Thursday, February 28, 2013

O Say Can't I See?

I felt so smart today.

It was the day I had my yearly eye exam with the optometrist.   On the drive to his office, I was thinking about how my vision has changed in the past year.  For one thing the cataract in my right eye has grown larger and while the opthomologist and I discussed the problems with removing that particular cataract 2 years ago (because of a congenital deformity in the eye, that I was unaware I had) and decided to just leave it alone since I have never used that eye for vision anyway.  But in the past year, I am aware that the cataract has grown which, as I don't use that eye for vision, doesn't really bother me, but I have become aware that on the off chance something happens to my GOOD eye while I am driving, for example, I don't think I could see well enough bad enough to move the car safely to the side of the road. I wanted to talk with the doctor about it.

The other problem is that my vision is not as good as it was a year ago.  I was trying to figure out how to describe the problem because I read signs better than Walt, my short or long vision hasn't really changed, but the overall vision is just...different.  I remembered what I read one time, that if you can't describe the problem with your vision, it's astigmatism.  Anybody with astigmatism will understand that immediately and anybody who does not have astigmatism won't have a clue what I'm talking about.

So when I got to the office, I told the doctor that my vision had deteriorated and that I thought it was a worsening of my astigmatism and told him about the quote.  He did all the vision tests and then said "Well, you're right; your vision has changed and it is your astigmatism."  Yay me.

All this means is a new prescription for glasses, but first he wanted to check with the opthalmologist about the cataract.  They decided I should have a consult when they can fit me in (I told him I've dealt with this for 70 years, so there was no great rush!)

I don't know if I can accurately describe the problem, but a cataract on a normal eye grows over the lens.  Cataract surgery involves removing the lens and the cataract and replace it with a synthetic lens.  With my eye, because the eye itself is "deformed" the cataract wraps around to the back of the eyeball and so in order to remove it, as I understand it (tho I will probably know more after I've had my consultation) is that it will involve three surgeries to first remove the cataract and lens, second, fix the problem, and finally insert the new lens.  

The consult with the ophthalmologist will go over the procedure, the pros and cons, the dangers and the best and worst case scenarios--and then decide if we're going to do it or not.  So I will hold off getting new glasses until I've had that consult and if we are going to do the surgeries, I will wait until we know what sort of lens correction I will need then.
I'm a bit nervous about messing around with an eye that has at least some usable vision, but on the other hand, I've never known what it is to have good vision or depth perception or all those other things that you guys take for granted!

I had a couple of hours to kill after the appointment.  My book club was meeting at 7 p.m. so it was too soon to drive home and then drive back to Sacramento.  Fortunately it was rush hour, so getting from the doctor's office to the book store where our meetings happen took pretty near an hour.  I had enough time to have dinner with 25 minutes to spare.

There were nearly 20 people at the meeting, maybe the largest group I've been part of in the few months I've been attending the meetings.

We were discussing Willa Cather's "My Antonia," and it was a lively discussion.  I was the only person who wasn't delighted with it.  I enjoyed it all right, but I didn't take the deight in it that other people did.  A lot of comment was made about the beauty of Cather's writing and some derisive comments made of Steinbeck's colorfully descriptive passsages, which I love so much.  So I didn't offer much to the discussion, other than commenting about the pronunciation of "Antonia," whether AnTONia, AntoNEEa, or ANtonia.  The group has been pretty much divided between the first two pronunciations (and the e-mail I received after asking that question here and on Facebook was equally divided), but I have never heard ANYBODY use the third pronunciation, though according to the book, that is the proper pronunciation.  All through reading it I kept trying to say ANtonia, but it just did not flow trippingly off the tongue.

Next month we are reading "The Namesake" by Jhumpa Lahiri, our contemporary fiction book.  I haven't started it yet. though Amazon describes it as a "deeply moving family drama that illuminates this acclaimed author's signature themes: the immigrant experience, the clash of cultures, the tangled ties between generations."  Sounds good....perhaps better than "My Antonia" !

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

So Today It Started

This was the first official day of the "find new housing for Mom" project.  Her stepson, Ed, and I met at the house for lunch and to start the conversation.  It was a surprise to see the nice lunch she fixed, since she seems to have stopped fixing lunches for me.  But give her a man to wait on and she becomes all coquettish again.  

This is one of the HUGE benefits that I think is going to go along with moving her to somewhere more communal.  Here world has shrunk so much in the last 3 years, with the increasing pain in her back.  She sometimes takes a walk around the lagoon near her house, but I think she must spend the day sitting in a chair.   Ed visits her, I visit her, a couple of other people visit her on a regular basis, but most of her time is spent alone.  And she is always at her best in social situations, particularly when there is a man to talk to -- be it a friend her own age, her stepson, or her grandson.  She just turns on the charm for a man...and generally speaking, after she has spent time talking to and waiting on a man, her memory is usually better for the rest of the day.

If we move her to a place where she will have the chance to interact with other people more frequently, see men around her, find new friends to play mah jong or cards with, I can only think that her memory loss is going to slow down.  I know it will continue, but I really feel that being in a social environment is going to help.

So over lunch, we talked about what needed to be done.  Ed said that we first need to assess her finances so we know how much we can afford.  It turns out, I discovered that she has somewhat less than she told me she had, but it should still be adequate to see her comfortably settled for several years, unless she decides to break the longevity record in this country.  There will also be income coming from the sale of her house, which will ease any financial concerns for a long time.

The second is more difficult, that being how to put together a list of recommended places to tour.  We figure we can schedule tours around lunch time so we can get a free lunch in the bargain!  We know the first place where we are going to start, where Ed's grandmother lived the last several years of her life.  Because of her memories of visiting the old women every few days, my mother thinks she probably would not like to live there, but it would give us a "practice tour" and get a feel for how much money places in Marin County are charging.

I felt we had a productive meeting and will meet with Ed again after we have visited a few places.

He left and I stayed and she collapsed in her chair and started the script we follow every time I come to visit her.  "Oh god how am I going to get rid of all this crap?"  I really wanted to leave immediately.  I am so tired of the "all this crap" conversations.   I made my usual reply that she would leave it all behind when she moves and Ed and I will take care of getting rid of it.  Then she looks across the room at her refrigerator, which has a few magnets on it.  "Just for example, LOOK at that refrigerator.  How am I going to get rid of all that crap?" 

I was astonished.  I finally said, "if that bothers you that much, I can clean it up in a minute.  I'll just remove everything and the refrigerator door will be clean again."

"Well, what will you do with it all?" she asked

"I'll throw it away, of course," I answered.

"Oh, I don't want you to do that," she replied, saying that maybe somebody would want it and they should have a chance to ask for it.   Magnets.  Refrigeator magnets that are driving her crazy because it's "all that crap" but she won't let me throw them away because she really wants to give them to someone.  Sigh.

I did leave early.  She was looking through papers and there didn't seem to be room for conversation.  I was also exhausted and it was Walt's birthday.  We were going out to dinner with Ned and Marta, so I just told my mother goodbye and got on the road.
Next week we are going to pull up comfortable chairs to her 2-drawer file cabinet and I am going through every file folder to see what is there, what can be gotten rid of, and understand all that is important to keep.  This is more for me than for her.  It will, yes, get rid of some crap, but it will be unseen crap, so probably not solve her problem.  The following week we will take a tour of the first facility.

I got home before 5 and hoped to get in a nap, but did not fall asleep.  Walt and I drove over to Ned's and the four of us walked to a nearby Japanese restaurant, where we had a nice dinner.  Walt got calls on his cell phone from Jeri and from his sister and missed a call from Tom and Brianna, but got the voice mail message.  When we got home, his brother called, so, figuring that he had now heard from everyone, he announced that he was now a year older and needed to get to bed earlier, so headed off to bed.

By the way, Walt opened his computer this morning to the Google Home Page and saw that the google logo was a stack of birthday cakes in the vague shape of the word "Google" and when he put his cursor on the logo, a box popped up that said "Happy Birthday, Walter."  Big Google is watching you at all times!!!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

...And Then I Wrote...

I recently wrote an article about the Citizens Who Care show, which we saw this afternoon.  This was an article near and dear to my heart because it was meant to memorialize two of the guys who died this past year, particularly our friend Jim Hutchinson.  I wanted to share the article here.

When the performers come onto the Veterans Memorial Stage for the 21st annual Citizens Who Care Concert, there will be two big holes in the ranks.

Jim Hutchinson, who, with his wife Pat, was one of the founding members of the group and who took charge of all the backstage arrangements and so much more, lost his battle with cancer in April of 2012. Tenor Peter Shack, who never missed one single Citizens Who Care performance in twenty years, lost his own battle with cancer a month later.

"Jim helped launch this idea," said Stephen Peithman. "His death has been difficult for Citizens Who Care because Jim did so much behind the scenes. People just took it for granted.. He did a masterful job. Everything was there when we went into the theater. Ken Wagstaff has taken on many of those roles this year, but it has taken us all a bit of time to make sure all the pieces are in place."

Of Shack, Peitnman says, "Peter was with us from the very first Citizens Who Care show. He was just one of those very interesting people. Such a talented guy, so un-full of ego. He was very confident in what he could do and worked very hard. He always took direction easily. His main concern was doing a good performance. He was a joy to work with. He was also a great calming influence, which was important."

Hutchinson was so central to the annual Citizens Who Care show that in his last days, he was the one who set the program for this year’s show.

As it happened, Peithman’s partner, Larry Fanning and Hutchinson were both undergoing chemotherapy treatments at the same time.
"Jim’s treatment was much worse, though you’d never know it," explained Peithman. "His brand of chemotherapy was pretty severe, but he was always very supportive of Larry. Shortly after last year’s Citizens Who Care show, we went in for Larry’s chemo and Jim was there with his daughter Kate. Kate sat and visited with Larry while I sat with Jim. I told him I was already giving thought to the next show and that I had several ideas. The one that struck Jim most strongly was the music of Bing Crosby. He said ‘I think our audience would like that very much."

They continued to discuss the possibilities of doing a show around Crosby’s career and by the time Peithman left, he had settled on that for this year’s show. As it turned out it was Hutchinson’s last chemo treatment and he died shortly afterwards. "It was totally unexpected," said Peithman. "You expected Jim to live forever. He was such a gentleman, right to the end. This show was his last gift to Citizens Who Care." 

"The audience will have a good time with this show," said Peithman "They will come away with a feeling for the amazing career – 50 years – that Crosby had, and so many different kinds of music that he sang. Peithman also found a lot of great stories to tell during his research.

People may have one impression of Crosby, the crooner, but he was far more than that. He was an architect of 20th century entertainment, a force in the development of three industries that barely existed when he came into the world — recordings, motion pictures and broadcasting.

Throughout much of his career, he dominated the music charts with nearly 300 hit singles to his credit. To this, he added stardom in movies, radio and television. His work helped to transform and define the cultural life not only of the United States, but of the world.
People may forget that his career started with jazz, but once he realized how to really work a microphone, that he could modulate his voice if he got very close to the mic itself, he could sound as if he was singing just to one person who was listening. The mic discovery changed everything. It was a different approach to singing than had been attempted before and opened the way for a lot of other crooners, like Russ Colombo – but nobody did it as well as Crosby. He set a whole new standard for ballad singers.

Crosby had a successful radio show that went from the 30s to the 50s. Radio gave him a chance to sing songs that he never recorded and he gave new songwriters a place to perform their works. In film, he learned different styles of acting. "He was an instinctive actor when he was comfortable with a role," said Peithman. 

With Bob Hope, he made six different "Road" pictures over 12 years, where the men drove co-star Dorothy Lamour crazy with their ad-libbed insults, but even the insults were scripted by gag writers.

The problem with making Bing Crosby the subject of a Citizens Who Care show is that there is almost too much material. "A big problem is figuring out what NOT to sing," laughed Peithman.

When Peithman and Martha Dickman begin putting the show together they start with list of songs and getting them together in a logical sequence. The biggest challenge is to make sure each of the singers is well provided for. "There is no point in doing a song if you don’t have a singer who can do it justice and enjoy performing it."

"You also need to consider the line of the story you’re trying to tell and how the songs tell that story. To me that’s the secret of all of our shows’ successes, but the ones that have been most successful are where the songs and the story you’re telling complement each other."

One way to get in a lot of songs is to do medleys, where bits and pieces of many songs are woven together. In this show there is an Irish medley ("Crosby was Irish and recorded a lot of Irish songs throughout his career.") and a medley of Western numbers like "Don’t Fence Me In." ("He loved to do unusual numbers," explains Peithman.)

Paul Fearn, familiar to Davis Musical Theater audiences, will be sitting in Peter Shack’s seat and Lisa Derthick will be filling in for Lenore Heinson, whose schedule did not allow her to participate this year. Both were known to the other members of the group, and so they fit right in. "It’s important when we present ourselves to the audience that they get the feeling these people like each other."

There are two things you can count on in this year’s concert. One is that the audience is going to have a great time, and the other is that where the blue of the night meets the gold of the day, Jim Hutchinson and Peter Shack will somehow be listening and smiling.

After the concert there was a small reception for all who had been involved.   I was invited, because I was Walt's wife.  At the reception the president of the organization came up to thank me for the article and tell me how beautiful it was.   Then he said, "do you ever write anything else for The Enterprise?"

Sigh.  I've been the only theater critic for the paper for thirteen years!!!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Tweeting the Oscars

We attended a matinee today, followed by a reception.  I kept my eye on the clock because I knew the Academy Award broadcast was going to begin at 5:30.  
I got home about 15 minutes beforehand, in time to feed the dogs so they wouldn't go crazy during the 3 hour telecast.  Walt stayed at the theater to clean up the stage and take all the set pieces back to the garage where they live the rest of the year.

So I was here watching the Oscars all alone.  Nobody to say "ooo...didja see that?" to (actually even if he WAS a home, he'd probably be upstairs anyway).  But now I have an iPad and I can relax in the recliner for 3 hours and tweet my opinion.  I even had a couple of people respond to me, which was even nicer.

My first tweet was on the last bit of the red carpet I saw:   Kristin Chenoweth is SO tiny. Looks like a Munchkin between Queen Latifah and Renee Zellweger."  I knew she was short, of course, but between those two stars, she really did look like a Munchkin, especially with that high tiny voice.

When the awards started, my first tweet was "great jab at Acadmy re Affleck," which I think referred to the movie getting best adapted screenplay.   Affleck, of course, had not been nominated in the director category.  As the awards went on, I had been torn between Les Miserables and Lincoln but I had watched Argo on my iPad and realized that I was actually hoping it would win the biggie.

I did mention that I liked the song about Boobies.  Perhaps in poor taste, but I thought it was funny.

"Wow..THAT was a surprise. NOBODY talked about that for supporting actor!"  I know Christoph Waltz is a great actor.  I hadn't seen Django and hadn't really heard much at all about his being a real contender for supporting actor, so it was a surprise when he won.  I really thought DeNiro would get it (and, of course, for Paul's sake hoped he would).

OscarsMccarthy.jpg (45861 bytes)I didn't see Melissa McCarthy on the red carpet, so saw her for the first time when she walked out as a presenter.  I had two immediate reactions.  The first was that she has obviously lost weight (maybe Rex Reed's nasty comments about her weight had an impact), but my second impression that she was sabotaged by her dress designer. First of all, it was a grey dress standing in front of a grey background.  It was almost a green screen moment. 
But secondly, my god loook at that thing.  It looks like they took a sheet and wrapped it around her, gathering it and tying it at the side. 

I certainly know the problems with trying to make a larger figure look good, but I have seen McCarthy in very flattering gowns and I'm sorry, but this was just not one of them.

But I loved the guy who won the award for animated feature film for Brave, which is set in Scotland--and accepted his award in kilts.   It warmed the cockles of my Diana Gabaldon heart (though maybe "warming the cockles" and "kilts" should not be used in the same sentence).

"No surprise Life of Pi for cinematography. Good job." I wrote, as the movie started its collection of several oscars, culminating in the Best Director for Ang Lee.  I really have to see this movie before it leaves the local theater!

"Halle Berry really is one of the most beautiful women in the world," I said.  I wonder what that woman looks like when she gets up in the morning.  I have never seen her when she did not look gorgeous.
OscarsHayek.jpg (26029 bytes)Salma Hayek also looked pretty gorgeous too, with that gold dickie hugging her neck.
"John Wilkes Booth joke in poor taste," I commented and discovered that when my tweet posted it joined a dozen other similar comments.  On the whole, I didn't mind Seth MacFarlane's humor...some funny, some less funny, some questionable, but of all of them, his joking about the Lincoln assassination seemed to offend the most people.

About then they mentioned the ceremony orchestra, which was in a building a block away.  Imagine--they weren't even in the building!   The first play-off speech they had to interrupt was the guy who won the first award for Life of Pi and I thought it humorous that they used the theme music for Jaws, but as they continued to us that music for all long-winded speeches, it lost its effectiveness.

There was a salute to movie musicals, which included music from three musicals:  Chicago (which the producers of this Oscars program also produced, which may explain why a 10 year old movie was chosen).  The second musical was Dreamgirls, and the final was Les Miserables, which included all the stars of the movie on a selection of tunes.  I tweeted "Crowe is still the weakest in the cast," and then added "Correction.  Crowe still stinks."  When my tweets posted there were lots and lots of people saying the same thing.

"We knew she was going to win but Ann Hathaway still brought tears to my eyes," I said.  As many know, I'm a very emotional person and it doesn't take much to bring me to tears.  This may have been the only moment in this year's Oscars  that did it (other than the memorial section, of course.  That always gets me!). She was beautiful and gracious and it made you happy that she won, though MsIndigo and I both agreed we would have been delighted if the win had gone to Jacki Weaver from Silver Linings Playbook, whose performance was so good you almost didn't notice it as a performance.

I commented that Kristen Stewart looked like she was about to vomit.   Again, I joined a host of people wondering what was wrong with her, everything from lack of sleep to being drunk, to having taken drugs.  Not the actress' best moment, for sure!

The memorial section seemed half people you knew and people you didn't know (first time I've seen a publicist mentioned).  Odd that they left out Andy Griffith, but the finale of Marvin Hamlish, with Barbra Streisand making a surprise appearance, her first time at the awards in 15 years, looking more beautiful than I have seen her look in a long time.  Interesting to separate the commenters into those who spelled it right, Barbra, and those who went for Barbara.  One local tweeter in particular surprised me, as it was someone who should know better.

The biggies pleased me...Daniel Day Lewis seemed to have a lock on it, so no surprise.  Jennifer Lawrence beat out Jessica Chastain for best actress.   Since I had not seen Zero Dark Thirty, and had seen Silver Linings Playbook, I was happy about that.  And I was positively thrilled with Argo's win.  Take THAT, Academy! And how about having Michelle Obama announce the award from the White House (I wonder if it would have  been appropriate if Zero Dark Thirty had won...)

I thought the final song was anti-climactic, but I also wondered when it was written, since it referred to losers throughout the show.  They must have been writing the song backstage during the show

So it's over.  It would have been more fun watching with real people in the room (Polly was asleep, and since no dogs were nominated, she didn't care), but I'm glad I have Twitter, so at least I have something of a feel of camaraderie.

And on the whole, it was, I thought, a good show.  Not one of the greater, more memorable shows, but satisfactory anyway.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

And It All Worked Out

I got home from Peach's daughter's wedding at 6 p.m. and immediately fell asleep in my recliner.  I woke up around 10, aware that Walt had come home from the show he had been working and was watching The Caine Mutiny.  We talked for a couple of seconds and I got up to stagger into the living room and collapse on the couch, where I slept until 4 a.m.  I can't remember the last time I slept so long.

I think the combination of worry about the wedding cake -- making it first of all, then transporting it, and then the emotion of the day just wiped me out.   Lord knows I hadn't really done all that much to make me so tired. Well, except only getting 3 hours of sleep the night before!

When Peach told me her daughter Karen was getting married at the facility where Bob now lives, that it was just going to be a very small wedding (only 8 people at the facility, and about 20 at the house), I really wanted to do something to help, so offered to make the cake.  

I started the cake on Thursday and the first layer came out so lopsided that I worried that the cake was going to be a disaster.  Lately it seems I can't bake anything right.  I used to be a whiz at pies and cakes and that sort of thing and it just seems that whatever I try to bake is a disaster.  But I mushed on, hoping frosting would cover a multitude of sins.  Then, in mixing the second batch of frosting, I accidentally added twice the amount of milk and had to go to the store for more powdered sugar.  I felt so stupid!  Not only that, but I had turned on the beater so high that powdered sugar covered literally everything.  I was clearly out of practice baking cakes!

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But by the time I was frosting the first layer, I was beginning to feel more confident.

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Finally, all frosted, I put the two layers together, hoping it would all look all right.  It did.
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Next came the angst about transporting it all the way to Sacramento and beyond.  The last time I took a wedding cake to Sacramento (for one of my best friends...this was about 20 years ago!), when I arrived at the wedding place, the entire outside of the cake had just fallen off.  I was devastated.  But Karen's cake arrived safely and I could finally relax.
It turned out we all went to the facility for the wedding, which was a surprise for Karen.  When we got there, they had set up a lovely table with punch...and a wedding cake (but just a sheet cake).  Peach had gone on ahead to get Bob ready and we all sat and waited for the wedding party to arrive.  When I saw Bob come in with Karen and Peach, I couldn't believe it.  He looked like a totally different man from when I last saw him. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house.

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There has been a marked improvement in his physical condition in the last 2 weeks.  He can even now walk (with a walker) from the physical therapy room back to his own room.  And he wasn't going to miss his daughter's wedding!

They expected him to "give her away" while seated in his wheelchair, but he insisted in standing up, so they got a walker for him and he did the deed right.

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The ceremony was simple and beautiful and Bob was definitely a part of it.

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Afterwards, Bob greeted friends and family as he always did, graciously, and with lots of laughter, though I got the feeling that he didn't recognize me when I went up to give him a kiss.

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When the wedding was over, we all went back to the house for the reception.  Peach stayed behind with her kids to get Bob settled down before joining the rest of us.  It took a long time, but finally Karen and her new husband arrived, with the report that Bob had been very upset because he thought he was going home.   Finally everyone left but Peach and she stayed behind until he got his meds and then she, too, came home. 

In the meantime, Karen and Mike cut the cake.

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My work was done.  :) 

Peach finally returned, but there were so many people who wanted to talk to her and I was exhausted (from doing essentially nothing all day!) so I just said my goodbyes and left.  I fought sleep all the way home and got to Davis just as the sun was going down.

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It had been a good day but I was glad to finally be getting some sleep.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Nothing Whatever to Grumble At

A few weeks ago, when we were stuck on the roof of the garage for 2 hours after going to a Lamplighters show, I wrote an entry called "Plenty to Grumble At," which referred to a song in the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, Princess Ida.  It wasn't an accurate quote, though.  The real quote says that King Gama is upset because he has "nothing whatever to grumble at."

That's what I'm feeling like tonight.  I have "nothing whatever to grumble at."  But that's OK.  I'm definitely not upset about it.

We went to see Urinetown at the Davis Musical Theater Company. We have been associated with DMTC since before there was a DMTC.   Founder/manager/director Steve Isaacson directed a couple of shows that Paul and/or Jeri were in.  After DMTC was established, Walt was their (I think) first set builder.  In those days they didn't have a permanent home and were in a building that was in the same complex where Walt worked. so it was easy for him to build sets on his lunch hour and after work.  

They later moved to a few other theaters, one of which was managed by Paul, and finally ended up with their own building, where they have been now for several years. If you want to see any of the big name musicals, just wait and sooner or later DMTC will be presenting it. It's California's longest-running, year-round, amateur musical theater company, now looking toward it's 30th season.

I have been reviewing shows at DMTC for 13 years now, since I became a critic in 2000.  The thing about DMTC, especially in the early years, was that the quality of the productions was quite uneven.  You could see one that made you roll your eyes because it was almost painful to watch and then would come something like the first Evita that was so amazing your mouth hung open in astonishment.

The longer the company has gone on, the more shows were of the very, very good variety, though there are still a few shows here and there that require me to be very careful in how I word my reviews.  I have always wanted to be supportive, but sometimes it's more difficult than other times.

I have no need to tiptoe around the review I will write about this show, however.  Most people are probably not familiar with Urinetown, by Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis, but it is one of the funniest shows around.  

It is set in some dystopian society where a drought has dried up all (or most of) the water and after a period called "the stink."  Private toilets are unthinkable and all of your "elimination" must be done in public toilets,which are controlled by the UGC (Urine Good Company) which charges to use of its pennies, no peeing.  If caught urinating in a public place, you are arrested and hauled off to Urinetown.  The show satirizes the legal system, capitalism, social irresponsibility, bureaucracy corporate management and municipal politics.  It's the perfect show for Davis during a time when there is a hot debate going on about sustainable water.  I also heard today that someone from the Department of Interior says that if the sequester goes forward, they will have to lock the public bathrooms in national parks.  Perfect setting for Urinetown.

This was a great production, with strong leads, amazing choreography, and hilarious parodies of such shows as West Side Story, Les Miserables and Fiddler on the Roof.  I loved it and it will be fun to write the review.

Earlier in the day, I went to lunch at Cindy's (my dentist) house.   Cindy and I, along with four other women, all worked in a typing office for many years.  Three of the women have moved away (one to Oregon, one to up state New York, and one to Maryland) but Cindy, Roberta and I remain.  Roberta and I share a birthday and Cindy's is in late December, so we were celebrating our birthdays.  The last time Cindy invited us to the house for a birthday celebration, she ended up being called away on a family emergency, leaving Roberta and I to serve ourselves and lock up when we left.

This time there was no emergency so the three of us had a leisurely (and delicious) lunch and got caught up on our lives.  Seems like such a long time ago that we worked together ... it was.  Cindy has been my dentist for about 20 years and she didn't even have an office when we worked together, and was working part time as a  typist while she was building up her clientele!  It was fun seeing them all again.

It is now 1 a.m. and I am working on a wedding cake for Peach's daughter's wedding tomorrow.  I would not have volunteered to make a cake if it weren't that this is going to be a very small wedding (8 at the ceremony, at the facility where Bob is, and 20 at the house afterwards).  I am definitely out of practice but both layers are now baked and frosted and I'm going to sleep for a couple of hours and then decorate them.  I'm very nervous about delivering the cake to the house.   The last time I drove a cake to Sacramento, the vibration of the car made the cake fall apart.  I'm praying that does not happen tomorrow and realizing that the reason I have procrastinated so much about this cake is that fear of getting it to the wedding in one piece.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Learning Languages

I was pretty good at languages.  I began learning Latin my first two years of high scgool, then fell in love with French the last two years and majored in it in college.  French vocabulary and accent was the only class I passed in my last semester, when I registered for classes and attended practically none.  The B- I got in French was based on the recording I made at the start of the class, before I stopped going to class completely.  Just think what I could have done if I had actually taken the class.

In the years when we had foreign students with us, I learned Portuguese by osmosis.  Everybody around me, that wasn't related to me, spoke Portuguese, some of the mothers wrote me letters in Portuguese.  I never took a class but at the height of our Brasilian invasion, I was conversant in the language, as long as the subjects weren't too complicated.  Brasilians told me I had a great accent.

Because of having a smattering of knowledge of two romance languages and growing up in California, I can kinda sorta read very simple Spanish and make a pretty good guess at a lot of Italian.

Today I began examining three new languages.  The first is Telugu, which my sponsored child, Anjali, in India says, in the letter I received today, that she likes studying.  It is the official language in the Southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh and several other Indian states.  I haven't had the opportunity to hear it spoken, but I am intrigued now.  Gonna be a little difficult to learn much, though.

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Does not roll trippingly off the fingers!

The second language I studied a bit today is the language of "dog."  Last week at Logos, I started reading Cesar Milan's "Cesar's Way," which talks a bit about his upbringing, his learning how to "speak dog" and his interpretation of dog behavior and body language.  A lot I read I either knew or had observed, some was new.  It was an interesting book, but does not cover the case of three dogs living together in one house for many years, all of whom know they are top dog and I come in 4th and how you go about changing those behaviors when you are old and too fat to take your dogs roller blading.

I'll work on that.  I decided to try some of his "calm assertive" behavior tonight on Leaping Lizzie and it was essentially totally useless.   I dream of the day when I tell her not to jump and she actually doesn't jump.

And then we come to the third, and most important language that I found myself trying to learn today:  the language of Senior Living.  Now that my mother is starting to entertain the idea of moving, I decided to do some research on the Internet.

I started with the place her doctor had recommended.  A Catholic home, across from Kaiser, and around the corner from her best friend.  She had also seen it before, as a priest friend had spent his last year or so there.  The doctor raved about it, about the staff (which, I gathered, was all nuns) and it sounded like it would be great. The grounds are beautiful and that is definitely a "must" for my mother who loves nature and plants and birds.

But.  uh.  No.  From what I could gather from their web site, it's a place where you have a room with a bed, a desk, a TV, your own private bathroom (whoopee!) and communal spaces where you can "entertain your guests." That's definitely not where she needs to start.  I'm looking for something like Walt's mother had in the two places she stayed for several years before she died, with at least one bedroom, a living room area, and a kitchenette.  Where she feels she has her own place, not a hospital room.

The more I looked, the more depressed I got until I realized that I really didn't want assisted living, I wanted independent living, where she could have her own apartment, but also have assistance available if necessary.   She doesn't need help with the activities of daily living...she can bathe and clothe herself, brush her own teeth (and they are her own teeth, something of which she is very proud of having at age 93), and remember to take her medications.  

Once I started checking independent living, I found there were different options there too and a wide range of prices (on those places where they actually posted the prices).  Naturally the one that I liked best was the most expensive.

When I did a search for "independent living" near where she is now, I got a list of places from 40 miles north of where she now lives to 40 miles south and across the Bay from where she doesn't want to leave.  I am really going to have to start finding people to ask for recommendations since the more web sites I visited the more overwhelmed I felt.

I have the feeling that the web sites that offer you NO photographs are the ones you want to avoid...either that or the places are wonderful and I want to design new web pages for them!

But anyway, I suspect I will learn this language a lot more quickly than Telugu...or even "dog."  For one thing, it's much more vital that I do...and the sooner the better.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


I can't remember (which seems oddly appropriate!) when I have ever been this mentally exhausted.  And we are at the start of this thing.   I cannot tell you how many times I answered the same questions from my mother over the last two days.  I know that you reach a point with your aging parents where you just do it, but Lord, does it wear you down.

When I called Customer Service and was trying to get a replacement credit card for my mother (who insists it disappeared from her dining room table and that she never took it out of the house) and the person on the telephone asked for the last 4 numbers of her SS number, my mother first handed me her Safeway card, then her Costco card, then her AAA card -- all had numbers, right?  Surely one of those would work.
If this had happened at the beginning of my two days with her, I probably would have laughed about it--because, really, it's pretty funny. But happening at the end of the two days, it was the straw that broke the camel's back and I just had to get out of there.
Must. practice. patience.

I had lunch with my friend Ruth yesterday, and then drove down to my mother's to "hang out" with her and Jeri for the afternoon.  We had a good time, did lots of talking and visiting.  Jeri and I went out to the store for my mother and enjoyed the alone time to talk about what was a very, very bad memory day.  

We had pizza leftover from the night before for dinner and Jeri chuckled noting that my mother heated the pizza on a tray in the oven, then transferred it to a serving plate, brought the plate to the table and put a piece on our plates, then took the serving plate back to the kitchen.  Why just mess up 2 plates when 3 would make so much more sense?
We were in the middle of eating our pizza when the lights went out.   She couldn't remember where her flashlight was, but we found a couple of candles and got those set up, expecting that the power would come back on again soon.  We took pictures by candlelight.

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We left the dining room table and settled into the living room.   Jeri had an hour and a half to kill before I had to drive her to the bus.  For a time my mother told Jeri about things she remembered from her years living on the ranch, when she was a toddler up until mid-way through grammar school.  Jeri went into the other room, and in pitch black played the piano, making up a tune as she went along that I thought surely was from the score of the musical she had written last year.  I was very impressed when she told me she had "just made it up."

The lights were still out when I left to take Jeri to downtown San Rafael.  Driving along the streets, and the freeway, I could see how extensive the outage was.  Coming back from downtown, the whole swath of neighborhoods ahead of me was totally black.  I later found out 20,000 residents were affected.

When I got back to the house, my mother's stepson's daughter was there.  She lives close by and since she was unable to reach my mother by phone (the electrical power to the phone was also out!) she came by and brought her a lantern with an LED light, which was brighter (and definitely safer!) than the candles we were using (this morning I found the flashlights--it helps if you have light to see when you are looking!).   The lights came back on about 10 minutes after Denise left, but my mother was exhausted and was in bed by 9:30.

I won't try to explain how today went.  We had two things to do:   She had a doctor's appointment at 12 and we were going to stop at the bank to get replacement debit and credit cards for the cards she has lost.  I can't begin to describe how complicated those two tasks became.

And, as I predicted, when the doctor asked her how she was feeling, she said everything wasn't very bad, but that I had panicked.  I explained to the doctor exactly how it had been presented to me ("everything hurts.  I feel terrible.  I think I need to see the doctor") and also talked about her dizzy spells, which the doctor was able to recreate rather dramatically in the office, so she knew it wasn't just my "panicking" that brought my mother to the office!

A sample of how the day went all day long is our conversation going to the lab to get blood work done.

What am I getting?
Blood tests.
Am I getting an x-ray?
No.  Blood tests.
Why am I here again?
To get blood work.
Are they going to give me a shot?
No.  Just blood work.
etc. for about 10 minutes

The bank experience was even worse.  Much, much worse.  But before that, we went to lunch at a wonderful Basque restaurant where I had one of the best French Onion Soups that I've ever had.

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I also had artichoke bottoms, in a lemon butter sauce.

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Then, loins girded, we went to the bank.  When that ordeal was over, I was ready to return to Davis ASAP and as soon as we had the new credit card ordered, I did just that.
I know she's 93.  I know she can't help having zero memory some times.  I love her and I really do try to be patient and understanding, but some days it just kind of overwhelms me and I have to put some space between us for a bit.

I am really looking forward to getting her moved to a facility where I know that there will be someone around all the time to make sure she's OK which the rest of us, no matter how diligent we are, can't possibly do.  But she told Jeri that she didn't think she would move until the end of the year.  I hope her stepson and I can convince her that sooner is better!  Her doctor was VERY supportive and even gave rave reviews to one particular Catholic assisted living facility, with which my mother was already familiar, and suggests we check out next time I'm in town.  Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Ruse

Well, this is going to be posted very early because I have to have it up before noon, when I usually post around 6 p.m.  It's all because of the ruse.

Jeri is at my mother's and texted me that my mother wanted to know if I wanted to come down and "hang out with them" today.  Well, I'm supposed to take her to the doctor tomorrow and I didn't want to drive down there two days in a row.  Also, I'm having lunch with a friend today.  It's already been rescheduled once and I didn't want to reschedule again,  so I said no. 

Then I got another text where Jeri said that my mother's idea had been that I would spend the night.  Oh sounded like she was really lonely, but I really didn't want to go and spend the night.  While I was trying to explain that in text, the phone rang and it was my mother, asking me to come down and spend the night.

I was hemming and hawing when she handed the phone to Jeri, who said "see, we thought if you could come down Grandma and I could have our gin and tonics and you'd be the designated driver to take me to the bus stop at night so I can get to the airport."  Or words to that effect.

It became very clear.  Jeri was worried about my mother driving her into downtown late at night and if I came down, there would be a good excuse for her not to, since my mother won't hear of Jeri taking a bus or cab to the transit bus station.   I understood completely.  So I'm going to San Rafael so we can avoid my mother having to drive late at night.

In the meantime, since I have no real "content" for this entry, here are the 3 generation pictures from the party on Saturday.  We started out at Newman Center with five couples and this is what we have created

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The whole Pinata Group there.

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The First Generation
(2 have died, one left the group when they divorced, one wasn't able to come)

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The Second Generation + spouses (many missing)
(I love that on the TV monitor in back is the pumpkin pie movie)

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The Third Generation (several missing)

Can you tell how much I love all these guys.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Being 70

What does the new septuagenarian do on the first day of the rest of her life?  Apparently sleep.  You'd think I'd run a marathon yesterday.  I napped in the morning, then we went out to breakfast, then I came home and took a 2 hr nap, then I fell asleep watching TV around 6 p.m. and now, at 9:30p.m., I would be in bed if I didn't want to write this first because I feel so sleepy.  I also feel "pre-sick," like I should be developing a fever, which I don't have.  It's a weird day!

But it began with checking in with my mother to see how she was feeling.  She sounded like death warmed over.  Said she just didn't feel well at all, had zero interest in a report on the party (which she had told me to be sure and call and tell her about) and didn't offer any argument at all when I suggested that I take her to see the doctor on Wednesday.
She sounded so bad that I called the Kaiser advice nurse to see if she thought I should bring her in today, but they are on holiday schedule and she thought that Wednesday would be good.

This evening I got a text message from Jeri, with this attached photo...

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which she said my "sick" mother had taken.  She was obviously in her "hostess mode" and been enjoying herself and her guests so much she actually touched a piece of modern technology and learned how to take a picture with Jeri's cell phone.  Shortly after, I heard from her step-son who had been to see her in the afternoon and said she seemed just fine and didn't mention feeling bad at all.

Lord, she's frustrating!

Anyway, after the business with my mother, Walt and I went to IHOP to meet Jeri, Phil, Phil's mother and sister and his sister's two kids.

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We had such a fun breakfast, rehashing the party yesterday and just general chit chat.  Jeri and Phil had flown in on Saturday and Jeri is leaving on Tuesday (Phil is staying with Ned until Thursday).  A quick trip, but it's been so much fun having them as part of the birthday celebration.

When we got home, I had a good time using the gift certificate Walt's brother and sister in law gave me, to Amazon, buying some books I had wanted to get, but had put off because of the cost.  What fun to have all that money to spend on books! 

But I eventually got sleepy again and sat in the recliner with an NCIS marathon and was asleep almost immediately.  I slept two hours.

Shortly after I woke up, Jeri and Phil stopped by to say goodbye.   Phil was heading to Ned's, and Jeri was going back to my mother's, to have dinner with Walt's brother and sister.  We had a short visit and waved them on their way.

I did a little more Amazon browsing, then turned on the Rachel Maddow documentary, Hubris about the Iraq war, but slept through most of it.   (Fortunately, I recorded it).
We had left over sausage for dinner, what the restaurant had packed up for us at the end of the party.  Walt looked at his plate and said it was a bad dinner for someone who had just finished picking up dog poop in the back yard.

After dinner, I watched the latest episode of Once Upon a Time, which I had not yet seen, came in here to write this journal entry and am falling asleep, so I'm going to end and go to my couch and see if I can sleep all night, hopefully waking up with the "pre-sick" feeling gone and a bit more energy for the new day.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Party

Didja hear?  I had a party today!  Actually it was the 50-70-75 party.  Tavie, the oldest of the Pinata Group kids, was turning 50, I was turning 70 and Rich, from the Generation 1 Pinata Group was turning 75.

They wanted to make this a surprise party, but knew that would be impossible.  The surprise was that Jeri and Phil came, but my mother spilled the beans on that to me yesterday.  I didn't tell Walt I knew, which was a good thing because he didn't know!  So he was the only one surprised to find them here.   

At one point Walt counted about 50-60 people in the back of the restaurant.  We had "substantial munchies" several kinds of beer and soft drink and an amazing cake that actually had 195 candles on it.

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Bri gave me the biggest card, which was very appropriate to give me.

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Char finally met Shelly and Ellen, face to face and introduced herself saying "I'm 'my friend Char' and you guys are 'my friends Shelly and Ellen'."  What I love is that nobody had to explain that!

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The kids had invited my friend, singer-songwriter Steve Schalchlin to come, but he is a big shot performer in New York now and couldn't make it, but offered to write a song for the event.  When he didn't, the kids came through with a great rendition of "When I'm 64," with rewritten lyrics.  I love having talented kids.  I will eventually have a video of it, but the lyrics went like this (containing lots of in-jokes for the Pinata group)

Beverly Sykes, it's your birthday today
All your friends are here
Everybody raise a glass and give 3 cheers
Here's a toast t seventy years
Hang a pinata, mix a gin fizz
Tweet for all to see
There's no more waiting, we're celebrating
Turning seventy

Sending a postcard, writing a blog
Stating points of view
Entertaining anecdotes about her day
Logos, blood bank, SPCA
Saving the world one child at a time
So Compassion-it
Letters and monies, to third world countries
Where no one gives a ... care

We can get together on New Year's Eve
And hit a pinata or two
But don't hit the fluorescent tuuuuuuuubes
And if it just won't break
Bill's ham-mer will do

If you're just a boy and you want a little clam dip
Don't hover over the bowl
Take one chip and leeeeeeeeeave
And if you're just a girl
Eat all that you please

Tavie's the coolest, leading the girls
No yucky boys allowed
She was playing soccer in a frozen land
Played the mellophone in the Cal Band
She's been to Paris, climbed up Half Dome
Costa Rica too
Now she's fifty, isn't that nifty
Tavie, here's to you

The man from Ione, Rich followed the sun
Back in sixty-one
He drove here on a freeway that he helped to build
Thanks to him the potholes get filled
Camping with Kevin, married to Pat
Riding his bike past a ditch
Navy reservist, VW Buggist
That's what we know about Rich!

Fifty and seventy and seventy-five
That's a lot of years
Put 'em all together it's a century
Actually Ned, it's a double century
I really don't care cuz we're having a ball
We've come from far and near

How do you doodily doodily doodle
Moses supposes his toeses are roses
Get off your asses and lift up your glasses
And drink up all this beer!

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We took group photos and then, of course, had a pinata.  Rich, Tavie and I got to go first (we did lousy).  Then the little kids had their turn--it was Brianna's first Pinata Group pinata (and we let her cheat and hit it without a blindfold)

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I loved the people who came.  Phoebe came all the way from Colorado, flying in this afternoon and flying back to Denver as soon as the party was over.  I was all verklempt at that.

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She said she had brought gifts for each of us, a new shirt I could use to replace my yellow Jello shirt on our next trip.

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And I was so tickled that Vince came.

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Vince moved in with us when he was a sophomore in high school and his family was returning to Malaysia as his father's studies at UCD had finished.  He lived with us until he graduated 3 years later.  He then went to UCD, graduated, did graduate work, got a great job, citizenship, a wife, and  a set of twins who are now about 12 (or maybe older).  He lives in Davis, but we hadn't seen him in a long time.  It was fun watching him catch up with our kids, who are like siblings to him (and look--he has grey hair!)

Eventually they lit all those candles and nearly set the cake on fire.

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...after which people started going home.  My mother didn't come to the party.  She was not feeling well and thought she would stay home.  I was really glad and kind of relieved that she didn't.  The chairs would not have been comfortable for her and the confusion of all those people would not have been fun for her.  She also would have been stuck waiting for a ride home, so we will celebrate my birthday when I have lunch with her this week.  I told her I was fine with that--that she had been there for the most important of my birthdays (the first one!) and that was enough.

I actually spoke at this party, something I never do.   I told people that in Oliver! Fagin sings "must come a time--70.   When you're old and you're cold and who cares if you live or you die.  The one consolation's money you may have put by."  I said that looking around that room at so many people who have been friends for such a long time, I realized that money isn't important at's the friendships you make a long the way.

I am truly blessed with wonderful friends...and great kids too!!!

Thanks, EVERYBODY!  (If anybody wants to see all the photos, they are now up on Flickr.)


Sunday, February 17, 2013

On the Eve of My 70th Birthday

On February 17, I will finally cross over the line into the 70s, so on that eve, I will do this meme, which l'empress reminded me she did back in 2005.  (Thank goodness for saved Christmas letters!)

30 years ago...
* Our children were still in school, and we were hosting foreign students (ultimately 70 from 14 different countries over 10 years)
* I was volunteering at The Lamplighters one day a week, Gilbert was my best friend, and we wrote Major General Hospital, which revolutionized Lamplighters Galas
* I was also working for Women's Health Associates, before it joined with Sutter, which ruined it.

20 years ago
* Walt and I returned to England and Ireland, visited Cousin Nora in Ireland and our friend Jane and her family in England
* We planned a huge birthday picnic for Walt's mother's 80th birthday (which was a big success)
* The Band Lawsuit was going hot and heavy and was nominated for a Sammie award this year (losing out to their friends, Mumbo Gumbo).  We attended a lot of Lawsuit concerts.

10 years ago
* I lost 85 lbs through Weight Watchers (and then gained most of it back)
* Walt and I went on a charity bike ride and I had my bike accident, which dislocated my shoulder and ruined my knee
* I went to Australia

8 years ago
* We were working with the SPCA fostering dogs and feeding orphan puppies
* I flew to Los Angeles for the re-opening of The Big Voice: God or Merman
* Walt and I went to Milwaukee for what I think was our last Netstock, and to St. Louis to see the first production directed by Gilbert's niece, Rachel Blackburn.

5 years ago
* We became grandparents -- Brianna was born!
* Jeri and Phil married in a beautiful beach ceremony presided over by Marta
* I met Tony Kahn at a taping of Says You in Los Angeles

3 years ago

* Walt and I went to Russia with the Blackfords on our first Viking Cruise
* I began sponsoring children through Compassion, International
* I attended my 50th high school reunion

1 year ago
* We took the Grand European cruise from Prague to Amsterdam with the Blackfords and then visited Jeri & Phil in Boston
* I started volunteering at Logos Books
* Lacie celebrated her first birthday...we now have two grandchildren!

So far this year I
* Have been thoroughly enjoying bonding with my new iPad
* Enjoyed time with Jeri, when she was here last month
* Started having weekly lunches with my mother

Yesterday I
* Met with Shelley about coming back to the Lamplighters history project
* Reveled in the beautiful blossoms in Berkeley
* Made a delicious tortellini dinner

Today I
* wrote the review for the show we saw on Thursday night
* am working on an article I will submit to the newspaper by Monday
* am trying some of the lovely tea I received from the owner of Logos for my birthday.
* Watched Gigi on TV and discovered that when he made that film and sang "I'm glad I'm not young anymore," Maurice Chevalier was 70 years old.    Sigh.

Tomorrow I will
* Turn 70
* Attend a birthday party for me, for Rich (who will be 75), and for Tavie (the first of our Pinata kids to turn 50)
* Wonder how I got to be this old so quickly.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Just When I Thought I Was Out...

....they pull me back in.

I thought we had taken care of the Lalmplighter History months ago, when Alison and I decided that our personal situations had made it difficult, if not practically impossible to continue.  Sadly, we submitted our resignation, with many apologies.
It's been a peaceful, stress-free few months.

Last week, I had e-mail from someone who has just taken over as the new coordinator of the project, asking if I had received a group mailing from her (I had not) and if I might consider coming to a meeting of the new committee and answering some questions about the project.

Alison and I had both been thinking that we would still like to be part of the project, but in a much smaller capacity, so I said I would be willing to come to a meeting.  The new coordinator and I agreed to meet today to discuss where we stood, and she wanted to get my feelings about what exactly needed to be done to complete the project.

We met at this great deli in Berkeley.

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She's a friend, so we got caught up on stuff, but also had a productive meeting about the history project.  I made some suggestions, that Alison and I would be willing to write the book and perhaps to do a few more interviews, but my typing problems are making it difficult for me to do the heavy transcription I thought I would be doing, and Alison's time conflicts make it difficult for her to do the kind of research she thought she would be doing.  Giving up those jobs means that Alison and I have to compromise some things, but we are committed to doing the project and are willing to do that if it will get the project done.

So...we'll see what happens.  A meeting of the committee is to take place in a couple of weeks and we will discuss this with everyone else.   So...who knows...I may have been pulled back in again, just when I thought I was out.

It was a glorious day in Berkeley.  Spring has positively exploded there.

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All over the city were these trees in full blossom.  These are, I believe, Japanese cherry trees, which do not bear fruit.

The weather was so beautiful (and I was only 30 minutes from finishing my audio book and wanted to start the next book before getting on the freeway) that I decided to drive around for a little bit, taking pictures.  This is the house we lived in when Jeri and Ned were babies and I was pregnant with Paul.

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Looks pretty much the same as it did when we lived there!

On days like this, in the middle of the day before rush hour, with a good audio book playing in the car, the drive home again is really delightful and the whole day was such a nice one.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Valentines of Yore

I think now that if kids bring Valentine cards to school, they have to bring a card for everyone.  We didn't.  We only gave cards to the people we liked.  we had paper bags attached to our desks and people would drop our cards in the bag.  The popular kids went home with full bags.  Kids like me were happy we had a few cards to take home.  I was the Charlie Brown of Valentine's Day.
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Nowadays, you go to the store to buy boxes of cards for your kids to give on Valentine's Day and you get super heroes, cartoon characters, vampires.  All perfect examples of love on the day, of course.  But were cards better when I was young?   I found some examples of 20th century Valentine cards, probably most before my time, but they certainly seemed familiar, some of them.
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Nothing quite  expresses the love and affection someone feels for you like a pair of false teeth!
This is probably the kind of card that Waye LaPierre would send to his sweetie.
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Once you've caught your prey, you obviously have to boil her and eat her!...
...or maybe just part of her.
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This is the "Fifty Shades of Grey" part ... woo your beloved by plopping him/her down on a big ol' nail!
...and then cuff him/her so they can't get away.
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This may be my favorite, though.  There are so many suggestive double entendres in this one it's hard to believe it would pass the grammar school censors!   

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Surprise

I went to the store yesterday to buy stuff to make a Valentine's Day party for my mother, held on the 13th because I work on the 14th.  I got some heart chocolates, a chocolate mousse cup with fruit on it for dessert, tomatoes and mozarella for caprese salad and I was ready to make sandwiches to take with it. I even found the special mustard she likes, though only one of three supermarkets in Davis carries Coleman's mustard.  I bought some red tulips planted in a pot and a valentine balloon to stick in the pot with them, and got some heart-patterned napins and a Valentine's card.

Early this morning I was up making heart-shaped sandwiches and the salad.

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I made ham and cheese (and mustard) sandwiches and strawberry cream cheese sandwiches, so she could have a choice.  I made the caprese salad and packed everything in a cooler.  I found a couple of red paper plates left over from our Super Bowl party to serve everything on so there would be no dishes to wash.

I was looking forward to the lunch, but not to the conversation I planned to have with her.  Her stepson, Ed, and I had had a conversation a couple of days before, sharing our mutual concerns about her diminishing memory and about her growing inability to keep up her house, which would not be a big deal if it were me, but it's another symptom of her deterioration.  I also noted when I got there today that she has a huge plant on her front porch that is dead (and my mother is someone who can make sticks grow...and prides herself on her gardening skills).  Later I noted that the lush, full, green plant in her family room is very sick and looks like it's dying.  Ed had also mentioned that her house "doesn't smell right."  I hadn't been aware of that, but when I entered the house today, I could get a whiff of what he meant.

Bottom line:  it's time.  But we've discussed this before and she has been adamant that she is going to stay in her own house until the end.  I worried about "the talk" all the way down to her house.  Ed had already set the stage with a long talk with her the last time he saw her, so this would not be a new idea.

I didn't bother much with small talk, but started out saying that Ed and I had talked and that we were both concerned.  For the first time I talked about how bad her memory was becoming.  She agreed and said she was aware of it.  I also told her how much brighter she had been when I arrived last week and she had been visiting with a friend for half an hour before I got there. I pointed out that she no longer has the thrift stre to work in, half of her mah jong group had died, she doesn't see her best friend much any more because she's 10 years younger and my mother can't keep up with her any more.  She's aways been a very sociable person, always the hostess, always having people around and she is becoming more and more introverted. I told her I really thought it was time to start thinking about moving to somewhere where she could be around people again.

To my incredible relief and great surprise, she said that just that morning she had been lying in bed thinking the very same thing.  She said she was thinking about the 3 places she had visited and which was she interested in investigating further.

You could have knocked me over with a feather.  She's READY!!!   She agreed with everything I had to say, we talked about plans, we decided to get together with Ed, the 3 of us, next week or the week after to map out a plan of action.   I told her it didn't have to be today or next week or even next month, but that our goal should be to move herthis year.

She agreed.  Of course the memory was shot today, but she did tell me over and over again that this was going to be a year of change.  Now we just have to make it happen in the best way possible, the easiest way for her.

I packed up a big box of books to take to Logos ("take any books you want.  I just want them gone") and I moved some scrapbooks onto the empty shelf because the look of the scrapbooks has been bothering her for months, because they aren't stacked neatly. ("What am I keeping all those pictures for anyway?") But now they are neatly put away and I hope that will help.  She even looked through the book I had assembled for her 80th birthday and enjoyed reading what everyone had written, so maybe she understands why she is "keeping all those photos anyway").

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(This is part of the book I made for her 90th birthday)

As for lunch, she was surprised and delighted that I had brought food. And everything was delicious.  After lunch, I took a nap before heading home.   When I left, I had gone one offramp before I realized that I had left my camera behind, so I turned around to go back and get it.  She called me to let me know I had left my cell phone behind.  Then she said she wasn't sure if it was my cell phone or my camera.  It didn't seem to hit her that she could not have called me if I had left my cell phone behind.  When I drove up, she handed it to me and said "I don't know if this is your camera or your cell phone."

I am so incredibly relieved with how today went.  I know that there will be ruts in the road as we make this transition, but we are starting out in a good place.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Me vs. Itallian Food

I made lasagne for dinner last night, but I wasn't hungry, so I didn't have any.  We had lots left over and had it for dinner tonight too.  I was hungrier tonight, so did have some and have to admit it wasn't bad, if I do say so myself.

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I grew up in the heart of (or, more accurately, on the outskirts of) North Beach, the Italian section of San Francisco.  (Though the city is more homogeneous now, North Beach is still predominately Italian, with a slop-over of Chinese from nearby Chinatown.)  My parents lived there for more than 30 years. Within walking distance was St. Peter & Paul church, which was the Italian National Church in San Francisco.

My father comes from Irish and German roots.  His father's grandparents came to this country from Ireland, and his mother's family (about which I know virtually nothing) came from Germany.  But in his heart, my father was Italian, with or without the blood lines.
We lived in a flat on a hill in the city and our landlord was a guy named Joe, who was from the old country.  His Italian accent was so thick I could barely understand him.  His wife was German and they were theater folks, with their walls covered, to the ceiling, with pictures of the activities of their thespian group.   I don't think they performed, but they definitely were active in theatrical stuff.

Irma was a large woman who bought clothes, when she liked something, in three different sizes...small, medium and large, to accommodate her always fluctuating weight.

My father worshipped Joe and spent a lot of time with him.  And along with worshipping Joe came his love of Italian food.  He loved it all.   Dinner in our house was invariably something Italian, if it wasn't something Amurrican or delivered Chinese food.  Whenever we went out to eat as a family, 90% of the time it was to a local Italian restaurant.

I grew up with spaghetti, lasagne, veal parmesan, ravioli.  My father learned how to make a lot of Italian food and to this date I have never had calzoni as good as his.

He would take me with him to order pizza in the days when pizza was a new thing. I remember standing on a box to look over at the pizza-making area and watching the pizza being assembled.  They usually gave me a slice of mozarella to eat while we waited for the pizza to be cooked in the big brick oven.  I never remember other customers being in the shop when we went there, which tells you how new the whole pizza idea was!

To go with that pizza, my father bought what he always called "Dago red" wine by the gallon in bottles without a label on them. (I think that he actually brought the bottles back to be refilled).  I don't remember him slinging the jug over his shoulder to pour a glass, but it was the kind of bottle that you expected people to do that with.

But I somehow missed the Italian-loving gene.  I listen to Italian cooks on TV today, waxing rhapsodic about childhood memories of mama's spaghetti sauce.  I never got it.  Spaghetti sauce was spaghetti sauce to me.  Oh, I don't dislike Italian food, but if you offer me the choice of an ethnic restaurant for dinner, Italian would be about the last on my list of choices.

I'm also a pretty good Italian cook.  I can make spaghetti sauce from scratch, or dress up a bottled version.  I make a fairly good pizza (not nearly as good as Jim's family--but his son is a pro).   I make a good lasagne (and actually prefer the pesto type that we had in Portofino) and I am willing to try just about anything, but as with restaurant choices, Italian would never be my first choice of ethnic food to cook.  But I cook it because it's easy, it's famliar, and Walt likes it.

But if truth be told, I'd really rather be cooking something Mexican.

(My father would be shocked, I'm sure)