Friday, April 13, 2012


All the past and future BOBB stories are now on

this site will no longer be maintained

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A note to BOBB Followers:  
Still learning how to move you to but, as soon as we figure it out we will let you know.

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photo by hansol

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

WISDOM Wednesday: Grand Father’s Little Girl

This story written by Malati Marlene Shinazy

My Grand Father was one of the most important people in my life.  He was the first man I loved and was my life teacher.  While other grandchildren called him Gramps or Granddaddy, I declared our loving attachment by providing him a designation of my choosing.  Only I would call him, “Grand Father.”

He had little formal education.  Instead, Grand Father had street smarts and tenacity. He was a Merchant Marine during the war, then a Merchant Seaman. He started from the lowest rungs of the hierarchy, bus boy, and rose to the level of Chief Stewart for international shipping companies.

When I was five years old, Grand Father taught me to read and write so we could correspond during the long months he was off to Hawaii, then Japan, then back again.  His letters were filled with encouragement and the unconditional love only a Grand Father could bestow his “Little Girl.”

Whenever I was fearful I couldn’t accomplish something, and some adult was suggesting I give up, Grand Father would gently scold me in a letter (gently, because he knew I cried easily),

“You don’t believe anything anyone else tells you.  You are just as smart as everyone else, so you can do anything you put your mind to.”

Months at sea also meant months at home!  Grand Father and I had an exclusive four-note whistle salutation.  As I’d run through Nana’s  kitchen asking where Grand Father was, I could hear his half of the greeting coming from outside.  Out I’d run to the top of the steps.  Stop.  Catch my Breath.  Then send my two notes.  We’d continue the volley of whistling until I located him.

Once found, I’d instantly help with whatever task was at hand.  When he’d be doing laundry, Grand Father would hand me an item of clothing from the washtub and I’d feed it through electric rollers which squeezed out excess water …  before we hung it on the clothesline.

My habit was to push the hanky, sock, towel, etc., through the wringer too fast — which meant my fingers would be pulled in with the clothes and pinched between the rollers.  Fortunately, the dangerous hand-eating thing would suddenly pop open with a loud onerous sound, and stop.  Grand Father would patiently pat my smashed and reddened fingers, reminding me that I had to feed the beast slowly, carefully, and with attention not to get too close to the rollers.

I’m actually surprised I didn’t end up with gnarled, broken fingers, as inevitably five or six times in every wash cycle, I’d push something through without paying attention to impending danger… until:  “Owwwww!”  Pop!  Loud onerous sound!  And, stop!  Grand Father would give me the patient warning again - and hand me another sock.

Words and actions of unconditional love and encouragement …  Grand Father would laugh if he knew how I continue to act as though I can achieve “anything I put my mind to,” despite my fingers getting pinched on occasion.

photo by Bob n Renee and Molki

Monday, April 9, 2012

Spring Cleaning

 by Shinazy

     I’m a city girl surrounded by distractions.  When I want to go out to eat, I just step out the door and within a half a mile - I can eat the food of any nation on the planet.  If I want to see a movie, I just check Fandango and within a 10-minute drive, I can watch any film.  There are plays, musicals, comedies, and lectures.  I’m always entertained.
     This weekend I’m in the country, or I should say COUNTRY.  There’s no movie house.  Tonight, a Friday night - date night – the area’s one non-American cuisine restaurant has six customers (including my aunt and me) and the only gas station stopped accepting credit cards last year. 

     The background dim of the big city is absent, no traffic noise, no airplane flyovers.  The other main distractions are also missing … no internet access and my smartphone decides to go unplugged as well.

     It’s raining.  The only sound reaching my ears are the drops hitting the gutter with such force that I first thought I was hearing gunshots.  If the weather were dryer and warmer, I’d be out on the lake or hiking in the hills.  But it’s hailing and frosty causing me to feel a bit wimpy, so I stay inside and visit with my aunt.  

     Aunt Judy owns a museum size art-glass collection.  These colorful, transparent objects sit on glass shelves in deep glass windows - big open spaces with no definition between inside and outside.  There are so many pieces the windows appear as though they were made of stained glass.  Today the art has a grayish haze about them – is it the reflection of the rainy sky? 
 The house has gone through winter, sealed tight to protect her from the damp chill.  The pellet stoves roar all day and night exhaling warm breath.  It’s a house ready for spring cleaning and I have nothing else to do.
  I’m afraid to touch these pieces – fragile and unforgiving, one wrong move in the sink and I’ll have a pile of worthless glass confetti.  One by one, each piece gets a bath and emerges … sparklingly beautiful.  With Windex in one hand and newspaper in the other, I attack the shelves, the windows – inside and out.  The cleaning has my full attention, no distractions. 
     The sun just broke through the clouds and houses across the lake are glowing silver.  There’s no longer smog hovering on the surface of one piece of glass.  I found this activity enjoyable because, unlike my work, at the end of the day, when I’m finished doing all I can do, I can see the results of my effort – spotless, transparent, pristine, gleaming glass. 

     I think I’ll go home and spring clean . . .  Everything.

photo by fdecomite & ellenm1

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

WISDOM Wednesday: When Are We Old Enough to Call Someone, “Honey”?

Back by popular demand! 

This story written by Malati Marlene Shinazy

     “Hello Honey, I’m so glad to see you.”  With that greeting, a sweet matronly woman would take my hand and lead me into a fitting room at the cozy ultra-pink shop named Kay Burt’s Corset Corner.  From my first-ever masterfully-determined-perfect-brassiere-for-my size-shape-and-age visit until I left for college, I was met with these words. 

     Being fitted for a bra became a treasured ritual - a rite of passage.  And, it always started with the same sincerely spoken welcome, “Hello, Honey, I’m so glad to see you.”  Forget that the bra fitting women were as dedicated and precise as NASA engineers.  Forget my mother’s annual lecture that we would never purchase an actual corset because, “If you wear one, you won’t hold in your stomach, and it’ll turn flabby.”  The most impactful part of this ritual was being warmly called, “Honey.”

     In the back of my teen-aged mind, I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to call others, “Honey.”  Somehow, I just knew, when I grew up, I too would call people, “Honey.”

     I think I’m old enough now, or close to it, or might be getting close to it soon.  So, a few months ago, I just dove in and started calling people, “Honey” or “Hon.” It never felt awkward.  It felt warm, friendly, and welcoming, just like I remembered.

     Last week, the sky fell … A male friend told me in no uncertain terms that when I called people “Honey,” it sounded condescending … WHAT?  How could it?  I remembered it so fondly as a wonderful expression of warm sincerity.

     I doubted the wisdom of my friend and decided to conduct a little social research by asking others what they thought.  The young teller at the bank said, “Well I wasn’t really paying attention.”  The much-older-than-me gentleman in my service club thought I was just flirting with him.  And on it went.  Person after person was asked and not one heard my sweet matronly term as an expression of warmth and sincerity.  Oh, no.  Maybe my friend was right.

     Finally, I got an answer that made sense.  It came from a woman who was about my age, or close to it, or might be getting close to it soon.  She told me that we are only allowed to call someone “Honey” if the person is family or much younger - and never a customer service employee.  Otherwise, she said, “It sounds like you are talking down to the person.”  She also told me I didn’t look old enough to get away with it.  In the back of my mind, all I could think was, “You mean, a lifetime of exercise and organic food, plus decades of not wearing a corset so my abs would stay taut has come back to haunt me?”

     But since the sky had not actually fallen, I wonder: Will I ever be “old enough” to call someone “Honey”? Perhaps not.

     Maybe I’ll try, “Darlin’” next.

 photo by alsjhc

Monday, April 2, 2012

Easter Nest

by Shinazy

     My mother loves the pageantry of holidays and celebrates with couture-runway flair.  In my youth, when Easter approached, she would start the search for the next new outfit; for me it was time for another magical visit to the ancestral homestead in Colma.
     Every year when the daffodil emerged from the dirt, I knew we would soon be shopping for the perfect dresses, bonnets, gloves, and shoes.  My two younger sisters and I – life size ‘Russian-nesting-dolls’ – would wait, hands folded in our laps, while shop ladies scurried about to find three identical suitable Easter dresses. 

     Although we did this every year, I only remember wishing that this year’s frock would be long enough to cover the scabs and bruises on my tomboy knees.  These shopping trips ended with the purchase of black patent leather strapped shoes called Mary Jane.  (I secretly called my shoes Sally, in honor of my former imaginary friend who moved away once my sisters were old enough for me to boss – but that’s another story.)
     The purpose of these outfits was that we looked stylish for the Easter Parade, the annual spring photo shoot at my grandmother’s – Pauline, aka Gigs. 

     Before I was born, Uncle George decided that Easter needed more than just baskets and eggs sitting on the dining room table.  One year he returned from the yard with an armful of weeds that he lovingly arranged on the table; this was the start of my family’s Easter Nest.  When my generation increased in size, the nest moved to the front porch, where Aunt Judy decorated it with daffodils.
     Every year, my sisters, brother, cousins, and I would stand in single file waiting for Gigs to adjust the focus and light meter on her cameras.  We would then parade past the Easter Nest, then pose around the nest, then pose with our baskets, then pose, and pose.  These movies and photos memorialize a tradition - a time in a family’s history.
     When my daughter was old enough to understand that the Easter Bunny delivered sugary goods and multi-colored eggs, I continued the Easter Nest custom, sans, the clothes shopping excursion.  We lived in an apartment and had no lawn to mow or weeds to pull for the supply of nest building material; so coworkers would provide garage bags filled with freshly cut green clippings.  The front door landing became the site for our first Easter Nest.  Some of my favorite holiday pictures of my daughter and son are the Easter Nest photos.
     The Shinazy clan has produced another generation of wide-eyed cherub faces to smile at the wonder of the Easter Nest.  Although we no longer live within 20 miles of each other, continuing the tradition keeps the family connected and our stories carry on. 

photo by somewhereintheworldtoday & feeliz

Friday, March 30, 2012

Rules of the Road

This story written by Patti Isaacs

In the early 1980s, China had just opened to the West but was still emphatically communist.  People dressed in nearly identical Mao jackets and called each other “comrade.”  Food shortages were common, a radio was a luxury, and bicycles transported the masses.  Curtained limousines with white-gloved drivers were the privilege of a few highly-ranked officials.  The locals stopped to stare, open-mouthed, when one passed by.
     At that time, I lived in the ancient Chinese capital of Xi’an, known for the army of terracotta soldiers unearthed there only six years earlier.  I returned in late 2005 to find a metropolis with skyscrapers and a high-tech zones surrounded by freeways.  In a quarter century, apartment building have replaced the traditional courtyard homes inside Xi’an’s city wall; Audis and Hyundais cruise roads once traveled by donkey carts and the occasional commune truck.  Bicycle traffic is down now that capitalism is up.
     Experiencing a city by foot, bicycle, taxi, and bus provides a glimpse of the social and cultural differences that separate China from the West.  To Western eyes, traffic in China appears utterly chaotic.  Drivers run red lights and turn in front of oncoming cars, pedestrians blithely step in front of trucks, a bicyclist hogs the center lane while glancing over his shoulder to deliver a withering look to the guy behind the wheel of a dump truck.
     In the twenty-first century, The Chinese still follow patterns of movement established when most transportation was human- or donkey-powered.  Never big on queuing, they don't so much drive in their lanes as they jostle to fill any available space.  Released from the constraints of enforced egalitarianism, the few who can now afford cars cheerfully lord it over those who can’t, squeezing cyclists against the curb and nearly clipping pedestrians who brave the crosswalks.  Motorists unapologetically occupy a place in the pecking order that used to be reserved for the most well-placed Party operatives.
     Driving in China involves many games of chicken followed by a series of dances.  Drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians constantly eye and evaluate each other, but like bighorn sheep who establish dominance by butting heads, they usually avoid the carnage of a fight to the death.  Instead, once it’s been decided who leads, they arrange themselves, with the flawless timing of Peking Opera acrobats, into a flowing, interwoven pattern.  Their feet hover the brake pedals even as they try to outrun every other motorist on the road to reach the spot they want.
     If Americans tried this, we would surely kill each other.  We are a society of laws and not men, intent on following the rulebook.  And too many of us are certain we are the one who should be leading the dance.
     As addicted as they are to their cell phones, few Chinese use them as they drive.  Nor do they shave, eat, apply makeup, or read the newspaper behind the wheel.  Driving there is serious business.  The Chinese acknowledge that not everyone is up to the task; they know their traffic is fearsome, with a worldwide reputation.
     These days, most locals use bikes only to get around the quiet neighborhood streets.  To venture into the wider city, they prefer the relative safety of a bus or taxi.  So when an American regularly bicycles to downtown Xi’an, her Chinese friends voice their respect—welcome respect, as the expatriate is incompetent at many things in her adopted hometown.
     Maybe because Xi'an now has central heating, email, and supermarkets, the exotic is harder to find.  Getting on a bike, threading into the traffic tapestry, and learning to deliver the obligatory dismissive look carries the rider to a place many people never visit.

This piece is an excerpt from a book Patti is writing about her experiences living in China in 1981 and 2005.  You can read more at her blog,

photo by patti

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

WISDOM Wednesday: California Springs

This story written by Malati Marlene Shinazy

     It’s still snowing somewhere in the United States.  It’s still dark in Finland.  In Northern California, however it is Spring.
     Natives of Northern California understand that we have two major seasons:  The Rainy Season and the Dry Season.
     The Rainy Season is divided into
·         Winter (super cold, windy, and torrential rain), and
·         Spring (less cold, sometimes windy, sometimes balmy, and sometimes rainy)

It begins to feel like The Dry Season sometime between April and May, depending on how long the rain sticks around.
     This year, we skipped the Winter half of the Rainy Season and went right into a California Spring…  For me, this is the most glorious time of year.  It’s the time when life is reborn, and all senses are refreshed.
     When I lived in the Sierra Foothills, pastures were filled with offspring calves, born in November, bouncing around and through the winter-worn fences before the ranchers could repair them.  “Cow on the road,” was the most common police call.  On our way to work, we knew to slow around turns because those calves were very likely on their way to – well, nowhere, really; they were just enjoying themselves.
     The cows that didn’t calf in November were gathered together in multiple acre maternity pastures, so wranglers could check on them every few hours.  I once watched for an hour-and-a-half while a cow birthed her calf, then licked it repeatedly until it was able to stand on spindly legs.  What a joy.
     Calves are born in the Spring … But frogs are reborn!  Almost overnight, a cacophony of frog-song emerges from every pond, lake, stream and riverbed.  They too travel through, or rather under, fences, and can often be found on doorsteps or in back yards.  Some species grow so big, so fast, that the Sierra Nevada town of Angels Camp has annual frog jumping contests.  Mark Twain’s short story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” was inspired by these events. 
     My daily spring descent from rangeland, calves and frogs into California’s Central Valley always left me in awe.  As I’d come off the hills, in front of me was a sea of blooming almond trees.  For about 1-1/2 weeks, I was treated to the sweet aroma of almond blossoms, orchards spread ahead as far as I could see in any direction.
     As the hills turn almost chartreuse green and the valleys pink and white, closer to the coast, mustard volunteers sprout up in every untended field.  These meadows of bright golden flowers are nearly blinding.  But they provide one of my most pleasurable memories of California Spring: 
Walking to the center of a field with my young son.  When we found just the right spot, we’d bask in the still cool sunlight, chewing on slightly spicy mustard stocks until we were revitalized.
     Year after year, California Spring renews my spirit.

photo by mfortini & snopek