Thursday, August 28, 2008


How about that Joe Biden? I’ve been watching the Democratic National Convention and OK, I confess it has me on the edge of my seat. In Obama’s words, “Hillary rocked the house.” Bill was on his game like old times. Joe Biden hit it out of the park. What a stand-up guy. I look forward to hearing Obama tonight. I am so delighted to see these events unfold, hear these words, and witness these images in my lifetime. Unfortunately, I anticipate that the corporate powers, who own the government, will use the same system they have perfected over the past ten years to rig the election. Until the electoral system changes, so that the corporate junta now in power is unable to use their techniques to “win” an election, nothing will change. The only hope for Obama and Biden is if they can win by such a landslide that it is literally impossible to convince the country that they lost by a hair, as in the past two elections. Right now, during the DNC, when the Democrats have center stage, dominate the media, and typically gain an edge with the public because of the spotlight, the latest polls cited in the newspaper state that McCain is (for the first time) 2% ahead of Obama in the polls. Can you believe that McCain would be capable of gaining that lead suddenly now? Me neither. Makes you think. Who’s taking the poll? Was it counted by Diebold? Obama is young enough to have the audacity to hope. For me, it’s not about hope, it’s about prayer. I’m praying for a miracle.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Mysterious Messages to Myself

As I grow older, not only do I have an unreliable memory to contend with, but my handwriting is deteriorating as well. The combination of the two is both exasperating and hilarious. I am constantly writing notes to myself so I remember things and then I don’t remember what the note means, it’s too cryptic or abbreviated for me to figure out, or I can’t read my writing. I use this nifty mnemonic aid called a dry erase board. I write things that I need to remember on the board, because if I don’t write it down it doesn’t happen. I value this tool above my adjustable crescent wrench—that’s high praise. But the board is only effective when I can figure out what I wrote. Same goes for all those post-it notes that ring my desk. For instance, the notation DRD made me crazy for days before I remembered that I needed to buy a birthday card for DAD. Then what the heck did “tonion” mean? I don’t’ have the patience for good handwriting anymore (it takes too much time). The tonion was tuition. I needed to pay Akili’s college tuition so he could register for class. Carol. Who was that and what was I forgetting to do for her? I remembered eventually that it was caroil—I needed to take the car in to have the oil changed. Compost Biz. I could read that one, but what did it mean? Was I supposed to go into business selling compost? I remembered when the raccoons dragged compost all over the driveway again—it meant I needed to secure the compost so they couldn’t get in. Sex. Am I so ancient and feeble that I need a reminder to have some? No, it was sox. Sudi needed new sox. Phew, that’s a relief.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dog Story

I don't usually post such long blog entries as the one below. I wrote this "memoir" about our family dog for another project and thought it would be fun to post on the blog. Read part, all, or none, as time permits. This is the story of the family dog from my childhood.

When I overheard Mom say “We got the kids a dog,” to a friend on the phone, I figured that meant that Dad officially qualified as one of us kids, because that dog was Dad’s from the moment he and the dog laid eyes on each other. Happy was a Kerry Blue terrier, and he was never for a moment for the kids. We were his hobby. Dad was his profession.

Dad has been a boy scout his whole life. He even wore the uniform with the shorts on an airplane when he chaperoned (as assistant scoutmaster) a scouting group that went to Scotland in the 1980s. At nearly 80 years old, he still goes out hiking with the scouts in no other capacity than as a scout himself. Perhaps he’s the oldest living boy scout in the country. Back in their heyday, he and Happy went all over the map with the scouts. They frequently camped in subzero weather together. And I mean together. Dad put Happy in the sleeping bag with him because he didn’t want the pooch to freeze to death. Dad told us that you didn’t really know a dog until you shared a sleeping bag with him.

Whenever we sang “Happy Birthday” to someone in our house, Happy barked like mad. At first we thought perhaps he was singing. Then we thought perhaps he had perfect pitch and Dad’s tone-deaf singing made him go crazy. But after many years, we realized that he barked because he thought we were singing for him, since his name was Happy. As he grew older, all we had to do was light candles and he’d bark with glee, anticipating his song.

In the evenings, after supper, Dad often sat in the den and watched TV while Happy sat at his feet with his nose buried in his nether parts where he blissfully licked himself. Dad used to say that if men could do that there would be no wars. To my knowledge, Happy was a pacifist his whole life. He never fought with other dogs, who occasionally beat him up. His greatest fear was the water. He refused to step into a pool, lake, ocean, river, or any water not coming from a hose. When Dad tried to teach him to swim, he clung to Dad, literally wrapping his front paws around Dad’s neck and not letting go while he shivered in terror.

Happy’s one sworn enemy was the bread basket, which lived atop the refrigerator. Whenever we had need of a container for the dinner rolls, Happy followed hot on Mom’s heels barking furiously as she moved that basket from its home on the fridge to the dinner table. I once saw him run into a wall while giving that basket what-for.

We had a fenced-in portion of our back yard for Happy to claim as his own space. Mom said he used the yard to “do his business.” It was ludicrous for her to use such delicate phrasing, since Dad delighted in describing Happy’s “business” from his evening walk in great detail at the dinner table. We got the latest report about color and consistency along with our tuna noodle casserole. Update at eleven.

Happy spent his spare time digging a hole in the corner of his fenced-in yard. Mom called the hole Happy’s “Great Escape.” We thought he was trying to dig his way out of the yard so he could get a better shot at the squirrels. But he was no engineer and the hole went straight down, not under the fence.

Dad was quite the athlete. He played hand ball in the winter and tennis in the summer. Hiked. Biked. Ping-pong. He won tennis trophies in the men’s league in our home town. In the summers, when he returned dripping with sweat from a tennis game, he would lay down on the living room floor and let Happy lick the salt off him. That, and bubblegum, where Happy’s favorite treats. The trash cans were in Happy’s yard and he managed to extract used bubblegum from them in ways we could only imagine. Unfortunately for him, the bubblegum stuck in his teeth. Mom was constantly having to dig it out of his mouth. Happy was usually Dad’s dog, but when he had bubblegum in his teeth, he was all Mom’s. He was also hers when he committed an indiscretion that required paper towels and Lysol, such as vomiting behind the living room couch. Dad would find the indiscretion and tell Mom, “Look what your dog did.”

Happy was a purebred dog and as such he suffered from asthma. One day, when he was about twelve years old, he had an asthma attack that morphed into a series of seizures. Dad took him to the vet immediately, but there was nothing that could be done. The vet sedated him, but when the sedative wore off, he began to have more seizures. He died in Dad’s arms. Mom told me afterward that Dad wept more over the loss of that dog than he had at the death of his mother.

After we lost Happy, Dad called the breeder who had sold Happy to us as a puppy. She told Dad that Happy had outlived his siblings and cousins. She had kept track of all of them and none had lived as long as Happy. Obviously, none of them were as “happy” either. My parents had Happy cremated and they brought his ashes home where they buried them in the Great Escape, finally filling in the hole that Happy spent his whole life digging. Dad told people that Happy dug his own grave.

In the spring, Mom and Dad planted a dogwood tree over Happy’s ashes in the Great Escape. The dogwood is beautiful to look at and smells a lot better than Happy, but Dad can’t take it for a walk or blame his farts on it. It’s a cruel twist of nature that dogs have a life span so much shorter than humans. Dad and Happy would have been good growing old together, sharing a sleeping bag, chasing squirrels, defending their loved ones from that dangerous bread basket.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Best Revenge

I have a friend, let’s call her Kay. Kay is a pediatrician and her husband has an equally lucrative job. When they were young, they adopted twin boys. The boys had an older sister, whom they eventually adopted as an adult. When the twins were teenagers, Kay and her husband started their own family. They have three biological sons. Oddly enough, two of them are also twins, now 10. Yesterday I learned that the older sister of the adopted twins was killed by a psychotic boyfriend, leaving her three children orphaned. You guessed it. Kay and her husband have taken these three in as well, the youngest is 4 (a girl). Oddly enough, the family liked this boyfriend. He seemed gentle and smart and they approved. But he had only been in the picture for a month or so. Still in the getting-to-know-one-another phase. Who would have guessed? And I think about this crazy murder and ask myself where this negative energy comes from and what conceivable purpose can such stuff serve? Kay and her husband are certainly in shock, and putting one foot in front of the other with these three more children to raise. They do not appear to wish to avenge the death of their adopted daughter. They have the greatest compassion for the mentally ill perpetrator. They are focused on the well-being of the children. Raising the children well is their best revenge.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Tomorrow I will go to Berkeley for a remembrance and celebration for our beautiful beloved Elena, who was struck and killed by a truck while bicycling to work in Oakland one year ago August 9th. She would have been 56 on August 24, 2008. So young. So many years for those of us still here to live without her. She was Sudi’s godmother. A truly evolved spirit. Perhaps there was simply no more work for her to do on this plane and so she took wing. Those of us left behind will continue to sorely miss her. Tomorrow many of her friends and family will meet at Aquatic Park in Berkeley to celebrate her vibrant spirit and experience the web of love she wove with others dear to her or who were touched by her life. Death builds a difficult divide. Hard to bridge.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Well, it’s over and done with. Another great event with my hyper-functional family. We enjoyed a glorious day at Manresa Beach (just South of Santa Cruz). Kites. Boomerangs. Frisbee. Surfing. Boogie-boarding. Skim boarding. My youngest son Sudi dug a hole to China and then his little nephew Ben (age 6) spent hours jumping into it and subsequently trying to climb out. Sudi enjoyed pretending he was walking along the beach, didn’t see the hole, and then falling right in, disappearing. Akili managed to get my frog kite aloft. I rented wet suits for my niece and nephews so they could play all day and not get cold. Everyone in the family it seems remarked to me, “Wow, you got their sizes just right.” Yeah, of course, because I had my sister-in-law email me their sizes beforehand! The highlight of the day at the beach was a visitation by a large school of dolphins. They came so close in by the shore that Sudi could practically reach out and touch them. My nephew age 11 saw the fins and freaked—he thought they were sharks at first. But then he realized that no one was fleeing and he relaxed, looked again, and squealed with glee to discover he was surrounded by dolphins. They jumped out of the water and played with each other and wove between the human swimmers for a long time, easily more than an hour. They seemed to be showing off. Ron snapped a terrific photo of a couple of them in the surf (right near the shore) and you can see their faces and their bemused smiles. It was one of the most extraordinary beach experiences I have ever had and I was delighted to share it with my family.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


OK, I’m about to disappear for a week for my family reunion. In the meantime, here’s some homework for you readers. There’s an essay contest that you can enter. I mean it, you can do it. And the prize is big. You simply have to describe a true-life story in 2,000 words or less. Yes, that’s “or less.” It doesn’t have to be 2,000 words. It can be shorter. You can win $1,000 in the monthly prize and be eligible to win $250,000 (you heard right) in the grand prize in December if it’s a really great story. There is no entry fee. Just sign up at Field Report. Everyone has a really great story in them. Tell yours. This one has to be true. Here’s the link. Go read more. You can enter as many essays as you like. I hope someone I know wins. I’ll be entering some essays next week when I get back from the beach! Check it out at FIELDREPORT - SECOND CONTEST:

Monday, August 4, 2008

Family Reunion

This week my whacky family will descend on me for a family reunion. Dad is flying in from points East on Wednesday and wants the hot tub turned up to 104 degrees for him. That would cook me—I’m post-menopausal. I better start heating it today. Brother Bill arrives from Kansas on Wednesday too. He’s the uncle everyone wishes they had. He makes balloon animals, skateboards, sings opera, juggles, throws boomerangs, and knows how to fix everything. Meanwhile, Brother Dan the rocket scientist and his lovely wife are plummeting toward us as they travel cross-country in a rented van with their three young children. Dan is re-enacting a cross-country trip we made with Dad when we were kids. I’m glad that Dan had such a happy childhood that he makes every effort to recreate it for his own clan. Although we camped at all the National Parks and Dan’s wife will have none of that—motel rooms all the way. Even so, they’ll be visiting all the same splendid National Parks on Dad’s tour all those years ago. My adult children will join us at KOA cabins near the beach in Santa Cruz over the weekend for an ocean-style family get-together. I’m looking forward to seeing the whole mishpachah, but it certainly is a lot of work. Food. Bedding. Towels. Beach gear. Camping gear. Ron says I love to organize this kind of stuff. The truth is that I hate to organize it but I love to have it happen and I don’t see anyone else stepping up to the plate. We’ll have the time of our lives. But I miss Mom.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Unpublished Poems

For his 60th birthday, my friend Stan compiled all of his favorite poems that he has written since he was a young man, made copies (about 100 pages) and gave the “sheaf” to all his favorite friends and family (some 40 people). Today he gave me my copy. Stan has a rather interesting biography. Ordained as a Catholic priest, he left the priesthood to marry the love of his life and have a family. He and his wife have two grown sons. He works in public health. His rollicking sense of humor always makes me laugh and he is someone I like to look at the stars with while pondering spiritual matters. After Stan left my house today, I weighed that sheaf of poems in my hands. Stan has never published his poems so I am grateful to be one of those select 40 who will have the opportunity to read them. And I am also once again saddened at the way of the publishing industry, which makes it near impossible for other poetry lovers to have access to Stan’s work. The energy it would take for him to get the attention of an agent or publisher is not worth expending. His energy is better used writing his poetry. That’s what he loves. Well, he also loves having others read it. So his birthday present to himself is to be read. I regret that I will miss all the words of the other Stans out there whom I will never read. Too many poems, too little time.