Friday, April 13, 2012


All the past and future BOBB stories are now on

this site will no longer be maintained

- - - - -
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.

See y'all at

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

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Birthday – A Sharing Tradition

  by Shinazy

Happy birthday to you,

Happy birthday to you,

Happy birthday dear, Linda, Marlene, and Kitty . . . WHAT ?  !!!
     When it came to celebrating our birthdays, my younger sisters and I became triplets.  Our mother altered birth certificates so each of us could enter kindergarten by the birth-date cutoff.  (Why no one questioned this statistical oddity is another story).  Every year three little faces puckered lips and blew.  I never revealed my birthday wish, but I knew it would someday come true because, in the presence of all that wind, every candle was extinguished.  
     My sisters and I were born under the Sagittarius sun sign - with Christmas only a few weeks away.  As each birthday passed, I closed-in on that wished-for December date - my true, single-birth day.  A birthday where I was the center of attention…no sharing.  I’d be the only birthday girl smiling for the flash bulbs and the cake would appear decorated with one name . . . mine.
     The first time my wish came true was on my 30th birthday . . .  Yeah . . . Great.  I was 30, the age-defining split second of becoming a member of The Establishment.  It was official; I joined the You-Can’t-Trust-Anyone-Over-30 crowd.  For three decades, I imagined a joyous celebration of my very existence, instead, I was blinded by candles commemorating that I was OLD.
     As the other hallmark birthdays passed: 4oh, 5oh, 6oh, I shared the occasions with other Sagittarians, while imagining a celebration, which became more elaborate.  The great thing about imagination is everything is possible.  One year I invented a party at the North Pole where the aurora borealis was my personal candle light.  Even in this fantasy, when it came to candle-blowing time, I wished that next year the deep exhale would extinguish real flames.
     A few Decembers ago, I decided to combine my birthday with my honey’s, who was born in February.  The perfect gift was for us to go away for the weekend and experience something new – births are new, birthdays should be new.  Off we went to overnight in the lighthouse on East Brother’s Island.  We’ve repeated sharing our birthdays every February, staying at a different lighthouse.  This February as we drove to the Point Sur Lighthouse, my sweetee turned to me and said, “Here you are again, sharing your birthday.” 
     Yes, Sharing … The best way to celebrate a birthday.

photo by Aih

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

WISDOM Wednesday: Roommates

This story written by Malati Marlene Shinazy

As a second born child, with three kids of my own, I like the energy of a house full of people (see previous story, “A Room of Her Own”).
My first roommates were my sisters.  In our room we each had a portable / movable closet, bed, desk and chair.  And, we had our own sofa.  We transformed the configuration of our huge bedroom to meet our regularly changing privacy needs. Sometimes it felt like we lived in three micro-studio apartments.  But, when we were done with homework, we’d invite our brother in and it was party time!
In college, as soon as I could move out of the dorm, I rented a house with four other unconventional like-minded students. We ranged in age from an 18 year old sophomore (me) to a second year microbiology Ph.D. student. We had private bedrooms where we spent most of our study time... And on weekends, it was party time!
Once my children left the nest, I had the opportunity to spend several years living alone. I have successfully learned to enjoy my own company, as all self-help books tell us we must do.  And, I unequivocally Do Not Like Living Alone
My house has a living room separating the master bedroom and its bath from the guest rooms and their bath. I decided to rent a guest room to re-experience another human being coming and going, and have extra cash flow… Sounded good on paper.
I quickly found a young man stationed at the local military camp looking for off-site housing. Immediately, my friends beset me with concerns:
1.    He might be a slob!
2.    He might stiff you on the rent!
3.    He might annoy you and you’ll never be able to get him out!
4.    He might be a mass-murderer!

With a little due diligence, I determined he was not a mass-murderer. Everything else, I’d deal with after he moved in.
The first few weeks with a roommate were not instantly comfortable…
Turns out it’s against my nature to just rent out a room.  I felt bad each time he’d return in the evening and “go to his room.” So, I urged him, “Please, make this your home away from home.”

     > Before long, if one of us made a pot of coffee before dashing to work, we’d leave a note: “Free Coffee.” 
     > When he left all the garage lights on for 48 hours, I requested he mow the lawn - A penalty his wife agreed was appropriate ;-)
     > And, the skittish, suspicious-of-everyone cat purred incessantly on the rare occasion my roommate and I watched a movie together.

I never did experience any of the worries my friends enumerated and was genuinely sad when he announced his new promotion included moving away.
I thoroughly enjoyed living with my roommate. Although days or weeks would pass without seeing each other, whenever I came home, it felt like home, not just “house.”
Time to find a new roommate... mass-murderers who are annoying slobs need not apply.

photo by SFC Jose “Joe” Garcia
California Army National Guard

Monday, March 19, 2012

MUSIC Monday: Raise Your Hands, and Your Spirit Higher

This story was written by Daryl Allison

We all do it. Admit it, you do too. What’s the saying? 90% of people do it, the other 10% are lying. We sing in the shower. We sing along with the radio while driving. For those who haven’t taken the plunge, some part of us secretly wishes for the courage to get up there and sing karaoke.

Try hopping on a treadmill without music. Booooring! Now put some headphones on, play some upbeat music, and run further then you thought possible. Where did the time go?

When thinking, we scratch our heads, but when we feel passionate about something we touch our hearts – where our spirits live. Music, in its purest form, is all heart and soul. We have natural rhythm built into us – our heartbeats. Soft, slow, peaceful music slows our rhythm, relaxes us. Uptempo music excites us. Our hearts dance along. Our spirit takes the queue, embracing what it hears.

When listening to the greatest works of music, whether your spirit calls to Beethoven or some of the best 70’s rock, we close our eyes, we feel it, it washes over us. We can’t remain in a down mood. We can’t help but feel inspired, invigorated.

What would movies be without music? The drama, the suspense, the crescendo, … gone. I could do without those jolting startles, but I’ll never sacrifice the many great experiences.

Try and tell me you don’t hear what I hear: Jaws – The great white, lurking somewhere in the dark waters. Terminator – The mechanical skeleton rising from molten metal, coming to replace us. Star Wars – Hope, regardless the odds.

Heck, imagine Tom Cruise’s career without some good Old Time Rock ‘n Roll. Rocky, he was all heart if not also the Eye of the Tiger.

Ever been to a birthday party where they didn’t sing? A wedding where there wasn’t music to dance to? The moments we celebrate in life, when our spirits are lifted highest, it’s music laying the red carpet. All languages. All cultures.

Turn the volume up on the inside. Take a moment to listen to your favorite song. Give your spirit something to celebrate.

photo by woodleywonderworks

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

WISDOM Wednesday: Helpful Horoscopes

This story written by Malati Marlene Shinazy

Nancy and Ronald Regan knew there were specific astrological elements they needed to consider before they could make appointments, sign laws, run for president, etc. Before they scheduled the Geneva Summit to talk to the Russians, they made sure it was going to happen at an astrologically auspicious time.
Have you ever had a horoscope that wasn’t exactly, spot-on accurate?
Me either. They always seem to fit enough that I can claim, “Yes, indeed; it was just like that, yesterday.”
But I’m not sure I have Reaganesque confidence that my life is fatalistic — left in the hands of forces ruled by exalted planets, the degree of favorable or difficult aspects, strong angular houses, or succedent or cadent houses, or the relationship between my ascendant and the mid-heaven at the moment of my birth.
Still, on occasion, before my birthday I check my horoscope to make sure I’m ready for whatever it is that’s going to happen the next year.
Ready or Not, Here It Comes.
But, because I’m a Sagittarius, with a Sagittarius rising and moon in Scorpio, every year is projected to be a fabulous year. That, I’m ready for, happy for, believe in….
“Yes, indeed, it’s going to be another great year; my chart says so.”
But I’ve got a nagging question. Why was my astrological chart so reticent during the horrible years, the years when:
1.    My boyfriend left me, or
2.    I got laid off from my job, or
3.    I rear-end an old lady driving a Cadillac, or
4.    The hose from my washing machine burst, thereby flooding the laundry room, guest bathroom and living room – only then to have a gushing interior river follow the laws of gravity down through the heating ducts, across the insulation and into the furnace, causing an electrical short that nearly burned the house down?
My goodness, having some kind of astrological portent would have been helpful on any one of those year.
Had I any indication at all I could have:
1.    Minimized my heartbreak by ditching the boyfriend before he dumped me
2.    Minimized my precipitous plummet into near-poverty by getting a second and third job before losing the first one… Or perhaps replacing the ditched boyfriend with a “Sugar Daddy”
3.    Minimized my obscene out-of-pocket expense in that rear-ender by reducing my auto insurance deductible… or at least learned the fine art of hit-and-run
4.    Sold the house before the hose burst!

I’d be right by the Regan’s astrological side if a horoscope had given me a real “Heads Up, Get Ready, Girl” – so I could side-step or at least buffer some of those challenging years. 
I’d really be a believer if my horoscope instructed me to move my S&P 500 stocks into gold 18 months before I needed to!
I’m ready to believe.  I want to believe.  I want to follow Nancy Regan’s carefully planned timetable for ensuring world peace.  But someone needs to figure out how to adjust the sextile, quadrant, and decan to tell me something other than,
“Hey, you’re a Sag. You always have a great year. Happy Birthday.”

photo by Vectorportal

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

WISDOM Wednesday: Weary Wonder Woman Withers

This story was written by Malati Marlene Shinazy

Last week, BOBB’s publisher, my sister, wrote about our family’s long line of Wonder Women – starting with our great great grandmother who emigrated from Paris to San Francisco during the Gold Rush.
When Sister acknowledged she couldn’t juggle everything on her over-full plate, I was not unhappy.  Why?  I’ve always seen her as perfect and me as... well, not.
For background on this sibling-disorder, read my “Botox© To The Rescue” story:
I tentatively decided to take this opportunity to gloat a bit.
Here’s a partial history of this Wonder Woman’s accomplishments:
After college, I worked as my husband’s research assistant while he obtained his Ph.D. — “So what’s the big deal?  Women do this all the time.”
Here’s the Big Deal: This 5th generation San Franciscan had to move to Philadelphia, schlepping my first-born.  Besides helping my husband, I found and furnished a home a home for us, sourced, purchased and renovated houses for a fledgling rental portfolio and slipped and fell every winter, sending my first-born air bound— Plus, baby #2 arrived.
Just before Dad completed his degree, I began working full time and started grad school.  Picture this:
·         Working full time
·         Raising two smart, articulate, wild kids
·         Being a great business partner to my husband
·         Acting as general contractor for our rentals
·         Totally renovating our new home: built in 1911, 4,000 square feet, 3-stories
·         Staying up until 4:00 am to write research papers.  And...pregnant with baby #3!

Flash Forward
Returning to CA, Wonder Woman started a successful consulting and training company so she could be Super Mom…  I worked client meetings around driving kids to three different schools, ballet lessons, violin lessons, guitar lessons, soccer practice, soccer games and camp.
When I wasn’t being taxi-mother, I was flying to client sites like Panama, as the US Government was turning over the canal to the Panamanian Government.
Flash Forward to Now
After a few years of working 13-hour days in corporate America, I am currently:
·         Re-launching the consulting business in another part of the state
·         Treasurer of the local Lions Club (service club)
·         Dating 25% of the non-incarcerated single men within a 50-mile radius...not as much fun as it sounds.
·         Working out regularly to keep myself fit and vain
·         Writing clever stories for WISDOM WEDNESDAY
·         Administering thyroid medication to the cat twice daily
·         Conducting seasonal maintenance on my rental in the mountains
·         Skype-ing my “almost launched kids” at all hours

Yes, Sister, this Wonder Woman is on a roll.    
Until Yesterday:  I missed my Lion’s Club Treasurer Report deadline.  I slept straight through the morning alarm and was embarrassing late for a breakfast date.  And my right wrist started aching.
·         I seem to be unable to meet my commitments
·         I seem to be overly tired
·         I seem to be developing repetitive motion disorder

It seems this Wonder Woman is weary too.
I take it all back, Sister.  We need a vacation, and cortisone shot for my wrist.

photo by Arne Hendriks

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Journey of (re)Discovery

Written by Patti Isaacs

            I told my fifteen-year-old son, Emilio, that I’d be out when he got home from school.  I handed him a house key, which he put in his backpack.  My husband, Gauss, agreed to make saffron rice and salad for dinner when he got home from work.  Our older son, Luca, was off at college.
            Later that afternoon, while I was running errands, my cell phone rang.
            Gauss: We don’t have any onions!
            Me: Yes we do.
            Gauss: They’re not here.
            Me: Yes they are.
            Gauss: Where?
            Me: In the pantry cupboard, where they always are.
            Gauss: They’re not there!
            Me: Well, I know they’re there.  Ask Emilio to show you.  He knows where they are because he grills them when he makes himself hamburgers.
            Gauss: He’s not here.
            Me: Why not?
            Gauss: He called from the neighbor’s house.  He couldn’t get in because he didn’t have a key.
            Me: He’s an idiot.  I gave him a key this morning and saw him put it in his backpack.
            Gauss: So where are the onions?
            Me: Open the pantry door.  Look for the shelf with the cereal.  Look at the shelf above that.  There should be a bag of onions there.  They should be right in front of your face.  You can’t miss them.
            Gauss: Oh, here they are.
            After dinner I opened Emilio’s backpack.  The key was where he had put it that morning.
            I knew that it was time to cut these guys loose for a couple of weeks.  I’d been kicking around the idea of a sales trip for a few months, so I called potential clients and set up appointments.  But as my calendar filled and I plotted my route, I became alarmed to discover that after spending twenty years at home being mother hen to my family, my independence seemed to have vanished.
            At eighteen I had crisscrossed the country with a backpack and a lot of luck, hardly thinking twice before I hopped on a Greyhound or stuck out my thumb for a ride.  At 28, I spent a year teaching English in China.  Now, approaching fifty, with dependents and a mortgage, the prospect of a solo road trip was daunting, even with a late-model car and a pile of credit cards.  What had I lost in those intervening years?
            Like a rock tumbler smoothes an agate, life had knocked the sharp edges off me, and I wasn’t so sure I liked the polished version of myself.  I wondered if the edgy personality I used to have was still there.
            After setting up twelve meetings, I couldn’t back out, so at 8:30 on a Monday morning, I loaded my Honda Accord with a portfolio, a laptop, and an mp3 player crammed with tunes for the road.  I would drive from Minnesota to Boston, visiting established and potential customers along the way.
            Putting the key into the ignition, I felt like a sheep going to slaughter.  What was I getting myself into?  But as I headed through Wisconsin’s rolling wooded hills into the morning sun, my anxieties began to fade.  The trees were gold, red, and orange, almost fluorescent.  Fields spread out at their feet, blond crew-cut stubble of harvested corn, velvety green grass, or rich black earth.
            I found myself to be an ideal travel companion.  I liked the way I drove; I didn’t complain about the lodging I selected, and I never asked myself.  “Are we there yet?”  As the tunes blasted, I’d sink back in the seat and soak in the scenery in an almost meditative state, relaxed and alert.  Thoughts flowed through my head; it was like standing on a bridge watching a stream beneath me carrying feathers and twigs.
            My first appointment was on the outskirts of Chicago that afternoon.  I lugged my samples into the office, greeted my contact, and began my presentation.
            Each subsequent meeting became easier, and by the time I’d given three presentations in New Jersey, I began to enjoy it.  Even the least successful meetings were cordial and businesslike; the best left me feeling that I’d made an important connection.
            By the weekend I’d reached Long Island where I stayed with my sister.  I spent Sunday “doing” New York City with Frank, a guy I’d worked with for years via phone and email, but had never met.  We found each other under the big departure board at Penn Station at the appointed time, shook hands, and headed up to street level.  At the top of the Empire State Building we spent a long time looking out over the city, identifying buildings and pointing out geologic formations.
            We walked several blocks to a restaurant for lunch.  As we ate, we talked about historical buildings in our respective cities, September 11, where we’d gone to school, and how we met our spouses.  Like my husband, Frank is Italian, so we talked about our favorite Italian foods and cities.  When it was time to go, Frank pointed me to the correct subway platform, and with a wave and a smile, I took off for Chinatown.
            I strolled the streets, soaking up the atmosphere, wandering into tiny stores on side streets that catered to recent immigrants.  The products they stocked were identical to those I’d seen on the shelves of stores in China when I’d lived there: stacks of plastic washbasins in vivid candy colors, tinny aluminum steaming pans, bamboo baskets, cloying floral-scented soaps.  I closed my eyes, breathed deeply, and was transported back for a moment.
            Traveling alone, I extended myself more to others, trying out my meager Chinese on the store proprietors, helping a French exchange student find her subway stop, and chatting up the guy selling flowers on the street.  As evening fell, I headed back to Penn Station to catch the train back to my sister’s place.  My coach was oddly quiet, packed with people who, like me, had tapped themselves out running around the city for the day.  As I slumped in my seat for the ride home, my cell phone rang.  It was Emilio, calling from a friend's phone.
            Emilio: Mom, do you know where Dad is?
            Me: How should I know?  I’m in New York City; he’s in Minnesota where you are.
            Emilio: I can’t get into the house and he’s not there.
            Me: Maybe he drove Luca back to the dorm.
            Emilio: What’s Luca’s phone number?
            I gave him the number and the conversation ended.  I settled back, closing my eyes.  At the next stop, an enormous woman plopped herself into the seat next to me, smashing me up against the window.  My phone rang again.  I struggled to get it out of my purse, which was wedged between my foot and the sidewall of the train.  I answered on the fifth ring.  People around me looked irritated.
            Emilio: He’s not there.
            Me: Maybe he’s at Nonna and Nonno’s.
            Emilio: I forgot their phone number.  What is it?
            I gave him the number and hoped he wouldn’t call back.
            The train rattled down the track and I started to doze off.  My phone rang again.  This time a couple of people shot wilting looks at me.
            Me (eyes rolling): Hello
            Gauss: Hi Patti!
            Me: Hi Gauss.  Did Emilio reach you?
            Gauss: No.  Where is he?
            Me: I don’t know.  He called from Nick’s cell phone and said he couldn’t get into the house.  I had him try Luca’s dorm and then your parents’ house.  You’d better track him down.  I can’t believe it.  I’m fifteen hundred miles away and you guys are still calling me to help you find each other.
            Any feelings of homesickness I might have had were quickly erased.  I was glad I wasn’t going back just yet.
            The next day I headed for Boston.  My memory of the place dated from a cross-country journey I took as a teenager, when my cousin drove me around in his Renault, practically clipping the door handles off the cars in the next lane.  But after a day of driving there, I adapted, no longer skittish of the city’s narrow streets.
            While I enjoyed my client meetings, being “on” for so many of them was wearing me out.  I’d been on the road for nearly two weeks and was ready to head home to my boys.  I wanted to cook in my kitchen and spend time with my pet birds and to be home on Sunday morning when the paper came.
            Gauss told me that aside from the phone calls, Emilio had risen to the challenge of my absence, getting himself up without prompting in the morning and taking over laundry duty.  With me gone, Gauss and Emilio—and even Luca, off at college—discovered that they were more self-sufficient than they thought.
            The last day of my trip, as I drove back through Wisconsin, the trees had lost most of their brilliant leaves.  Like me, they looked a little more tired than they had two weeks before.  My wallet was lighter and the car had more miles on it, but I was returning with more than what I’d set out with: a fresh appreciation for my home and family, and a renewed belief in my talents and abilities.
            I’ve often heard that courage is not a matter of being unafraid; rather, it’s the ability to march ahead despite fear.  And that that’s what I’d done.  Years looking after my family had turned my focus away from myself, and life’s trials had whittled away some of my self-assurance.  I had left needing to know if I still had courage.  I realized, as I pulled into our familiar driveway, that it had hitched a ride back with me.
photo by Patti Isaacs