Saturday, February 27, 2016


What is sexy?  Well, how do I define sexy.  That thing that gets your heart beating and your head spinning and your juices flowing. That which makes you glad to be alive and encourages you to throw caution to the wind and do something out of the norm. That thing that makes you forget all the mistakes and portends a fresh start.  Below in no particular order are things I find sexy.

• Investigative journalists who are in it for the truth because there is usually not a lot of money.

• People who are preservationists. People who preserve land, man’s structures, old ideas, and memories.

• People who fight for the truth and are willing to die for it. 

 • Something very strong protecting something weaker, the lion and the lamb, the marine and the child refugee, the teacher and the bullied, the policeman and the homeless woman. 

 • The writer that crafts words into a picture of such beauty you cannot get it out of your mind. The actor that touches the heart of humanity in a single character’s line. The painter that sees with a stigmatic yet clear eye.

• The human determination to understand and find a middle ground. 

 OK. Your turn, what is sexy to you?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Procrastination...should be the title of a song.

Going through old e-files on my desktop and cleaning out the detritus I came across a file created in August of 2015 called Resolutions.  I rarely write lists of resolutions, but I must have been bored on this hot August day:


Dance in the rain

Write one complete short story

Write a poem adhering to some strict form--not free form

Enter a serious photography contest

Read about France for our upcoming trip

Call about the Adult Education Program    

Oh well, I got two of them done!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Alice Down the Rabbit Hole

Today's Sunrise

No new news on Alice (see prior post), I am sad to say  The children have a blog which gets updated every few days, and we all are desperate for some conclusion to this tragedy.  Flyers have gone up everywhere, churches contacted (including the one she attended infrequently), and interviews at a nursing home where she used to volunteer and was fond of one of the male "inmates."

If she had found a friend to take her out of state the medical care needed would alert the network.  Besides, what kind of friend would put her family through this awfulness?  Perhaps she is dead and lying somewhere waiting to be found in the spring.  Snow cover is gone and birds are singing and today it will reach the low 50s again.  The concern is only for the living after a while. 

My husband has been having very slight memory problems for a few years, as have I.  But our concern is on his side since his mother did have senility as she reached her final years.  She kept going back in time and only remembered things in her 30's near the end.  She thought he was her brother and did not remember marrying and having a son.  She did know what irons, phones etc. were for.  So, we worry when he forgets stuff.  It is natural, I guess.  We study 'what' he forgets and while mine is long term memory loss his is more short term.  I think it has more to do with a lack of focus on his part.  He gets distracted.  I play games on the computer, take online courses, do volunteer work (my math tutoring alone has stretched my brain).

Our (his) lives are still pretty dynamic.  He is flying to the South Pacific to do some SCUBA diving on a project in April.  He swims a good mile several times a week.  He still has his good humor while I am the more difficult one. 

We are all Alice in some way and want to protect those we love from any burdens we inflict without our control.  My parents seemed to have had very sharp minds up until the very end as did my husband's father.  It is a bit of a gamble no matter how hard we work at keeping our senses.

Alice, please help us find you.

Friday, February 19, 2016

True Stories

Marissa put down the phone and stared out the window at the cold winter morning.  She was beginning to feel panic and she once again ran down the lists of options in her mind.  Last night had been all wrong.  If she hadn't rushed over after a long crazy work day still angry from the argument with her secretary, and fighting the usual Friday chaos in traffic to north county where her mother had her garden apartment, if she had just waited until this morning when she had a clearer mind...  But the caregiver was waiting on the paperwork and could wait no longer. 

Marissa is a professional financial adviser in a large company in the city.  She is in her early forties, unmarried and has lived her whole life in the city.  She takes each day as it comes and is not afraid to take charge.  Her latest burden has been a mother living alone with late onset Alzheimer's disease. Marissa's mother, Alice, was in denial and had been able to live alone for this past year while they considered what actions had to be made until several scary incidents caused Marissa and her brother Chet to pursue hiring in-house care.

A contract needed to be signed before care could be hired.

Marissa brought the paperwork last night and carefully explained to her mother what it meant.  She asked her to sign it.  Alice was suspicious and didn't want a stranger living in her home.  She didn't understand why this was even necessary.  As they closed in on the first hour of discussion Marissa lost her carefully controlled patience and they began to argue.  Marissa threatened that Alice would have to go to a "home' if she did not sign the papers, which was true.  After another hour and exhaustion on both sides, they were at an impasse and Marissa left the papers on the kitchen table and headed home.

Her morning broke a restless night of no sleep and she called her mother early as she did every morning since her mother had been diagnosed.  Alice was not an easy person to care for, she had had mild schizophrenia for years and her children were always on egg shells around her.  Ever since Alice's divorce from her father decades ago, the burden of care had fallen on her.  Some days were normal, but some were filled with upsetting emotions.  This new dementia diagnosis was more fuel to a simmering fire.

Marissa decided to call Chet, her younger brother, an engineer who with his wife and little boy lived a few miles away.  She had held off because Chet had problems of his own.  He had been diagnosed years ago in his twenties with inflammatory bowel disease and had spent years on treatments that worked for a while and then failed.  These past months he had worked from home because the symptoms had become so debilitating.

They decided to drive over to the house together.  Although they both had keys the door was unlocked and they walked into the familiar apartment.  Everything was in place, the bed had not been slept in, Alice's purse and keys and credit cards were on the table, and Alice was not there.  They knocked on nearby doors and no one had seen her.  They walked in different directions in a mile or so around the neighborhood calling her.  Hours passed and nothing was found to give them a clue to her whereabouts.  They did not want to, but decided to call the police.  Because of Alice's medical condition, the police immediately dispatched two units and began their own canvasing as well as looking through address books.  Marissa made calls.  The afternoon was coming to an end and Marissa and Chet called friends who came out in winter jackets with flashlights began a grid search assisting the police.  By sunset the police had both search dogs and cadaver dogs that worked for the next 24 hours across the suburbs and outside woods.  Temperatures dropped below zero in the dark and held on through the morning.

There were no security cameras to give a clue.  Someone who lived in the apartments said they had seen her pacing back and forth in the parking lot at about 10:00 PM.  Maybe waiting for a friend?  But they had called everyone they knew and nothing turned up.

Facebook and other social media were used as tools to find Alice with recent photos of her.  Another long and anxious day passed and still no clues were found.

Marissa was blaming herself for having the argument and for pushing her mother and for leaving her.  She was wracked with guilt.  Chet had discovered some paperwork that Alice had drawn up with a lawyer more than a year ago that had given him Power of Attorney...something he had not known...and now he was wracked with guilt.  He could have signed the contract. They had failed her.

It has now been over a week and no sign of Alice.  Since she does not have money, credit cards, a phone or car, it is a real mystery.

This is a true story of friends of one my children with names and details changed.  It is very different from TV when the tragedy is being lived by people you know.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

It is a Dangerous World Out There

This past fall while traveling in Florida and visiting some long time friends, I met a man.  He was a childhood friend of my friend and they had not seen him in decades although they lived in the same state.  The man was in his late 70's I am guessing.   He was tall and handsome.  He used to be an engineer.  I surmised that he was a very successful engineer because he recently lived in a beautiful house in a very nice part of Florida, one of those impressive gated communities.  He lived there alone and I think his wife had passed years ago.  He had been a community leader explaining he had thrown many a party for political candidates.  (Stop me if I have told this story.  I swear I have the memory of a gnat.)

We were talking about weather, food, filling time because his car would not start.  He had come for a visit to my friend's house and could not leave.  He was restless and impatient.  That type that I know so well that runs companies or manages projects.  The type that wear out the carpet and check their  watch every few minutes.  It was getting dark and both he and the neighbor lady he brought did not like to drive in the dark.  This is common among the elderly and a joke among the middle-aged in Florida.

The conversation got around to his new smaller neighborhood and why he had sold the big house.  I assumed he was going  to say that it was too large for him, too hard to maintain, too expansive to use or that his friends had all moved away.  Instead he said he had moved because he used to wake up in the middle  of the night listening for noises and thinking someone would break in and kill him...not rob him, kill him.  Now maybe I could read something into this, like who had he wronged over  the years or what did he know that we did not about his past, but I really think there was nothing nefarious here.  There was no crime spree any greater than any other place in the state or even the states for that matter in his area.

I think he was that man that never was comfortable in a community unless he was the leader running things.  I do not think he was the man that trusted his fellow man.  He was not the man that figured most people are honest, most people are fair, most people do not have hidden agendas.  He was the man  who would vote to go to war first and ask questions later because the world is a dangerous and ugly place.

Last week I read a news story about an incident on the mass transit train  in England.  A man, large and military looking, got on the car  and began  having an emotional attack of some kind.  He was talking to himself, thrashing about and terrifying the other passengers.  A woman in her 50's or 60's was sitting at the end of the car where he was standing and she reached out and took his hand when he took a pause in his emotional outburst.  He collapsed to the floor in tears and sat there the rest of the ride  holding her hand.  At the end when it was time for him to get off he said softly to her, "Thanks moma (mum?)." and exited the train.

When this woman was later interviewed they asked her if she had been  afraid.  She said, "Of course."  but she explained that her instinct told her to try to help.  She did not know how he would react, but  she  knew he needed something.  Yes, I know that this could  have turned out so much worse for  her, but I truly feel the odds were on her side.  The world is not that dangerous and ugly if we use caution and  love.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

It is Not Adding Up

When I began to volunteer with the county Adult Basic Education program it was a very slow start.  I took a three hour training/meeting that involved more in the way of forms and cautions about privacy, legal issues, etc. than it did about learning theories or learning styles. While initially they had told me they really needed someone living at my very rural end of the county, months passed before I was contacted with a student.  During that time I was certainly romanticizing this project and envisioned hours of success and happiness and goal completion!

As I wrote in a prior post, it was to teach math...not reading, which was a bummer for me.  I only volunteered for math because I felt guilty not trying to help students.  It was high school math, not Algebra or Geometry, etc. thank goodness.  I was told not to contact the student until I got my "packet."  Someone spent a good part of a day pulling together all kinds of exercises from various curriculum books, included the answers, and put them all in an inch thick notebook which I picked up at the local high school.

I looked over the exercises.  I slowly became terrified over my research hours because I honestly do not remember the details of combining fractions and the rules for decimals, I mostly just used a calculator in my daily life these days.  Word problems are another challenge and can be easy or difficult.  Anyway, I studied and prepared and then called my "student," a 50 something black woman who had dropped out of high school at 17 due to pregnancy.  This is such a tragic and common story.  You can go here to read about our very first meeting.

We have now had over 12 sessions together.  Our meetings have been erratic to put it generously.  She cancels about 20% of the time due to a granddaughter in the hospital, her flu, a grandson she has to get ready for coast guard deployment, her moving to a new location, a migraine, and this last cancellation was due to a fall on hard concrete while doing her job.  I myself had to cancel over the Thanksgiving holidays for travel and we did have a "snow" day.  She cannot afford voice mail and when I call I just have to wait for her to call me back to touch base.  She does not seem to have email either.  That is another challenge.

The program lets her take her test early if she has enough formal class hours plus hours with me.  I sent in the paperwork and while I discouraged her from taking the test in January she went ahead and took it anyway.  She did pass her reading but did only slightly better on the math side and thus failed.  I have not seen the tests and while I have asked her and the county offices to let me know her areas of weakness, I do not seem to get much help. 

She still seems enthusiastic to meet this challenge, but also shows up and then cannot read the problems because she forgets her glasses.  I have been around the world a few times and know exactly what is going on here.  She does not want to quit and yet she does not want to continue.

I have scheduled the library study room for 6 more weeks and will continue with her into late spring and about 12 more classes, but realize at that time if she is not ready, she may need to find a new volunteer teacher.  I think she is not allowed to take the test again until September, but I am not even sure about that scheduling.  I will give it my all through these next months, but feel a little disheartened that I am failing her and she is failing herself.

Saturday, February 06, 2016


Regarding movie/video preservation it is the 16mm and 8mm home movies that turn  to acid.  They do not like dramatic temperature changes or  being stored in very warm places.  Once these films start their "vinegar" transformation they can  no longer be saved.  We had converted all of our reel-to-reel type movies years ago because some were almost 100 years old from my husbands family!

But at the time we converted them we converted them to VHS as that was all that was available.  Now those  VHS are getting old and must be converted to digital.  The DVD's are not recommended as long term archival  medium any more, so we may have to put them on flash  drives,  or  hard drives and as back up  store them some safe place "in the cloud."  This process is actually a scary and expensive nightmare.

My wedding photo album is fading because I did not  have money for a professional photographer and it is snapshots taken by friends, so that is something I need to also  send away for professional restoration  soon!  It is sad that we are not going to live forever, even virtually, it seems.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

What is that smell?

Is it a bouquet or a stench?

I lived in an apartment for two years before my retirement.  It was a change I had to make because we sold our house and had no where to live.  We were retiring in a few years and had not decided WHERE we wanted to live, and felt the housing market was too squirrely to wait for another few years when we might find it more difficult to sell the big old house.

The big positives in this new lifestyle were that it took an hour to clean the whole place.  I lived across the street from my workplace.  Everything I needed including shopping, hardware, restaurants, cultural activities and mass transportation were just blocks away.  It was a new lazy way to live without the yard work and the low utility expenses.

The negatives were that I rarely got to know my neighbors.  We may meet at the mailbox but many tenants came for just a year and then left.  My view from the apartment was of a parking lot and the rooftops of business buildings.  I missed my gardening.  There was little room to entertain company unless you went to the lobby with human traffic and stale air, and the kitchen was not exactly set up for cooking.  Our first Thanksgiving I actually bought a large box Thanksgiving dinner from the local supermarket.

The other adjustment was the closeness of living spaces with strangers.  Fortunately there was only one yelling match that took place in the stairwell off my kitchen door. 

But I also frequently smelled curry in the hallway.  Now I do love curry but not everyday and certainly not that stale smell that lingers in the morning as I ride the elevator down to work. There are those commercials that remind people the smells of their pet can be hidden to them but very off-putting to others.  You can always tell when a toddler lives in a house no matter how careful they are in changing the little one.  And there is the joke of stale cabbage odors and cigarette smoke in homes of the elderly.

Well, once my new home had off-gassed its odors of wood, sheet rock and paint, we noticed something a little off in the master bedroom closet.  Now to clarify, this closet is HUGE as The Donald would say.  It is not only walk-in but there was room enough to put the grand children's portable crib when they came to visit.  We checked out the shoes, billed sports caps, and dark corners.  I checked hubby's suits which he no longer wore and we had some of them cleaned.  We could not identify the smell and eventually we no longer smelled it...because we got used to it.

Once or twice when my son visited he commented that the closet smelled funny.  He did not make a big deal out of it, probably thinking old people shed skin and stuff, and therefore, their closets smell funny.

We never could figure it out until yesterday.

Hubby was going through all of his old photos albums, his parents albums and diaries etc. in a box on the top shelf.  He called to me and said he had figured out what was making the odor.  In his hands was an 8mm movie tape in a metal case.  I could smell the acid yards before he reached me, the vinegar syndrome where an acid is created by the decay of the ascetic base.  Fortunately we had converted this to VHS years before, but now I have been reminded that we have to digitize even that medium.  VHS gets brittle and fades, to say nothing of the fact that we have only one VHS reader in the house and it is part of a TV set.

The movie tape acid was so strong that we had to wrap it in a plastic garbage and take it out to the garage garbage bin.  Even today I can detect the smell in the garbage!

Now when son comes down to visit, I am going to take him to the closet for a sniff test.