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Today in My History

2001:  The Creative Process
2002:  Me and the Duchess
2003:  Don't Know Much About His-to-ree
2004:  Unraveling
2006:  When I Am Queen
2007:   Change of Venue
2008:  Bodies--Walt's and some Chinese Men--Revealed
2009:  Big Steps
2010:  The Bitter Truth
2011:  Having "The Other" Talk Again
A Pain in the Neck
2013: This and That

Bitter Hack
Updated: 1

Books Read in 2014
"The Ocean at the End of the Lane"

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mail to Walt


10 January 2014

I chatted for a long time with a fascinating guy at the book store today.  He was in Berkeley in the 60s and we reminisced about things like the Free Speech Movement (I told him about how I gave "the most dangerous man in America" (Mario Savio) the key to a physics lab), we remembered People's Park, talked about the businesses that are no longer on Telegraph Avenue, and the ones that still are.  He told me about "the cat lady" who used to write poetry in a cafe.  People would give her food.  She is memorialized in People's Park and on the mural adjacent to it...and is now a recognized poet with several books to her credit (he didn't remember her name).

We talked about San Francisco.  He must be a newcomer because he asked me if I remembered "The Sheraton Palace" on Market St.  Heck, I'm so old I remember being irate when The Palace Hotel added "Sheraton" to its name!

Anyway, chatting with him reminded me of conversations Jeri and I had when she was here, and we talked about various things that we remembered from various eras of our lives.  I realized then, and again, talking to the gentleman this afternoon, that I really have had kind of an amazing life.  It can be easily broken up into eras.  Most of the things I was involved with lasted about 10 years, some more, some less (and many overlapping), but there are very definite eras when I was fully involved in something that I am no longer involved with at all.

In the early 1960s it was the University and all that entailed.   I was in school for a year and a half and worked there for four years.  I was there for all the stuff surrounding the Free Speech Movement (and filmed a lot of it, from the student union balcony).  The Free Speech Movement, which fought for the right of students to set up information tables on campus, led to the fight against the war in Vietnam and so much more to follow. 

During that time, starting from before Walt and I were married, I was sponsoring a little girl in Korea through Foster Parents Plan, Park Hyun Joo, so sponsoring kids around the world has lasted a long time, though with big gaps here and there).  I remember when I organized a birthday party for her, baked a fruit cake with "Happy Birthday" written in Korean (I found a Korean student to write it for me) and then sent her presents, pictures of her party, and the cake.

By the time of People's Park, Jeri had been born and I stopped working to stay at home with her.  I got involved with La Leche League at that time and for some 7-8 years after.  I was very involved, leading meetings helping women to successfully breastfeed.  When we moved to Davis, I started the group here.  I was the newsletter editor for California/Hawaii/Alaska. The end of my relationship with the group was unpleasant and I cut off all ties with LLL, but I have fond memories of those years.

My fondest memories include helping a mother who was going to adopt a newborn to bring in her milk and help her successfully breastfeed her daughter. And after request from my obstetrician, I was involved donating milk (and organizing a group of other nursing mothers to donate milk) for a baby with malabsorption syndrome, who could not tolerate anything but a breast milk cocktail and his mother had chosen not to nurse.  

Two of my least favorite moments as a La Leche League leader were being on the phone (I was the advice person and had a special phone in our house for people to call with problems) when a husband and wife, each on an extension in their home, argued about her nursing.  He felt her breasts were his and resented the baby sucking on them.  I can't remember how that resolved itself.  I also remember the woman who called at 2 a.m., a nervous older single mom with a newborn who wanted to ask me--in the middle of the night--if her son had been fussy because she ate rutabagas for dinner.   I haven't been able to look at a rutabaga since!

Of course there was the Pinata Group, which started in Berkeley and continues to this day.  Five families who did a lot together when the kids were young. Now spread out, and some of them no longer with us, but nonetheless a very special part of our lives.

After we moved to Davis and the kids were in school, I took a night job (which makes as much sense as moving 80 miles away and then getting a volunteer job in San Francisco) working for a free liberal newspaper. I learned about how to set up pages and I was their entertainment editor (which meant that I was in charge of the calendar of coming events), The paper went belly up, the editor owed me money, and he gave me his electric typewriter in payment.  He didn't have a CLUE how much use that wonderful machine would get in the succeeding years!

In the late 1976, a woman named Alison put out a notice asking for volunteers to help with writing a history of the Lamplighters. Talk about your life changing overnight. It was active involvement with the Lamplighters from 1976 until about 1987, when the second book was published.  It included working on both books, going to work for the Lamplighters (I did the smart thing--moved 80 miles away and then got a volunteer job in San Francisco!)  I worked in the office, learned how to use the computer, which was brand new then, started the company newsletter with the Music Director Gilbert Russak, who became my best friend, and co-wrote several original shows with him.   When the book that chronicled the achievements he made the last 10 years of his life was published, I stopped working at the Lamplighters, though we still go to shows and have many very good friends in the company.

In 1977 I helped organize the Sunshine Children's Theater, the group that set the course for all of our children for years to come. It seemed we spent most of our time at the theater (especially the kids).  At the same time I was publicity coordinator for just about every theater group in town and Walt took on the task of set builder for the Davis Comic Opera Company and a few other groups.

Somewhere in there I also had a couple of jobs for the paper I am now theater critic for.  I wrote a school news column weekly and I even got talked into writing a Mental Health column, which actually was mostly like the soul-searching entries in Funnythe World over the years. I never felt comfortable writing that column.  Talk about pretending to know what I was talking about!

I was also typing at home in my spare time, theses for students and medical transcription for The Psychiatrist, the Psychologist, and later for Dr. G.   There were times when I would work all day, come home and type all night, maybe decorate a cake while I was typing, and then Walt would have to keep poking me at shows to keep me awake.  I'm sure glad THOSE years  are gone!  I think the last thesis I typed was for a guy who, after I had typed 100 pages, decided he didn't like the typeface and wanted me to go back and remove every letter "g" and replace it with a different typeface. 

Overlapping all this were the "foreign student years."   Starting in 1981 with our first exchange student, Eduardo from Brasil, and continuing for 10 or 11 years, we hosted 70 students from 14 different countries. Sometimes we had 3 students here at the same time. We stayed in touch with many of them after they left, but nowadays, there are only six that I still hear from, all from Brasil (including Eduardo, who writes about once a year)  I was also the coordinator for all the foreign students who came into California, finding towns to take them.  In that capacity I had a few nice trips at the company's expense, to meet with other leaders around the country.  Two trips to Vermont, one in the fall, stand out as really exceptional.

Those were also the "diving team years" when we drove all 5 kids around to diving meets around No. California. They never did competitive swimming.   Diving was easier for parents.  Just show up at the appointed time, dive your event, and go home again.  Walt and I both learned how to score dives ... sort of ... and spent lots and lots of hours sitting pool side watching bouncing bodies in practice.

I also loved getting up on Sunday mornings, helping David fold his newspapers (the San Francisco Chronicle and the Davis Enterprise) and then drive him around to deliver the papers because they were too heavy for him to carry in his newspaper bag.  I still remember the house where he used to jump over a tree that was newly planted.  As he grew, so did the tree and I wondered when he would no longer be able to jump it.  He stopped delivering papers before that...and then they cut the tree down, so I can't even remember where the house was now.

Also in that time I took lessons in cake decorating and set up a business in my home.  At that time the only cake decorating place in town was Lucky's grocery store and people liked my cakes better, so I did a good business.  Now, I shudder to think how many health regulations I violated, but I was totally clueless then (like I was when I was doing child care until the city found out and said I needed a license and, with 5 kids of my own, I could only take one other child--I was taking care of 7 extras!).  When the first bakery opened in town, I was its first cake decorator (where I could operate legally!) until they could get a "real" cake decorator.

I also took Chinese cooking lessons from Martin Yan and became a pretty good Chinese cook.  The height of my accomplishment was cooking a 7-course dinner for some friends in a teeny kitchen with the only counter space about 12" square.  Thank God for Tupperware!

I don't think I was a Girl Scout leader (I can't remember if Jeri did a year of Girl Scouts or not), but I was a Boy Scout leader in the years before they started the ridiculous ban on membership by gay kids and gay leaders. I'm glad that I predated that nonsense.  I also worked with 4-H and remember teaching classes on cake decorating.  One of the girls in that class tells me she still decorates cakes.   The most memorable session was when I taught the girls how to make sugar eggs.   I think we were sweeping up sugar for years after that day!

In about 1986 we began the Lawsuit Years, following the band around to seedy nightclubs around California and watching their popularity grow.  It's strange when the best place to meet your kids is in a dark bar.  But we loved those years and I miss them. I am, however, grateful to sound guy Jon Lee who always had earplugs for us!

David died in May of 1996 and Lawsuit ended on New Year's Eve, 1996-7.  The two weren't really connected, but it kind of started a period of sort-of non-involvement.  I had a computer by then and was involved on line, mostly with Compuserve groups and some of my best new long-lasting friendships were made on line.

I was involved peripherally for several years in the fight for Marriage Equality.  I wanted Ellen and Shelly to be able to marry--and they finally did, after 30 years.  I baked them not one, but two wedding cakes.  The last one "took," I think, and they have been married about 5 years now.  They continue the fight to bring marriage equality to all states, but once they married, I kind of backed off.

After Dave died I volunteered for about a year in a homeless shelter (men only) and then started doing all the SPCA stuff, hosting I don't know how many dogs over about 4 years.  I loved those years and I miss having puppies around and even meeting new dogs, but I don't want to do it again.  I've become too complacent and our dogs are too set in their ways, as am I.  Walt and I have been talking about how good the dogs really are and how predictable.  They can be a pain at times, but really they are very good dogs.

I don't have any of those in depth activities any more.  There's the book store, the Compassion kids, going to all those shows to review, and trying to find the right book club -- and taking care of my mother, of course, but nothing on the scale of what I did when I was younger.  But then I don't have the energy I had when I was younger either.  Funny how life takes care of those things for you!

My mother was telling me today that when I get to be her age I'll realize that you just don't care about things the way you used to.  I already know that and suppose it will just get worse the older I get.


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SF City Hall celebrates the 49ers' recent win over the Packers

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