Friday, February 29, 2008

Prized Brownies

The last couple of weeks have brought some lovely surprises. Firstly, a prize which has been languishing in my bag, unsure of quite where to go. Today I rather surprised myself as I was actually able to physically put my prize from Vanessa on this posting. For well over a week I have struggled, along with the most excellent blogger, Granny P, to place this shiny gift tidily in the sidebar. The fact that Granny was unable to post her award has given me great solace as I've seen her sidebar, and it's a damn sight prettier than mine. I have never quite got the hang of anything in the sidebar so have been forced to lug my prize around in my purse all week...not missing any chance to whip it out and explain to friends and strangers alike, Oh, I won a prize, did you know? How lovely for you, Dotty, they all exclaim in patronizingly soft voices. Hmpff, I thought. How could they know what a honor this is. They don't know Vanessa. Vanessa's written a real book, a proper book, and I've got it on order from the UK. Only three left (or so told me. I'd tried to order this book when it was first published and ran into obstacles. This time it was easier, but I still got the run-around with the first order. Could it be because I'm in the States? I think the US dollar is losing its allure. It sure as hell is losing its value.

And then the equally wonderful Gwendomama tagged me for a meme with a promise of her own special brownies if I cooperated. While I had never eaten her sweet confections before, I've been following her blog for a couple of years and what that woman can't bake isn't worth eating. And so I meme'd for brownies and then they arrived, along with handmade Japanese stationery AND a custom-crafted Dotty Nana necklace. Here's evidence of the meme loot sent my way. Life should be easy now that I have my MacBook Pro...but I'm struggling to get pictures into my blog. The only way it is working for me at this point is to insert a photo from my Flickr file directly to my blog...each picture becomes it's own blog entry (nutz I know) and then I copy and paste that picture into my current blog posting, finally deleting the post the picture was sent to. I'm sure you're yawning by now, but if you know what I'm doing wrong, I'd love to know. I know it's me, not the computer and my limitations (in many endeavors) continue to bug me. Betsy, who's now in Portland, told me only today that anyone can just go to the Apple store for free lessons. Next week that's where I'll be.

The jewels posed on a plate

The jewels posed 'round my neck

Icing scraped from the wrapping...yes, they are that good. 72% pure cacao, the baker assures me...pure heaven.

See that sweet, little blue plastic pig? He's filled with French salt. Instructions were to sprinkle a little on top of the chocolate before eating. We obliged and it was a fantastic combination.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Obama Fever

This country is pretty excited about Mr. Obama and while I'm overjoyed that people are so ready for change, I'm still puzzled by their apparent reluctance to effect change at the last election. Are we as a nation so candidate (and not issue) driven that we can only get excited by the person running and not their platform? I can only assume that things have to be not just bad but fucking awful before the need to become active in the cure becomes compelling for so many. And that bothers me. And the other thing that bothers me (and I admit I'm one sensitive broad) is that Obama is beginning to sound too preachery to me. Preachery in an old time revival kinda way, a sort of MLKy style. And that doesn't suit me. It just doesn't. So I'm trying to remind myself to listen to myself and while I'm a Clinton gal through and through, I need to stop focusing on the candidates and more on the issues. And in doing that, I have discovered that I still want Hillary to be my president. Not because of who she is or isn't, but because of her platform.

Friday, February 22, 2008


So Gwendomama meme'd me and how could I say no? I mean she's handicapped right now plus promises of brownies AND cupcakes mean something to me and if you don't think I'm sending her my address (and a pre-stamped box if she so demands), then you don't know how much I love such confections. I've seen plenty of photographs of her baked marvels so not only am I cooperating, but I'm cooperating quickly (in order to get the first batch once she's up on her two pegs again). Note to Gwendomama: j'aime beaucoup le chocolat. (I'm taking French lessons, encore, so will be throwing the odd phrase into future postings. That's it pour maintenant. Oops, sorry.)

So this meme is all about secrets. Things you haven't spilled to the internet already. Hmmmm... I don't tend to keep much in, and I kinda think I've already done one of these, but sowhatwhocares I'm doing another and I'm doing it for the sugar.

1. I knew my husband for three weeks when we got married in November, 1968. Well, I'd spent three weeks in his company and then he was back on one side of the Atlantic and I on t'other, so in reality I'd known him three months when we married, but I'd only spent three weeks in his orbit. He was a guest (along with my godparent's son who was his best friend and introduced us) of my parents. My mother had invited him and Richard to come to America and stay for several weeks. She had not invited him to impregnate her daughter. Her only child. Oh well. So, we got married and after a Greek meal where plates where thrown (oompa) we got on a train (British Rail, First Class [cos we were feeling flush]) and went somewhere. I am being very honest when I say in all honesty that I can't remember where. I don't know if we went down to Cornwall, where Roger's parents were then living, or to my godparent's house. To say that our wedding was a non-event is no exaggeration. Here's a picture of us, on the train, looking completely exhausted and a bit shell-shocked. I'm wearing a fetching intensely blue maternity dress that I picked up at Lady Madonna in Golder's Green.
I don't have a scanner, so these are snaps of pics.

2. I remember when bershon was all the chatter. I am embarrssed to say that I am still inclined to bershon at times. A year or so ago I started looking for this picture of my Great Auntie Doris and me. I am 12 years old and we are standing in a park just outside of Liverpool, England, 1960. I can still remember my mother holding the camera and asking me to smile. I bershoned instead. Auntie Doris no doubt thought I was smiling. My mother had curled my hair and I think that probably was pissing me off, too.

3. I can be a selfish heifer. When I was 16, my 10 year-old cousin Cathy came to live with us for a year. Her mother was ill and hospitalized at Duke Univ. Hospital and Cathy came up to Washington, DC to be with us. I had a car, a 1965 Mustang. I had a bike, a Raleigh, three-speed, British racing green. I was such a bershon bitch that when my mother suggested that I could give Cathy my bike to use [since I had a car for fuck's sake and her mother was seriously ill], I can remember being shocked that she could ask such a thing of me. Cathy got the bike and years later I apologized to her for not being a better surrogate big sister. She looked at me blankly and said she thought I had been super nice to her, much nicer than her own older sister. I should have auditioned for RADA.

4. I used to have really thick hair. During chemo it all fell out, even the psyllium in my nose. It grew back but is not the same. I miss it. Yeah, being young too. I miss that.

5. I find it hard to say no to a nicely packaged tea. Well, PG Tips are hardly beautifully packaged, but builder's tea is a secret vice of mine. See that singular bag to the right of the PG Tips box? It's a Mighty Leaf tea, bag my husband's vice. The bags are made from silk (a bit fey for me). I got him 100 bags for Valentine's Day and since they cost just under a buck a bag, I thought I was being generous.

So there, Miz finished. I'll send you my address later on!


She gets my vote. And if you didn't see the debate last night, take a minute to listen to this.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My Shack for your Château

We never saw that house swap flick, The Holiday (meant to) but a few years ago we met the parents of one of my daughter's friends and they were raving about how they exchange their shack (their words, I think) in San Pedro for châteaus in France. It all sounded a little suspect to me, as who in their right mind would do such a zany thing, but alright, I'll go along with you. We talked about it in some depth with promises to get together (didn't happen) and promises that they'd send us links to the group they belong to (happened). A few more years went by and my husband asked me if we'd chosen one of the house swap organizations yet, knowing that I can be slow to move if it involves work on my part, and so I finally joined. And then a few months later I finally posted some shots of our nest (moved crap out of way so house looks very tidy and inviting) and then I eventually figured out how to post those pictures on the website and then I wrote glowingly about my area of the world. You know, in a way that would entice a complete and total stranger to come and stay in my house and sleep in my bed. Kinda creepy, non? Just to be sneaky I left out the part that the final drive up to my house entails driving past alternate lifestyle chicken shack type houses where my neighbors hang (okay along with some nice places, too). But Topanga is a mixed bag...a very mixed bag. Ever read Tortilla Curtain? I loved that book and read it not too long before we moved here and understand that it is fiction (no gated communities in Topanga or housing estates) but with underlying truth. You know, fiction. Some people up here are still offended that the book made this area appear even marginally posh and unfriendly.

So because this is Topanga and not Beverly Hills, you'll also understand just why this made me laugh out email I received from another home exchanger a couple of days ago. And after going to his listing, I figured out that just maybe those folks in San Pedro weren't exaggerating about exchanging their 'shack' for a château!

Probably July for a full house swap. But available through the end of September
for the guest house/apt here. See our site for an explanation, pics.

A good swap would be for our guest house/apartment in exchange for your guest
house/apartment, about equal, though we have 2 bedrooms in our guest house and
it is a bit fancy. And if we are here, we can be here to show you around this
amazing Island. But you will find everything eventually on you own too. Our
Guest House is really nice, fully equipped.

If we are not here, we would keep much of the estate open, ie., the pool,
cabana, bikes, etc; and there is always the beach, resturants, museums, sites,
fun, etc. Of course if we aren\'t here, we will be at your place! But you can
always call us for tips, etc., It is a great island Palm Beach, in the summer,
the best.

Your area we know very well, been there many many times, don\'t need any help
therefore... two or three weeks or whatever stay, we are open... only my wife
and I traveling, no kids. If interested, let us know soon, as we are getting a
lot of response in only the 3 days we listed

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

January/February, Topanga

I can't get the text to go where I want so the pix are as follows.
Thirsty Goldfinches and one brawny looking purple finch out back.
After the deluge and the grass still looks like shit.

After the deluge and the grass still looks like shit.

Babu and Lottie hiking up Red Rock, the old Boy Scout Trail

Looking out over the Valley towards the Santa Susanna's...after their snowfall


Chair and favorite color

This stuff grows where the grass is supposed to grow, but only in the winter.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Moving Day

Last night we met Lee and Betsy for dinner. They were exhausted but buzzed with that adrenalin level we pull out of our cores when needed. Last night was fun and not nearly as bitter sweet as I'd almost dreaded. I didn't want to sit opposite them tearing up and choking over my food. The conversation and food were good and Lee and Betsy loved their dirty martinis.

When we moved to California year-round, six years ago, L&B were headed to Italy with their two girls on holiday days after we arrived. Late in the day after out movers had schlepped load after load up our driveway and then up the stairs to the house, L&B and their two beautiful girls, Mercedes and Loulou arrived bearing wine, cheese, bread, good olives and friendship. And then two days later, never mind that they had a house to organize and animals to take to caregivers, they had a party for us to honor our arrival. We were introduced to their inner circle of friends and felt an immediate connection to our new home. Last night as we sat across from them, laughing and so very comfortable, I regretted that I couldn't greet them in Portland and offer them the very same. Good wine, friendship and a sense of immediate belonging.

See you soon, good friends.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

My Friend is Moving

When we said we were leaving Milwaukee and moving to Topanga almost six years ago, some of my friends appeared shocked that we would do such a thing and took it personally (which bugged the shit out of me and still does). And other friends, although sad that we were leaving, embraced the excitement of the move and were thrilled that we were doing what we'd talked about doing before words like chemo and infusions and staging and tumors became part of our everyday lives. They were also glad we were moving somewhere they'd like to visit! Their excitement for us made our much-anticipated move easier and I hoped and prayed that they would visit us with regularity, even though we were a four-hour flight away. And they did/and they do. Some still act surprised that we could leave the Midwest and while it was tough saying goodbye to friends, it wasn't so hard leaving the area.

They asked how we could leave our house. "How could you just leave it," they'd ask? That question always left me a little flat. I did like the house a lot, but it's not like we had designed it, built it, birthed our children in it and swore up and down that we'd die in it. It was just a beautiful, old house. And Milwaukee, to us, was just a town. I had no childhood memories, although after almost 20 years of living there, my children certainly did. But they, too, had moved away. Roger's work brought us to the Midwest and we had arrived on a bitter cold New Year's Eve at Chicago O'Hare, not knowing what to expect, aside from cold winters and beer. And we left knowing that it was a wonderfully vibrant city, filled with extraordinary people who became and remain my most special of friends.

As the years we've been away stretch (almost six now), their visits aren't quite as frequent, but the depth of the friendships remains. We care deeply about one another. I have often tried to examine why this move, as an adult with adult children, was easier on many levels than other moves we'd made. Cell phones, cheap long distance calling plans and more money in one's pocket help, they all help. It is understood that visits and phone calls will continue, while separations made in the past with small children were hard. Then I knew I most likely wouldn't see people for years. Travel and phones were expensive. And I knew that when I saw them, their children wouldn't run to hug me or remember me. And I knew I wouldn't truly know them, just as my children, their very best friends (forever they promised through goodbye tears), would be strangers to them. You get used to missing someone, and then the pangs lessen, they just do. It's life.

So, when friends move, I do not take it personally (I try, anyway). I know they are doing it for their reasons, not to hurt me. I am not a part of their decision-making and I jolly well shouldn't be. I know that we all move for various reasons and I also know it's so very difficult to say goodbye. To be left behind.

So here's a little story about my friend Betsy who is moving, tomorrow, to Portland. And why I know our friendship won't diminish because of her move, but will become different. Less day-to-day certainly. But not smaller.

Here are a few words about the importance of embracing new friendships. Something I wrote not long after I met Betsy.

Betsy, January 2008
Topanga, CA

Establishing friendship in adulthood is a much more delicately trod road than that traveled in childhood. When you’re a young adult, say just out of your teens, you still enthusiastically embrace people who you think you could be friends with, only to find by the time you’re in your thirties that they’re an absolute liability and take up more time than you’re willing to give. At this age, too, time is usually consumed by young children, complex career paths (and if you’re a stay-at-home mother, even more complex issues) and inordinately high expenses that seem to have nothing in common with your earnings. When you’re a parent, most of your friends are parents. It’s just a fact. It happens that way. That’s how completely and wonderfully invasive is parenting. In fact, inviting childless friends into your kid-smudged world usually just makes them uncomfortable. You’re used to it, though. It’s the life you inhabit and the one you embrace…for the time being, anyway.

But then when you’re fifty-something most of your friends have at last packed their kids off to college. Of course you do have friends (men, mostly) who didn’t become parents until their late 40s and they’re just going to be leaping to a different piper until the day they die. But as an early starter, you have gotten used (again) to a good night’s sleep and no longer listen for the first whimper of a little one or the burglar-quiet entrance of your teen, long past curfew.

You aren’t looking for friendship with people whose lives are consumed by young ones. Hey, not that it’s all bad; it’s just that since you’ve already done that, so have most of your friends.
So, when you do meet someone who you just know you could be friends with, and she’s only a few years younger, and she’s funny and cool and all those things that make a whole woman whole, a little dinger goes off inside you that screams, almost like when you were in your twenties, DING DING DING DING, she could be your NEW BEST FRIEND! You look at the drawbacks, and there are a few. She lives 25 miles away from you when you’re wintering in her part of the world, and 2,000 miles away from where you spend most of your life. You can’t help but think that these are definitely drawbacks. She has two young girls (uh oh), younger than 11 but older than 7. While we all know that’s not criminal, it most definitely is a drawback. The timing for get-togethers will be much trickier.

She also has a husband and while that is good, it’s also an obstacle. I have a husband, too. For some people that wouldn’t impact a friendship at all, but for me, it does. One sounds as though it has nothing whatsoever to do with friendship development, but believe me, it does. What if we want to get together at night, as couples? What if my husband doesn’t like her husband or hers doesn’t like mine or she and I can’t understand why on earth we married this other person? If that happens, then you can believe the friendship will never be as open or unguarded as one where everyone in the foursome is fond of the other. We got lucky, truly lucky. Not only did our husbands like one another, they seemed to prefer each other’s company to the exclusion of us. It was novel, but we got used to it, and came to like it. Seems like they had found a new, good friend as well.

So, there seemed to be no major impediments to this friendship and we both set about establishing it with an intensity and joy that continues to this day. How did we do that, given the physical distance from one another and the very different demands of our lives? We wrote to one another, and not just little how are you notes, but emails full of details. We called each other. We commiserated with one another and, because we had a true fondness for the other’s family, we were able to talk about them with honesty, humor and annoyance. We didn’t let 2,000 miles get in the way; we had the Internet and we had a nickel-a-minute plan for long-distance calls. We used the Internet like the Victorians used the Penny Post, and we wrote.

Writing to one another became a cure-all for the frustration of the day. The minute I typed my frustration, I felt it dissipate. So much so that frequently, when I got a letter back from Betsy which stated in no uncertain terms that she completely agreed with me and would be angry with (insert any name here) too, I had more frequently than not forgotten what I was angry about. Therapists were unnecessary expenses and chiropractic visits decreased in accordance with my stress level.

Writing became a requirement of this friendship. If one didn’t write, or ignored a received letter for too long, the other became pushy, wanting good, solid reasons for such indifference.

And I expect that now, 11 years after our friendship began and six years after the physical distance between us shrank to only 10 miles, out friendship will endure.

Tomorrow Betsy and Lee say goodbye to Southern California and begin the drive northwards to Portland, perhaps a temporary home on their way even further northwards to Vancouver. Maybe they'll return to the Santa Monica Mountains and maybe they won't. Tomorrow I'll share with you a little story on how we met one another.

Monday, February 04, 2008



1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20520


Law Enforcement:
I was arrested in
Kennebunkport, Maine, in 1976 for driving under the influence of alcohol. I pled guilty, paid a fine, and had my driver's license suspended for 30 days. My Texas driving record has been "lost" and is not available.

I joined the Texas Air National Guard and went AWOL. I refused to take a drug test or answer any questions about my drug use. By joining the Texas Air National Guard, I was able to avoid combat duty in

I graduated from
Yale University with a low C average. I was a cheerleader.

I ran for U.S. Congress and lost.
I began my career in the oil business in
Midland,Texas in 1975. I bought an oil company, but couldn't find any oil in Texas. The company went bankrupt shortly after I sold all my stock.

I bought the Texas Rangers baseball team in a sweetheart deal that took land using taxpayer money.

With the help of my father and our friends in the oil industry (including Enron CEO Ken Lay), I was elected governor of


I changed
Texas pollution laws to favor power and oil companies, making Texas the most polluted state in the Union. During my tenure, Houston replaced Los Angeles as the most smog-ridden city in America.

I cut taxes and bankrupted the
Texas treasury to the tune of billions in borrowed money.

I set the record for the most executions by any governor in American history.

With the help of my brother, the governor of
Florida , and my father's appointments to the Supreme Court, I became President of the United States, after losing by over 500,000 votes.


I am the first President in
U.S. history to enter office with a criminal record.

I invaded and occupied two countries at a continuing cost of over one billion dollars per week.

I spent the
U.S. surplus and effectively bankrupted the U.S. Treasury.

I shattered the record for the largest annual deficit in
U.S. history.

I set an economic record for most private bankruptcies filed in any 12-month period.

I set the all-time record for most foreclosures in a 12-month period.

I set the all-time record for the biggest drop in the history of the
U.S. stock market. In my first year in office, over 2 million Americans lost their jobs and that trend continues.

I'm proud that the members of my cabinet are the richest of any administration in
U.S. history. My "poorest millionaire," Condoleezza Rice, has a Chevron oil tanker named after her.

I set the record for most campaign fund-raising trips by a U.S. President.

I am the all-time
U.S. and world record -holder for receiving the most corporate campaign donations.

My largest lifetime campaign contributor, and one of my best friends, Kenneth Lay, presided over the largest corporate bankruptcy fraud in
U.S. history, Enron.

My political party used Enron private jets and corporate attorneys to assure my success with the U.S. Supreme Court during my election decision.

I have protected my friends at Enron and Halliburton against investigation or prosecution. More time and money was spent investigating the Monica Lewinsky affair than has been spent investigating one of the biggest corporate rip-offs in history. I presided over the biggest energy crisis in
U.S. history and refused to intervene when corruption involving the oil industry was revealed.

I presided over the highest gasoline prices in
U.S. history.

I changed the
U.S. policy to allow convict ed criminals to be awarded government contracts.

I appointed more convicted criminals to my administration than any President in
U.S. history.

I created the Ministry of Homeland Security, the largest bureaucracy in the history of the United States Government.

I've broken more international treaties than any President in
U.S. history.

I am the first President in
U.S. history to have the United Nations remove the U.S. from the Human Rights Commission.

I withdrew the
U.S. from the World Court of Law.

I refused to allow inspector's access to
U.S. "prisoners of war" detainees and thereby have refused to abide by the Geneva Convention.

I am the first President in history to refuse United Nations election inspectors (during the 2002
US election).

I set the record for fewest numbers of press conferences of any President since the advent of television.

I set the all-time record for most days on vacation in any one-year period. After taking off the entire month of August, I presided over the worst security failure in
U.S. history.

I garnered the most sympathy ever for the
U.S. after the World Trade Center attacks and less than a year later made the U.S. the most hated country in the world, the largest failure of diplomacy in world history.

I have set the all-time record for most people worldwide to simultaneously protest me in public venues (15 million people), shattering the record for protests against any person in the history of mankind.

I am the first President in
U.S. history to order an unprovoked, pre-emptive attack and the military occupation of a sovereign nation. I did so against the will of the United Nations, the majority of U.S. Citizens and the world community.

I have cut health care benefits for war veterans and support a cut in duty benefits for active duty troops and their families in wartime.

In my State of the Union Address, I lied about our reasons for attacking
Iraq and then blamed the lies on our British friends.

I am the first President in history to have a majority of Europeans (71%) view my presidency as the biggest threat to world peace and security.

I am supporting development of a nuclear "Tactical Bunker Buster," a WMD.

I have so far failed to fulfill my pledge to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice.


All records of my tenure as governor of
Texas are now in my father's library, sealed and unavailable for public view.

All records of SEC investigations into my insider trading and my bankrupt companies are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.

All records or minutes from meetings that I, or my Vice-President, attended regarding public energy policy are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public review. I specified that my sealed documents will not be available for 50 years.

"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

-- Herman Goering at the
Nuremberg trials