Birthday Wine


Back in December of 1997, I worked at a company that had our department holiday party on the Napa Valley Wine Train. I was in HR at the time, and there were 4 or 5 of us, I think, not a big crowd. The Napa Valley Wine Train is a passenger train that goes up Napa Valley for maybe an hour, and then comes back. It stops at one winery on the route, and serves pretty nice food and wine along the way. The train cars are decorated in an old fashioned way, like I imagine they might have been in the old west. You depart from a train depot in Napa, which of course has a gift shop with lots of wine stuff to be had. So that December day, just outside of the gift shop, were some crates that said, Maya. “Wow,” I thought, “Is there a Maya wine?” I went in and asked. The answer is yes, there is a Maya wine, and no, you can’t have any. Turns out it is a botique wine, very difficult to come by.

Well, if you’re at all like me, once someone tells me I can’t have something, I WANT IT MORE. Suddenly I was all about the Maya wine. I remember my BFF, Rosemary, and how when I would go to her house, there was some wine on top of the fridge that never got touched. I asked her about it, and she said her dad had bought each of the kids a bottle from the year they were born, and was saving it until they were old enough to drink it. Well, you can only imagine how wine stored on top of the fridge turned out to be (not good), but I liked the idea. And here was a wine that shared my daughter’s name! I MUST BUY SOME.

So, I started calling around. I called the vineyard, but they didn’t have any to sell. I called several small, independent wine stores, and got a resounding NO everywhere I called. One man laughed in my face (Well, in my ear, as I was on the phone). One man told me that they SOMETIMES got a case, but that the owner of the store gave or sold the bottles to his friends, and customers never got any. I had no idea there was wine that was difficult to procure. I’m a Safeway wine shopper.

Finally, I got lucky. I called a local wine store and told him my story. My daughter is Maya, and born in 1996. I want a bottle of 1996 Maya wine to toast her with on her 21st birthday. He said, “Most of the people who come in looking for that wine are posers wanting to show off for their friends. You’re the first down to earth person I’ve come across on this search. If I get any in the store, I will call you.” And he did. I don’t remember what year it was, probably 1999 at this point, but he called me and told me my wine was there. I was thrilled. I rushed to the store and bought it…the only time in my life I’ve paid that much for a bottle of wine (I think it was about $130, about 10x what I usually pay). It has been carefully stored in Ted’s brother’s wine fridge ever since, safe and sound.

Until Saturday. Saturday, we will celebrate my darling Maya’s 21st birthday with lamb curry, carrot cake, and a glass of Maya wine. I think there are 9 of us, so no one will get a lot, but we will toast to her health, and she can keep the bottle as a memento to her mother’s obsessive personality.

I hope it’s not corked.

Catching Up

It’s been a busy time, since last I stopped by here. The entire month of December is gone, and we’re a week into a New Year. So what’s going on?

I went to Portland for a long weekend in early December. It was my step-mom’s 70th birthday, and I went up to help her celebrate. Ted didn’t come with me, mostly because of his cat allergies, which means he can’t come inside (or at least not for long) most of the houses for our family. That can work fine in summer, we sleep at a hotel or house sit for neighbors, and we eat dinner in my parents’ back yard. That wouldn’t work this time, as it was snow and ice everywhere. Maya didn’t come with me, because while the party was on Dec 10th, her finals started Dec 12th, so she had to be here to study. So it was me alone. While there, I realized that I believe the only other time I’ve gone to Portland without Ted and/or Maya, it was January of 1988, when I went up to meet my sisters for the first time. They were 17 years old and in high school. I’m pretty sure that Ted came with me on my trips after that, and there were times when Maya and I went without him (cat issues, or work), or the three of us went. It was nice in a way, though I did miss them. I flew up on Thursday, and on Friday my dad and I went down the hill from the house to help get ready for the party. A neighbor, who has parties and fundraisers in her house often, offered the use of her home for the party, which was great. Dad and Julie live on a VERY steep hill, which is absolutely no fun when it is covered in ice. So to get down the hill can be tricky. We had walking poles, but it was so steep, we decided to slide down the hill on a piece of cardboard. That sounds more fun than it was. The ice was thin, and not at all smooth, and we felt every bump and rock on the way down. The cardboard shredded by the time we got to the bottom of the hill. My dad took this picture of me when I’m part way down. At this point, I’m frustrated, and thinking it would have been more fun to stay in the house with a cup of hot chocolate or something. This little puppy ran out to say hello and urge me on. It worked, the puppy was SO cute, it cheered me right up. The rest of the way to the house was still slippery, but we had our poles, and it wasn’t steep, so we were fine.
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I spent that evening with my sister and her husband, which was really great. They married in March, and we went up to celebrate in September. We’ve met her husband a couple of times, but this was the first time I got to spend time with just Melissa and Jason, and it was really nice to get to know him better. Saturday, Melissa and I did some Christmas shopping, and had lunch with Jason and some friends. Saturday night was the party, which was great, the ice had melted and everything was lovely. Then Sunday I came home. It was a fun trip.

What else…well, I caught a stupid cold. We had our annual baking day, which was fun, and I put together a box of cookies to bring to my friend Trudy. I used to deliver Meals on Wheels to her, but she went off of the route last year, when she moved from her home to an assisted living facility. I brought them to her on the Sunday before Christmas, and on Monday realized I was sick with a cold. Damn. It was a crummy head cold, which then went into my chest. I didn’t deliver Meals on Wheels that week, because I felt horrid, and also I worried about getting the clients on my route sick. I went again the Thursday after Christmas, and I asked another woman on my route, Dana, if she had heard how Trudy was doing. Trudy passed away the Tuesday after Christmas. Crap. I hope to hell I didn’t give her my cold. She was 101, and when I saw her last, she was not doing well. Not much appetite, not dressed, just taking it easy. Not really like herself. I am going to miss her, she was a real character and such a sweet woman.

Last weekend was my birthday, and it was beautiful weather, so Ted, Maya, Mulder, and I went to Pescadero, which is a little town at the coast between San Francisco and Santa Cruz. They have a bakery there that sells some amazing bread with artichoke hearts baked inside. So we ate delicious artichoke bread, then went to the beach to smell the salt water. It was a perfect day, and when we got home and cleaned up, we got dressed and went out for a delicious birthday dinner. Here’s Mulder at the beach.
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Now here we are, it’s a rainy Sunday afternoon. We’ve been watching the screeners that Ted gets for being part of the SAG-AFTRA Union. We’ve seen Lion, which we loved, and Fences, which was very good, and I liked it more than Ted did. We have a couple of others that we haven’t watched yet. Manchester by the Sea, Jackie, and likely one or two others that I’ve forgotten. We’re supposed to get La La Land, but it hasn’t happened yet. We’re also watching the new One Day at a Time reboot on Netflix, which we are really enjoying. Mostly it’s been a good winter so far, but I could have done without losing Trudy or getting sick. Next weekend we bury my Grandma’s remains, and my mom’s as well. My Grandma was cremated, and wanted to be buried in the grave with her first husband, my Grandpa Roland, who died when my mom was 5. We are going to bury my mom’s remains in with them, as well as a bit of my Uncle Forrest’s remains, and a picture of their baby Roland, who died a few weeks after birth. There’s good and bad to that. I miss my Grandma, and it’s going to be sad. I miss my mom, and that’s going to be sad, too. I miss my uncle. Blech, it all sucks. But on the other hand, 4 of the 6 cousins will be there, including my brother Richard, who I don’t see often, since he lives in Alaska. I’m looking forward to seeing him.

That’s it for now. Hoping you’re well.

Grandma Ward

Grandpa and Grandma 1941

Grandfather Roland and Grandma Ginny, 1941


This is my much loved Grandma Ward, with her first husband, Roland, back in 1941.

Grandma was born in Southern California but moved to the Central Valley near Modesto when she was a young girl. She remembered riding the bus with the high school kids when she was in Kindergarten, because her parents didn’t want her taking the bus the other Kindergarteners took, as it was on the Highway and they didn’t think that was safe. So she rode with the big kids. The step to get on the bus was too high for her to reach, so a high schooler would lift her up. Kindergarten was 1/2 day, and High School was full day, so she waited outside the school for 3 hours or so until the big kids got out. All alone. Can you imagine anything like that today? Her parents would be in jail for neglect.

She fell in love with my Grandfather Roland when she was in High School, on a date with another boy. I guess that boy was friends with Roland, and they double dated. They didn’t care a bit for the others they were with, and Roland asked her out the next day. A few months later, they eloped. They had to elope, because he was older (27 to her 18) and divorced. The older her family could have dealt with, but the divorced would have been a deal breaker. So they chartered a little airplane that flew them to Carson City, Nevada, and they got married. They came home and she went to school and didn’t tell anyone until after graduation. Her parents couldn’t do much with her, but they didn’t let her younger sister Florence out of their sight for about 2 years, and she wasn’t allowed to date, which she said was fine with her because she was too shy anyway and it gave her an excuse.

Roland worked in construction, and he and my Granmda (Ginny) lived in a little trailer that was hitched to the back of their car. They drove up and down the valley following work, and were very happy. My mom came along about a year later, and made them even happier. Ginny felt like my mom was her little doll to play with, and had a great time being a mom. They had another baby, a boy, two years later, but baby Roland was very ill, and never came home from the hospital. He lived for several months, but kept getting sick before he could be released. When he died, they were devistated. They had another baby, another boy, a couple of years later. This baby was my Uncle Forrest, and all was well, they were again very happy and loving life with the two little children. I think they had an apartment now. One day, Grandpa Roland stepped on a nail while at work. He wasn’t terribly worried because he had had a tetanus shot. But the tetanus shot turned out to be ineffective, likely expired when given to him, and he died quite suddenly. He complained of a headache at breakfast, and was dead before lunch. My Grandma was left with a high school education, a 5 year old, a baby, and a broken heart. They had no life insurance, because they had cancelled the policy because it was too expensive.

Grandma had to find work, and couldn’t keep her kids with her. So my mom went to a convent, and my uncle to a foster home. Grandma and Aunt Flo had an apartment together, and Grandma’s small wages went to pay for the convent and the foster home, plus of course food and rent and so on. This went on for a couple of years, until my Grandma met my Grandpa, who fell in love with her and her kids, and the next thing you know, they were married. My Grandpa was in sales for a large printing company, and they sent him around the country. They lived in Puerto Rico, which is where my Aunt Colleen was born. They lived in Texas and New Mexico and Colorado, and eventually back in California. My mom and Grandpa did NOT get along (he was abusive in many ways) and she left to go live with her Great Aunt Julia in Modesto, which is where she finished high school, and where she met my dad.

My grandfather lost his job at the printing company, I believe because they thought he was too old (he was in his 50s) and they moved to Stockton, where he opened his own company, taking most of his clients with him. They lived there the rest of their lives. My grandfather died in 1988, and my Great Aunt Flo moved in with my Grandma. Aunt Flo’s husband had died quite awhile before. She had taken care of her parents until they died, then helped Grandma take care of Grandpa, and now they were living together.

These last few years, Grandma has not been well. She blames it on having had four children, while Aunt Flo’s kids are step kids, so of course she was healthier. The reality is a combination of factors, including a 60+ year smoking habit, dieting every day from about the age of 12, breaking her hip at the age of 40, and scoliosis in her spine, which as she aged and her spine compressed, became very painful. Aunt Flo has been her nurse and caretaker, as well as her sister and best friend.

When we moved back to California from Alaska when I was 9, Richard and I came first, my mom and our dog (Samantha) came a couple of weeks later. Grandma and Grandpa had downsized to a mobile home park at that time, and it had a swimming pool. Grandma would take us swimming every afternoon, and we would watch cartoons on cable TV (which we hadn’t had in Alaska) before dinner. It was a lot of fun and they spoiled us. They decided that mobile home living wasn’t for them, so they bought a house, which was 2 blocks from our place. I would spend the night at their house sometimes, I spent a week there for Spring Break (called Easter Vacation back then), and my Grandpa would make me apple turnovers for breakfast. When my mom decided we were vegetarian, I would go over there for dinner and Grandma would make me pork chops. When I had swimming and karate lessons at the Y after school, my Grandma would come pick me up and bring me to her house until my mom got home. We were pen pals, which started when we lived in Alaska, and lasted until a couple of years ago when she broke her wrist, plus her eyes weren’t what they once were.

When Ted and I got engaged and moved in together, I worried that she would be angry and scold me. She had asked me to promise never to do such a thing a few years before, when Richard was living with a girlfriend. I wrote to her and told her my news, and asked for her understanding. She wrote back that she had had so little time with my Grandpa Roland, and she thought we should all take our happiness where and when we could. She wasn’t thrilled, but she was OK with it.

Grandma was so strong. She outlived two husbands and all four of her children. She had many adventures and lived a good life.

She has always been a fierce ally, always on her grandchildren’s side, always wanting the best for us, always loving us. My grandma died last Saturday, and I am going to miss her terribly. I’m glad she’s not suffering anymore, but I will miss our trips to Red Lobster and our visits.

Happy New Year – Friday Randomness

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Hey There Party People, what’s shakin’? December was a good combination of busy and lazy, and somehow in amongst the lazy I did not post even once. That’s pathetic.

In line with catching you up a bit, life here has been good, not crazy, not too different than it was before. We’ve had another month with dog-boy, Mulder, and he’s settling in so very well. We all adore him so much. He’s playful and loving and wonderful. He’s learning a bit of manners, learning to walk better on a leash, etc. He doesn’t jump on the furniture as much anymore. He doesn’t bark nearly as much anymore. He’s only vomited twice. He did wake us up barking Christmas Eve morning, maybe 1 A.M. Not good. But it turned out he was barking at the police officers who were here, because our neighbor’s house had been broken into. He didn’t bark during the actual burglery, but based on the layout of our houses, I doubt he even heard it. So he’s a good guard dog. And so darned darling.

Sometimes Ted and I get each other similar gifts, without knowing that would happen. One year it was cozy bathrobes. This year it was art for our walls, at least sort of. I say sort of, because while he bought me a photograph/print to frame and hang, I bought him a set of frames to hang record albums. This is big for us, because we have such different taste in art, we have a lot of trouble finding anything to hang on our walls. He likes abstract art, geometrical with contrasting colors. I like flowers and more girly type things. I have a theory that he likes the contrasting colors because he’s somewhat color blind, and I like flowers and portraits because I’m girly.  See the beautiful picture of San Francisco and the cloudy sky up there?  That’s the picture he bought me.  I love it. I think it’s contrasting enough for him and pretty enough for me, is why it works.  It was taken by a friend of his, who does great work you can find here, if you’re so inclined.

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I love Jacques Pepin and enjoy watching his cooking shows on PBS. He has a new one now, ‘Heart and Soul’ that I’m enjoying enough that Ted gave me the cookbook for Christmas. Yay! One of the recipes was this one, which is a deconstructed sushi. I decided to give it a try the other day, and it was delishious. Our favorite grocery store has a sushi counter (don’t they all?) and they sell the spicy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger, so I bought those to add. It was really good, but I think the trout roe that I bought was a bit too fishy for me, so maybe I’d save myself a bit of money and not use that next time. But overall it was good.

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What else…well, I turned 50. Ted threw me a lovely party with family and friends, and we feasted on delicious lamb curry, curried pumpkin, and roti. So so so good. My friend Marilee was in Canada and couldn’t make it to my party, but she sent me the most gorgeous bouquet of flowers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen orchids this way before, but aren’t they amazing? I love them. Here we are a week later, and they’re still stunning.

What else…We’re enjoying Downton Abbey, and I’m looking forward to getting the DVD in a couple of weeks so we can forge ahead and binge watch. It’s how I started watching D.A., and really my preferred method.

We’ll see if I end up posting here more than I did last year. I certainly HOPE that I do, but I’m not going to make it a resolution or anything like that. Happy New Year, everyone.

Giving Thanks for Cranberry Sauce

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I’ve spoken here before about Thanksgiving, about how as a child, it was my least favorite holiday of the year.  (I should clarify that I am only talking about the years when I was in California…I don’t remember much about Thanksgiving in Alaska, but I’m sure it was lovely and fine.)  My entire family (on my mom’s side) is obsessed with weight.  My grandmother decided at a young age that she was NOT going to be fat like her parents and aunts, and pretty much has been on a diet ever since.  To the point where now, at age 92 and weighing in at about 88 lbs, she will still make comments like, “Well, since I ate that brownie, I’ll have to starve myself tomorrow.”  It’s digusting.  She raised her kids to be obsessed with weight as well, putting my mom on a diet when she was about 10.  It backfired, and the combination of her obsession and family genetics put all of her children into the overweight/obese category, though my aunt Colleen was much thinner than my mom or my uncle.

As might be expected, the conversation at family gatherings was often about dieting, about what one should and should not eat, what works and what doesn’t, on and on and on.  And all the while, of course, there’s turkey and stuffing and potatoes and candied yams and gravy and pie and fruit salad and cranberry sauce and rolls.  Please eat, enjoy…with an undertone of, you wouldn’t be so big if you didn’t enjoy quite so much.  Ugh.  Add to that the chain smoking by both of my grandparents, and throw in a big helping of my grandpa’s acid tongue and sarchasm, and you get the idea.  No family gatherings were particularly wonderful or happy, but Thanksgiving seemed to me to be about food food food, and with this family, that was not a good thing.  Plus most of the food wasn’t good.  Turkey was dried out, mashed potatoes from a box, brown gravy from a packet, cranberry sauce from a can, yams from a can.  Almost nothing was fresh.

I did always like the fruit salad and the cranberry sauce, canned though it was.  Actually, I liked the mashed potatoes and gravy from a box/packet, if truth be told.  It wasn’t until I was older and tried these things made from scratch that I realized that my grandparents’ cooking was like living in Plato’s cave, eating shadow versions of dishes, and there was a real world out there with delicious versionis of these same foods.

I remember the first time I tried cranberry sauce that wasn’t canned.  It was 1993, and Ted and I were newly married.  My mom had moved to Alaska that summer, though Richard and his wife had not moved up there yet, and were still in California.  Richard and Kathy were married the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and my mom had flown down for the wedding.  Generally we have Thanksgiving at Ted’s parents house, but we decided that year to have Thanksgiving at our apartment in San Francisco.  Kathy asked what she could bring, and I don’t remember if she brought pie or something else, but I do remember that she brought cranberry sauce.  It was a revelation. SO good.  Not overly sweet.  Fresh tasting.  I begged her for her recipe, and she looked at me, stunned.  “It’s on the back of the bag”, she said.  “1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, cranberries….cook over medium heat until the cranberries pop.  Chill.  That’s it.”   I think she felt that day about the same as she did when she told Richard they were going to make mashed potatoes, and he grabbed the box of powdered potatoes, while she grabbed fresh potatoes from the produce aisle.

Ever since that year, I’ve made this version of cranberry sauce, with a few exceptions.  One year I tried a savory version, which I did not care for.  One year I added a pinch of salt, which was fine but not really any different.  This year, for Canadian Thanksgiving in October, I tried a new recipe.  I don’t know what motivated me to do so, but I did.  It’s very similar to the one on the cranberry bag, but has less liquid.  You start out over low heat with the sugar, cranberries, and only 2 tblsp of water instead of a cup.  When the sugar dissolves, you have plenty of liquid, so then you turn up the heat to medium and cook until the cranberries pop.  I found the recipe on Food Network, and they added a strip of orange peel, which I don’t fancy.  Some commenters used 2 tblsp OJ instead of water.  Result?  A lovely cranberry sauce!  Not adding as much water gives you more concentrated cranberry flavor.  Also, I used a bit less than a cup of sugar.  Maybe more than 3/4 of a cup, I’m not exactly sure.  Delicious. So this is the cranberry sauce recipe that I’m making for today’s Thanksgiving feast.

I’ll be thinking of Kathy, and thanking her for introducing me to fresh cranberry sauce.  I’ll be thinking of my mom and all of the years when she would come to California for a month, and Thanksgiving was during that time and she would spend a week with us.  I wish we were able to do that this year.  I’ll be thinking of my grandma and how much I love her, even if a visit with her means coming home smelling like cigarettes.  I’ll be thinking of my grandpa and how much I loved him, even if he was a mean old man.  I’ll be enjoying a lovely day of delicious, freshly made food, laughter, music, wine, and fun with our new dog, at Ted’s parents house.  I do have a lot to be thankful for.  (I considered changing that to the more gramattically correct, “I do have much for which to be thankful” but I don’t like it, so I didn’t.)

I’m also making my Grandma’s fruit salad, sweet potato pudding, and as an appetizer, shrimp cocktail.

If you’ve not tried fresh cranberry sauce, or if you have only tried the version with 1 whole cup of water, give this one a try.  It’s delicious.

Cranberry Sauce
Ingredients:

12 0z cranberries (fresh or frozen)
3/4 cup sugar
2 tblsp water or orange juice
1 strip orange or lemon zest, optional

Directions:

Put all ingredients into a saucepan.  Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and the cranberries are soft, about 10 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and cook until the cranberries burst, about 12 minutes.

A Day in the City

Kouign-amann

Kouign-amann

Yesterday found the three of us going into the City. For Ted, it was a work day, so we dropped him off a few blocks from his office, and then we went to have some fun. We met up with our friends, Marilee and Paul. Marilee is my dear friend, whom I met in Latin class while studying at San Francisco State back in the early 90s. Paul is her wonderful husband, who she met on an archilogical dig in Greece. We went to b. Patisserie on California Street, and enjoyed kouign-amann, the lovely pastry that you see above. I had never heard of kouign-amann, but it is similar to a croissant, though sweeter and a bit crisper. Delicious. The picture above I took from the Wikipedia page on kouign-amann, though it was taken at this same little restaurant. We spent a lovely hour or so there, catching up and enjoying our coffee and sweets. It was perfect.

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Then Maya and I drove to Grace Cathedral, which is actually only 2 blocks from Marilee and Paul’s house, and they walked back from the restaurant, but the arthritis in my feet would not have allowed such a journey. It’s almost 2 miles (from the restaurant to GC), which my feet can do, but I would have suffered the rest of the day for it, which did not interest me. Also, pretty steep hills. Anyway, Maya is taking a class in Art History that she is really enjoying, and one of her assignments was to go to Grace Cathedral, it being the closest Gothic Cathedral to us. Paris would have been better perhaps, but much more expensive.

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I’ve been to Grace Cathedral once before. Another dear friend of mine, Janet, was married in one of the chapels there, way back when Maya was a baby. I did notice how grand and beautiful it was at that time, but I was also busy being a bridesmaid and doing bridesmaid things, so this time I had more time to look around. The architecture, the pointed arches, the art on the walls, the gloreous stained glass. It was wonderful. We spent about an hour and a half there, really trying to get a good feel of the place. If I were religious, and if I lived in the neighborhood, I think I’d stop by from time to time. Heck, even if I just lived in the neighborhood. Really beautiful.

Fresco depicting the fire destroying the old Grace Cathedral, Grace Cathedral. San Francisco, California, USA

Fresco depicting the fire destroying the old Grace Cathedral, Grace Cathedral. San Francisco, California, USA

We were intrigued by the frescos on the walls, which depicted the history of California and of the Church. This one depicts the fire of 1906 that destroyed the old Grace Church, the predecessor to the current Cathedral. After the earthquake and fire, the Crocker family, which had had a mansion at this location which burned to the ground, they donated the land so the Cathedral could be built.

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I considered the labyrinth inside the Cathedral, and started to walk it, but found my mind wasn’t in the right place for it. Perhaps it was the $2.75 per 15 minutes I was paying to park at the garage across the street, perhaps it was the beautiful architecture and art surrounding me, that seemed a better use of such expensive time. It is supposed to be very calming, and to help one spiritually. You can read more about it, if you’re interested.

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We took a moment to stop in the Interfaith Aids Memorial chapel of the church, to remember the friends I had who died from Aids, back before the current medicines that are allowing people to live so much longer with the disease. Two of my coworkers from my hotel days, Damon and Shelby, both died horrible deaths. Ugh. It was a long time ago, and it was nice to reflect on their lives.

From there, we drove over to Nordstrom, so Maya could get her leather boots shined. She had been playing soccer in them with some kids at her work (She works in the after school care at her old elemtary school), and the boots were pretty dirty. That task accomplished, we shopped a bit, then voila, Ted’s work day was over. So we went to pick him up, and then we went to dinner.

We went to the Clement Street Bar and Grill, a sentimental favorite. My friend Janet first took me there, I think, or at least suggested it to me when I first moved to SF in 1987, I don’t remember which. It’s where I had dinner with my parents that same fall, the first day I had ever met my dad. It’s where Ted and I, with some friends, celebrated our graduation from college in 1990. It’s basic California cuisine. I don’t think the menu has changed much over the years, but that’s OK. Ted had a delicious steak, I had lovely crab cakes, and Maya had a goat cheese salad.

It was a lovely day, but by the time we got home at a little after 9, we were tuckered out, and ready for bed.

Herndon Road


On my way to Grandma Wells funeral on Wednesday, I happened to drive past Herndon Road in Ceres (right off Highway 99), which I’ve always wondered about. My great-great grandfather owned a house and small orchard there back in the 40s (and for years prior), when they were constructing Highway 99. The govt. bought the land from the family to construct Hwy 99, and as part of the deal, the streets were named for family. I suspect that a few names may have been changed over the years, because I couldn’t find 2 I was looking for. But I found Herndon Road, of course, which was the family name. (That part of the family is from Herndon, VA) Then I found Joyce, which is only a block and turns into a Hwy on-ramp, but was named for my mom when she was very small and the only grandchild. My great-great grandparents house was on the corner of Joyce and Herndon. I also saw Nadine, which was named for my great aunt, and Eugene, which was named for my great uncle (who died as an infant). Apparently my great grandfather lived on the corner of Nadine and Herndon, which had once been a part of his father’s land. I didn’t see Virginia or Florence, which I think used to be there, and were for my Grandma and Great Aunt Flo. And I think if there was a Eugene, there would have been one for my other great aunt, Roberta, who died as a child.

These were the two sides of my family coming together for me, as my Grandma whose life we were celebrating was my dad’s mother, and my great grandfather was on my mom’s side.

The money from that deal (eminent domain) paid to send my mom’s generation of cousins to college, I believe.  So maybe not interesting to anyone else, but it was interesting to me.  And kind of sad, because the neighborhood isn’t great.  The houses all looked pretty run down.  I considered trying to figure out if one of the houses might be the old farmhouse, but none of them looked like good candidates for that.  Certainly a poor neighborhood between a highway and a Home Depot is not what the land looked like 75 years ago.  Nice though, that the corners of Herdon and Joyce, and Herndon and Nadine, are still there today.

Grandma Wells

Grandma on Horseback
My Grandmother Wells died a couple of weeks ago, and yesterday was her funeral. It was sad, because she’s gone, and she was a wonderful, if complicated woman. I met her when I was 22, at my Grandfather’s funeral. Though she had only learned of my existence a short time before, she welcomed me with open arms. Listening to my father tell the story of her life, being born in Shasta, CA, and moving to Ohio (down near West Virginia) as a girl. Riding a horse to school, opening her own beauty shop, eloping with my Grandfather (who may or may not have been engaged to someone else at the time). She convinced him to move to California, and they made a life together in Modesto for many years, in the house he built out of a garage. There she raised my dad, and for a short while, his younger brother Bobby, who was institutionalized because he had Downs Syndrome, which was sadly what they did back in the 40s. He lived with the family until he was about 3, and then taken away, which was devastating to my Grandmother, and I don’t think she ever recovered from it. When in her early 50s, she got a job running reports for Gallo Wine, and ended up working there for 30 years, finally retiring at the age of 82. She would have been 99 this September.

Listening to my sister talk about childhood memories of trips to Modesto to visit, made me ache all over again at not knowing my dad’s side of the family growing up. My mom made the decision, or perhaps let it make itself by simply not taking action, based on several factors. The largest was her own abuse at the hands of her stepfather, which made her wary of men being around young girls, even though she knew at every level that my father was a good man and not capable of such things. I don’t think she necessarily made the decision consciously, but there were no men in her life from the time I got to be about 9 years old. When she got pregnant with me, she actually thought she was already pregnant, and didn’t put 2 + 2 together until I was 4 or 5. Suddenly the timing of my birth (at 5 lbs, though if she had already been pregnant, I would have been about 4 weeks overdue), and the fact that I looked so much like my dad, clicked. By then, my dad was married and had my sisters, and I don’t think my mom wanted to intrude upon that. So we went along that way, with me thinking my dad knew about me but not caring, until I was 21. Then my mom got in touch with my Grandparents, and asked for my dad’s number. He was in his car the following week, coming from Oregon to meet me.

I’m so thankful for that, because he is a wonderful man, and I feel so very loved and cherished by him, my step-mom (not my sisters’ mom, they divorced decades ago), and my sisters. I have nieces and nephews who I love and enjoy and adore. But I do feel sad sometimes, knowing that when my sisters were visiting Modesto, I was just down the road in Stockton, and we could have had time together every summer. I could have gone to Oregon to visit. It could have been, but was not.

Maya was thinking these same thoughts, and getting angry at my mom on my behalf.  I’ve spent a good amount of time angry at her about this very thing, but have made the effort to let that go. Knowing that while what she did was wrong, she truly did her very best for me and my brother, and it does absolutely no good to hang on to anger about what cannot be changed. If we had a time machine, and could go back, of course I would try to change this part of my life, and also have my brother know his father as well. But I can’t, so I have to let it go.

So, I didn’t know my Grandmother the way my sisters did. I know her only as my adult self. I have fond memories of going to visit her in the cool mornings, planting flowers in her yard, helping her to prune back vines that threatened to take over her shed and fence. Memories of bringing Maya to visit when she was a baby. Having lunch with her many a time, and having her tell me to ‘drive defensively’ as I got in the car to go home. She helped to pay for Maya’s preschool education. She included me in every way she could from the day we met. She was a kind, sometimes stern, often awkward woman, and I loved her very much.

One thing I discovered after she died was of her love of horses. I do wish I had known that sooner, though I doubt we would have gone for long horseback rides or anything.

It was sad losing her, but hearing the details of her long life was really nice, and of course getting to see my family was wonderful, as always.

Miscellaneous Stuff

Avo Bagel
Look at that awesome breakfast. Bagel, toasted, with avocado and lemon pepper. That’s it. So delicious. Served with OJ and tea (PG Tips, a bit of milk and sugar). One nice thing about Facebook is that some people post pictures of their food, and you can choose to be inspired by their pictures. I’m not sure I would have come up with this combination on my own, so thank you Facebook!

Then there’s this…the Gluten Free Museum. Famous paintings, with any offending gluten removed. Click the link to see more awesomeness.

Are you a fan of the ‘Little House’ books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder? If so, and if you like knowing the background behind these fictional books, I recommend the newly released “Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography“. It’s an amazing amount of research into almost every detail of Wilder’s unpublished autobiography, “Pioneer Girl”. Wilder first put her memories down and tried to publish them as “Pioneer Girl”, which is the story of her early life. The story is not written for children, and has some darker elements than the ‘Little House’ stories. The decision was made that the stories would better be told as children’s books, and Laura and her daughter Rose worked through the same material, and they turned into the ‘Little House’ stories that we all know and love. The difference between reality and fiction is sometimes jarring. That she had a little brother, who died as an infant, I knew. That the infamous Nellie Oleson was a composite of several girls in Laura’s youth, I knew. But that Jack, Laura’s beloved brindle bulldog and constant companion, was actually given away when Laura was 4…that was too much for me, and I thought I was going to have to breathe into a paper bag to keep from passing out.

If you’re looking for a good book to read, I really enjoyed ‘The Precious One‘, by Marisa de los Santos. I’ve read a couple of her other books, and I really enjoy them. They’re light enough to be an easy read, but I love her writing and her lovely use of language.  Without giving anything important away, this is the story of Taisy and Willow, sisters 18 years apart in age.  They share the same father, who is imperious and overwhelming and towers above their lives. They’ve only met once before, when Willow was a baby, when Taisy comes to stay for a short time at the request of their father.  Taisy is determined to find answers to how her father turned out to be the man he is, the kind of man who would leave her, her mother, and brother, and start over with a new wife and daughter.  Willow is focused on her dislike and jealousy of Taisy, and trying to navigate the treacherous waters of High School, after a life of being home schooled.

Ted and I went to see ‘Wild Tales‘, which was in town for about 15 minutes.  We’re fortunate that there’s one theater in town that plays independent and foreign films. I knew nothing about the movie going in, except that I wasn’t interested in any other movies that were playing, and that it was a foreign film. It’s a series of stories with a common theme, and that’s all I will say. Also, fairly dark, but not horrific, and pretty laugh out loud funny in some parts. Ted thought one woman in the audience was going to choke, she was laughing so hard. I’ll be watching for it to come to Netflix or something, so I can see it again.

Whew.   Now you’re all caught up.  I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve posted…I blame my iPad.  I don’t really like the WordPress app on it, so I get frustrated and don’t bother.  For this post, I pulled out my old laptop.  I should do this more often, clearly. I’ll leave you with the knowledge that Maya is now 19, and that we had a lovely weekend celebrating. Also, if you like to laugh, go look at this.

Friday Randomness


OK, I know I said I don’t care about baseball, or sports in general, but I must admit I got sucked into this series. The drama of it all captivated me, and the scores kept flopping from one team to the next. First SF kicked KC’s butt. Then KC kicked SF’s butt. Back and forth, and it sometimes felt like you weren’t watching the same teams from one night to the next. After the first game, when SF won 7 to 1, I was kind of disgusted with the local press. It was very smug and sure of SF superiority. Sort of like, “Of course we’re going to win, it’s an even year. That’s what we do.” It turned me off, and I was kind of hoping that Kansas City would teach San Francisco a thing or two. Which they did, the second night, when the score was 7 to 2, with Kansas City winning. Then it looked like SF was going to take the victory, with the next few games either close or SF winning. Until Tuesday’s game, when the Royals kicked the Giants butts, 10 to 0. Ouch. That one was painful to watch, and actually we gave up, took a walk, and did other things. Then there was Wednesday’s game 7, which was a real nail biter of a game. I’ll admit, I did other things while watching. But that 9th inning…Bottom of the 9th, Giants to Royals 3 – 2, a runner on 3rd base, two strikes, GAH. That is the drama of baseball. This guy whacks it hard enough, the game could be over. Or, it could go into a stupid amount of innings, like the game a few weeks ago that went 18 innings, and something like 6 1/2 hours. Blech. But no, the guy hit, Panda caught the ball, the game was over. We squeaked that one, and we learned a bit of humility along the way. Today’s the parade, which means traffic will be hell going into SF today. Glad I don’t commute, and I wish Ted didn’t have to.

I love Facebook. You may have read some of my blog posts about my time in Alaska, and I’ve mentioned my friend Amy Derocher, who lived across the street from us. Well, I discovered a group on Facebook the other day, “You know you’re from Fairbanks when…”, where people go to tell their tales. Mostly they fall into two camps, those who were there in the 50s and 60s, and remember the big flood, and those who harken back to the 80s, and talk about what store is now where another store used to be. I was only there for 5 years, from age 4 to age 9, in the early 70s. So anyway, I posted a link to a blog post I wrote several years ago, and Amy Derocher saw it and commented! Of course, I have her name spelled entirely wrong, both the Amy and the Derocher, but still, how wonderful! So we did some FB chatting between the two of us, and it turns out she lives in Santa Cruz, just a couple of hours from here, and she has a beautiful horse. I think I may have to go down there and visit sometime, and bring some pictures to share. Amazing.

I just started a new book, recommended by blog friend Simon, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, which may have the best first sentence I’ve ever come across. “My life might have been so different, had I not been known as the girl whose grandmother exploded.” So far, so good. I’m really enjoying it.

I’m also really enjoying watching “Call the Midwife” on Netflix. I recently noticed that many many of my Facebook friends were talking about it, how much they loved it, how well done it is, etc. So I thought I’d give it a try. If you haven’t seen it, if you like period dramas, I suggest you watch. It’s post war London, the East End, and there’s a group of nuns and nurses who serve as midwives to the community. It’s an era and neighborhood where there doesn’t appear to be any birth control, where women have baby after baby after baby, even though there’s not really enough money for one or two. There are, quite expectedly, lots of scenes of babies being born, all gooey with their umbilical cords looking all blue and alien. I love it. I love the characters and the story lines. It’s produced by BBC and shown on PBS here in America. The first 3 seasons are on Netflix.

Ted and I went to a movie and book shopping the other day. We saw “Dear White People”, which was very good, but maybe not as good as the reviews might lead you to believe. Still, I liked it quite a bit and I’m glad we saw it. We then went to Moe’s, an independent bookstore in Berkeley, which has been around since 1959. My parents likely went there often in their college days, amongst other places. I found several books I wanted, one of which I bought, Why Teach, a book that seems to conform very closely to my own beliefs about education…that the best major to be is an English major, because that’s where you learn to think and grow and be. (I was not an English major, I’ll admit. International Relations for undergrad, Comparative Literature for my Masters. Comp Lit is very similar to English, but the books you read are not American or English, they are instead from other countries.) That the current university system is doing students no favors by catering to them and praising them and inflating their grades, instead of teaching critical thought.
I also saw a couple of other books that I wanted, but couldn’t afford, so I wrote them down and put them on hold at the library. Better for the bank account, and also because we have little room in our house for books, sadly enough. I have the following books on hold:

  • Nine Inches: Stories ~ Tom Perotta
    I’ve read a couple of other books by Perotta, The Leftovers and Little Children. His subject matter is generally very dark, but I like his writing and am interested to read his short stories.
  • Let Me Be Frank With You ~ Richard Ford
    I read what I think is Ford’s most recent book (until this one), Canada, which I really enjoyed. This one is going back to a character he’s had in other books, Frank Bascombe. I read Independence Day, which has the same character, but I don’t think I’ve read The Sportswriter.
  • The Bone Clocks ~ David Mitchell
    I loved Cloud Atlas, the only other book of Mitchell’s that I’ve read. I’m looking forward to reading this one.
  • This is the Story of a Happy Marriage ~ Ann Patchett
    I think my favorite Ann Patchett book was Bel Canto, though I’ve read a few others as well.
  • California ~ Edan Lepucki
    Now we’re getting to a new author, at least for me. I’ve not read anything by Lepucki before, but I keep hearing really great things about this book, so I’m hopeful. I’m number 75 on the list, so it will be awhile.

  • The Goldfinch ~ Donna Tartt
    Another new author for me. I keep seeing this one on the best seller lists in the Sunday paper, so I thought I’d give it a go.
  • Damage ~ Felix Francis
    This is the newest by Felix Francis, son of the late mystery writer, Dick Francis. Dick Francis wrote dozens of mysteries, all relating to his first love, horse racing. After his wife died, Dick started pairing up with his son, Felix, and they would write stories together. Then when Dick passed away, Felix kept the tradition going. I won’t say I like his writing just as much as his father’s, but really it’s very close, and I do enjoy being a part of that world. I don’t actually have this one on hold, Ted’s aunt does. But she lives in my same town, and she reads quite quickly, so she’ll read it, pass it to me, and I’ll tear through it before it’s due back at the library. Yay!

Speaking of Ted’s Aunt, Sondra, she works as the office manager at Maya’s old elementary school, which is a public charter Montessori school. I used to be on the board of directors there, and when they were looking for an office manager, I suggested they interview her, as they needed someone organized to come in and straighten things up, and Sondra is without question the most organized person I know. She started working there in 2005. Fast forward to today, and Maya has been working at Forever 21, and hating it. Hating that she works until 11:00 on Friday and Saturday nights, dreading working on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday and during Christmas break when her friends are home from college. Ted and I don’t like the thought of her walking around the downtown parking garages at that time of night, either, so we end up picking her up after work. Not fun, since we’re old and don’t necessarily want to stay up that late every weekend. So a few weekends ago, I was having lunch with Sondra, and she asked me if I thought Maya might like to come and work at the Montessori, doing after school child care. Um, Yes Please! Maya loved the idea. She truly wanted OUT of F21, but didn’t want to go from having a paycheck to no money (we stopped giving her an allowance…), and this sounded like much better hours. So she applied, which pretty much meant giving them her resume, and she was hired, based on Auntie Sondra’s good word. Nepotism rocks! So she works 3 days a week after school, and is off work at 6, and has weekends free to study or go out with her friends, no holiday working, all of that. Very good news indeed.

Next week is the elections. All of the pundits seem to be predicting a big win for the republicans in the Senate. I hope not. I haven’t even really looked at my voter guide yet, to figure out how I’m going to vote on propositions and so on. I guess I have my homework for the weekend.

I just got an email from Ted…he met Jacques Pepin today! He has been in San Francisco, recording his new TV Show, “Heart and Soul” for KQED, and was at Ted’s radio station to be interviewed. GAH! I’m so envious. I’ve loved Jacques for years. Remember when he had his cooking show, Cooking with Claudine, where he cooked with his daughter? The show where he cooked with his dear friend Julia Child? Sigh. Why not me? He’s like a rock star in my world.

Happy Thanksgiving!

tableHappy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends! Our Friends to the North celebrate Thanksgiving in much the same way we in the U.S. do. Get together with family, eat some turkey, stuffing, sides, maybe a pumpkin pie. Very nice. My loyal readers will remember that my darling husband, Ted, was born in Canada, and has citizenship there, though he’s not claimed it in any way at this point. Because we are a family that enjoys celebrating life when we can, we like to have a Thanksgiving feast in October, just us, and then again in November, with Ted’s family (my parents came to California last year and joined in, which was wonderful). So I spent the day cleaning and shopping and cooking. Set the table with our wedding china, crystal, and silver. I vowed years ago to start using it more often, but when I said those words, I lied them.  (My little homage to Dr. Seuss there…anyone know which story?) So we haven’t broken out the good stuff all together in years. You know what? It was really nice. The table looked beautiful, the food was delicious (even if I do use Stove Top stuffing rather than making my own), and we had a really nice evening.
Here’s the menu:

We had flowers and candles and wine. It was lovely. Generally, we have Canadian Thanksgiving dinner on Monday evening, but this year it made sense to do it on Sunday, which appears to be more authentic anyway. So yay us! It was a little strange, though, as it got up to be almost 90 today, and the talk is about the Giants and their World Series dreams.

It’s Sunday evening as I write this. The Giants just lost game 2, but it’s best 4 out of 7, and it’s currently 1 game each, so don’t give up yet. (I pretend to care, when one of our local teams get this far. Truly, of course, why would I care? The players don’t know me or care about my victories and losses, so whatever.) Ted’s celebrating Thanksgiving by watching “The Walking Dead”. Ugh. I think I’ll read my book, this is far too gory for me.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

* The formatting here is bugging the crap out of me. I’ve fixed this list 3 times, and it keeps getting wonky. I’m going to have to ask you to just ignore how wrong the spacing is on the bullets here, if indeed they are rendering strangely on your screen. For me it’s fine once, then a mess again.

** I had a bit of trouble with my cranberry sauce.  It’s early in the year for fresh cranberries, but I found frozen.  I didn’t have time to thaw them before boiling with sugar and water.  I don’t know if I didn’t boil them long enough or what, but after a couple of hours, they still hadn’t jelled.  I read online to add a little pectin, which I didn’t have.  I remember reading that apples have pectin, and I’ve made strawberry jam with strawberries, sugar, and apples, so I diced up about 1/3 of a Granny Smith apple and threw that in, cooked for maybe 8 minutes, and then let it cool.  I had to put it in the freezer to get it cool in time for dinner, but it worked.   Whew.  Thanksgiving is NOT Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce.

Maya’s Senior Ball

2014-05-18 15.26.24Last night was the Senior Ball for Maya and her classmates. The ball was held in San Francisco, at the new Exploratorium (which Ted and I have not yet seen). They started out with pictures in a local park, then moved on to dinner, then a limo ride into San Francisco for the dance. Home again, then to an after party/sleepover at a friend’s house. She drug herself in at about 6:30 this morning, and as of this writing, is still asleep.

I remember my Senior Prom well, what a good time I had, and how nostalgic I started feeling for my classmates, and how we were on the verge of going on into the world and our many separate ways.

I mentioned something about the dance to the checker at Safeway, because I was getting cash back for her share of the limo ride. The checker said that when she tallied up the price of her daughter’s senior ball, it was about $1,000. I was horrified. And very thankful for my daughter, who wore her cousin’s dress, shoes from last year, carried her aunt’s clutch. She did her own makeup, and I did her hair. So we paid for limo, restaurant, earrings, the ball, and a manicure/pedicure. They didn’t do official photos, as they all gather at the park for photos. I’m not sure exactly how much the total would come up to, but it was definitely around $200.

Her date is an aspiring photographer, and actually took her senior photos for her last summer. He had a fabulous camera set up. I’m looking forward to seeing the pictures he took of the group.

Ted put together a slideshow of photos from his phone. Go check it out on his blog.  Gorgeous!

Still Alive

Still Alive
Yes, I’m still alive. I know, it’s been awhile. I hate writing that at the beginning of a blog post, but somehow, I find myself doing it more and more often. Today I took a few minutes and looked at blogs that I link to from my blogroll. So many of them are defunct, or might as well be. Last post in 2011, 2012, 2013. I should clean them up, move them out. But I don’t use an RSS reader or anything like that. My way of checking to see if you have a new blog post is to click my link, and go look. So I keep them. I want to see if some of you come back to blogging. Who knows…it could happen.

As is often the case when a household consists of two adults and a teen, most of the news around here is about the teen. Let’s see. Well, in one crappy week, she was in her first car accident, and had her first flat tire. Thankfully, the car accident was a tiny fender bender, and no one was hurt. Of course, nowadays a tiny fender bender still means a new bumper, new grill, etc. It wasn’t her fault, so the other insurance company paid for the repairs. Perhaps she could have avoided the accident if she had been paying closer attention, perhaps not. She was parking, and the other driver backed out of a parking place and into the front of our car. She didn’t see it coming, because she was looking into another row for a place there. So I’m glad she learned the lesson of paying better attention now, and in a safe place without getting hurt. Sadly, part of the lesson was that people can be jerks, as the woman who hit her got out of the car and yelled at her. The flat tire came the next week. Don’t know what she hit, or if maybe it was just the tire’s time. What she didn’t know was what a flat tire felt like, so she continued driving, wanting to get home. Bad move, but again, we were lucky and her driving on a flat didn’t cause any damage to the wheel. So…she’s learned a few things about auto stuff lately.

Also, she had her first opportunity to vote! We had a tiny little special election here, to renew a bond measure for the local high school district. I was unsure as to WHY they chose to have a mail-in ballot in May, when there is a much larger election scheduled for June, which will surely attract a much larger voting population. We (Ted and I) decided that it must be because they felt like they would get a better, more dedicated vote than they would get from the general public. Whether that was the reason for the strategy or not, it worked, and the bond measure passed. So the local high schools will continue to be well funded.

Which chaps my hide. Don’t get me wrong, I voted for it. I want the schools to be well funded. But it’s frustrating to the nth to me that this is how our schools work. You live in a wealthy enclave, and the people vote to support the schools. Why? Because it’s OUR KIDS. But a vote to support the schools on a larger, state wide, basis? A vote that would make the schools a bit more equal? Hell no. Why would we want to vote to support OTHER PEOPLE’S KIDS? Grrr. I miss the days back when I grew up, when schools were better funded, there was money for things like school buses, art, PE, etc., without having to tap different areas for different amounts of money.

So anyway, she voted, we voted, and the measure passed. That was a mail in election, and the next one will be a walk in election. I have, in the past, requested a mail in ballot, because gosh, it’s just SO DARNED EASY. Deep down, though, I can’t get past the idea that maybe they don’t bother to count those votes. Also, I kind of like the ritual of going into the little ballot box and marking the ballot myself. I liked when we lived in Philly, and you made your selections, then pulled a big lever down that punched holes or something. That was pretty satisfying.

We received news that Maya was awarded a scholarship for $1,000 from Burger King, which is funny because we don’t eat much fast food. I’m the junk food junkie in the house, and I don’t eat it THAT often. I think she’s probably been to BK twice in her life. But anyway, we applied for the scholarship, and she received it, which is great news. $1,000 now will pay for most of a semester’s expenses at a community college, as long as you live at home. Tuition and books. Which brings me back to my earlier point about funding the schools. Back until the mid-80s, community colleges in California were free. Then in 1985, they started charging tuition, which was a flat $50, no matter how many courses or units you took. When I transferred to San Francisco State University, it was about $450 a semester for tuition. My friend Janet transferred from community college to UC Berkeley, and her tuition was a little over $700. So a semester at a community college now is about the cost of a semester at Cal back in the late 80s. Which would be very well and good if wages had gone up that much, but of course they haven’t. Wages are higher, but the minimum wage has about doubled, which college costs have exceeded that at an alarming rate. She’s applied for a few more scholarships, and we’re hoping to get her next semester’s fees paid for as well. If we can avoid dipping into the little bit of savings that we have until she goes to a four year as a JR, that would be great.

Which brings me to my next thought. Really, a brag. The same week as her AP test, I found another local scholarship I thought she should apply for. One that required her to write 2 very short essays, get letters of recommendation, and have a resume. Being the quick turnaround time (2 days), I offered to write the resume for her, as she’s never done one for herself, and she had the AP exam to study for. I’m impressed. There are surely kids who have done more, and kids who have done less. But she’s an AP Scholar with a strong GPA, is a member of 3 clubs at her school (for 2 of them, she’s co-president), she’s been a cheerleader, in the school choir, and on the school paper. She’s volunteered over and over again (mostly through Girl Scouts) to wonderful organizations that help children, animals, and adults in rough times. I wish my resume had looked like that at her age. Mine was more like, “Two years at Mr. Steak, three years in the Dungeons and Dragons club, crappy GPA, decent test scores”. So yes, I’m proud.

Along with the end of High School (she graduates June 13th) comes the Senior Ball next weekend, and the end of Girl Scouts. She’s been involved for 10 years now, and I am so glad that she joined, and that she stuck with it for this long. The troop has dwindled down to 5 girls, and they don’t see each other or keep in touch the way they once did. But they’re still close, and have shared wonderful experiences. They have put in a lot of time, volunteering, camping, working on badges. I hope they are forever friends, even if that means the kind of friends who keep in touch online only, once in awhile. They’re all great girls, doing wonderful things with their lives, and I’m proud of them all. This next chapter will be an exciting one for them indeed.

My life? Not as exciting, but still pretty good. We went to Stockton a few weeks ago to celebrate my Great-Aunt’s 90th birthday. My Great-Aunt, who was in the delivery room with my mom when I was born. She took me on a trip with her and her daughter in the late 70s. We drove through Yosemite (drought, so no waterfalls), up to Tahoe, and had a great time. She loaned me money to pay that first $450 tuition check at San Francisco State, because my mom had no money and I had blithely moved out, gone out on my own with no money to my name, trusting that all would work out. Somehow it did. My roommate’s father loaned us money for first/last/security deposits. My great Aunt payed my tuition. My friend’s parents let me sleep on their sofa until we had our apartment, and while I started my job and got money for school books. Looking back, I can’t believe I got away with it.

I have a new computer for work. I love it. It’s faster, and a newer operating system. What I like the most about it is that it’s a laptop, which means when it gets hot here, I can work downstairs where it’s much cooler. My office is in the bedroom, which is upstairs and gets full on afternoon sun, which is lovely in the cold of winter, and fine until the temps get to be about 85 or 90. Once it’s 90 degrees outside, and 3:00 or so with the sun beating through the window full force, it gets to be about 80 downstairs, and I don’t know how much hotter upstairs, but I start sweating while at my desk, which I DO NOT LIKE. I don’t like turning on the A/C when the sun is hitting that room, it feels like it’s fighting a losing battle. I’d prefer to wait until the sun goes down, and then turn on the A/C if need be to cool the bedroom down enough for sleep. Now, when I’m upstairs, I have a docking station for the laptop, which means a huge monitor (good for my aging eyes), a full sized keyboard, and a mouse. Downstairs, I can bring all of that if I really want to, or I can just bring the laptop down with me. It’s great.

This coming weekend, my parents are coming for a very quick visit. They live in Portland. My step-mom is a big wig in the yoga community, and owns a very successful yoga studio there. One of the museums in SF has an exhibit about the birth of yoga, so they’re coming down on Friday, seeing the exhibit on Saturday, going home on Sunday. Maya’s Senior Ball is Saturday night, so we’re not available that day, but we will go into the City and have dinner with them Friday night. I’m excited to try the fancy French restaurant where we have a reservation, and of course I’m excited to see them.

That seems like enough for now. I did try a nice sausage and polenta recipe the other day that I may share soon, and we might go to a movie for Mother’s Day tomorrow. If we see something worth seeing, I’ll let you know.

Doing Your Part

(Jesus the Homeless, by Timothy Schmalz)

Last Saturday morning found Maya and me (and her friend) in San Francisco, handing out meals to homeless people. We had done this once before, when she was in 7th or 8th grade. In that instance, it was for a class, Teens Around the World, in which they learned about kids in other cultures. A group of 10 or 15 kids, the teacher, and several parents went into the city and handed out bag lunches, which the student had assembled the day before in class. It was kind of an amazing experience, and I think it helped Maya to overcome her fear of homeless people.

Back when she was 5 or so, we were in the city for the day, and walking around Union Square. There was a very angry, confused, smelly, and LOUD homeless man, who was yelling profanities at people as they passed by. He was scary. From then on, Maya said she didn’t like San Francisco and didn’t want to go into the city. As time went on, she amended that to say she didn’t like downtown, but the park and some of the outer neighborhoods were OK. Finally, as she got older and had more good experiences in the city, she finally overcame her dislike of downtown, though it took engagement and interaction with homeless people in 7th grade to cure her of her fear. It helped her to humanize them and realize that they are people, just like everyone else.

So for her senior project in English class, she had to write a paper, work with a mentor, have a practical aspect, and give a presentation.  For the paper, she worked with her mentor, who is a journalist at the San Francisco Chronicle who focuses on homelessness. The practical part was giving away sandwiches.  So she recruited some students from her Human Rights Club at school to assemble lunches, and then she and one other girl went to Civic Center and started handing them out. Again, it was really a rewarding experience.  Taking the time to stop and look at, talk to, the homeless amongst us not only reminded us of their humanity, but of course of our own as well.  Similar to volunteering at a soup kitchen or delivering Meals on Wheels, I think that when you do these things, do just a little bit to lighten the load of someone in need, you get more than you give.  Maya told me that not many of the kids in the club could come that day, but they were inspired by assembling the meals, and they may try to organize a bigger group and go in again.  I hope they do.

The Big 5-0

R & J008
Richard is turning 50 today. How can this be?  It’s a shocker in some ways.  He told me recently that he was more affected by my 20th birthday than he was his own.  I think I feel that way about his 50th.  I mean, What?  Then again, 50 is the new 40, or the new 30, or whatever.  Is it weird that I now look at pictures of my grandmother in her early 50s, and my parents, and think they look young?  They looked so old and mature and responsible to me then.  Now I wonder if they knew what they were doing.

I don’t question that Richard knows what he’s doing.  This is just my wandering brain.  He’s living a good life, seems to be enjoying his job, definitely enjoying being married to my wonderful sister-in-law Kathy.  I wish I lived closer, so we could share some cake and ice cream or whatever.  I’m picturing Angel Food cake, which is my idea of his favorite…no chocolate sauce, etc.

Happy Birthday, old man brother of mine.  I’m right behind you.