A Reading List for Our Time (Warning – Politics Ahead)

We live in puzzling times, particularly in the U.S.  It is difficult to determine what is the result of a disinformation campaign and what is real. We suffer from verbal whiplash in trying to follow the reasoning behind public statements of our officials. We live in Topsy-Turveyville (yes, I know not a real word). In order to help deal with this confusion, I have developed a suggested reading list built around the classics.

1) Hugh Lofting  Dr. Doolittle – while the title is apt, focusing on one of Dr. Doolittle’s animals, the pushmi-pullyu can be  particularly helpful in understanding how the legislative process works. (We have many of them in congress.)

2) Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. While most of the characters are amusing and confusing, I find the Mad Hatter particularly interesting. (I think he has a political future!)

3) George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm. (Cautionary  tales- ’nuff said)

4) Jonathan Swift – Gulliver’s Travels – This seems to be the current basis for U.S. foreign policy.






California Driving – It’s No Dream (Sorry Mamas and Papas)


I learned to drive in an Edsel station wagon on the Los Angeles freeway system. Obviously, I’ve been driving in California for a long time. Throughout  the years, I’ve noticed a variety of driving “sins” committed by my fellow Californians ( but not by me, of course.)  There is the precarious, unannounced lane change, which causes a parade of brake lights. A variation includes turning on the turn signal after the lane change has been completed. And then, there is the famous California STOP. (Skid Tires On Pavement).

But very recently, I witnessed a driving “sin” that was truly hair-raising. In California on some streets, we have turn lanes. For example, a four lane road may have two lanes on each side separated by a middle lane, which is a two-way turn lane. The turn lane is bound by two yellow lines. Usually, the outer line is solid, and the inner line is broken. This marking indicates drivers on either side can enter the turn lane in order to make a turn, as long as they don’t head-on someone going the other way trying to make a turn. The turn lane is not a driving lane, nor is it a passing lane. (Sorry, but I’m taking my first written driving test in twelve years, so I’ve been reviewing the law.)

Driving in the center lane (not the turn lane) was an older model Mercedes about four car lengths ahead of me. Traffic was light. To our immediate left was a turn lane with a red pick up truck sitting there. The truck was signaling a left turn. The Mercedes pulled into the turn lane, drove toward the truck without slowing down, then cut to the left of the truck and drove about fifteen feet in the oncoming traffic lane. It then cut in front of the truck, went out of the turn lane and back into the traffic lane ahead of me. At the stop light, the Mercedes moved into the left turn lane and politely turned on it left turn signal.

Fortunately, there was no oncoming traffic and the truck driver was aware of the Mercedes. He could easily have t-boned the Mercedes, injuring himself and the Mercedes driver.

I’ve decided the only way to explain such drivers is that they must subscribe to the philosophy  that  “I’ll do it my way, no matter the cost to others.”


Stay safe







April Showers and Sunshine

April used to be a month of celebrations for my family. There were four April birthdays; my son, my husband and two brothers-in-law. It marked the end of  what passes for “the rainy season”  in California. Recently, one local weatherman commented that usually  the end of the rainy season in California is marked by “tax day” – April 15th.

In the past four years, two of my April birthday family members have passed away; my husband and one brother-in-law.  It is still a time to celebrate, but the sadness is there as well.

We don’t forget those we lost. The bitter-sweet memories return at unexpected times and in unexpected ways. No one can “replace” someone you lost, but they can add to your life and help you make new memories.  April does bring sunshine as well as showers.




The Rule of Two


Recently, my Best Friend In the Whole World (BFITWW) graciously helped me out of a tight situation by going into my closet to retrieve a specific pair of shoes. He then brought them to me.  (Thank you!) I wasn’t at home at the time, so we communicated by phone. Only then did it occur to me that my closet wasn’t the best organized place. I had violated  the spirit of the Rule of Two.

The Rule of Two states that you should always have at least two of certain necessary items on hand, but no more than two. For example, two packages of paper towels, two of toilet paper, maybe two of laundry detergent. For such necessities, the Rule of Two can help you avoid emergency trips to the store at 10:00 p.m.

The Rule of Two doesn’t apply so neatly to certain ares of the house – such as garages and clothes closets. I have heard that beautifully organized garages with a place for everything and everything in its place do exist. But it is hard to imagine even those garages having only two pairs of needle-nosed pliers and only two large flat-head screw drivers.

Clothes closets are even more complicated. The categories are not so easily defined, and the sub-categories are constantly expanding. There are dress shoes, dressy shoes, work shoes, grungy garden shoes, running shoes, and so on. Apply these sub-categories to other articles of clothing and you see why  a strict reading of the Rule of Two is not a good fit for clothes closets or garages.

I took a hard look at my closet and concluded it was over-crowded and non-functional. I decided to start by focusing on the shoes. An hour later, I had removed ten pairs of shoes that either no longer fit me, or were so outrageously out of style they should be in a shoe-history museum. They’re gone now. It was a bitter-sweet experience. Now I just have to resist replacing them with more shoes.

The unfortunate ten

Last week, I read an interview with Joan Baez. She has lived in the same house for fifty years. Recently she adjusted her home to fit her current interest, painting. As part of the de-cluttering of her living space, she mentioned she now has only three shirts hanging in her closet. I’ll never sing like Joan, and my closet will always be more crowded.







My brother-in-law passed away last month. He was a kind man. A retiree, he volunteered many hours with the Boy Scouts of America. The local Boy Scout District has honored his memory with a scholarship that will send two scouts to Boy Scout Camp.   He spent quality time with his step-children and grandchildren.  A good, kind man who believed in serving the community and taking care of his family, he did both with quiet dignity.

He worked for Pacific Gas and Electric before his retirement. He was the one they sent out late at night when there was a problem, traveling long distances and long hours.

He was a Vietnam Vet, serving as a machinist on a carrier. He died from Mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a very aggressive form of cancer that affects the lungs and the lining of the chest. It is difficult to diagnose.  The first indication he had of the problem was a severe pain in his side. It took a while to arrive at a diagnosis. It is important to determine the type of cancer in order to plan an effect attack on the disease, and that requires several tests. He went through radiation therapy and chemotherapy in the hope that the disease could be slowed down. But it was not successful.

Mesothelioma is not curable. There hasn’t been any research on the disease for the past forty years. The on-set is quick. It often masquerades as other ailments making it hard to identify, but early detection does not stop the inevitable.  It is a painful disease. Pain medication helps, but it, too, takes a toll.

My brother-in-law had very high exposure to asbestos. On the carrier, the  mens’ quarters were directly under the asbestos-wrapped pipes. When the guns were fired, asbestos dust rained down on the men. The guns went off day and night, particularly in the Mekong Delta. The association between exposure to asbestos and Mesothelioma has been known by the companies that produced the product since 1935, and yet no action was taken to protect those who had to work with asbestos.

It is so sad that such a good man should have had such a terrible, unnecessary disease.

I’ve capitalized Mesothelioma, not out of respect, but out of fear.




Shopping with a Holiday-Fried Brain, Giants in the Hills and Cashew Moments


Like so many others during the holiday season, I find myself making multiple trips to the grocery store to buy that one  special ingredient for a recipe that I only make once a year.  As I wandered up and down the grocery store aisle, I literally ran into a display featuring “Entertainment Crackers.” That held my attention briefly as I wondered what type of entertainment crackers could supply. Do they sing, dance or tell jokes?

I finished my shopping and returned to my car. I couldn’t help but notice that the inside of the windshield was still coated with  a slightly-oily mystery substance. I told my son I had tried cleaning the windshield with the cleaner the manufacture recommended, but it hadn’t work. He suggested I use crumpled newspaper and glass cleaner. I hadn’t done that yet, but I would.

Given the state of my fried brain, I began to wonder about the cleaning process. I read that newspaper subscriptions are down and very few people actually buy newspapers with any regularity. I also read that most people now rely on social media for news, especially their smart phones. Did that mean that these newspaper- deprived, smart-phone users would have to use their smart phones to clean the windshield? Does Siri do windows?

One of the best things about the holidays is spending time with family and friends, reliving memories and sharing stories. Coming back from one  family gathering, we drove through an area of California that has low, rounded hills. In the Spring the hills are bright green, but now they are covered with a low brown growth that looks like suede from a distance. There are no deep canyons, only  soft, undulating bumps. Our family knows the area well. During the drive, my son reminded me that  when he was little, he thought the hills were sleeping giants and the brown growth was a blanket covering the giants.

My beautiful daughter-in-law and handsome son visited from out-of-state. They are wonderful to talk to. They shared a story about cashews. They discovered that they really liked cashews and had a supply on hand at home. When my daughter-in-law’s parents visited from Korea, they asked the name of the curiously shaped nuts.

Neither my son nor daughter-in-law could remember the name. They decided to avoid that problem in the future by spending a day when they referred to everything as a cashew; e.g. “Oh, my cashew (phone) is ringing.”  This apparently worked.

We now refer to those times when a word is not on the tip of your tongue as a “Cashew moment.”

I hope you had a wonderful holiday. Best wishes for the new year.




Travel Tips – The 15 Day Cruise

My Best Friend in the World and I recently returned from a fifteen day cruise to Hawaii. Hawaii is a uniquely beautiful place – everything I thought it would be. The photo above was taken in Hilo. We toured a tropical botanical garden in Hilo, visited The Arizona and Mighty Mo  at Pearl Harbor, went on a fantastic helicopter ride over Kauai, and dove 130 feet down in a submarine off Maui.

I’ve learned that there are certain essentials you should remember when going on a such a long cruise. They are:

  1. pack as much patience as you can, then add a little more.
  2. take a large supply of compassion.
  3. pack  lots of underwear.

You will need patience traveling with a large group. There is a certain amount of “hurry up and wait.” It helps to remind yourself that this is a vacation and you are there to break out of your usual routine. It is not meant to be just like home. You can have good conversations with your fellow “waiters”. They often have interesting stories and you may never have the opportunity to talk to them again.

Be understanding. Show compassion for those you meet. Realize that staff members work hard. Don’t expect perfection every minute. It really isn’t evident of moral failing if the Steward forgot to leave mints on your pillow Wednesday night. If the toilet leaks, report it to guest services and let them take care of it. Don’t complain bitterly that the staff “let the toilet leak.” Things happen – even on a vacation.

If you are on a ship for fifteen days, adequate clean underwear is a must. You do not want to do a load of laundry  on the ship. Let’s just say, people are not always at their best standing in a cramped laundry mat for an hour and a half waiting to use a drying. This can be  drain on your supply of patience and compassion.

A close-up of one of the 1,500 species of orchids in Hawaii.

After we  returned from our tour on the submarine, we were given a chance to film the submarine as it submerged with  the next group of visitors.  Here is a short video.



Fleet Week – San Francisco, CA

On October 8th,  I was in  San Francisco to see the Canadian Snow Birds and the Blue Angels perform in honor of Fleet Week. Both performances were breath-taking. It is hard to imagine how much training the pilots go through.  We watched them fly in formation, disappearing from the sky, then suddenly coming up behind us.

The finale for the Blue Angels had them flying under the bridge, smoke trails tracing their seemingly impossible flight paths.

We were on a ship anchored in the bay, surrounded by other boats ranging from elegant yachts, other converted paddle- wheelers like the one we were on, small sailing boats and even kayaks.

I would have liked to show you the magnificent pictures I took of the planes as they flew by; but once again, I discovered that taking pictures of supersonic planes on a crowded ship deck with an iPhone results in pictures of your fellow passengers heads, your finger over the lens, or the clear sky.

It was a beautiful day, even in San Francisco, with brilliant blue skies and a slight wind.

I did get some pictures (see below), but you will have to imagine the planes.


A view of the San Francisco skyline from the ship deck.


One of our fellow travelers watching the planes.


A neighboring ship.