Great Expectations and Grim Reality (WITH APOLOGIES TO CHARLES DICKENS)

As a school principal, I once had a conversation with a parent from Ukraine. His child was in my office because he had refused the bus driver’s direction to sit down when the bus was in motion. The boy showed he had mastered at least some of the English language when he swore at the bus driver.

The father was incensed that his son was in trouble. After all, he asserted, the United States was a place where people were strong, assertive and independent. His son didn’t like where he was sitting and wanted to change places. He was just (literally!) standing up for himself, the way any American would. He knew this was the American way, he said, because he watched Westerns on television.

I like to think the discussion that followed led him to disavow his badly skewed view of American Society, but the view of the U.S. society as a collection of self-centered, non-cooperative individuals does persist.

Our current crisis requires cooperation and concern for others, as well as ourselves. We are all connected. No one person or group can survive long-term if we act primarily as individuals.

We do have great expectations of our society. We often claim that Americans can solve any problem, no matter how difficult: but this is true only if we work together. The failure to do so leads to grim reality.

Stay healthy!



If you are like me, you probably have things you say when you don’t know what to say. For example, I went through a phase where I commented “It is what it is” to almost everything. Of course it is what it is, it can’t be what it isn’t. I realize the phrase has a deeper meaning, but in the shorthand of today, that deeper meaning is usually not conveyed nor understood. We’re left with a shallow saying rather than true communication.

Language is always changing and evolving. Context changes rapidly and that affects meaning. One of my ‘favorite’ sayings illustrates that point- ‘the exception proves the rule.” On the face of it, the phrase is not logical. But, the meaning of the word ‘proves’ has morphed over time. It used to mean ‘tests’, but now we tend to use it to mean ‘support’.

Maybe next time I don’t know what to say, I should remember that “Silence is golden” – and offer a sympathetic nod or hand pat.


People Who Inspire

This post is the first in a series about people who inspire others. They are not celebrities, just real people who make a difference in our communities every day, simply by being themselves.  

My friend, Bob Schneider, has been many things in his life: husband, father, restorer of vintage cars and one wonderful Victorian home, an antique dealer, and a world traveler, just to name a few.

He has always shown his concern for his country and community. He enlisted in the Navy just after high school and is justifiably proud of being a Navy Veteran.

Many years later, Bob retired from SMUD, the local utility district. Both he and his wife, Louise. continued their service to the community by volunteering at Kaiser hospital.  Bob volunteered for fourteen years.

He ‘retired’ as a Kaiser volunteer, but that wasn’t the end of his service to the community. For the past nine years, he has been on patrol as a volunteer for the Roseville Police Department. Recently, he announced he will retire as of April 23, 2019.

He has volunteered numerous hours over a twenty-three-year period. Thank you for being such an inspiration.


San Francisco – The Dark Side

When I hear ” San Francisco,” I think of Tony Bennett singing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”,  Pier 39, Cruise ships, the Golden Gate Bridge, and other tourist attractions. The last time I visited San Francisco, I traveled there in a bus, and went straight to the cruise ship boarding area. No mess, no fuss.

But recently I had a very different experience. I rode “shot-gun” and served as the navigator for a friend. Neither or us had actually driven through San Francisco in several years. I am not known for having the keenest sense of direction. ( Calls of  ‘Your other left’ still haunt me when I think of dancing), but in spite of this I never recoil from the role of navigator.

We made it through without incident to our destination and completed our task. Granted, there was one place where we almost ended up in Oakland/San Jose due to some misdirection from the car’s On Star system ( not MY fault!) but other than that, it was relatively smooth.

After a few false starts and several conversations with the folks at On Star, we made it back toward San Francisco and in the general direction of Interstate 80 East, the main highway that would take us home. That’s when the trouble began. We soon rediscovered how interesting it can be to drive through San Francisco.

Because I was so busy making sure we stayed on the correct course, I did not take even one photo of our adventure; however, I do have two drawings I did after we returned home. I hope you enjoy them.

The official plan for entering Interstate 80 East from downtown San Francisco

The way the official plan looks to most drivers.



Early Spring?

We are supposed to have an early spring, according to the expert ground hog observers in Philadelphia.  On February 2nd, the little critter did not see his shadow, due to a passing tornado. And, as the saying goes, no shadow -no fear – so the little critter was not frightened by his shadow into climbing back into his burrow for more sleep, but decided instead to cavort outside. (Really? A tornado isn’t something to fear?)

In the spirit of Early Spring, I’ve decided I should try something new, something I’ve never done before, something to celebrate the beautiful weather. I hit upon the perfect activity, and it turned out to be interesting, but not without frustration new activities sometimes generate.

My local newspaper has been publicizing the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), being held this weekend (February 12- February 15th.) It is a global event, coordinated through Cornell University. For several years I have had bird seed feeders and hummingbird feeders in my backyard and they have been fun to watch. It seemed reasonable to participate in the GBBC at least once. Besides, all I had to do was site near my kitchen window and record what I saw.

The recording was not that difficult, and although I am hardly a committed birder, I did know the types of birds that frequent my backyard.  In a 30 minute period, I saw 40 birds from 5 different species.

You can find information on GBBC at,  at or by contacting your local Audobon Society.

It’s a great activity to do as a family – go to a park to watch the birds, then have a picnic.



A picture of one of the bird seed feeders in my backyard – rather barren looking because apparently the vine that usually grows so beautifully has not yet gotten the word that  spring is early this year!








One Thing Leads to Another . . . . A Treasure Hunt

I was in a Washington D.C. bookstore at the end of a wonderful sightseeing trip to The National Air and Space Museum, looking for a paperback to read on the plane ride home.  I found Melanie Benjamin’s  The Aviator’s Wife. Perfect, I thought. I already know quite a bit about Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and I just saw the Spirit of St. Louis at the museum. This probably won’t take long to read and if I happen to leave it on the plane, it’s no big loss. (Not like leaving your Kindle!).  Being a bit of a history snob, I thought a Historical Novel couldn’t have much more than entertainment value.  I was completely wrong. It took more than a plane trip to read. When I got home, I found myself going to the computer to get more information about that period in world history.  Since historical fiction raises the question how much is historical fact and how much of this book is fiction, the author’s notes on that topic are very important. Ms. Benjamin’s notes were great!

After reading the book, I had to know more about Lindbergh, so I re-read A. Scott Berg’s Lindbergh. I read it when it first came out during the dark ages (1998). While I read it to compare some of the points of history between the two books, reading one after the other was just fun.


At a holiday party, someone recommended another historical novel, Stevenson’s Treasure, by Mark Wiederanders.   This is a story about part of Robert Louis Stevenson’s life. I was aware of Stevenson’s Treasure Island, but I regarded him as an author of boys’ adventures stories. I knew he had spent some time in the Monterey-Salinas area, and I had lived in that area for several years. On top of that 100 year-old coincidence was the fact that the author apparently lives not too far from me. That was it. I was sold. I had to read that book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I found myself checking the historical references, just as I had for The Aviator’s Wife, and they were wonderfully accurate.

I decided I really didn’t know enough about Robert Louis Stevenson, so I tackled  a biography written by G.K. Chesterton. I say tackled because G.K. Chesterton (1874-1935) is anything but an easy read. It was not a biography in the typical, linear sense, but more of a literary and social commentary. It gave me a further context for understanding Stevenson and the chance to read a brilliant, if confusing author.

I went on a treasure hunt of my own and had fun on the way.



Where in the World?

Looking through some old photos of trips my husband and I have taken through the years, it struck me how many places in the world bear a strong resemblance to each other – not that anyone would completely mistake one for the other – but close in some ways.  Here they are. What do you think? Either/or?

IMG_20151231_0001South Africa or the Salinas Valley, CA in August.IMG_20151231_0002



Germany or Bloomfield Hills, MI.



The Alps or the Sierra Nevada in CA.

What’s New in Washington D. C. and How Deep are My Leaves?

I spent Thanksgiving in Washington D.C. site seeing with my son and daughter-in-law. They are the two best travelers I know. The weather was perfect, the town was not crowded and we had a wonderful time touring the White House, walking, eating, and visiting museums and monuments. This was my first trip, and I already have a list of things to see next time.

I did take a few pictures – 143 in all, including several of my shoe, the tour bus seat and my thumb. Here are a few of the better ones.

P1000562                                                        The White House Blue Room (of course)

P1000567                                                      The White House Red Room (aptly named)

These two rooms make me want to consider redecorating.

P1000607  The original Wright Brothers plane at the National Air and Space Museum. (Can’t tell from the picture if it is Orville or Wilbur piloting.)

IMG_0152The dome of the Capitol Building where congress meets is undergoing maintenance. The glow around the dome is not an indication of angelic behavior on the part of its inhabitants,  or a lack of focus by my camera, just lights reflecting off the scaffolding. The light to the left of the building is actually the moon.

The morning after I returned home, I noticed fall had arrived in my neighborhood. I think it is just as beautiful, in its own way, as Washington D.C.



Gardening with Critters

“Dogs look up to us; cats look down on us.”

Winston Churchill

I was out in my backyard, by myself, cleaning up after the last rainstorm. As I finished putting up the bird feeder, I noticed L.C., one of two cats that live in my backyard. Of the two, L.C. is the shyest. She lets me scratch her head, usually after she’s had dinner, but otherwise she keeps her distance.

Today was a little different. She sat about ten feet from me, next to a rose-bush and stared at me. A few minutes later, her sister joined her and the two of them proceeded to inspect every item I had touched during my clean up.

I’d like to think it was because they find my activities fascinating, but according to John Bradshaw, in his book Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make … (sorry,  my Kindle does not list the entire title of the book), the sisters were really just updating their mind-maps of their territory. You know – the best sleeping place, best hunting/hiding place, location of food dishes, etc.

John Bradshaw is British and the Brits do like their cats and dogs, but I still choose to believe there is a social aspect to my cat’s behavior. How else could you account for a cat’s well-developed ability to manipulate human behavior with a purr and a two-eyed blink?


P1000534                                                                          L.C. supervising.



P1000536                                                       L.C. and S.C. checking things out.