Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Those close to me will attest to the fact that I get more than a little nuts when I've begun a project. This is no exception.

On my personal Facebook page, I mentioned to my friends that I wanted to scan and share some newspaper columns that my mother wrote back in about 1966 -- or was it 1968? They were for the now-defunct Van Nuys Valley News and Green Sheet. But, I can't find them, and Mom now can't be sure where they are!!

I've ransacked the living room desk several times over the past weekend--where Mom swears they were last time--and I'm eyeballing other potential storage places. How can I describe the frantic, frustrated feelings I have?

Okay -- the back story: My mom, Norma Cook, was then still a housewife, prior to her midlife jump to her longtime nursing career. I was a sulky teen, observing my parents' doings from the periphery of the household with careful adolescent disinterest. I remember the hair salon appointment -- a rare indulgence given how little money we had, followed by the visit to the hole-in-the-wall photographer for black-and-white head shots. I remember the "breaking-news" reaction of our family when Mom's column first appeared...and Mom's feelings of betrayal when she was abruptly told that her words were no longer going to be printed.

Only three or four printed columns, and a spiral-bound notebook with Mom's handwritten musings for potential articles that were never finished...where are they?? There are other drawers, other closets...hmm...

I've called my son, who, as a youngster, had been shown these items by his grandmother, and remembers marveling at his grandmother not always having white hair and wrinkles. His recollection -- they're in the desk. Mom swears she has not thrown anything out.

Now I'm beginning to question my eyesight and my cognitive faculties. That's it -- I'm going to enlist the aid of one of the major libraries, who might have the ability to retrieve my mother's articles on microfilm. Crazy fortune being what it is, just when I get reproduced copies, the originals will show up...somewhere in the house.

The moral to my readers is this: don't be careless with any pieces of family history! Have several family members know for certain where they are, and do an occasional check. Someone who has the heart and interest needs to appoint him/herself the family historian, to take collective memories seriously.

There's little that's more heartbreaking than seeing random, unlabelled photos in boxes at some swap meet, or handwritten letters consigned to the trash by an uninterested third-party cleaning out a house for a property auction.

Stay tuned...I'll find my Mom's articles yet!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Update on the bartering, and better living through reading

In follow-up to my last post, I've created a FB event page, "Burbank/San Fernando Valley Barter Club." How this pans out remains to be seen.

In addition to my recent library forays to find books of interest for Mom, my Goodreads.com have pointed me in the direction of some wonderful, promising reads. Among them are:

How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci, by Michael Gelb. I think this should be required reading for all, especially for us baby-boomers, who are so mortally afraid of our potential memory loss. This book goes beyond the usual pat advice of, "Relax...take time out...listen to nice music." Gelb's book talks about seven dimensions of intelligence, and gives us detailed instructions about "mind-mapping." I won't spoil it for you, but this is a definite must-read. I was so impressed that I ordered it from Amazon.com, and the cost was offset by some of my recent book trade-ins (check that out, too!).

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines
, by Thomas Foster.

Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them, Francine Prose.

I haven't read the last two, but have them on order through Amazon. I'll report my thoughts when I've read them.

Last, from the local library, a nod to Shannon Hayes' Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture. As a child of the sixties, I used to dismiss "homemakers" as Harriet Nelson-types. Now I realize that we all--men as well as women--should be homemakers, as a way to truly embody the "family values" ethic, and reclaim our personal power and family stability.

Read on...I remember a bookmark I got in the seventies from the Burbank Public Library. It said, "If books are dead, so are we."

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bartering, connecting, building a community

I need serious help. And I suspect I'm not alone.

In previous posts, I've talked about my proud steps toward being a DIY'er. And now I realize, with a big gulp of pride, that I can't do it all.

Yesterday, I saw an online piece about benefits of community bartering of needed goods and services, especially in our current economy. I am seriously considering this as a way to offload some of the tasks that I recently took on so zealously. I'll still do as much of the inside work as I can, and Mom's personal care -- but, *she grins sheepishly here* the lawn care is just too much, time-wise.

According to my online research, Burbank doesn't seem to have a barter club of any kind, and I'm willing to step up here and ask for local people to help me start one. To get this started, I'm willing to trade tutoring services to anyone who needs help with English classes, or anyone struggling with completing writing assignments. As an adjunct professor, believe me, the need for people to write well still exists, whether it's via pen-to-paper or keyboard media.
In exchange, I'm looking for a reliable person with lots of endurance to help with my beloved yard.

Here's one link that I found useful in my reading about bartering:

In addition to trading needed goods and services, bartering seems to be a great way to meet people one might not ordinarily. And done as an organized group, there would be accountability for the quality and equity of the exchanges.

So, thoughts from anyone, especially from Burbank?

Friday, May 18, 2012


This is such a wonderful, substantive, intelligently-written publication. As pressed as I am for time, I find I need my New Yorker Magazine fix! Below are some snippets of humor that capture "my generation." Hopefully you can zoom in on the images; after all, our eyes aren't getting any sharper. Nothing like some serious humor, or humorous seriousness:

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Another Take on Mother's Day

Below is a link to a story about 56-year-old Kathy Murray, mother and early-Alzheimer's patient. A salute to one brave lady!


As a mom myself, I cannot fathom how this would affect my family if it happened to me. Maybe I'm just too scared to consider the possibility, especially when I "get forgetful" sometimes and worry if I'm just overwhelmed, experiencing a "senior moment"--or worse.

In the meantime, I'll try to pursue the healthiest lifestyle I can, and pray that we make advances in research and treatment in my generation.


Okay, now that I got your attention, I'll explain.

I was raised by my dear, now 87-year-old mom to believe that, instead of one day on which the floral, candy, and restaurant industries make their major ka-ching, one should honor and care for one's mother every day. Not a very festive sentiment, of course, but an agreement that has worked for my mom and me for decades.

Here are a few ways I'm inclined to give my nod to the wonderful lady who's put up with my nonsense all these years:

1. Practical items! Instead of another bottle of cologne, or some knickknack to gather dust, this 2-way radio set has probably been the biggest hit of the year. Mom has gotten quite proficient in its use. It helps me keep tabs on her while I'm doing the yard work, and it beats her yelling, "Hello, hello, are you still here?" when I'm in my office in the back of the house. I get a laugh sometimes when she calls me on it, and then says, "Okay, I was just testing."

2. Her favorite foods. Tomorrow, she'll have some salmon filets I got from Trader Joe's, mashed potatoes, and some pecan ice cream. Remember the days when we had to coax our kids to eat? I've heard that seniors often have a decline in appetite, and now Mom is no exception. I'm often a long time in the grocery store, perusing the aisles looking for things that will be nutritious and appealing to her. All part of the loving caregiving, I guess.

3. Making the most of her remaining interests. On May 27, Mom will be fixated on her TV, for the Indy 500, as she has been every year without fail. This is a lady who, while she drove her 1966 VW Beetle, never drove the freeways, or exceeded 35 mph! No matter -- she loves the annual race, and I've begun stocking the pantry with snacks to make the occasion "her day."

I looked on YouTube for a special song to dedicate to my Mom. My readers would have to understand my mom's and my shared dark, edgy humor to know that much of what I found would not have captured our relationship. I did, however, like the following Beatles video, and it came the closest to my sentiments. So here it is:

Friday, May 11, 2012


Okay, I admit I'm feeling a bit of withdrawal symptoms (I miss my Frasier reruns to decompress), but so far I haven't caved in. When I'm home, I turn up the radio and fill the living room with KUSC's lovely classical sounds.

Not to be extremely heartless, I encourage Mom to enjoy her "Bonanza" reruns when she's got her bedroom TV on. BUT, I pitched the idea of her reading more, and she was quite receptive.

So, on my way home this noontime for lunch, I stopped in at the Burbank Public Library (the Central branch is almost within shouting distance), and picked up several biographies and a crime novel to start Mom off. When we moved here in 1964, we (Mom, my grandmother, and I)were at the library no less than once a week. At that time, Mom and Grandmother were regular readers of the Ellery Queen detective novels, and evenings after dinner found us all in the living room, each reading her book, with the radio on in the background. Interestingly, the TV was there, but did not take center stage in our lives.

It wasn't until some family tensions and splits emerged in the years that followed, and the TV was kept on much of the time, perhaps to fill the uncomfortable voids in communication.

There were actually a few years, as a young single woman, that I consciously did without a TV. I'd just broken up with my first fiance, and moved into a peaceful studio apartment in Silverlake. Reveling in my newly-found calm life, I rambled around town on my days off, and when I was home, I was content to listen to KNX-FM (remember that station?) while I did my exercises or chores.

When my coworkers found out, however, that I was sans television, they plied me with many questions, including, Was it "some religious thing?" Was I offended by the shows that were on? Was there no room for a TV?

I even had a somber coworker discretely motion me into the file room. Putting her arm around me, she quietly and delicately said, "If it's the money, I could loan you some to get a TV."

NO! It wasn't the money. If I'd wanted a set, I would have and could have gotten one. Geez, one would have thought I'd confessed to not having enough to cover my rent or buy groceries.

Back to present day, and especially my visit to the local library. I had a great time browsing...and smelling musty books. The Central branch has a lot going on this summer, and, piggybacking on my recent forays into goodreads.com, I signed up to be part of the library's Summer Reading Program for Grownups. Check out: http://www.burbank.lib.ca.us/sites/default/files/downloads/brochure.pdf.

My selection when it comes up on the hold queue: Michael Gelb's How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


There! I made that declaration, to hold myself accountable, and have you all help me with this!

I've thought about this for a while. While I honestly thought I'd been discriminating about the type and amount of viewing I've done (thanks, DVR!), I know I could do better.

After coming home from challenging work, it's been too easy, of late, to plop down on the sofa with Tiggy, and even--for shame--drift off to sleep while having my mind in neutral. Time to actually go to bed when it's time.

What to do with the freed-up time (when I'm not doing housework, seeing clients, or teaching)?

- Catching up on my reading, taking my relationship to my local libraries to "the next
level," and reporting to my fellow goodreads.com users
- Finishing the writing projects I thought would be completed two months ago
- Blogging more thoughtfully and creatively
- Making myself available for clients who would want to contact me via Skype(theravive.com)
- Finding more stimulating ways to converse to Mom (and maybe wean her off those damned
"I Love Lucy" reruns. Even she admits she's seen each one "a zillion times.")
- Inviting long-neglected friends over, now that summer's approaching
- Cook more, especially with that delightful quinoa I've just begun using

So, while I hope not to experience any withdrawal symptoms here, I just want to be more mindful about how I spend my evening hours. I'd like to check in and report how my "recovery" actually goes.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I had an INTENSE dream last night....

I'm still processing it, and jotting down thoughts to make sense of it.

Suffice it to say, there were images of my mortality, time running out, and upcoming profound changes in my life.

Once I came to consciousness (with the help of my daily black coffee), I made the decision to interpret the jarring images as the universe hurling down a gauntlet, challenging me to kick up my activity and creativity up a few notches.

If you, or anything you know has had such a wake-up call, you might want to take a look at my site below.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Feeling a sudden urgency to capture life

I'm continuing to clean and rearrange. As I (re)discover things, my urgency to preserve memories--and fully savor what time I'm destined to have--mounts. It's fair to say that I'm feeling somewhat vulnerable, mortal, and a bit melancholy today.

You can see dolls like the one above all over. I've seen them in hobby and craft stores, but also in the homes of people who took up this past-time. Google "toilet paper cover dolls," and you get countless images.

This one is special to me. It was given to me by a lady I visited in 2001. While I never considered this kind of thing to be "my style," this dolly has claimed a special place in my dining room--and my heart.

Closing my eyes, I can recall this lady's smile -- and the tattooed number on her forearm, as she extended the doll for me to receive.

She had been a World War II concentration camp survivor. Her sweetness and kindness had prevailed over the adversity she had endured. When I grumble about mundane irritations, I can use this lady's life for some perspective.

I don't know quite what moved me to post this. Perhaps it was just a reminder to reach out. Her ongoing gift to me, aside from the doll, was the loving encouragement to have my life be a gift to succeeding generations.