Friday, December 19, 2008


"It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work.

It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. "

(source unknown)

I like this a lot and it speaks to me right now. I hope I am not violating anyone's ownership rights by reproducing it here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Short One Worth Sharing

A very young (think 19) friend of mine was walking out of a mall last week as a lady (think 32) walked in. Young spots great footwear and calls to lady, "I love your boots! Where did you get them?"

Lady smiles, grabs her chest and trills, "Thanks so much! Dr. Lehman. Most people wouldn't ask."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Second Favorite Holiday Has Come ... and Gone

Table set and ready -- food nowhere in sight.

Ah, the food arrives.

That's our favorite foodie, handling the craving knife.

Everyone had plenty to eat.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Red Silk Dress


The bride’s dress featured a very large crème-with-a-touch-of-tea satin bow and long-to-the-floor sashes. It reminded me of one of my high school ball gowns. I leaned close to my mother to speak over the pounding music.

“Her dress reminds me of the one with the huge lavender bow you made me. Do you remember it?”

“Yes. Do you remember we got the idea from a picture in a Kotex ad?”

“Not at all,” I laughed. “Did that bother you?”

“Not much. The one that bothered me was the red silk. Do you remember that dress?”

“Of course. Vividly. I’ve written something about that dress.”

“I thought you looked so cute. Then one of your boyfriends said you looked pregnant in it. I felt awful.”

I watched her face for several distinct seconds and then I knew. “You don’t remember the rest of the story, do you, Mom?”

“Was there a ‘rest of the story’?”

“You took care of that.”

“I’m so glad to hear I did something right. What did I do?”

The noise was way too loud to continue what was going to be a long-ish story.

“Too noisy. I’ll write it for you.”

Here’s the story.

Back story first? Ok. Dresses and outfits, designs, sewing, tailoring. Around such matters my Mom and I bonded without reservation. Most garments started with an occasion – lead in a junior high play, balls and proms, drama and speech contests.

It had to be spring, 1962. Me, 15, turning 16. The dress was more justified than initiated. I always needed an Easter outfit, but that was not the central thrust. It was a bolt of silk that set the thing in motion. Small bouquets of blue and yellow daises on a ground of fire engine red. Maybe a touch intense for a spring Sunday dress, but irresistible.

Yard for yard, the price was high – but she agreed to it.

Then we looked at dress patterns. That year something high waisted was in fashion. Not the Empire line that creates a sleek front panel, but a dirndl-like skirt gathered just below the bust.

Between checking the fit and taking the length for the hem, I didn’t see the finished dress again until Easter morning. Mom brought it to my room and we checked it with the shoes. Standing in front of the mirror, I winced. “Mom, do you think the dress makes me look … fat?”

I didn’t really mean ‘fat’ but I couldn’t say what was on my mind.

“Oh, no. You look adorable!”

Although I left the mirror uneasy, when I couldn’t see the design of the dress, the shimmer and slip of the fabric reassured me. Completely.

Coming out of church a few hours later, David DeTar walked me to my parents’ car. David was more of a friend boy than a boyfriend, but I think that morning we were entertaining the idea of a date. When the conversation flagged, I grabbed the next thought that popped into my head.

“So, how do you like my new dress?”

“It’s cute, nice color,” he offered. Then the zinger. “Makes you look like you’re going to have a baby.”

I swiveled around to see if Mom could hear. Sliding in the car, I asked, “Did you hear what David said? He said I look pregnant in this dress.”

“Mom, can we alter it?” I asked even though I already knew at 15, going on 16, how unforgiving silk is.

“I doubt it,” my mother looked perturbed. I figured she was thinking about how much money we’d spent on this dress I was not going to want to wear. So, in the five block drive from the church to our home, I worked on getting my mind around the situation.

By the time we were home, I could calmly say, “Oh, well, I’m not pregnant and everyone will know that when I don’t get any bigger.”

I hung the dress up and went on with the day and then the week. But late that week, Mom said she wanted to check the fit on something she was sewing. Out came a dress – red silk, shirtwaist bodice, slim skirt, distinct waistline with a self-belt.

I couldn’t see how this dress could have been made from the earlier one, but just to check, I asked, “So, what did you do with the other dress?”

“Oh, I gave it to a young married friend of mine who’s pregnant. She was delighted.”

Monday, November 17, 2008

What is This Thing Called Marriage?

Well over one thousand legal issues change when you change your marital status – just within the realm of the U.S. government. Who knew!

For that matter, why would I know?

Shortly after our early November election, affiliation logos started popping up on Facebook friends’ pages for something called “Overturn Prop 8.”

Just in case this slipped passed you, dear reader, the recent election included a ballot initiative for Californians, calling for the addition of these words to that state’s constitution: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognize in California.” Surprising to many including yours truly, the initiative, referred to as ‘Prop 8,’ was successful.

I have long been a casual supporter of same sex marriage or at least the equivalent. So my inclination was to sign on and add that logo to my Facebook page. But first, I said to myself, perhaps I should think about my position more carefully and try to understand the opposition. That’s just good editorial behavior, right?

I myself regard a marriage as a rather complex contractual relationship between two people, quite apart from any rights and obligations a government attaches to the deal. I know a marriage is a personal, emotional, social and legal relationship; for many, it also involves a religious sacrament.

Two adults marry to create a home, insure companionship, probably establish exclusivity in sexual relations and, likely, make a nest for nurturing offspring. Nowadays, partners may actually discuss how they will divvy up tasks like making a living and making the beds.

And the state recognizes these contracts, giving them a lot of legal support. The state doesn’t require that the two people have children. The state doesn’t even require evidence that the two people wish to or can have children. So, on the face of it, it doesn’t appear that the existence or potential existence of offspring accounts for the state smiling on marrying couples. (Note I said, ‘doesn’t appear.’)

So if we can hold aside the sex and kid issues for a moment, we are talking about two people partnering up to share the adult tasks of making a living and making a home.

Frankly, that’s a pretty good arrangement. It improves the social and financial stability of the partners. Good for both partners, good for the society as a whole.

On the other hand, it would seem that two people could partner up pretty successfully without the legal bonds of marriage.

So, we actually face two questions: Why do same sex couples feel the desire to have their relationships defined legally as marriages? What’s the big deal?

And, then again, why does anyone object?

It’s all about that whole host of legal rights, privileges, responsibilities and obligations that accrue when two people marry. Many of those rights have to do with what the two partners owe each other; many could plausibly be established by a private contract between the partners. Many others, however, involve rights and benefits provided by governments or enforced on third parties for the benefit of the marital partners.

In the second category, for example: a spouse surviving the death of his or her partner has numerous survivorship rights which the spouse who earned the benefit cannot assign to a non-spouse. In the absence of a surviving spouse, the benefit simply disappears. Most pension survivorship benefits operate this way. Similarly, an employer who provides health insurance for employee and spouse must, by law, provide for continuation of coverage for a surviving spouse if the employee passes away.

That’s not the whole story, but it is plenty to explain why any pair-bond, any couple, would want the advantages of legal marriage.

And why does anyone object?

This is trickier to explain and often gets reduced to things that sound like nonsense to many of us: protecting marriage, protecting the concept of marriage. Huh? Occasionally the arguments slip-slide into pronouncements that “Heather has Two Mommies” will become required reading in public school second grade classes everywhere. Oh, please; easily addressed!

Here’s what I think is really going on: many of those rights and privileges were enacted into law to support not marriage per se but to support the bearing and rearing of children. At any one point in time, most adults are married but most are not in the active phase of bearing and rearing children. Politically, you can enact legislation supporting people who bear and rear children a lot easier if you simply attach the support to marriage. (I could even make the argument that, given the opportunity costs associated with raising children, it is fair and reasonable to create rights for potential and actual parents that span a lifetime – but I’d rather finish this post than write a book.)

So, the fact is, as our society works its way through the haystack of legalities associated with marriage, we’ll be forced to do a lot of work! We’ll have to revisit and clarify what responsibilities and benefits correctly arise from the fact that two adults have supported and cared for one another for years and what ones more correctly arise from the fact that a person parented children.

I’m good with that. Let’s go.

[A few of dings I’d like to head off: I do know that marriages are made by states, Federal law currently will not recognize same sex marriages even if a state endorses them, only two states currently allow for same sex marriage and Illinois (my state, where I hear some of my neighbors saying very disparaging things about Californians for supporting Prop 8) cannot even get a bill out of committee if it concerns the legal status of same sex pair bonds.]

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Help Your Local School -- SO Easy!

The other day, a neighbor on my Freecycle listserv told me her kid was collecting these:

She asked everyone to help him collect them. I didn't think I'd find any, but what the hey. Couldn't hurt to check. Pulled the old Cheerios box out of the recycling bin and, whatdaya know, there it was. So I flipped over the Kleenex box on my desk. Bingo again!

Into the kitchen drawers, the pantry -- more and more!

These coupons are worth cash to your local school. Check it out if you have a doubt: Box Tops 4 Education. Then check your cabinets.

Surfing the Blogs Just to See ...

This is amazing. I wish I'd thought to do something like it. Hard to go back and recreate.

Diego Golberg's Arrows of Time

Monday, November 10, 2008

Grandma's Diaries, revisited

Two messages in response to Grandma’s Diaries arrived via email. After checking back with the writers, I am so sharing these!


If you don't want another generation to read about your thoughts and days, writing in a diary and retaining it over the years seems unwise. I suspect Grandmother, if she considered the matter, would have wished for this very thoughtful, scholarly, now adult granddaughter, to inherit and treasure the diaries. And, she would be pleased to know you enjoy them. It's as if she sometimes looks out from those pages and smiles that wistful smile of hers, isn't it?

I suspect she'd be pleased, and perhaps a tad embarrassed, that you're now sharing her days with Julie, Frieda, and Trisha. The Texas girls came and spent whole summer weeks at her house. She might wish you hadn't cited the day when John stormed or was cocky, but then again, she recorded what she saw and left it for you, didn't she?

It's really lovely that you have the diaries and like them so much. These are like late-arriving gifts-- from her to you, and now you to her. Thank you so much for sharing some of it. I loved it.

Thank you,

John Hale

Janet, I loved the pieces you selected from the diaries. Did you know that Semper was Paul and Chockey’s dog? Grandma and Grandpa brought her to us when we moved from an upstairs duplex in Orange to a house. Maybe we couldn’t have her in the duplex?? I was too young to remember her until we moved to the house. From photos I know she was with us in Tucson while Paul was in law school. Thanks for sharing.
Trick or Treat, Frieda

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Off to Atlanta with Another Janet

One day I was trying to figure out some little idiosyncrasy. The total question is complicated and digressive, but in the course of studying the problem, I bounced from tab to tab, often returning to “Everyone” or the public feed.

As I opened the public feed yet again, a message came up from Damnit_Janet. Felt like I’d just slapped myself. I mean, that’s what I mutter when I do something dumb or cannot solve some little puzzle I believe should be easy.

I was mesmerized. I added Damnit_Janet to my ‘Following’ list. I tried to get a Tweet directly to her but that isn’t so easy if the person isn't ‘following’ you.

So, Damnit_Janet’s been entertaining me with her sparky, funny Tweets for days. I just hope if she eventually notices my name on her ‘Followers’ list, she doesn’t just block me out.

(You'd enjoy them, too, but you'll have to go ask the other Janet -- )

Meanwhile, my rl friends are probably at plays or conferences or panel discussions, but my alter-ego is off to Atlanta for the Roller Derby!

Rollin' in Atlanta as we speak

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Playing out the Race Card

To set up a blog in October of 2008 and then let the election of November 4, 2008, pass without comment would be … a bad decision. So!

We are redeemed.

Without question, the biggest stain on, the most troubling hypocrisy of our nation’s history is this: we (or more literally, some of our ancestors) attempted to establish a new nation under the principles of the Enlightenment while compromising to accommodate slavery.

For over two centuries, the resulting contradiction has plagued us. It has distorted our fundamental desire to honor merit. Often, it has made our hopes for a just and free society seem like nothing but nonsense.

Perhaps we could not have established anything without that compromise. Perhaps two centuries of struggle were a historic necessity. Perhaps.

And perhaps we are done.

Barack Obama was not my candidate of choice, for several reasons. None of them concern race. Had Colin Powell agreed to run top or second on either ticket at any point in his career, I would have been as enthusiastic a supporter as Obama’s supporters are now.

But in US elections, regardless of who you favor, when the results are in, the President is your President. And I will be thrilled to call Barack Obama my President, too.

Let us all do everything within our power to make his a successful Presidency.

[And let’s keep working on the gender card, too.]

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Watching the Results

This is the part of elections I like best: the results part.

If you, too, like following the results blow by blow, you might enjoy using this guide:

(You are allowed to ignore the sidebars, etc. That's called "focus.")

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Magritte sky --- and getting our colors on.

Goblins in motion.

Left-overs, anyone? --- plezzz!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sympathy for Jennifer Hudson and her family

When you read this story, you won’t wonder why I’ve been remembering the fall of ’02.

I was teaching, as I did for years. A young woman missed the first class, but showed up for the second – not unusual in community college extension programs. As with each student, I asked her to tell us why she was taking the class and what she hoped to accomplish. She was, she explained, working in a beauty shop; the owner was interested in leaving the business and she was trying to decide if she could and should buy the operation from him.

It was probably the third class, her second evening with us, when we got to a unit on time management and personal discipline. She commanded the floor: “I know I am responsible for making my own success. We all are. And I am going to make something important out of my life. I owe that to myself and to my family.”

Teaching entrepreneurship, it was my responsibility to be encouraging, but also realistic. I studied this face which defied conventional beauty: a large back-sloping forehead and prominent mouth framed a small well-molded nose and dark, elegant almond eyes. Something confident and determined showed in her unusual but pretty face.

“Yes,” I said, “I believe you will.”

The next week she was not in class. I asked Steven, her classmate and friend, if he'd talked to her in the intervening week.

“Disney's holding auditions in the city. I think she was going to go try-out,” he offered.

Knowing only that she had experience in a beauty shop, I am sure I looked puzzled.

“Oh, you haven’t heard her sing. That girl has an amazing voice,” he explained.

In the coming weeks, I left messages for her, updates on assignments and adjustments in the class schedule, hoping she would return. Of course, she never did.

It was not until January, ‘07 that I saw her again. I’d seen that confidence and determination for myself. But in a Miami, FL movie theater, I watched Jennifer Hudson demonstrate what Steven had told me but I’d only half believed: that girl has an amazing voice!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Grandma’s Diaries

The words march across the pages in varying colors of ink, in a penmanship unremarkable for either beauty or clarity. For each day, over a period of sixteen years, she recorded about five handwritten lines summarizing her key memories of that day: sometimes the weather, activities, sometimes meals eaten, friends visited or called, games of canasta or bridge, shots, colds, flues. Mostly ordinary, occasionally not quite ordinary and sometimes utterly intriguing. Sometimes the intrigue is in what I – her granddaughter – know is missing; sometimes the intrigue is in what is said but never delved.

As I read, I try to discern whether she wrote each evening or each morning or in some less routine pattern that nevertheless creates the image of a daily habit. I tend to believe it was the last – that she filled in her days as she found spare moments.


She filled her days.

November 15 (The year is 1948, but she has not yet begun to note the year.) “Housework & to town to get caught up on shopping brot home supplies & got supper Bot sheets for Olive & some for us plus some duds for grand children. Letters to the kids.”

November 12 “1950 Sun. To S.S. & church. Took my turn at opening exercises. Napped & tried to get rested for another week’s work.”

We ‘grand children’ always knew about grandma keeping a diary. She used to give me those little books of blank pages when I was a girl; now I don’t know if she thought diary keeping was our special bond or if all of my cousins got diaries as gifts. I’ll have to ask those cousins sometime.

May 14 “1951 Mon. Handwashing, cleaning up house Helped Forbes set out plants & bulbs We called Paul about coming home for the summer. Hot bath & to bed exhausted.”

But I must have been the one most engaged, because at her death I was the only one who asked for the diaries. My uncle, her youngest and dearest, hesitated. My father told me: “Paul will read the diaries first. Maybe then you can have them; maybe not.”

No doubt her discretion even in her private records accounts for my having the records at all. When a week-long spousal disruption is reduced to “Less said, sooner healed.” we know we are not in the era of ‘letting it all hang out.’

In my 59th year, sorting out old, old photos, I got her diaries out to locate the date of one event. And did the V-8 head bang as I realized she started this practice in her 59th year. So I read, day by day, what my grandmother did on the day corresponding to this day in my life.

May 6 “1950 Sat. To Beauty Shop. To town in evening Carrol and Olive here a few minutes. Got black bag. Car in garage.”

May 7 “1950 Sun. To S.S. and Church. Man in charge of rural churches preached. To farm in P.M. took C & O & Semper.”

For me, of course, Carrol and Olive and Semper have meaning: great Uncle and Aunt and the red cocker spaniel dog, Semper Fidelis.

June 15 “1952 Sun. 101* To church children day. Had program in basement. Took drive in late p.m. to Bedford & to see country around Gran(unreadable) & N.M. & Northeast of Clarinda. To Hotel for dinner. J.E. sour – too much intelligensia (sic) there.”

Ah, now there’s a bit.

Maybe my Uncle got tired of reading … or perhaps he decided I could handle the idea that my grandparents weren’t perfect. I’ll never know because an automobile accident took Paul in the early 90s.

May 7 “Fri 1954 Cold, below freezing again last nite. JE late to farm waiting on phone call, feeling very cocky after telling me off. Planted first of the Glads, 2 doz from Tidy House Products. To bed early.”

January 26 “Wed 1955 JE in a ‘towering rage’ cussed & fumed etc. Doesn’t like the way we live (neither do I but more sense than to cuss about it). Snowing & very cold. Ate humble pie in interests of peace.”

April 7 “Sun 1963 Admired Chandalier Bill installed, just beautiful! Late breakfast. Visiting then to Coachman’s Inn for dinner. All left for homes – Felt we had a wonderful visit. Merle pulled tooth for Diane. Gave Ed a card & $5.00 To our church for evening lenten services. Almes preached on John.”


My twenty-five-year-old son reads over a half dozen entries and concludes: “She had a boring life.” Perhaps it helps to be the age she was, for what I see isn’t boredom. I see comfort in the peace of pattern and familiarity. That, giving healthy ballast against moments here and there of pain and confusion, dissatisfaction. Life.

A House Divided?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Starting Out All Over Again

This first post is an experiment. I am simply learning how to use the blog I am setting up.