Monday, March 31, 2014

Now We Are Six

It's hard to believe that Bri is 6 years old already!  Today she will celebrate at home with her friends, but yesterday the family passed through Davis en route home from Yosemite, and stopped  by Atria so we could all visit and have a little birthday party.  My mother's apartment waws instantly transformed from the quiet place it usually is to a place full of laughter, conversation, and confusion.

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I had been up late the night before making a cake for Bri so we had cake, balloon, presents (two--one from my mother and one from us) and party plates to bring.  I decided to make two trips and went over at 10:15 to drop off the presents.   I left the big box from us on the floor and gave my mother the bag of her gift on the kitchen counter.  "I'll sign the card in a minute," she said.   When I left I reminded her to sign the card and said "Do it now before you forget."  She got up and headed toward the bag as I went out the door.

When we returned half an hour later, dropped the cake stuff off in the dining room and went to the apartment.  The big box from us was gone and the bag was still sitting there with unsigned card.  When I asked her where the box had gone, she said she knew nothing about a box and if it was gone, someone must have come into the apartment and taken it.  Sigh.  Fortunately Ned found it sitting on her bed.   I asked her to sign the card and she only wrote "love GaGa" and I know it was because she couldn't remember Bri's name.

Tom and family arrived and I was pleased to see that this seemed to be a good day with Bri.  She talked with me and didn't seem to be as skittish with me as she sometimes is. We had a nice visit in the apartment and then went to the dining room for lunch.

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When time came for cake, Laurel and I jumped up with cameras.

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(this is one of my favorite Atria servers, Piyush

Ned helped blow out the candle.

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Then we went back to GaGa's to open presents.  Brianna is so good about making sure she reads the card first.  Since she is learning to read, she really tries to read  the card and took a long time reading the card before opening the box.

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Lacie, in the meantime, was just concentrating on charming everyone.

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Most of the gifts were books.  I had found some Bobbsey Twins books that I had my mother give her, since those were books she read to me when I was a kid. Bri was very good about thanking GaGa and it was so cute watching them talking together.

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Lacie LOVES books and she looked through all of them before Bri did.   Bri was busy looking at the non-book gifts.

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One of the things I had picked up as an after thought when leaving Costco was a game called Pizza Math.  Since Bri likes to make pizza and is good at math, I thought it might be a fun game for her.  It was.  She and Lacie and Marta sat n the floor and played it for a long time.

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But it was getting late and then were planning on getting home in time for dinner, so it was time to say goodbye.  Without being asked, Bri came and gave me a hug and thanked me for everything.  Our little girl is definitely growing up!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday Stealling

1. When you buy a greeting card are the words or the picture more important to you?
Oh, the words, definitely.  I'm always looking for the perfect snarky sentiment!

2. What's your favorite kind of cake?
I'm not a big cake eater, but my favorite used to be a chocolate cream roll, which my mother used to make for our birthdays.  A chocolate sponge cake rolled up with thick real whipped cream and topped with a bittersweet chocolate frosting. I haven't had it since I was a child.

3. Do you ever make gifts for people, if so what, or do you buy them?
Since I am of the "glue macaroni on a card" level of craftsperson, I buy gifts. More often than not books, since I am such a big book lover. 

4. You are chosen to have lunch with the President. The condition is you only get to ask one question. What do you ask?
Good question.  I remember when my friend (who ultimately went through many different elected offices up to state Representative from our district) won her first elected office. She had anticipated being able to do so many things holding that office and when she actually got into office, she discovered how much her hands were tied by so many things she knew nothing about when running for office. Obama made so many promises when he first ran and I'd be curious to find out how much he discovered that his promises were not possible to be met because of constraints of the office, in addition to the Republicans' vow not to let any of his policies be put into practice.

5. Which do you dislike most: pop-up ads or spam email?
My computer blocks most pop-up ads, so I'll say spam e-mail.  (If I contributed $3 every time someone tells me I could save the world with my donation, I'd have spent at least $1 million by now!)

fifty.jpg (82865 bytes)6. What was the best party you've ever been to?
Hands down, one that the kids and I threw--Walt's 50th birthday party, a surprise roast with people from all aspects of his life, even his childhood in Hawaii, as he sat on the stage of the local theater, on a gigantic chair from the set of The Nutcracker, dressed in a peer's robes and crown from the Davis Comic Opera Company's Iolanthe.   That party was more than 20 years ago and people still talk about that party today.

7. Which is worse, being in a place that is too loud, or too quiet?
TOO LOUD!!!! (can you hear me yelling?)  It's why I don't like New York City--too busy and too loud.

8. You are offered an envelope that you know contains $50. You are then told that you may either keep it or exchange it for another envelope that may contain $500 or may be empty. Do you keep the first envelope, or do you take your chances with the second?
With my luck it's a certainty that the second envelope will be empty. I'll take the bird in the hand.

9. Do you wish cellphone etiquette was a required class upon purchasing one?
It would be nice, but who would pay attention? The people who don't need the class!

10. What's the most messed up food combination that you've had that was actually good?
Maybe banana meat loaf, which is actually quite good,

11. What's one of your most random pet peeves (something that annoys you)?
Parents who let their kids run around restaurants disturbing other diners (we didn't let our 5 kids do it, why should they?)

12. When is the last time you had home cooking?
Last night. And the night before and the night before ad nauseam.  I am the home cook.

13. If you could be a fictional character from a book who would you choose?
Claire Randall from the Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series.

14. If you could be in a television sit-com, which would you choose?
The Big Bang Theory, but I couldn't be a cool nerdy character; I'd have to be someone's mother.

15. If you could be any animal or creature for one day, what would it be?
An elephant. I'd love to be a member of an elephant society. And because an elehant never forgets, I could make lifelong friends before returning to my human form.

16. What's your favorite girl's name?
I wanted Jeri's name to be Laurie Pauline, but Walt didn't like it.  I like Jeri's name (Jerilyn Anne), but I really would like to have had a Laurie Pauline.

17. What's your favorite boy's name?
Probaby David (so why did it take us four children before we named a boy that???)

18. What's your supermarket of choice?
Nugget Market.  It's a chain, but I suspect only a local chain.

19. If you were to attend a costume party tonight, what or whom would you go as?
An old retired lady.  I have the costume for that.

20. What is your concession stand must-have at the movies?
Surprisingly, I have found that I can make it two hours without having to eat.   I never get anything at the concession stand. Too, too expensive!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

I mean... So...

When we were looking for a place for my mother, just about this time a year ago (if you can believe it!), I remember walking through the place in Petaluma where we almost signed a contract.  We were going through the dining room and since it was about 1 p.m., most of the place was deserted, but there was this one table with three women at it.   They had finished their meal and were just sitting there talking and laughing.

I thought to myself at the time, "This is what she needs.  She needs friends in her life again."

At that time, some of her close friends had died, one had developed Alzheimers, one had moved to a facility with her husband and was too far away to see often.  Her best friend, several years younger, still had the stamina that my mother no longer had. So she sat in her house all day long and it seemed she never saw anybody but her hairdresser.

I felt so hopeful that getting into a facility would bring her friends again.

Well, that didn't happen right away.  She talked with people at mealtime, but had no interest in forming friendships, a good deal of that, I'm sure, being that she couldn't remember them once she returned to her apartment.

Over the months, her resolve not to get involved has strengthened, and mine to get her involved has weakened, so that I now accept what she is, where she is, and how she is.

Today we went to lunch and chose a table where nobody was sitting.  The table nearby had three people at it, including Loretta (my mother doesn't know her name), an artist who recently had some of her paintings on display in the state capitol and was interviewed on TV.

But Loretta barely remembers that, and my mother doesn't remember it at all. But they are friends. They don't know each other's names, but they laugh about what they can't remember. They insult each other and laugh together and they are like the women I saw at the other facility. Like my mother, Loretta was raised on a ranch and they share a lot of the same growing up experiences.

They will probably never visit each other's apartments, or make plans to do anything together, but they recognize each other, they recognize that they like each other, and when they get together, it's like they are old friends, who understand each other in a way that I can't really understand either of them because I'm not there yet.

I left Atria today feeling very good about how far she has come, socially, in a year...when I thought she wasn't progessing at all.

Most of the time when I have the television on, I am not paying close attention, but sometimes I do sit and listen and I'm noticing a strange new trend.  (Or, as the new way of phrasing it is, "this strange linguistic thing that is trending these days.")

I don't know if you've noticed, but listen to interviews sometimes.   I am amazed at how many times someone will be asked a question and the answer always starts, "I mean...." and then go on with the answer.  They haven't said anything yet, but the answer starts out as if they are explaining what they said previously. 

"What do you think about global warmng?"
"I mean there really is a lot of strange weather these days."

"Did you see Jim Brochu's new show."
"I mean it was just fantastic."

"Did you buy a new car?"
"I mean, we really needed one so we went shopping for one the other day."

It's really very strange how this linguistic quirk just popped up one day.   (Or should I say "I mean it's very strange how this linguistic quirk just popped up"?)

This is one of Beverly's odd thoughts, which I have from time to time when the brain is not otherwise occupied.  Another way of starting sentences (though not as common) is with "So..." 

"So there really is a lot of strange weather these days."
"So it was just fantastic"
"So we really needed one so we went shopping."

It's odd thinking about how these things come at you from out of nowhere.  I remember when there was no Valley Girl speak and nobody started a sentence with "like..."

I remember when people spoke and did not end every sentence by going up in tone as if they were asking a question, but really they aren't.  

"Like there really is a lot of strange WEATHER THERE DAYS?"
"Like it was JUST FANTASTIC?"
"Like we really needed one so we WENT SHOPPING?"

I guess I always figured that when some major grammar/language shift was going to come into being it wouldn't be quite so subtle and you would be able to figure out where the trend started. Somebody would issue a memo or something.

I mean no real opinion about it; so I just thought it was worth mentioning because I was just like THINKING ABOUT IT TODAY?

Friday, March 28, 2014

~Sil and Logos

Another of my internet friends has died.  Regular readers of Funny the World will probably have seen many of her comments from ~Sil in Corea.  I didn't know her well, but we have been reading each other and interacting on Facebook for many years.  I think she was a Quaker, in her 80s, and had lived in South Korea for many years, working at a welfare center.  I just remember that she seemed a gentle soul who shared all of my passions for social justice.  I will miss her very much.

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Sil and her family in 2013

But today is Thursday, so it's time for Today at Logos, kind of abbreviated version, hitting the high points.

hughglass.jpg (5316 bytes)My first customer today was my friend Ruth.  She had just come from the local radio station, where she had recorded her program for this week.  She reads stories having to do with the Gold Rush era.  I guess she is finished with Mark Twain for the time being.  This time she was telling me about Hugh Glass, an American fur trapper and frontiersman noted for his exploits during the first third of the 19th century.  He was most famous as a frontier folk hero for his legendary cross-country trek after being mauled by a grizzly bear.

Despite his injuries, Glass regained consciousness. He did so only to find himself abandoned, without weapons or equipment, suffering from a broken leg, the cuts on his back exposing bare ribs, and all his wounds festering. Glass lay mutilated and alone, more than 200 miles from the nearest American settlement at Fort Kiowa on the Missouri.

In one of the more remarkable treks known to history, Glass set his own leg, wrapped himself in the bear hide his companions had placed over him as a shroud, and began crawling. To prevent gangrene, Glass laid his wounded back on a rotting log and let the maggots eat the dead flesh.  He survived on wild berries and roots and once chased two wolves away from a calf they had killed and he ate the raw meat.  He eventually reached the fort.  (And I complain about 2 mile hikes on our cruises!)

I'm sure the radio broadcast is going to be quite an event when it airs!

When Ruth had told her tale, she went into the children's room to find some folk tales to buy for her neighbors, whom she felt needed to learn them.  Didn't find Aesop's, but went away with a handful of books anyway.

A very tall grandpa type came in with a grandma type and a grandchild type.   Grandma found a poem by Goethe and said it was just what she was looking for.   

Two men brought in donations, within about 15 minutes of each other. One of the guys was an older man with coffee breath and a missing tooth.  He brought two books, one of which was a huge book called "Trains we Rode," which looked fascinating, but I was engrossed in my VanGogh biography, so didn't take time to look at it.

A couple came in and headed for the "touchy-feely" section, where the self help and self esteem books her.  She chose a book and sat down at the table in the front of the store and read for about half an hour.  I didn't see him at all, but I heard him talking to someone I assumed was their daughter on the phone.  She took the phone from him and went outside to continue the conversation.

I found a hefty guy in a red plaid shirt wandering the stacks with something that looked like a purse on his arm.  I thought that odd, but what the heck.  When he left the store, he held up the book he was carrying and said his wife had already paid for was the husband of the women from the touchy feely section.

Two girls came in and spent about half an hour browsing.  One finally bought a book called "The Thirty Years War" and then came back again to buy a big book on English Heraldry.  After she left she hurried back in, in a panic, looking for her credit card.  Fortunately she found it.

A lovely girl carrying a violin case came in.  She bought a French language book, a dictionary and two Shakespeare books.  She told me she was going to London and then to Paris in June.  She asked about the French conversation group that meets at Logos once a month, and whether she could come even if she only had rudimentary French.   I told her I thought it would be OK and that I was wondering the same things.   We decided we could support one another.

My friend came in at 4:13.  This week's book was on outdoor public art in Seattle.  While he was browsing around the store, this guy in his 20s came in.   He was wearing two backpacks, "homeless guy" looking clothes and actually resembled Hugh Glass, except that I don't think he had combed his shoulder length hair in a week. His hands were very dirty and he told me he had a job at "the greenhouse."  I can only assume he was on something because I could hardly make sense out of this stream of consciousness that came out of him.  He was looking for a "book of books" about the Black List, but he then went on to tell me he raised bees and sent them around to friends.  He wants to plant fruit trees in a forest so they will feed hungry people.  When I asked him who would take care of them, he stressed they would be in a forest and he would stop by and see them after a year.  He talked about carving boats.  He asked me who my favorite author was and I told him John Steinbeck and he said he liked Steinbeck and he didn't understand why "his book" was black listed.  He was obviously very well read on a multitude of subjects and he told me "read a lot in prison."

He finally decided he had talked my ear off enough and decided to leave.  He didn't find what he was looking for, but I couldn't figure out what he was looking for anyway.  I was relieved when he left.

My friend was still there and I suspected he had stayed so I wouldn't be alone in the store with the guy, which he kind of admitted he had.  I was very grateful.

The last guy, in comparison to the previous customer, was very boring.  He bought a bargain book, a bible and a book of prose.

When Peter arrived about 3 minutes to 6, I couldn't believe it was that late already.  The afternoon had flown by, partly because of my interest in the VanGogh biography.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Tear or Two

Yesterday, I received the daily blog entry from Compassion, which directed me to a YouTube video called "who is your hero?"  It was a short video, a minute or so, of children being asked who their hero was.  "Superman?   Miley Cyrus? Justin Bieber?" and the kids laughing and answering "my sponsor," one child after another.  Now I have to wonder if the kids had ever heard of their choices...(and the questioner pronounced it "Miley Cyrius")...and it was a cute video for sponsors to see and make them feel good.
But while I was on the Compassion YouTube page, I watched several other videos, made while sponsors made visits to their sponsored children, and other videos about the life changes that come about through the Compassion program.

One of the first I watched was this gentleman visiting his child in Uganda.   It was an awkward meeting, where the girl was placed in his lap and he began to give her gifts, which she didn't seem to know what to do with.  I wasn't sure that the meeting was as joyous for her as it was for him, though a later video showed them all walking to her house away from the Compassion project.

In contrast was this video, Meeting Hector, where sponsor and child were overjoyed to see each other and could not stop hugging each other.  Or this one of a woman from America meeting her sponsored child in Swaziland, the affection of them both for each other so plain on both of their faces as they couldn't stop smiling or hugging each other.

A sad video was this gentleman's meeting of his child, Emmanuel, in Bolivia.  Emmanuel is one of 7 children of the same mother and 7 different fathers.  He had the same sad, detached look that I see on the face of my sponsored child, Theresa in Ghana, as I wonder if I will ever see her smile.  Emmanuel sat in his sponsor's lap and was very shy but he brought his sponsor to tears when he was asked what he liked best about Compassion and he replied that he liked going to church and when he was asked what he liked about going to church he said, tears streaming down his face, "nobody hits me there."  As the translator translated, the mother, sitting to the side of the sponsor nursing another child, began to cry and said that she didn't want to be the way she was, but that sometimes she couldn't help herself.

It was so terribly raw, unexpected, and tragic and you could see the kind of impact that Compassion has in the lives of families, trying to make things better for them.  By the end of the video, the Emmanuel was crying, his mother was crying, the sponsor was crying and unable to find the words, and I was crying watching them all.

It's the kind of video that makes you wonder what happens to these children as they go through the Compassion program and age out.

Cathy Green from Australia sponsored Rafonzel for 15 years and in this video meets herfor the first time, after she completed a degree in mass communications.  She had made a plaque for her sponsor, thanking her for the years of her sponsorship, and included the medal she won when she graduated magne cum laude.

Juan David Dominguez Galvez's journey from age 5 to adulthood was covered in this video, where he talks about the change Compassion had made in his life.  He is now studying to be a physician.

Margaret Makhota, from Uganda, became a sponsored child at age 12.  She lived in a poor village and went through the Compassion program, and its leadership program, graduated from university and is now a Uganda Senator.

This video moved me because it shows how a family reacts when they learn that their child has been admitted to the Compassion program, and made me see first hand how grateful the families are, and how they realize they now have hope for their child.

Children's dreams are big and through Compassion many of them are able to realize those dreams.

Four former sponsored children meet together with someone from Compassion to share what was important to them in letters from their sponsors.  It made me put aside the videos and the Kleenex and write letters to my sponsored kids.   "What you write are dreams that you give to children."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Hunnert

My mother hasn't asked me in several weeks whether or not I think she's going to live to be "a hunnert" but today that was all she was worried about.  That and the "old plants" that Niece decided to dump on her because she (Niecie) didn't want them and figured she could just give them to Aunt Chubby.   The story of THAT, now, is that the plants died the night after Niecie brought them to her.  Can't remember how many times I heard that story today.

But it was definitely overshadowed by the "hunnert" discussion.  (She has finally decided that living to hunnert would be kind of nice.)

I'm always trying to find things that might interest her that I can tell her, because there is nothing interesting that I am doing most days and nothing interesting that she is doing any day, so this morning I had watched an episode of "Extraordinary Women," the story of Audrey Hepburn, who was truly an amazing lady.

I figured my mother would remember who she was, and she did, so I gave her a capsule summary of Hepburn's life, growing up in Holland under Nazi domination, unable to become a ballerina, her dream, because starvation had changed her body and she no longer had the body of a dancer, to getting cast in Roman Holiday, her first picture for which she won an Oscar, to her quitting show business to concentrate on helping the starving children in countries like Bangladesh, Somalia and other countries, and the sadness of her getting cancer and dying within a year after her diagnosis.

I finished my story, she looked at me and said "do you think I'm going to live to be a hunnert?" (which is always followed by "why am I still alive?" and "why did all my siblings go off and leave me?"  I can't relate to the last question, since my sister hasn't been around for nearly 45 years, so it never occurs to me to wonder why I'm alone.)

Today I chose a different tool to help myself respond to her endlessly repeating questions.  I remembered her mother's last days.   I've described her before as the gentlest, sweetest woman who never said so much as "damn" in her life, but she was kicked out of a nursing home for cursing like a sailor (apologizes to sailors), and tripping people walking down the hallways with their canes.

So they had to move her to the mental hospital at Napa and my mother has talked many, many times about how frustrating it was to visit her because she suffered from aphasia (a term my mother doesn't know but only says she would try to talk with her mother and all her mother could say was blah-blah-blah-blah).  My mother would stay with her as long as she could and eventually her mother would ask to go back into the building and my mother would return home so frustrated that she couldn't get through to her.

Every time she asked me if she was going to live to hunnert today, I told myself how grateful I am that she could ask me that question and that I could understand her.  I also remembered her sister, my Aunt Barb who, before she died, could not recognize any of her children.  The last person she recognized was my mother and the day she lost that recognition was the last time my mother visited her.

So I'm lucky.  She knows me.  She can speak and be understood.  And if she doesn't realize she has asked the same question a dozen times already, that's better than my having to leave without the two of us sharing anything at all.

Atria gave her a form that her doctor has to fill out at her annual exam.  I'm amazed at how docilly she has accepted that.  I've been trying to get her to the doctor for several minor things that have come up but she digs in her heels and says absolutely positively she is NOT going to the doctor.  But today I told her I would make an appointment and all she said was "OK."  So she will finally get to meet her doctor...and maybe, just maybe this doctor will do a mental assessment more comprehensive than asking her if she knows what day of the week it is when she wakes up in the morning, which is all the last doctor (a gerontologist) did!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

An Author You Can't Refuse

(I love that phrase.  It's by David Gerrold, the title of his little booklet about writing)

Walt and I were watching The Blacklist last night and I realized I just couldn't keep my eyes opened (surprising, since that's usually such a riveting show, and this episode one I'd looked forward to because a bad guy was going to be exposed).  I decided to go to sleep and watch it in the middle of the night when I woke up.

So I went to sleep at 10:30 and woke up at 6:45!  There were a couple of awake moments in there, but I went right back to sleep, so I am well slept this morning.  But I had gone to sleep before writing this journal entry.  When I was waking up, I remembered that blogger and video blogger Steve Garfield had written a list of the 15 authors who had a profound influence on his life.  I thought I'd see how many authors I can list who have had a big influence on my life.

1.  The very first would be Erma Bombeck.   Erma is the reason why Funny the World exists.  I had this dream of maybe some day doing a column for the local newspaper and wasn't sure that I could produce a 750-850 word column on a regular basis.  Welll, the column never happened, but I discovered that yes, I could produce a column, not only on a regular basis, but on a daily basis.   I also discovered that it is very difficult to be Erma Bombeck.  Though I aspire to her wit and facility with words (which probably took an awful lot of work!), I rarely meet the standards that I would consider Bombeck-like.

2.  I went on a John Steinbeck feast in the early 1980s.  I had read "East of Eden" in high school, looking for the "dirty parts."  I don't know why I re-read it later, but the plot was the least of the things I was reading it for.  Steinbeck's writing inspired me to be a better writer.  A friend of mine had a niece who was married to Steinbeck's...nephew? I don't remember the relation, but there was some degree of separation between me and Steinbeck, so it felt, then, like reading something by someone I "knew."  I voraciously devoured everything he wrote and I found that my writing improved significantly whenever I was reading a Steinbeck book.  (I should go back and read him again!)

While those two have had the biggest effect on my life, there are others I always think of as important in my life.

3.  Walter Farley is the author of all the Black Stallion books and inspired a love of horses in me.  I always wanted to be young Alec Ramsey, bonding with the Black and racing bareback down the beaches of a deserted island.  I have only ridden a horse once or twice, and never faster than a trot (and that teeth-shattering!), but there is still a part of me that thinks that given the proper circumstances, I could be a horse person.

3.  What Farley did for me and horses, Albert Peyson Terhune did for me and dogs.  As a kid who loved dogs, but could never have one, I read everything he ever wrote (and now delight when I find a copy of the old publications at Logos).  Terhune wrote articles for magazines aimed at adults, but children discovered him too and lived the adventures of his fictional dogs and rejoiced in the stories of his real-life dogs like Lad, a Dog and his life with "the Master" and "the Mistress" at their home, "The Place."  He helped me feel like I had a dog of my own, even though I never did until after I married.

4.  If there was a book which defined my teen years it was Herman Wouk's "Marjorie Morningstar," the story of a young woman's first experiences with love.  I read that book over and over again until it was so worn that several years ago, Marta took my copy of it and had it rebound for me.  I haven't read it in decades, but still remember how much I loved that book (and how much I hated what Hollywood did to it when it decided to turn it into a movie!)

5.  Speaking of books Hollywood ruined, I repeat my oft-written diatribe at how Barbra Streisand ruined Pat Conroy's "Prince of Tides."  I read that book when Walt and I were vacationing in Hawaii and was so engrossed in the story that I read that in the car instead of looking at the scenery.   Streisand made the story around the psychologist who helps the hero and thus she became the star, but the magic of the boook was in the stories of the young brother and sister and their early lives.  The biggest event in their lives, which concerns a white tiger, doesn't even appear.  I have since read all of Conroy's books and think that he is a wonderful writer, but nothing ever lived up to "Prince of Tides."

6.  Bill Bryson became a favored author when I read his "The Mother Tongue," the story of the English language.  He made that very dry subject sparkle and I loved the book so much I found it on a remaindered table and bought copies for everyone in the family that year.  I have since read almost all of Bryson's books and have loved each and everyone one of them.  I found his "Notes from a Small Island" in a book store in Cambridge when Walt and I were driving around England.  I read it on that trip, since we were visiting many of the places that Bryson talks about in the book.

7.  I don't remember when I read "Outlander" the first of Diana Gabaldon's series (awaiting its 8 volume this year). I liked it, but didn't think all that much of it until I got the audio book of the second in the series, "Voyager."  Davina Porter, who narrates the huge books, has made 18th century Scotland and the U.S. come alive for me.  It is my almost constant companion when I am traveling, and I have several of the books on my kindle as well.   The only negative of my mother moving to Davis is that I don't have nearly as much driving time to get through these books.

8. Who can not be inspired by Mitch Albom's "Tuesday with Morrie," whose impact depended so strongy on Albom's old professor Morrie Schwartz and the lessons he taught Albom before his death.  But I have read most of Albom's subsequent books and find each thought provoking and inspiring.

9.  I read A. Anatoli (Kuznetsov)'s "Babi Yar" when we returned from Ukraine.  It had a huge emotional impact on me, since we had just been to Babi Yar, the site where Nazi soldiers murdered more than 33,000 Jews over one weekend, and ultimately more than 100,000 people during their occupation of Kiev.  The eyewitness account by a gentile boy who was 12 when the soldiers occupied Kiev is a horrific tale of how people survived.  When I watch what is happening in Kiev now, my heart aches especially for those who lived through the Nazi years and must be terrified to see the threat of it happening again.

10.  I'll end with David Gerrold, the sci fi writer who gave the world Tribbles. I "met" David on Compuserve when he used a pseudonymn and lead the charge against the homophobes of that social media.  I later learned who this guy was that I was writing to.  I met him and his son on a trip to Los Angeles and he has since become a friend, one who would fly up here to conduct graveside services for Paul, one who called me once at 2 a.m. to say he and his son were getting in the car right then and could they stop by for breakfast?  There are a lot of positives and negatives in my life with David, but one thing that remains constant is his writing.  He has a tongue-in-cheek method of writing that tickles me every time (if you ever get a chance to read "Flying Sorcerers," written with Larry Niven, I recommend it highly.  It's one very long shaggy dog story).

There are so many authors that I have loved over the years, and more authors to explore in the future, but if I had to pick the top 10, these are probably the ones who most influenced me or who are the ones that always come to mind when I think of my favorites.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A BIG Change

Walt came downstairs the other Friday morning to announce the the picture on the upstairs TV was gone.  It had just a line where the picture should be, though the sound worked fine.  The TV is one of those old ones, from the days before there were flat screen TVs.  I thought he was going to go TV shopping that afternoon, but he didn't get around to it until today.

Ned suggested to me that instead of just getting another TV like the one we already have, that we get a larger one "You deserve to see Survivor in all its glory," he laughed.  I told him I thought Walt was just going to get the same size and I was happy with what we had.

TVsm.jpg (58731 bytes)Apparently he sent a text to Walt suggesting the larger size screen for downstairs and apparently that got Walt to thinking and so when he returned from Costco, he had a big screen TV.

Not only was it a big screen...and I mean big screen...TV, but it is a smart TV (though at times this afternoon I doubted that!).  It has a built in router, so that brand new Roku I bought isn't needed (which means Walt can use it upstairs), it has an internet browser (reading Funny the World on television, should I want to).  We can connect to Facebook, watch my wonderful (yes I"m kidding) videos posted on Vimeo. 

Haven't figured out if we can get YouTube yet,but I haven't had time to check everything out.

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Anyway, it sounds like dying and going to TV addict heaven.  By the time he had gone to the store and taken time to read the instructions, it was really too late to get it set up last night so today was the day it was going to get done.   I was ready and waiting in eager anticipation for my new BIG screen TV.

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I'm so lucky to have Walt to get things like this set up.  I'm such a bull in a China shop, I'd break the thing before I ever got it into the family room.  But he takes his time.  First he removed it from the box and attached all the stuff you're supposed to attach to it.

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Then he took the "old" one upstairs and got the space all cleaned out.

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Finally the time had come and we carried the TV in from the living room and got it put up where the old one had been.

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Then it was my turn to get to work and I started getting all the settings right.  One of the first things is to update all the software.  It told me it would take about 45 minutes to do, so I did other things.  It got to where the update was 97% complete and then the TV shut off.  I waited and waited...there had been no message that it would shut down and start again, so I turned it back on and had to put all the same information back into the machine again.  Then it said it would take about 15 minutes, now, to update software ('cause presumably there were a lot of updates in the past 5 minutes).  This time I sat there and watched it and again, at about 97% finished, the TV shut down.  I left it alone, this time, for about 15 minutes and then when it hadn't turned itself on, I turned it on and had to put all the information back in again.  This time when it told me it would take 20 minutes to update, I skipped that step, figuring I could go back and do it again.

We finally got through all the set up screens and waited for our glorious TV to open up and show us glorious pictures, but instead we got a message that said we had a weak or nonexistant signal.  We tried everything and couldn't figure out what to do.

Naturally these days all manuals are on line, so I went on line to do some troubleshooting and saw that I could take to a Samsung help person, named Mickey.   So Mickey and I tried texting and I didn't even understand his questions, but was trying to find the answers when Firefox decided to crash, which ended my sessions with Mickey.

When I had Firefox back and went back to customer service, this time I had Victoria, who didn't ask me any of the questions that Mickey did, but just told me to do one thing for her.  I did and there was our picture.  I think she should have a good chat with Mickey about effective customer service!

We had gotten it working just in time for Amazing Race.

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It being Sunday night, there were things to watch so it was late before I started trying to customize our new baby with the things we will probably want to use.  The problem is that you don't have a keyboard but have to input everything one letter at a time using the remote control.  My e-mail address is and my password is about 15 letters long.  I have a basic password, sometimes putting a capital letter in it, sometimes adding a symbol, and sometimes with a minor variation in the basic 15 letter/number combination.  I have all the passwords stored, but sometimes I forget to update them, so if I get the password wrong, I have to go back and start all over again, one damn letter at a time.

I finally gave up, but had added a couple of apps (like Skype and Netflix) to my basic screen.  Tomorrow I'll worry about fine tuning it.

But I are a happy person!  I'm going to have to go buy popcorn.   The screen is so big, I feel I should be eating popcorn when I watch it.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday Stealing

1. Do you know triplets?
We used to.  Our kids were in nursery school with identical triplets Miles, Abel and Zachary.  (Their mother had a nice ultrasound photo of the 3 babies nestled in her womb around her IUD!)  Years later when we were living in Davis, Dave came home one day after visiting his friend and he said he had met triplets and that their name was Miles, Abel and Zachary.  Small world!)

2. Do you prefer Titanic or The Notebook?
If The Notebook is that movie about Alzheimers, then that one.

3. Have you ever eaten Indian food?
I've eaten it; I've cooked it.  I love Indian food.  When I have the time, I will make my own curries, but usually I go with store-bought.  I haven't made tiki masala yet, though and that is about my favorite of the Indian foods I've tasted.

4. What’s the name of your favorite restaurant?
I don't have "a" favorite.  Here in town it would probably be a Thai restaurant, Thai Nakorn, where we eat from time to time.  In San Francisco there is a restaurant called Thanh Long which makes the very best crab ever!

5. Who’s your favorite person in the world?
Oh Lord.  Such pressure.  I can't say.  If you exclude all family members (who are obviously all favorites), it's probably Steve Schalchlin, 'cause he gives the best hugs ever and is a great confidante, when he's not busy being a Big Star.

6. Would you rather live in a rural area or in the suburbs?
Suburbs definitely.  Rural has a nice lure to it, but I suspect I would get tired of it sooner or later.

7. Can you whistle?
Yes, but not using 2 fingers.

8. Do you sleep with a nightlight?
Yes, but only because it's attached to the Sentsy Scent warmer. I have no problems sleeping without a night light.

9. Do you eat breakfast every morning?
Very definitely.  And mid morning.  And lunch.  And mid-afternoon. And dinner.  And snacks in between.

10. Do you take any pills or medication daily?

11. How many times have you been to the hospital as a patient?
Six.  Five to give birth and one for tonsil removal (at age 4)

12. Have you ever seen Finding Nemo?

13. Where do you buy your jeans?
I don't wear jeans.

14. What’s the last compliment you got?
It was on an article I wrote for the paper this week

15. Do you usually remember your dreams in the morning?

16. What flavor tea do you enjoy?
Not a big tea drinker, but I usually order Earl Gray

17. What social media sites do you use?
Facebook, Swap Bot's "Over 50 and Proud" group and Senior Friends

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Mints

The first time I went to a meeting/luncheon of the Woodland Shakespeare Book Club, it was as a guest, with the hope by the person who invited me that I would decide to join.   I think I went to 4 different meetings where guests were permitted before I was on the fast-track list to membership, and now I've been a member for five months.

At that first luncheon they served little mint-flavored gelatinous things, which everyone called "the mints" and rolled their eyes in ecstacy.  My sponsor, Sue, told me that these were unique to the club, that the recipe was a closely guarded secret and only special people were given the recipe to make them.  She might even have told me that only one person had been making them for several years.  They are even served on special "memorial" plates,  with paper doilies just for the mints.

Truth to tell, I wasn't all that impressed.  They tasted like ... marshmallows, and I'm not really a marshmallow lover (never could figure out what the big deal is about Peeps, for example).  But I thought the whole idea of a secret recipe unique to the club was kind of fun.

Two or three months ago, I was asked if I would be willing to be on the committee to plan the decorations and host this year's annual luncheon.  I figured it would be a good way to actually meet some people, since the meetings themselves aren't necessarily conducive to meeting new folks, since I'm the newbie and everyone is busy talking with their friends.  Some women have been in this club for 20 or 30 years.

So I agreed to help with the planning, though lord help me, I'm not a "ladies' luncheon" kind of person.  In addition to not having gotten the cleaning gene, or the gardening gene, I also haven't gotten the decorating gene, or the Emily Post gene, but the idea of getting to know a couple of the other members was the incentive for agreeing to help with planning the luncheon.

There is a huge book with directions for what has to happen to pull off this luncheon.  I really realized that I hadn't gotten the luncheon planning gene when we were going through it, page by page, trying to decided what our decorations would be (given that the book being discussed at the next meeting is "Gidget.")  

We have half-assed ideas of what we might do, based on what we could find cheap at the dollar store, or affordable at Michael's Craft Store.  We planned to do inventory to find out what things we would need to beg, borrow, or bring, and then there was the question of who would make the mints.

Traditionally the mints are made by a member of the committee, I learned.  I also learned that the big deep dark secret was somehow printed accidentally in the cookbook that the club put out as a fund raiser in 2008, so it's no longer unique or secret, but it's still tradition.

There was hemming and hawing about who would take on the responsibility, but I'm never afraid of trying something new, so I volunteered.   Everyone was impressed that I would dare do the sacred mints.
I'm not the kind of person who will test the recipe out first to make sure I'm doing it right.  I'll just do them a couple of days before and hope they all turn out all right. But since it's no longer a secret, I'll give you the recipe as it is printed.
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
Boil to firm ball, then add:
     1-1/2 envelopes gelatin
     1/2 to 1/3 c cold water
Beat 15 minutes with electric mixer.  Add mint flavoring and color during beating.  Pour into pans dusted with powdered sugar.  Let stand overnight
Cut and roll in powdered sugar
Make 2 recipes for tea, 3 recipes for luncheon
First of all, do you beat while it's still on the stove over heat, or can you move to a mixer and beat in a bowl? I'd ask how much flavoring, but I can experiment.  But what size pans do you use?  9x13? 8x8? some other size?   Can you make triple the recipe, or do you have to make 3 individual recipes?

Nobody at the meeting today had any answers and everybody suggested that I ask "Barbara," who was, I was assured, the resident on all things "mints."  Well, I called Barbara and found out that she is the oldest member in the club, has never made the mints herself and just published the recipe in the cookbook (though she should not have, because it was a secret recipe!).  She couldn't answer any of my questions.  So I called someone else and am waiting for a call back from her -- I have two weeks to get answers to my questions.

I know they will turn out fine, but you can be sure that when we write our suggestions for next year's committee, I will be sure that a more complete recipe is added to the notes!!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Today at Logos

What a fun day it was today!  As dull as last week was, it was that NOT dull today.

The first thing that happened was that I opened the desk drawer and there was my jade earring that I had lost in the office sometime before Christmas!  I knew I had lost it at Logos when I took off my sweatshirt, but I couldn't find it and didn't say anything to anybody about it, just mourned its loss. At Christmas, Brianna and Lacie gave me a pair of earrings that I have been wearing since.  Now my lost earring is back...and I just have to remember where I put the other one now!

The first hour or so was the usual, people coming in asking for books, not buying anything except $1 bargain books. One woman bought a book called "The Unpublished Autobiographical writings of Virginia Woolf."  Uh...if she's buying them in book form can you really call them "unpublished"?

Then a couple came in. She started chatting while he was browsing.   She told me that her kids live here and she was in town to babysit, but that she and hubby had gone to the town of Murphys over the weekend just to have a couple of days alone, and what a nice town it was, but how terrible it was to get to.  She talked about wine tastings and chocolate tasting and I was ready to leave for Murphys right then.   (Actually, I think two of my aunts lived in Murphys for awhile and started the first AA group there.)

Somehow we got on the subject of theater.  I guess she asked me if I was retired and I told her that I was  doing volunteering and being a theater critic in my spare time.  She mentioned that she had a cousin who was in theater around here and asked me if I had ever heard of Peggy Shannon.  Peggy Shannon was the director for Sacramento Theater company and on the faculty at the University.  I knew her quite well and told her cousin that she is now living in Toronto and working for Ryerson University. She got into her (and their) genealogy and how many centuries she had traced their family back, Irish roots blending with Scottish roots (sounds like my family).

I just had a delightful time talking with her, while her husband left the store and was chatting with the guys in the sports store next door.  I promised to email her Peggy's e-mail address so she can contact her.  I felt very good when she left.

A guy came in with books to donate.  He carefully went through each book to make sure he hadn't left anything inside and we talked about several of them, since he reads the same kind of books that I do.
The Pink Lady came in next and spent a lot of time looking through cookbooks.  While she was there, Jeri called and we started chatting but when the Pink Lady was finished and had a stack to check out, I had to hang up.  Jeri said I could call her later, but then we suddenly got busy and about 10 customers came in (most of whom didn't buy anything)

But one of the customers was a woman who came in looking for a copy of "Grapes of Wrath," which we didn't have. I apologized and told her I guessed that the reason we didn't have it was because of the University's recent production of it. She expressed regret at not seeing it and I told her that it was quite good and told her some things about the production and mentioned a lighting effect that I'd noticed that I'd left out of my review...and told her I was a critic (she knew my name).  

That opened a whole floodgate.  She asked how long I'd been in Davis and I told her we had come in 1973 and then she said "do you remember a guy named Bob Cello?"  "Bob CELLO!" I exclaimed and said that Bob had been the very best Tevye I had ever seen.  I asked her if she had seen the production of Fiddler on the Roof that he was in and she said that she had been Tzeitel (Tevye's oldest daughter) in that production.  She mentioned other actors in town that we both knew and said that she had recently attended Mary Stambusky's funeral.  I told her that we were at that funeral too!

Talk about small worlds!

legging.JPG (27763 bytes)The next customer didn't stay long and didn't buy anything, but I mention her because she was just such a striking looking woman.  I saw her striding across the street, tall, in different shades of brown, with a fringed vest, a Panama hat boots, and bell bottom pants with a slits up the sides (that's what the picture at the left shows, unclearly!).  She looked through the art books, then turned and left, striding back across the street, her long pony tail moving to the rhythm of her body.

The next customer was much less striking, a rotund gentleman in a Kelly green t-shirt, green plaid shorts, and green flip flops.  He had a reddish crew-cut and a scruffy red beard.  He bought a bargain book and a couple of fantasy books.

The next customer also wore flip flops and shorts (in his case, cargo pants), but he had white hair and a white beard.  He bought a children's book about dinosaurs and a book about the predictions of Nostradamus.  I find I am endlessly fascinating by the book combinations that people buy.
Speaking of which, "my friend" didn't show up until nearly 5 p.m. and he bought a book of Siamese cookery. But this time I got a feeling for why so many of his books are of such widely differing subjects.  He told me that he collects books published by Tuttle Press in New Hampshire, which specializes in Asian books, primarily Japanese, but also have a wide range of other subjects and he is proud of his large collection of Tuttle books.

A stern, unsmiling professor type burst through the door, and walked purposefully around a couple of parts of the store and then, without buying anything, he left, but turned around as he left and said "Amazing.  Amazing books, Amazing prices."  Then he was gone.  Very odd.

About this time I heard a dog outside which kept barking and barking and barking.  I'm so used to keeping Lizzie and Polly quiet that I felt almost like I should go outside and try to quiet that dog too!
A biology professor who looks like Dan Florek, who plays Captain Cragen on Law and Order SVU bought a couple of books in Italian and said that he is going to be retiring soon and wants to know if Logos wants all of the books from his office.  I suggested he speak with Peter.

Peter himself relieved me shortly before 5 and I was able to regale Walt with my adventures today on the walk to the car.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lessons to Learn

This morning was my monthly dementia support group.  I didn't have any concerns or anything really to talk about this time, but I always get a big lift from being there with people who have gone through it (two of the today had buried their loved ones with Alzheimers) or are going through it.  One of the things I picked up today was this moving poem which, I think, says a lot.
Do not ask me to remember
Don't try to make me understand
Let me rest and know you're with me
Kiss my cheek and hold my hand.
I'm confused beyond your concept
I am sad and sick and lost
All I know is that I need you
To be with me at all cost.
Do not lose your patience with me
Do not scold or curse or cry
I can't help the way I'm acting,
Can't be different 'though I try.
Just remember that I need you
That the best of me is gone
Please don't fail to stand beside me,
Love me 'til my life is done.
-Author unknown
It says so much.  I think I'm going to drop it off on the dining room table at her apartment.  She'll find it some day and not know who put it there (even if I tell her I'm bringing it to her), but maybe it will help her...a little.   It helps me to read it over and over again and try to feel what she is feeling.   The line I'm confused beyond your concept in particular gets to me because when I get frustrated it's because I expect her to make connections in a certain way and I have to remember that she can't.  Like even though I remind her that if she wants to know what the air is like outside, she just has to move her hand 6" and open the door.  
Whenever I say that her face has a bland expression on it as if that was the most ridiculous thing in the world for me to suggest, and, of course, she does not do it, but waits for me to give her a weather report.

In this whole process I am getting a different picture of the mother I've always known.  I have done some reshuffling around here and have moved some books from my overstuffed office onto the shelves in the living room.  It involved moving my mother's diaries.  She has kept a diary all of her life, hardbound books that she would record her day in every day.  When she left my father, she threw away the books she had kept for 37 years because she didn't want to remember any of it.   So what is left is everything from after she left my father.

She wanted to throw those away, but I kept them, with the idea in mind that I would read through them and find out what was really going on with her all these years.  But I have found that it is like reading something from a court reporter.  Totally devoid of emotion, just recording her day.  The diaries stop before Paul died, but David's death gets two pages, because we were with her for two days.   Other than saying she can't believe he's gone, it is a clinical description of what happened and because she happened to have guests from Holland staying with her at the time, the next several days (up to the funeral) were filled with the places they went, how she entertained them, what she cooked, etc.  It was as if Dave's death was just a blip on her radar.

When I read over these books, I realize that this is what has frustrated me my whole life.  She does not relate emotionally to most things.   Even before the dementia, I tried to let her know how frustrated I was at always being put second behind her husband's family, about being excluded from family photos at her wedding, about the times I begged her to come and see the kids in performance, but she had something to do with his family, about the holidays when we had to be "fit in" whenever they had a free day,but never ON the holiday.  This has consistently washed over her like water over a bridge.  It has never once penetrated her brain that I was hurting for so many years at being always "second."  When she married I thought it would become a blended family, not a "yours" and "mine" with "yours" taking precedence.

So a lot of what is frustrating to me in her dementia is just an extension of how she has been acting, I guess my whole life.  I remember having one emotional conversation with her, many years after my typing teacher Sister Anne died.   She broke down in tears and told me how it had hurt her that I preferred to spend time with Sister Anne than with the family.  At that time my father made life at home so unpleasant, and Sister Anne was a safe haven, and I had zero notion of how my mother was feeling, because we never discussed feelings in our house. The few times feelings erupted were so disastrous that it made you hide them even deeper.

I don't know if this descent into dementia is a learning experience for her, if she is learning anything about her continuing loss of memory, but trying so hard to be with her and support her and make things easier for her is very definitely a learning experience for me.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


I came across this quote today.  Obviously written before 2003, because Fred Rogers died in 2003.
Nearly every morning of his life, Mister Rogers has gone swimming, and now, here he is, standing in a locker room, seventy years old and as white as the Easter Bunny, rimed with frost wherever he has hair, gnawed pink in the spots where his dry skin has gone to flaking, slightly wattled at the neck, slightly stooped at the shoulder, slightly sunken in the chest, slightly curvy at the hips, slightly pigeoned at the toes, slightly aswing at the fine bobbing nest of himself... and yet when he speaks, it is in that voice, his voice, the famous one, the unmistakable one, the televised one, the voice dressed in sweater and sneakers, the soft one, the reassuring one, the curious and expository one, the sly voice that sounds adult to the ears of children and childish to the ears of adults, and what he says, in the midst of all his bobbing-nudity, is as understated as it is obvious: "Well, Tom, I guess you've already gotten a deeper glimpse into my daily routine than most people have."
I don't know when this interview (this is just the start of it) was written, but two things struck me.   First was the description of this 70 year old man.  Harumph, 71 year old me wants to say!
But the second thing was the last sentence which led the article writer into talking about Mister Rogers' daily routine

The first time I called Mister Rogers on the telephone, I woke him up from his nap.  He takes a nap every day in the late afternoon--just as he wakes up every morning at five-thirty to read and study and write and pray for the legions who have requested his prayers; just as he goes to bed at nine thirty at night and sleeps eight hours without interruption.
I have been thinking about routines today, and how our lives have changed since Polly entered our lives and essentially put an end to the sporadic fostering of dogs and allowing us to settle into a pretty set routine around here.  Every time I visit my mother she asks "what have you been doing exciting?" and I always tell her "nothing" because unless I'm reviewing a show, pretty much things are routine around here.

I love how the dogs are really very polite.  I end my night of sleep in the recliner.  Sometimes Polly sleeps with me, but mostly she sleeps in Walt's recliner, though with ears erect, waiting for me to wake up.  I confess that I often don't let her know I'm awake for as long as half an hour after I wake up.  The dogs either sleep in the living room or walk outside, but they never bother me. 

The minute I decide to get up, Polly leaps off the chair and gives one sharp bark, which brings Sheila and Lizzie running from wherever they are and all three leap happily, knowing that I will feed them.  Polly sometimes barks until I go into the kitchen, but lately, once she knows I'm standing up, she just acts excited because she knows that the routine is that I will feed her.

When I put down the bowls, Lizzie scarfs hers down instantly, and then goes in to where Polly is eating and sits quietly until Polly has finished, when she eats whatever (if anything) is left.   I love that there are never any fights over food.  Lizzie is the one who eats the leftovers, but she never challenges anybody for food.  She just sits and waits her turn.

The dogs go back outside but when I get up to make toast they can hear it going into the toaster and all return to the house where they stand in front of me begging for toast crust.

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They never fight over the crust.  They know Sheila gets hers first, then Lizzie, then Polly.  I am constantly amazed at how they never try to grab a piece of crust that isn't theirs.  They each get two pieces of crust, after which I put up my hands and say "that's it," whereupon Sheila walks back outside because she knows it's over (the other two haven't figured that out yet and remain ever hopeful).-

When they are outside and start barking, all I have to do is open the sliding glass door (which scrapes on the frame because Lizzie has knocked it slight off the track) and they come racing inside.  One of these days I will get a video of it because it's so cute, but usually even if I sneak to the door with the camera, by the time I get the camera ready, they are already inside.

The time changes each season have kind of done away with the routine they had for awhile, which I loved.  When the end of Jeopardy came, Polly would leap off whichever lap she was on and starts barking, letting the others know it was time for their dinner.  She still barks to let them know about dinner, but it isn't connected with Jeopardy any more.

At night, when we are eating our dinner, they take their positions around me because I'm a bad dog owner and do feed my dogs from the table.   Sheila takes stock of the dinner.  If there is something meaty she knows she will get a sample, if there is no meat she may or may not, so she doesn't commit to the full sit, staring at me.  Instead, she lies down, with her back to me, pretending she doesn't care, but if she senses sounds of food sharing, she can be up in a flash.  Meanwhile Lizzie is staring at me from my right side and Polly is sitting unobtrusively under the table until food is shared, whereupon her nose appears on the chair seat, between my legs.

Starting at about 11:30, when The Daily Show is over, Sheila, who has been sleeping in the living room, starts getting antsy.  She doesn't want to go out, she wants me to go to the couch and sleep.  She checks on me several times, sometimes sleeping under my legs at my desk.  When I finally get up, she is as excited as if I had announced dinner.

She stands behind me and lets me enter the living room first and then waits impatiently for me to make up my bed.  When I lie down, Lizzie jumps up on the table behind the couch, Polly settles in under the blanket on the level of my waist and Sheila first walks down in the left direction from my head, presenting me her backside to pet (not my favorite part to pet) and then turns around and comes back in the other direction so I can scratch her ears and her chest and run my hands over her shoulders.   Then she lies down in front of the couch and we all go to sleep.

When I get up in the middle of the night, nobody moves.  I go to sleep in the reciner and everyone continues wherever they are (except sooner or later Polly will move into the famiy room, to either sleep with me, or to sleep on Walt's recliner) and then in the morning the routine starts all over again.

The thing I like most about our routine is that it's mostly silent.   I'm a quiet person and though I talk to them, I don't talk all that much. We don't yell at them for barking, we just open the back door.  I don't have to call them for meals, they know. I learned how acute their hearing is when I once said "treat time" in a very low tone and the dogs, who were outside, came right in, so I don't call out "treat time!" any more, I just say it in a low tone. They know when I'm thinking about going out and react accordingly (getting ready for a treat, which I always give them when I leave). I try to be aware of dog body language and while I can't be quite as attuned to them as they can be to me, I have gotten much better at reading them over the years. I feel that we five have a real partnership that just works for us, thought it's not every exciting to read about.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

It Was THAT Kind of Day

It was Judy Jackson's fault.  Judy is a singer, an actress, and the costumer for the Lamplighters.  She is also a Facebook friend and this morning she mentioned that she was going to be making Guinness cupcakes with Bailey's Irish Cream frosting.  That sounded so good that though we almost never do anything to commemorate St. Patrick's Day, I decided to make a big deal out of it.  I am always looking for new ways to bring something interesting to my mother's life, however briefly.

First I needed to write a letter.  I had received a wonderful letter from my sponsored girl, Shallon, in Uganda.  She's the most rewarding to write to, first because she's older and second, she speaks English, so I get the longest letters from her and I write the longest letters to her because I know they don't need to go through a translator.  Of course, her letters are full of religious comments and I feel somewhat hypocritical answering in kind, but today I sent her the story of St. Patrick and tried to explain why Americans celebrate an Irish saint who converted Ireland by going to pubs and getting drunk.

I sent it with a little notebook I had for her and so the package was heavy and I had to take it to the post office to mail, which I did before I went shopping for ingredients for my Irish dinner.  Since the post office is on the other side of Davis, I listened to my audio book while I drove around.  The book is on my iPod Touch and when I get to wherever I'm going, I unplug it from the car speaker and stick it in the console between the two front seats.

When I left the post office, I plugged it back in again and drove to the supermarket.  Again, unplugged it, stored it, and went to the store.  I went for broke.  Bought corned beef, cabbage, red potatoes, and all the stuff I needed for the cupcakes, including sour cream, unsalted butter, Dutch cocoa and all the other things you need to make cupcakes.

When I got back to the car, I couldn't find the iPod.  There are very few places to look in that car and I remembered distinctly putting it in the console between the two front seats.  I looked on the floor under the seats, between the seat back and the seat, through my purse.  It had just disappeared.  We have a brand new car with an alarm system and there didn't seem to be any signs of break-in and heck, it's a busy parking lot.  Who would break in and just steal the iPod and leave other things behind?

I finally looked through my purse again, and I had put it in the pocket where I normally keep my iPhone.  I felt like an idiot.  Not the last time that day!

I drove home and started unloding groceries.  Walt asked "Did you get bananas?"  I went "doh!" because we always get bananas and I hadn't even thought about it.  Then Walt came in with the last two bags of groceries, and on the top of one was a bunch of bananas.  I had no memory of buying them.   But then I didn't feel too bad because when I told Walt about my Alzheimers moment earlier, he asked me what I used to listen to audio books in the car...when I've been using that machine for at least five years and he has not only seen me do it, but that's what we use to listen to Says You.  I wasn't the only one having an Alzheimers moment.

It was time to start the cupcakes.  When I shop for ingredients, I look at the list on the recipe, but don't actually read the directions before I go shopping.   One of the ingredients was unsalted  butter, which I never use unless I'm baking.  When I got ready to bake and checked the recipe, the unsalted butter was to grease the cupcake pans unless you were using cupcake papers (which I was).  So   had purchased a pound of unsalted butter to use about 1 tsp. ... and then I didn't need it at all.

I was in the middle of mixing everything and getting something out of the refrigerator when I knocked a big jar of mustard on the floor.  Not even the dogs wanted to lick it up.  But I was in the middle of the mixing process and had to postpone cleaning up the mustard, so Walt got down on his knees and cleaned it up while I moved around him adding my ingredients to the cupcake mix.  (He was rewarded because I needed someone to finish the can of Guinness that I was using in the cupcake mix.

After the cupcakes came out of the oven, I set them to cool, since they had to be cold before I frosted them.  I took a short nap and when I woke up, I started to get the ingredients together:  cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and Bailey's Irish Cream.  We had 2 bottles in the "wine closet."  They were both quite old and I knew that one had probably gone bad.  I remember having old Baileys' once and the cream had curdled and it was awful.  I unscrewed the top from the partially used bottle and discovered that it was so old everything had evaporated.  But I had another bottle that was still in the box it came in, with the seal unbroken.   Ahhh...this one would be fine.  And after I made the frosting, I might have a little glass of it since it had been so long since I'd tasted Bailey's.

I opened the bottle and decided to take a quick swig out of the bottle itself, but when I tilted it up, nothing came out.  I tried shaking it and I could feel something in there.  I stuck a long stick in it to stir up what must have been sediment...and what came out smelled sorta like Bailey's but looked like vomit.   Apparently you can't keep Bailey's, even unopened, in a cupboard for more than 15 years.

So I got in the car and went back to the store and bought another bottle, shaking it first to make sure it was actually liquid.  There was a beggar sitting outside the store, so I bought him a roast beef sandwich and wished him a Happy St. Patrick's day.

Got home with the viable Bailey's and started mixing everything, when I realized I didn't have enough powdered sugar.  It called for 4 cups and I had maybe 3, but I decided to just go with what I had, knowing that it was going to be too soft to pipe a nice looking top on the cupcakes.  They actually turned out ok, with frosting glopped on and pushed into place with a spoon.  And, if I do say so myself, they tasted quite good.

I took two in a container up to Atria to give to my mother, who covered them and left them on her kitchen counter.  I know they will be there still when I go back in a couple of days and she won't remember who brought them to her, but owell, it was a nice moment giving them to her.  We had our usual one-sided conversation, with me trying desperately to find something interesting to tell her (and today it was all about all the silly problems I had during the day).  When I finished she sighed and said "well...nothing exciting is happening here.  Is it cold outside?"   Sigh.

My disasters seemed to end at Atria.  I had cooked a corned beef in my Wonderbag and it cooked beautifully without the slight mushy texture that I sometimes get in the crock pot, so I was happy with that.  We watched The Blacklist and enjoyed the Guinness cupcakes while people were being disembowled and beheaded.  I felt like Madame Defarge.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Death Watch

It's been all over the internet today.  Fred Phelps is on his death bed.

I suppose there may be some reading this who stare blankly and ask "who?"

Fred Phelps was "discovered" by mainstream media a few years ago, when he started picketing the funerals of American servicemen killed in action, but he's been on my radar for far longer than that.

I became aware of Phelps and his Westboro Baptist church before there was a Facebook or a Twitter.  There was only Compuserve (for me) and I began to hear of this weird pastor of this strange church in Topeka, Kansas.  

At that time Phelps was really only known to the gay community and people around the gay community.  He was the guy who, with his "church" (really his family members) would picket pride parades with their hateful signs.

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When I went to Washington, DC for the final full display of the AIDS quilt, a rally at the Lincoln Memorial, and a march to the Capitol building, there was Phelps and his followers out in all their regalia, and their signs.
After reading about Phelps for awhile, I got hold of a piece written by one of his children who had "escaped" the compound and wrote about what it was like to have Phelps for a Dad.  I don't remember it all, but I do remember the part about his beating his sons with a baseball bat for disobedience.

When Matthew Shepherd died, Phelps was there to picket his funeral...

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...and he started a counter on his web page counting the number of days that Matthew had been in hell.
But Phelps didn't hit the mainstream media until he went a little bonkers and started picketing the funerals of soldiers, his message that God killed soldiers because the United States did not condemn homosexuality.

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Now more people were becoming aware of Phelps and his mission, and he expanded his mission to cover the funerals of just about anybody, it seemed.

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His son issued a statement on Facebook yesterday, saying that his father had been excommunicated by the Westboro Baptist Church and that now he is in the hospital and is not expected to live much longer.

Needless to say there has been a flood of messages all over the internet expressing joy at the news.  But I was happy to see that there were also a lot of messages which expressed what I've been feeling at this news.
I feel no joy at the impending death of Fred Phelps.  A man with that much hate in his heart must have had a very difficult upbringing to make him such a cruel person. I can't excuse his actions and I find it difficult to forgive him for the pain he has brought so many families.  But I also can't rejoice at his impending demise.  To feel happiness at whatever pain and suffering he may have at his end is to bring myself down to his level, to feel hate for a person I didn't know.  If there is an afterlife, I suspect he and the Almighty that he has been the self-appointed spokesperson for for decades now are going to have a very interesting chat as they go through his life review.

I hope nobody pickets his funeral and lets those who cared for him mourn in peace.