Friday, March 31, 2017

Gratitude Journal for March

My friend Toni Bernhard, the author of three best selling books on coping with chronic illness and a columnist for Psychology Today, shares a blog with her daughter Mara, who, many years ago, was a member of the Davis High Jazz Choir with Tom and David.  Or maybe it was with Paul.  Anyway, she was a lovely girl and, from following her posts on Facebook and Instagram, she has grown into a lovely woman and mother.

In their introduction to the blog in 2015, Mara wrote an explanation of who they both are

Facts about Toni: Breast cancer survivor, Sociology major, law professor, married for a long time, obsessed with her dog Scout, artist, has literally crocheted me about 100 scarves, has a left-handed son.

Facts about Mara: Cut my own bangs every week, Political Science major, dance teacher, married for fewer years than Toni but still for a long time, have two cats and a dog but would also like a pig and a goat, own at least 100 scarves, have a left-handed daughter.

Toni also contracted a chronic illness on a trip to Paris in 2001, just 5 months after the birth of her granddaughter.  They assumed it was a virus, but it just never went away.  16 years later she is still sick and the blog was written to answer questions and to share how they have coped with Toni's illness for all these years.
Today, their blog entry was "Our Gratitude List for March  What are You Grateful for?"

There is so much negativity in the world today that it's good to step aside and look at the good in the world.  So here is my gratitude list for March.

1.  Clouds and blossoms
It seems that every year in March, I have an entry about how beautiful the sky is and how gorgeous the blossoms are.  This year was no exception.

The skies around here are sometime so gorgeous I just have to stop and take it all in.  When you add the profusion of blossoms at this time of year, it makes me happy to live in this area. The beauty of nature was enough that I was able to drag my mother out of Atriato go for a drive and out to lunch, and it was a joy to see how much enjoyment she got out of looking at the clouds and the blossoms.

2.  My Mother
While her dementia slowly gets worse and worse, I am grateful that she has not had any major "spells" this month and that she has required no trips to the emergency room.  I am also grateful that since we have put her on full assisted living she seems to be more "settled."  We may discuss the same thing over and over again, but she has not had a serious anxiety attack all month and she is spending more time sitting out in the hall outside the dining room, where she seems to recognize some of the people who pass by.

3.  Caroline
I was nervous about having another young person come to live with us, especially someone who is the daughter of a friend and who would come into all of this chaos, but Caroline has proven to be a lovely young lady who has fit in here beautifully.  She may go home and talk with her friends about the conditions under which she had to live, but she hasn't so much as blinked at anything. 

Additionally, it has been fun having an excuse to go on tourist trips again.  I always enjoyed them during our hosting years and it's nice to have them back again though they are more exhausting than I remember them being 20+ years ago!

4.  Sleep
For some reason I am sleeping these days.  I go to bed around midnight or earlier and, except for the 3 am. waking time, after which I go right back to sleep, I have been sleeping until 7 or so.  This is almost NORMAL.  Whoda thunk?

5. Diclofenac Sodium
I never dreamed that a topical gel could make the difference of night and day to the pain in my back.  Unless I forget to apply it 2x/day, it really helps.  I told my doctor that it's not perfect, but it's about 80% perfect.  I still get occasional back pain, but it is so much less than it has been for years that I can't believe it.

6. Bri and Benny
The advent of Benny and my correspondence with Brianna about Benny's adventures (and her letters about her Gasper's adventures) has been a real joy in my life this month.  I hope we have established something that will continue for as long as she believes in the magic of a stuffed animal having an animate life.

I will do as Toni and Mara have done and toss this back to you.  What have you been grateful in March?

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Compassion Changes

Well, we've known for several months that Compassion was going to have to close its centers in India and that I would lose my two kids there.  It was not a big loss of Venkanna, though he was an excellent letter writer.  But Anjali was the first of my sponsored kids and I have been writing to her for 9 years.  I have watched her grow from a little girl into a young woman and looked forward to watching her continue her schooling and graduate before her sponsorship ended.  Alas, the government of India has put an end to that dream.

So India was something I expected.  What I did not expect was that Brayan, the boy from Honduras we took on when I read a book about what kids go through trying to escape the terrible conditions in Honduras, would leave the program.  I would love to know what happened.  They say he just stopped coming.  He was one of my best letter writers and alluded several times to the dangerous atmosphere near his home (his grandmother, with whom he lived, would not let him o outside by himself, for example).  This was precisely why I wanted to sponsor a boy in Honduras, knowing we could not do anything to improve conditions in the country, but we could perhaps make a difference in the life of one child.

Well, Brayan is gone and I don't even have the opportunity to write him a farewell letter, since they don't know what happened to him.

But we have added two new children.

Jorleny is a 12 year old girl from Honduras.  I had hoped to sponsor another boy, but when I saw her pictures, and saw that she was close to Brianna's age, I decided to sponsor her. (She's in 4th grade; Brianna is in 3rd.)

Another deciding factor was that she is that rare Compassion child who is doing "above average" in school (Brayan was too). 
Plus she has a very long list of hobbies which include:

Dancing and/or Drama
Arts & Crafts
Going on Field Trips
Learning about God
Listening to Bible Stories
Playing Games
Bicycling, swimming and walking
Hide and Seek
Music and singing

I have sent off a welcome letter, which includes the standard family photos, including the two dogs, and I have asked for a better quality photo than the one I downloaded from Compassion itself.

Dilan is exactly the kind of child that I do not choose to sponsor when I am looking through all the photos of available children.
For one thing, he's cute and only 4 years old.  Those are the kids who are snapped up by families who want to help little kids.
I tend to prefer older children who have a harder time finding sponsors, but despite my requet for an older boy from Honduras, they gave me Dilan from Colombia.  I can only assume it was meant to be so I won't send him back.

But I know that I am in for years of letters that say essentially "I am fine, how are you?" and thank me for being a sponsor.  He will be much older than this before, if ever, he actually writes something substantive.  But he is cute...  And Fred, from the Philippines, was about his age when I started writing to him and he has turned into a nice little letter writer, about five years later.

Dilan likes to play soccer, as well as roll a ball and roll a hoop.  Since he is Lacie's age, it will be easier, I guess, to decide how to write to him, since I write to her all the time.  He's in kindergarten, so no idea what his school performance is going to be.

The changes in Compassion over the years I have been a sponsor have taught me not to invest my heart so strongly in any of the kids, but to enjoy them a day at a time, as I have learned to do in my real life, and expect that at any moment it could all end.

As for our current in-house sponsored kid, the steak dinner for Caroline was a big hit last night and word from her mother is that she is enjoying her time here.  She is getting ready to attend a fancy dress ball when she returns to Edinburgh, so she shopped on line for a dress here.  She modeled two of the choices last night.  Both were lovely but we both preferred the red one.

(Polly seemed to agree)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Just Leave Me ALONE!

I'm so tired of people asking me for money, I decided to make a list of everyone who has sent email today asking for money:

Cheryl actually called.  She says she is my "Google specialist" and that she has a front page position for a business like mine, which I thought interesting since I have no business to advertise.

For his upcoming birthday, Barney Frank wants me to donate to help democrats win the next election
Steve Sisneros, Donna Brazile, Martin Sheen and James Carville each sent identical letters asking me to contribute to elect democrats in the next election.

The World Wildlife Fund will use my money to combat climate change

Someone wants me to send money to fight the slaughter of whales in Norway

World Vision wants me to donate to fight famine

Daly Kos thinks I should donate money to fight for privacy on the internet.  They also want me to send money to support a filibuster of Gorsuch

Care2 wants me to send money to stop cyanide poisoning

Carol King wants $4 to elect democrats

DCCC wants $5 to elect the democrat in Georgia (I've been getting this message at least once a day for a couple of weeks)

Act Blue also wants me to help get out the vote for Jon Ossoff in Georgia

MoveOn wants me to help prevent the removal first Black State Attorney in Florida because of her position against the death penalty.  The group Color of Change also wants my money to fight this issue

Robert Cruckshank (Democracy for America) wants a donation for Medicare for All

Kersha Deibel and Kelly Robinson from Planned Parenthood both want donations for the upcoming "Pink out America" event.

The Center for Biological Diversity wants a donation to help stop the pipeline

"KG" wants money to fight for Health Care and Climate Change

Int'l Wildlife funds wants me to send money to save the seals

Friends of the Earth wants to fight for a Clean Power Plan

Move On wants money to stop the building of The Wall and Trump's immigration policy

Oxfam wants financial assistance fighting Climate Change

Emily’s List just wants money to help  elect women

Sac LGBT Community is fighting for Transgender rights

Claire McCaskill sends an innocent looking survey about the Trump Agenda that ends with $5 plea for her upcoming reelection.

ACLU wants money to help block executive orders

The Courage Campaign wants me to help them pass the Religious Freedom Act (anti Muslim-Ban)
DCCC wants $4 to take back congress

Child Health Development Studies wants my support to continue student health investigations.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation wants money to help continue research on a new drug.

Eagle Creek wants me to support their clean water efforts

and Nancy Pelosi writes; "Donna Brazile emailed, Martin Sheen emailed, Barney Frank emailed, James Carville emailed, Carole King emailed. And now I’m emailing again."

This is just up to 3 p.m.  Most of these are things that would ordinarily not make it into my in-box, since I just delete them but today I was interested to see just how many requests for "just $3" or "just $4" or, in McCaskill's case "just $5."

It's just overwhelming and if you are a caring person and a concerned citizen, there are just too many requests for too many causes to decide which is the most important...and if you are a suspicious person, you begin to wonder how many of these requests are legitimate (especially requests like the identical ones from popular people)

Noticing that my mother was out of toilet paper yesterday, I went over today for lunch and to replenish her supply.  Also, the spindle holding the roll was gone again.  I think that when she finishes a roll and removes it, by the time she has thrown away the roll, she forgets what the spindle is for and throws it away.  She seems to be doing OK with putting the TP on the bathroom counter, so there doesn't seem to be any point to buying a replacement that she will just throw away.

We had a nice lunch and then we even had a brief real conversation, with her asking again what's wrong with her and me explaining about dementia and reminding her that both her mother and sister had it and that she was not as bad as they were.  That always seems to make her feel better about having this condition.

 I came home and took a nap.  I seem to find that after spending an hour or so at Atria, I need a nap to refresh.  Then I got up to make chocolate chip cookies.  Caroline was not feeling well after her ice cream indulgence of last night, with her friends, so I figured I'd make something without milk in it for her for dessert tonight.  Now I am marinating steak in the chimmichurri sauce her mother sent me the recipe for.  It has been so long since I cooked a steak I hope I don't screw it up!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Caroline's sad day

Caroline reported that it had been a sad day for everyone at the vet hospital yesterday, as there were so many deaths.  A cat she had treated several times for congestive heart failure finally died.  A "lovely German shepherd" had cancer and died.  And she wasn't alone.  She said everyone was having animals with problems that ultimately killed them.

This is one of the problems with a vet hospital that is often the last resort for many folks with sick pets.
But at home there was Polly, who has finally accepted Caroline as an OK person.  She still barks some, but it's more the same bark she has for us:  "You're standing up so certainly you are going to feed me."  She will let Caroline take her into her lap, but she isn't comfortable there, but then if I lifted her up and put her in my lap, she wouldn't be happy either.  Still, her love can be bought.

My day was quiet. After the busy weekend, it was nice to have nothing to do.  I had a dentist appointment in the late morning.  It was a nothing appointment, just having a final crown put on, so it was more a chance to visit with Cindy.

I was going to go to Atria for lunch but it was too late when I left Cindy's, so I went shopping first, dropped food off at home, and then went to see my mother.  She was sitting in the lobby outside the restaurant again and we had a quiet visit.  Her "I don't understand you so I'll pick a topic" thing this time was my hair.  Whenever she didn't understand or follow what I was saying, she told me how pretty my hair was.  The things she is most likely to focus on are hair (loves mine, hates hers, loves anybody at Atria with white hair), her skin (hates the brown spots because they make her look old), and shoes (she tells me how pretty my Birkenstocks are every time I visit her.)  It's nice that she uses how "pretty" things and people are.  So much nicer than if she gripes about everything.

She didn't want to go to her apartment with me, so I went by myself to pick up her laundry.  I have given up trying to explain to her the difference between clothes hamper, garbage, and Poise package.  She has dirty laundry in each, and used pee pads in each.  I have to go through all three receptacles carefully to be sure to get all the laundry and throw away the things that need to be thrown away.
But coming home was fun. I just love streaming video!

Berklee College of Music presents a musical theater writing concert each year.  It's a program Jeri helped create several years ago, teaching students how to write for musical theater, and actors learning how to write and perform for musical theater.  She said it was a natural for the school, since the musicians especially, are likely to go on to playing for musical theater productions, since it is a common way for musicians to make music (Jeri has been doing it for years).

So each year they have a contest and choose the best dozen or so songs that have been written and then perform them with full orchestral accompaniment and choreography.  It's a lot of fun and the show is streamed live, so we get to sit here in California and watch the show in Boston.

The first couple of years that we watched, Jeri conducted the orchestra, but she did not this year; however, she did come on to introduce the band at the end, so we got a glimpse of her too.
These are the times when I love modern technology!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Not a Normal Family

Over dinner at our Mexican daughter Marie's restaurant in Elk Grove tonight, we reminisced about the year she lived with us while she was finishing high school and some of the weird things that went on. "You are not a normal family," she laughed.  I liked that!

It had been a very full day.  My plan had been to leave the house at 10:30 so we would have lots of time for wine tasting in the Napa Valley, but it was actually 12:30 before we left Davis.  We drove to Napa...

...where we first stopped at the V. Sattui Winery, which is owned, coincidentally, by the family of the woman my father dated before he married my mother back in 1940.  This is a beautiful old estate winery, with lots of picturesque stuff and a taste of 5 wines costs $15, which was waaay more than we wanted to pay (I am remembering, fondly, the days when all these wineries offered free tastes).  But we did wander around and snap pictures of the old estate.

The tasting room/deli was a zoo.

We left quickly and decide to skip the "free" wineries close by and go to the Vincent Arroyo Winery at the far end of the valley, where we knew there was free tasting and a dog to play with.  We had some problem getting there because a bridge was out and we had to find a way around the washout, but Walt finally did and we arrived at the winery.  

Vincent Arroyo is not one of your big brick edifices with caves in which to age wine, but it is free for tasting, the wine is good (we bought 4 bottles of wine and a bottle of port, along with some thick balsamic vinegar), the tour was so comprehensive that I felt if we had $800,000/acre to buy land we could probably start our own winery.  And best of all there was Rosie, the winery dog, passionate about having people throw a tennis ball for her.

(We actually discovered this winery through Char many years ago.  Vincent Arroyo is a friend of a friend of ours from UC Berkeley)

The big wineries charge you big bucks (some as much as $30) to taste a few wines.  The guy who pours will tell you a bit about the wine and pour you a splash in your glass and then move on to the next wine.

There were eight wines and a bottle of Port for us to taste at Vincent Arroyo and the "tastes" were generous.  They have two brands which are their own.  One is named "Nameless" and the other is named "Bodega."  Nameless was a cat and Bodega was their chocolate lab  We actually liked the Bodega and bought two bottles.  Our guide told us it's his favorite wine with steak, so steak is on the menu later this week.

He also gave us a winery tour, which, given that it is a tiny winery, didn't take long, but describing the process of harvesting, crushing, and fermenting the grapes and how they store it and age it and how they make their blends took a lot of time (while Rosie kept bringing us a ball to throw).

My knees were giving out, and I was also the designated driver, so I gave up tasting the rest of the wines and went outside to sit in rocking chairs made from old wine barrels.  When the tour group went out to look at the vineyard and learn about pruning the vines, the tour guide asked first if I wanted him to bring me more wine.  You won't find that at V. Sattui, or any other big winery,

I don't know how long we were there, but long enough to realize that we had no time for any other winery (after the tour here we didn't need one) and that we now had to rush back to Davis because we were meeting Ned and Marta at Marie's restaurant at 7:00.

We got home at 5:30 and had to leave for Elk Grove by 6:15 and, miraculously, we arrived in the parking lot of the restaurant at 6:59.

Dinner was, as always, wonderful and I loved showing off the decor to Caroline.  There is a lot of a Day of the Dead theme.

After a leisurely dinner with more wine (beer for Caroline), we finally had to leave.  Marta had to get up for work in the morning and Caroline has to get up for her class.  

It was a white knuckle drive home for this designated driver as it was raining and I hate that part of the highway under the best of circumstances, so the combination of rain and dark made it just that much worse.  It was a relief to arrive home safely. But what a fun day this "not normal" family had today!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Stealing

I actually think we have done this one (or at least many of the questions) before, but it's late and I'm tired, so what the heck...

1. What is the meaning of your blog’s name?
Funny the World is from a song our kids band performed and it seemed appropriate at the time I started this blog in March of 2000, which was shortly after our second son died (the other son who died died four years before):

Funny the world in a world all alone
I feel like I've lost everything that I own
Funny the funnies aren't funny any more.
Funny the tears as they fall from my eyes
There are two kinds of tears--
one from truth, one from lies
There's a broken soldier,
who's going home...

2. Why did you start your blogging?
I was an Erma Bombeck wannabe and wanted to see if I could produce a column-length entry every day.  6612 entries later, I think I proved I can, though nobody has come offering to publish it.  Also, my friend Steve Schalchlin, who is on the record as something like the 4th person in the world to start an on-line journal, was an inspiration and I figured if he could do it, I could.  I could and did.

3. What’s your usual bedtime?

4. Are you lazy?
Good Lord, yes.

5. Do you miss anyone right now?
These days I miss my sister, who died in 1971.  She should be here sharing the worries about our mother....and I miss my cousins, who were such a great support about her while they were alive.

6. How would you describe your fashion sense?

7. What are your nicknames?
Other than Mom and Grandma, I don't have a nickname.

8. Are you a patient person?
It depends.  I can be, but often am not.

9. Are you tight-fisted or frivolous?
Again, it depends.  I can put off getting hearing aids for years because of the cost, but buy books like "Goats of Anarchy" at the drop of a hat.

10. What magazines do you read?
I've never been a magazine reader, unless it's something I pick up at the doctor's office.

11. Are you stubborn?"
Not overly so.

12. When is your birthday?
February 17

13. What book are you currently reading?
by my friend Alec Clayton

14. What phone do you have?
iPhone 7.  I only just realized that they didn't build a plug for headphones into it.  What's up with that???

15. Do you have any pets?
Two rescue dogs.  Lizzie is a shaggy terrier mix and Polly is the Chihuahua mix that rules the house. 
16. Do you have siblings?
I had a sister 4-1/2 years younger, but she was murdered by her partner in 1971.

17. Any children or grandchildren?
We raised five children and buried two.  We have two granddaughters, age 9 and 5

18. What do you order at Starbucks?
I am not a Starbucks customer.  I much prefer Peets.

19. What did you do for your last birthday?
Walt took me out for dinner and the next day we had lunch at Atria, the facility where my mother is, with son Ned.  Birthdays mean nothing to my mother, who has dementia, any more.

20. What’s your occupation?
Part-time theater critic, full time retired.

21. Do you live in the country or the city?
It's a small-ish city, about 65,000, with adjacent country, just a mile or so outside the city limits.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A Voice Stilled

When I see young kids on shows like America's Got Talent who have amazing voices at a very young age, I think back on my life as a singer.

I don't know how old I was when I realized I had a fabulous voice and hoped someone would discover me.  We used to sing songs in our classroom when I was in grammar school and Sister would walk up and down the aisles, listening to each person as they sang.  I always sang louder when she got to me so she could hear what a wonderful voice I had, but she never said anything.

I loved singing and sang in school choirs.  Every Sunday, I climbed up to the balcony of St. Brigid's church, where the organ was, and joined with the rest of the choir to sing hymns for Mass.

I especially loved the parties my parents had where their friends would sit around the living room with Father Joe, who baptized most of them, and who always lead singing, while my father played the piano.  Songs like "There's a long, long trail a-winding," or familiar Irish songs, where everyone sang the melody and Father Joe sang harmony.

I learned about harmony from my cousin Peach.  I remember the year when I spent time at her house and she taught me how to sing "You are my sunshine" and take the melody line while she sang the harmony part...or was it the other way around?  She had a beautiful voice.

It was around 1955....I would have been 12 and still in grammar school...when I saw the movie Interrupted Melody, about Australian opera star Marjorie Lawrence and her struggle to regain her career after a bout of polio when I realized that my destiny was to be an opera singer.  Night after night, as I stood in our flat's pantry and washed the dinner dishes, I practiced scales, trying to hit ever higher notes until my mother begged me to stop.  I didn't realize until later that I was an alto, not a soprano, which was a disappointment.  I loved hitting those high notes,

When I got to high school, I joined the choir, of course, and sang all the time.  By then I was comfortable being an alto and liked singing the alto line because I got to do the harmony.  
Throughout my life I couldn't sing Christmas carols and not sing harmony, it's so deeply engrained in my memory.  But still nobody ever noticed that I had a particularly gifted voice.

When I got to college and became a member of the Newman Club, I joined the choir.  This was singing I loved because we did difficult music.  Mozart, Beethoven, Palestrina. We rehearsed and then sang at Mass on Sunday.  One year, our director, Jim White, decided we would concentrate on German hymns.  I didn't like that because I don't know....I just never liked the German language.  I love Latin, Italian and French, but something about German just never appealed to me, and I found the language difficult to sing in, but I did it because it was the choir and I was part of the choir.

I even got to be a quasi-soloist once.  We were singing a 4-part Mass and the alto soloist for some reason was not going to be available.  Jim decided I could sing the solo, but felt my voice wasn't strong enough, so chose someone else to sing with me.  We were the "Benedictus girls" and it was fun to sing "solo," even if it was only once.

I loved that choir.  It was the most challenging work I ever did and when Walt and I got married, as a gift, the choir sang a Mozart Mass for us, complete with orchestral accompaniment.  That was amazing.

After we got married and started having kids and attending Mass at our local church, I usually sang with the local choir.  It was a succession of increasingly less demanding music.  St. Jarlath had a pretty good choir which, while not as demanding as the Newman Hall choir had been, still did some pretty impressive stuff.

But when we moved to Corpus Christi parish, it was after the second Vatican Council, which changed things in the Catholic church to be more inclusive of the members.  The altar turned around so that the priest now faced the congregation and the music was in English with simple hymns that the people would sing along with.

This meant no more fancy Latin hymns, but the choir functioned more as back up for the voices of the congregation, giving them more confidence to join us in singing.  We did one or two special choir numbers, but nothing like I had done before.

The interesting thing about singing in the Corpus Christi choir was that David was a baby at the time and I always took him with me into the choir stalls, where I wore a big poncho under which he nursed through most of the Mass.  Everyone was always amazed at what a good baby he was and nobody realized that he was nursing through most of the Mass.

When we moved to Davis, I joined the St. James choir for awhile, but the music was so simple and totally un-challenging that I eventually gave up out of boredom.  I still enjoyed singing, though.  I loved Christmas when the family would drive out to a tree farm, buy a tree, load it into the car and then sing Christmas carols on the drive back home, with me always singing the harmony.

Christmas was always a good time for singing.  When I was working with the Lamplighters, there was always Christmas caroling on the cable car in San Francisco, going from Market Street all the way to the end of the line at the Buena Vista, the place that invented Irish coffee, and we would end the evening having Irish coffee.

The Davis Comic Opera Co. also went caroling and we joined them a year or two.  That was also fun, but didn't last all that long.  The last time I went Christmas caroling it was with Marta's family when we walked around the neighborhood singing and playing kazoos.

When I was with the Lamplighters, I even got an opportunity to sing opera -- sort of.  Gilbert had an annual private sing-along.  He and the Lamplighters orchestra, or which ever instrumentalists wanted to come (usually most of them) would get together just for fun to play music that they never got to play as professionals.  He did all 9 Beethoven symphonies, for example, just to an empty theater with a handful of friends to listen.  But when they did the 9th symphony, he invited more than a handful of people and then invited whoever wanted to sing "Ode to Joy" to come up on stage and sing it.  My big chance!  Dumbest, most embarrassing thing I ever did.  Here I was with a choir of professional singers, trying to sight-read Beethoven and Gilbert asked if they wanted to sing in English or in German and they agreed to sing in German.  I stood next to one of the strongest altos, but trying to read the unfamiliar alto-line of the music and the words in German and sing harmony which I did not know was just ridiculous.  I ended up mouthing the words and being quiet.  Fortunately nobody ever mentioned it to me.

I always played music in the car when I was driving alone and I was one of those folks who sang along with whatever was playing.  But eventually I discovered audio books and those were my companions on car trips.  I rarely had an opportunity to sing at all anywhere.

So it was a shock to me the last time I took my mother to have lunch with her friends, a couple of years ago now, when I put on the playlist of music from the 40s and 50s that I had made for her.  It was her favorite music and she was able to sing all the words to most of the songs all the way home--about an hour or so.  My shock was that I could not sing at all.  My vocal range was about 3-4 notes and I could not sing higher or lower.  It wasn't that my voice cracked, it was that when I tried to sing something out of that range, there was just ... nothing.

I still can't sing.  My theory is that you really do lose it if you don't use it.  Sometimes I can sing a bit better than others, but we went to a memorial service the other day and again I could only hit the very few notes in the middle of the hymns we were singing.

Nobody ever "discovered" me and I never went on to become an opera star and now I have no voice at all, but I sure had a good time singing all those years.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Her World

I found my mother sitting in her favorite chair, just outside the dining room, a cup of coffee next to her.  Since I didn't have laundry to pick up or drop off, I just sat there and visited with her there, in the lobby.

Every time someone passed, she would comment that everyone was "going, going, going somewhere" and, since it was a beautiful day, I asked if she would like to go somewhere and said I would be happy to take her for a drive.

But she said that no, she would rather just sit there and watch people.  And that's what she does.  She either sits in her apartment and looks out on this garden from there, or she sits in the lobby and looks out on the garden from here.

Her brain processes more slowly now and you can't point to moving things for her.  There was a squirrel and by the time she had processed the world "squirrel" and that it was outside and that it was climbing up that tree, the squirrel was long gone and she missed it entirely.  Likewise a cute little bird hopping around the patio right outside her window.  

I told her about Caroline and whenever I mentioned something about her, I had to explain again who she was, and when she couldn't understand me at all, she would look past my head at the window in the dining room, on the opposite side of the building, interrupt me, and say "aren't those trees beautiful?"

Over and over again, she raved about how they were the most beautiful trees she had seen.  I'd like to live inside her head and see the beauty she sees here.

I did have to laugh, though.  She is forever complaining about "all that junk" in her apartment, giving it a disgusted wave of her hand, so upset that things aren't absolutely perfect.  But while she sat in the chair today, looking at the trees coming into leaf and the trees that still have bare branches and she gave the same disgusted wave of her hand and said something like "but look at all that....junk."  

She's also having more problems with word finding.  After telling me how beautiful the leaves on the trees were, the last time she pointed them out to me, she couldn't remember the word "leaf" or "tree" and just said "all so beautiful."

But she's happy.  She's healthy.  And the only thing she complains about (other than the messes she sees) are the brown spots on her hands because people will think she's old.  I can't really be unhappy about that.  People marvel at how young she looks and she certainly looks younger than most 80 year olds in the building.

Caroline seems to be settling into a routine.  She had come here to take a course in neurology, but that didn't work out, so she is in cardiology and came home the first day to announce she had listened to a hawk's heart that day.  She also fell in love with a puppy (who had to go home at the end of the day).
It rained yesterday morning, so Walt took her up to the hospital and brought her bike on our long-unused bike rack, since it was predicted to clear up by noon; she got home just fine.  It looked like it was going to rain this morning too, but it cleared up before she had to leave.

I've bought food she can eat and pack for lunches.

So it's all going well.  This weekend she is not on call, so we will go to Napa one day and somewhere else the other day.  We also have a show Saturday night and will probably go to our Mexican daughter's restaurant for dinner on Sunday night, if Ned is free.

Even Polly is coming around.  She still barks when Caroline stands up, but I think part of that is because she barks when anyone (even Walt and I) stand up because she logically assumes that the only reason any human being would get up from a sitting position is to get food for her.

The time already seems to be passing quickly.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Days of our Lives

Did you know that March 23 is National Puppy Day?  We will not be celebrating, despite the fact that I miss "puppy breath" terribly.  How I loved those days of raising, especially bottle-feeding, puppies.

But that is an era that has come and gone, was thoroughly enjoyed at the time, but no more.  But I will raise a cup of coffee in memory of all of the puppies that shared our lives for all those years (these are the My Fair Lady puppies Freddie, Higgins, and Eliza).

On the Internet you can find holidays for every day, some mainstream, some rather offbeat (obviously the offbeat holidays are more fun).  Today, ironically, is "Memory Day."  I had a visit with my mother to "celebrate." 

Something I received from Compassion this morning says "Oct. 10 is Hug a Drummer Day. Have you ever hugged a drummer? Of course you haven't. At least not since the last time you did and they passed on the traditional three-pat-on-the-back routine and hammered out an over-enthusiastic paradiddle on you, right?"  Heck, I hug a drummer all the time (Ned is a drummer) so never say never.

Not mainstream, but February 20 is "Hoodie-Hoo Day."  What the heck is that?  It is a day to chase away the winter blues, when people are supposed to go out at noon, wave their hands over their heads and chant "Hoodie-Hoo"!  I'm sorry we all missed that one.

My birthday, February 17, is Random Acts of Kindness day.  I like that...and it follows February 16, which is "Do a Grouch a Favor Day," which seems a good idea.

We missed Be Humble Day, February 22.  I'm sure Trump would have celebrated if he had known about it.  Maybe next year.

The month of March is, among other things, National Peanut Month.  I must lay in supplies for the rest of the month.  And we just missed National Bubble Week, which was last week.

Peanut Butter Lover's day was March 1.  I'm sure I indulged in peanut butter, since I usually have a spoonful or two every day.

Tomorrow should be fun, though.  It's National Goof-off Day.  Of course for me every day is goof off day, (just like every day is peanut butter day), so I don't have to go out of my way to celebrate.
I think I'll skip Chocolate Covered Raisin day (March 24), since those aren't my favorites, but I must remember to make waffles on Waffle Day, March 25.  

The 26th and 27th are, respectively, National Spinach Day and National "Joe" day.  One of my standard non-Blue Apron meals is "Joe Special," which combines spinach and hamburger with eggs and parmesan cheese.  I would make Joe Special, but since Caroline is lactose intolerant, maybe I'll wait to do this until next year.

Who knew there was a Bunsen Burner Day?  March 31.   Light up your Bunsen burners and char something for yourself.

For those into that sort of thing, be aware that there is a whole week devoted to Karaoke, the last week in April which is National Karaoke week.  I won't be celebrating.

Whoever made up this list really likes peanuts because April 2 is peanut butter and jelly day, presumably different from plain ol' peanut butter day.

April 7 is National Beer Day, which you probably need after the 6th, which is "plan your epitaph day," which sounds a bit gruesome.  I wonder how many epitaphs include beer in them.  I'll bet we have the only gravestone with the epitaph "FTS" (which stands for F**k this Sh*t, which both Paul and David would love if they knew it)

Winston Churchill was made an honorary US Citizen on April 9, 1963, and so April 9 is National Winston Churchill day (I wonder how many kids today know who Churchill even was!)

April 13 is Scrabble Day, which I should find a way to commemorate with all of my Word with Friends buddies.  The game has been around since 1938 and I have probably been playing it in one form or another ever since I learned to spell.

April 15 is Rubber Eraser Day, perhaps no coincidence that it is also the last day to submit your tax returns (#45 take note, please....these returns are not under audit).  In Great Britain they are called "rubbers," which is the source of great hilarity when a British high school student attends an American school and asks for a rubber.  They learn the difference pretty quickly, I think!  Be careful of your celebrations for this day, though.  There is a controversy.  Some say it's April 15 and some say it is April 13.  Don't want to offend anyone by celebrating on the wrong day.

I must Celebrate April 17, which is "blah, blah, blah day," an actual copyrighted holiday.  I felt it referred to the content of these journal entries, but actually it is a day is to do all of the projects and things that people have been nagging you to do. This may include quitting a habit, losing weight, or working on home projects.  The list site includes a special flower for each day and a special recipe for the day and today's recipe is for a baked blooming onion, which I guess helps make the day less "blah."

Some of the other interesting holidays to round out the month of April are:  Newspaper Columnists day (18th),  National Garlic Day (19th),  World Penguin Day (25th), Hug an Australian Day (26th), and Hairstyle Appreciation Day (30th).  

We are just a national of celebrations and thanks to the internet, we can find a way to celebrate anything we want to celebrate.  I may have to do this entry again to include May and June....

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


[Hey!  I'm feeling really good about myself yesterday.  Someone on Facebook pointed out that since I had one ice cream made of purple sweet potatoes and one made from avocado, I really had two servings of vegetables.  Yay me!]
There is something to this "bonding" stuff.  With birds, they imprint on the first figure they see (I remember reading Konrad Lorenz book, on which the movie I'll Fly Away was loosely based.  He explained it all.).

Babies bond with their mothers, and vice versa.  A mother can tell her own baby's cry in a room full of children and babies know their mothers by smell at an early age.

When you have a litter of newborn pups who don't have a mother, they very quickly bond with the familiar smell that feeds them, but by the same token, that ugly little dog that you took in yesterday suddenly is the cutest thing you ever have seen and the longer you take care of him/her the more closely bonded you become [maybe Polly is an exception.  :)  ]

This is only Caroline's fourth day here and I am already feeling the bond.  I got up at 5 this morning to bake muffins for her, I worried about her all day, hoping it had gone well for her...and then felt terrible when she came home and it had not gone well (at least not first, though she seems OK about how things turned out)

I watch her twirling her hair and realize that Jeri used to do that...and that if Jeri had married young she could conceivably be Caroline's mother.

I've bonded. 

Maybe part of it is because we have our kitchen table back and we are sitting, all three of us, at the kitchen table, talking to each other, and lingering after the meal to chat.

Tonight I showed Caroline Star Warts VII,. the movie Ned, Brianna and Lacie made last year.  She was very impressed.  I'm not sure what she expected, but I am sure she was surprised at the level of professionalism you can achieve with a green screen, a movie camera, and two little kids.

Ned has been down in Santa Barbara this week, working on a movie based on Harry Potter.  I don't know what is going to come of it, but it will probably take awhile.  That post-production stuff takes time (remember All that Jazz?).  We DID see the green screen in action, though.

(This was posted with hashtags:  #worldsgreatestfanclub #unclenedrocks)

I was thinking of my father today.  He was obsessed with Watergate and watched every minute of coverage he could see.  He created all sorts of scrapbooks of newspaper articles to back up the thoughts he was having about Nixon

I watched a lot of the coverage of the wiretapp [sic] hearing today.  I'm not quite obsessed with it, not like my father was with Watergate, but I watched an awful lot of it.  It just made me feel dirty for our country.  
First of all, BLOTUS (Biggest Liar of the United States) is caught in another lie.  Despite his faith in the "Talented Legal Mind," of FOX's Andrew Napolitano's statement about wiretapping, lesser experts like the head of the FBI and national security assure the committee that there is no evidence that Trump was even being wiretapped, much less at Obama's insistence.

AND, the longer the in-depth questioning went on, the more depressed I got at the depth of the corruption in this administration, which has not even been in power 100 days.

My new hero is Washington Congressman Denny Heck, a man who is also tortured over all of this and who, unlike many of his colleagues, is at least a man with a soul

So we'll see where it goes from here  In the meantime, No.45 is enjoying this week's $3 million golf game.

Monday, March 20, 2017

How Does Rick Steves Do It?

We've only been touristing for two days and I'm already exhausted.  Heck, even Caroline is exhausted (but then she couldn't sleep last night and is still dealing with jet lag, so I don't think that counts for this girl whose Instagram pictures are all of various hikes she's taken and mountains she has climbed!)

We started yesterday with a visit to Sacramento's Crocker Art Museum.  I've lived here 43 years and had never visited it, but I will definitely go again.  Rooms like this are breathtaking

And how did I not know about this?  Know what it is....?

As you can clearly see, it's a horse.  You'd think this would be by some primitive artist, but no, it was...uh...constructed? in the 20th century.

The most impressive room did not allow photos, but it was an exhibit by photographers Ansel Adams and Canadian Leonard Frank, who went to the internment camps to take pictures of the Japanese there and record that whole black history of this country.  The photos were very moving, but even more moving were the comments in the guest books (2 of them), many from students who had never heard this story!  Even I learned something -- I did not know that there were internment camps for Japanese in Canada as well!

We were at the museum for about 3 hours and barely made a dent, but we left to go to dinner.  I had planned for dinner in Old Sacramento, forgetting it was Sunday and it was so compacted you could hardly move, so we got outta there real quick-like and went to dinner at P.F. Chang's (yesterday's Photo of the Day)

After that we went to Capital Stage, where we saw an excellent production of a play called Guards at the Taj by Rajif Joseph, which is not only very funny, but very dark and downright cruel.  It's two guys (I call them the Odd Couple of 1648) who are tasked to guard the Taj Mahal the night before it's unveiling.  It starts very funny, but then it turns very dark when they find out what order the Emperor has for them.  Following those orders ultimately destroys the two men. It's a disturbing story, but so well done by the 2 actors that I gave it 4 (out of 5) stars.

Then home to sleep.  In the morning we had a Skype call with Caroline's parents, Jane and Stephen in Guernsey.  Even brother Alexander, in London was brought in on the call.

Ya gotta love modern technology.  The last time we saw Jane she had no white hair--now she's gone all white (and it's quite becoming on her).  It was nice to chat with her again.  Makes Caroline seem almost like a grandchild!

We finally got on the road to San Francisco.  It was a beautiful sunny day and I was loving those green, green hills again.

I was convinced we were going to have a beautiful day in the city.  Pay no attention to those clouds.

By the time we got to the Golden Gate Bridge, the fog was so thick you couldn't even SEE the bridge.  I foolishly suggested we go up into the Marin headlands to see if you could see anything through the fog, but they have changed the road and NONE of the parking areas were available.  They had all been made into resting areas for hikers with the road blocked off to cars.

We did find a way to turn around after a couple of miles and headed back across the bridge  You could see the base of the towers, but nothing else.

When we got into the city, we went out to the beach and then through Golden Gate Park, where we stopped at Queen Wilhelmina's garden, underneath a big windmill.  The tulips were in bloom and they were breathtaking.

We took a few pictures and then wended our way through the Sunday traffic.  We were going to drive through the Haight-Ashbury district, but I noticed that the sky seemed to be clear.

I looked up into the hills and lo and behold, it looked like Twin Peaks was in the clear, so we started driving up and up and up until we got to the top. 

And yes, it was clear.  Caroline could see the Golden Gate Bridge from that height and of course I took the requisite "taking new person on a tour of San Francisco starting on Twin Peaks" photo.

Next down to find our goal before we ever left Davis:  Mitchell's Ice Cream parlor, where I took Kimberly Lazznik and her husband when they were in town. 

They were serving #52 when we arrived and our number was #74, so we had a bit to wait, but eventually we got our ice cream.

Caroline had Thai Iced Tea flavor and baby coconut;  I had ube again, made from purple sweet potatoes from the Philippines and avocado ice cream, which I'd never had.  Walt had coconut ginger and something called "tropical 4" with four different flavors  It was all wonderful.

But we had an abbreviated tour to continue so we went through the city center where the symphony and opera houses and City Hall are, and down to first Filbert St. (the steepest hill in San Francisco) and then Lombard St. (the crookedest) and, of course, past the house where I grew up.  Last gasp was down through the Marina district, forgetting to drive by the Palace of Fine Art (so we have to go back!) and to Fort Point, under the bridge, another spot where I always take pictures of people on "the tour."

So glad that she finally got the have her bridge experience!

We then drove through Sausalito and out the other end, where we stopped at Dario's Italian restaurant for dinner.  Caroline slept most of the way home, and we stopped at CVS in Davis so she could get a couple of things she needs for the class.  She has to be up at the crack of dawn to get to her orientation, so I hope she is able to sleep tonight

Now I'm going to go whip up some banana muffins (doesn't everyone bake at 2 a.m.?) so there is something fresh for her to grab for breakfast in case I don't wake up in time to do it in the morning.
(Benny went with us today and I got several pictures for upcoming letters to the girls, but I won't talk about them now.  Caroline was a great help in getting them set up.)

And by the way, Happy Journalversary to me!  I started this journal 17 years ago today and this is entry number (roughly) 6,607.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Settling In

Well...interesting day today.  Caroline slept in quite late and I finally went off to the store around 10, before she awoke, to get a corned beef.  Before she arrived, she told me she was lactose intolerant and so I'd purchased a quart of almond milk and used it to make blueberry muffins.  They were delicious!

When I got home from the supermarket, Caroline and Walt were eating breakfast (at the kitchen table, no less!) and the almond milk was on the I'd done a good thing!

We chatted for awhile and then Caroline and Walt went out on a bike tour of Davis.  They visited the vet school, where she must be at 7:30 Monday morning (!!) and she got a tour of the campus, which hopefully she will remember when she is trying to find the place by herself.

While they were gone, I went to Atria.  Oh was the worst day.  

She was in bed when I got there an when I woke her up she was disoriented and agitated.  When I talked to her she made no sense and I thought for a minute she had had a stroke because one side of her mouth seemed to be drooping, though as she started to wake up and talk, it wasn't drooping after all.

But I don't even know how to describe it.  I was there about an hour and a half.  And she kept talking about how much it hurt and she didn't know what to do for the pain, but when I tried to press her for where exactly the pain was, she said that since I'd been there the pain had stopped.  She was totally fixated on the "pain" she was feeling and asked if I felt like I was trying to get my two heads together.  She kept trying to figure out what was wrong and she didn't want to sound like a complaining old woman so she didn't want to let anybody know what was wrong with her.

And then she fainted again.  At first I thought she was being funny, but she fell hard against my chest and when I tried to talk to her, she didn't respond.  Then I thought she was dead, but I felt a pulse, so I shook her and called to her and she came out of it, disoriented like she always is.

I thought we had gotten beyond fainting, since nobody has mentioned a spell in at least two months.  I hope this doesn't spark another series of them.

At a lull in the non-conversation we were having, I mentioned that Caroline was with us and said she was a veterinarian.  Then all she could talk about is what she would find when she examined my mother.  Didn't even register that I was talking about an animal doctor.

[Aside--interestingly, Caroline says that her interest in study is animal brains, particularly dogs and aging and dementia or Alzheimers in dogs--I knew Lizzie was showing signs of dementia!]

I was afraid to leave her, but we were just, by now, staring at each other. so I turned on the TV to see what was on and found the Catholic station which was showing a special on St. Patrick...all that green in Ireland I figured she would enjoy, and she did.  She was even impressed at the thousands of tourists climbing Croagh Patrick (I was too...Walt and our kids climbed it and until I saw this special, I had no idea how steep it became toward the end! -- "It is one of the highest peaks in the West of Ireland. It rises 750 metres (2,500 feet) into the sky above County Mayo.")

Anyway, she did seem to be into it enough to enjoy it and so was calming down.  When the show was over the next show was the Daily Mass and I figured that was something familiar enough and simple enough to follow that I could feel comfortable leaving her, so I did.  I had not planned to go back tomorrow, but there is no way I can NOT go to check on her tomorrow.

I got home to a message from Walt that he and Caroline were at the Irish pub having a libation in honor of St. Patrick.  When they came home, Walt took a nap and then, after Jeopardy, I served my corned beef which, if I do say so, humbly, was one of the best corned beefs I have ever made.  I cooked it in apple juice with the veggies and added the cabbage for the last half hour or so.  Usually I eat my corned beef with catsup, but the flavor of this was so good I didn't want to ruin it with anything like that.

After dinner we sat around chatting.  She's such an interesting person and entertained us with stories of Fred, the orphan lamb who adopted her and how she had to wean him because the farmer didn't have time to coddle him after she left.  She also talked about some of the other places she had visited, including Kenya, where she worked with animals there.

Finally, she was fading, and so was Walt so they went upstairs and I came in here to get this written so I can get to sleep.

Friday, March 17, 2017


Well...she's here. . She seems lovely.  And she hasn't run screaming from the house yet.  I take that as a positive sign.

I spent a bit of time finishing the closet cleaning and took about 9 or 10 boxes to the SPCA thrift store.  The problem was that in cleaning out the closet, I found a lot of clothes that fit me that I had forgotten about.  I now have a big mound on the dining room table in the living room that I have to find space for in the downstairs closet.

Walt moved a cupboard and a desk upstairs.  The cupboard turns out to be a perfect place to put all the 33-1/3 records we still have (remember records?) and the desk fit nicely in the Pepto Room, whether Caroline (who calls herself "Caro," I have learned) needs one or not.

But most important we now have a family room again.

This may not look like much but remember we have had our kitchen table sitting in the room for over a year and we haven't had a third chair in there for many years.  Now we no longer have a kitchen table in the family room and we have a third chair for guests to sit in.

That meant putting the kitchen table somewhere and it's back in its place...sorta.  It's 90 degrees from the way it always has been, but it does fit this way.

The big desk we still need to find a home for is still over on the right and it holds the stuff that used to be on the kitchen table, until I can find a place to put it all, but by golly, tomorrow night we can all sit down together at the same table and have dinner together!

In the middle of all this I had lunch with my friend Kathy and we both remained depressed over the Trump situation(s) but we have run out of ways to express that.

Around 4:30 we headed off to the San Francisco airport to pick Caro up after her 7:30 arrival.  It was the height of rush hour traffic, but Walt took the Golden Gate bridge, which had very little traffic going in our direction, and we got to the airport on time.  He decided to park at the airport rather than wait for Caro to call us on her phone.

You cn sit down in the waiting area outside of customs and watch on a monitor as each person gets out of customs and is free to escape into the city.

Caro was able to text me and I could text her back at her UK number so we knew where to find each other when the extensive customs check was finally over.

Caro's visit made me tackle projects that have been waiting for years to get done...and I did them.  Maybe it will also prod me into going to get hearing aids  I don't think I understood  1/4 of what she said on the ride home, what with the combination of her soft voice, her British accent, and my hearing problems.  Getting hearing aids would at least give me a fighting chance.

I was going to go to the supermarket tonight to get corned beef for dinner tomorrow, but then realized that if I do, I will have to go through the Polly Barking routine when I get home, so instead I have set my alarm for 6:30 and will go out then.

But at least I know that when Caro unpacked her suitcase, she had someplace to put everything!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

At My Age...

Going to bed discouraged tonight.  We worked all day, Walt much harder than I, and we got some stuff done, but not nearly what I'd hoped to accomplish.  Rob Rummel-Hudson wrote on Facebook today, "my car broke down within walking distance from home. I have to say, though. "Walking distance" feels a lot different at my age than it used to."  And Rob is considerably younger than I am.  But that's how I'm feeling.....discouraged that I wake up with all these plans for how much I will accomplish, and ending the day discouraged at how little I accomplished.

That's not to say I didn't get anything accomplished.  All of my laundry is folded and put away.  (You have no idea what a huge deal this is!)

I also went up to Caroline' room and got rid of a ton (i.e., 3 boxes and a bag) of clothes I will never wear again...or ever.  Some came from a big lot of "interim clothes" I bought on E-bay to wear when I was losing weight.  The idea was that these would hold me until I reached my goal weight, but in reality I never reached the "interim clothes" weight so they have optimistically filled the drawers all these years.  But Caroline's impending arrival made me be realistic and they are now all packed up for the thrift store.

I also went through the closet and separated things into things I forgot I had but can probably still wear and things I forgot I had but will never fit into again.  More clothes for the thrift store and a big pile for me to bring downstairs to the closet where I keep my clothes these days, though this will mean I will also have to clean out clothes from that closet as well.

I also threw away all the wire hangers, in my very best Joan Crawford fury, and now have only plastic hangers....and enough hangers and room for Caroline.  I have cleared away so many drawers and closet space you'd think she was coming for six months instead of only two weeks.  But it was all stuff that had to be done eventually, and stuff I have been putting off for many years.

 I had hoped that we could move the kitchen table back to where it belongs by dinner tonight, and I got all of the desks cleared out in preparation for moving them.  I moved one very heavy bookcase outside and my back did not like that at all, but the desk we are going to move upstairs into the guest bedroom is so light I could do it myself.  

It was the desk Gilbert gave me for mother's day one year.  It was the only gift he ever gave me, and I definitely have made the most of it.  but because of that, the desk top (unpainted wood) looks horrible so I went out to Office Max and got a desk calendar to cover up the years of abuse the desk has taken.
But tonight was the night Walt does his "visitation" with our friend Malcolm.  Malcolm's wife doesn't feel good about leaving him alone, so Walt and two other people go over and visit with him for a couple of hours so Natalie can go to her quilting group.  

I didn't have all the desks cleaned off before he left and by the time he got home, it was too late to finish the restoration of the kitchen.

So that must be done before we leave for San Francisco airport.

I hope that picking her up works out.  I have not seen a clear photo of her since she was about 5 and I don't have a clue what she looks like.  She (or her mother) called today, but I was not by my phone and didn't get the call, and they did not call back.  I tried sending a text to that number (on Gibraltar!) but I don't know if I can send international texts, and there was no reply, so I don't know if it was received.

I did send her an e-mail that said, "When we pick you up, you should have no trouble spotting our car. It is a silver-ish Honda about 85% of all the cars on the freeway today!
She did answer but I don't know what she meant when she said "Ok! My number is +4455501221 just to check I don't need an international dialing code on the mobile number you have given me?"  Now did she mean for that question mark to be there and was I supposed to know if her phone works, or did she put the question mark in there when she meant to put a period, which would make more sense.  (That phone # , by the way, is not hers.  They were giving out a phone number on NCIS-LA as I was typing and I used that one instead!)

In the middle of all this "work" I was doing today, I went off to Atria to take my mother's clean laundry to her.  It was 3 p.m.  She was not in her apartment, not in the chair where she often sits, not in the dining room.  I didn't know where she was, but figured she was OK.  I waited for her for 30 minutes but she didn't come and I wanted to get home to get back to the cleanup, so I left a note for her.

I will be interested to see if the note is still there when I see her next.  The last time I left a note, I left it on her hair and two days later it was still there and she had not moved it, which means she had not sat in that chair.  I have the feeling she thought she wasn't supposed to move the note.  

Today I put her little stuffed dog on top of the note and maybe she will read it this time, though all it said was that I couldn't stay and would see her later.

Oh, and by the way, we had the left over chicken pot pie for dinner tonight.  That crust may have been a visual disaster, but it was, I have to admit, the most flaky crust I have ever made.  Someone suggested that a change of brand of flour might be the cause of my crust fail lately.  And I DID change flour to King Arthur Flour about five years ago which, as I think back on it, may have been when my problems started.  Next time I buy flour, I'll go back to Gold Medal and see if that makes a difference.

And now off to sleep.  Whatever happens tomorrow, it will work out  She is, after all, getting free room and board for two weeks...surely she can put up with our eclectic chaos.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Happy Pi Day

Happy pi day.  Well, technically it was yesterday, 3/14.  I decided to celebrate as many do on pi day...I baked a pie.

It was a chicken pot pie and it was delicious.  But once again it was a crust fail.

I just don't know what's the matter with me.  This is a recipe I have been using for about 40 years, it originated with Julia Child and I have made countless pies over the years using this recipe, but in the last several years--too many for my tastes--I just can't get the crust right.

I've tried everything.  I've tried barely handling the dough at all, so that it retains all of the flakiness.  I've tried working it into a smooth ball.  I've tried refrigerating it and not refrigerating it.  I've rolled it ut on a floured bread board or between two pieces of waxed paper, or in one of those special bags where you put your dough, zip it up and then roll it out, or on a special Wilton's pie crust pad, with the right sized circle marked for you.

It used to be that I made this dough, rolled it out thinly, put it in a pie pan effortlessly, and even had leftovers to make little sugar pies.

Now it seems that no matter what I do, I can't get it big enough, can't get it to roll into a circle without breaking into a zillion pieces.

Tonight I thought I'd mixed it perfectly, and put it in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes, but when it came to roll it out, the bottom crust was too thick and not large enough.  I put it in the pie pan and it barely covered the sides.

I put the chicken pot pie filling in it and then rolled out the top crust, this time using waxed paper.  It rolled out better, but stuck to the paper (yes, I had floured it!) and broke into pieces when I tried to put it on the pie.

Expletives were uttered.

I finally did the best I could and then cooked it and, truth to tell, it looked like crap, but was one of the flakiest crusts I've made.  Good thing it was just for the two of us so I didn't have to have guests see my crust failure, yet again.

Jeri asked me some years ago for my pie recipe and I gave her this recipe and she has been making it unerringly ever since.  

I just don't know how I lost the pie crust gene.  But nevertheless I persist and when we next need a pie I will give it one more try.

Caroline arrives tomorrow night and we might be ready for her.  Not as ready as I thought we would be six months ago.  With our usual efficiency, we have saved all the work for the last two days.  In the process, I uncovered some lenses I have purchased for my old iPhone. Not very useful, but I did like this fisheye lens.

Totally impractical, but kind of fun to try.  The other lens was a close-up so close up that you have to almost be ON the item you want to photograph.  

I did get most of the stuff that has been piled where the kitchen table usually goes all emptied and stuff either tossed out or, believe it or not, finding a home in my office  The furniture is still there.  We haven't figure out where to PUT it, exactly, so we still have no kitchen table, but I have hope that when we finish the chicken pot pie tomorrow night, we can both sit at the kitchen table.  We may have to move the furniture out to the back yard.  Now that rain seems to be over, it should be OK.

Walt has washed all the bedding in the guest room so that's taken care of.  He also removed the 30 or so empty Blue Apron boxes that have adorned the stairs for months  He says he moved them to the garage.

Walt picked up the bike we are borrowing for her visit and I tried to contact our friend with the horse ranch, which Caroline would like to visit if there is time.  She also wants to visit Sacramento's Crocker Art Museum, which should be interesting.  I have lived here 43 years and have never been in it!  And I've arranged for tickets for her to the two shows I will be reviewing while she is here.

I sent a note of bon voyage to Caroline tonight and told her that she should have no trouble spotting our car at the airport, "It is a silver-ish Honda about 85% of all the cars on the freeway today!"

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

From the Archives

As I have said many times, I am easily distractible, which is why this "straightening up" project is not happening.  Yesterday I was going to Get Serious about it.  But thefirst thing I picked up was a folder in which are a copies of letters I wrote to my friend Phil Dethlefsen in May and June of 1979  I don't have a clue why only those two months.

Phil's partner was the Lamplighters leading tenor during those days and Phil and I got to be friends because he had a lot of health problems and it seemed like he was forever hospitalized, so I started writing to him.  It evolved into my writing to him every day, sometimes more than once a day.  Somewhere I probably have a big folder of many, many letters over the years, but this is just a handful of them. 

Phil is dead now, as is his partner.  The friendship died in 1986.  Well, Phil's partner killed it the week Gilbert died.  Phil, whose last words to me were "don't worry about him.  I'll take care of it" was never heard from again an I suspect that they even changed their phone number (but I never tried to call it).  It was ugly...ugly...ugly (at one point Phil's partner sent a message via a mutual friend that I shoud go f**k myself) and the most hateful thing that had ever happened to me until Peggy came along.  But I digress.

It was interesting reading through these old letters and gives a good picture of all the kids during that time.  Jeri would have been 13 when I was writing, which would make Ned 12 and on down to David, who would have been 7.  Here are some of the things that kept me reading and not cleaning up.

Ned is indeed a challenge but the one advantage of dealing with him over, say, dealing with Jeri is that with Ned there is never any question about when he is feeling upset, what he is feeling upset about, or whether or not you are getting through to him.  With Jeri, she is so closed that you never know even IF she is unhappy about something.  But Ned's whole body scream it loud and clear and even if he shuts you out completely (as he did yesterday when I wouldn't take his side in the pitching debate) you can still pretty accurately read his needs.  Or a least it seems that way to me--I suppose I have to wait until he grows up to know for sure if I'm right .....

Ned and I just had our daily argument.  This one even sillier than the others that we have.  David and Tom are talking abut having a Kool-Aid stand this afternoon.  David told Ned that he would have to buy Kool-aide and that they wouldn't give him any. Ned came to me and said that it wasn't fair because when he had a cool aide stand, he gave some to tom and David and they didn't have to buy any.  I told Ned that I wouldn't talk abut it now because if we argued about it, which we would certainly do, we'd just have to argue abut it again when/if the stand became a reality and I didn't want two arguments in one day--and that it was silly to argue about something that might not even happen.  This was the basis for the argument which ended with his=me storming upstairs to go fold laundry and Ned slamming out of the house in a huff.  I don't know why we set each other so vehemently and so constantly....Now that I think of it, Jeri and Seymour (our dog) are a lot alike.  I was thinking of some way to compare Jeri to something and Seymour came to mind immediately.  I watched my father yesterday.  He was bound and determined to make friends with Seymour.  Well, you just don't do that to Seymour.  You can't talk to her, chirp at her, coo and cajole and expect her to warm up to you.  You have to leave her alone and let her make her advances in her own time.  Jeri is just the same.  We very seldom have any physical affection between us--Jeri just doesn't like it.  But I stopped attempting it long ago and that has had its rewards.  Last night she was so terribly upset about the play being over and she came downstairs and sat in m lap for about 15 minutes crying and talking it out.  She almost never does this, but when she does it's very special--and if you try to approach her on something like that, you just don't get anywhere and you spoil the somewhat delicate balance that your relationship hangs upon.

Strange how different kids are.  There is quiet, reserved Jeri.  Then we have volatile, bombastic Ned.  Paul, Tom and David all fall in between, with David closer to Ned than anyone else.  Tom requires a lot of love, a lot of physical affection and likes more than anything else to just sit here talking to me all afternoon.  Paul neither requires nor shuns affection.  It's just something which happens or not, depending on the situation  Of all the kids, he and I probably think the most alike and we have a nice chummy relationship.  I wonder what they are all going to be like when they grow up.

Well, I have the answer to that finally.  Jeri is much more affectionate the approachable than when she was 13  Ned is still as bombastic and we still have our regular arguments, though maybe fewer now that I let things go and he seems to be making an effort too.

I wonder what David and Paul would have been like in their 40s. We'll never know, but at the time of his death, Paul and I were still very close and the day he died he called on the phone, like he did every day, and asked me "do you think it's weird that I call my mother every day?".  I guess the one who has changed the most is Tom, who is too busy to sit and chat all afternoon, though he is still very physically affectionate and a real good guy.  I watch him as a father and it makes me feel like I must have done something right because he's the father I wish I had had.

I had lunch at Atria today. We had "avocado stuffed shrimp" ...

What is circled is about 1 Tbsp of smashed avocado...that's all the avocado in the dish; hardly "avocado-stuffed."  Then for dessert we had "banana cream pie."

This "pie" is a cake with what looks like a lot of banana pudding piled on top of it, with two slices of banana and then faux whipped cream.  The topping all slid off the cake before we could eat it.  It was tasty, but it was not my idea of "pie" at all.

Gourmet meals at Atria.