Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in Review

I've done this the last few years.  It's kind of depressing, the similarity from year to year!
1. Was 2014 a good year for you?
Kind of a mixed bag.  Obviously the events of late October, with Mike's death, have overshadowed my memories of the rest of the year.  Also, my mother's worsening dementia is very depressing, but the grandchildren are a delight, and living day to day seems to be just fine.

2. What was your favorite moment(s) of the year?

I took my mother to lunch in San Rafael, with her best friends to celebrate her birthday.  It was like stepping back 3 years.  She was "with it," engaged appropriately, chatted with all of them like she'd just seen them, remembered things.  It was like having my mother back again for a few hours.  It was all gone by the time we got back into the car to drive home, but I relish that day.

3. What was your least favorite moment(s) of the year?

Mike's death, and the whole nightmare of Char sending messages from Germany about his deteriorating condition, feeling so helpless sitting on this side of the Atlantic ocean.

4. What did you do in 2014 that you'd never done before?
Visited Iowa and learned that it can really "warm up" to 21 degrees.

5. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I stopped making resolutions long ago; I never keep them

6. Where were you when 2014 began?
I was sick, so Walt and I stayed home.

7. Who were you with?
Walt and the dogs

8. Where will you be when 2014 ends?
The party we attend each year, with the friends from the Davis Comic Opera Co. is not being held this year, so we will go back to the Big Party given by my former boss, The Psychiatrist and his wife, a former California Assemblywoman, with lots of good food and music...and lobster bisque at midnight.. 

9. Who will you be with when 2014 ends?
That party is always a gathering of most of the people we know in Davis
10. Did anyone close to you give birth?
I don't think I know of anybody close to me who gave birth in 2014.

11. Did you lose anybody close to you in 2014?

I keep a list, year by year, of those who have died, but it is on my desktop computer, which is in the shop.  I don't think we lost many people, like we have in past years, but obviously the Big One was Mike's death.  And like millions of others around the world, I felt Robin William's death to be a huge personal loss.

12. Who did you miss?

The same folks as previous years:  David, Paul, Gilbert and Peggy

13. Who was the best new person you met in 2014?
Mary M, a long-time reader of Funny the World, who invited us to visit her when we were staying with Jeri and Phil.  The afternoon with her, her daughter-in-law and their dogs was an absolute delight.  I never would have known about or toured the Paper House without that trip.

14. What was your favorite month of 2014?
I have reviewed my year, month by month and can't say there was a favorite month.  Whenever we were able to get to Santa Barbara and share the grandkids' activities (like Brianna's T-ball games, and her grammar school shows) would be favorite times.  But there were good and bad things in each month.

15. Did you travel outside of the US in 2014?

Not this year.  We were scheduled to go on a cruise to the South of France when Mike died, but we canceled.

16. How many different states did you travel to in 2014?

We flew to Boston to spend a week with Jeri, Phil and Lester and later I spent 3 weeks in Iowa, as my cousin started chemotherapy.  And since United Airlines stranded me not once, but twice, I will have to add Denver, Colorado, though I never intended to be there at all!

17. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

A functional Congress that actually accomplishes something.  What an oddity that would be.

18. What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
October 22, the date Mike died.

19. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Winning Brianna over, with weekly letters and sharing interests.  She seems to actually like me now, without prompting by her parents.

20. What was your biggest failure?

I'm tired of listing failure to lose weight or keep a clean house, so I'll say my biggest failure is my inability to engage my mother in life.  I see how much better she is mentally when she mixes with people, but she resolutely refuses to do anything at Atria and is proud of her lack of desire to join in, even for a concert steps from her apartment door.
21. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I sometimes feel I am on borrowed time, when I hear of all the physical problems of people around me.  But so far I seem to be doing all right.

22. What was the best thing you bought?

I read a book called "Enrique's Journey" at the height of the controversy over immigration, and became aware of the conditions of kids in Central American countries and the perils they face trying to leave their homes and come to this country.  It made me want to help at least one child in one of those countries, so we agreed to sponsor Brayan, a young boy in Honduras.

23. Whose behavior merited celebration?

The only person who comes to mind instantly is President Obama.  Reading of his accomplishments in the face of overwhelming opposition by Republicans makes me proud to have voted for him twice.

24. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

When a friend confessed that though she was not going to come forward as an accuser, the number of women who have accused Bill Cosby, a man I previously admired, is very depressing.  I believe the accusations and it saddens me to read the increasing number of women speaking out.  Even Kelly Ripa. thinking she was defending him, said that he tried with her, but backed down when she said no.  The fact that the married Cosby would proposition the married Ripa just adds weight to the voices of those women who have spoken out.

25. Where did most of your money go?

About 1/3 of my small income (my personal income, from theater reviews and Social Security) pays for my sponsorship of the 11 children I sponsor through Compassion, Int'l.

26. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Seeing Brianna in her first musical, which was also Paul's first musical at about the same age, The Music Man.  I also got very excited about STARZ broadcast of the mini series of Diana Gabaldon's first "Outlander" book.

27. Did you drink a lot of alcohol in 2014?

No  I'm not a drinker.  I will occasionally have a glass of wine or beer, but sometimes don't even finish the glass.  We had egg nog with my mother at Christmas (just one glass).  I am a disappointment to my long familial line (both sides of the family) of alcoholics.

28. Did you do a lot of drugs in 2014?

Do aspirin and Aleve count?  Even counting them, almost none.   Definitely nothing not prescribed or available over the counter.

29. Did you treat somebody badly in 2014?

I hope not.

30. Did somebody treat you badly in 2014?

Well, there was that woman who came into Logos and practically held me hostage while she insisted on doing an eye exam on me!

32. What do you wish you'd done more of in 2014?

Something not physically possible--spending more time with Brianna and Lacie.  But I'm happy for the times we had and that Bri and I are becoming buddies now.

33. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Crying.  I seem to have very labile emotions these days.  I cry at the drop of a hat.

35. What was your favorite TV program(s)?

The Daily Show, NCIS, Scandal, White Collar, Criminal Minds, Big Bang Theory, Jeopardy, The Amazing Race

36. What song will always remind you of 2014?

"Let it Go" from Frozen.

37. How many stage shows did you see in 2014?

I reviewed fewer than previous years (only 46) because of being out of town or otherwise unavailable.  But I saw others that I did not review, like Lamplighters shows, Brianna's Music Man, and my favorite show of the year, Finding Neverland,  which we saw when we were visiting the kids in Boston.

38. Did you have a favorite stage show in 2013?

Finding Neverland, the musical of the movie about the writing of Peter Pan.  Though NY critics are not being very complimentary at this point, I absolutely loved it...and what do NY critics know about the average American theater goer's tastes anyway?

39. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I don't make musical discoveries--I don't listen to music enough!

40. What was the best book you read?

"Upstairs at the White House, My Life with the First Ladies," by J.B. West, an old book my friend Kathy gave me, but absolutely fascinating.  I learned more about the presidency and families in the White House (from Eisenhower to Reagan) than I ever knew.
41. What was your favorite film of this year?
We have seen a grand total of TWO movies in the theater this year, Big Eyes and Into the WoodsBig Eyes was my favorite of those two.

42. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 71 in February.  It was a low key lunch at Atria, where Ned and Marta brought a cake for me, and Walt took me out for a sushi dinner.

43. What did you want and get?

A photo book about San Francisco from the 1940s to the 1960s -- my era!

44. What did you want and not get?

World peace

45. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

A phone call from Peggy with an explanation.  I'm over it--but I still will never stop wanting to find out what happened.

46. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?

Thick fuzzy sox (and how nice that Brianna loves getting them for me!)

47. What kept you sane?

Writing my journal, I guess.  NCIS marathons are good too.

48. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I don't "fancy" (as in heart going pitty pat) celebrities any more, but favorite celebrities would have to include Robin Williams, especially learning all the things about him we did after his death.  I also enjoy watching Mark Harmon and Jim Parsons.  I adore Jon Stewart.  On the female side there is Rachel Maddow, Angelina Jolie (more for her humanitarian work), Judi Dench, and Maggie Smith (whom I finally saw in the delightful Quartet...quite a different performance than she gives in Downton Abbey!)

49. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.

Make the most of today because you may not be here tomorrow.

50. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
All this joy, all this sorrow
All this promise, all this pain
Such is life, such is being
Such is spirit, such is love

-John Denver

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Well Bread

Today I harkened back to my "barefoot and pregnant" days in Oakland, when I let my hair grow down my back, went braless and barefoot, and baked all of our bread, the old fashioned way, doing it all by hand.

(I always was irritated with the soap opera, Days of our Lives -- I watched soap operas in those days.  The matriarch of the family was always in the kitchen kneading bread dough and in all the years I watched that show, the actress never ever learned how to knead dough.  She always looked like she hated touching whatever the substance was that she was supposed to be kneading.)

Later I got my wonderful Kitchen Aid mixer with the fantabulous dough hook and still made the bread by hand, but the Kitchen Aid took care of the heavy kneading for me.

Later still, I got a bread machine and making bread became a simple process of dumping stuff into a container, pressing a button, and 4 hours later you had a perfectly baked loaf of home made bread.
Today Jeri and Phil were catching a plane back to Boston and Walt offered to drive them to the Walnut Creek BART station, where they could get on a BART train which would take them to the airport.  

As it turned out, traffic was light and so Walt drove them all the way in to the airport and then, while he was in the neighborhood, he decided to go wander around downtown and have lunch at O'Doul's pub.

Stuck at home ("stranded" again), but now beginning to run low on supplies.  Bread, for one thing.  So I decided I would make bread. Buttermilk cheese bread, using up the buttermilk I bought for Christmas baking.

I dumped all the ingredients into the bread maker and it started mixing.  But then it didn't sound right and I discovered it wasn't mixing.  I unplugged it, checked all the connections and started it again.  Again, it wasn't mixing, but when I stirred it it started up and then stopped again a couple of times.  Obviously it was not going to mix, much less bake my bread.

So I empted everything into the bowl of the Kitchen Aid mixer, but I couldn't find the dough hook.  While I was in Iowa, Walt decided he would clear off the perpetually cluttered counter and when I got home, it was pristine.  But he had packed everything into boxes in the living room and I feared the dough hook was there, but didn't know exactly where.

There was nothing for it.  I dumped the whole mess out onto the bread board and started kneading.  I couldn't figure out if the mixture had the right consistency but my kneading fingers remembered the drill and I kneaded until I thought it was the right elasticity and set it to rising.

It didn't do much in the first hour, but I kneaded it again, turned the oven on to low and let it rise on top of the oven, in the warm air coming from the oven below.

This time it did seem to rise a bit, so undaunted I shaped it into a loaf and let it rise a third time, when it did actually assume the proportions of a real loaf of bread.

It cooked beautifully, and while I thought it was going to be dense because of all of my seemingly ineffective ministrations, the darn thing actually came out one of the better shaped/tasting breads I've made in awhile.

The bread machine seems to be mixing thin mixtures of flour and water all right now, so I'll try it again, but in the meantime we do have bread for breakfast (though no butter...I wonder if I have some cream around here that I can churn....)

Monday, December 29, 2014

I'm SINGING, Already

It ain't over till the fat lady sings.

We had a nice waffles and freshly squeezed orange juice breakfast yesterday morning and then Jeri and Phil took the car to spend the day in Sacramento with Ned and Marta.  This left us stranded here without a car all day.  

Now, don't think about the fact that I rarely go out of the house on a normal day, when the car sits in the carport untouched.  Suddenly, being without a car meant we were "stranded" and so I was going to take the opportunity to get caught up on lots of stuff that I had not been able to get to with all of the activity of the past couple of weeks.

There was the Snapfish book I was going to create for my mother about her activities of the past year.
There was the huge stack of Compassion kids letters that had accumulated while I was in Iowa. 

And I'm sure there were lots of other things I was going to do.

But first, a nap would be nice.

I snuggled in the recliner with Polly and a nice warm quilt at 11 a.m.  It was 3 when I woke up.  Almost time for Jeri and Phil to return home!  So much for productivity.

Jeri called from Atria, where they were having a nice visit with my mother.  She said they planned to get together with their friend Jon and his wife Joy and wanted to know if we would like to join them for Thai food. So back we went to Thai Nakorn for another Thai feast.  

I enjoyed my crab noodles.

After we finished eating, Jon pulled out gifts for all.

For Jeri and Phil a "guppie & eat'n tool," which will allow you to gut a fish--and then eat it too, with the attached spork.  That, combined with the cleats we got for them will permit them to go hiking and fishing in the snow this winter.

For Walt and me there was a nice box of my favorites -- Sees candy.  When I was growing up my godfather brought Sees candy to us whenever he came for Christmas dinner and it was never Christmas without Sees. 
Now Christmas could officially be over.

Walt is taking the kids to a BART station this morning, where they can catch the BART train to the SF Airport and head back to Boston.

Christmas has ended and I guess I'd better find a song to sing.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Herd of Elephants

I have been fascinated by elephant society for a very long time.  I love that they are social animals, loyal to each other, ready to help each other in times of trouble--heartwarming the videos you find on You Tube of all the herd gathering around to pull a baby out of the mud when s/he ventured near water too deep for him/her.  They circle around other elephants in trouble, babies in danger.  They grieve their dead and have death rituals when one of their members dies.

It was many, many years ago when I first thought of us as a herd of elephants.  It was at the funeral of our friend Char's father.  I looked around in the vestibule of the church and there we all were--the five couples who met at Newman Hall at U.C. Berkeley, partied, dated, coupled, married, and bore 22 children among us.

We formed bonds stronger than we ever dreamed they would be.  And when "something" happened, we were always there for each other, whether it was an emergency babysitting need, or the funeral of a parent or sibling.  We have buried all of our parents, now, except my mother, the lone surviving progenitor of this group.

I thought about the elephant analogy again today on our drive to San Ramon.  It was a gorgeous day.  The skies were deep blue with fluffy white clouds.  The traffic was light and by God I even saw blossoms on a tree.  In December!

It was entirely too nice a day to be doing what we were doing.  Finally, after two months of red tape and conflicts with Christmas, we were giving Char's husband Mike his final send-off.

We got to the church early.  I didn't take any photos in church.  It didn't seem right somehow, but it was a gorgeous building. The guests began arriving, people from all parts of Mike's life, back to his college days, people we knew from when we lived in Oakland more than 40 years ago.  

And the "pinata people" (we 5 families, who adopted that name because whenever we got together we had a pinata for the kids) were there, the faithful herd of elephants going through our death ritual again.  

All three of my children and their kids came.  I was so happy they were all there.  I even wore a locket with Paul's and David's photos so all five of our kids could be there.

It wasn't a Mass, it was a Liturgical Service, with some hymns, some readings, a too long homily (aren't they all at these things?) and eulogies read by Mike's daughter Tavie (speaking for all of his kids), his grandson Hunter (speaking for all of his grandkids), and Walt, speaking for himself about what it was like to be a "victim of Mike's sense of adventure."

There were some tears, but just enough, as befit the moment.  The killer was the final song, "All Hail, Blue and Gold," which is the official campus alma mater for UC Berkeley, where we all met and our lives became entwined forever.
Mike is the sixth in our group to die.  Bill was first.  He was Pat and Rich's son, the age of our Paul.  Our youngest, David, was next, age 24, in a car accident.  Then Paul...three kids predeceasing their parents.  Bill Desmond was next, a bad reaction to dialysis.  Then came Concetta, who had been battling MS for decades.  Now it was Mike, dead of undiagnosed cancer while cruising in Germany. And the ever faithful herd was circling again, giving support to each other, along with a bit of clam dip.

There was a nice church organized reception right after. Our 22 kids were raised as cousins or siblings to one another and I love how they pick up right where they left off, sometimes a couple of years ago.  They will always be siblings to each other, a situation their children will never know in the way our kids do.

(I'm sure there is somewhere a similar picture of these three, in grammar school...without the wine...)

The day also offered an opportunity to take the photo I've been wanting to take ever since my friend Jeri (my daughter Jeri's godmother) married her Phil, after the death of husband Bill.  Daughter Jeri is also married to a Phil, so I finally have my Jeri and Phil with Jeri and Phil picture!)

At the end of the evening there was a special treat.  Char's grandsons, twins Cody and Casey, had been in film school in Germany when their grandfather got sick, so were the first to be at their grandmother's side.  They had been there to make films and tonight we got to see the fruits of their labors.

My favorite was Casey's (I think it was Casey), a 10 minute film about Spanish artist Augustin Ibarrola, whose exhibition of painting trees in a forest is only one of his famous works.  I had to come home and read more about him.

We were home by 8:30, but it had been a very long day, starting with leaving Davis at 9.  And it had been the kind of Day Mike would have enjoyed, filled with friends and family, music and Cal pride, good discussions, good food, good wine, lots of laughs.  And in the end watching the creations of his talented grandsons.  Not a bad way to leave this life.

I think the elephants would approve.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Last Christmas

And so the celebrations have now ended.  This was a good day, after a rocky beginning.  Walt hoped that the Christmas gift he ordered for me some time ago from Amazon, would have been delivered by now, but it had not.  He checked the package tracking and found it was last seen somewhere in Kentucky.  When he continued to find out when it could be expected, he found out that if he did not receive it by April, 1911 he should call them.  Since it is almost 100 years after that date, he decided to call.  Amazon is hot on the trail and promises to send a replacement, which should arrive before 2015.  And if, somehow, UPS finds the original package, we can keep that one too.  I hope it's something one can use two of.

Jeri and Phil arrived at the Sacramento airport around 12:30 and we visited a bit, then Phil ran some errands, Jeri and I got the bedding on their bed changed, and in the late afternoon, we packed up the rest of the gifts and took them over to Atria.

My mother was delighted and surprised (she had no idea Jeri was going to be coming to see her!  We've only discussed it every day for the past 3 weeks, including this morning).  Mostly it was a good day for her memory, though, and with three guests, she put on her hostess face and participated in the conversation, though it did only take five minutes before she reminded us she was old.

The first thing she noticed was Jeri's shoes.  Unlike me, my mother is a shoe freak and loves shoes (I'm sure I have been a huge disappointment for her over the years, since I hate shoes).  She rarely fails to notice someone's shoes.

We had brought egg nog with rum and Walt got us set up with cups of egg nog.

I got the present opening started, because we were on a kind of schedule for the evening.  My mother was thrilled with the calendar she got from Tom and his family, with all the pictures that she will look at over and over again, I know.

I had arranged for us to have dinner in the dining room and was miffed to see that the one large table was occupied.  However, the waitress told us she had set us up in the private dining room, the one that was unavailable for my mother's birthday in September.

I don't know if it was coincidence, or if the General Manager had decided to make it up to me in spades, but they had set the room up beautifully, with a table set for ten (even though we only had five)

I know Tom would have appreciated the 49er colors!

Dinner was delicious, topped off with a delicious slice of Tiramisu, and we got back to the apartment in time to pack up our things, return to the car, and head for the theater to see Into the Woods.

As I did yesterday, I overestimated the number of people who would be attending this opening weekend performance.

It was a good show and we were happy with it.  This, combined with last night's Big Eyes, brings the total number of movies Walt and I have attended in 2014 to... two!!

So the Christmas hullabaloo is finally over and looking back, it was a good holiday after all. 
Tomorrow is Mike's memorial service, which won't be quite as festive...but given the group who will be there, it just might be.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Non-Christmas Christmas

"It came with out ribbons! It came without tags!"
"It came without packages, boxes or bags!"
In spite of it all, it was really a nice day.  I got up at 6 to make a special cranberry bread, which finished cooking while Walt was at Mass.  

Later we found that Lizzie had discovered a decoration I was going to put on my yet-unwrapped gifts and had dismembered Hermie, the elf, the companion to Rudolph who had been de-nosed yesterday.

Probably just as well...Hermie without Rudolph?  Unthinkable.  I'll just consider those two figures the dogs' Christmas gift.

In the afternoon, we went to Atria to take my mother's laundry to her.  She was not feeling well, said she couldn't define what was wrong, but that she just felt bad and didn't feel like going out to meet a lot of people.

We reassured her that we were only there to bring her laundry.  She perked up as we visited, but she was definitely not feeling well and doesn't even seem excited to see Jeri today.  

In her guest comment yesterday, speaking of her own mother, Elaine said "In looking back, I realize that the things I found so frustrating at the time, her increasing lack of engagement with life, and her refusal to do anything for herself, was in fact a symptom of her decline."

That expressed perfectly what I am witnessing...her increasing lack of engagement with life and I must factor that into my response to her when I visit, so I can make the end of her life as pleasant as it can be for her.
We left Atria and went to the movies.  I had hoped to see The Theory of Everything, the Stephen Hawking movie, which had been at the theater the day before, but it was gone.  In its place we saw Big Eyes.  For those of you who read this journal, I'm curious about how aware you were of the Keane paintings in the 1960s, which seem to have loomed large in my young adulthood.  They were everywhere and I loved them.  There is a Keane museum across the street from Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco.  I'm wondering how many people relate to those paintings and that era in the way that I do.  

I wish my cousin Kathy were still alive. One of her proudest possessions was an "original Keane." I know she would have loved to find out the story behind them, that Walter Keane painted none of the paintings and that they were all painted by his wife.

We got to the theater early because I worried about crowds on this opening day for this movie.  I need not have been concerned.

When the movie was over, we went looking for Chinese food, but the place we had chosen was closed, so we decided to go for Thai, the restaurant next door to the theater, where they staff knows Walt and we always get free dessert.  The place was jam packed but we didn't have to wait too long.  We sat there, in stereotypical fashion...crowded restaurant on Christmas night, both of us on our cell phones...and the guy at the table behind me was talking about Hanukah.

We were both very tired (and stuffed!) after dinner, so came home, watched Jeopardy and then went to bed.  No dishes to wash, no pumpkin pie to look forward to in the morning.  But other than that, it was a very pleasant day, for a non-Christmas Christmas.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Bing Therapy

It is nearly 2 a.m. on Christmas morning as I write this.  It's been really a weird emotional day for me.
I've been trying to figure out how to make this the best Christmas for my mother that I can, within her limitations.  I finally decided Walt and I would go to brunch with her on Christmas day and on the next day I would cook a turkey with all the trimmings here for her, Jeri and Phil.

Only she has zero interest in leaving Atria.  In fact, she is afraid to leave Atria for fear she might get dizzy.  I was so disappointed that my view of having a mini Christmas here, all gathered around the no-Christmas-tree and drinking egg nog while we open a couple of presents was ruined.  I was once again angry with her, not for not wanting to come to my house, but for having no interest in Christmas.  She tells me she has celebrated for so many years she just doesn't need to celebrate any more.

Even the thought of seeing Jeri, always guaranteed to elicit some degree of excitement was met with "Oh...I guess it will be nice to see them..."  Not a smile.  Not a sparkle.  Not a scintila of Christmas interest whatsoever.  

So I decided Walt and I would still come for Christmas day and we would somehow make a party atmosphere in her apartment, with egg nog, presents, and then dinner at Atria on the 26th.

Then Atria told me they are booked solid on the 25th, so no chance of having dinner with her.  I went out to the car and cried.  

Then in the afternoon, I was watching Major Crimes, of all things, when a grown up kid talking to a younger kid about their mother said that after you grow up, Christmas is really for the parents, who try to recreate the excitement of their children's growing up years, though the kids don't really care any more.  I extrapolated that to my mother and realized I'm trying to make the kind of Christmas that she always created throughout my life, but she is no longer interested (in fact, thinking about how much she had NO interest brought her back to living to hunnert again, our very best topic of conversation)

Of course, no dinner at Atria for Christmas leaves Walt and me alone together and what are we going to do when everybody else (except my mother) is celebrating Christmas?

I finally remembered all those Jewish friends of mine who joke that what Jews do on Christmas is to go out for Chinese food.  So I suggested to Walt that I take my mother's laundry to her and then that he and I go see a movie and go out for Chinese food.

That made me feel happy again, doing something according to someone's holiday tradition and we would still have some sort of Christmas with Jeri and Phil and my mother the next day.

Gleefully, I posted that to Facebook and unwittingly apparently insulted several Jewish friends, one of whom--a very long time friend--said, "'Jewish Christmas' is an oxymoron and although gastronomical and comical, just a tad cringe-worthy to us Torah-teaching, Yad-wielding, Trope-chanting practitioners!!! I'm not kvetching, I'm just kvetching!!!"

So then I was all depressed again.  I hadn't any idea that would insult anyone, I was just trying to bring a little of the little joy I was starting to find in the idea and share it.  

Then I discovered that Lizzie had found 2 rather expensive package decorations I had left where I didn't think she would see them and had ripped them up.  And Walt announced that my Christmas gift hasn't been delivered yet (which I told him was OK because I planned on giving him his gift when Jeri and Phil are here anyway).

After Christmas Eve dinner (leftover ham from Alice Nan's house), I tried to think about how to write this entry and it made me more depressed. 

At midnight I decided to watch something--anything--on TV before starting to write this.  All the Christmas movies I came across were really stupid sounding until, after about 10 minutes of searching, I found White Christmas on Netflix.  I've seen the movie a thousand times over a thousand Christmases, but it seemed just what I needed, so I started watching and, naturally, watched through to the end.

But it was just what I needed.  It was Bing. It was tradition.  It was familiar.  It was fun.  And it always makes me cry, so I got a good catharsis too.

So later today we will try to see a movie and then have some Chinese food and pretend it's not December 25, but just another day.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Headin' Home

Believe it or not, I did not take one single photograph with my camera today (and only a couple with my phone), so I'll have to spice this entry up with a few from last night that Laurel sent me.  First is Brianna sharing her "Little Passport" stuff with me.

I slept so well last night that I didn't wake up to do my journal entry until after 6:30.  Unheard of. 

But we had a very leisurely morning.  I think Olivia was still in night clothes when we left at noon (I might be mistaken about that).  Just having a good time eating leftovers and reminiscing about what a good time we had the night before.

I had to get dressed if we were going to leave, so I wore the new shirt that Ned gave me last night--with a picture of our old dog, Toby on it.  Walt has a matching shirt with a picture of our old dog Seymour on it.

Walt planned to leave at noon, but with all the Hour Baur-ing, it was after 1 before we left Alice Nan's and then had to stop at Tom's to pick up gifts for my mother.  Our time there was brief, but Brianna really surprised me by climbing up onto the back of the couch so she could give me a hug...this was when I arrived, not when we were leaving.  Very nice.  

There's just no way of getting around those 8 hours to get home.  We are listening to David Baldacci's "The Target," which I think is a bit ponderous for him, with too many plot lines going at once.  And it doesn't help when you doze off for a chapter or two while it continues to play!

Walt did all the driving, and we stopped at the place where we discovered Five Guys on our last trip.

It was as good as I remembered from last time.

We finally got home around 10:30, to hungry (but beautifully bathed and groomed) dogs and I did what I have wanted to do for several days now...watched the finale of White Collar (perfect ending) and will now take myself off to bed and make Sheila happy.

Like Father, Like Daughter

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Pressure Is Off

Well, for most of the rest of you suckers, you are running around getting last minute shopping done, buying food, readying your holiday finery for the Big Day.  For us here, the pressure is off.  "Christmas" was last night and we don't have to worry any more!

(Well, there is still tomorrow and the 25th with my mother and the 26th with Jeri and Phil, but the big Christmas was last night.)

Ned and Marta left Sacramento early and arrived in Santa Barbara around 4 p.m.  They and the others got here to Alice Nan & Joe's around 5.  And yes, while as I predicted Uncle Ned was the center of the girls' attention...

...not so much as usual, though.  The girls actually had time to interact with all of us.

About six months ago, I enrolled Bri in a program called "Little Passports," where she was sent a suitcase and the story of two kids who were going to travel around the world.  Each month she gets a package from them, with a letter about which country they are in, games to play and all sorts of things related to that country.  It's a great way to get little kids interested in geography and apparently Bri loves her monthly package, so she brought everything she has received so far with her last night so she could show me all of her stuff and we had a good talk about the program.  I'm so glad I found that program.

There was a wonderful dinner, with the big people at the big table and the kids at the coffee table.

Then it was time to open presents.  Bri seemed genuinely excited about the electric drum set (though her expression is as much "Ned" as it is sincere!)

(Really, isn't it the dream of every parent to give her child's children a drum set?)

Ned hit the jackpot on gift giving, making for Tom a book of the lyrics from the old play our kids did in grammar school, GoGo the Blue Gorilla.  He also had t-shirts made for Walt, Tom and Me with pictures of our old dogs, Toby and Seymour on them.

We gave Tom a one-of-a-kind, commissioned-for-him addition to his future "man cave," a Heidi Bekebrede original 49er mug.

At the end of the evening, we played an old, old video I had found on You Tube, which was highlights from the first production of Music Man, that Paul and Jeri were in.  I don't now how much Bri got out of it, but I got all verklempt sitting there watching our grandchildren watching Uncle Paul perform in a musical that Brianna had just been in.  

 After David died, Paul said he didn't want Dave to be "just the one who died," because he realized we never talked about my sister, who died in 1971.  So I guess by showing these old videos, we are making sure that Paul, too, doesn't become just "the one who died."
Joe tried to get the video to play on his monster TV, but was not successful, so the kids watched it on the iPad.  Wouldn't you know that as soon as they left, Joe was able to get it on the TV after all.

So we've had our "big Christmas" and now have two "little Christmases" to go, but last night will be hard to top for fun.

Monday, December 22, 2014

It's All Greek to Me

Friday was "Family Movie Night," last night was hamburger out night, and tonight was Greek Night,.
When we arrived at Tom's, Uncle Norm was busy reading a book of Greek Heroes and Legends to Brianna, who was sucking on a blue cheese stuffed Greek olive.

(She didn't like it much)

Elsewhere in the room, Auntie O was reading to Lacie

Meanwhile, Daddy was outside showing off his gyro to Uncle Joe.

We were all convinced he couldn't put what was essentially a meatloaf on a spit and roast it over the BBQ, but he proved us wrong.

Soon it was time for the movie, Disney's Hercules.  The girls dressed in togas and sandals...

...Bri got her Pegasus stuffed animal she bought at Disneyland...

and they settled in with their gyros and dolmas (the gyros were a hit; the dolmas were not).

In truth, the movie was pretty stupid and I was the only adult who stuck it out to the end.  The rest retreated to the patio to watch football on Tom's outdoor television set.

We all were fading fast, so as soon as the girls went to bed, we headed back to Alice Nan & Joe's to collapse ourselves.

We have had 3 nice days with the girls and know that tomorrow Uncle Ned will arrive and they won't even know we are there any more.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Kyle's Kitchen

 We had a text message from Tom, suggesting that we meet at Kyle's Kitchen for dinner.  Kyle's Kitchen is a new burger place that just opened.  

The place opened on Tuesday, so we were part of the shake down cruise.  The philosophy around this place is so cool.  Kyle is a special needs student at Brianna's School (Mountain View Grammar School).  Brianna says he's in the 5th grade. He was the inspiration behind this new restaurant concept.  The menu says that Kyle's favorite foods are cheeseburgers and salads, but his real passion is meeting people.  He is there at the front door, handing out menus when you arrive.

The menu also explains that...

It's all set up for kids, with a whole wall a chalkboard and a cup of chalk there for the kids.

Kyle's siblings are there in the restaurant and other little kids were there when we got to our booth.  We had something like five little girls playing under our table!

The burgers, served on freshly baked brioche buns, have great names like Cheesy Pig, Makin' Blue Bacon, Ahi in my Body, etc.  Burgers start at $5 and if you are adding anything to the classic burger it's an extra $1 (my Cheesy Pig was $6).  

Kyle's Favorites are marked with a KF (his favorite burger is a Bacon and Egg burger).
We all decided to have dessert, mostly because Joe LOVES ice cream sandwiches.

Brianna got both a mint chocolate chip milk shake and a taste of Joe's ice cream sandwich.

We got home from dinner shortly after Norm and Olivia arrived and we were all in time to see the 49ers blow a huge lead against the Chargers.  I'm glad that hadn't happened until AFTER Tom and Laurel went home.  You don't want to be around Tom when the 9ers are losing.

Speaking of which, when the niners were ahead 35-21, Tom asked Bri what the chargers needed to win tie the game.  She thought a long time and finally said "14" and then when Tom kept looking at her, she finally said "Oh!  Two touchdowns."

Other kids have new math or common core or whatever you call it, Bri is learning her math via football.