (Jimmy Cagney’s grapefruit scene)
5. Tom Jones
6. Forest Gump
7. Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
8. All of the Godfather movies
9. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
10. Giant (the Thanksgiving dinner)
11. Julie/Julia
12. Ratatouille
13. Babette’s Feast

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Pen Pal Project

If you have been following my Pen Pal Project (and there is no reason why you should have been), I can cautiously say that I've reached a really nice place. I'm actually getting mail almost every day. Sometimes it's only a post card, but there are more days when I do get personal mail than there are days when I don't.

Of course if there is no personal mail, there are also almost every single day three catalogs from fat lady stores. I just cringe and think about how many trees I personally am responsible for the death of!

Out of all of this wonderful new influx of mail, there are many people, of course, whom I will never hear from again. Those are the people from Postcrossing and Swap-Bot who send me to fulfill the commitment to participate in a certain mailing task. And then I will never hear from them again.

There are some who never answer letters I send, and a couple of people whose letters I have not answered because the chemistry just wasn't there. One of those was a young man in Brasil. I wrote to him against my better judgment simply because I have such a history with young men from Brasil and I thought it might be fun. I was mistaken.

He's in his 30s and his first letters sounded like someone who was looking for a date, sending out a weird veryshort questionnaire for me to answer. I wrote back a message that amounted to "thanks, but no thanks." He responded with a four page letter filled with every single band, song, movie, actor, TV program, sports figure and I don't know what else because I stopped reading. I just tossed it. This was not going to be a correspondence made in heaven.

There are nearly 20 pen pals who have the potential of lasting for awhile. I find I am more drawn to people in this country, simply because of the cost of postage, but there are two, a woman from Wales and another from The Netherlands whom I like and will continue to write to.

One woman came from a group of people who like to write long letters. I thought I liked to write long letters until I got her first one, which came in an 8x11 envelope and was thirty pages long. Typed. I needed bookmarks to read the whole letter. I'm on the fence about her. At least half of the letter was about her physical problems and I would think that over time that sort of thing could get tiresome, but perhaps now that she has written this lengthy introduction, future letters won't be quite so exhaustive.

There are a few I really like and have already exchanged 3 or 4 letters with. I know those will last for an indefinite period, until they get tired of hearing from me.

There are also my Compassion kids on the pen pal list and the two soldiers in Afghanistan, though I have not heard from either of them. I wrote to the woman who coordinates this Soldiers Angels project and she said that many times you don't hear from your assigned soldier at all, so I guess I just keep writing and hope that the letters are (a) being delivered, and (b) helpful. At least both soldiers are named Amanda, so I can do one letter and just print it twice!

And I've written a few letters to old friends who live at a distance and with whom I've only had an e-mail relationship for many years. Time will tell what the response to that will be. I wrote a 4 page letter today to someone I have not heard from in almost a year. I suspect she is going to be surprised to find it in her mailbox.

Jeri is also on my penpal list. She occasionally writes letters while she's at a cafe or some other place. I actually went out and bought a notebook that fits in my purse and a pen that I liked when I tried it out at Office Max and I'm going to try to hand write letters to her from time to time. I have a letter started and as I was writing it, I remembered that in my lifetime I think I have only received two letters from my mother--she's more the telephoning type--but I really felt very special when I got them, so I decided I wanted Jeri to have handwritten letters from me.

A bonus of hand writing a letter or a note card and all those postcards that I've been sending is that when I want to now, my handwriting is looking better. Not always, but for so many years, my handwriting was just atrocious because I never wrote anything at all (I even typed shopping lists!)

(I've written to Ned and to Tom, but don't expect either of those letters will turn into a "correspondence." It seems to be more a girl thing than a guy thing!)

But the bottom line is that I started this because I sorely miss communicating with people so I started investigating pen pals and discovered this huge community of people who also like to reach out and touch someone through snail mail. I'm learning to decorate envelopes, buy stamps through the mail so I can get commemoratives that our local post office doesn't carry, look at magazines and think about whether the pages could be turned into interesting envelopes, check out rubber stamps, etc.

It's a whole new world out there and I'm very much enjoying it!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


June 28, 2011

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The photo was taken the day of my sister's baptism. That's my godfather Fred on the left, my grandmother (my father's mother) next to him, Betty McGlashan (Karen's godmother) in the middle, my mother holding Karen and my grandfather at the right.

The fat kid with the Shirley Temple curls in the middle is me.

Betty died last week, at age 94. She was probably my mother's oldest, best friend.

I'm not sure when exactly my mother met Betty and her husband Ralph. They lived in an apartment building across the street from our flat. My parents moved into the flat when my mother was pregnant with me. I don't know if Betty and Ralph already lived there and the two women were pregnant together, or whether they met sometime after my birth. I know at least that they were good friends by the time I and Betty's son Pat were 3 years old.

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Throughout our childhood, Pat and I were friendly enemies. I don't remember peaceful moments this photo hints at; I remember being sent off to play in a back room and Pat teasing me unmercifully for being fat, for running weirdly, and just for whatever he could think of. I last saw him at my mother's 70th birthday party, shortly before he died of a cancer that nobody knew he had (he died just days after his diagnosis). We got along well at that event, all finally forgiven.

Betty's youngest son was several years younger than Karen -- I'm not sure exactly when, but I think there was probably 10 years between Pat and Doug (there was 4-1/2 between Karen and myself). I don't know exactly when Betty and her family moved south of San Francisco into a lovely home near Betty's beloved Stanford University, but they remained close to our family.

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In time the marriage dissolved and Betty remained in the home with the two boys and we lost contact with Ralph. Betty got her teaching credential and became a high school history and English teacher in Palo Alto. During the difficult early days following her divorce, I remember my father doing a lot of funny things to keep her spirits up. He and Betty always got along very well and I remember that he liked taking strange things that had lost their address when going through the mail he worked and he would send them to Betty to get a laugh out of her (things like Chinese newspapers).

In time, the friendship settled into yearly Christmas letters, interspersed with rare visits.

My mother has said repeatedly -- something I have heard all of my life -- that Betty was one of the most intelligent people she ever met. She lived in awe of Betty's brain.

The last time we saw Betty was in 2004. I took my mother to Washington go to with myself and my friend Diane to see the Skagitt Valley tulips. I stayed with Diane, my mother stayed with Betty and drove to the tulip fields with her and her son, Doug.

As she grew older she became more confused and ultimately ended her life in a nursing home near Doug and his family (wife Lisee and daughter Caterina).

Her funeral will be held next week in Menlo Park, near Stanford University. Her ashes will be scattered in the Sierras, which have always been a part of her family, since it was C.F. McGlashan (I'm not sure the relationship--cousin? great uncle?--who wrote the definitive history of the Donner Party, published in 1940 (“Though first published over 60 years ago, McGlashan’s notable book on the Donner party has been in constant demand" ... “The author’s account is still the best available on that famous expedition.”)

Betty gave me "the talk" about college before I headed off to Berkeley. Neither of my parents--nor anyone else in my family--had gone to college and my mother wanted Betty to give me some guidelines for helping me settle into the Berkeley campus. She was so convinced I was going to pledge a sorority (she had been a proud member of Gamma Phi Beta) and gave me all sorts of guidelines about sorority life. I still remember her telling me that I would be called to "Pan Hell." (I don't remember exactly what that stood for...Pan Hellenic, I guess)

I think she never really forgave me for NOT being interested in the whole Greek life. But she told me something that I think of frequently these days when we are getting together with the Pinata Group, that in college I would meet the friends I would have for the rest of my life.

She definitely was right about that!

Betty was one of those "forces of nature" that you just assumed would be there forever and it seems strange to think that she is gone.

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The last time we saw Betty,
here with her son Doug and my mother

Monday, June 27, 2011

Self Serve

I hate shopping in that store and I kick myself whenever I run out for a quick "thing" and forget that I hate the store.

When we first moved here, our local supermarket was a Lucky's, about three blocks from the house, so very convenient. I don't remember when the Safeway a bit farther on opened, or if it was opened when we moved here, but I've never liked that store--just too small, crowded, and filled with people. Why students seem to prefer Safeway over Lucky's I never did figure out, since they are both about the same distance from the campus.

Several years ago they had that stupid insulting ad campaign where Lucky's "married" Albertsons. (At that time the fight for marriage equality was just revving up here and it seemed a constant kick in the backside to see big billboards celebrating the "marriage" of two supermarket chains, complete with cake and other wedding paraphernalia, but gay couples who had been together for 30+ years were being denied the same rights as grocery stores.)

Anyway, Lucky's disappeared in the "marriage" and the store became Albertson's. You couldn't really tell the difference. The look was the same, the clerks were the same, the supplies were the same. Only the name had changed.

Some time after Albertson took over Lucky, Nugget Market built a store on this side of the freeway. Everybody loved Nugget, which is kind of a blend of your regular supermarket and a natural foods specialty store. But Nugget was on the other side of the freeway so I rarely shopped there. David worked there for awhile and loved it. Apparently the people there loved him too because they sent a wonderful letter after his death (he hadn't worked there in a couple of years at the time he died).

I always thought Nugget prices were higher than Albertson's but when I started comparing they were pretty comparable. One might be higher on one thing and the other higher on another, but in the end it was pretty much a wash and Nugget has a bigger selection of things, and generally better produce.

So I didn't really pay much attention when Albertson's became Save Mart because I rarely shopped there any more. It seemed that the biggest difference (still the same staff and same layout) was that you no longer needed a membership card to get the special deals.

BUT, SaveMart put in self-serve check-out stations. Two at first. Now there are six. Just try and find a clerk who will check you out. Now most of the time I forget and go shopping at SaveMart, I have to check myself out and pack my own grocery sack.

Now I know that in many other parts of the world, packing your own grocery bag is expected. I remember Nora being surprised when I just stood there waiting for the clerk to pack the groceries for us when I went shopping with her in Ireland. Peggy laughed when I expected the clerk to pack the grocery bag in Australia. But here, I've had my groceries packed for me all of my life.

I don't mind checking out a few things by myself, though I prefer not to. But I hate it when I have a big cart full of food, or a smaller cart full of irregularly shaped items and can't find anybody to check me out and pack the bags. It does give me a better appreciation for the work that checkers and baggers do, but I don't want to do it myself. I've lived 68 years and have earned the right to be a cranky old lady. I have considered just leaving the grocery cart in the aisles with a note saying "I don't want to check myself out," but that would only make work for the people who are just obeying orders.

But I try never to shop at Save Mart any more. Heck, Nugget not only checks me out and packs the grocery bag for me, but they even unload the cart for me. I don't have to put it on a conveyor belt. I can just sit back and peel myself a grape while all the work gets done by others.

Yeah, I'm really spoiled and after all of my writings about how rough it is in parts of the world where my Compassion kids live, it sounds really terrible (even to me) to hear that one of my big peeves is a grocery store that won't give me full service and makes me--heaven forbid!--pack my own grocery bag.

Maybe I'll adjust to it eventually. I remember what a shock it was when I had to learn how to pump my own gas. I didn't have a clue what to do. Now I don't even think about it. I just do it. I wash my own car windows and don't expect anybody to come running out of the office and wash the windows and check the tires for me, as they did many years ago.

Maybe some day I will take self check-out at the supermarket as routine and tell my grandchidren about the good old days when people used to do it for you.

But in the meantime, I'll continue to shop at Nugget and try to remember NOT to stop off at Save Mart when I need to pick up a few things.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday Stealing

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(click icon to play along)

Here's the next "Sunday Stealing" ...

41. Who was the last person you went shopping with?
I honestly can't remember. I don't "go shopping" all that often (except for groceries) and usually am by myself.

42. What is something you need to go shopping for?

At the moment the only thing I've been thinking I need to buy (since I'm fine on groceries for the week) is new earphones for my iPod, since I lost the pad to one ear a couple of weeks ago.

43. Do you have the same first name as one of your relatives?

No, but I was given the name "Beverly" because it was the middle name of my Aunt Barb.

44. What kind of car do (did) your parents drive?
When I was born, and until I was in high school, my parents drove a Plymouth. Then they traded that in on a Chevrolet.

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45. Are you rich?
I am rich in many things. Money is not one of them.

46. If you could spend one intimate night with a celebrity, no questions asked, never to see them again, who would it be?

Good Lord. I can't think of anyone.

48. What famous person do you look like? Feel free to use this facial match program by clicking here. Show us at least the celeb photo.

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obviously a strong resembance

49. What is the most daring thing you've done recently?
It's gotta be going to China.

50. Say you were given a pregnancy test right now. Would you pass or fail?

ROFL. I decline to answer on the grounds of stupidity of the question to a 68 year old women.

51. Which sex scandal of the last decade bothers you the most?

John Edwards because it was so sleazy and because I really believed the dedication between him and his wife...and because I couldn't believe anybody running for president could be so stupid as to think nobody would find out!!!

52. Do you know anyone in jail/prison?

Not that I know of. Unless the police caught Faux Tom.

53. What are your plans (or what have you done) for this weekend?

Friday I took my mother to the doctor and spent the night with her. Saturday I reviewed a show. Sunday Walt is in SF seeing the Gotterdammerung and I'm staying home without a car (and enjoying being by myself)

54. Have you ever woken up and not known where you were?

I can only think of one time. I was about 4 and we were spending the night with my grandmother. My mother, Karen and I were sleeping in the same bed and somehow I got turned around.

55. What were you doing at midnight last night??

Sleeping (only because I was at my mother's!)

56. Last restaurant you went to?

For lunch, Baja Fresh here in Davis

For dinner, McLovin's Tavern in Hong Kong (I had to throw that dropping!)

57. How many hours did you sleep for last night?

The usual 5

58. Which is more distracting: Sexting while driving or sex while driving?

I've never done either, but I would imagine sex while driving would be the more distracting, if done right.

59. Do you think someone is thinking about you right now?

It would be nice to think so

60. Have you ever changed your clothes while in a vehicle?

Oh sure, as a kid, and a few times as an adult.

Why we've been married 46 years

Saturday, June 25, 2011

She's Alive

Well neither illness or bad guys killed her, which is very good news. But I was very happy that Jeri called her yesterday afternoon.

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When I arrived at the house, she was lying on the couch, with a bouquet of orchids at her head and another at her feet, as well as a potted flower plant next to her. If she hadn't been talking to Jeri, I might have thought she was laid out for her funeral!

We had a couple of hours before her appointment, so we sat around chatting. I had not realized that when she said that the police had come out to talk with her about Faux Tom that an officer had been in the house when the scam artist called for the last time. She didn't know Faux Tom's phone number because it showed as "blocked call" on her caller I.D., so the officer asked her to keep the guy on the line so they could trace the call, which I guess they did. She told him what a bad guy he was for trying to cheat an old lady out of so much money and how he should be ashamed of himself. I'm sure he is drowning in remorse!

She has an image of the guy "quaking in his boots" since she told him that the police know about him. Somehow, I doubt it! But hopefully she has heard the last of this--and that she's learned a bit about latter day scams from all of this.

At the appointed time, we went to the doctor's office and it was really clearly evident that while she can go for lab work or eye appointments by herself, she just can't go to the internist alone. She just can't remember anything. She was also very pleased with herself for getting away with not taking one of her prescribed medications when it ran out, but then the doctor explained that it was to keep her from having heart problems.

Once a long time ago, the doctor told her she was not really a candidate for a heart attack. My mother has taken that to mean that she has no chance of having a heart attack and she can do whatever she wants and not worry. The doctor explained that that wasn't quite right. She relutantly agreed to take the medication again.

But she can't remember any of the after care instructions. She went into the lab for blood work and told them she was there to pick up her medication. And she must have asked me a dozen times why she had to take Motrin, if she had to see the doctor again, if she had to have an x-ray. I finally wrote it all out for her and hope she can remember where she put the piece of paper.

After dinner we watched a Criminal Minds marathon (like me, she likes the show). When the second show ended, I asked her if there was anything she wanted to see. She picked up the newspaper, looked at the TV section, said "Criminal Minds is on. Do you like that?" and when I said I did, she told me what channel it was on (the one we'd been watching Criminal Minds on for the past two hours!)

I think there is a bit of "sundowners" about all of this since this morning she was just fine and her memory much more sharp than it had been last night. We talked politics, we talked about faux Tom, we talked about my father. She even told me a story I'd never heard before, about the early days of her marriage to my father when she and my grandmother used to take horse back riding lessons and take horses through Golden Gate Park out to the beach for a barbeque. I vaguely remember her riding a horse once, but I had no idea it had been such a big deal.

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Bottom line -- she's feeling better, her memory is shot, but no more shot than previously and she's still just fine about living independently.

She has suggested that we both read a book called "A Bittersweet Season: Caring for our Aging Parents." She felt that she could learn something about getting old, in case she started having those symptoms and that I could learn how to deal with those symptoms in case she ever developed them.


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I sent this note to Facebook via cell phone last night:
What a terrible nite to be without internet.
Congratulations New York. Go get married Jasons!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

An Update

I'm going off to my mother's today, and don't know when I'll post the next entry--probably tomorrow afternoon. She is not feeling well and wants to see the doctor. For her to say "I'm not feeling well and think I should go to the doctor" is huge. She's the person who wants to wait until she feel better so she doesn't bother the doctor. She's the one who has to be dragged to the doctor. For her to ask to go to the doctor scares me.

She invited me to spend the night after her appointment, and I think I'm going to do that. Just to make sure she's OK in the morning, following whatever the doctor suggests she do.

But while we're waiting to see the doctor, there is an update on her scam.

I didn't realize that she was playing along with Faux Tom for a couple of days after she realized that it was a scam. He has been calling her to see if his check arrived yet. He finally called this morning and she told him that she knew he wasn't Tom, that she had talked to Tom and that she had called the police to file a report. She told him he should be worried because the police have his phone number and will probably be calling him. According to her report, he got petulant and said he was going to get the telephone book and call his real grandma, who would surely help him.

She was tickled about this little game she's been playing. I was less so. Somehow making fun of a guy who is trying to cheat you, i.e., a criminal, may not be the very best idea in the world.

Maybe I watch too many crime dramas, but she can't conceive of this not being a young kid who somehow got her phone number. Since she refuses to listen to anything about technology these days, she doesn't know about computers, about hacking into bank accounts, about disposable cell phones and all the tools of the trade that bad guys can use these days.

What worries me is that her little fun at this creep's expense may backfire on her in some way, but there is no point in scaring her. I just hope that this is finally the end of it.

I was happy that she had actually called the police. I didn't think she would, so I had spoken with the police in her town yesterday and was told there was nothing they could do unless she was actually a victim. But apparently they did come out and talk with her. And who knows...maybe they can trace this guy through his telephone number (but I ain't holding my breath about that.)

(She may still, in fact, be a victim of sorts. She was only able to offer to help faux Tom because stock, which had plummeted in recent years, had a big come-back and she actually had the money to lend to him...but it would involve paying a hefty capital gains tax. She is still waiting to hear if her broker was able to reverse the sale in time.)

And I also hope that when she is feeling better again and we meet with the manager of her bank and file a police report on the scam that she has been the victim of for the last year and a half, and after we institute some safety measures in her house she might finally be ride of this current round of creeps.

There is also an update on Polly too. After avoiding me for a day and a half, she has finally decided to forgive me and allow herself to cuddle with me again. She has also decided to let me feed her again.

Nice Polly.

Funny, though, if I sit in Walt's recliner (where I sat while she had the leash on), she will get up in my lap, but she is extremely wary. She doesn't cuddle up. Her eyes dart around, she watches me warily and if I move my hand somewhere that she doesn't think is a good idea (like toward the table at my left to pick up the TV remote), she leaps off immediately.

However, if I settle into MY recliner, she leaps up, backs into my armpit again, curls into a ball, puts her head on my chest and relaxes.

Such a weird dog.

So hold the good thought today, that my mother's current malaise is minor and that there are no armed criminals waiting for us when we return from the doctor's office. (Yes. I am a drama queen.)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thursday Thirteen

Things about our wedding 46 years ago (as of Sunday)

1. I had my picture taken in my dress, with my bridesmaids, on a fire engine

2. Walt wore a white tuxedo jacket coat with a grease stain on it

3. The Newman Hall choir sang a Mozart Mass (complete with string quartet) for us as a gift

4. Walt’s deaf co-worker had never been to a Catholic service before. His only comment: “It certainly was long.”

5. My bridesmaids were my sister, my sister-in-law and two friends

6. We were married by our good friend, Tim Toohig, a brand new Jesuit priest. We were his very first wedding.

7. My “something old” was (faux) pearl earrings that had belonged to my grandmother

8. The reception was at the Brazilian Room in Tilden Park (who knew then how important Brasil would be in our lives!)

9. Instead of plastic pillars to raise the tiers of the cake, they were raised up on inverted champagne glasses, with frosting roses under them.

10. A guy at the Physics Department made a foam champagne holder with dry ice that kept the champagne cold until we got to our first stop on our honeymoon

11. We have a movie of someone sneaking into the reception, from the picnic area below the Brazilian Room and stealing 2 glasses of champagne–and suddenly becoming aware that she was caught on video!

12. We left the reception in Walt’s 1953 Rambler convertible, which barely made it up the hill to where our real car was parked.

13. Phoebe caught the bouquet. It’s been 46 years and she still isn’t married.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Other Worldly

If you were to ask Walt, I'll bet he'd tell you that I watch just about every program on television, or at least as many of them as I can possibly fit in in a day's time. (If you were to ask Jeri, she would roll her eyes.)

However, today I found a program that I simply could not watch. It's on the new Current-TV channel (which is where you find Keith Olberman's new Countdown program) and it was called "The World Toilet Crisis." The documentary centered on places in India and Indonesia where there are no toilets and people just squat...wherever. Lake, river, field, gutter. The smell was apparently so overpowering that the reporter is shown vomiting into the field. The word "shit" is used. Frequently.

I actually recorded the program because I want to go back and watch it, hopefully with less retching on my part.

Why do I want to watch a program which I know is going to be disgusting and which may send me running for my own indoor plumbing? Because this is the way a lot of the world lives and while we sit in our air conditioned homes, with our big screen TVs and our microwaves and our washers and dryers, I think it's important that we become aware of the human condition in other parts of the world.

One of my sponsored chidren lives in India. Another lives in Indonesia. As I watch this program, will I be seeing how they live?

I watched the videos which were taken by the Compassion bloggers who recently visited the Philippines. Some of those videos were very raw and difficult to watch, seeing whole families crammed into one room the size of this tiny little office of mine, with no plumbing.

We need to care about the plight of people living like this to prevent us from becoming complacent. I just canceled my Mozy membership today. It's the automatic back-up for the files on your computer. They recently more than doubled the monthly cost and reduced the number of files they would back up. Each month when I paid the bill, I stopped to think what that money would buy for one of my Compassion kids. I was throwing it away on the off chance that some of my photo or music files might get destroyed. Crazy. Canceling Mozy will allow me to send a special birthday gift to one of the kids when his/her birthday rolls around. And that certainly will have a bigger impact on one small corner of the world than whatever peace of mind having a Mozy back-up would give me.

I need to watch "The World Toilet Crisis" and think about my kids living in those places and to realize how important it is to care. (And while I do I will be very grateful that nobody has invented "smell-o-vision" yet.)

HeadSm.jpg  (29271 bytes)The young woman at the left is the newest member of my Compassion family, Murugi. She is 19 and is from Kenya.

Murugi is one of three children who have no mother and apparently the father is not in the picture, so they live with the grandmother, who is "sometimes employed as a farmer."

Murugi attends college and I hope that when I hear from her for the first time I will learn more about what she is studying.

Because of her partnering with Compassion (through someone else's monthly contribution) she has this opportunity to learn. She receives nutritious meals and gets regular health screenings.

Most adults in her area are unemployed, but the lucky few who are employed earn about $18 a month, just slightly over what Mozy was asking me to pay to keep my iTunes tunes from being damaged.

It helps to put these things in perspective. I stand in the supermarket and try to decide if I want the single ply or double ply toilet paper, do I want the extra fluffy roll or the smooth roll. Do I squeeze the Charmin or not?

And then I need to think about people living in areas where the only toilet they have is the same river from which they get their cooking water, where the "toilet paper" may be a handful of dried grass.

It makes it easier to cancel my Mozy acount.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Gambling Addiction

I shouldn't really talk about my children's weaknesses, but I just learned today that Tom apparently has a gambling problem. In fact, he ran up a huge bill and was about to be arrested unless he paid the bill tomorrow.

I learned this from my mother. Tom called her and asked if she could help him. When she asked if Walt couldn't help him, he said he was too embarrassed and to please not tell us. She was going to call him back when she got the money together (which would involve selling some stock) but he said that his cell phone was broken and that he would call her. this beginning to sound fishy to you?

Yes, my mother has been targeted by someone who is out to bilk her of lots of money and nearly did. She is so fortunate that even at 92 she still has her wits about her and decided to do some investigating of her own. She spoke with her broker, who thought it sounded fishy too.

Then she decided to try calling Tom's "broken" cell phone number and of course he answered. And of course he isn't in any trouble. And not only that, he doesn't even gamble at all.

Fortunately her broker was able to stop the sale of her stock and have her avoid paying capital gains tax on it.

She was surprised at how much the faux Tom knew about Tom and I suddenly realize that this journal could be a goldmine of information that could be used to defraud my mother, so I'm going to watch myself a bit more. But this journal isn't the only place where you can find out about Tom or anybody else in my family. Peach has the whole family tree on line. You can google any of the kids and get information about them from one site or another.

I called the local police to find out how you report something like this and learned that unless someone is actually the victim of a crime like this, there is nothing that can be done. Often these are international schemes which originate overseas and no way to trace them, even though the calls are placed in this country.

The woman at the police department suggested that my mother buy a whistle and when someone like this calls her she blow the whistle into the mouthpiece of the telephone and then hang up. She felt that would discourage them from trying again. Literally "blowing the whistle" on them. I'm going to buy her a whistle and see if that works. (So Jeri, Ned and Tom--be advised that if you want money from your grandmother and don't want us to know about it, you'd be better off asking in person or you might get your ear damaged!)

Unfortunately, my mother is being targeted for a lot of these scams. At least once, if not twice a month, she receives a call, supposedly from her bank, checking on some money withdrawal that she was supposed to have made. Thank goodness my mother worked for a bank most of the adult life and knows when something doesn't sound right. They tell her that the withdrawal might show up on her statement, but not to worry because it will be removed because they know it's not a vaid withdrawal. She immediately goes to the bank and in the time it takes her to get there, someone has withdrawn money from her account. Fortunately, the bank has been good about reversing the charges.

Also, fortunately, her bank is near her house, she prefers doing her banking in person, and she has a good relationship with the people in the bank. Even with all that, she has had to get a new checking account five times in the past year and they still call her.

Blowing the whistle on these people might be a good idea too.

The bank has been trying to get my mother to file a police report but she hasn't done it yet because she doesn't understand how anybody but a bank employee could have information about her records.

A couple of years ago, two women showed up at the bank with a large check signed by my mother and tried to cash it. Fortunately the bank manager called my mother to check if it was valid or not and it turns out that they had stolen her income tax check and had removed the IRS information and inserted their own names.

My mother has just become a wonderful, convenient punching bag for all sorts of scams. So far she has not actually lost any money in all of this but it's only a matter of time. Tom's gambling debt was a close call because who doesn't want to keep their grandchild from prison? It's sad that there is no way to go after the people who are trying to catch her.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Dear So and So

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Here are some letters I won't send, but which I wrote mentally over Fathers Day.

Dear Summer,

Thank you for cooling breezes today. The air is warm, sitting on the patio at Sudwerks with Ned and Walt, but it was the cooling breezes that made it delightful to sit there and munch sausages and crab cakes and drink beer.

Cool and happy,

Dear Father at the nearby table,

I'm sorry for not shooing away the bird that flew down to help himself to your food when you got up to take your son to the bathroom. I didn't notice you leaving and assumed that you had finished your lunch. I suppose I should have told you that a bird had perched on your hamburger before you asked to have it wrapped up to take home.

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Dear Smoker,

I watched you pace up and down on the patio, trying to find a place to have a cigarette. I wanted to take your picture, but was too embarrassed to be blatant, so this was all I got.

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You had an earring in one ear and gold chains around your neck. You had a black striped shirt, short tan pants, and black striped stockings underneath. You wore tall boots with a wide cuff at the top and there was something red stuck in your belt. Is today Pirate Day? I wondered if, when the water directed you to the smoking area, you answered "aye, matey!"

Nosily yours,

Dear Waitress,

It was a delight to have you serve us today. You had a bright smile, a sunny disposition and were efficient, but not hovering. I love it when servers are like you!

Satisfied customer

Dear Ned,

It was nice to spend time with you, and I apologize for not having enough money to pay for half the bill, though you didn't ask me to. I owe you a bit more money. I'm not sure I "enjoyed" our discussion of current's all so depressing. But talking TV was much more fun.

Your Mom

Dear Cappy,

I realized when we got home that your "mom" is coming home tomorrow. I'm going to miss you, little puppy. You really fit back in here well and I know Polly is going to be sad to see her playmate leave again.

Crazy Dog lady

Dear Regis and Kelly,

Finally you win the daytime Emmy you have been complaining that you never win--and neither of you is there to pick it up?

Disappointed in Davis

Dear Lizzie,

Thank you for letting me share your couch when I couldn't fall asleep in the recliner. Do I need to apologize for making you sleep under the chair next to the couch?

Gratefully yours
The Top Dog

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sunday Stealing (again)

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(click icon to play along)

I'm likin' the whole "Sunday Stealing" thing. This list of questions is actually the second half of a 2-week thing, but the first half mostly had questions that I didn't relate to.

21. Have you ever had a garage sale? A couple of times. I decided it was too much work for not enough return.

22. What color is your cell phone? kind of a metallic red

23. What is the last alcoholic beverage you had? It was a vodka drink that Peach made the last time we went to my mother's together, about a month ago.

24. Are you happy right now? happy enough

25. Who came over to your house last? Cappy's "mom" to drop him off before she went to Hawaii for 2 weeks. That was two weeks ago tomorrow.

26. Do you drink beer? I hadn't drunk beer in years until we went to China. I drank a lot of beer in China.

27. Have your brothers or sisters ever told you that you were adopted? no

28. What is your favorite key on your key chain? The big round metal thing that says "Mustang Ranch. Crib No. 5. Ask for Beverly." It was a gift from an employer whose husband ran a shop that sold stuff like that. I lost my keys once at Costco and when I went back for them, someone was taking them around showing the tag to all the other customers and having a good laugh.

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29. What was the last movie you watched at home? The Courtship of Eddie's Father, on a TCM Father's Day marathon.

30. What is in your pocket? Nothing. These pants just came out of the dryer, so they are pristeen (they are also a rare pair that I have which actualy have pockets!)

31. Who introduced you to your husband? Neither of us remembers when we met. We were both members of the Newman Club at UC Berkeley and just kind of always knew each other, it seems

32. Where do you hurt? I don't actually hurt but I'm sure tired of the little finger on the right hand being numb...several years now.

33. Has someone ever made you a build a bear? Nobody "made" me, but I have built one or for me, one for a friend of Peggy's. (The one I made for me is one I ended up giving to Brianna for Christmas.)

34. What’s something fun you did today? Nothing yet, but I expect to have fun in a couple of hours, when we meet Ned.

35. What is your favorite aisle at Target? the one that had the dollar bins at the front of the store

36. When is your birthday? February 17

37. Is there anything hanging from your rear view mirror? Nope. Didn't they make that illegal in the era of the fuzzy dice?

38. How many states in the US have you been to? 38. Most of the states I haven't been in are in the middle of the country.

39. What kind of milk do you drink? When I drink milk in a glass, nonfat. On my cereal non-fat half and half or 2% milk.

40. What are you going to do after this? go off to the brewpub to meet Ned for beer and sausages to celebrate Fathers Day.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

First Lines

A friend sent me a link to a long discussion on, of all things, a horse board. One of those things that get hilariously out of control and are just delicious. It was called "Famous Opening Lines from Novels, update for the modern age." It's the kind of thing I just love, so I am going to blatantly plagiarize here and post some of the best, for your reading pleasure.

“Alice was beginning to tire of sitting by her sister on the bank. She took out her iPhone and played Angry Birds for the next three hours.”

“Call me Ishmael_65.”

"Last night I dreamt I went to again"

"He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. For his next vacation, he was hiring a charter, no matter what the cost."

"Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when enthralled by her blog as the Tarleton twins were."

"Mr. Sherlock Holmes, who was usually very late in the mornings, save upon those not infrequent occasions when he was up all night, was seated at the breakfast table. I stood upon the hearth-rug and picked up the bluetooth earpiece which our visitor had left behind him the night before."

"In the beginning God coded the heaven and the earth."

"Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, Aunt Em, who was the farmer's wife and only a dial-up internet connection, so when the twister came, they couldn't pull up quickly enough."

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. Check your phone, girl. I just sexted you."

"I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills. When it rained, you would not believe the mess, it was next to impossible to get flood insurance."

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of the iPhone and then they just had to bring out generations 2, 3, and 4 in rapid fire succession."

"Half-way down a by-street of one of our New England towns, stands a rusty wooden house, with seven acutely peaked gables facing towards various points of the compass, and a huge, clustered chimney in the midst. A passer by would hardly recognize it now, ever since that hedge fund manager moved in and built on a 6000 square foot addition."

"All this happened, in 140 characters more or less."

"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own internet meme, or whether someone else will post a video of themselves putting Mentos in a Pepsi bottle in time to music, this blog must show."

"I am an invisible man, for I post anonymously on the internet."

"Somewhere in la Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a dial up connection and and ancient PC on a shelf and keeps an analog cell phone for taking calls."

"First witch:
When shall we three meet again?
In chat room or IM?

Second witch:
When the hurley burley's done again
When the ipad works again."

"Howard Roark laughed.

He stood naked before the hotel mirror. A frozen explosion of light burst against the glass. The image of the flash digitized his power and he knew he could display that power those lesser than he. He knew that the days ahead would be difficult. There were questions to be faced and a plan of action to be prepared. He knew that he should think about it. He knew also that he would not think.

He tried to consider it. But he forgot. He was tweeting."

The best of the China photos are now ALL up on Flickr. Whew!

Friday, June 17, 2011

China Revisited

"When are you leaving?" Walt asked.

I looked up with a jerk, saw that it was 2:20 p.m., checked my calendar and saw that I was supposed to have Sheila at the vet's office at 2:40. I was still in my pajamas.

It's been that kind of day. A week or so ago, I put in some time and got half of the pictures from China up on Flickr, but I OD on that stuff quickly. What with putting a journal book together, and doing a bunch of other things with the photos, including a slide show to show to a friend at lunch this week, I really was sick of looking at our photos, to tell you the truth.

But I heard from the woman who runs the Internet Users Group here in town. Shortly before we left for China (and she left for England), I worked with her and the group teaching them how to make slide shows. This is the follow-up meeting and she has invited people to come and bring their slide shows.

I told her that if she didn't have enough shows, I could bring China pictures to show. She said that she had her own trip pictures and if nobody else volunteered, we could both run our slides.

But to put together a slide show of a small percentage of the pictures, I had to finish sorting them and getting the good ones up on Flickr.

I pretty much worked the entire day and managed to get up another 4 days worth of photos. I have two more days to go and will get that all done tomorrow.

Then I can start thinking about which photos I want to use for a coffee-table type of book. It's darn expensive coming home from one of these trips! LOL.

Sheila and I got to the vets with 1 minute to spare. I don't get a lot of one on one time with Sheila and I enjoyed reacquainting myself with her again. As she gets older, she has really taken on the role of guard dog, so she spends all of her awake time either looking out the front window, or lying on the patio, not asleep, but taking stock of all the sounds and smells that come to her. Rarely do I ever see her sleeping during the day.

But she was very excited to be going out alone with me. She sat by the car and waited until I opened it for her, and then sat in her spot in the back seat with her nose out the 2" of window that I open for her. We took her camping in the days before Lizzie came to live with us, when she was an only dog, and she took her place in that spot and didn't move for the entire 2+ hour drive into the mountains. She is a very loyal guard dog.

The appointment went well and she now has all her vaccinations up to date. She was such a good girl that I decided to buy her a hamburger. We went to Jack in the Box and I got a plain hamburger--just meat and bun. I broke it up into little pieces for her and put it on the back seat, but she wouldn't eat it because that would mean leaving her guard place at the window, so I found a place to park and fed it to her. She was thrilled. A whole hamburger all to herself.

We came back home again and I went right back to China until time for Jeopardy and then putting together a pizza for dinner. After dinner I finished off the last batch of photos I was working on and then we headed out to the theatre.

This was opening night for the Davis Musical Theater company's production of Peter Pan, a new production of the show that opened DMTC's history 29 years ago. Walt worked tech for that show and when, in his opening remarks from the stage, Director Steve Isaacson reminisced about that very first show, he called out to Walt, in the audience, to make sure he remembered too, about painting the set for the last act while the first act was going on.

When the show was over, I had a piece of opening night cake and chatted with the costumer and Walt got a tour of the rigging for all the flying scenes. Two other member of the company came to talk with me about China, so I was quickly back in China mode again.

With luck, I will have all of the photos fit to print on Flickr by tomorrow and I won't have that hanging over my head any more.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I'll Never Forget What's-Her-Name

I had a dental appointment today, just my regular cleaning. I almost always arrive at Cindy's office exactly on the dot, but I was about 5 minutes early and I saw the hygienist getting her station ready for me. Now this hygienist has been cleaning my teeth for about 10 years now, if not longer. I sat there watching her, trying desperately to remember her name (Christina). Fortunately she wears a name tag, so it only took a couple of seconds before I knew her name again, briefly. But this sort of thing is happening to me more and more.

I would be panicking about this, as I have written in this journal before, but I'm not in a panic because I suddenly find that it seems that everybody who is around my age is worried about the same thing. We can't remember anybody's name any more. This is not like putting your car keys in the freezer or the Haagen Dazs bars in the laundry room or forgetting what the TV remote does when you press buttons. It's just the sudden inability to remember names.

Remember that "blogging the Tonys" entry I did a couple of days ago? I could not have done that entry without Google. I couldn't remember the name of stars that I've known for decades. I actually had to look up "Darth Vader" to remember James Earl Jones' name (now when I went to type this, the name was right there in my brain where it should have been).

With other stars, it was even more convoluted. I remembered that a certain star was in a movie which I could visualize, but I couldn't remember the name of the movie either, but I remembered that the co-star was Harrison Ford and I went to ImDb to look up Harrison Ford and find what movies he had been in. I found the movie I was looking for (The Frisco Kid) and checked the cast. There was the name of the person I wanted to write about (Gene Wilder--and I just had to go look that up on ImDb again).

However did aging people remember names in the pre-Google age?

The other thing that is happening to me more and more is that I can't type any more. Seriously. I have always been proud of my typing but two things are now making it frustrating. First, the pinched nerve in my right arm, which the doctor says they can't do anything about, has settled in for the duration. But it means that any letters which is hit with the little finger on the right hand is kind of hit and miss if I get it. I have to go back and correct a lot of words with "p" in them because my finger just doesn't hit that letter (you'd be surprised how many words have p in them!). It also affects my hitting the apostrophe.

But the second problem is a brain one, not a physical one. I look at what I've written and while I've thought one thing, my fingers have typed something completely different, or rearranged the letters in a word. I don't know (there's an example...I meant to type know and I typed wkno) if this kind of brain fart has a title, but it's annoying. It's not even confined to typing. I was writing "Tanya" today and wrote "Tangia" ... another sample is that where I meant to write "wrote" in the above line, I wrote "wrong." Sometimes it boggles my mind what my brain tells my fingers to type. I can't publish anything without reading it carefully, and if I forget, I'm mortified, sometimes, at what actually goes up and has to be corrected.

So Anthony Weiner is leaving and the Congresscritters currently serving who have sex scandals behind them or who are under investigation for illegal activities (or both) are still there, with nobody, Republican or Democrat, calling for their resignation, while his constituents, the people he's actually working for have said overwhelmingly that they wanted him to stay. Thus is the world of politics. All the talking heads today are talking about how the Weiner story just grew and grew until he had no choice.

Uh. Talking Heads? WHO, please, made the story grow and grow? If you'd all have SHUT UP, it never would have reached this fevered pitch. Chris Matthews today has devoted one hour to Weiner's resignation--and to rehash everything we've heard over and over again.

You know, I was really, really invested in the election process last time. Now I see things starting up again, the scandals revealed, the innuendos brought up, the polls taking major importance MORE THAN ONE YEAR before the election and I just don't think I have another campaign in me. I'm disappointed in a lot of Obama's actions (though not all), I am unimpressed with all of the Republican candidates right now, and the idea that anybody could still be impressed with some of the people whose names have been tossed about chills my blood.

At this point I'm resigned to having no say in anything and to accepting whatever idiot wins the election ... and believe me, anybody who actually wants the job and thinks he or she can effect any change whatsoever has got to be delusional, and automatically disqualifies him or her for the job in my mind.

I'm old, I'm losing my mind, and I'm politically jaded.

Thursday Thirteen

Tear Jerkers

1. Affair to Remember
2. Bambi
3. Steel Magnolias
4. Love Story
5. Beaches
6. Dumbo
7. Hoosiers
8. Brian’s Song
9. E.T.
10. I Am Sam
11. Meet Joe Black
12. A Guy Named Joe
13. Longtime Companion

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Do You Remember?

Jim of JimsJournal has inspired a number of us to take trips down memory lane. He received what turned out to be an ad for funeral services, but which included asking if the recipient remembered a number of things:


The piece continued inside with : We were born before cable TV, the Internet, moon landings, and credit cards. We were there when McDonalds and Disneyland first opened. We remember when Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, The Platters, and Bill Haley and the Comets were Rock and Roll idols. We never heard of mobile phones, CD players or dishwashers. Ah... and then came the punch line, the purpose of this missive, the introduction to the sales pitch... And we never heard of making our own funeral arrangements.

Jim went on to talk about his thoughts on funeral planning, but I've seen others who took the information as a jumping off point for their own memories on the things listed.

On the issue of marriage, I never really thought of it, but a gay couple, living together, were part of my growing up and a woman (I never did figure out what she did for a living) had a live-in boyfriend, though I knew that it was a moral sin to do any touching below the neck with someone to whom you were attracted. I always wondered if the woman with the live-in boyfriend was some sort of an escort or even a prostitute, when I knew what those things were.

Computers, of course, were the stuff of fantasy comic books. And Dick Tracy. I remember how we laughed at his "2-way wrist radio," which seems almost quaint in these days of smart phones!

I remember when Walt took a Fortran computer language program course and how, looking at his text books, I knew that I never would ever be able to understand computers. That was probably when Bill Gates was in grammar school and how far we have come since then! I remember, after I had a personal computer, visiting the Smithsonian and seeing the Cray computer which took up 3 rooms and had a whopping 3 MB of memory, if my own memory serves me right. Now we have gigabytes of memory on a flash drive.

... WHEN A NEW CHEVY COUPE WAS $600... I never knew the price of cars because I've never had my own car, though I am aware that now a low-end no frills car costs more than our first hose. I do remember gas being in the 2-digits of numbers. Somewhere around here, there is a picture of Ned at a gas pump. He was in high school, I think, and gas was 99 cents. I took the picture because I realized that we would probably never see that price of gasoline again.

We were born before cable TV, the Internet, moon landings, and credit cards. Heck, I was born before TV--at least TV that we could afford. I was 10 in 1953 before our Muntz b/w TV arrived. And I remember watching the end of the television day, with a recording of the Star Spangled Banner, a picture of a flag waving in the breeze, and then a test pattern which was all you got until the broadcast day began tomorrow.

The Internet, of course, was unheard of, since we didn't think computers would ever be real. Moon landings? Heck no. That also was sci fi stuff and I still believed that there was a man in the moon and was terrified when my father took me out to look at a full moon because I was afraid that the man was going to get me.

As for credit cards, my mother had a charge card, a metal thing that resembled a dog tag, for The Emporium department store in San Francisco. She kept it in a leather pouch and occasionally would give it to me to use. Throughout my life people have always asked me how to spell "Beverly" but using that card was the first time that anyone asked me how to spell "West." (Obviously a foreshadowing the literacy of some modern day customer service reps.)

We were there when McDonalds and Disneyland first opened. I don't know that I realized what a monumental event the opening of McDonalds was, though I do remember when they used to post how many thousand and then million burgers they had sold nation-wide on each location.

I remember watching The Mickey Mouse Club where there would be occasional film updates on the building of Disneyland, narrated by Uncle Walt himself. The park finally opened in 1955. In 1957, I won an essay contest and my prize was a trip for two from San Francisco to Los Angeles on what was then a luxury liner. The company (the President Lines) agreed to let my sister come too, so my mother, sister and I went to L.A. and went to Disneyland. That was in the days when you bought A tickets and B tickets...I guess the E tickets were the biggies. This was before "Small World" and a lot of things which everybody associates with Disneyland now. But I remember that we had a wonderful time and when the day ended, I took my very first airplane ride from LA to San Francisco.

We remember when Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, The Platters, and Bill Haley and the Comets were Rock and Roll idols. I regret now not liking rock'n'roll. I remember the first time I saw Elvis Presley was when he was on TV. I was staying with Peach at the time and we watched it at the house of a friend of hers. I never did get what was so special about him and was bored. Over time I came to know all of the songs from the others, but rock was never my favorite genre of music. I preferred Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters. Now I realize that I missed a huge part of my contemporaries' upbringing!

We never heard of mobile phones, CD players or dishwashers. Well, other than the aforementioned Dick Tracy 2-way wrist radio, no mobile phones. The very first "mobile" phone that Walt and I had was about the size of a shoe, as I recall. As for CD players, I was born before hi fidelity and remember the day my father brought home a little portable hi fi and was all excited about the quality of the hi fi sound. We were at that time still playing 78 records and then went to 10" vinyl. I also remember when my mother's 2nd husband bought a portable radio with earphones and he was so enthralled with the stereo sound he got through his earphones.

As for dishwashers, we always had a dishwasher in my house: me or my sister. We were even portable and you don't even have that today!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The New Look of Cousins Day

I'm so glad that we've had as long as we have with our Cousins Days, because we are now entering a new phase, due to the physical problems of both my mother and Kathy. My mother doesn't really like to travel long distances, for many reasons, so bringing her to the Sacramento area for a Cousins Day is out of the question. At the same time, Kathy's oxygen needs for her COPD have made it pretty much impossible to transport her to and from my mother's. The equipment won't fit in my car (and weighs a ton anyway), and we all decided that the old Cousins Days just weren't going to happen again.

HOWEVER, undaunted, Peach and I have worked this all to our advantage and we get two cousins day out of it. She and I go to my mother's, as we always have. We play 65, we drink, we talk, we laugh, we eat, we sleep and then we get up and play, talk and laugh again before Peach and I return home.

But at the same time, we also want to include Kathy, so we have decided to have a second Cousins Day at her house. The only problem is that we have to kick her husband out for the day, we can't drink because of having to drive home afterwards, but we can still play 65, talk, laugh, and eat. There are no overnights at Kathy's house (because her husband has to come home sooner or later!) but we still have a few hours to laugh and bitch and cry and do all the stuff that we have always done when it was the four of us who were together.

So today we had the Sacramento area Cousins Day. Kathy's sister has just moved back into the area and wanted to come and we voted no, at least not this time. We all had things to talk about that she would need too much background to understand and we just wanted it to be the three of us.

Peach said she would bring fruit salad and I was on for the main lunch course. I decided to make a quiche. I got up early to get it done and as I was putting it into the oven, I was uncomfortable because it just didn't look like enough liquid. I decided to re-check the recipe, to make sure I had measured the cream and milk right and that's when I realized I'd left out the eggs! Fortunately, I was able to pour out the milk mixture, add the eggs, pour it back in and it was a great looking (and tasting) quiche.

I took an hour's nap because I'd gotten up at 3 to do the quiche (the dogs think I'm nuts) and at the appointed hour, I packed up all the China gifts and the quiche and headed off to Peach's.

I was very glad of the long drive because I was just about an hour from the end of my audio book, "Tears of the Giraffe," an Alexander McCall Smith book about the Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency and the drive to Peach's house (driving slow and stopping a block away to finish the last 5 minutes) brought me to the end of the book.

We got to Kathy's shortly before noon and did our usual "what's new in your life" recap, and I passed out the stuff I'd bought for them while we were in China--a nice tea set for Kathy (who collects them and had asked me to get one for her), which I bought in the gift shop at the Great Wall. Hers cost the most, so she only got that and a butterfly scarf.

I had butterfly scarves for all three of them, purple for my mother, blue for Kathy and green for Peach. When our cousin Shirley died several years ago, she said something about whenever we saw a butterfly we would know she was around. Since that time butterflies have taken on a big importance, especially for Peach who had a special bond with Shirl, and who has butterflies visit her frequently. I also bought her a little beaded butterfly coin purse and a couple of little costumed figures. I usually get her salt and pepper shakers when I travel, since she collects them, but I didn't see a single set (other than what was on the tables wherever we ate) and then realized, that Chinese salt their food with soy sauce. Duhhh. But I saw the little figures and thought they were cute, so I got those for her instead.

By then we were ready for lunch and enjoyed it before breaking out the cards. Kathy informed us that she was going to be the big winner today, but alas, I won 2 games and Peach won one. Playing the sympathy card didn't work on us and we cut her no slack just because she's not feeling well.

It was 4 by the time we left. Kathy was ready for a nap and I was hoping to avoid rush hour traffic (which, miraculously, I did, by using my favorite back roads)

I don't like Cousins-Day-For-Three as well as for four, but we are determined to keep the good thing going, however we have to do it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Nonagenarian Surfer

(Title and photos shamelessly "borrowed" from blogger Wilma Scott)

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His name is William (Willy) Baker and on Saturday he turned 97. He may be the country's oldest blogger--and he's been at it since 1999. He may also be the oldest person on Facebook. We may never know.

I met him a year ago, when fellow blogger, Wilma Scott, from Ontario, Canada, came to California to help Willy celebrate his 96th birthday. Wilma and I had stayed in touch through e-mail, blogs, and more recently Facebook (don't ever play Lexulous with her...she always wins!) and when she came to California, her first visit to this state, I offered to give her my Grand Tour of San Francisco.

We made that tour a year ago and one of the perks of having made those arrangements was that I got to meet Willy when I picked Wilma up and dropped her off again after our day in San Francisco.

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This year we decided to just stay at Willy's house and have lunch there, which would give me the opportunity to visit with him as well. What a delightful afternoon.

His birthday party had been on Saturday and his gift from Wilma was a book of Willy's memories, taken from his blog, which Wilma had collected and had printed and bound for his family and friend. Willy graciously gave me a copy of the nearly 500 page book and it is a fascinating read.

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The introduction to the book gives his story, very briefly.

Born June 12, 1914, married 57 years, octogenarian widower as of 3/4/1997, 4 children, 5 grandchildren, 10 great grandchildren.

Log cabin in the Arkansas Ozark mountains at Norfork 3 years, Oklahoma oilfields 16, California San Joaquin valley at Corcoran with aunt and uncle 2, CCC camps 2, San Francisco Bay area since 1936. Electronics engineer with the Lawrence Berkeley lab over 40 years (Staff Senior Scientist rank last years), inventive type, retired since 1980.

My wife was the joy of my life. Wish I had retired earlier so we could have had more fun travelling in our motor home--and visiting far-away places all over the world. We decided on a family life with 4 kids before we got married. The kids have families of their own now. A happy family life is about as close to heaven on earth as it gets.

Random reading of various bits and pieces promise a book that will be entertaining, enlightening and sad in parts, but a wonderful chronicle of a full life. His niece was there when I arrived, helping unload food from his refrigerator because a new one was being delivered today. It was delightful watching her interact with him and blatantly obvious that the two of them love each other very much. They told me about their trip to Turkey together a few years ago.

Thanks, Wilma and Willy. I had a great time and look forward to seeing you again next year!