From Russia With Malice

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I’ve just read a sobering article about Russia’s plans to disrupt the November 18 elections. And it brought me up short. One of their main goals is to pit American against American—to have us go at each others’ throats. To turn neighbor against neighbor—family members against family members. And they are succeeding. We can’t let that happen. We need to remember we are all Americans. We might disagree on many things, but fundamentally, UNITED WE STAND. However, this isn’t our reality now.

“In the coming months, (cyber security) experts told [the writer}, Russian operatives will likely start creating fake Facebook groups (if they haven’t already)—some that slam to the left, others that lean as far right as humanly possible—that will argue with one another, and help us do the same; there will be accounts on social media that use Cambridge Analytica-style targeting to serve up ads, and a barrage of cleverly designed and perfectly disguised bots on Twitter.” (Nick Bilton, Vanity Fair, June 22, 2018)

The goal: to set American against American and confuse us to the point we can’t see a fact from an alternative fact or outright lie. And it’s working well as demonstrated by my conversation yesterday with my daughter before I read the article.

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“I can’t believe what my cousin’s neighbor said,” she told me as we discussed the families separated at our southern border. “It was so heartless. And you know what, she’s really a nice person. But I don’t want to be with her again.”

“I totally understand,” I said. “Someone I know who is really a good person, asked me yesterday why I only care about immigrants, not Americans. I was so outraged I could barely say, ‘I don’t only care about immigrants. I care about all people. Of course, I care about Americans!’ But then I sounded so defensive! Why am I on the defensive! I love America—and I love American values. I just don’t want them to be destroyed…along with America.”

“Did you tell them that?” my daughter asked.

“No, I was too mad. And what good would it do? These people won’t believe me. Anything I try to explain, they say it’s fake news.”

The Russians are winning as they destroy our faith in each other. We no longer listen, trying to grasp the other person’s point of view. We no longer search for compromise. We just turn away. That’s a sad truth…and it’s dangerous.

The article continues as Bilton says: “And then there will be new tactics. More than one expert told me that Russia will try to go after actual voting booths in smaller, more contentious districts across the country. The world we live in so intertwined with technology that you could imagine Russian hackers disrupting how we even get to the polls on Election Day. Ride-sharing services could be hacked. We’ve already seen instances of hackers faking transit problems on mapping apps, like Waze, to send people in the wrong direction, or away from a certain street. Perhaps most terrifying of all, one former official told me, are the possibilities arising from Russia’s alleged 2015 cyber-attack on Kiev’s power grid, which plunged the city into darkness.”

I’m a grandmother of five. What do I know about technical internet mechanics? Or about the threat of cyber attacks? I’m just praying that our government has a strike force of some kind that is working to counter these assaults on our country.

All I know is that despite our differences, despite our myriad problems, we need to work together to keep America safe. To keep America strong. To keep the American values of freedom, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness constant for ourselves and our future generations. Let’s see what we can agree on. Let’s stop polarizing one way or the other. Let’s not let the propaganda machines win.

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No Mercy, No Empathy

Let me start out by saying that I am not for open borders. I am not for porous borders. I want strong borders and for people to have to go through the correct process to be able to come into the United States.

That said, I want my America back!! It wasn’t a perfect America — there was a lot of prejudice and wrong doing by many. But at least America stood for a humane attitude towards human beings. Lady Liberty was our ideal, even if we didn’t measure up to her standards.

I thought I didn’t need to pay attention to what was happening in Washington, D.C. I thought our elected officials were people of conscience who cared about the welfare of our country over politics or personal gain. I thought I could count on our leaders to do the right thing. No more.

I sent Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, a letter asking him to stand against children being separated from their parents at our southern border. I didn’t have to ask about our northern border — yet. I got the following letter back.

This cold, unfeeling letter gave me the chills when I read it.  It was like reading a statement from the government in “ANIMAL FARM”. Or words that a robot would repeat.

These little children at the Mexican border, some who are coming from frightening conditions in Central America, do not look like “radical Islamist terrorists”. Neither do their parents, who have been arrested as criminals. Their crime: they came to the United States looking for asylum. These are not the people who are trying to slip across the border. Double Speak is being used to call them criminals. They are accused of smuggling their own children! The law is being twisted! Please do not try to convince me this is the moral thing to do. Please do not try to convince me that I am safer because these children are being housed in cages.

You won’t succeed. I have not been brainwashed yet.

Update: Faith in Humanity

I thought you might like an update on the orphaned gosling I met on May 16. This is how he looked then:

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And this is how he looks now!

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Quite a difference, isn’t it? I couldn’t believe it when I ran into Kodak and his rescuer. I actually looked around for the scrawny runt who I guessed hadn’t survived. But no, there he was!

He still likes to stick close to his mentor:

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As he did a month ago:

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But the plan is to get him used to other goslings and get him repatriated into a clutch. To do this, his human “dad” brings feed to entice the other geese to come get to know Kodak.

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With patience, it seems to be working. “If there is a threat from outside of them, like a dog, Kodak will follow them into the water,” the man tells me. “He joins the group.”

He’s been concerned that Kodak has imprinted with him and also their dogs. Kodak is very comfortable around all of them, but is beginning to be more comfortable with other goslings, as well.

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Stay tuned for the next installment in the continuing saga of Kodak, the Wonder Goose!

An Ode to Spring!

 

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In my infatuation with autumn, I’d forgotten my old love: Spring. I was so into Fall colors that I left Spring in the dirt. (Pardon my capitalizing the seasons. I just can’t help it. I start thinking of things like “I get a spring in my step when it’s spring” or “I can fall when I slip on fall leaves” and I end up capitalizing Spring and Fall because it just seems right to me.)

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I do love autumn: the cooler days after a long, hot summer. I love the brilliance of the leaves and the signs that although the days are shorter, we’re getting ready for cozy evenings at home.

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(You’ll notice no mention of football in my Fall loves. I know this is heresy, but football is not high on my list of priorities. Sorry.)

But this Spring has been different. Perhaps it’s because of the rainy days of winter, but I don’t think so. By slowing my life down, I’ve been more aware of what’s happening in the moment. (It’s been quality versus quantity.) Along the way, I’ve remembered how much I love the awakening of nature around me. It has been a pleasure.

It started in my own backyard. I watched as the trees began to leaf out.

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By the way, here’s that same tree last Fall.

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Then I began to see Spring wildflowers peek up their heads.IMG_0379.jpg

 

I’m fortunate to walk most days so it wasn’t difficult to see the progress of renewal in the season. I was in awe of the colors of the flowers and plants. Being cognizant that theirs’ was a short season, I knew I had to focus on their beauty or I’d miss it. They’d be gone soon and only a memory.

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In other neighborhoods, I saw fruit trees put out their blossoms.

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When I walked by the lake in early Spring, I  watched the geese follow their mating rituals.

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and then, later, how they raised their young.

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In late April, I  went to Seattle to visit and was treated to a cornucopia of visual Spring delights. I think I drove my daughter crazy because I had to stop every few minutes to click another shot. But I just couldn’t get over the special beauty of the season.

Every tree and plant was bursting with new life:

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Fruit trees were decked out in their finery.

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Bluebells flocked to greet me in the woods.

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Back in California, I continued on my Spring Quest, aware of quickly the season was passing.

“It’s the middle of May,” I said to my daughter one day.

“Mom, it’s only May 11. Don’t push us ahead,” she said.

“I’m not, but you know, in a moment it will be Memorial Day.”

And it was.

The swans have had their babies now.

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The irises are still blooming but are losing a little of their freshness.

Time continues to march on even if we don’t want it to.

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All Spring as I walked outside, I kept hearing the phrase, Hope Springs Eternal, in my head. Even when we and our family and friends were having health issues, I saw with my own eyes that nature’s message was one of hope and renewal. Maybe everyone could get well–we shouldn’t give up hope.

But Spring also personifies the impermanence of life; its ephemeral qualities. Nothing is permanent and I should know that by now. I need to cherish what I have now–not look back, not look forward. My autumn years may be waning, but I’m not into winter yet. And I’m going to enjoy the last days of Spring without bemoaning how fleeting it was.

My plan is to gorge on peonies while they’re still is season. Short as it is.

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Regaining Faith in Humanity

Another school shooting. More people’s lives ripped away. More acts of religious and ethnic hatred. You see so much meanness coming from people nowadays, sometimes you begin to lose faith in humanity. Mine was restored a little today.

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As I rounded the bend on my walk, I saw a man standing on the grass, looking at the lake. Then I saw a tiny naked bird running around near him.

“Oh my goodness,” I said.

The man turned and smiled at me.

“He’s got to be brand new,” I said.

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“Actually, he’s a couple of weeks old,” he said. “He’s an orphan we found down by the weeds. He must have been the runt. You can see he also has a problem with his feathers, so they must have abandoned him.”

I shook my head. “That’s so sad.”

“I know. We picked him up and took him home, hoping we could save him.”

At that moment, the gosling started running away from us, flapping its wings. It looked like a wind up toy.

“Hey, where you going? Come back over here,” the man called. He looked at me. “This is the first time he’s ever left my side.”

The gosling came running back, stopping to peck at the grass for a moment before he returned close to the man.

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“He comes when you call?” I asked.

The man nodded. “Yeah, and he likes to cuddle under your chin.”

The man explained that they were raising him to get strong enough so they could to try to introduce him to a clutch that has goslings his age. They’d tried once already but he was rejected. “We’re hoping when he’s older it will work.”

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In the mean time, they have a set up a crate for him. “We’ve got stuffed animal geese in there and a mirror,” he explained. “The vet told us a special feed to get. He’s skinny, but eating and active.”

“He’s so cute,” I said.

“And look,” the man said. He pointed to the little guy’s chest where soft golden feathers were beginning to appear.

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The man’s smile was wide, filled with pride and compassion. “I think he’s going to make it,” he said.

What an inspiration, I thought as I continued on my walk. It goes to show that you should never give up. And that it’s not always the survival of the fittest if there’s a helping hand.

We need more of this in the world. Acts of kindness just because you can.

A News Black Out? Not so fast.

 

I am so upset by what is happening in the news that I am literally sick to my stomach. I can’t sleep through the night and I have terrible dreams. I’m afraid of what’s going to happen next and feel powerless to stop any of it. I hope my kids and grandkids don’t read this because I’m supposed to say, “Everything will be all right.” I’m also hoping that I’ll go on the news black out that I think I need. And only concentrate on the beauty around me, and the people around me who agree that we must honor our neighbors as ourselves.

I wrote the paragraph above one night before I went to bed, to try to sleep. I knew I needed to get perspective.

So a funny thing happened to me on the way to becoming more detached from the news and politics.

It started off well.

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I woke up and took a beautiful walk along the lake, enjoying the budding plants and the antics of some goslings until a gander shooed me away. A lovely spring morning.

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An hour later, I was making myself a cup of tea at the gym while I waited for my yoga class to begin. That’s when I heard a man say that Keith Ellison is against having any United States borders.

“He’s the number two guy in the Democratic party. It just shows where the Democrats are coming from. They don’t want any laws at all to keep dangerous people out of our country,” he said.

Just take your tea outside and enjoy the blue sky, I told myself.

“That’s terrible,” another man said. “What’s the matter with them?”

Instead of me going out the door, all my good intentions went. I found myself taking my tea and a seat next to them.

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“I think you need a Democrat to even out this discussion,” I said in my most friendly manner. “Why do you think Keith Ellison is against borders?”

“He wore a t-shirt that said, ‘Yo no creo en fronteras’.”

“Are you sure this is real news?” I asked. “Last week I read that Hillary and Huma Abedin mutilated a young girl. It was definitely fake news.”

That got their attention.

“I heard you mention that Jerry Brown is trying to ruin California,” I said.

“Well, he is,” one of the men said. He was wearing designer work out clothes.

“California is now the fifth largest economy in the world,” I said. “I admit to being an English major, but even I can do the math on that statistic.”

The guy shook his head. “But Brown is letting all these immigrants in—having sanctury cities, that kind of thing,” he said. “Letting all these Mexicans congregate here, stealing, raping, doing drugs…”

A Latina woman who worked at the gym walked by. I cringed.

“Yeah, we’re not safe in our own houses anymore. And they want to take away our guns so we can’t protect ourselves,” the first guy said.

I wanted to say, “Why are you so stupid? You’re listening to a bunch of propaganda filled with hate,” but I refrained.

“That’s not true,” I said instead. “Most of the people who are here are law abiding citizens. Those who aren’t, the dangerous criminals, they won’t be turned loose. There’s no threat to public safety.”

They looked at me as if I had two-heads. “How do you know this?” one asked.

“I read the bill on line,” I said.

At that moment, my yoga teacher called to me that class was starting.

“Well, it was nice talking to you,” I said, getting up.

“Yeah, have a nice day,” one of them said.

I walked down the hall, wondering about Keith Ellison’s t-shirt and how in the world we can get to the truth anymore.

Not exactly an “OM” moment.

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A Tribute to Barbara Bush

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I’m very lucky that I got to meet Barbara Bush. She was just as everyone is describing. She was no-nonsense and warm. She was gracious, but you knew instantly that she didn’t suffer fools for a minute. She was full of fun and full of dignity. She was funny and irreverent, serious and dedicated. And she was real.

I wasn’t going to tell my story because it’s private, but the first time I met her was such a perfect example of who Barbara was that I can’t resist.

It was in Kennebunkport twenty years ago. We were back there with friends who were close with the Bushes. Four days before we left I was told that I’d being playing golf there.

“But I don’t play golf,” I said.

“You better learn fast,” my husband said.

Let me say here that I’m not the world’s greatest athlete. Nor is golf an easy sport. After twenty years I’m mediocre on a good day. But my first 18 holes was played with Barbara Bush, God help her.

We met at their club, Cape Arundel, me still tearing the tags off my golf attire. It turned out that the Bushes were hosting a cocktail party for 70 that evening at the Walker estate — Barbara was supposed to get a chance to relax and play golf that morning. Instead she got me.

Graciously, she invited me to ride in her cart. I’m not sure who she thought she was getting — I did come with a Hollywood couple, after all, who played golf all the time . She couldn’t have known I’d be a school teacher from Seattle…who’d never played golf. She soon realized the last part as I sprayed balls right and left. One hole of Cape Arundel borders a street and my ball almost took out the windshield of a Secret Service car driving along side. Guns drawn, two men in black leaned out of the car to make sure the former First Lady was not under attack.

I was in awe just being there–pretty tongue tied as well as embarrassed at my inability. I’d hit the ball and then scurry toward it, trying not to hold up play. Barbara must have been going crazy, but she didn’t say anything. On one hole, I actually was running to my ball. Barbara drew up in her cart and said, “Hop in. You don’t have to run. We all started somewhere.”

I rolled my eyes. “But why is my somewhere with you when you have 70 people coming to your house tonight.”

She laughed and patted the seat next to her. And I knew, just like that, I was okay in her book.

On the ninth green, I said, “Mrs. Bush, you can go ahead and putt out.”

A voice from the next hole called out, “Who’s calling my mother, ‘Mrs. Bush’. No one calls my mother, ‘Mrs. Bush.’ It’s Barbara.”

I blushed as I met Jeb who was playing with his dad and my husband.

Barbara, looking pleased, laughed at her son’s teasing. And I relaxed enough to laugh too.

Later that night at their house, she was the perfect hostess. Dressed in her classic style with the signature pearls around her neck, she made sure the evening, an event for MD Anderson, ran like clockwork. But it was with a calm and non pretentiousness that put everyone at ease.

We got to be with Barbara several other times. Each occasion was precious.

 

Glumping into Golden Age

images-1            Everything that happens to me lately, I blame on becoming older. Like I thought something was wrong with my ability to hear. I was listening to Morning Joe on Stitcher and it seemed everyone was talking extremely fast. I could barely understand what Mika was saying. It took me a couple of weeks, but it suddenly occurred to me to check the speed control: Sure enough, it had moved to 1.5 speed. A quick flick and I was back to normal speed. What a relief!

I’ve also been having trouble sleeping—the bane of Golden Agers. I was feeling quite anxious and blamed it not only on my life-long anxiety, but on my frustration with navigating this week through today’s health care system. I was just trying to get answers about test results and it wasn’t happening. Was I just too old to do it? I’d given up on getting a diagnosis—that seemed an impossibility for the UCLA system. They’d brought me to my knees just trying to get a human being to talk to me. I couldn’t even make an appointment in one office until the physician’s liaison got back to me. What is a physician’s liaison anyway?

“What is your husband’s diagnosis?” the receptionist asked.

I looked at the phone in disgust. “I don’t know his diagnosis!!! That’s why I’m calling to make an appointment!! That’s what we want to know!! I was an English major—no medical training here!! I’m not sure what the blood test is saying but when I look it up on the Internet, their interpretation is not comforting. And I’m pretty sure that the symptoms I’m now exhibiting as I talk to you, are indicative of high blood pressure and an oncoming stroke!!!!

I only actually said some of the above and I didn’t shout, but nothing phased the receptionist anyway.

“Is there someone there that can give me a hint if this is a serious situation?” I finally begged her.

“No, but the liaison will call you back with 48 hours,” she said. “Is this the best number to reach you?”

I could feel something throbbing in my head as I tried to slam down my iPhone.

Seeing that phoning was not working, I tried writing another email to our primary care doctor. Just let me know what we’re dealing with, I wanted to write. I like the idea of a health care portal and that you can write your doctor a question. I really really like it when they write back. But these portals shouldn’t release test results to lay people who don’t know how to interpret them. Then you go on-line and the answers you find are always the worst case scenario. I’m tired of being scared out of my wits.

Meanwhile, I didn’t get any answers back and had trouble sleeping that night.          The next day the physician’s liaison did get back to me. She talked in a hearty way, but would give me no information either.

“Okay. I’m guessing you’d like the next available appointment,” she said.

“Not really,” I said. “I want the next ASAP appointment.”

“Pardon me?” she said.

“I want the soonest available appointment,” I explained.

“Oh, sure. I can understand that.”

What did that mean, I wondered.

We got in two days later. We could have gotten in the next day but my husband was playing in a golf tournament and wouldn’t cancel. First things first! (Did I mention that while I was working my way into being a stroke victim, he was playing golf?)

I had no idea what the doctor would be like when we met her or him. She is FABULOUS!! She quickly explained that the alarming blood test told nothing by itself. She explained that more tests were needed. She explained what could be happening. She explained that there was nothing to worry about. It would probably turn out to be nothing. “I’ll tell you if you have to worry,” she said.

Of course she had no idea that she was talking to me, the poster girl for Worry Wort in the dictionary. I worry if I’m not feeling worried.

So, to get back to my first point about blaming everything on getting older, this frustration and non-worrying is why I thought I could barely sleep last night. But I was wrong. It was more about the bombing of Syria. I know this because when I woke up and before I opened my eyes, I thought, we’re still here, we’re still alive. I hadn’t even known my psyche had gone to Nuclear Winter.

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The Promise of Spring

It was a beautiful Easter/Passover morning. I set out on my walk without a plan in my head. I had no where I had to be until later in the day. Every plate and platter were put away, every pot was clean (well, there still was a little chicken soup left in one), and I no longer felt I’d been run over by a truck.

As I walked, I saw that the long winter’s sleep was done. Trees were budding all over the place! Primroses were nodding hello in the breeze. Calla lilies were in bloom.

When I walked by the lake I saw the many geese who’ve decided being American 24/7, 365/365 is a better plan than fighting the lines through Customs at the Canadian border. They aren’t the neatest of neighbors and can be quite aggressive at times…but not as aggressive as the coyotes who like to stretch their legs over the same grassy area.

As I rounded the curve, I spied an unusual sight: a goose who walked with a swagger. Most geese waddle. This guy had a long blade of grass hanging out of the side of his mouth. His cocky smirk reminded me of the silverback gorilla my brother had run into once in Rwanda.

After I’d walked a couple blocks, I got more curious and headed back to see if I could find my fine feathered friend. He, of course, wasn’t among the group on the lawn. He was much too superior for that. Maybe he was at the lake, I thought.

At first I wondered if maybe he was the one in the middle of the lake honking his head off warning the gaggle of impending doom. Or one of the two on the lake making plans for an assignation.

But, no, it seemed to me he was more the type to strut around looking for babes! And sure enough, I found him. Puffed out and looking good (except for the pieces of grass stuck in his beak.)

He kept walking around showing off but when I left, he was still alone. Just goes to show that all girls are smarter these days and as my mother always said, “Pride goes before a fall.”

Nostalgia Notes

 

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I got nostalgic yesterday for all the previous yesterdays when I could sleep through the night without worrying about was happening on the East Coast. I got nostalgic for the days when I didn’t need to know the names of people like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. I got nostalgic for the days when I believed our government was led by men and women with integrity and knowledge of national and international affairs. I wanted to go back to the days when I thought no President would tell a lie.

Then I got just plain nostalgic for that age of innocence when I was growing up. It turned into a Remember When morning and thinking of things in the past.

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Let’s start with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread. Really, they were so delicious and went down so smoothly with a glass of milk. And we thought we were eating something healthy: the peanut butter was protein and the jelly was fruit. I just realized something weird — no one had a peanut allergy back then.

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Sadly, another thing that is probably in my past is prime rib. It used to be my favorite — my mother made a big one every Sunday night and we fought over the crispy fat. Now when I look at this photo, I feel a bit nauseous. Darn! And it tasted so good.

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Embroidery is a craft of the past. Probably a hundred years ago, my grandmother embroidered these napkins made out of flour sacking. My grandparents were immigrants who had nothing when they came to the United States in 1900. But my grandmother had skill and perseverance so she made things beautiful. I’ll never throw them away.

She is still my inspiration. She was the most amazing baker the world has ever seen. She never measured — well, she did use a half of an egg shell occasionally. This photo really captures her spirit.

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Spring is such a hopeful season filled with abundant energy. Winter fights with Spring, creating mischievous weather that has us layering on and off. The other day, as I put my jacket back on after just removing it five minutes before, I heard the distant drone of a propeller in the sky. When I looked up at the single engine plane, it took me back to my childhood days in Seattle. More feelings of nostalgia.

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Then there is the nostalgia for what you once could have worn, but no longer can. Like this gorgeous shoe — boot. I’m drooling as I look at it but I know there’d be no reason for me to even try it on. Too high of a heel for me and it would look ridiculous at the bottom of my babyboomer legs.

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Above is this tee shirt, which is more appropriate for me at my age. I remember getting a plaque with Getting Old is not for Sissies for my mom and dad on their 50th anniversary. Oh, we kids thought it was so funny…and we thought it would never happen to us.

Guess who isn’t laughing now.