Throwback Thursday

Me and Rosemary, back when we decided to strike it rich and pan for gold.

I have a friend and she comes from the high plains
Wise as the hills and fresh as the rains
I have a friend and she taught me daring
Threw back the windows and let the air in

For all she knows
Bless my blue moon rose

I have a friend and we talk about books
She comes around and she drinks while I cook
Took me an atlas to find her town
And to realise that the world was round

For all she knows
Bless my blue moon rose

~ Everything But the Girl

My darling friend Rosemary and me, above, in Old Town Sacramento, probably early 1984.

We met in early 1982, when she returned to our hometown from Santa Barbara where she had travelled to be part of a ballet company there. We were in High School, and her brother and my brother were friends, and that is how we met. We fell in love from day one, and were fast friends.

We were always at each other’s houses, went out whenever we could, worked together when we could. We lived together for a bit after college, when she came to San Francisco to get away from a crappy boyfriend. I can tell her anything. I hope she can tell me anything. She is true and strong and a fierce friend. A mutual friend once described her as ‘a force of nature’. Exactly right.

As with many long term friendships, we have had our times when we don’t talk much. Interests change, we both married well, we both have beautiful children. Then the careers get involved, and there’s not a lot of time. As we’ve gotten a bit older, and our kids don’t need us as much, and careers settle a bit, we’ve come back together. She still lives 3,000 miles away, which I hate. I wish I could see her all of the time, poke back and forth into each other’s houses like characters on a TV show. But the song above is correct. She opened my mind in so many ways, and spending time with her has enriched my life. Bless my Blue Moon Rose, indeed.

Friday Recap

Pumpkin pie on the beach in Hawaii – My sister’s wise solution to the blues

Thanksgiving is over, and it was a lovely day.  Mulder and I went for a very long walk in the morning, much longer than usual, and we were tired when we got home.  Too bad, because I still had some cooking to do.  Thankfully I had started the day before, or I wouldn’t have gotten it done in time.

We had all of the family favorites, which means there was way too much food and not everyone ate everything, but we all ate what we wanted.  Some at turkey, some didn’t.  Some at potatoes, some didn’t.  Some ate cranberry sauce, some didn’t.  The salad I made with Brussels sprouts, pomegranates, and apples was a hit, I think everyone tried that.  But we all laughed and enjoyed each other, and it was a nice time.  We had some delicious wine, and with dinner, champagne.  We decided to skip the pie this year, since we’re generally too full anyway.   I don’t think anyone missed it.

I’ve only spent one Thanksgiving with my Dad, but this being his first year gone, I missed him horribly.  I’ve spent many Thanksgivings with my Mom, and I missed her horribly.  I missed my grandma horribly.  I guess as you get older, that’s a part of holidays, missing people horribly, and finding a way to enjoy your day nonetheless.  I talked to my stepmom when we got home.  She didn’t have a horrible day, she said it was OK.  I think that’s the best things like this, things she and my Dad did together, are going to be for awhile.  My heart ached for her.  For all of us.

One of my sisters has been feeling pretty blue for awhile, having a hard time with losing Dad, (well, all three of us actually) and decided that she needed something to look forward to.  So a month or so ago, she came home from work and booked a trip for the family to go to Hawaii.  That’s what the picture above is from.  I hope it helps, and she is a bit stronger when they get back.  Sometimes you need a little sunshine.

Today I went to Stockton to see my cousin, who is up visiting from Santa Maria.  We went to Manny’s for avocado burgers for lunch, then went to the hardware store to buy smoke detectors for my Great Aunt’s house.  Do we know how to party, or what?  On the way home, I was talking to another cousin on the phone, and we were laughing about how we all grew up in Stockton, and couldn’t wait to get the heck out.  I don’t know how much you would have to pay me to move back there, but it would be a LOT.

I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving, and that if you are missing loved ones, that the memory of times spent together will help lesson the pain a bit.

Throwback Thursday

Dad and Dick Gipson, New York

When my Dad died, we divided up the list of people to notify, and one of the people on my list was my Dad’s ex girlfriend, Kit. Dad and Kit dated for awhile in the early 60s, when he dropped out of college, and they moved to New York together. As Kit tells it, they moved to New York because someone had posted an ad in the paper that they needed someone to drive their car to New York from Oakland, and it seemed like a good idea. The picture above, which Ted likes to call my Dad’s album cover, is of my Dad (on the left) and Kit’s friend (Dad’s friend too, but Kit’s friend first) Dick.

I never met Dick, but at some point after this photo was taken, he and my mom got married. My mom was pregnant with Richard, though Dick was not the father. I believe they were married about 8 days before Richard was born. Dick and my mom were good friends, and Dick was trying very hard to live a ‘normal’ life, because he was gay. He had not told my mom that he was gay, and I don’t know how long it was before she figured it out. But they tried their best to be a married couple and raise Richard together. She had panicked at the idea of raising him alone, and marrying Dick seemed like a perfect solution.

Needless to say, it was not the perfect solution. Dick drank too much, and their marriage was not a happy one. They were separated (and my mom thought she was pregnant with Dick’s baby) when my Dad stopped by one fateful day to tell her he was leaving to go to Massachusetts, to serve his alternate service, as he refused the draft (and was convicted for it, and given alternate service). One thing led to another, and here I am.

I’m not sure how my mom didn’t realize I was not Dick’s child, but Michael’s. She could be pretty dense (as I’m sure we all can sometimes), and when the doctor told her she didn’t seem nearly far along enough for the baby considering the dates she had given him, he asked her if she was sure about the last time she had been with her husband, and she said yes, she was sure…it didn’t occur to her to tell him (or herself) that she had been with someone else a couple of months later. Which is how I was born at 5lbs, and she thought I was a 10 month pregnancy. A couple of years later, when Dad was already married to Mary (Maya and Melissa’s mom), her friend Kate (who knew my dad a little bit), commented on how much I looked like him, and asked why she hadn’t named me Michelle. A light bulb went off over her head, and she realized the truth.

My dad thought maybe I might be his, and Mary asked once if I was, because I looked like him, but this was before my mom even realized it herself, so because she acted so blaze’ about the whole thing, he figured no, I couldn’t be. Until she called him in October of 87, and started our meeting in motion, finally.

So that’s a lot of background for the picture above, but one thing that struck me when Kit very kindly sent me this picture, and others, of Dad and Dick and herself way back when, is how YOUNG they all are. 19 or 20. Younger than my own child. It’s hard to imagine ones parents being younger than your child, but of course they were, once. It’s interesting to see, and to think a bit about what life was like for them at the time, how different than mine at that age (and in other ways, how similar).

Dia de Difuntos

Dia de Muertos is a time to pray for and remember friends and family who have died.  It is traditionally a Mexican holiday, and a Catholic one.  I’ve never really paid any attention to it before, but the bright orange flowers reminded me of my Dad, and my Grandma died last year in November, so it made sense to me to buy some flowers and make a small alter with some pictures of Dad, Mom, and Grandma.  There are too many others that I could easily include…my Uncle Forrest, my Grandma Wells, my Grandpa Ward, etc.  For today, I’m keeping it to these three, the most difficult losses I have had to bear thus far in my life.

The marigolds that I bought came with a tag about Dia de Muertos, and had a quote that I liked.

“There is more time than life.”

The more I find that to be true, the less I like it.

Marigolds

Dad in New York, early 60s

Mom, 1990

Grandma, 1970s

My parents, 1987

Dad’s Memorial

Flowers that my sisters picked for the memorial

My Dad’s memorial was last weekend. It was difficult. But it was very nice as well. It was a lovely service and very well attended. I think there were maybe 300 people there, which showed how many people’s lives he touched. There were people there from the alternative newspapers that he started way back when, from his time managing (and more recently as a board member) an alternative, non profit radio station, from his many years working in grant writing, from mentoring others to writing books, to teaching classes. People from Meals on Wheels, where he volunteered as a delivery person for over 20 years. People from my step-mom’s life as a top tier yoga instructor in Oregon. People from the neighborhood. Friends and family. Lots of family.

It was lovely to see my step-mom, Julie, and to spend some time with her. We went to the beautiful Japanese Garden in Portland, hiked in Forest Park, and ate delicious dinners. It was lovely to spend some time with my sister Melissa, shopping for birthday gifts for my niece and nephew, buying a thank you gift for the kind neighbor who took us in when Ted and Maya joined me a few days in (I went up on Thursday morning, and stayed at the house with Julie, who has two big cats. Ted is VERY allergic, so once he and Maya came up on Saturday, we stayed the next couple of nights at the neighbor’s house.) We went up to Lewis and Clark to see the chapel for the memorial. It was so nice to have some time, sad as it was, just with my sisters and step mom, where she gave us a copy of Dad’s arrest documents from Georgia in 1963, where he was arrested for being part of a march for civil rights, as well as copies of his books, etc. Once Ted and Maya joined me on Saturday morning, we spent a bit of time just the three of us. We went downtown and bought a new shirt for Ted, and had a very nice brunch.  We then went to my sister’s house to arrange the flowers that my sisters had picked at a U Pick farm while I was picking Ted and Maya up from the airport.  Saturday night we went to dinner as a large group, maybe 25 or 30 of us, close friends and family who were in town for the memorial. Sunday was the memorial, which was hard. Monday we went for a hike in Forest Park, then lunch at the house with Julie, then flew home. It was very nice to be home.

The memorial service itself was very nice. In addition to the officiant, Dad’s three daughters each spoke, as did his two best friends. It was hard to get up in front of that many people, but more sad than scary. I started crying pretty much right away, but managed to get through it all. I had ideas of using inflection in my voice and so on, but that did not happen. I just read it and barely got through. I looked down at my hands at one point and saw that my hand was shaking, so I guess I was nervous. Here is what I said.

My dad has been my stalwart, supporting me through tragedy and triumph.  There to cheer me on through life’s events, big and small.  Life in college.  Falling in love with my beloved husband, Ted.  Moving across the country.  Giving birth to my darling daughter, Maya.  Supporting me through the pain of my mother’s death in 2008.  Buying a house.  Getting a job.  Losing a job.

I didn’t know my dad growing up, we have never lived in the same city, or even the same state.  We met when I was 21, and he was 44, when he drove from Portland to San Francisco to meet me.  Since the day we met in October of 1987, he has been there for me, loving me, being my dad.

If you are here today, celebrating his life, you know the kind of man he was.  You know that he has always had a deep sense of justice.  You know that he is kind.  You know that he worked hard his entire life in support of both justice and kindness.  You know that he wanted to have adventures, and enjoy the successes in life.  You know that he was grateful for all of the gifts afforded him. You know that he loved his family deeply, and was a devoted father, husband, and friend.

My inheritance, then, is to live my life following his example, in my own ways. To care deeply about issues that are important, and for those that I love.  To find ways to work for justice.  To be kind whenever possible.  (And it is nearly always possible.) To live my life with integrity, to listen to my inner voice, and trust that voice.  To give of my heart, my time, and my effort.  Most of all, to be grateful for the gifts afforded me, and that he was my much loved Dad.

Dad’s Obituary


Michael Wells passed away unexpectedly on Wednesday July 5, 2017 while hiking in the Dolomites in Italy on a long anticipated trip with his wife, Julie Lawrence, who was the love of his life. He lived his life true to his moral compass, leading with compassion and by example. In addition to being a devoted husband, father, and grandfather, he was a grant writer, social activist, consultant, journalist, professor, and business owner. He was a thoughtful, quiet man motivated by his strong beliefs to do the right thing, not seeking public recognition for his actions. Yet, because of his dedication to and deep involvement with many organizations and causes, he lived a public life.

Michael was born August 2, 1943 in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio to Georgia King Wells and Donald Allen Wells. Michael and his parents moved from Ohio to the central valley of California in 1945. He grew up in Modesto, CA in the house that his father built room by room, over several years.

Michael’s strong belief in social justice, civil rights, and equality for all was evident in his lifelong personal actions and community engagement. During his 20’s, he was deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement. He dropped out of UC Berkeley and traveled to the East Coast, where he joined the Committee for Nonviolent Action. He was arrested for civil disobedience in 1963, along with the rest of the group, while traveling through Georgia in the Quebec to Guantanamo March for Peace and Freedom. He also joined The March on Washington. He was again arrested and jailed in San Francisco, CA for participating in the Sheraton Palace sit-ins.

Committed to non-violence, he refused induction into the army during the Vietnam War, and was granted conscientious objector status. He moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts where he served probation alternative service in lieu of military service.

Michael and his first wife, Mary, moved to Portland Oregon. He was founder and editor of the Willamette Bridge, an alternative newspaper that centered around community organizing, and became the fourth largest newspaper in Oregon. He later founded the Portland Scribe in 1972. With the birth of their twin daughters, Maya and Melissa, Michael made Portland, OR his home for the remainder of his life. His daughters were a source of love, pride and happiness throughout his life.

Throughout the 1970’s and 80’s, he had a varied work life as station manager of KBOO community radio, writing for Willamette Week, fund-raising for the ACLU, grant writing and fund-raising to start Hospice House. It was at this time he completed his college degree and then went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Humanities. In 1986 he began practicing yoga, where he met his future wife, Julie Lawrence.

In 1987 Michael received unexpected and joyous news with the discovery of his third and oldest daughter, Julie Ward Asregadoo, whom he enfolded into his life.

In 1987 he started his own business, Grants Northwest. He took his passion for social justice and turned it into his profession. For the next thirty years he wrote grants for nonprofits, championing causes he cared about. Through his work at Grants Northwest, Michael helped over 100 nonprofit organizations, American Indian tribes and local governments to raise over $150 million. Clients included organizations in the arts, aging, alcohol and drug services, community action, education, the environment, healthcare, housing, women’s services, youth and minority services. On a national level, Michael was a former board member of the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) where he was Treasurer for 4 years and chaired the 2002 national conference in Portland. He was a past board member and president of the Grant Professionals Certification Institute (GPCI) where he was heavily involved in developing the GPC certification process. Michael also taught grant writing for Portland State University’s Public Administration Department. He wrote and published four books on grant writing.

In 1992 Michael married Julie Lawrence in the back yard of their new home. Their 25th wedding anniversary would have been this August. Michael and Julie loved spending time with family and grandkids, dancing and going to theater and dance performances. They also loved to travel — favorite destinations included India, Bali, Machu Picchu, Europe, Thailand, the Galápagos Islands, and the Serengeti as well as several places in the US, Canada, and Mexico.

Michael was a runner for almost 40 years (the name of his Hood to Coast team was the Running Dogs). He was a compulsive reader, tackling several books with varied topics at the same time. Music was central to his life and he filled his home with an amazing variety of music. Michael was an avid volunteer throughout his life as well. He delivered Meals on Wheels for over two decades on the downtown Portland route, was a regular blood donor, served as Board Treasurer for KBOO, and actively volunteered on many political campaigns.

Michael was preceded in death by his parents and his younger brother Robert (Bobby) Wells. He is survived by his wife, Julie Lawrence; daughters and sons-in-laws, Julie Asregadoo (Ted Asregadoo), Melissa Wells (Jason Gibb), Maya Wells (Herb Jahncke); and his grandchildren, Maya Asregadoo, Jack and Sophie Barinaga and Chloe and Justin Jahncke.

(A celebration of his life will be held on September 10, 2017 at 2 pm, Agnes Flanagan Chapel, Lewis and Clark College. In honor of Michael wear something orange.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Oregon Community Foundation. www.oregonCF.org

Heartbroken

Dad and Me, January 1988

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,-
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

We suffered a shocking loss this week, when my vibrant and healthy father died from a heart attack while hiking the Italian Alps with my step-mom, Julie. My sister Maya has gone to Italy to be with her while they wait for the necessary paperwork to be completed, so they can send his ashes home. This is a huge loss, confusing and horrible. We, and so many others, will miss him desperately.

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.
image

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.
image

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.

Failure and Success

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Tuesday was Maya’s 20th Birthday, and also Spring Break for the elementary school where she works, so she didn’t have work that day. Spring Break at her college was last week, so she did have school, but she decided to play hooky and spend the day with us, her loving parents. I love this kid. (Not a kid at 20, but still MY kid)

We recently watched the movie “Chef” on HBO. Have you seen that movie? It’s really cute, about a chef in Los Angeles who is working for a restaurant that is uninspired and doesn’t allow him to showcase his creativity, and he ends up quitting his job, flying across the country, and starting up a food truck, driving across the country selling Cuban sandwiches. Maya decided that for her birthday, she wanted to go into San Francisco and get Cuban sandwiches. So she went online and found a place that gets fabulous reviews, which is in fact a corner store that also has a little sandwich area. So off we went. When we got there, we discovered that it wasn’t a traditional Cuban sandwich like you might get in Havana, but is instead a Torta Cubana, which has ham, cheese, mayonnaise, chorizo, chicken, pickled peppers, sour cream, fried egg, milanesa, avocado, and hot dog slices. Way too much, when what we were looking for has roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on Cuban bread, which is buttered and grilled in a press, like a panini. Failure

So I looked on my phone, and found another restaurant, known for the Cuban version (rather than the Mexican Torta). We drove across town, and when we got there, discovered they had shut down, permanantly. Looked for another place, also shut down. Clearly, our internet research skills are lacking.Failure

Ted had to go to work that afternoon, so we found a sandwich shop near his office, and had a late lunch there. No Cubans in sight, but it was nice nonetheless. Since Maya was born in Philadelphia, I had the Philly Cheese, which was quite good. Success (at last)

After dropping Ted off at work, Maya and I went to the Legion of Honor, so we could see a lovely painting by Raphael, Portrait of a Lady with a Unicorn. We do love the Legion of Honor…the views of San Francisco’s skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge, the smell of the sea, the gorgeous Cypress trees, and of course the beautiful paintings and sculptures. The current exposition is a collection of Pierre Bonnard’s paintings from around the world, which we very much enjoyed. Success

The following day, I saw a recipe online that looked pretty good to me, for Rajma, or Red Kidney Bean Curry, which popped up on Facebook, since I follow Smitten Kitchen there. In her post, she mentions a spice mixture that she found at Whole Foods and loved, and eventually figured out how to make herself. I thought that perhaps I might try it, and since sometimes spices in my cabinet can get a bit old, I’d just use the mix. So I went to the spice blend website, which said it was carried at both our local Whole Foods and at another local grocery store. So I went to Whole Foods (since I was in that neighborhood), and searched for the mix. Nope. Not in the Indian food section, nor in the spice section. I asked at customer service, and they said they had never heard of the brand. Sigh. So I went to the Indian spice shop across the street, where I was also out of luck. Failure I asked the woman at the spice shop, and she said the spices for Rajma are coriander, cumin, and garam masala. I had cumin at home that was fairly fresh, so I bought some coriander and garam masala and went on my way. I made the recipe for dinner and served it with rice, and it was delicious indeed. Ted said he could eat it every week, so I suspect I’ll be making it again soon. I varied the recipe in that I added a bit of garam masala, which the recipe did NOT call for, but the woman at the spice shop said it should. Really good. Success

Another recipe I tried this week was something that I saw on America’s Test Kitchen, which was lentils and rice with crispy onions, which included cumin and cinnamon. As they are known to do, America’s Test Kitchen tries the recipe several ways and tweaks it until they feel they have it just right. The recipe was supposed to be a pilaf type recipe, with tender lentils and fluffy rice, and crispy fried onions. When I made it, however, the rice came out gloppy and disgusting, and the flavors were blah. So Maya and I had bagels for dinner, and when Ted came home from work he had leftovers. Failure

Maya, as you know, has been attending our local community college for the last two years, in order to save money. Now she’s finishing up her Sophomore year, and is getting ready to transfer. She applied to one California State University, SF State (where Ted and I met!), and perhaps 6 University of California schools. She has heard from SF State, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Santa Cruz, and she is accepted to all three. YAY! She likely won’t hear from the others for a few more weeks. Her first and second choices are UC Berkeley and UC Davis, so we’re hoping for those. But if they don’t work out, she has some very good options to consider. Success!