Friday, June 24, 2011

Vermont Quilt Show

My first visit to the Champlain Valley Quilt Show, which rivaled any collection of quilts I've ever seen--a spectacular show of folk art.  

Some of my favorites: 

Monday, January 31, 2011

Unleashed Emotions

After a particularly difficult evening with a bad-tempered Daughter (tired after a sleepover), Husband read this passage in Keith Richard's autobiography Life.  It made us laugh.  

"The power of the teenage females of thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, when they're in a gang, has never left me.  They nearly killed me.  I was never more in fear for my life that I was from teenage girls.  The ones that choked me, tore me to shreds, if you got caught in a frenzied crowd of them--it's hard to express how frightening they could be.  You'd rather be in a trench fighting the enemy than to be faced with this unstoppable, killer wave of lust and desire, or whatever it is--it's unknown even to them.  The cops are running away, and you're faced with this savagery of unleashed emotions." 

On so many levels, ain't that the truth. 

Sleepovers should be banished.  

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Ghosts In Me

I was corresponding with a friend the other day about some ranch land near Elko, Nevada, that one wing of my family managed in the early to mid-1900s.  He knew of the area and told me that he always thought I "had a little hillbilly" in me.  My response to him was that I have the ghosts of many things stirring in me--even Republicans.  His response: "They all watch over you and make sure you don't turn into the dreaded yuppie."

Which got me thinkin' about those ghosts...
  • Great grandfather:  chief engineer on a Great Lakes freighter
  • Another great grandfather: physician (who delivered me in 1965)
  • Great grandmother:  suicidal
  • Another great grandmother:  a woman of the kitchen--I have her cookbooks, which are wilting away but filled with old clippings, notes, and shared recipes
  • A great x4 grandfather: War of 1812 hero*
  • Grandmother and grandfather:  Apple orchard owners and city superintendent
  • A great x3 grandfather: U.S. district attorney for the State of Delaware
  • A very distant aunt: owner of oriental rug factories in China
  • Great x2 grandfather, aunt, and uncle:  cattle ranchers near Elko, Nevada
  • Great x 2 grandfather: attorney and member of Nevada State Legislature
  • Great x4 grandfather: Maryland physician; owner of many slaves

 *As the story is told, this Captain John Adams Webster once came across a wrecked Japanese ship and rescued the sole survivor, a man named Hecko.  Hecko could not return to Japan because the Japanese beheaded men who had contact with other civilizations (true?).  So Captain Webster took Hecko home to Maryland and educated him.  Hecko became the Captain's secretary.  

In the War of 1812, Captain Webster, at Fort Babcock, awakened and heard the sound of boat oars in the water--an advancing British fleet.  He aroused his crew, which began firing on the fleet, forcing them to retreat.  Family lore claims that it was from this incident that Francis Scott Key wrote the "Star Spangled Banner."  Also true?  I can't be sure, but it's a good story to tell.

Back to those ghosts...

The list above includes just 1/4 of my family--kin from just my maternal grandfather's family, the Pattersons and Dorseys of English, Irish, and Scottish origins, who lived primarily on the Eastern seaboard, Nevada, and into California.  My maternal grandmother's family, the Muhlitners and Satlers, came from Germany and settled directly in St. Clair, Michigan, in the 1850s.  This is where I was born. I have long records of this family hierarchy, but I know nothing about them as people.  I also know nothing about my paternal family.

Which means there is another 3/4 of my heritage stirring in me, and I have no idea who or what they were.  If the list above is any indication of variety, just think of the possibilities...

Monday, January 10, 2011


Dearest Daughter: 

A day or so ago, when we talked about how to celebrate your 13th birthday, you told me this: 

You:  I don't want a party.
Me: What?  How could that be?  This is a big year for you. 
You:  No it's not.  Sweet 16 is the big one
Me:  What do you mean, Sweet 16?
You:  You know, the year you get the biggest birthday party of your life?
Me:  No, I don't think I knew about that.
You:  You don't know anything, Mom. 

And that about sums up where we are right now...

I don't really mind if you think this though, because I am confident that I do know a few things about a few things--like being 13, for instance.  

I know that as you move into your teens, you are a pure and beautiful study of opposites.  Happy/sad, mad/loving, confident/uncertain, independent/defenseless, pushing/pulling, stressed/carefree, social/private all wrapped into sometimes the same day.  (OK, you're not actually uncertain very often.  You're too stubborn to be uncertain.)   

I know I primally *get* you in ways I've never understood anyone else, so your shifts don't really vex me.  At the same time, there are times you can turn on my mad switch quicker than lead sinks.  

I know you are getting sassier, to be sure.  Some days, that's cause for a warning; other days, I'm privately proud that you are standing strong for something you want or believe in.  

I know your friends, of course, are your axis.  Music, social networking, horseback riding, swimming, and cupcakes turn your gears.  

I know that the more I try to share with you, the more you deny me. No shopping together anymore.  No reading books together.  You received a cell phone this past Christmas, and told me not to text you.  "That's weird, Mom." 

I know that despite all your rebuffs, I won't be so weird someday (well, not weird in the same ways that I am now).  We are inextricably connected by so many common qualities and conditions.  As my first born, you paved the parenting path for me and forced me come up with answers for a gazillion questions.  And as the little person you are today, you've reminded me of the joyfulness of being happy/sad, mad/loving, confident/uncertain, independent/defenseless, pushing/pulling, stressed/carefree, social/private all wrapped into one perfect package.  

So I guess we'll keep you for another year.  

Love ya!  Kiss, kiss. 

P.S.  Dad says that he hopes your taste in music improves.  

P.S.S.  This year was also the year of the "horse."  I remind you of this so that in years to come, you can think back and remember what a debacle that was.  I hope you laugh.  

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Page 3

Los Angeles brought many "firsts" to our new lives:

Tom's first real job out of college--writing dBase documentation at Ashton-Tate
In-and-Out Burger
El Pollo Loco
Christmas on a beach 
Body builders on a beach
An apartment a block from the beach (where we moved after about five months) 
Authentic Mexican food
Surfing (just Tom--a neighbor named Louie taught him)
Jasmine and gardenias
Smog and water pollution
Movie premieres  
Irish pubs
The La Brea Tar Pits
Massive flea markets ("swap meets")
California pottery

And earthquakes.  On October 1, 1987, as Tom was driving me to work, our car (a used Mercury Marquis we picked up after our other car was totaled) started bumping all over the road.

"What's wrong with this thing?" he wondered as he started to pull over to the shoulder of the freeway. 

At that same moment, we heard on the radio that a 6.0 earthquake had just hit the Whittier area--right where we were driving.  

Being transplants, we had no concept of what an earthquake really meant, and we laughed at how silly we were--thinking it was our car.  I didn't really understand the dynamics of the force until later in the day when I was in the warehouse where I worked and an aftershock hit.  Feeling the floor and walls move around me scared me into a frenzy, and I flew off the loading dock and out of the building like a bullet.  Again, that night, another aftershock shook us out of our bed and apartment, wild eyed and panicked.  I remember my heart beating hard and fast the whole rest of that night.  

We felt many more earthquakes in our years in California, though none as big as the Whittier quake.  When they first start to rumble, you stop and wait to see if it's a "big one."  I guess you sort of get used to them, as I don't recall reacting much to any after that first one. 

I also saw my first unprocessed dead body in LA.  After Tom started his Ashton-Tate job, I was unexpectedly offered a job as an administrative assistant at USC.  My classes were at night, and as a full-time staff member of the University, I could take one class per term for free--a savings of more than $25K over the course of my degree.  So I plugged away at both the job and just one class per term until I earned my full master's degree, nearly debt free.  

At any rate, we still had only one car, so most days, I drove Tom to work, then headed up Figueroa Street to campus, through South Central LA (also known as "Watts"), an area rife with gangs.  (Given LA traffic, this whole morning route sometimes took up to 1.5 hours.)  I felt safe in my car, but one morning, I passed by an area marked by yellow tape just as the police pulled a blanket off a body lying on the ground.  A surreal scene I still remember to this day.  

I don't intend here to make LA seem like a dangerous or derelict city.  It was just so different from where we came--I'm not sure we could've found a more opposite place to land.  At the same time, it was full of original experiences, food, sights, music, and people.  From there, road trips took us to the Mohave Desert, beach towns north and south, Mexico, Mono Lake, Las Vegas, Disneyland, and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.  We met some wonderful friends and enjoyed birthday, New Year's, and Academy Awards parties with them.  We auditioned for a couple of game shows.  We saw a lot of concerts.  And we were even invited to spend a day surfing in Malibu at actor Jack Warden's house (Tom worked with his nephew).  I don't remember much about that day except that the other people at the house--friends of Tom's colleague--were pretty wasted.  

So yeah, LA was an adventure on all fronts.  While we never felt as though it would be a home to us, we were highly entertained by its experience, and we still laugh over the memories.