Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Using Resources Wisely

I've never told you this, but when I was in school, I used to tell tall tales. I didn't want to, I tried not to, but I would open my mouth and out would come a lie of mammoth proportions. A totally made up story of something that had never happened. And then, one day, I was telling one of my stories and someone who had heard it before called my attention to a change in the details, which caused me to respond, "Who's telling this lie, you or me?" And, just like that, I was cured. I may still elaborate for the good of the story, but you can bet that the event itself occurred.

I think that another reason I don't need to lie any longer is that I live in Alaska -- I don't need to make things up, the most amazing things actually happen here.

Such as the time, in the early days of flight, a pilot flew the first plane into Barrow one cold, windy, winter day. He landed his little two-seater plane, and then was in a real fix, as there was nothing to tie it down to. No fence posts. No trees. While he was trying to figure out what to do, and holding on to the plane with all of his might, fighting the wind that was trying to snatch it from his hands and his life, the local men poured out of their homes, tied ropes to various parts of the plane, pulled the ropes out in straight lines, laid them on the ground and peed on them. The hot urine immediately froze solid to the ice under it and the plane was safely anchored for his entire stop over.

Now tell me, what on earth could I make up that tops that?

Read further -- two more posts today.

Drunken Birds

Deja Pseu's comment yesterday made me think of this. In the interior of Alaska, up Fairbanks way, there are lots of berries, but no indigenous fruit trees, and only two fruit trees which, having been imported, will put out fruit. The crab apple and the chokecherry. Just the sound of those puckers my lips -- no thought of eating the fruit of those trees just as it comes from the tree would ever cross anyone's mind.

At Antler Manor, we had a lovely chokecherry tree in the back yard. The robins came through on their way south in the fall and stripped the fruit.

Except the year that we had the early freeze, when they flew over Fairbanks without their usual layover, and the chokecherries stayed on the tree all winter long. And fermented.

And in the spring, when everything thawed out and the robins returned, we had flocks of drunken robins in our yard. Flying into things. Laying on the ground and letting us pick them up. Absolutely out of it.

In A Nutshell follows.

In A Nutshell

In a Nutshell

A place set aside to answer 201 autobiographical questions
from a mother for her daughter. This may take awhile...join us if you like.

30. I was generally popular or unpopular because.

As a person who pretty much went her own way, and was never as much concerned with what others thought about me as others of my age, I didn't bother with the things a person had to do to be really popular. I followed the style only up to a certain point -- before high school, I didn't want to be the only one doing things (although in high school I gloried in it), I also was never willing to do things that didn't feel right to me. By which, I don't mean that I wouldn't break rules or was a "goody two-shoes" but rather that I was never willing to let the boys win games or not be perceived as smart in order to fit in. I held girls who pulled sissy tricks like that in great scorn.

I wonder if I was too self-centered to be popular? I not only didn't mind being the smartest girl in class, I flaunted it. This in a time when girls weren't supposed to be smart, and it wasn't even a good idea for boys to take pride in their brains. I liked knowing and being able to do things other people didn't. I couldn't have been too obnoxious, since I always had good friends everywhere I went, but none of them would ever have qualified for popular, either. Neither I nor my friends were disliked, but we were never popular. Never wanted to be.

On the other hand, I was always able to get along with most kids on a superficial, daily level. I never was at a loss for people to talk to and hang out with and have fun with, no matter what group I was with. We might not share deep secrets, but we didn't shun each other, either. One of the girls in my neighborhood my sophomore year of high school was sort of the school bad girl, and we had many a pleasant chat.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Cedar Waxwings

In front of Auntie's house was a pyracantha bush. It had white flowers in the spring, which then fell off and the bush was covered in small, red berries by fall. And in the winter, when the trees were all bare and the fog hung low over the ground, the cedar waxwings would fly through. The sky would be full of huge flocks of over 100 small birds, moving with grace and beauty, resting on the bare branches of the trees.

And I would walk home from school to find the pyracantha bush covered with the pretty little guys. They would be in our yard for part of a day, and then they would be gone, the bush would be bare, and there would be white on the flagstone path to the front door.

And that would be the last we would see of the waxwings for the year. They flew in one day, and if I missed them, if I was in class when it happened, I missed them. They stripped the bushes clean of the berries that they loved, and they moved on -- being birds, they need to eat their weight a day* and since they travel in such large flocks, they can't afford to hang around where the food is gone. One of their loveliest tricks is when the branch that they rest on while eating will only hold one bird at a time, they will pass berries from beak to beak, making sure that the whole flock gets fed.

They have a cousin, the Bohemian waxwing, which is slightly larger and migrates in an unpredictable pattern. Otherwise, it behaves like its smaller relatives.

* Remember that next time someone says they eat like a bird!

In A Nutshell follows.

In A Nutshell

In a Nutshell

A place set aside to answer 201 autobiographical questions
from a mother for her daughter. This may take awhile...join us if you like.

29. I admired this friend because of the following talents.

I admired my friend Jane Thornburg because of her individuality. Jane is an artist, which always impresses me, as I am not. But, mostly she has a sense of her own style which is very individual and clear and she has as long as I've known her. I met her when I went to my second high school, in Modesto. I was a junior and Jane was a sophomore when we met; we were introduced by Michael, who was also a sophomore and in my geometry class. I was the only non-sophomore in the class, having had to drop out the previous year because after I had missed school to have my tonsils out, I had impetigo and wasn't allowed to go to school until it had cleared up (those being the days before antibiotic creams, and impetigo being highly contagious). Otherwise, I never would have met Michael, and Michael would never have introduced me to Jane and I would never have introduced them to Robert and then Jane and Robert wouldn't have had David and Michael and I wouldn't have had Julie and I wouldn't be Maya's Granny.

Anyway, Jane was, like me, living with her great-aunt, which gave us a unique thing in common, as that wasn't standard in 1958. Aunt Kay, like Auntie, was more sophisticated than the parents of most of our contemporaries, so we had a more cosmopolitan outlook than the average high school student in the small, farming community we lived in. Jane came from New England, which also gave her a distinctly different perspective for California -- Jane and I were the only two students I knew who hadn't grown up in Modesto, who were aware of how provincial it was.

When I did my term paper in American Literature on James Thurber, Jane copied a few of his cartoons to include (Thurber and Jane were both acknowledged), which delighted Mr. Marconi. He said that it was wonderful to get to the last report in the pile and find cartoons to make him smile and wake him up. I'm sure that was at least part of the reason I got such a good grade.

Jane did things that totally delighted and surprised me. One day, when we were walking in Berkeley, a man came up to Jane (who was wearing a pendant watch) and asked if she had the time. "Yes," she said, and in literal New England fashion, walked on. When I asked her why she hadn't told him what time it was, she was surprised that I thought that he had asked.

While Robert, Michael, and I went to UC Berkeley, Jane went to San Francisco State. I don't think there is much if any campus housing at SFS, since Jane rented a wonderful Victorian apartment with a bay window and high ceiling and all sorts of architectural interest. And then, which was a thing I had not known a tenant could do, she painted it to please herself. I was soooo impressed. Jane found Cost Plus and furnished her apartment in imported beauty.

When Jane and Robert were married, Jane was the first person I knew to bake her own bread and prepare recipes from unusual sources. These days she lives in Grass Valley with her second husband in a wonderful house with an open floor plan and masses of windows that they built themselves. She has had to dislodge the neighbor's peacocks from her rafters and the last time I was there, I watched a small green amphibian of some sort flit across her kitchen floor. The house is full of her art and feels just like her. Open, lovely, not overly organized or conventional.

I think that Aunt Kay may have been a bit eccentric, as well.

Monday, February 26, 2007

In A Nutshell

In a Nutshell

A place set aside to answer 201 autobiographical questions
from a mother for her daughter. This may take awhile...join us if you like.

28. My best friend during childhood was.

As much as we moved around, I didn't have a single best friend during childhood. I always wanted one. Mama and Aunt Flo are friends with a set of twins they have known since they were toddlers. I have always envied that.

There was a family that lived a short distance from my grandparents that had a number of children, and Lupe and Maria were about my age. They were friends when I visited my grandparents, whether for a day or weeks. When we stayed there right after my father died, I played with them a lot. By the time we moved back from Puerto Rico, they had moved.

At St. Mary's of the Palms, there were Jean and Rita Pine, sisters who's mother was in a coma. They were the only other girls there who didn't go home most weekends and they were down one parent, which gave us a lot in common. Their father and grandmother would come to visit on weekends and take all three of us on picnics or to a movie, depending on the weather.

When Mama and Daddy married, we moved next door to the Kovans. They had a daughter, Jackie, who was only a couple of years older than me and she was always a good friend to me. Years and many moves later, when I was living in Modesto with Auntie, Mama and Daddy moved back to Stockton, and when I went to visit, Jackie called and took me out for pizza. That was amazing to me -- she needn't have remembered me at all, but she was infinitely kind and generous.

In El Paso there was Linda, with whom I played horses and rocket ships and tomboyed around not being sissy. Auntie sent me back to visit her one summer and years later, when I was living in Fairbanks and her life was falling apart, she moved up there and we were just as close as ever. I left Alaska for 22 years, and when I came back, Linda and I were overjoyed to be able to visit. Until circumstances changed, I would go to Fairbanks for a couple of weeks every summer and it was like there had been no time lost at all.

In San Mateo it was Kate, who I met in the library and with whom I had more in common than any of my earlier girl friends. Like Linda, Kate and I continued to write even after I moved. She came to Berkeley to visit when I was in college, meeting my Modesto pals. She came to Redwood City with her two children to visit while I was getting my Montessori training. After I moved to Fairbanks, somehow we both moved and changed last names at the same time, and were lost to each other for 38 years. When Julie found her for me, it was like no time had passed at all.

In Modesto, it was Jane and Robert and Michael. Again, lost when I moved to Fairbanks, found again years later. Still close.

So, I had my share of friends who I was close to and some I still am -- and I still envy my mother her friends from before she can even remember.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Little Sisters

"Little sisters. You can't live with them and they can't accidentally turn up missing."

Everybody Hates Chris

Saturday, February 24, 2007

In A Nutshell

In a Nutshell

A place set aside to answer 201 autobiographical questions
from a mother for her daughter. This may take awhile...join us if you like.

27. This person significantly influenced my life growing up.

My Great-Aunt Julia, called Auntie by all of her brother's descendants, was a major influence in my life. Auntie was born in July, 1900 and was a very forward thinking young woman. Her parents had refused to have the vow of obedience in their wedding ceremony, and the example they set marked both of their children. Because men were supposed to be in charge, my grandfather took a lot of heat about his "unwomanly" mother, which I have always felt influenced his choice of my grandmother as a wife -- she was willing to let him deal with the world while she dealt with the home and took his word as law. She even signed all of the letters she wrote to family and mutual friends "Percy and Lillian" because the man's name should come first.

Auntie was affected in the opposite direction. She observed that her mother was better treated than the mothers of other children, that her father listened to and respected his wife. She liked what she saw and emulated it. Auntie was very independent. When she graduated from high school, in 1918, she went to work for a doctor, assisting in the delivery of babies. At that time, well bred young ladies didn't do anything so forward and bold. The proper woman for that job was middle-aged and, if possible, married. I've told you about when my Great-grandfather bought a car that he was unable to learn to drive and turned it over to her. Auntie, from all I've been told was a pretty fearless young woman. She was married twice, divorced both times. She owned two businesses of her own during her lifetime.

She was always a force in my life. She went to stay with my parents when I was born and helped to deliver me. It was she who later told me that my father kissed me before I was even washed off and that when my mother was told I had weighed six pounds she said, "Six of them!" Just as though, said Auntie laughing, she'd had a litter.

Auntie loved to tell me about the time, when I was about four, she took me from Modesto to San Francisco on the Greyhound bus to buy a coat. I was chattering up a storm, when I suddenly asked, "Auntie, do you know how to keep from having babies?" and she immediately knew that I had heard my father tell a joke and the answer wasn't anything I understood or that she wanted the other passengers to hear me say. Also, that attention hog that I was, there was no way she could get me to whisper it to her. She put me off and put me off and I kept asking and asking and finally she gave in and asked, "Well, Joy, how do you keep from having babies?" And I answered, "Lots of sulfa-denial and no acetol." (This joke was funnier in the 40s when sulfa drugs and acetol were in regular use in medical situations.) I got my desired laughter from the entire bus. And, as people were getting off at their various destinations, they all stopped on their way up the aisle, to say "Good-bye, Joy; good luck, Auntie."

Auntie sold her house and business in San Francisco when her mother died and returned to Modesto to take care of her father. She bought a house on a quiet, tree lined street, got a job at a local builders, and settled in. I remember visiting them many times over the years, and the house was always so exotic and glamorous to me. She had Ming vases and lovely pastoral paintings and incense. There were glass wind chimes in the back yard and cut flowers in the house. She cooked fascinating things I'd never heard of before, as well as the kind of staples a girl would learn growing up on a farm like chicken and dumplings and ox-tail soup.

Great-grandpa died not long before I was 16, and Daddy and I were at odds and fighting all the time. So, I went to live with her. Into that quiet, elegant house with the wisteria arbor and the cool rooms. To be the center of attention for a woman who had never had a child and now got her chance, as she told Mama, to attend parent-teacher meetings and the PTA. We went to movies and school plays and out to dinner in restaurants I'd never thought about before. She taught me to eat avocados and to keep a soup pot on the back burner in the winter, adding all of the water the vegetables had been cooked in and the left over vegies and meat to it. Mama couldn't stand eggs and Auntie remembered taking her to a brunch at a friends and Mama being unable to eat anything. Since I had learned to not like eggs from Mama, Auntie taught me, one step at a time, from scrambled eggs with cheese to soft boiled eggs, to eat and enjoy them.

Every Friday we had our hair done. We walked by a dress shop on our way and often the next week I would come home to see a dress that I had noticed in the window, but not mentioned and certainly not asked for, laying on my bed. Mama later told me that Auntie told her that when I would see something I liked my eyes would light up and she delighted in surprising me by buying it later.

For my 17th birthday we were invited out for three birthday dinners, and Auntie cooked one for me as well. Grandma asked me what I wanted, and I said, "fried chicken and angel food cake;" Mommy Lyle across the street asked me what I wanted, and I said, "fried chicken and angel food cake;" Mama asked me what I wanted, and I said, "fried chicken and angel food cake;" and Auntie asked me what I wanted, and I said, "fried chicken and angel food cake." At one point, Auntie asked me if I was sure I wouldn't like something else at one of those meals. "Oh, no. I love fried chicken and angel food cake," I answered obliviously. Only years later did I realize that while I got to eat fried chicken and angel food cake four nights in a row, Auntie had to. But, she never complained about it.

When I first went to live with Auntie, I had been well trained by Daddy that adults were Ma'am and Sir. She couldn't stand for me to say "Yes, ma'am" to her and worked hard to train me out of it. She had been very upset when I came home from boarding school at nine with as she told my mother, "all of her passion and delight crushed out of her;" she couldn't endure seeing it happen again.

She encouraged me to become whatever I wanted to be. She sent me to El Paso one summer to visit my friend Linda who I hadn't seen in years but was worried about because of something she had written to me. She had Kate come and spend time with us because I missed her. My friends were always welcome, and she never acted amused when we carried on the way inexperienced teens do and talked about some hair brained scheme to solve the problems of the world. My friends loved her -- she respected us, she fed us, she joined in our conversations when we wanted her and left us alone when we didn't. All of my friends had home situations that were more than a touch dysfunctional. I was the only one who lived in a home that was not.

I was never in trouble when I lived with Auntie. She had reasonable standards and was pleased with me. She was fun to talk to and could guide me to books and music that I might not otherwise find. She was able to talk about ideas.

And once in a while her friend Jack would come to visit from out of town, and they would go out, leaving me across town with my grandparents for the night. I didn't realize right away that they were lovers and had been for a long time. Jack was Catholic and married to a woman in an institution.

I wanted to be like her. Independent and kind and smart and with a personal style all of my own. One day, in the beauty parlor, I heard another customer say, "Julia's niece is growing up just like her -- as eccentric as they come." I was so pleased. When I repeated it to her, she wasn't.

Auntie died my freshman year of college. She left two trust funds. One was for me, to send me to college -- she made a deal with my grandfather that if it wasn't enough, he would take care of what was needed, and if it was more than enough, he would get the remainder. When I quit school in my sophomore year, that trust was closed. (My Aunt Flo later helped me complete college.) The other trust was for Auntie's other five great nieces and nephews. It sent them all to college, and when Colleen finally admitted she wasn't going to graduate, the remainder was split five ways.

And the other things she left were: a hole in my life where she should be, the self-confidence I had developed in her house. a love of the smell of wisteria and the sound of mocking birds singing in the moonlight, a re-affirmation that, just as my father had modeled for me, there was a way to relate to children that never involved sarcasm or name calling or reciting all of the wrongs the child has committed in her life.

Friday, February 23, 2007

In A Nutshell

In a Nutshell

A place set aside to answer 201 autobiographical questions
from a mother for her daughter. This may take awhile...join us if you like.

26. We had these pets or access to other animals growing up.

When I lived in the trailer with my parents, we moved around too much for a pet. I remember a billy goat my father got for me which we kept at my Grandmother Hunt's place -- until Billy butted Grandma while she was hanging out the wash, and that was it for him.

When Mama and Daddy were first married, we rented a house in the country outside of Stockton that came equipped with a Cocker named Bows and Daddy became quite attached to him. As much as Forrest, Colleen, and I would love an animal, it was obvious that Daddy really was the one who was absolutely hooked. Anyway, Daddy really liked Bows and was sad when we moved to Puerto Rico and couldn't take him with us -- both because he belonged to someone else and because of quarantine. Other than my not very successful experience of buying tropical fish and having them all die, we didn't have any pets until we moved to Roswell, five years later, and when we decided to get one, Daddy looked through the want ads for a Cocker pup. Which is how we got Rubio, Spanish for blond, which he was, although Cocker he wasn't. Rubio grew to very large proportions, with gangly legs, short hair, huge feet, and a kind of square, sight-hound face. He had been sold to Daddy by the mother of a soldier who was overseas and Rubio's mother was certainly a purebred Cocker. The soldier's mother promised that the next time her son was home on leave he would get the papers for us -- liar! However, Rubio was a wonderful dog, friendly and easy to train and we really liked him. And then, one day someone opened the fence and we never saw him again.

So, when we moved to San Mateo a few months later, Daddy still wanted a Cocker but he wasn't paying for one this time. We went to the pound and picked out a black pup who's mother was a Cocker and a little gray kitten. The pup we named Heathcliffe and the kitten Miss Pettibone. Well, Heathcliffe was no more of a Cocker than Rubio had been, but at least he had been free. By the time he was full grown he could stand on his hind legs, put his front paws on the shoulders of a six foot tall man, and look down into his eyes. Daddy (the ex-jockey, remember) used to introduce him to people as, "my little Cocker spaniel." The thing with Heathcliffe and Pettibone was that they were both very young when they came to us, and they bonded to each other. We never knew if he thought he was a cat or if she thought she was a dog, but whatever it was, they recognized no differences between them. And the ridiculous thing about it was that she was the runt of the litter, so we had this huge black dog and this tiny gray cat who were always together. He would pick her up and carry her around by the head. The first time this happened we took her away from him, and she ran right back to him and he picked her up again.

When Pettibone got pregnant, Mama sat her down and told her that was just what she should expect, carrying on that way. We kids thought that was hilarious, although I was the only one who understood how she had been carrying on. This was the mid-50s, so these were outside animals. When my parents got up in the morning and went to the kitchen to make coffee, Pettibone would hang from the window screen and meow and they would let them in for a good morning visit. One morning, there was Pettibone with a kitten in her mouth, and when Daddy opened the door, the other kittens, with Heathcliffe guarding them from a tomcat, were under the window. All of the animals stayed in the house most of the time after that, and the kittens climbed all over Heathcliffe, sleeping under his ears and between his front paws.

Sadly, just after we had moved into a new house and given away the last kitten, Heathcliffe was killed. Miss Pettibone went crazy. She yowled without cease, refused to eat, ran up the drapes, and shook like she was freezing to death. For days and days. Daddy took her to the vet and there was nothing that could be done. Losing her kittens and her brother so close together with moving to a totally new territory was more than she could endure. When Daddy gave permission for her to be put down, he cried and said he couldn't afford to love another animal, it was too painful to lose them.

Until the day, about six months later, when he was driving home and saw a group of big boys tormenting a small dog. Daddy stopped the car, opened the door, made that smacking noise dog people call dogs with, and the bedraggled creature shot into the car like a bullet. He was a funny looking little guy, like a rag mop without the handle, all mud and cuts. Of course, we took him to the vet to have his wounds tended, and it turned out that he was a Lhasa Apso . (Everything they say about these dogs in the Wikipedia article was true of this one.) We put ads in the paper, but no one answered them. We had our small, curly-haired purebred dog.*I named him Kal, after Superman. Kal hated men and boys, except for Daddy and Forrest. He didn't even like women who wore slacks, and would worry Mama's hems when she wore jeans. After I went to live with Auntie, he became Forrest's dog. Forry would ride off on his bike, Kal in dogged pursuit, and come home with Kal in the basket, his tongue hanging out and ears flying in the wind. Lhasas, although small, are not lap dogs. They need active attention and one adventurous 11 year-old boy gladly supplied it. They were a team. The vet had told us that Lhasas were hard to keep alive in the summer in California, coming from Tibet, and so come summer, Daddy trimmed him to look like a little lion, with his feet and head still long-haired but his little body short. It was the first time we knew how small he really was, and how broad his chest.

When I lived with Auntie, we had a large, orange cat named Punky who Auntie had rescued from the highway when she was just a tiny thing. Punky was very affectionate, more than willing to sleep on a lap and purr by the hour. Auntie credited her with having kept my great-grandfather alive for the last years of his life by providing him with an interest and something young to love.

* Considering that this was the mid-50s, and Lhasas were very rare in the US at the time, we had our very expensive, small, curly-haired, purebred dog for free! He more than made up for the cost of Rubio.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Talking to Boys
Take Two

And here we have a picture from that wonderfully illustrates how male creatures act when face-to-face with other male creatures. This bird is ready to put on a threat display for or even fight his own reflection because it dares face him. Is it any wonder that your hubby finds it difficult to face you and talk about problems? Something this hard wired is hard wired indeed.

In A Nutshell follows.

In A Nutshell

In a Nutshell

A place set aside to answer 201 autobiographical questions
from a mother for her daughter. This may take awhile...join us if you like.

25. People described me as a child in this way.
When my family talks about me as a child, they mention that I was happy and bright. Busy. Very busy all the time. Ate up learning new things. Loved to show off everything I knew and could do.

Serious about serious things -- I was flower girl at my Aunt Flo's wedding on her 27th and my 9th birthday, and am told I took great care all day long not to muss my lovely yellow dress or tip the hoop skirt up immodestly or to be off-beat as I walked down the aisle.

Intent. Although I laughed a lot, everything was important. The world was my oyster. And, when Forrest was born, I noticeably got my nose out of joint. Because, as a child, I was the oney-oney and I liked it that way.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Talking to Boys

Getting a man or a boy to talk to you about important issues can be hard. Moms sit down with sons, wives sit down with husbands, and somehow it just doesn't work. The woman is very frustrated, because when she sits down with another female, they seem to be able to get right to the heart of the matter, but those male creatures skitter off or get angry or tongue tied. "What," she wonders, "is wrong with him?"

Well, other than the sometimes reported* finding that, under PET scan, the female brain can be seen to access seven sites when she talks/thinks about feelings, and the male only two (which would make it easier for her to know what she is feeling, as well as talk about it), there is the issue of posture. When women sit down to talk about important things, we tend to sit face to face, looking into the other person's eyes.

But, what I learned in the 60s in my anthropology classes, but was never mentioned in my psychology classes, is that in no culture that we have reports on has this been true for men. Nor is it true for males of any species of mammal or bird or even fish. In nature, as in culture, when two males are face-to-face, what we have is aggression.

In human cultures, men go face-to-face with children, mostly when scolding them, and with women when courting them. So, for a man to sit face-to-face with his wife, or a boy with his mother, sends messages of wanting to either knock her head off or jump her bones. Neither a good ground for talking about how to get the budget to balance or what happened with that sweet girl he had the crush on.

So, how do you get those important discussions with a man? Well, you sit with him side-by-side. For a good primer on this, watch "The Hunt For Red October." There are, for all intents and purposes, no women in this film. It is a movie about men and by men. The postural body language is perfect. There are few moments in that film where the men are face-to-face. When Ryan comes onto the carrier, one of the senior officers doesn't trust him and you can tell because he faces him off. When the Americans enter the Russian submarine and don't know if Ryan was correct and these men want to defect and the Russians don't know if they have found safety or not, the two groups stand face-to-face. Until, by the way, Ryan asks for and then chokes on a cigarette -- allowing himself to be seen as harmless. The intimate moments of this film, are very different. When the Russian captain and his first officer are talking about what they want to do when they get to America, they are sitting facing the same direction. When Ryan and the Russian captain are talking about having gone fishing with their grandfathers as boys, they are standing facing the same direction.

It also helps to not put attention on the boy/man. Doing something with him allows talking to naturally occur and deeper subjects to arise. My mother does jigsaw puzzles with one of her great-grandsons. They talk about all of his hurts and dreams as they do.

Richard and I have had many a deep conversation while in the front seat of the car. As I drive him somewhere, I am amazed at the things that he spontaneously tells me. That activity and having the pressure of posture taken care of leads to confidences that might never arise over a cup of cocoa.

* and sometimes not found at all!

In A Nutshell follows.

In A Nutshell

In a Nutshell

A place set aside to answer 201 autobiographical questions
from a mother for her daughter. This may take awhile...join us if you like.

24. What I liked about my siblings was.

Probably what I liked best about them was that they waited a good while to be born and gave me all those years as the only child. I might have liked them even more if they had waited longer and then had the proper respect for my obviously superior self.

I was/am a basically self-centered person in respect to siblings. Like Al Franken, often I focus on what things mean to me. And, what siblings meant to me was competition.

We really had a clumsy spacing, as far as close bonding was concerned. Forrest is five years younger than me and the opposite gender, so that whatever we have in common by virtue of being us is filtered through those two things. There is a certain symmetry, in his eyes, in that while I'm older he's male. The problem with that is that he also knows very well that his being male has never impressed me nearly as much as my being older used to impress him -- and I expect it to still do so. Colleen was female like me, but she was also ten years younger. Whatever we had in common by virtue of being two women was washed out by the distance in our ages. I left home at 16, when Colleen was six, which put further distance between us. And, they had that five years apart, opposite gender thing going, so they weren't very close to each other.

Because Forrest and I spent the years after my father's death separated, we didn't have as much of that early childhood bonding that many kids have. While I was living with Mama and Daddy, we were moving around a lot. When I went to live with Auntie, they settled down. So, my experience growing up was very rootless, while Colleen and Forrest had a more rooted childhood. Forrest still lives in the same town he has since he was 11; he sees people in the grocery store that he was in sixth grade with. Colleen graduated high school with people she had been in kindergarten with. I live in a state I never lived in as a child and the people I graduated with weren't even the same ones I started high school with.

The result of all this is that people have been astonished to discover that we were related at all. Colleen didn't look anything like Forrest and me and didn't act anything like us either. She wasn't interested in the things we were. Colleen, like Forrest, was tall (he's 6', she was 5'11") while I'm only 5'2". It is an odd and unusual sibling constellation.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Kid Safe

Saturday was the Kid Safe Fair. Parents took their kids and there were displays about health and safety. The hospital had a table with nformation about diabetes. There were tables about vision and hearing. There was a car that parents could use to learn to correctly attach the specific car seat they owned. Smokey Bear and Eddie Eagle were there teaching forest fire and gun safety.

My agency had a table with information about tobacco and alcohol.TATU (Teens Against Tobacco Use) is also sponsored by our agency and they had that ugly bottle of tar and lots of facts about what tobacco does to lungs. They didn't have their usual pig lung display, because we didn't have enough space, but many a time I've sat at the other end of the table while they show how the healthy lungs inflate and hold air and the smoked lungs don't. That bottle of tar, by the way is the amount of tar that a person who smokes one pack a day get in their lungs in one year.

The teens I work with brought the Fatal Vision Goggles and traffic cones. We set up an obstacle course, and then people put on the goggles and tried to walk it. Parents tried. Their kids tried. One 18 month old toddler came over a couple of times and, very intently, picked up the cones one by one and stacked them.

Juneau being a small town, I saw people there who I used to work with on parenting issues. I saw their kids -- older now, some babies who are now teens, some middle schoolers who are now adults with babies of their own. I got hugs and my co-workers were bragged to about what a good job I did. My teens did a wonderful job of explaining things to little kids, helped at a few other tables when ours was quiet -- one young lady even did a stint as Eddie Eagle.

Friday, February 16, 2007

In A Nutshell

In a Nutshell

A place set aside to answer 201 autobiographical questions
from a mother for her daughter. This may take awhile...join us if you like.

23. Games I liked to play as a child and youth were.

Outdoors, I grew from hide 'n' seek, hop scotch, jacks, jump rope, cowboys and Indians, through horses and rocket ships to baseball, volley ball, and tennis. After I got hit in the face by a baseball (which broke my glasses and got glass in my eye which had to be removed by an optometrist), those ball games were less attractive. I could never again face a ball coming at me without needing to duck.

Indoor games were for cold weather or night or when you were sick. We played Parcheesi, checkers, Chinese checkers, go fish, canasta, Monopoly, and sometimes poker.

I have to admit that I never was a real game person -- I much preferred to do my own thing. To explore and swing and ride my bike and skate outdoors, to read and talk to friends indoors. I used to make doll clothes, when I was about six. I remember cutting up a man's sock to make a two piece bathing suit for my doll.

I also remember when I was six, playing with Maria and Lupe a game where we would run up and down the road yelling, "Ay, Cisco!" "Ay, Pancho" which was based on the Cisco Kid, a radio program we all loved.

There was the famous croquet games that resulted in my hitting Forrest over the head with my racket because he was cheating.

Later, when Richard and Julie were little, we played all sorts of board games. It was how I taught them math skills -- in the beginning, they had to count the pips on a die and then count that number of moves, and then repeat with the other die. But, very soon they would throw the dice and add them in their heads. Then we made it interesting. Sometimes they had to subtract the smaller number from the larger (a game can last a long time when throwing a six and a four results in moving two squares instead of ten) and eventually they had to multiply the dice by each other. Yahtzee dice could be used and then they had to take the color of the highest die they had thrown to decide what the mathematical operation was and go from there. But, all of that was when they were little, not me.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

In Praise of Blue

Tuesday's Juneau Empire ran an editorial from the San Jose Mercury News on the op-ed page called "Don't let kids grow up 'red'; anti-tax ideology hurts health" I don't know who the writer was, but he did a bang up job.
It seems that children in red states, with an anti-tax, anti-government ideology, are more likely to suffer from poor prenatal care, early death, child abuse, and teen incarceration than children in "blue" states.
Ten of the top 11 states on the list [the child vulnerability index] are blue states. No fewer than 24 of the 25 bottom states are red states.
a child in the overall bottom 10 states is:
  • Twice as likely to die by the age of 14.
  • Seven time more likely to die from abuse or neglect.
  • Twice as likely to be living in poverty.
  • More than twice as likely to be incarcerated as juveniles.
The well-being of the nation's children matters. The investment blue states make in their children not only pays off ultimately in lower medical bills and less need to provide social services, but also creates a higher percentage of productive, well-educated members of society.
The nations red states should be red-faced about their disgraceful health care response. Their selfish practice of being unwilling to part with tax dollars to help guarantee their children's future is in direct opposition to the American values they so often claim to cherish.

Is there anything else we need to understand? Perhaps it is time that we stopped thinking of taxes as theft and something that we all need relief from and start looking at them as an investment in the quality of life. They support our children in ways that individual families usually cannot. They support our elders in ways that we can't, and don't usually want. They build the roads and keep the libraries open and the firetrucks rolling and the schools open and the water purified and running and the sewage treated. They eradicate mosquitoes around standing water and prevent any one person from fishing out the lake. They keep hospital doors open all day, every day, so that we may have care. They run the suicide hot lines and the poison centers. They patrol the highways and send a cop to protect you from that odd looking man who is trying to break down your door.

And, if they do all of this for me, a private citizen who just uses a few of the many resources provided by taxes, what do they do for major corporations, who need airports and roads and waterways open to ship their goods, weather forecasts to help plan the next distribution schedule or growing season, courts to enforce their contracts, and an educated employment pool to work in their offices? Taxes are part of the cost of living, and it seems to me that the people who use governmental services most are not single moms who might be on welfare for a time or need medicaid for their kids, but the big corporations who couldn't get goods to market without the transportation routes provided by tax money and would have no recourse when a supplier didn't give them what they need without the courts to enforce contracts.

And, as we can see by the article in the San Jose Mercury News, those states that don't recognize this are not only falling behind, they are allowing their children to be left in the dust -- assuming their children live beyond the age of 14.

In A Nutshell follows.

In A Nutshell

In a Nutshell

A place set aside to answer 201 autobiographical questions
from a mother for her daughter. This may take awhile...join us if you like.

22. In the afternoon after school I used to

For most of grammar school, I played outside as long as I could. With friends, with Forrest, or alone. I rode my bike, built forts, climbed trees, explored the territory around home. The older I got, the larger the territory got. And, since we moved a lot, there was always exploration to be done. In Puerto Rico, I would spend hours at the beach with Forrest and our maid, Elena. In Denver a neighbor boy and I would walk the railroad tracks in search of pretty rocks and then go to the library to find out what they were. In El Paso, Linda and I played horse and rocket ship and climbed as high as we could, and ran the length of the block on the top of the cinder block fences which ran on each side of the alley behind the houses. We would each start on one fence, race each other to the end, scrambling as fast as we could up the power poles that ran along side of the fences. We also, as you will recall, had the piss off.

In Roswell, I was in junior high and a little more sedate. I wasn't running with the boys so much, being one of a group of four girls who were best friends. We skipped lunch so we could spend our lunch money on ear rings at the local Woolworth's and stopped after school at the Spudnut shop.* We spent a lot of time visiting each other, sitting outside and talking or tending the baby sister of one of the other girls. I remember that her family grew and froze their own corn! (Frozen on the cob!) Since my grandparents hadn't owned a freezer, I hadn't known you could do that until then.

In my first high school,I hung out with Kate all that I could, taking walks and talking. Or read and avoided doing my chores. At my second high school, I did a lot of homework and talked to Auntie after school, or visited a friend or had one visit me. I remember on warm nights in the summer, Auntie and I sitting on the back lawn, pulling crab grass. I enjoyed that, because we did it together and we talked. Sometime we played canasta, and she usually won, although not always.

* Usually, the Spudnuts were coming out of the frosting machine just as we got there, and they were delicious and hot and the smell was to die for. I've never tasted donuts that good anywhere else. For decades I never saw or heard of Spudnuts, but I never forgot them. I didn't know if they were a chain or local to Roswell or the Southwest or the South or what. And then, in 2005 I was visiting my pal Kate in Sacramento and there was a Spudnut shop! We had one each with coffee and they were still very good. When I got back to Juneau, I looked them up on the internet here and discovered that they had been a national chain. What I particularly liked was the memories people have of going to the Spudnut shop on the way home from school or at lunch time. Obviously, they were located near schools.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Please go over to Bullies -1, Sanity - 0 on Brilliant At Breakfast and read what has happened to Amanda Marcotte. For those of you who don't know, Amanda is the feminist blogger at Pandagon who was hired by the John Edwards campaign. Over the last few days, Bill Donohue, head of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and an anti-Semite if I have ever read one, has mounted an attack at Amanda, aimed at getting Edwards to fire her, because of some opinions which he considers bigoted that she expressed on her own site, prior to being hired by Edwards. It seems, that as a feminist, Amanda doesn't like the stance of the religious right, including the Catholic church, on abortion, contraception, women's rights, and condoms. She considers the Catholic church to practice full-throated misogyny. Donohue, as I said is an anti-Semite (he has claimed that "Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular ... Hollywood likes anal sex.") Go here and read how his followers have responded to his call for action, but only if you a. have a strong stomach and b. can bear the sight of just how ugly the human mind can get. It truly astounds me that these people are saying these things in what they consider to be the defense of the Catholic faith. Of course, it astounds me that people who talk like this can go out in public and be mistaken for human beings.

Amanda, in order to not detract from the Edwards campaign, has resigned and gone back to tending her blog. And tend it she must, since it is being gang raped by the simple tactic of going there and hitting the refresh button again and again. It looks like all of the wingnuts are giving a good 7,000 hits for every vile drop of hatred in their souls. She reports something like 100 hate e-mails in a 12-hour period.

Not only that, but other feminist blogs are also being attacked. I've tried three this morning and found them full of incoherent code.

In A Nutshell

In a Nutshell

A place set aside to answer 201 autobiographical questions
from a mother for her daughter. This may take awhile...join us if you like.

21. My family's first TV set was in the year 1953. My favorite TV show was.

We got a TV when I was 11 and we were living in Denver. Forrest and I were entranced with it. It didn't occur to us to watch it when we could be outside playing, but on cold, snowy days -- and since we moved from sunny Puerto Rico to Denver in January, at first they were all cold, snowy days, it was a thing to do when you came in to warm up. Forrest's favorite program was Hopalong Cassidy and mine was Captain Video and the Video Rangers. Science fiction had raised its presence in my life. I remember walking home with the cold wind in my face and wishing that I had a space helmet like the Captain did.

The other thing I remember about TV in Denver is a public service announcement that had a peach pit and an apple core dancing, and singing:

"As the peach pit said to the apple core
The color of your skin doesn't matter any more."

In 1953! Absolutely amazing. And I know for sure that was 1953, because in 1954 we had moved to El Paso, and I never saw that PSA again.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

In A Nutshell

In a Nutshell

A place set aside to answer 201 autobiographical questions
from a mother for her daughter. This may take awhile...join us if you like.

20. My hairstyles and natural hair color growing up were.

It was always red. Mama says it was like a copper penny when I was born. Because my mother was a brunette and my father was a strawberry blond, and the ice man was a redhead (as were both of my grandfathers and my great-aunt), the joke when Mama was pregnant with me was that my father didn't care if I was a boy or a girl, so long as I wasn't a redhead. And, as I've mentioned before, when I was nine and Mama and my black haired step-father took Forrest with his brown hair and me with my red hair, into the restaurant of the Monte Leon Hotel in New Orleans, the red haired hostess, as she was seating us, asked me where I got my lovely red hair and, into the quiet dignity of a first class restaurant, I piped up, "Daddy always did say we had a red headed ice man." I understand that quiet and restrained pandemonium ensued.

I wore it in ringlets, just like Shirley Temple, when I was young. Well, that's how it started out each day. My hair is very thick and not terribly coarse (for those of you who don't know, it is coarse hair that resists tangling) and wavy, so I started every morning with tangles. Mama, as I have mentioned, is in 17th gear all the time -- any task for her is a race to finish and get on to the next thing. Some people may rush around trying to get to tomorrow; Mama is aiming at the year 3759! Brushing tangles out of the hair of a tender scalped child is not the best skill fit with this. We started every day with her yanking and me screaming. I don't remember either of us ever suggesting cutting it, but one or both of us must have, because my father wouldn't hear of it. I got my first hair cut when I was nine. By the time I was six or so Mama had started braiding it, which was helpful, since it didn't tangle when braided and so I didn't look like a Dr. Seuss creature by 10 a.m.

From the time I was nine until I went to college, I kept it short and curly. When I lived with Auntie, we used to go every Friday after school and have our hair done, which usually included a trim. And then we would go home, and Punky would climb on the back of the couch and lick all the hair spray off of us both.

When I went to Berkeley, I stopped cutting it. I let it grow for eight years. Because it was so thick I couldn't just let it hang down my back -- I would have looked like I was walking around with a hay stack on my head. I remember I used to go in and have it thinned. And I usually wore at least part of it up. And then, just as I was getting ready to graduate and go out into the work world, I began to dream that it had been cut. At first those were nightmares -- a vandal had done it or I had brain surgery (and I thought of that when I was in California visiting my mother and two [count them, 2] people on her soap opera had brain surgery and didn't get their hair even shaved at the entry point!). But, the dreams began to be more and more pleasant, and it began to creep into my waking mind. Eventually I cut it back to waist length, and then in a few months, to mid-back, then to shoulder. It took me two years to get to a pixie cut. One friend asked me if I had washed it in hot water, since it was shrinking.

I have let it grow as long as it wanted to three times since then, and every time I eventually dream about it (this last time it was strangling me) and cut it. Now, I usually go directly to the pixie cut, which startles people. Particularly since, by the time it is that long, the people I know may not have ever seen it short before.

It started getting a few gray hairs when I was in my mid-thirties. I really like the gray I have, and finally that hair is coarse. There is still some brownish auburn, but my face is framed in white and the last time I had it long, when I put it up, it looked like it was all white.

I really like my hair. I have always liked my hair. I wouldn't have any other hair for anything you could ever offer me. Well -- I might have liked it coarse enough not to tangle. But otherwise, my hair and my sense of humor and my eyes are the things about me that I am absolutely content with. I started to say my brains, as well -- and then I realized that I have always wanted to be able to draw and carry a tune, so I would augment my brains if I could. But not my eyes. Not my sense of humor. And, forever, not my hair.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Is That Pesky Boy Crying Wolf Again?

In the 2002 State of the Union Address, Bush named Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as the "Axis of Evil" -- and right then I knew he intended to invade all three. Well, one down and look what's happening now.

How stupid do they think we are? Here they are, telling us that now the intel says that the leadership of Iran is furnishing a new explosive device to Iraqi insurgents. And, shades of Colin Powell and his white powder at the U.N., they have a picture of the new device.

To quote Jill at Brilliant At Breakfast,
Funny how Iran prints the information on its bombs in ENGLISH, isn't it?
The day is going to come when it is a real threat and no one is going to believe them. Hell, that day could be today. Is hyping the threat so often that it ceases to raise concern a form of aiding and abetting the enemy?

Putting Abram Shulsky, the guy who was in charge of gathering intel that Cheney viewed as reliable for Iraq, in charge of gathering intel on Iran, is a touch too deja vu for me. Sending several aircraft carrier groups in to the Gulf is a touch too provocative for me. I just don't trust this administration. I do realize that Congress is not going to authorize a war with Iran, but if one can be started while disguised as dealing with problems in Iraq, Bush doesn't need further authorization.

It isn't that I doubt that Iran is helping the insurgents. It isn't that I think that Iran is the good guys. It is that, and this both breaks my heart and infuriates me to be able to say in all truth -- that I do know that I can't trust my own government these days. Iran may, and probably does, lie. But Bush absolutely does lie. Has lied. Wants this war. Is. Not. Trustworthy.

In A Nutshell follows.

In A Nutshell

In a Nutshell

A place set aside to answer 201 autobiographical questions
from a mother for her daughter. This may take awhile...join us if you like.

19. The country my ancestors came from was. Great Britain. All of them that I know about. My father's father was born in England, and his mother descended from British immigrants. There may have been someone from some other European country in there, but we don't know about it. Of course, we didn't have much contact with that side of the family after my father's death, and so don't know very much. Julie did a family history five years ago, and she wasn't able to trace the Cooks back more than to my grandmother.

Now, on the other side of the family -- we go waaaay back. Colonial descendants, with England to the 1500s. My mother's maternal line came over to Massachusetts 30 years after the Mayflower. My mother's paternal line came to Virginia in the very early days of the colony as well.

The thing about being a Colonial descendant, is that we don't think we belong to an ethnic group. We think we are the norm and others (Italians, Scots, French, African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Norwegian -- you know, others!) belong to ethnic groups. I always thought that the way my family did things was, if good, the normal way that everybody does it or, if bad, the stupid way that only my family does it. Imagine my surprise when I took a course on the effects of ethnicity on therapy and discovered that the contents of those two lists are my ethnic inheritance! When we studied my group, it was as if someone had been following my family and me around with a notebook! It was all there. The stiff upper lip while your heart is breaking. The stoic continuing to just do it while you are in pain. The distancing from vulnerability of saying that "One does" instead of "I do". The pride in being able to laugh at yourself. The importance of hard work. The emphasis on independence and autonomy. The importance of loyalty to family and friends. A mishmash of good and stupid -- and all of it my ethnic identity. How absolutely amazing.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Creature of Habit

When we first moved to Alaska, we lived on a homestead outside of Fairbanks. Although it had electricity it had no other modern conveniences. So, we had an old black and white portable TV, but there was an outhouse and heat came from a potbelly stove. Getting up to a freezing room in the winter and building up the fire was a way of greeting the day that I had not been familiar with before. I began to build other habits around it. I would pick up old newspapers and grocery bags, open the door of the stove, and throw the trash in to burn. Washing dishes, in winter, started with standing on the log bridge, blowing a hole in the ice with a 30-06, dropping a bucket into the creek, lugging the water into the house, and heating it on top of the stove.

Transportation also had its little adjustments to living in the frozen north. Of course, there wasn't a usable garage, so the car sat out in the weather, even the day it dropped to -58. Notice the electric plug peaking out of the front of this car. That leads to one or more of a number of heaters (engine block, radiator, battery) and you plug it into an outlet when the temperature drops below freezing. Our homestead had an extension cord that ran out the front door. Lucky people had a place to plug in at work; most people didn't. So, you went out and turned your car on every couple of hours, left it running for 15 minutes to a half hour, and then went back out and turned it off.* The other thing that we did to keep those motors running was to add a can of Heat to the gastank every time we filled up. Heat is a gasoline additive that keeps water vapors from freezing in the gas lines.

I seem to make habits, good or bad, and become a slave to them. So, when we moved into town, the first few days, I opened the oven of my electric stove and tossed used paper in. And, although I knew that I now had running water, several times I turned on the faucet, ran a big pot of water, and put it on top of the stove to heat up.

And then there was the summer I went to California to visit. I had borrowed my sister's car, and was filling the gas tank before I returned it. I pulled into the gas station, and although it was over 100 degrees outside, it was dark. To me, dark meant winter. So, when the attendant asked me what I needed, I told him to "fill the tank, throw in a can of Heat, and will you check and tell me why I didn't see any plugs when I took this car out?"

*No one stole it, although there it sat with the engine running. That was partly because Fairbanks was a small town in the 60s and 70s, and partly because there were simply no places to take a stolen car. Only one highway went through the town, everyone recognized almost every car in town, and there were no chop shops.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Let It Snow*

Rare white lion cubs experience snow for the first time at West Midland Safari Park in Bewdley, England. They are, in no particular order, Casper, Kiara, Lara and Toto. Associated Press photo by David Jones

Roof! went the dog: Snowdrifts as high as 10 feet left half of Rock Springs, Wyoming, inaccessible, including the front door of this bloodhound's home. Laramie Boomerang photo by Barbara J. Perenic via Associated Press

Horse frost: Frigid air in Great Falls, Montana, turns a pony into a graybeard. Great Falls Tribune photo by Robin Loznak via Associated Press

* From

Juneau Wolf

Honest, folks, the dog is just fine. The wolf, called Romeo, hangs out at the Mendenhall Glacier and plays with people and pet dogs. He doesn't have a pack, and yet he is a social animal.

He had just carried the pug around in his mouth, and then let him go. I'm not sure that the pup was certain it was a game or if he just had enough sense not to do anything startling with a wolf, but he seems to be playing dead.

It is really fun to live here. We have the niftiest wildlife.

Lovely To Look At

Go here.

See a truly beautiful sight.

Friday, February 09, 2007

She's Done It Again

Sandy Szwarc, at Junkfood Science has an article on myths concerning the causes of birth defects that is well worth reading to anyone who is likely to worry or who knows anyone who is likely to worry about the development of an unborn child. Sandy has, with his permission, encapsulated information from Dr. Jon Aase, M.D., of the Division of Clinical Genetics/Dysmorphology and Metabolism.

The Secret Service & Me

In 1984, while campaigning for vice president, Geraldine Ferraro came to Stockton, California, where I was living at the time.

My business partner, Alison Hudson, and I were out and about that day and stopped in at City Hall for some reason. While there, I needed to use the women's room and so left Alison in the hall. There was no one else in there when I went in. But, as I was coming out of the stall, with my skirt still up so I could pull my blouse down neatly, there were Ms. Ferraro and four male secret service agents. We smiled, she said "Sorry" and I said, "That's perfectly alright" and I left.

Outside were a passle of news folks with cameras and Alison. As soon as the camera people saw that I wasn't Geraldine, they turned off their cameras. As Alison and I walked out of the building, she said, "What did you say?"
"What did you say? You always have a ready quip, what did you say?"
"I was too amazed to find four men there while I was showing off my slip to think of anything to say!"

About half an hour later I realized what I wished I'd said. "They passed the ERA without telling me and now we do have unisex bathrooms!"

New Blogger - Help

So, I've changed to the new blogger and mostly it seems ok as it is. However, for some reason it has added my profile picture right under my other picture.

I went to change the template, but since I'm not certain of how to get the pictures that Julie put in my original template back and I'm not certain I want to re-enter all the blog links and links to other posts that I've worked so hard on, I reverted back. That leaves me just fine except for two things -- how do I get rid of that profile stuff right under my picture and how do I get a list of labels in? Or, how do I get my photos and other customized items back?

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

In A Nutshell

In a Nutshell

A place set aside to answer 201 autobiographical questions
from a mother for her daughter. This may take awhile...join us if you like.

18. What I remember about my great-grandparents is this.

I started to write what I know about all of my great-grandparents, and that was going to take weeks, since I know a lot of family stories. And then I re-read the question and realized it says, "what I remember". Not so much. A more manageable task.

Although my Great-grandmother Lucinda Clarke Herndon was alive when I was born, she died when I was very young. I don't remember much about her, except for sitting at her feet and listening to the radio. I also remember her telling me that I could do it, whatever it was. She married in 1895, refusing to promise to obey. My Great-grandfather, Benjamin Herndon, didn't want her to promise to obey, since he might tell her to do something that was a mistake.

My great-grandfather lived until I was in high school. He was a tiny man, the only one of my mother's grandparents who didn't have the round gene. Much shorter than his six foot son, even shorter than his daughter, if I am remembering it correctly. By the time I was 12, he was shorter than me. I'm sure he didn't have white hair when he was young, but that's what he had when I knew him -- white hair and a twinkle in his eye. He was a farmer back in the day when you plowed with a horse and later when you had a machine instead.

As a farmer, he had barn cats to keep down the barn mice and rats. But, until he was elderly and long retired, he never had a cat in the house. When Aunt Julia moved back to Modesto to live with him after her mother died, she bought a house in town that they moved into and she got a job. One day she looked out of her office window to see a tiny kitten at the side of the road. Being concerned that she would wander into traffic, she rescued her and took her home. Great-grandpa didn't think that cats belonged in the house, but within a few days of being home alone with this sweet and clever little animal, she was the light of his life. He would brag about Punky as long as you would allow him. Barn cats are smart, but they don't do their smart things in front of witnesses, and Punky had no place else to do hers. And farmers don't have the time to watch cats, while retired gentlemen do. Great-grandpa had never known that a kitten could figure out how to open the cupboard or that she would feel so soft and comforting when she curled up on his lap or on the back of his neck and purred. I remember him telling me, in total amazement, that he used a pillow to sleep and Auntie didn't and when Punky slept on his bed, she put her head on the pillow and her body on the bed, but when she slept on Auntie's bed she curled up her whole body on the pillow.

I played many a game of Chinese checkers with my great-grandfather, but I don't remember ever winning any of them. I do remember him coaching me on how to play a better game. Auntie told me once it was about the only game he did play, and so he was a very experienced player.

He was always kind to children and gave me a feeling of connection to earlier generations of the family. When I was little, he sold some of his land and was given the privilege of naming the streets. He named the street between his house and Grandpa Percy's Herndon Road. His house was on the corner of Herndon and Joyce. No matter how far we wandered in later years, it gave me a feeling of being grounded to know there was a street named after me in my family's home town.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Cat Adventures

I was lucky this morning. First of all that cats don't know how to sneak. And then that the Care-A-Van was a few minutes late to pick me up. Since that meant that I was still home when the odd noise came from the kitchen and I discovered that the Hooligans had managed to open the cupboard with the potato chips and were making advances on the bag. I was able to remove their new toy, fasten the cupboard, and wrap a rubber band around the fastener (the old one had broken, which was why they managed to get it open).

Because if I had been gone when it happened, I would have come home to find that they had eaten most of the bag, thrown up from too much salt, and left chip crumbs from one end of the house to the other.

In A Nutshell follows.

In A Nutshell

In a Nutshell

A place set aside to answer 201 autobiographical questions
from a mother for her daughter. This may take awhile...join us if you like.

17. I want you to know this about my grandfather.
I never met my Grandfather Roland Charles Hunt; he died before I was born. I know he had red hair. My Grandpa Herndon (Percy Fox Herndon, to be exact) told me once that he (Herndon) went into the barbecue that the Hunts owned once when he was returning home from fishing. The place was pretty quiet, it being the middle of the afternoon, and my grandfathers, who met just that once and had no idea that they would have me in common, had a pleasant chat. Grandpa said that my other grandfather was a handsome man, pleasant, enjoyable to be around for the short time they talked. They both liked fishing and a cold beer on a hot day and were concerned about things, it being the Depression and all. At the time Grandpa told me this, we were no longer in touch with the Hunts and Grandpa was the only relative I was in touch with who had met my Grandfather Hunt.

It speaks volumes about my Grandpa that he knew that I would have no other source of information about my father's father, and he made sure I knew something about the kind of a man he would appear to someone who just met him.

Grandpa was a very tall man, and mostly bald by the time my mother was born, although he had lovely red hair as a young man, I am told. He and his sister, my great-aunt, as well. He had twinkling brown eyes; I can never remember seeing him without that twinkle. And a deep voice. Richard, who remembers him from before we moved to Alaska when R was six, remembers a "big man with a big voice". Grandpa fought in World War I, in Siberia. It wasn't something he talked about to me. When I asked, he made some joke and moved the conversation on to other things.

Grandpa worked for the Turlock Irrigation District when I was growing up. In the summer he "changed the water" -- opening and closing locks to allow the water to flow to the fields that needed it. In the winter, he worked eight hour days and five days a week, repairing all of the canals in the District, but in the summer he was on call 24/7. All summer long -- go out and change the water when it's time, and then nothing to do until the next time it's due. So, although he couldn't leave town, he could easily go fishing or on a picnic or hunting if the timing on the water was right. He grew a wonderful vegetable garden and melon patch and grape arbors and nut trees. He had a small mixed orchard of every kind of fruit tree that they grew in California in those days. He didn't believe that a tree that didn't give fruit people could eat belonged in a yard. They were good for forests and parks, but for homes you grew food.

When I was little I would go out with him. The phone would ring, just about when he was expecting it to, and it would be the farmer telling him that his fields were done. Grandpa would call the next farmer down the canal and arrange to meet him at the lock, call out, "Hey, Peanut! Want to go change the water with me?" and off we would go. Driving down back country roads, singing country western songs along with the radio, and chewing on Sen-Sen. Grandpa would point out all of the crops along the way and tell me about how they were grown and where they came from. It is a golden memory. The sun shines a lot in California, and those memories seem filled with it.

Grandpa Herndon was invariably kind and funny. He and Grandma were married when she was 21 and they made a good life together. He built the house they lived in on land his father had given him. By the time my mother and her sisters were teens, my grandparents had given them the two bedrooms and built a sleeping porch on the house for themselves. At least Grandpa was as warm-blooded as me, since the sleeping porch had half walls and then screens to the ceiling. There were curtains for when it rained, but no windows. And, even in winter, Grandpa would still be wiping his head with his handkerchief to deal with the sweat.

After Grandpa died, Grandma didn't really know what to do with herself. She hadn't slept alone for over 50 years, and it took a long time for her to learn to do it. Life without Percy was not the same, for her or for any of us. Sometimes I see a crop in the field and I wonder what it is, and Grandpa isn't there to tell me any longer.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

National Attention

If you haven't heard about our over achieving eagle, you might like to read this at the Juneau Empire. It seems that an eagle snagged a deer head from the dump and attempted to fly away with it, hitting a transmission line, causing 10,000 homes to be without power until it could be repaired, and frying the eagle in the process.

Gayle Wood, an AEL&P spokeswoman was quoted:
The landfill has a program in place to discourage eagles, ravens and other birds from feeding, she said. But this eagle "got a hold of a little bit more than he could handle."

"This would have been a major score," Wood said. "That eagle would have been the king eagle of the Lemon Creek group."
So far this has been mentioned by everyone from USA Today to Keith Olbermann and Stephen Colbert. Ah, yes, we are famous.

In A Nutshell follows.

In A Nutshell

In a Nutshell

A place set aside to answer 201 autobiographical questions
from a mother for her daughter. This may take awhile...join us if you like.

16. I want you to know this about my grandmothers.

My grandmothers were as different as night and day. My grandmother Lillian Gladys Upton Herndon, my mother's mother, was sweet, gentle, warm, loving, and dependent. She told me that when she was 21 (in 1921) her father took her to the bank and explained to the banker that she was getting married, and so her money was now going to be taken care of by her husband. And when my grandfather died, her daughter, my Aunt Flo had already moved back in to take care of them and took over the care of Grandma's money. Aunt Flo had her write one check, so that she would have the experience of it, but Grandma never tended to that part of her life. I don't know that she ever even had any cash in her purse. My grandfather used to do all of the shopping, even for her clothes.

She had a good marriage, not without its problems, but between two people who took marriage seriously. Grandpa was very earthy and playful and one of the things I most remember her saying was, "Now, Percy. Do behave." She was a good but nervous cook, unable to have anyone else in the kitchen while she cooked, so that none of her daughters learned to cook from her. She had been so shy in school that her parents, since her mother had been a teacher, allowed her to drop out of school and be educated at home. She canned and made her own olives and grew wonderful flowers.

When I lived in Modesto with Aunt Julia, Grandma knew I loved sweet peas, and she brought them to me every week that they were in bloom. Mostly I remember her laughter and her love, hugs and cookies and always knowing that she thought I was wonderful.

If she had a fault, it was that there was no governor on her tongue. If she thought it, she said it. Luckily she seldom thought hurtful things, and never mean ones. But, blunt truth isn't diplomatic.

My grandmother Bertha Cook Hunt, on the other hand, was very capable of caring for herself and her children. She left home when her father arranged a marriage with a man she later described as "old, ugly, and rich" and worked her way from Illinois to California. There she met and married my grandfather. He was an engineer on the Union Pacific Railroad at one point, and later they opened a barbeque that was famous 90 miles away, in San Francisco. After my grandfather died, while both of her sons were still in high school, she discovered that a woman without the protection of a man was considered fair game. She closed the restaurant because she was afraid that some man would harass her when her sons were there and the boys would try to protect her and, because they were so young, they could be badly hurt. So, she turned her land into a trailer court and worked in the cannery. She was proud of her looks, delighted that she had a smaller waist than either of her slender daughters-in-law.

She was an excellent cook, and when my parents married and it turned out my mother couldn't even boil an egg, my father took her home to his mother to learn. I don't think that was the happiest time of my mother's life -- Grandma Hunt was very jealous of her sons and always had to point out the faults of their wives to them. And I'm not sure she gave Mama the best information on cooking, either. She would give recipes that people asked for with an ingredient missing or something ghastly added or the salt or chili quadrupled. Her things were her things, whether sons or recipes or her favorite paring knife. And, as I've mentioned before, after Daddy adopted Forrest and me, she never reached out to us again and we soon stopped reaching to her. When I went to live with Aunt Julia, she asked if I would like to visit Grandma Hunt, since I was now living in the same town, and we did. My Aunt Orlena told Mama that Grandma had told her that she had no idea what it was we wanted. And I never saw her after that.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Counting My Blessings

You know that I have strong feelings about how the overweight are treated by many medical personnel. I've had doctors suggest that I wouldn't have gotten that sty if I weighed less. Hell, I had an ENT, who eventually operated on the congenitally malformed turbinates in my sinuses, suggest weight loss surgery (which would have had absolutely no effect on my turbinates or the problems they caused)! And, when I said I wasn't going for a procedure with that high a fatality rate, he told me it was actually twice as high as the horrible numbers I had just quoted.

So, when I read things like this, Just Lose Weight, on Sandy Szwarc's blog, Junkfood Science, I am so grateful for my physician.

Dr. Anne Standerwyck has been taking care of me for years, and she takes excellent care of me. She listens to my concerns, takes the time to make sure she has covered all the bases, gives me thorough care, and never suggests that all of my problems would be over if only I were thin. Our first visit I told her about my experience with trying to become thin and why I had decided that I would rather be this size than keep trying to lose weight and keep getting ever bigger. Dr. Anne, who anyone can tell by looking is a naturally slender young woman and certainly can have no personal experience of the heartbreak of trying, decade after decade, to change your body, only to have it rebound on you so that you finally realize that you would have been better off if you had just left it alone, still seems to have absolutely no bias against fat people. Her office waiting room has chairs with strong arms for those of us who need the help standing, and good chairs without arms, for people who don't fit the chairs with arms. Her staff are always helpful and friendly and, no more than Dr. Anne herself, would they ever treat any patient differently than others.

Bless her.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Organic Path of the Mind

Some days, just watching the way my mind works causes me to wonder how anyone ever had the idea that thinking is linear. My thought process is more like a Buzan mindmap -- this connected to that, and the other thing going in the other direction. It starts where it starts and ends where it ends, and the links in between are anything but linear.

For instance, Friday. I walked the block to the bank to deposit my paycheck, which led me to cogitate about how when I worked for Catholic Community Service and for the State, my check was on direct deposit, but that was because CCS is the largest private employer in the southeast Alaska, with several hundred employees between all of the communities, and the State is the State, with even more employees, but NCADD is a small employer and it would cost them too much to do direct deposit. Which led to thinking about CCS having Care-A-Van fleets in all of the communities that have streets and doing the senior centers and Meals-on-Wheels and child protection programs and how some communities here don't have streets.

By which time I was at the ATM, which is a new model and it actually is slower than the previous model and I still have trouble figuring where to insert the check.

And then, I enjoyed the lovely, sunny, crisp weather as I walked four more blocks to Kenny's Wok & Tempura Sushi Bar (honest-to-God, that is the name), considering how small communities often have to do multi-ethnic restaurants in order to have a fair representative of ethnic food. (And not all of them are as related as Kenny's. For instance, we have a Greek, Italian, Mexican place that hangs together pretty well.) Of course, despite the fact that they have a large menu of sumptuous food, all of which I like, I ordered, yet again a Bento Box, because I really like the Bento Box.

There is a small salad in the Bento Box at Kenny's -- iceberg lettuce and grated carrot, with thousand island dressing, which seems to be the standard salad served in Asian restaurants, at least in Alaska and California. Which got me thinking about how proud I was, when I was in college and working in restaurants, that I knew how to "cut up" lettuce without having brown edges on the lettuce -- you whack the core of the head on a corner, and then twist the core out of the loosened leaves, and then you tear them. (I learned that reading We Took To The Woods, by Louise Dickenson Rich, which was written in 1942 and I can remember hearing my parents read to each other and that was the book that caused me to want to live someplace like Alaska.) And then, how in the time between Rich writing that and my going to college, 18+ years, when you said lettuce in the US, you meant iceberg lettuce, and indeed most people didn't know there was any other kind. And now there are so many other kinds, and with plastic knives you can cut iceberg without having the edges turn brown, so my expertise has been outlived, like buggy whips in the day of the automobile.

After I thought about buggy whips and saddles and coach lanterns for a while, I circled back to the fact that Louise Dickenson Rich was descended from a sister of Emily Dickenson, and my family also counts Emily as a relative, so this woman who influenced me so much was actually a relative of some sort.

And then, as I was dipping my sushi into the wasabi, I remembered how funny Ted Danson was in "Made in America" when he took the bite of wasabi and rolled around on the floor and how he and Whoopi had that short romance, and now that is long over.

And when the waiter asked if there was anything else and I said I'd like an order of kim chee to go (intending to put it in the fridge at the office to eat with my lunches next week) and he told me that there is now a cabbage shortage in China and he hasn't been able to get kim chee or the right cabbage to make it for several weeks and the people of Korea are getting sick from lack of their primary source of vitamin C.

And after that, there was the cab and coming back up the elevator and all sorts of other thoughts, but this is really enough for an hour.