Sunday, August 31, 2014

If Cats Could Talk

Do you ever look at pictures of your parents and calculate how old they were in that picture and how old you are now?

I was looking for an old picture of a gathering at Harstene Island to muse on how difficult it is to date those pictures.

And, as is often the case, I found something else.

This picture of Gramps (Jim Barnes, Dennis' father) was posed under the direction of Ilana.  It's in the 1994 folder.  Often I guessed at the dates; that would put Ilana as 8 years old. Could have been a few years later.   In their townhouse just a few blocks from us.  Ilana used the picture for Reflections (the PTA arts competition) entry entitled "If cats could talk."  She staged it as her grandfather talking to Frank, the cat.  Frank, one of our all time best cats, came to us as a stray.  He was looking around for a place with kids; he really liked children.  At that time, Susanna was a baby so he came to us in 1985.  One of those situations where you open the front door and the cat saunters in, "Hi, I'm your cat now, I live here so you might as well stock up on cat food. " In almost every picture of the kids when they are young, Frank was usually in the picture.  He loved kids and he felt like he had to watch over them.  One of those toddler cats who patiently let toddlers do anything what they want, stick their fingers in their ears, drag them around by their back feet, etc.  Later, when Danny's asthma worsened and we realized that he had a cat allergy, Frank found a new home at the grandparents' house down the street.  They loved him too.

So here Gramps is pretending to have a conversation with Frank and Frank is doing a good job listening.  Imagine doing that with our current cats?  As if!  As Ilana says, you can't even make suggestions to Starbaby, she is NOT interested in whatever you think should be happening.  Not one bit.  And George is such a semi-domesticated thug, he wouldn't go along; probably bite you.

Ilana loved Reflections, always entered, sometimes would get awards.  In kindergarten, she made a picture that she called 'a flower with a heart and a star' or something, as usual, taking her inspiration from the sky.  Fine.  Months later, on a winter evening, we get a call from my neighbor.

"Did you realize that the Reflections reception is tonight?  Like right now?"
"I did not know that"
"Did you know that Ilana won an Honorable Mention, which is a big deal?"
"I did not know that"
"Why aren't you here, you're supposed to be here!"

Of course, I hadn't heard a darn thing about it.  So I whip into action.  Naomi is two and it's January so guess what she's wearing?

If you are an experienced parent, you can get this one.

Her bathing suit, of course.  So somehow, I'm home with Danny and Naomi.  Where was Ilana and Susanna?  I don't remember.  I just remember finding everybody and changing directions fast.  I remember Danny taking his baby sister, peeling the bathing suit off and getting her dressed and we made it for the end of the reception.

Anyway, I'm not sure of the year.  Ilana's grandfather is going along with her scheme.  It it's 1994, he's 67 years old.

If cats could talk....

Saturday, August 30, 2014


I continue on the California theme but I reflect.  I lived the first 27 years of my life in California,  The Golden State.  But I've lived 35 years here in Washington, The Evergreen State.  So why do I feel like a California girl at heart?  I've lived here longer in the beautiful Puget Sound area, been an adult, worked, raised a family of 4 kids.  Rich images must abound.  And they do.

It's a different beauty here; darker, the light even in the summer much more diffuse, bluer.  Today, Labor Day Weekend, the weather has cooled, kinda rainy, cool, temp currently 66 degrees.  In Sacramento and Chico, temp is close to 90 degrees and going up.  Very normal for the Sacramento Valley for this time of year.

As you grow older, if you are fortunate to avoid trauma, things don't stick in your mind so much.  Images that seem so crucial when you are young, barely make an impression.  Maybe we all searched more ... or maybe we have less brain cells, who knows?

I've found some great California images the last few days.  This one came from somewhere on Flickr, not sure where.  To me, this looks like the orchards around Chico where we lived for a few years before we moved to Seattle.  The northern Sacramento Valley.  Besides the semi-arid pastureland, the seaesonally flooded rice fields abounded and, up around Chico, beautiful orchards.  Most grew almonds (pronounced aaaaah-muns, like the 'a' in asked).  This picture looks more like winter, the bare trees, the warm clothes, the rough earth.  This persons holds walnuts, we can assume a walnut orchard?  We had a huge black walnut tree in our front yard of our modest Chico home.  I can't quite make it out on Google Earth, there's no images of our little end of W 17th Street.

This picture gives me the feel of living in the northern Sacramento Valley in the late 1970s; don't know that it's much changed.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Mothball Fleet

I'm discovering some really interesting aerial views of California; some sites that I've weaved into my own past.

I remember this sight as my family took our infrequent trips to San Francisco and the Bay Area from Sacramento in the late 1950s.  We went across the bridge near Martinez on the highway and we could on Suisun Bay rows and rows of ships.  Warships.  That's the mothball fleet, I was told, ships that we don't need any more.

I think the view of them all lined up attracted me.  I didn't know a thing about them but they were always there.  Deserted.  Ghost ships?  Maybe haunted?

Looking things up on the internet, I think that maybe the mothball fleet has been dispersed.  There might still be some.

I'm posting a picture from around 1950, and then more current and a closeup (credit Juna Pablo Jimenez on Panoramio)

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Regarding California

I have a complicated relationship with a complicated state.

I had been looking for some good images of Sacramento, where I grew up.  Jackpot!  I found some great ones today.

I started looking for pictures of my high school, Rio Americano High School.  It was a new school at the time; I started as a freshman in 1967; the first year they had a graduating class.  I don't spend much time thinking about those years; I certainly did NOT have fond memories.  But there it is.  Most everybody went to high school somewhere...and it left its mark.

Like that concept of 'place' I learned about last year which is an essence that has meaning for a person that transcends space and time.  Has its own parameters and charateristics that do not necessarily correspond to measurement.

Here's an image from a contractor who did a paving job in one of the courtyards. Yes, looks familiar.  But you know what it also reminds me of?  The courts at Shorecrest High School, in Shoreline WA.  Our local high school.  My kids all went there.  Built at almost the same time as Rio Americano.  At Shorecrest, the different groups hung out in different physical locations.  A place looking similar such as the "A Court."  But already, all those places are GONE!  My youngest graduated in 2009 so it has been awhile.  But they just tore down most of Shorecrest to build a whole new school.  Completely different!  New new new.  The Shoreline School District and its surrounding community (which is not particularly wealthy) keeps their schools up to date.

So, the high school places of my children are more 'gone' than mine.

Found this photographer, tileston who posts pictures on panomamio.  Great aerial shots of Sacramento and outlying areas.  The outlying areas are the key because the land is semi-arid and somewhat forbidding.  Including a picture of the edge of the high school track onto the American River which was kind of a magical place in its own right.  Maybe more for my husband than me.  But the spirit of the river trancended the banality of the subutrban high school.  The shot, probably taken in the spring overplays the greenery.  But, the river, more important than I realize.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Nothing you write is wasted

Most every writer I know has a first book that's sitting in their drawer.  Never made it into print.  Of course, these days, for quite a small price, you can turn anything you darn well want into a printed book.  I've done it (Maier Zunder) and others too.

Ain't it grand?

But, as I've learned, nothing you write is really wasted.  Lots of times, you can take parts of it and turn it into something else.  Especially in the memoir business.  I'm writing (and rewriting) lots of short pieces about Parent Group.  I have blind faith that these will coalesce into something useful.

Anything you write can be used for something.  Actually, I have lots I've written on this blog that I could expand upon.


The idea that I will use all this for something (and I have plenty in the drawer) takes an optimistic view of the future; that you will have loads of time to work and rework your writing into something useful and rewarding.

Either that, or your family will just throw it all in the trash when you die.  That goes for stuff stored digitially.  I have a friend with no children.  All her pictures are on her computer.  I mused that so much is lost with all of the pictures stored on computer.  "Nah," she told me, "it will make the disposal so easy when I die, poof all gone."

She has a point.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Classroom Economy

Susanna is visiting her sister, a first year teacher.  Susanna makes good art.  Myself, I can't cut a straight line or rubber cement anything in the right place.  But Susanna has a great eye and steady hands and the vision to create beautiful artwork.  I thought she might be able to contribute a bulletin board for the classroom.  Sure enough, it's just midday of the first day of a two day visit and she's already made this wall display.  She's good!

Long ago in high school, Ilana was struggling to draw a map of New Jersey and Susanna was really stuck trying to write a paragraph about a cell.  Finally, Susanna pushed Ilana aside "Move over!  I'm drawing that map!" she loudly declared.  Ilana went and easily turned out the cell paragraph.  I suggested a concept of "Family Homework,."  As usual, Susanna objected until I explained that everybody would do what they were good at, Susanna could draw things and Ilana could write.  Susanna loved that.  I'm sure it didn't conform with contemporary educational objectives but isn't that how it works in the real world?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Yosemite coming up

I'm looking forward to our trip to Yosemite coming up soon.  I remember being there only a few times, a long long time ago.  Who did I go with?  UCSC days, early 1970s?  All I remember was that we stayed at an unofficial free campground behind the gas station.  The Park Service provided it to the climbers because they would just camp illegally somewhere else so you might as well provide a place for them.

We're going to stay in the Yosemite Valley and there looks to be plenty to do even for impacted old people.  I'm voting for parking the car and just taking the shuttle around.  Not everything will be going because it will be so late in the season.

I watched their informational video and they said that sometimes Yosemite Falls dries up.  Given the drought in California, could be happening.  Check out the picture from the webcam.  No falls at the falls!  Actually, if you want waterfalls, try the stretch on the Columbia, Multnomah Falls, etc.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

My four kids

Here they are, all four of my kids together.  Of course, they are not children any more...mostly.  They are grown up adults.  At the occasion of Ilana's wedding.

People sometimes ask me; why did you decide to have such a large family?  I say, we didn't!  The family formation thing kind of got away from us.

In case you don't know, left to right

Naomi age 24, one of her sister's attendants in the wedding
Ilana, age 28, the bride
Susanna, age 29 one of her sister's attendants in the wedding
Danny age 32

Everybody looking good!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Metaphors used by abused women

Today I met with three women who had left abusive marriages.  We talked about parenting strategies.  Two of the women came from different countries, each had been married to their abusive partner for a little over 10 years and each had children.

M said "I always felt he was swinging a baseball bat aiming for my ankles, trying to bring me down."  Immediately T said, "For me it felt like he was incessantly tapping my forehead ... hard!"  And J said "I always felt like he was twisting me, twisting me." as she wrung her hands.

Wow, what rich varied physical images that these three women came up with!  I am fortunate that I have not been in an abusive relationship, physical or otherwise.

What would others say?