Friday, December 31, 2010


General Petraeus tried to Skype me. I’m not kidding. Perhaps he needed my advice on exit strategies. As I don’t trust myself with the nation’s peace plan, I blocked him from ever contacting me again.

I now get regular updates on what fast food establishment provides nutrition to my husband’s cousin in Arkansas. I fully expect reports on what she ordered and how much she left on her plate in the new Facebook rev, that should be happening in, say, the next two minutes.

Facebook commandeered information from my profile and now Bob Dylan is my pal.

My favorite TV programs ping me regularly with mundane chat about things like what Alicia is going to wear to court next week. (It got about 30,000 thumbs up. That many people care? I hope they aren’t on the General’s contact list.)

We were very patient during the elections with the dinnertime phone calls from Mike Huckabee and Ronald Reagan Jr. (Who calls my liberal friends, I wonder.) I was even a bit intrigued bya live town hall meeting that left a recording on my telephone answering machine. How else would this misplaced city girl ever hear about the irrigation woes of my central valley farmer neighbors? And how interesting that Meg and Carly knew so much about what the farmers were talking about.

The latest is that my son sent me a recording he made; I clicked on it and it played in iTunes and then iTunes invited me to ping – follow my son’s recordings, I assumed. But no; I clicked on ping and got invited to connect to the music loving universe. Scared that I might spend the rest of my days with soundtrack accompaniment not of my choosing, I shut down my computer.

I wonder, where will all this go in 2011? I love being connected. I hate being invaded. I think there is a good Pixar animation movie in here somewhere.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Resolution? Not!

My sister, who should learn how to leave a comment or get her own blog, sent me an email response to my posting on resolutions that is too good not to share:
New Year Resolutions? Made to be broken.

List of Goals? Perhaps; most of us are fairly goal oriented and probably have a few to do lists hanging around anyway.
List of last year’s accomplishments? Oh my, no, that sounds prideful.
As Christians, we are quite adept at listing our shortcomings and failings. But how often do we list our accomplishments? and even, heaven forbid, share them with others? And yet, James reminds us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights… .” Accomplishments in my life are certainly good and perfect gifts. And, lest you think I have taken this phrase out of context, the chapter begins with a discussion on the result of perseverance: “…let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” That sounds like a pretty good definition of “accomplishment” to me.

So this New Year’s Day I’m going to make a list of my accomplishments from 2010. I might even share my list with someone. And just so I don’t stray too far out of bounds, perhaps I will make a list of what I would like to accomplish in 2011.

My list of accomplishments from 2010:
  1. Established the habit of daily scripture reading
  2. Learned more about effective prayer
  3. Made some headway towards not complaining as much
  4. Continued to maintain healthier weight and good diet
  5. Walked 3-4 times a week

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Be it resolved

I am a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions. It always surprises me how many people pale, throw their hands up in front of their faces in self defense and back away when I ask, “What is your New Year’s resolution?” I think that’s because they hear a different question: ‘What have you purposed in your heart that you know the minute you verbalize will come to nothing?”

I can’t help myself. Just like people who have SAD, a seasonal affective disorder that depresses the spirit when the sun takes a hike, I have SID, a seasonal intention disorder that compels me to set quarterly and annual goals. Over the years, I’ve found ways to frame these resolutions in ways that produce life change instead of persistent defeat.

Choose a mantra

Choosing words to live by for a year can help you focus on areas in which you’d like to grow. They are easy to remember. You can use them to decide which life adventures to pursue and what might need purging. Here are some examples:

Compassion, charity, courage, clarity

Simplify, purify, magnify

Rest, refresh, renew

Face a fear

One year my job went south. I was still employed, but I had nothing to do. Believe it or not, collecting a paycheck for doing nothing is stressful. That’s because the organization will either find a place for you in the new normal, or at the end of the day you will be unemployed, but there is nothing you can do to affect the outcome. So I decided to do something scarier than hanging out in limbo. I took lessons to learn how to land an airplane and landed the Piper at San Jose International. You can’t think about anything else when you are setting up for a landing in a plane you don’t know very much about. Now, every year, I look for a big scary challenge.

Give it a year

Years ago, I got tired of beating myself up for all the ways I fell short. I decided to take one year off guilt. I told myself that if it didn’t work (if I began to sink into an abyss of self-indulgence), at the end of the year I would reinstall the guilt program. That was the year I learned how to say “no.” (No, I’m not good at that. No, I don’t’ want to do that. Thanks for asking, but no.) I was a freer, happier person at the end of that year.

Establish a habit

Will Power is a character with poor motivational skills. He’s a task master who exhausts easily, a parent who yells and then leaves the child alone in a room with temptation. Any resolution needs a plan to establish a new habit that supports a new behavior. Are you thinking that 4 p.m. glass of wine to settle your nerves is only making you too sleepy to cook a healthy dinner? Will Power can scream “don’t do that anymore,” all he wants in your face, but facing Will just makes you feel you actually need two glasses of wine to get through the witching hour. Maybe make it a habit to have a refreshing assortment of teas and a special tea cup or mug available. Find a favorite corner and stash some short reads there, or your iPod dock or your Sudoku book. I made an investment in a fuzzy bear footstool with real lamb’s wool. The minute I put my feet up on Griffin, I relax. It’s getting to be a habit.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shopping Blues

Our 87-year-old mother was quite the shopper in her day. It wasn’t very long ago that I wore out in the mall before she did. She lives in a small town in the Ozarks; a highlight of her yearly visits to us used to be the opportunity to refresh her wardrobe. No more.

In Arkansas, a lady dresses for church. She reluctantly adopted the polyester pant suit when dresses went out of style but she’s not descending down that slippery slope any further. Complicating the situation is the fact that she wears a size 6 petite and eschews dark colors.

Admittedly, we live in a shopping deprived region. We walked into the petite section of Kohl’s in Sonora and she announced, I’m looking for a pant suit or a dress. I literally threw my hands in the air and said, “you won’t find that anywhere is California.” Two days later, we took her to the mall in Pleasanton. By then, she had narrowed her hunt to ‘a dress.’ Unless you are going to a cocktail party or a prom, you will not find a dress in any store I know of.

Fellow shoppers, sensing my frustration, offered advice. “She wants a ‘frock,’ said a sympathetic Indian woman. Of course she does. Sales women trotted out smart two-piece suits, all is red and black and grey. Our mother shook her head. It must be a light color with long sleeves and a high (but not mock or turtle) neckline. That’s descriptive of the dresses our Mennonite neighbors wear, but that won’t work. It also has to be fashionable.

“I won’t cry,” she said as we left the mall empty handed. She won’t cry, but I might. An 87-year-old woman deserves to have something new, comfortable and attractive to wear to church. That’s how I felt when I used to leave the stores empty-handed after looking for something for my now deceased parents to wear after they moved into an assisted living community. I’m not alone. If you want sympathy, bemoan this situation in any clothing store and you will gather a crowd of equally frustrated adult children of parents who have aged out of the clothing industry.

I have two thoughts about this situation. First, the apparel industry is missing a big opportunity. We children would pay money to make our parents comfortable and happy. Second, I wonder if this is what is really behind the push for assisted suicide. Maybe the last straw isn’t a bad medical report but the dawning realization, “I haven’t got a thing to wear.”

Sunday, December 19, 2010


We watched an old 1953 movie, Hobson’s Choice. It’s British. It’s old-fashion. It got to me. Briefly, Hobson owns a cobbler shop. He drinks and depends on his three grown daughters to keep it all together for him. The oldest has just turned 30. She takes it upon herself to get herself and her two younger sisters married. Her motivation appears to be personal happiness and economic stability. How old-fashion is that?
Recently I read that 40 percent of Americans now choose not to marry. Instead, they choose from a multitude of options to form and reform families. Single woman choose to mother without a father present; gay men choose to parent without a mother present; an Asian billionaire creates male triplets to pass his empire to, no female required beyond egg donation and womb for rent. Some observations:
  • This seems to work better for the rich than the poor.
  • The jury is out on how well it works for the children.
  • Traditional marriage is now under siege. 
Back to Hobson’s Choice; the older daughter sets her sights on a cobbler in her father’s shop who is skilled, hard-working and underprivileged. Combine those attributes with her business saavy, family legacy and faith in her chosen’s potential and by the end of the movie the couple has a happy marriage, a profitable franchise, siblings with a future and a redeemed patriarch.
Today, after a few sessions with a therapist, the older daughter could find good reason to dump the old man. And why spend time getting her sisters settled in good marriages? She is not her sisters’ keeper. They are not grateful. And how risky is it to emotionally invest in Casper Milquetoast? Today, he would not recognize the value of a Proverbs woman, who “rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household,” who “considers a field and buys it; and with the fruit of her hands plants a vineyard.” Instead, he would bemoan his loss of personal freedom.
 The most precious moment to Hobson’s Choice is when the young cobbler, who has recognized his good fortune in being loved by a woman who believes in him, takes his wife’s advice. Against his instincts to devalue himself, he claims his role as the man of the family. As a result, all members of the family thrive.
Without passing judgment on other people’s choices, I believe there is something to be said for the partnership and commitment of a man and a woman to each other. In his Oratio El Nino, performed by the San Francisco Symphony this year, John Adams explored the passion and commitment of Joseph to Mary. Mary chose to be vulnerable to Joseph’s reaction to her pregnancy. Joseph chose to bend to the will of the Almighty and be a husband and a father in the face of ridicule. The result was a legacy of hope for the world.
What legacy are we leaving for our children?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Annoying Sister

My sister emails me every day I don’t blog. She thinks I’m her personal entertainment system. Because blogs are public I will not comment on the details of her personal life that compel her to seek distraction in this way.
To nudge me into action, she has sent me a request list of blog topics:
  1. Candy…Cookies…Pies and other Sweets
  2. One year shy (of a significant birthday)
  3. The NEW 12 days of Christmas
  4. Life after 50,000 words
  5. What I want for Christmas this year
  6. Why is my sister so annoying?
  7. Retirement and other myths
  8. Blogging to Bulgaria
  9. When I’m on Oprah’s Show
  10. Orphanhood
  11. My personal top ten list from 2010
  12. An alternative to NY Resolutions 
There are some good ones here. I’m always trying, with little success, to get people to comment on my blogs. So I’ll throw it out there. If I get any votes for any of these topics, I promise I will blog on them. Or, suggest one of your own. If one of these topics inspires your inner blogger, be my guest. Please do share a link to your musings.

 But I digress from the topic. Why is my sister so annoying?

 Top 10 reasons why my sister is so annoying

 1. She is misdirected. Get a blog, sis!

 2. She has brain freeze. Didn’t I tell her not to move to Detroit? It’s cold in Detroit. Maybe I forgot to tell her.

 3. She misses our mother, who was always happy to hear the boring details of our lives. Now the only person she has left to bore is me. The kids just stick their fingers in their ears and chatter, “la, la, la, la, la.”

4. She suffers from sister envy. I graduated, married, had kids, had grandkids and retired first; born second, always #2, so she has to try harder. Being my sister is admittedly an annoyance.

 5. She’s in the wrong time zone. She actually lives on Capitola time and suffers from constant cravings for lattes from Mr. Toots. It can make you nuts.

 6. She works too hard and pays too many taxes. Stop. Just stop. If you aren’t making any money, you don’t have to pay taxes. It’s that simple. It will be years before the bank repossesses that underwater condo. May I refer you to Laura Lee’s blog, Broke is Beautiful?

7. She has an overactive inner cynic, nicely tempered by Christian charity.

8. She pokes me until I make her laugh. I’m black and blue.

9. She has too much imagination and not enough time. See #6. Then see #1.

10. I wouldn’t have wanted to be my younger sister either. It’s a tough gig.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


It distresses me, invitations to cookie exchanges. I wouldn’t ask you to write a novel; why would you expect me to bake cookies?

I want to be neighborly. I want to brighten the holidays for the bereaved with ‘lovin’ from the oven,’ but dang, I’m just not very good at it. Truth is, I’m not a ‘sweet’ person. Sweet things make my teeth feel like they’ve committed a crime for which they will be executed. Sweets electrocute my teeth with a buzz that plunges through my tooth enamel and zips straight through the root canal to the bone. Not the bliss I hope for when I filch a second toffee bar from the plate.

I figured there must be other cookie junkies looking to go clean, so for this latest cookie exchange, I googled “spice cookies.” It’s a simple recipe. After overcoming my fear of the behemoth Mixmaster I inherited from my mother, all seemed well. The machine mixed the ingredients into some semblance of cookie dough. Like champagne, it needed to chill, so I chilled it and poured myself a glass of champagne.

Three hours later, I plunked a hunk of dough on the counter and attempted to beat it into submission. The dough appeared to suffer from tension and stress, so I massaged it vigorously with a rolling pin. It warmed up a bit and relaxed enough that I could cut shapes with the only cutters I have – a little spice boy and a candy cane that looks like a golf bag.

The best thing I can say about these cookies is they emitted a lovely aroma that filled my kitchen. It smelled like the wise men came through with bags of cloves, nutmeg and allspice. My first clue that something was wrong was when I took them out of the oven and they looked the same as when they went in. Then I dropped one and it didn’t break. These cookies are like concrete, smooth, heavy and bland. I’m thinking maybe I should glaze or frost them but Joel, after he stops laughing, decides they need faces and belly buttons, so he goes to town on the next batch. They look so cute;I think maybe we’ll just hang them on the tree instead.

I arrange a plate to take to the cookie exchange and plop an undercooked spice boy in the center. When you take them out of the oven at 12 minutes instead of 15 minutes they wrinkle a bit when they cool, so this guy looks like Old Spice man with a lecherous grin. That ought to cheer someone up.

I’m not expecting anyone to ask me for the recipe.

Cookies-to-go was a lovely event. We assembled 36 plates of cookies and took them to people in the community who needed a special touch. God bless the Free Church Ladies and heal the hearts of those who hurt, mourn and grieve at this season.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Joel and I pulled booth duty in the See’s candy shack. We wiled away the morning trying to ignore the allure of molasses chips and key lime truffles wrapped and stacked on shelves behind us. Allure was all around. A doe sprinted across the parking lot in front of us, a six point buck in hot pursuit with a hopeful adolescent tagging along. ‘Tis the season.

How long could you sit in a See’s candy shack before you stuck $6.20 in the till and opened a Mini Holiday Fancy box of six delectables? I went for the dark chocolate truffle. Joel bit into a California Brittle and generously offered me his second bite. (California Brittle? That could describe our state’s economy!)

Confess – is it not your fondest desire that Saint Peter will meet you at the gate with a welcome gift – a See’s nuts and chews assortment and a steaming cup of cappuccino?

Manning the candy shack is a meditative experience; plenty of time to slowly suck a butterscotch lolly and gaze at the pine trees framed by the booth window. It’s early in the candy selling season. We are well stocked. Our neighbors come to the booth window in ones and twos, knowing what they want – peanut brittle for a holiday recipe, boxes of pops and chocolates to ship to friends and relatives. Our last sale was a 50-cent lolly pop to a hiker who happened by. Everyone give me plenty of time to count the change on my fingers.

We benefit from years of candy boothing that has gone before us – this is a well buttered machine, right down to the Yahtzee and cards on the table in case it rains and our trade dries up completely. No wi-fi though.

Half way through our time commitment, three pieces of candy still nestle in the the 4 oz. Holiday Fancy box we paid for and opened. Joel says we should save two for his mom, so I have a decision to make.

Imagine being alone in a candy shop to do your Christmas shopping at your leisure, no fellow shoppers to poke you with their overstuffed shopping bags, no waiting in line...If you’re on my Christmas gift list, guess what you’re getting this year!