Friday, February 24, 2012

Paths Not Taken

Under the heading of "paths not taken", I'd like to go back to the Spring of 1972. I was just about finished with my BA, but not sure where I wanted to go from there. A sorority sister of mine, Donna Chesus, whom I considered to be a fairly intelligent woman, proclaimed that she was going to join the Navy and find a red blooded American man, as she was sick and tired of all these draft dodging college boys. It sounded like a great idea - meet new people, travel new places, have new experiences. I went home and ran it by my parents (I was a very well behaved child) and my Father, an ex-Marine, informed me that only whores and lesbians went into the service. Since I did not qualify for either of those labels, I crossed military service off my list of things to do. I have often wished I'd ignored my Father's narrow minded advice. Ideally, I'd have loved it, grown from it, and found a similarly minded man to marry in it. My life would have been significantly different. But wait, you say. If you had married a different man you wouldn't have your children! And to that I say, "Maybe I would have had better ones!" and conversely, maybe my children would have had better parents! Only the shadow knows! (and regarding Donna Chesus, she is today a Rear Admiral in the US Navy, stationed in Hawaii.) Paths not taken.............

Friday, September 16, 2011

Catalysts in our Midst

I recently had a chance to sit and “visit” with two of my cousins over about an 8 hour time period. That included dinner, but it was still an impressive talk fest. We covered a lot of topics. We are related through our mothers, who were part of a family with 12 children, so we had lots of examples to use in our conversation.

One topic was why some families are really close, and others barely communicate, and how it changes through the years, from childhood through the senior years (which we are all enthusiastically embracing).

The award for the “closest” family goes to my cousins in Des Moines. They are four sisters with a sweetheart of a father and the world’s best “hugger” of a mother. They are all closely involved with each other’s families. The second sister also has a love of having everyone to her house and feeding them, on any and all holidays, including birthdays and any other special day that comes along. She and her sisters really enjoy each other and their combined families. But she is a catalyst, making it possible for the others to see and interact as often as possible. Because of this, their kids, and their grandkids all know and enjoy each other.

One of my cousins stated that her family isn’t that close, and that they may have gotten more of the “in law” side of the gene pool. Her eldest sister tries the hardest, but is handicapped by living far away, in Texas. My other cousin said her family hadn’t been that close in the past, but had become closer in the last few years. She’s not sure who gets the credit/blame. I don’t remember being that close to my sister and brother growing up (I was the oldest and they were pesky). But now I would consider them my closest friends. And our kids and grandkids are getting to know each other better because my sister, the catalyst, likes to have everyone over to her house to feed and celebrate every possible holiday, etc. So my family is pretty close because of my sister.

Some members of this extended family enjoy instigating, planning and participating in family reunions. Others, not so much. But because of these family reunions, our kids and grandkids get to know each other and find that they enjoy each other and have some things in common (example: good/bad/or ugly relatives). We had a reunion in AZ a couple of years ago, and one of my best memories is of the nightly poker games. (I only know of them on a second hand basis, as I was one of the majority that went to bed early.) A cousin in my generation started them the first night by posting a signup sheet. The rest of the players were from the third generation. Within an hour, they had all her money and she was out of the game. The third generation kids continued to meet every night, after most of us had gone to bed, and played poker and got to know each other and had a great time. A great memory and the start of some great friendships.

It is no surprise that my sister, the catalyst, and my cousin (the second daughter from Des Moines), also a catalyst, are a couple of the prime backers of an upcoming family reunion to take place in July of 2012. I would offer a heartfelt thanks to these and other “catalysts”, who make it possible for the rest of us to remain in close contact with each other and pass that privilege on to our children.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The "Other" Class of 1968

I graduated high school in 1968. In 1973, which should have been our five year reunion, none of the class officers organized anything, so we non-leaders took over. We reserved a room, invited everyone we had kept in touch with to a meeting, talked up a reunion, passed a hat and off we went. We ended up having a six year reunion – unusual, but some of us didn’t want to wait until the ten year mark for a party. After that, the reunions came on every five year mark and I co-chaired for about 15 years, then gradually stopped going. My co-chair was a wonderfully social and keep-in-touch type of person. I’m fairly anti-social – I like people, but from a distance. Unfortunately, she didn’t know everyone in our class of around 600, and after a while, it was the same people over and over – usually the high school popular crowd, of which my co-chair was a member. If other, non “in crowd” kids showed up, they were welcomed, but no one really knew them and many eventually stopped coming. Nobody’s fault.
Last year, another member of our class decided we needed a party to celebrate “The Year of Turning 60”, which was an event that happened to most of us this year. He was one of the brainier kids in school and started this movement on Facebook and eventually got quite a group of people fired up about the party. There were some smart kids, some band geeks, GAA girls, Drill Teamers, athletes and nice kids who just showed up to high school, had a few friends, but were not necessarily leaders or well known outside of their immediate circle. Many of them hadn’t attended a reunion recently and the opportunity to talk amongst themselves on Facebook, reconnect and get excited about a party was a great catalyst. Even if you didn’t know someone in high school, you still have that experience in common and it makes for a connection. They had a great party in August and had about the same number of people attend as attended the “official” reunions, but with just a few “crossovers”. My former co-chairman was one of the crossovers and she told me that when she went in, she realized she hardly knew anyone! They had attended our high school at the same time as her but most of them were strangers to her because she hadn’t known them in high school. This was the “Other” Class of 1968.
I’m sure there are even more “other” Classes of 1968 out there and if they feel the need to re-connect, I hope they become involved in whatever social network they feel comfortable using. We went to school with so many interesting people and for whatever reason, we didn’t get a chance to know them. This is another chance to get acquainted. You might meet your new best friend. And you might be like me; glad to see who’s out there and what they’re doing, saying hello and then retreating back into my shell.

Friday, August 13, 2010


The dead squirrel referred to previously is not my first brush with getting rid of dead animals. My son has a fairly dismal record with pets.

This is a picture of him at 2 and a half years of age, gazing fondly at our goldfish. Unfortunately, he was kind of a “hands on” kid and gazing fondly only worked for about 10 minutes. After that he wanted to reach in and hold on to the goldfish. He was instructed not to touch the fish, but, again, he was not the most obedient of children. After owning the fish for only a couple of days, it was discovered floating in the bowl, a victim of too much love.

He had another goldfish at about age 11, and I think he won the fish at a school carnival. We got a bowl, put in water, rocks, little diving guys. And the next day, the fish was dead. So we motored out to Walmart and bought another fish, which turned up dead again the next day. We went back to Walmart, complained about the defective fish they had sold us, and got another one for free. It, too, was dead the next day. Once is bad luck, two is a freakish coincidence, three times is serial murder. Upon further investigation, it was found that the rocks my son had put in the bowl came from our gravel driveway, which I regularly sprayed with Roundup, to kill the weeds. Another mystery solved, another pet buried beside the house.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Recently I had a close encounter of the squirrel kind. I came home on a Monday afternoon and walked out into my back yard to survey my kingdom. Just as I got to the garage patio, I noticed a squirrel laying in the grass. (For those of you non-squirrel people, this is not normal behavior). On closer inspection (5 feet away) I saw that the back 1/2 of his body was kind of smashed and his tail looked like he'd been caught out in the rain. And there were flys crawling around on him. He looked good and dead.

As a single parent, I have conducted more than a few "animal funerals". So after a couple of ladylike "ewe's", I told myself I was a grownup and could take care of this situation without calling an uncle or cousin. I went in the house and got a paper bag (for burial - didn't want to use a plastic bag, or it would take 100 years for the squirrel to biodegrade). Then I went into the garage to get a shovel (to pick up the body from a safe distance). As I came out of the garage, the squirrel picked up his head and looked right at me. After hastily propping the shovel against the garage, I speed-walked back into the house and locked the door behind me (in case the squirrel proved to have super powers and followed me and tried to open the door).

Then I called an uncle. He said to leave it alone and it would be dead by morning. My aunt said to hit the squirrel with the shovel. She's a little bloodthirsty, but did not volunteer to come over and do the deed herself.

The next morning the squirrel had moved a little, but was still in the same place. The following afternoon, Wednesday, I went out and banged the shovel on the cement to see if I could get a rise out of the squirrel. No activity and he was starting to smell. So shovel in hand, I scooped up the dead animal, gently placed it in the paper sack and rolled the top down, then, holding my breath, speed-walked to the trash can and deposited the sack inside.

Luckily, my trash goes out on Wednesday night. I'm sure the trash guys swooned when they took off the lid of the trash can and got a whiff of Rocky. I imagine they had a nice, tasteful memorial for him out at the landfill.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Memories are highly individual. Eyewitnesses to an event can have widely differing accounts of what happened. Life is like that, too.

My mother gets mad at my sister, brother and I when we talk about events that she doesn't remember and accuses us of making them up. I find myself irritated with my own children when they talk about things they did that I don't remember. After all, I was the perfect mother, always aware of where and what my children were involved in............ apparently not.

People remember what is important to them. But lots of things happen to people that are not earth shaking to anyone but them. So while I remember standing on top of the brick wall in the back of our Palais house, watching the boys playing over the line, my mother will tell you I never stood out there, seeing and being seen.

I remember some of my second grade year, because that was the year we moved from Iowa to California. I remember getting lost coming home from school in Redondo Beach - and my mother remembers it too, because she was waiting and worrying. I remember Chris Donovan singing a song during a second grade talent contest - something I would have loved to do, but would never have had the courage to actually do.

I don't remember third grade at all. My fourth grade teacher was Mr. Weed, but other than the fact that he was cool and we'd visit after school, I don't remember anything I learned that year. Mr. Trollah was my fifth grade teacher and he would write long essays on the board on different subjects and we would copy them into folders. I don't remember the topics, but I was trying to write slanted forward instead of backhand, and I would turn my folder almost upside down trying to slant the letters forward.

In fairy tales, the princess usually falls into a deep sleep sometime during the story, until her prince comes and wakes her up to get on with the rest of her life. I think our lives are like that, in that we sleep walk through parts of our life, doing what needs to be done, but nothing that is so significant that it wakes us up and turns into a memory.

So try to make memories whenever you can. And forgive those around you who have memories that are non-existant to you, but important to them. Just because you don't remember it, doesn't mean it didn't happen.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hey ya'll. I'm not very good at sharing, but I wanted to leave a comment on my brother's blog, and apparently you have to bare some of your own soul before being allowed to do so.

I am the oldest of three siblings. My sister is the next oldest and is an energizer bunny - always on the go, teaching the underprivileged children in Anaheim, CA, righting wrongs, standing for the weak and leaping tall buildings in a single bound. My brother (and also a blogger) is the youngest and got the majority of the brains in the family, as well as an insightful view of the world and the ability to put that insight into words. He lives in CA as well. I'm not sure what my description would be, unless it is the undecided sister - I have moved from CA to Iowa and back and forth approximately 8 times in my life (not counting the two times I was moved as a child by my parents - who may be to blame for my indecision).

I am happily in Iowa now, with it's slower pace of life, changing seasons and also the home of my 80 year old mother (who thinks she is only 65), with whom I have a love/tolerate relationship. "We laugh at different comics, and cheer for different teams" - a line from the musical, South Pacific.

Yes, I am a music lover, especially older movie soundtracks, music from the 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's and a bare minimum of the 80's. Also a little bit of country, songs with funny lyrics and songs with "a good beat that you can dance to...." - a familiar line to those of you who listened to American Bandstand.

The main problem with my current residence in Iowa is that it is 2000 miles away from my favorite brother and sister. But with the miracle of telephones, internet and air travel, we keep in touch.

This may be my only post, as I am not a particularly sharing, baring my soul type person, and also because I tend to be inconsistent. But thanks for listening, and goodnight........