Friday, November 30, 2012

It's the Waiting

It's the waiting, of course.  The early days when nothing substantative is happening, no prognosis is given and people are taking a "wait and see" stance.

It was announced on Facebook, so there is no point in being coy about it.  Peach's husband had a stroke yesterday afternoon.  

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Thank God Peach knew exactly what to look for and what to do for it, so in the first hour, she had given him aspirin, called 911, and he was in the emergency room before that critical time had passed, giving him the very best possible chance.

He had lost the ability to name things (like a pen or a wristwatch) and ultimately he didn't recognize Peach.  CT scans showed bleeding in the brain, he was intubated and put in the ICU.  When I talked with Peach last night he had been sedated.  Her daughters were flying in from Iowa today, which they did, and her son was taking her to the hospital this morning.

I did a lot of googling about hemorrhagic strokes and found nothing good in the on-line literature.  This breaks my heart.  I think I've known Bob almost as long as I've known Peach.  She and I have photos of ourselves when we were babies and young girls, of course, but we didn't really become close friends until we started having summertime vacation exchanges, a couple of weeks at her house, a couple of weeks at mine, while her sister and my sister were doing the same thing in the opposite direction. 

The exchanges started when I was in grammar school.  Peach was dating Bob at that time.  The two have been inseparable for more than 60 years.   I was maid of honor at their wedding.

Everybody loves Bob and Facebook has been full of good wishes from all sorts of people.  Our kids called during the day to find out if there was news and I talked with my mother a few times during the day.  We seem to spend most of our conversations saying "Oh God!"
So it's the waiting and the being "here" while they are all "there" and knowing that they don't need anybody else "there" when there is nothing else that anybody can do to help.  If you are the praying sort, he'd sure appreciate your prayers.

I set up a Caring Bridge site tonight for people who aren't on Facebook because Bob never met a stranger.  He knew everybody, liked everybody, helped everybody and as word begins to leak out, everybody is going to want to know how he is doing.  I hope that someone in his immediate family will take over putting updates on the Caring Bridge site.

But in the meantime, life has to go on.  My friend Joan needed a ride to the eye doctor today and offered to take me to brunch for my chauffeur services (today and when I did it before).  We had a lovely brunch (eggs benedict) at Ciocolat, which is becoming one of my favorite Davis eateries, and then I took her to her appointment.  She suggested I might want to run errands and come back in an hour, but I was just as happy to have an excuse to sit and read my book (the latest Michael Connelly novel).

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When I returned home it was almost time to go to Logos for the afternoon.  Instead of looking for a short book this time, I decided to start reading the book that our Book Club has chosen for February, Willa Cather's "My Antonia."

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No way I could finish this ~400 page book in four hours, but I did finish the first section, and have the book on my Kindle, so can continue to read at home.

I called Peach before we went to the theater tonight and talked with her daughter, who says essentially that there is no change, but he seems to be trying to squeeze their hands.  I take that as a good sign.

We saw something called The Bacchae at the University, which was advertised as a Greek tragedy combined with rock and roll, but it seemed more like an audio book with cheerleaders.  I'm going to have to think about how I'm going to handle the review.
Tomorrow--and for too many tomorrows, I fear--there will be more waiting.  I hate this.  But then, it's not about me, is it.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Book Club

You'll have to forgive me if this entry isn't very scintillating.   We had news tonight that someone we love very much had a stroke this afternoon and is on life support at the moment.  We won't know more until tomorrow, but my thoughts and prayers (and a lot of my mental energy) are with the family.
I almost didn't go to the book club tonight (I didn't get the news about the stroke until I came home, so that wasn't the reason).  It rained a lot earlier in the day, the first of several storms that are going to be rolling through here over the next few days.  The thought of driving into Sacramento at night in a heavy rain was very off-putting.

But the weather reports were that things would be slowing down and maybe even be dry tonight and tomorrow and then pick up again.  By sundown, there was a sun to go down and the rain had stopped.  I was curious to see what others in the group would have to say about this month's book selection, "The Stupidest Angel" by Christopher Moore, and I had enjoyed my first two meetings and was bound and determined to "bond" with this group.

Last month we had a small group gathered around the table in the book store where these meetings are held.  I think it was because nobody liked the book and few finished it and maybe were embarrassed to admit it.

I thought I was getting there early but it turned out I was only 5 minutes early and the parking lot was nearly full.  

I was surprised to discover that we were not, in fact, at the table where we have met before.  The store had a Christmas tree up in an area where there was a couch and someone had made cookies for us and chairs were gathered around the tree and a faux fireplace was there, giving it a very cozy feel.  Right away the mood was very festive.
Also, instead of the handful of members from last time there were fifteen people at this meeting. I don't know anybody's name yet, but I'm recognizing faces and people recognized me, and that was fun.

The first order of business was to discuss our upcoming book selections.  The group rotates through contemporary fiction, non-fiction, and classic   fiction.  Moore's book was our contemporary fiction selection and next up is a book about the gold rush, which will be the non-fiction book, but we had nothing scheduled beyond that.

People had huge stacks of books at their feet and there was a list of possible choices passed around and the discussion was quite lively as we put in our voice for the book we thought would be a great choice.  We ultimately came up with the next three books, so we are good until April.

I'll tell ya, these readers put me to shame.  I keep a database of books I read throughout the year.  Last year I hoped to read 50 books, but fell short and read something like 43.  This year I was determined to beat that record and, thanks to working at Logos and my pledge to read a book a day when I'm there, I will have finished 80 books by the end of the year, which is an impressive record for me, but listening to the people around me last night, I am a piker.  They are so well read and so extensively read. It is a challenge just to listen them.

When it came to discussing this month's book it was obvious that you either loved it or hated it, and the group was about split in half.  Since the only reason I finished the book was that we were going to discuss it, and since I decided it really should have been named "The Stupidest BOOK," it was clear which camp I was in.

In addition to having (in my opinion) no redeeming social (or entertainment, for that matter) value, there was nothing really to discuss once you got beyond the stupidity of all the undead rising from the cemetery and destroying the town hall and eating people's brains.

I mean...where do you go from there?

Everyone seemed in agreement that there was little to actually discuss about the book and mostly we went back to discussing book choices, the impending retirement of one man in the group, a woman's trip to the deep south to attend a "real" Cotillion (she was amazed that such things even exist in this day and age) and more thoughts on books.  There is a man in the group, one of the younger people, though by no means "young," who is the group expert on all things Jane Austen, which surprised me.  He was the last one I would have picked to be an Austen-o-phile.

I also found a soulmate in a woman who sat behind me and said that her favorite book of all time was "East of Eden."  After the meeting broke up, I talked with her and told her about "Journal of a Novel," Steinbeck's collection of letters to his publisher while he was writing "East of Eden," which is a fascinating read when paired with the novel itself.  She hadn't heard of that book and was going to check it out.

The evening was an absolute delight and I'm so glad that the rain let up and I took the time to drive into Sacramento to attend the meeting.  We have no meeting in December, so I have plenty of time to read the long-ish next selection.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Sleep is a wonderful thing.  I finally got some of it and feel refreshed.  It took awhile, though.

I finally managed to get to sleep somewhere around 3:30 yesterday morning, and was wide awake at 5, which gave me a whopping total hours of sleep for two days somewhere between 3 and 4.  I remember, with some wry humor, my friend Gilbert's perennial sleep problems and how every time I saw him I first heard a recitation of how much (or more likely how little) sleep he had the night before.

But I had a doctor's appointment to get to and decided to talk with her about it. 
It was kind of cool, driving to Kaiser, because I came across the famous Davis wild turkeys, grazing in a church yard.  

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We never heard much about wild turkeys until the cemetery decided to ban dogs from the property in the back of the grave area, which used to be a dog run.   Apparently the dogs had kept the wild turkeys out, but after the dogs were no longer allowed, the turkeys began to multiply and now you see them all over town.  A couple of years ago, Walt saw them on our roof.  I know they can be a big nuisance, but it's kind of fun to come across them unexpectedly.

It was a good appointment with my doctor.  Most of my appointments are to have her scold me for my bad test results, but this time almost all of them were good.  My numbers are finally getting where they are supposed to be and even my weight is down 60 lbs.  My pulse was higher than it had been the previous two visits last week, so she ordered an EKG, but on the EKG, the pulse was just fine.

The EKG is kind of silly.  They have you disrobe and give you a gown to put on, but since the nurse has to attach leads all over your chest, the only thing the gown actually covers is your back (which you are lying on) and your shoulders.  I laughed about it with the nurse and she said that the gown was mainly so you could cover up while waiting for someone to come in and do the test.

I had worn my matryushka doll socks...

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...which the nurse liked.  She has a couple of matryushka dolls and we talked about them, about the store that used to sell them in Old Sacramento, and about all the dolls I saw when we were in Russia.  Something to pass the time while a machine is measuring your heart rate.

I talked with the doctor about my insomnia of the past two days and, very strangely, she ordered a sleep study.  I told her my problem was not that I couldn't stay asleep, but that I couldn't get to sleep, but she decided to have me checked for sleep apnea.  I think it's very likely that I have sleep apnea, but I doubt that logistically I can use a c-Pap machine even if I do, what with where and how I sleep, but I will do the sleep study, which requires my picking up a testing machine in Sacramento, doing the test overnight, and returning the machine the next morning by 7 a.m., which seems kind of silly, given that it's a 20-30 minute drive from here, and why does it have to be returned so early.  But owell.

I got back home again around 10:15 and had a date to meet a friend for lunch at 11:45.  I tried to nap for half an hour, but couldn't get to sleep, probably because I was so aware that I had to be up again so soon.

Lunch was very nice.  There is a new Panera in town that we wanted to try and we both decided this is our new 'place," since the Chinese buffet is now closed.  And we had a nice chat, but every single molecule in my body was screaming that I wanted to get out of there and go to sleep!  

We finally said good bye, I drove home and went from the front door to the couch and, finally...finally, went to sleep.  I slept about 2-1/2 hours and Walt said that I even slept through a volley of dog barks.  I woke up feeling like a new person and when nighttime came went right to sleep and slept my usual 6 hours, so I hope I'm finally back on track again.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


I need a flock of sheep.

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I fell asleep during Homeland last night, then woke up and staggered off to the couch around 11 p.m. or so.  Some time later, I woke up.  I was wide awake, trying to decide how long I had been asleep.  I try to check the lightness of the sky and I couldn't tell if the moon was full and somehow turning the sky a dark grey, instead of black, or if it was about 5 a.m., which is the hour I frequently wake up.

After lying there for what seemed like a long time -- maybe an hour -- I got up and discovered by the light of our new coffee pot that it was 1 a.m., so at best I'd been asleep for an hour and a half.

I went to the recliner and tried to get back to sleep.  For four hours.  TV off, TV on...nothing worked.  I finally got up at 5 a.m. and decided today would be a nap day.
Later in the morning, oh maybe 9 or so, I started trying to take a nap.  With TV, without TV.  Nothing.  Tried reading, that didn't work.   Around noon, I got up and had some lunch but felt like a zombie.  I finally decided that what I needed was to actually lie down on the couch, like I was going to sleep.

The dogs were happy and assumed our "hamburger" position, but I was there an hour and no luck.  

I even, believe it or not, decided to actually try counting sheep and laughed at myself for doing it.  But I discovered something really weird.  I sleep on my side and on my side, I could not get a clear picture of sheep jumping over a fence.  It seemed to be skewed because my head was tilted in the wrong direction.   If I turned onto my back, I could see them just fine, but then I knew I couldn't fall asleep.

Finally, Sheila decided that though she was happy to let me share "our" bed at night (we're Cox and Box--it's hers during the day, and mine at night.  No pork chops are involved, for those familiar with Cox and Box.), during the day it was a couch and it was her domain so she took up her position, standing on me, looking out the window, protecting us from passersby.

I finally gave up and went about my business again, feeling worse and worse.  I finally decided to Get Serious around 3 p.m.  By then an NCIS marathon was on and that almost always works as a soporific for me.  And it was starting to work, when the robo calls started.  About four of them, spaced at nice enough intervals that I would just start to feel sleepy and anther call would come.  I hate robo calls.

We get three companies who call regularly.  A lot.  One is a recording of a guy with a very ominus voice that starts out "if you are a Senior Citizen..."  Turns out it's from a company called "Safe Line," which is selling senior emergency services, but apparently there is no way to contact the company, according to a bunch of messages I found on line.  Another is from a company which wants to give me a lower interest rate on my credit card (I never carry a balance, so it matters not to me what my interest rate is).  Today we had 3 calls from that company, one was a regular call one was the "second call" and the third was the "second and last call."  I assume that is "second and last call" for today because I'm sure they will call again tomorrow.  I can't remember now what the third one is.

We have been on a do not call list for years, renewed in the past year, but apparently robo callers don't pay attention to that.

When the robo calls stopped coming and I hoped I could finally sleep, the dogs started barking outside.  I put up with them as long as I could and then brought them in and locked them inside, and then they decided to chase each other up and down the hall over and over again.

By now it was 6 p.m. and I was going to be watching Jeopardy at 6:30, so I stopped trying to sleep.  I stumbleld through cooking dinner, couldn't eat much and went to the recliner, hoping to fall asleep during Dancing with the Stars, but I didn't.  Instead I went to the couch at 9 p.m.  It is now 1 a.m. and I am still awake...wide awake, I'm afraid.

It's probably a good thing I have a doctor's appointment in the morning.  I hope I have had some sleep by then!

Now where is that flock of sheep...?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sunday Stealing

This was one that I started to do one year ago and never finished, so I thought I'd finish it now.

21. What was the last song you listened to that wasn’t sung in English?
Feliz Navidad.  It's the start of the Christmas carol the time Christmas gets here I will go stark raving mad if I hear that song one more time!

22. First album you ever went and bought with your own money?
It was a 10" vinyl album, the soundtrack from the movie Calamity Jane.

23. When did you last play a game?
A group game?  That would be the last time we had Cousins Day, which was last month.  The last time I played a game by myself would be Spider Solitaire, which I play all the time.

24. What was the last video game you played?
I don’t know that I’ve played a video game in a very, very long time, but I play a lot of on-line Scrabble.

25. Have you ever been in a musical?
No. I left that up to my kids.

26. Do you follow your own style or everyone else’s?
My own -- and I have a lousy sense of style!

27. What’s the last store you bought from?
Nugget Market, my favorite of the supermarkets in Davis.

28. In retrospect, have you ever let a person use you a lot?
Definitely. I’m a real pushover.  It has bit me in the butt over and over again, but I never seem to learn!

29. What are you doing two days from now?
My follow-up doctor's appointment to see if my pulse is any better.  Then lunch with a friend.

30. Did you ever believe there were monsters in your closet?
In the closet and under the bed. I was a mess as a kid.

31. When you graduated high school, did you let random people sign your yearbook or just close friends?
Well, I was the editor of my high school yearbook and it came out LATE, so I had to drive the books to all of the graduate students (we were a class of 60). They weren’t too happy with me, so only my close friends signed.

32. Would you consider adopting a child that had a mental illness?
No. I’m much too old to be adopting a child, with or without special problems.

33. Does thinking about death scare you?
A little, but there are so many friends and relatives waiting for me on the other side, it doesn’t scare me as much as it used to.

34. If you died, do you believe that you go to Heaven or Hell and where would your spirit go?
I don’t know about Heaven and Hell. I believe there is an after life and I’m curious to find out where I’ll end up when I pass over.

35. Who did you last write a snail mail letter to and why?
It was to one of my Compassion kids. I write to each of them on a regular basis.

36. Do you care what people say or think about you?
Yes. Too much, I think.

37. Have you ever been threatened?
Only once when I was in grammar school. I was babysitting and had taken my young charge to a park, which turned out to be deserted. An older boy had followed me and tried to grab me, but I picked up the boy I was babysitting and screamed and I guess it scared him away because I was able to get the heck out of there.

38. Which side of your family do you get most of your qualities from?
My humor definitely from my father’s side of the family. But I hope that most come from my mother’s.

39. What was the last thing with alcohol that you drank?
Probably whatever it was that we drank at Cousins Day last month.

40. Name someone who made you laugh today?
The dogs always make me laugh.  Today I laughed when Polly, who was   sleeping under a quilt with me, suddenly popped her head out of the blanket, ears straight up, eyes searching the kitchen because she heard Walt start to make breakfast -- and she knows that always means a taste of sausage for her.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

My City by the Bay

This has been a relatively slothful weekend, one I didn't deserve.   If I had hosted a big Thanksgiving dinner, with lots of relatives, clean house, etc., I could have justified taking a couple of days off, but all I did was cart food to my mother's and cook it--she even cleaned up (which she insists on doing).  But I did take a couple of days off, mostly because there were good movies to see.

I couldn't pass up the chance to see Hitchcock's Vertigo again.  One of my favorite classic movies, and a toss-up between this and North by Northwest as my favorite Hitchcock.

This particular movie is near and dear to my heart because it's set in my neighborhood.  For one thing, John "Scotty" Ferguson (James Stewart) lives about 3 blocks from where I grew up.  I used to drive by that house with the iconic red door all the time (the door has since been painted).  But all the places they visit--Fort Point, under the Golden Gate Bridge, where Kim Novak leaps off into the bay (an impossible situation today, since the area was fenced off after 9/11); the Palace of Fine arts; Mission Dolores (the oldest building in San Francisco, across the street from where I used to work for The Lamplighters); and many other famous sites.

Hitchcock loved San Francisco and filmed many movies there, Shadow of a Doubt and The Birds for example.  Authors Jeff Kraft and Aaron Leventhal wrote a book called "Footsteps in the Fog: Alfred Hitchcock's San Francisco."  I had never watched Vertigo with the book in my lap before and it was fun, following the back story of the shooting locations as I watched the familiar story unfold on my TV screen.

I learned a lot about Ernie's restaurant, for one thing.   Ernie's was "the" place to go for dining in San Francisco.   With its dark wood paneling and red flocked wallpaper it represented for me the ideal in elegant dining.  Hitchcock recreated Ernie's on a stage in Hollywood, but borrowed or copied art work and other ephemera from the actual restaurant.  The owners of the restaurant appear in the movie as a waiter and the maitre d' and Hitchcock was so concerned with realism he had actual meals from Ernie's served on the set when filming that scene.

Alas, Ernie's went out of business in 1998, so I never did have the "Ernie's experience."
But the authors failed to answer a question for me (the reason I bought the book, actually!) which I must investigate myself some day.  Kim Novak as Madeline enters the Mission Dolores chapel and walks toward the front of the church.   She exits out the door on the right side of the chapel.  Scotty follows her into the attached cemetery.  BUT, the cemetery is on the left side of the chapel.  I don't know if there is a path that leads around the back of the church and into the cemetery and it bothers me every time I see the movie.  It seems such a glaring error to anybody who is familiar with San Francisco, and especially a director who is so persnickity as Hitchcock was.

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(This photo is also wrong.  Scotty's windows face the street
and it would be impossible to see Coit Tower from those windows)

Glaring errors are common in movies about San Francisco, though, most commonly those exciting chase sequences where a car goes sailing over the top of a famous San Francisco hill...and lands on a hill that is on the opposite side of the city (Foul Play is the movie that comes immediately to mind!)

On Saturday evening, Walt and I watched a strange movie called Dark Passage. This was the third of four movies that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall made together and it got mixed reviews, with Bogart getting poor reviews and Bacall glowing ones.  It's a strange movie where Bogart, wrongly imprisoned at San Quentin for the murder of his wife, somehow manages to escape from death row and tries to solve the mystery of his wife's murder.  The first third of the movie is seen entirely from Bogart's point of view since he get plastic surgery so we don't see the familiar Bogart face until after the surgery (which is performed in office in about an hour, with no follow up, a one-week recovery time and no scars...Talk about suspension of disbelief!)

The movie has plot holes that you can drive a truck through though somehow it was strangely entertaining.  Most of the reviews, however, talk about the real star of the film as San Francisco. 
[t]he city of San Francisco, which is liberally and vividly employed as the realistic setting for the Warners' Dark Passage...For Writer-Director Delmar Daves has very smartly and effectively used the picturesque streets of that city and its stunning panoramas from the hills to give a dramatic backdrop to his rather incredible yarn. So, even though bored by the story—which, because of its sag, you may be—you can usually enjoy the scenery, which is as good as a travelogue -- Bosley Crowder
Unlike Vertigo, this film noir movie deals more with the seedier sides of the city, but also sweeping vistas, for which San Francisco is best known.  I love seeing movies made in this era and comparing the skyline to the skyline of today.

There are so many movies made in San Francisco and I love watching every single one of them.  It always reminds me of Judy Garland at the end of Meet Me in St. Louis when she looks out at the big world's fair and comments that she didn't have to come from a great distance (or in my case go to a theater), but that she could see sights like this every day, because it was right where she lived.

I don't live there any more, but it's still "my city by the bay."

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Magic Moments

TreeLights.jpg (195581 bytes)Brianna is 4-1/2, the perfect age to really start to appreciate the magic of the Christmas season.   The family spent their Thanksgiving with Laurel's family and across the highway ws a cut-it-yourself Christmas tree lot, so their tree is already up.

This photo, which Tom sent this evening, made me think of all the magic Christmas moments throughout my life, and how, as you get older, the magic seems to fade.  I hope Brianna and Lacie have many magic seasons ahead of them.

We never cut our own Christmas tree when I was a child.  Living in San Francisco, there weren't any places to do it--for all I know, cutting your own tree may not have been as popular as it is today.  We just went to the nearest Christmas tree lot and picked out a tree.

When I think of my young years, the memories come back in snippets.   The smell of the tree filling our house.  You could smell it as soon as you came through the front door, all through the season.  It said "Christmas" to me. Somehow the trees we have had in the last 20 years or so just don't have that smell, even when they smell great when we first either cut them or bought them.   Maybe it's my nose that's out of whack, but for me, the magic of Christmas always began with that smell.

There was a routine to decorating the tree.  My mother was very particular about the lights and so putting them on the tree was her job.  Those were the years when if one bulb was bad, it made the whole string of lights go out and I can remember so many times of my father cursing and swearing, trying to find the one bad bulb on a string.

I usually put on the first ornament, which was "the face."   It had been on of my mother's family's ornaments and I just loved that thing.   When I married and was looking at my own first Christmas, my mother gave it to me.   I don't remember how it got broken, when our kids were still little, but I kept the pieces and later, when I made a memory box for my mother, one of the segments had "the face" in it.  She didn't remember it, which was a big disappointment, since it had been such a special thing for me.  (Or maybe she just didn't understand why I'd put something broken in a memory box...I can't remember now...but it was definitely part of my "Christmas magic)

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I remember the year Karen and I heard Santa.  The Christmas tree was at one end of the hall in the center of our flat and our bedroom was at the other end.   We definitely heard him ho-ho-ho'ing as he put our presents under the tree.  Of course we were too scared to sneak out and see him, and by the time he had finished, we had fallen asleep.  Missed our big chance.

We always had to wait until Christmas eve before we could open any gifts, but I remember this one year when my mother let us open ONE gift the day before.   I still remember that I chose a gift that a classmate had given me.  It was a ceramic piggy bank.  Isn't that weird that all these years later I can still remember that piggy bank (though I don't have a clue who gave it to me)?

I mentioned the other day about the year my mother read "A Christmas Carol" to us and how special that was for me. We also played a lot of board games around the Christmas tree, as I recall.  And a couple of years we strung popcorn, which was also magical.
I also remember putting cookies and milk out on the window ledge of our "light well" because we had no fireplace.  There was always magic in discovering the cookies gone and crumbs on the plate because we knew Santa had been there.

When I went away to college, there was real magic in the chapel of the old Newman Hall, with its rich wooden walls and the manger scene under the altar, surrounded by poinsettia plants, lit up, giving everything a warm golden glow.

I loved the magic of Christmas caroling on the Cable car in San Francisco with the Lamplighters, ending with Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista, and in later years, walking the streets here in Davis singing our songs

The magic is different when you are parents of young children, and you lie awake waiting to hear the whispered giggles as they find wrapped packages under the tree.  I always loved that, and it became frustrating as they got older and actually SLEPT in on Christmas morning.  We'd be wandering around trying to make noise so they'd wake up then!

I loved the magic of decorating our Christmas tree, everyone having a glass of egg nog and listening to Bing Crosby. I remember the Christmas after Paul died, when the Lawsuit guys showed up to help us decorate the tree, because they knew how hard it was going to be.

1977.jpg (11089 bytes)I loved the tradition of taking the annual "train picture," all five of the kids, often but not always, in identical pajamas, sitting under the tree.  When we had foreign students, they joined the "train" too.

I also loved the years when the kids made their own Christmas ornaments and still mourn the loss of Ned's "Jesus doing a front dive" during the diving years around this house.

I remember so fondly the year Jeri rebuilt the face of Delicate Pooh after the dog ate it.

There was magic in the annual "egg nog gala," with the kids doing skits and playing music, the shows getting more and more "professional" as they got older and their talents improved.  

Sadly, as you get older, the magic slowly fades away.  It's "just another holiday" and we haven't yet settled on meaningful new traditions, though with children of their own, Tom and Laurel are making their own magic now.

But I'd love to be asked "how do you doodly doodly do?" again and watch David play "Deck the Halls" once more time. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Brining: the Verdict

Well, I can't say I was blown away with the difference, but it was a tasty turkey and now that I have the perfect container to use for brining, I will probably do it again next year.
My Thanksgiving started at 5 a.m., 3 hours after I went to sleep (hint: don't try to watch The Color Purple the night before Thanksgiving!).   I got the turkey out of the brine, washed, and into a water bath, made the stuffing, and packed things up ready to go to my mother's.

We got a late start and there was heavy traffic.  My plan had been to serve dinner around 4 or 5, but we got to my mother's house so late that it was 6 before Walt was carving the turkey.  Ned, Marta and Marta's mother (arrived the previous night from Hawaii, where she lives) were already there noshing on cheese and crackers.  We sat around and had a nice visit.  

LaurelLacie.jpg (176745 bytes) Tom sent a picture of Lacie and Laurel.  I responded with a picture of Ned and Grandma. NedGma.jpg (129864 bytes)

When it was getting close to dinnertime, Ned, as usual, peeled the potatoes.

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Whenever we can't all be together, whoever is not there usually calls and the telephone gets passed around the room so everyone can talk to the caller.  Tom and Jeri called within 5 minutes of each other, Tom on my cell phone, Jeri on my mother's phone.  Both phones got passed around until the only person who hadn't talked to either of them was Marta.  She got the phones and let the two of them talk to each other...

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...and I ended up talking to both of them at the same time.

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The turkey was beautiful.

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Walt couldn't find an apron, so donned a bib before he started carving

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And a wonderful feast was enjoyed by all.

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I fell asleep in the car going home and slept the whole way, staggering into the house to feed the dogs and then collapse on the couch and fall immediately back to sleep.  I slept until 5 a.m., when I got up to start writing this entry (after pumpkin pie for breakfast, of course!)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Square Peg, Round Hole

I made the mistake of watching The Food Network over the weekend.   I have long followed The Pioneer Woman's blog and was thrilled a year or so ago when the Food Network invited Ree Drummond to do a show--and then gave her her own series.   She is likeable, engaging, has great food and cute kids and a lovely basset hound.

The show I watched was her preparation for a Thanksgiving feast, which included brining a turkey.  I have long heard about brining turkeys, but have never tried it.  Drummond made it look so easy and raved about what a huge difference it made in the turkey.

I decided that this would be the year I would brine a turkey.

The first thing I needed was a brining bag, like a huge zip-lock bag which would hold a 20 lb turkey and 2-3 gallons of liquid.  Could I find one locally?   Of course not.  Our local hardware store, the week before Thanksgiving, had NO bags and had only one on order, which would not arrive until after Thanksgiving.   Amazon had them, but I couldn't get one in time.  (If the brining turns out to be wonderful, I will order ahead for next year)
Well, I would improvise.  I would just put my turkey in a garbage bag.  Problem solved.

To make the brine, you bring all the ingredients (apple juice, water, spices, orange peel and fresh thyme) to a boil and then let it sit until it cools.   Sounds easy.  But it calls fr 3 cups of apple juice and 2 gallons of water. I tried three different big pots before I discovered that I had nothing large enough to hold that amount of liquid.  I would have to reduce the water to 1-1/2 gallons.

I did that, brought it all to a boil and then let it steep until cool.  Hours and hours and hours before it cooled.  In fact, I ended up putting it in a bath of cool water and then a different pot.  It took about 4 hours before it was slightly warm, not cool.  But I finally decided to go ahead and pour it over the turkey anyway.

I had thought of using a small garbage bag, but that size would hardly hold a chicken, much less a 20 lb turkey, so I figured I'd use our regular size garbage bag.  But when I got out the bag and opened it, I was hit with a blast of perfume...I had forgotten these were bags designed to cover any offending odor of garbage.

OK.  What to use.  What to use.  I thought maybe the turkey would fit in the pot that now held the brining liquid, but obviously that wasn't going to work.

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square peg -- round hole

I went looking for any container I might have that would be large enough (what kind of equipment does that Drummond woman have anyway??)

I remembered the trash bags in the garage so decided to use one of those.  Those will hold a small tree, so I was sure I could fit a 20 lb turkey in one.   Walt was supposed to be going to the opera, but fortunately he had not left yet, since getting this set up was definitely a two person job.  He must have asked me 6 times if the thing might possibly leak.  I confidently told him no.  (So far so good, but I'm having nightmares of going out into the kitchen and finding a big pool in front of the refrigerator)

The problem is that the bag is so big that I don't know if any brine is coming in contact with the turkey at alll, since it all seems to have collected along the side instead of around the turkey--but I can't see through the black bag.  I'm supposed to turn the turkey half way through the brining process, but I think I'm just going to leave it alone.  Maybe we'll just have a half-brined turkey.   

Walt left for San Francisco and was gone about 5 minutes before I spied a plastic container in the family room that looked like it would have been the perfect thing to use for the turkey, but I wasn't going to try to empty that and refill with turkey in brine all by myself.

After the angst and confusion, I was ready for a nap and had just settled into my chair and was drifting off to sleep, when I got a phone call from someone who didn't like one of the three reviews I had written this weekend and was calling to explain reasons for all the "bad" things I had said.  This pissed me off royally because I went out of my way to say as many good things as I could about the production, and even wrote that some of the things I didn't like might not have been the result of director choices, but of the script. I also didn't mention the people in the cast who were terribly miscast and should not have been playing the roles they were playing because this is not a professional theater and I was trying to be positive.

I was so angry after the phone call that I couldn't get back to sleep. I was ready to quit reviewing shows all together because I'm so sick of trying to be supportive and then being taken to task for it.

Then Sheila started barking and barking and barking and is now locked in the house.

I bought a Dungeness crab to have for dinner tonight.  I think that was appropriate, because I certainly am feeing crabby after my fight with the turkey and the phone call and the barking dog.  Maybe a crab will sweeten my disposition in time to give thanks for all the good things in my life.

Update 5 p.m.
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Obviously I had to do something.  I decided I could move the trash bag into the plastic container (which I confirmed would fit in the fridge).  I did.  It fit.

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The turkey is now brining in the proper position, I don't have to worry about leaks any more and maybe this will all turn out ok after all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Another Day, Another Trip to Kaiser

This one was going to be easy.  Walt and I were going to get flu shots first thing in the morning and then a quick re-check of my blood pressure and then we were outta there, Baby.

Only it wasn't easy.  Of course.

The shots went fine, but my friend Sherri took the BP and again the BP was fine, but the pulse today was higher than it had been yesterday--by 10 points.  Nobody knew what was going on.  So it required another visit with Terry, the nurse from yesterday, who had me sit and relax for 5 minutes before she took the BP.  In my right arm, the machine wouldn't register a pulse at all (I assured her I was alive) and in the left, this machine matched Sherri's.

So I'm now set to see the doctor herself tomorrow morning after she has all the results of my tests back.  I have now seen all the results and everything is "wnl" (as I used to type on medical forms -- "within normal limits").  The shocking number was the LDL, the "bad" cholesterol, which a year ago had been 186 (it should be less than 120) and today was 85.  My A1C, the glucose, which is supposed to be 7-8 was 13 a year ago and is 9 today, not quite within range, but oh so all but.  So there is nothing immediately visible, to me, at least that may be causing this pulse spike.  I'll see what the doctor has to say tomorrow.  MAYBE I can get by with only one appointment, and not have to run around to several different departments, but after the past two days, I'm not going to hold my breath.

I was meeting my friend Lisa for lunch at 11:45 and hoped to mail 2 packages at the post office and get my hair done before that.  Knowing that this is approaching post office hell season, I anticipated a huge line and wasn't sure I could get both errands run before lunch, but there was almost nobody in line and I got the packages mailed AND there was plenty of time to get a long-overdue haircut.

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To my surprise the woman who cut my hair asked if I wanted some "body" put in it.  It has been a long time since a hair dresser has complimented me on my thick hair and I have been aware that it has lost a lot of body, so I said yes.  It seems to have a bit more oomph now, which will, of course, disappear as soon as I wash it.  But I wasn't going to spend $15 for a little bottle of oomph.

I made it to the restaurant with 5 minutes to spare, just enough time to finish the chapter I'm reading in Tess Gerritsen's new book, "The Last to Die."

The restaurant was Namaste, a Nepalese place with a nice luncheon buffet for about $10 per person.

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There were two tables like this with a large assortment of choices.   Surprisingly good was the bin of "fried chicken skin," which I had to try and which was delicious (I love crispy skin anyway!).  We had a lovely lunch and an even better visit and I got caught up on juicy gossip, which I had not heard in a very long time.  Such fun.

When I said goodbye to Lisa and returned to my car, I discovered that though we were both parked legally within the lines, the car next to me was so close I didn't think there was anyway I could get into the front seat on that side.

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It's times like this that I hate being fat.  But this was an area where it was likely that the owners of the car were at lunch and would return in a short time.  I got in on the passenger's side and listened to an audio book for awhile until I got tired of waiting, then I decided to see if maybe I could squeeze in.   Miraculously, it was a very tight squeeze, but I did manage to slip inside the car, though I was afraid for a moment that I might have to leave one of my Birkinstocks behind.

On the ride home, I stopped to take some photos of some of the glorious color that you can find on the streets right now, before the wind tears all the leaves off the trees.  I do love the fall colors, even though we don't get what you see back east.  It's still pretty, for one brief fleeting moment.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Health Care's a Grind

My doctor was going to be so pleased.  Usually she has to remind me countless times before I go in for blood work or to get my blood pressure checked.   I put off the blood work because I know that it's going to be higher than it should be; I put off the blood pressure just because I don't want to drive across town to get my blood pressure checked.

I had a call from the doctor on Friday asking me for a routine blood pressure check.  I was able to tell her I had a diabetes class on Monday and would have the blood pressure checked and my blood work done at that time.  I have visions of my doctor fainting from shock.

The class was at 10, and knowing that it sometimes requires a bit of a wait at the lab, I decided if I came in at 8, I could get the lab work done, pass by the blood pressure station and have that done, rush out and get a bite to eat, and be back in time for the 10 a.m. class, probably with time to spare.

Sigh.  No.  Not really.

I was actually pleased that the blood work got drawn fairly quickly.   Good.  Easy peasy.
Then I went to get my blood pressure taken.  As I sat down in the chair, I asked Sherry, the woman taking it, if she was ready for Thanksgiving.  I wasn't aware that would set off a life story, including when her mother died, her father's remarriage, how she came to actually like her new stepmother (after feeling jealous at first), her stepmother's background and why it makes her cry to realize that nobody in Sherry's family actually argues, as they did in her family.

Whew.  Lots of mileage for a simple question!

She took my blood pressure, which was fine (she was pleased), but she noticed that my pulse was one point above what it should be.  Hmmm, she mused.   This required a call to a nurse.

She called the nurse, and then told me to register at Medicine 1 and tell them that Sherry sent me.  I did so.  It took 15 minutes before I was called back and the nurse took my blood pressure again.  Again, the BP was fine, but the pulse was still one point too high.
"I'll go talk with your doctor," she said, and was gone for 20 minutes.  When she returned, she told me my doctor was still with another patient, apologized for leaving me alone for such a long time, and said she'd be back when she was able to get to the doctor.

I pointed out that my class was now in 15 minutes and that I hadn't had anything to eat yet, thinking that the blood test was supposed to be fasting (it turned out that it was not) and that before I went into a 2 hour class, I would need to get SOMETHING to eat.

She told me to go and that she would call if my doctor wanted me to do something else.
So I went and found food and got back to Kaiser at precisely 10 a.m. on the dot.  I went to register where I have registered for all classes I have taken and the girl in the office said she knew nothing about a class and had no idea what to do about registration.  She waved off in the direction of the hall and suggested I "go down there" (wherever "there" was) and ask somebody.

I went to the information desk and the guy there didn't know anything either, but my friend the blood pressure person did and told me I should register at Medicine 2 and that the class would be right where I knew it would be, where the woman in the office swore there was no class scheduled.

By the time I stood in line and registered and got to the class, it was 10:15, which made me very upset because I had arrived on time for the class and I hated coming in late.  Fortunately, however, there were only two of us in the class.

The class was better than I anticipated and even encouraging, realizing that I'm not as "bad" as I thought I was.  The woman leading it is the one who works with my doctor's patients, so she let the other woman in the class go and we spent about 15 minutes talking about me personally, which was also very nice.   We're going to follow up by phone in a couple of weeks.

When I got home, there was a call from Kaiser.  My doctor wants me to come back tomorrow for another blood pressure test to see how my pulse is then.   Fortunately, Walt and I had already planned to go to Kaiser to get our flu shot tomorrow morning, so I can kill two birds with one stone.

I sure don't like this all-Kaiser-all-the-time business!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Three-Show Weekend

As a general rule, I don't like three-show weekends.   While some might think that having the chance to go out and see a show every night is a great luxury, by Sunday, I'm tired and I just would like to enjoy the "day of rest" and not have to go to yet another show.
However, some 3-show weekends are better than others and when all three shows are plays I know I enjoy, it's not all that bad. 

The weekend started at the Winters Community Theater's production of Miracle on 34th Street.  Winters may be my favorite little theater.  It is "community" and "amateur" in its purest form.   You won't find any superlative actors here, but you'll find some solid performances and everyone having a great time and doing their best because they love what they are doing.  Also, at Christmas time, they choose shows that can easily incorporate a lot of little kids and invariably there is one, usually the littlest one, who steals the show, this production no exception.

They perform in a community center, like a high school auditorium.  The chairs are folding chairs, which are uncomfortable.  I don't know what the set-up for regular nights is, but on opening night, chairs are set around big tables and everyone gets a dessert (usually cheesecake) and either champagne or punch before the show.  For Christmas themed plays, you usually have the choice of cheesecake or pumpkin pie.

"Miracle on 34th St." is my favorite Christmas movie, so it was fun to see it on the stage and yes, there was a little kid who stole the show.  I don't know how old she was--maybe 5?  But she was just so excited to be on stage, and very earnest about doing everything she was suppsed to.  You couldn't take your eyes off of her.

It was quite a different experience going to the Saturday Show, Mistakes were Made at Capital Stage in Sacramento.  If Winters is my favorite little community theater, Capital Stage is my favorite professional theater.   I also review the Broadway Series in Sacramento, touring Broadway shows, but Capital Stage is the Little Theater that Could. 

They were founded in 1999 and at the time performed on the riverboat Delta King.  I didn't review a production until 2005, when a colleague recommended that I review Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol, the Dickens classic as seen through the eyes of Scrooge's deceased partner.  At that time, I was only reviewing shows out of Davis if they had some sort of Davis connection, and the then-production manager, Peter Mohrmann, was a Davis resident.  It was a shakey connection at best, but the show was outstanding and after that first production, I was allowed to continue reviewing Capital Stage shows.

After many years on the riverboat, they finally built their own theater in midtown Sacramento, which opened last year.

I can't think of a bad show I have seen there, and I love the ambience and the people involved.  I have done a few feature articles about some of the upcoming shows, one of which was an interview with actress Katie Rubin, whom I first interviewed when she was a student at UC Davis.  She has gone on to do amazing things and has also become one of Marta's best friends as well, which is nice.

For several years at Christmas time Capital Stage presented Every Christmas Story Ever Told, a very funny show that incorporates, well, every Christmas story and song you've known from your childhood.  In the incestuous ways these show biz things often go, my favorite actor in that show turns out to be someone who is the cousin of someone in the Lamplighters, and, I learned recently, someone I probably saw in a production of Song of Norway in San Francisco back in the 1950s, when he was making his stage debut with his mother, who starred in that production.

This year they decided not to do a Christmas-themed show, but instead presented Mistakes Were Made, a very funny, and surprisingly poignant one-man show starring Eric Wheeler (whom I knew from Every Christmas Story Ever Told, among other shows).  I very much enjoyed the show, which featured a puppet fish named Dolores who was featured prominently in the action.

The final show of the weekend was A Christmas Carol at Davis Musical Theater Company (DMTC).  I think one of the reasons I didn't mind the three show weekend this time is that DMTC is in our own back yard, so it didn't involve a schelp a 20-40 minute drive to get to the theater.

I love A Christmas Carol.  My first introduction to it came one Christmas when I was in grammar school and my mother decided to read it to Karen and me, a chapter a night.  I had hoped it would become a family tradition, but she didn't do it again. I have since seen countless movie, stage and TV adaptations, including one with Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit and Scrooge McDuck as, of course, Scrooge, and the version by the Muppets as well.

I was eager to see this version, which had been done on TV with Kelsey Grammar as Scrooge, but which I had not seen before.  I have to admit to being taken aback and not liking a lot of the incongruous bits at all (scantily clad Rockettes in Victorian London?) until I got home and looked up previous productions and realized that this had been a Christmas staple in New York, produced by Radio City and presented at Madison Square Garden for more than 10 years.  Of course you're going to have Rockettes in Victorian London, then.  There were other elements in this production that I thought might have been poor directorial decisions and a few voices that should not have had principal roles, but with holly in my heart, I mostly chose the "if you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all" rule I learned long ago from Thumper in Bambi and did not mention those whose performance did not live up to par.  Fortunately Scrooge, played by our friend Steve Isaacson, was excellent, as I knew he would be.  That goes a long way toward carrying any version of A Christmas Carol.

But I'm glad that it's a new week and that I have no shows to review this week, only a Thanksgiving dinner to prepare.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday Stealing

1. Have you anything to confess today?
Nope.  I am pure as the driven snow.

2. have you ever broken a law? If so, what was it?

I was an habitual thief at one point in my life.  Every time I went to the corner grocery store, I stole pieces of chocolate.  I suspect the owner knew and never said anything.  I was about 5.

3. have you ever committed an act of betrayal against a friend or family member? explain.

Nothing comes to mind.

4. Has someone else done something that, to this day, makes you cringe when you think about them committing the act?

I can think of a few people and a few things, but the one I was a party to was helping a friend with an affair she was having.  To this day, I think the affair was huge mistake and I have been sorry for a long time that I was a party to any part of it.

5. Have you ever found yourself sexually aroused by someone that you absolutely should not have been?

Oh sure.  Hasn't everyone?  Isn't that what movie crushes are all about?

6. have you ever cheated at school? how so?

I don't think so.  Not that I can remember.  (God, I'm so boring!)

7. What if you came across a backpack stuffed with one hundred thousand dollars. Would you keep it?

Definitely not.  Well, not until a thorough search had been conducted for the owner.

8. What if you were the most powerful person in the world. How would you use that power?

-I would make certain that no child in the world went to sleep hungry again
-I would make certain that no woman was ever violated or abused again
-I would make certain that no animal was ever mistreated again
-I would find a cure for AIDS, cancer, ALS and any other terminal disease
-I would clean all the bodies of the water in the world, so nobody had to drink polluted water
-I would find a way to bring peace to the world
-I would give Schuyler Rummel-Hudson a voice

9. What if you found a magic lamp?

Assuming that it contained a genie who could grant my wishes, see the answer to #8!

10. What if you could change one thing about the world. What would that one thing be?

Whew.  Where to begin.  Climate? war? children? animals?  I would like to change the hearts of people that makes them hate anything "other." I'd like to think that would end war, but given human nature, probably not.

11. What if you could take one thing back. What would that one thing be?

I would have stood up to my father when he insisted I go to UC Berkeley, when I wanted to take a year off to work first.  While that has resulted in a multitude of wonderful things, it also has left me with great guilt over flunking out so gloriously.

12. What if you were stuck on an island forever but had all the water, food and shelter you needed. What would you do?

Depends on the kind of island it is.  If I had nothing to read, no computer, and no television, I would find a way to do a lot of writing.  I'd also probably go stark raving mad in a couple of weeks.  (Could I have a soccer ball to talk to?)

13. What if the internet didn't exist?

I lived a good many years of my life without the internet.  Life with the internet is a hydra-headed monster.  It has made my life so much richer, but it is also an addiction.  I wouldn't want to live without the internet again, but I would adjust.

14. What if you never started blogging?

I would have missed an incredible number of wonderful experiences that have happened because of people reading my blog.  I would also have missed the opportunity to meet a host of other great/interesting people by reading their blogs.

15. What are your November 22 Thanksgiving plans?

We are going to my mother's.  At 93, she doesn't remember how to cook, and she no longer travels more than 20 miles from her house, so I'm taking all the food to her house and will be cooking Thanksgiving dinner for her, my husband, and my son and his wife.  I called my mother today to ask if she was ready for us to come on Thursday and she got very indignant and said nobody had told her anything about it.  Which, of course, we all have.  I love my mother, but I miss the mother she used to be.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Kiva Loans

The thing I love about Kiva is that when your loan is repaid, you can re-loan it.  I have made more than 40 loans on Kiva, on an original donation of $25 and a few "fill in" amounts when I didn't have quite $25 in my account to re-loan.  

When you first log in to Kiva, they offer suggestions of projects you might like to find.  I'm not sure how these are chosen for spotlight, but I like to search through the various projects myself.  I always loan to women (the only one who defaulted on a loan to me was a man, early on in the process) and I check out countries where I also have Compassion kids.  Mostly Kenya, Philippines, and Uganda.  I give preference to women who have either raised families or who have children...the more children, the more likely I am to choose that project. I always choose a project that speaks to me.

Recently, for example, I helped fund a project by a women's collective that was to buy manure for farming.  I was tickled to think I was helping these women buy shit.

I also helped fund a woman in the U.S. who makes pesto.   A woman after my own heart!  I funded a guy in the U.S. who sells baseball caps.  Another loan went to a woman in Ghana who makes donuts, my favorite.  And I couldn't resist loaning to this woman in the Philippines:

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 She was 67 years old (the age I was when I made the loan) and she repairs motorcycles.  How can you not admire this in a woman?

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I loaned to this woman in Kenya because of the size of her family (7) and because she seems to be a devoted grandmother, but mostly because of the pain on her face.  I had just seen a program about persecution of women in Kenya and my heart went out to her.  Microfinancing is helping women in countries like Kenya achieve independence from their abusers.

RoseUganda.jpg (35780 bytes)Today, though, I discovered Rose in Uganda.

For one thing, she lives in the country where my Compassion daughter Shallon lives.  For another thing, she is a "person of size," and I always feel a kinship.

She has six children of her own, four of whom are in school, and she is taking care of two orphans. Two of her children are in school and she wants to earn money to send them all to school.  She owns property that she rents to earn extra money, but this loan is "to buy jerrycans of local gin in large quantities."  

She has been in the gin business for three years and her goal is to raise enough money to be able to start brewing her own gin.

Now, how could I not lend money to this worthy cause? 

Jeri recently sent me a link to a New York Times article about microfinancing.  It's from an about to be published book called "The International Bank of Bob:  Connecting Our Worlds, One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time,"  by Bob Harris.  It tells the story of his travels around the world following up on his loans, meeting the people who have benefitted from the loans and recording their stories.

The article ends:  "By the time “The International Bank of Bob” is published, Mr. Harris will have issued over 5,000 loans, he said, with only $100 or so of his original $20,000 investment lost to defaults. “It’s the same money over and over,” he said. “But it’s just twenty-five bucks.”

 "Mr. Harris said he long had a desire to give to charity, but for many years found the process daunting. To whom should he give? How much should he give? Microfinance offered him a personal connection.

 With many charities “it’s an act of faith to put money out there,” Mr. Harris said. “But Kiva says, ‘Here’s a guy in Cambodia who climbs palm trees for a living to turn the sap into sugar that he can sell. Here’s where your money goes.’ That had a tremendous appeal.”

 For me too!!

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Music (Wo)man

I'm becoming a real wimp.  I turned off The Daily Show last night after 10 minutes because every molecule in my body was screaming SLEEP!  NOW!   Thus, I did not, as planned, write this entry before going to sleep--the second night in a row where I have put off writing an entry until morning because of being too tired.

This means I am actually writing an entry on the day that it is dated, instead of writing it the night before.  How strange.

I worked at Logos yesterday.  It was fairly quiet for the first hour or so and then three women came in with two children.  They were grammar school aged kids, but toward the upper end of grammar school.  I think that two of the women were a couple and the third was the mother of one of them.  Mom sat in a chair in the front of the store, whipped out a tiny book, perhaps a prayer book, and read it without taking her eyes off the page for the whole time the rest were rummaging around in the children's room.

The "Children's room" is about the size of a walk-in closet, but filled with all sorts of gems.  One of these days I swear I'm going to choose an old Nancy Drew mystery to read just to remind myself of what it was like in the days when I devoured them.

I was enjoying the sound of four people excitedly checking out the book selections, since I can't see into that room while sitting at the cash register.   It always makes me happy to see little kids excited about reading.

But after awhile I noticed that the women were still in the room, but the children had found books about cars.  Each book was in the shape of a car, and each book had wheels.  The kids were building roads out of books and then racing the book-cars along them.  Later they gave up on the book roads and started crawling around on the floor pushing the book-cars to go as fast as they could.  Then they took books and began building hills with them to roll the book-cars down.

I really wasn't happy about this, and envisioned having to clean up a huge mess when they left the shop.  I hadn't said anything, but at one point glanced back at the kids and the mother, who was now standing at the desk said "don't worry; we're buying those." 
And buy they did!  Considering that the most expensive book they bought was $8, their bill of $70 was quite impressive!  They bought Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket and Mark Twain, and Charles Dickens and a host of small "early reader" type books.  Not only that, but they left the room so organized you'd hardly even know they were there.  I felt bad for thinking ill of them.

marches.jpg (67203 bytes)While one of the women was paying for all the books, I happened to notice that the other was looking through a stack of sheet music and I was catapulted back to my own grammar school days, because I recognized the book she was looking through.

I saw a lot of David Carr Glover's music books for children when I was taking piano lessons.  To be sure, after she lelft, I checked the publication date, and sure enough it was early 1950s, about the time I was struggling through these simple tunes on the piano.

One of my father's big regrets in life was that he never stuck with his piano lessons.  The piano was his whole life and the only time I ever really saw him happy was when he was at the piano.  It was only in the last 20 years or so that I learned that his mother also played the piano and was quite in demand as a young woman, but she preferred to party and realized that while she was providing the entertainment, everyone else was dancing and having fun, so she stopped playing the piano entirely, and once she made that decision, she never touched a piano again. My mother begged her to play something for her but she steadfastly refused.

I don't know why my father gave up on his piano lessons, but he did and though he played "by ear" and even once had a job as a piano player in a bar, he always regretted that he never followed through on his lessons.

So for both of them, it was important that I become the piano player.   Problem is that I never got the music gene that passed by me and down to my children.  I suffered through those lessons for two years before I quit, something my father never forgave me for and for the rest of his life talked about the money he wasted on my piano lessons.  My grandmother at one time told me that if I learned to play Debussy's "Claire de Lune," her favorite classical piece, she would give me $100.  I never did.

Sister Mary Victor was the piano teacher, a wizened old nun whose domain was the top floor of St. Brigid's grammar school.  I remember climbing the stairs to her tiny room and sitting at the piano with her tapping out rhythms with her ever-present ruler, which was all too handy to rap knuckles if my wrists weren't limp enough or my fingers didn't curl the right way.  She sure couldn't get away with that sort of stuff today!  I was terrified of her.

But I did learn the basics.  And I played a lot of music by David Carr Glover.  I also remember I had a book of I believe it was dumbed down Hayden Sonatas.  One of those was my favorite because for some reason it reminded me of the movie The Seventh Veil with James Mason and Ann Todd.  I had such a crush on the stern Mason in that movie.  I can still hum the tune from that book in my head and it still brings back memories of that movie.

I also had my share of "cross-hand pieces" (I threw that in for Jeri), which I practiced so I could be part of Sister Mary Victor's annual recitals.   I may have hated those more than the lessons, having to get up on stage in front of an audience and hope I didn't screw up.
I played the piano for awhile when the kids were little and we bought a big upright piano (which we only gave away about five years ago), but, I didn't have that gene that let me play by ear and I read music poorly, so I gave up when the kids started to play.  It never was the joy for me that it had been for my father.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

My Hero

Last night Walt looked at the printer and, like me, couldn't figure out where to start trying to find the paper that was stuck in it.

We both periodically had another look at the printer, but at the end of the day, the paper was still jammed.  The problem was that you could not see it anywhere (it was too small) and, without a mental image of how the machine looked inside, neither of us was brave enough to try to remove parts.

This morning Walt looked at it again.  We both scratched our heads.

Walt asked where the disk was that came with the machine, which had the user's manual on it.  I didn't know. We couldn't do anything until I found the disk.  That meant cleaning off my desk (which I had just piled with everything from the floor that allowed Walt access to the printer in the first place).

I couldn't get to it right away because my friend Joan had asked if I could drive her to her doctor's office.  We drove out and I let her off, then parked the car in a shady spot and spent some time reading my book while waiting for her to come out.

It was a great way to read without feeling guilty about anything.   There was no chore I should be doing because I wasn't at home.  Guilt-free reading and I got a big chunk of my book finished.

Then off to the store.  I only had two things I needed to pick up, and I never did figure out the second thing, but bought juice, which I thought we were about out of (so that must have been the second thing), only discovered we had half a gallon of it at home, so I still don't know what I meant to get.

When I got home, I needed to look for the disk, but somehow a nap seemed more important, so I took nap (I am so good at finding ways to procrastinate, even when it's the put off doing something that I want to do!).

When I got up, I moved enough crap from the desk to determine that I didn't know where the disk was.

So I went on line to see if I could find a copy there.  I read the model number of my printer, MG5720, and was frustrated that I could not find it on ANY Canon web site.  I took a closer look and it was my eyesight.  My model was actually MG5220.  Amazing what a difference that made.

I found the manual and downloaded it.  It was an .exe file.   

After it was downloaded, I executed it and it downloaded the manual...and I didn't have a clue where it stored it, so I had to do a search of my computer trying to find it.  That only took two searches and about 20 minutes, but eventually I did find it and finally, I had a manual.

There is almost no light in my office, so Walt was trying to check the on-screen manual, hold a flashlight, and fiddle with the back of the printer, but eventually....SUCCESS!  The offending piece of paper was found and easily plucked out and the printer works again.

Walt is my hero!

Now all I have to do is find my cell phone, which has been missing all day.
Or maybe I'll take another nap first.

Five minutes after I wrote about my cell phone, it rang, and it was sitting at my elbow.

I am very dumb.

As I went to feed the dogs, I remembered what I had not gotten at the store:   we are out of cottage cheese, which I mix in with the dogs' kibble.  I had to melt some peanut butter ad add that instead, which they loved, but which is (a) expensive and (b) not as good for them as the fat-free cottage cheese they usually get.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sunday Stealing

Because of being in Santa Barbara on Sunday, watching the 49er game with Brianna, I didn't do a Sunday Stealing.  I suppose it's OK to do it on a Tuesday!

84. Describe the routine of a normal day for you:
Assuming that I do NOT have anyone to meet for lunch, my day would be waking up too early (usually around 5) and trying to be quiet so that the dogs don't wake up.  When the dogs wake up, I feed them, make coffee (sometimes--sometimes Walt reheats yesterday's).  Eat breakfast and come to the computer where I do That's My Answer, check Facebook, go to Google Reader to check the blogs I follw and all this with the TV on in the background--Today Show, Kelly and Michael, and Anderson.   Some days I have letters to write, and always something to work on, either writing or PhotoShopping, or organizing files on the computer.  Lunch somewhere between 11:30 and 1.  Then it's time for a nap, which usually lasts an hour (hey--I'm almost 70...I'm allowed!).  Afternoon is more of the same, now with hopefully an NCIS or Criminal Minds or SVU marathon to keep me busy.  Walt and I watch Jeopardy together, I cook dinner when Jeopardy is over (after feeding the dogs).   Evening TV, blog-writing, and then off to sleep, to start it all again around midnight or 2 a.m., depending on how long my body lets me sleep.

85. What is your greatest strength as a person?
Hmmm.  I guess my ability to cope with catastrophes. I may fall apart at little things, but when something major comes along, I seem to be able to handle things well and help others cope. 

86. What is your greatest weakness?
Lack of motivation, lack of commitment.  Nothing really seems all that important any more.

87. Are you going to run for President in 2016?
Uh.  No.  

88. Are you generally self-contained?
Pretty much.  I'm good at keeping a lot of things bottled up.

89. Are you generally organized or messy?
Bwahahaha.  "Organized" is not a word in my vocabulary

90. Name three things you consider yourself to be very good at, and three things you consider yourself to be very bad at:
Good at:  Writing, Cooking (when I feel like it), Injecting a note of levity into serious situations
Bad at:  Sticking on task, Keeping anything looking neat and tidy, maintaining a healthy weight

91. Do you like your neighbours? Do they like you?
I don't know my neighbors.  We've lived here 40 years, many of them have too.   I know some of their names, but we don't socialize.  Basically, I'm still smarting from the fact that we got almost no support, sympathy, or even a kind word etc. after either of our sons died by most people in the neighborhood (though the rest of Davis was absolutely wonderful)

92. Are you different in public then you act among friends?
No.  I'm pretty much the same all the time, I think.

93. What goal do you most want to accomplish in your lifetime?
At my age, most of my goals have been met.  I've raised children, worked at a job I enjoyed, wrote a book, seen my grandchildren born, traveled a fair share.  I have no more lofty goals.

94. Where do you see yourself in 4 years?
If I'm still here, just older and doing the same thing as I am now.

95. If you could choose, how would you want to leave this world?
How does the old joke go--quietly in my sleep, like my grandfather, not screaming in terror the way the passengers in his car were.

96. If you had only one week to live, what three things would be bumped up on the bucket list?
Can't think of anything.  In one week you can't travel to say goodbye to everybody you'll be missing.  Just keep all of your relationships up to date and hope they have fond memories of you.

97. What is one thing about you that really stands out?
I'm fat.

98. What three words best describe your personality?
Pleasant, soft-spoken, funny

99. What three words would others probably use to describe you?
I don't know...why don't you leave a comment below and tell me.

100. What advice do you have to give?

The best advice I got as a child was "never go to the foot when the head can be had," which means if you are unhappy about something, go to the person who has the highest position and has the most vested interest in keeping you happy.  That used to be true, but nowadays, I don't think anybody really has a vested interest in keeping customers happy.