•September 3, 2010 • 2 Comments

Remember this little stranded alien that those great kids befriended back in 1982?  And what is the one word you remember him repeating over and over?  Yeah.  Me too.


Where would you like to go?   Home.    Please.

Ah, yes: Home, sweet home.   Home on the range?     Carry me back to Old Virginny?    Big D.?    O-k-l-a-h-o-m-a!   Mars?

So where is home to you?  Not your address although, on second thought, it could be.  Down deep in your psyche, what is home to you?

Americans change addresses on an average of every four years.    So where is Home?  Where you hang your hat?  I don’t think so.

I have a little story (of course, I always do) about this word. It started with a little game we played in the car, our little family of five.  It was a spontaneous response, for want of a better description, game.  Here’s how it goes:  Take round-robin turns as leader.  Leader says a word and the rest of the players, without thinking or hesitation, call out the word that comes into their consciousness when they hear the word.  It always ended in laughter.

Now back to circa 1982. We had spent a long business day in San Francisco,  and there was a two hour drive home. The back seat was empty,  the kids had left the nest.  But we decided to play the game, the two of us, because we were so sleepy.  A big seafood dinner on Fishermen’s Wharf will do that.

We knew each other so well after years of marriage,that  the game had little zest to it. Then the eye-opener.

“Lovely,”  I offered.

“Martha!” my husband spontaneously replied.   Huh? (My name is not Martha.)

Now we were both awake.   “I don’t know where that came from,”  he lamely  said with his eyebrows arched up to  his hairline.   And that was the only explanation he could offer.  Hmmm.

Flash forward three months.  We had ended another foggy day in San Francisco and were back at our favorite table in our favorite restaurant. We’d timed it just right, so we could watch the commercial fishermen unload their catch.

Suddenly my handsome husband covered his face with his hands and his shoulders shook.  Crying?  No, laughing.


He could only point.  The boat hitched up to the dock outside our window was  The Lovely Martha!   Case closed.

Recently I was playing that old game with my grandchildren when the word “home” was offered.  “Colorado” my true self responded.  Wha? Hadn’t Lived there for fifty years.  But my heart knew.  Colorado is my true home, the place I spent my formative years.

So I had to try that word on the old guy who sits across the breakfast table.  And he came through.  “Home!”  I said with gestures to hurry. He dithered for a mili-second, and called the best one ever.




•August 19, 2010 • 3 Comments

Miss Manners (or was it Heloise?) says that when one cuts one’s nails, one should put one’s hands inside a plastic bag.  (The bag in which you brought the radishes home from Safeway will do.)  This method protects others from both seeing and stepping on clippings.  A tip for the tidy.

I’ve been doing a little obsessing about fingernails as of late. Ever since that ten-year-old kid insulted a lady at Taco Bell. I think the kid didn’t mean it as an insult, he  merely said something aloud without running it through that little editor that grown-ups have in their heads.

He was wearing those ubiquitous roller shoes and did a fancy glide up to the table next to me, looked a little beyond me and  made face like he was going gag.

“Gross!” he bellowed.

The diner at the next table had three inch curving nails extending from her fingertips. How could anyone not look?  Middle aged, and well groomed ,  this lady was eating a taco held between her knuckles.  She smiled at the attention.

“Freddie Krueger”, the kid mumbled.

“This is the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave” flashed through my consciousness.  She was free to decorate herself any way she pleased, and she was brave enough to do it.  Case closed.

But I couldn’t leave it alone.  How did she tie her shoes?  Zip her pants? Dial a phone? A few other grooming chores……

I decided I needed a professional manicure, stopped in at Cozy Nails and got an excellent short-as-possible nail clean-up and polish.  I asked my friendly manicurist if she had any customers that want the ultra long nails.  She’d had a couple. She applies false nails and does not cut the nails as they grow out.  The fake nails protect tips from breaking and nature does the rest.

Then I checked the Guinness Book of World Records.  Are there any stats for this?  Yep.

Up until February ,2009, Lee Redmond held the world record for the longest nails.  The combined total length was 28 feet. Her left thumbnail measured 2 feet, 11 inches.  She had not cut her nails since 1979.  Then she lost her title when she was ejected from the SUV in which she was riding  and broke all ten nails.  No other serious injuries.  Here she is in her heyday.

I caught some other photos of nails too, both hands and feet, male and female!  This is not a criticism on my part, live and let live.  I just find it interesting.


•August 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Don’t do it, Pandora.

It’s just a myth you say?  Okay, I don’t believe it either.  But aren’t the paintings great?

And what is Guinevere saying to Lancelot as he rides off to the Crusades?  (Do I have my time-line right here?  Oh, well.) She is giving him her scarf, marking him as her Champion.  We all know that he was more than her Champion; this wife of King Arthur was over the moon for the guy.  So write your own dialogue for this beautifully illustrated moment.

Now to modern photography.  Not today-modern, digital, enhanced, etc.,etc.   This photo is worth a  few hundred words, right?   When these girls turned down the local  yokel with the words “I can’t see you, I have to wash my hair tonight”, they meant it.

Could this be  is that old trio, The Singing Harris Sisters, Harriet and Tressa, and  their mother, Rapunzel?

Step right in,

Sit right down,

Baby, let your hair hang down.

Here’s another photo taken on Mothers’ Day, 1937.   These mothers posed on the hospital steps with their babies born that year.  What is amazing to me is the age and dress of the moms.

Don’t they look like grandmothers? Look closely, thirty four mothers and only six could smile.  There must be a message here someplace.

Back to a painting. A New Testament Bible allegory by James Christensen.   Food for thought.

Moonflower Magic

•August 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Aaahh, Moonflowers.  They are ladies of the evening, perfumed and and glowing in the moonlight.  They sleep during the day.

The variety that I have on my rose trellis is a trailing vine with huge heart-shaped leaves. One plant can reach 20 feet in length and needs very little care, just water and an admirer.

Why do they bloom only at night?  I have been told that they are pollinated by nocturnal moths.  The real answer is:  I don’t know.

The husk on the seed is very hard.  So if you are going to run out to the garden and plant a few today,let me give you a hint.  If you want them to come up through the soil in the next couple of weeks you’ll have to help  the seed get  undressed. I take my fingernail clippers and nip a little off the husk then drop them in a cup of warm water for a day or more. Then plant and keep damp.

They’ll need something to cling to as they make their upward climb, even a string will do.  And herein lies the sweet mystery of clinging vines.  One of my moonflower babies came up over a  foot away from the trellis, probably washed there by a too-strong burst of water.  I have watched it inch toward the trellis, and now a tendril has grasped it and it‘s starting its round-and-round embrace. Beautiful to watch. One of God’s little miracles .

The sun has dropped over the horizon and the pale moon glows in the summer night. Fragrance floats on the air.  Moonflowers.


•August 4, 2010 • 1 Comment

Today my granddaughter made it to Kindergarten Boot Camp!  Today Madelyn  did it!  Yesterday she stayed under her bed.

This same girl can frolic in the pool like a little seal.  Swimming the length of the pool under water.  Floats and kicks and then dives under to emerge laughing and paddling.

She will climb to the top of a slippery-slide and jump into air, landing half-way down with a scream of delight.

Me?  I’m afraid of water.  School was my element.  I was/am a coward in all things physical.

Guess we all have our own personal brand of fear. I must confess a ridiculous phobia of mine.  Then you may say “ that’s silly, they can’t hurt you.”


Say it.

The sound of the wings, the little claws on their feet, their menacing beaks, their beady eyes…. I’m under the bed.  I’m not coming out until that creature is back in its cage….has been shooed out of the house with a broom….or put back in the chicken pen.  Shudder.

You know the feeling, you fearers-of snakes, airplanes, or spiders.

I have a friend who is afraid of clowns, another nearly wrecked her car when a moth  hitched a ride, and beaucoup folks can’t look over the edge of the canyon .  So what is your scary-bear?


•May 2, 2010 • 2 Comments

Almost a hundred years ago a little girl was born to two mountain people.  He was educated and loved to teach, she was once his pupil.He married the beautiful girl with the dark curls and bright blue eyes, in her sixteenth year.  Not acceptable now, but okay then.

They had a baby every other year after this little girl was born, for eight years.  Then the strong red-haired father was killed in an accident.  His young wife took to her bed with depression, and the little girl became the parent of all her siblings.  She got a job! She hoed sugar beets alongside other desperate people.  She learned from the world around her. She peeled potatoes and boiled them, and fed her brothers and sisters.

Then she learned from another little girl field laborer that every night her family had beans, so they worked a trade.  Then she traded another for salt.  Their menu improved.

People in their town gave them used clothing.  She became an excellent seamstress by altering coats, pants, and dresses.

She learned to read and educated herself.  Her father would have been proud of her choices. Later in life she could converse on most any subject.

She never smiled or had time for play.  Life was serious.  She determined that she would never have children of her own.  Raising her siblings was far too much.

As a teenager she signed on as cook’s helper with a wheat-harvesting crew.  She could afford a new dress for her two younger sisters now and then.  She learned to cook from a master.(Everyone remembers her table to this day.)

Then one day when she came home exhausted there was a very tall man at their house.  He was wearing his old WWI khakis and laced up boots.  He took his pipe from his mouth and said “Little Minnie, your working days are over, I’m going to take care of your family from now on.”  Her mother was smiling.

The next day she went to high school.  She was sixteen.  Her self-education placed her in the sophomore class.  She was ashamed of her appearance, and went home and altered some clothes for herself.

She loved learning, but could not socialize.  Summer came and she went back to the fields. Her cousin, Carl, determined that she should have some fun, took her to a Saturday night dance at the Grange Hall.

He was teaching her to fox trot when a smiling teenager cut in on them.  This handsome young man was very popular with the local girls and they watched jealously as he danced with this shabby country girl.

For him it was love at first sight.  She could never say the same.  He was nineteen and dreamed of sunny California where oranges grew on trees.  He saw her every day for the next six weeks, always dreaming aloud of California.  Then with a big smile, he proposed:  “Let’s get married and hitch hike out there.”

The next day they were in Grand Junction and were married, Minnie’s cousin and his girlfriend stood up with them.   And they were off to California.  Seventeen and nineteen.

Ben’s father who’d left the family years before lived in Needles.  So they made that their destination, not anybody’s dream-place.

And that’s how I came to be.  A red-haired baby girl born nine months later. Next year, another red-head, David.  The year after that another red-head, Bruce.

Minnie, who was 4’10” weighed 80 pounds  was hit by appendicitis.  The surgeon was appalled at her poor health.  He removed her appendix and told her she would not have to worry about babies anymore he’d fixed that too!  She didn’t understand, but was happy about it.  He’d tied her tubes.

Ben went away to war in WWII, and Minnie fell into depression just as her mother had.  Life did not get a lot better for her when Ben returned four years later.  She suspected him of infidelity.  Their life was thorny through the years.  But Ben never quit expressing his love for his little wife.

Dad died on his 72nd birthday and Mother came to live with me.  I understood her and gave her privacy and a few luxuries that she protested, but deserved.  She went blind, became crippled with arthritis, had a colostomy as a result of cancer, and lived on.  She died at 87.

One day in my backyard I remembered Mama and her love of a garden. If you look up the expression “green thumb” in any dictionary you’ll find her picture.

That’s when I decided to plant a memory garden and dedicate it to my little mother.

One thing it had to have was succulents that she called hens and chicks.  I plunked one down and told it to grow for my mother.  The rest of the garden is in gorgeous bloom this spring.

Then I saw it for what it was. I am awestruck.  My cup runneth over.

Planted in the memory of a mother who could not hug, who could not say “I love you”.  There it was.

A valentine from my mother, or mine to her?

Putting on the Dog

•April 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment


Okay, the lady in the drug store didn’t quite look like this photo of Joan Crawford all vamped out in some movie, but I didn’t get a photo of the subject of my  story.  And a visual beats a thousand words.

When I say fox fur can you imagine this fashion nightmare?  No?   Joan has it slung over her shoulder but the more uptown lady of the 1930-40’s wore it around her neck, the fox’s head  meeting it’s nether end right in front.  Looked, in fact, as if it was biting its own tail.  Worn over a slim tailored suit, hat and gloves equaled Chic.

My two brothers and I were born in a three year period, so when I say ‘little brother’ it is a figure of speech only.  But being the eldest I still pulled rank.

We’d slicked up and gone to town with a list from our mother.  Little kids could do that back then, we didn’t know about crimes against children, and our town was about ten businesses all on one street.  Thinking back, we were  so naïve and innocent.  Was it because television had never entered our lives?  And we had never seen a lady like the one in the drug store.  She was dressed to the nines in the aforementioned ensemble.

She may have been passing through our little town or just descended from a different planet.  We three stared  at her like she was a museum exhibit.  I gripped both my brothers hands.   (Remember, I was the boss.)  Each processing the experience in our individual way.  I was memorizing the suit and ten years later I would be wearing one just like it, minus about six inches on the hem.

My brothers looked aghast.  My middle, little brother turned to me and said in his surprisingly deep little-boy voice.  “Dot, (me-The Boss)….Dot, why does she have her dog around her neck?”

For a moment in time all sound and movement stopped.  The store proprietress, the fancy lady and me all  stunned by David’s question, which in all fairness was one that the rest of the world would ask at a later date. I telegraphed my answer by squeezing David’s hand and gritting my teeth.  Bruce The Innocent, the littlest Harcourt , obviously thought it all great fun and just grinned.

When the freeze-frame moment was over the fine lady huffed out of the store and Mrs. Flynn ,the druggist, educated us country bumpkins . “Fox ,F-O-X, not dog!” she said in a hoarse reprimand.

I silently presented our list, and we exited with our package.

I felt the giggle trying to get out and shook for a while with internal laughter, trying to be the righteous big sister.  No use.  We staggered and laughed like drunks.

Then that kid that grew up to question everything said:  “Hey Dot, really why’d she have her fox wrapped around her neck?”