Thursday, March 31, 2011



PICTURES are a fine thing, for how often we forget the details. I look at the photo above and think, "Oh yes, for a while we did have luminarias above the marquee". One of my unrequited dreams is to go to New Mexico at Christmastime when the towns are decorated  with what they call "farolitos". Meanwhile we brought them to Montrose. I'd like to think they were lighted, but I think we had no way of accomplishing that.

We had three large windows to decorate and we changed them often hoping to attract the public. One year I bought many bunches of daffodils (99¢ each at Trader Joe's). 

As time went by, the flowers opened and I, at least, was enchanted.
Should anyone ask, I'd have to say the store was my canvas for self-expression. The fact that the customers liked it was a huge bonus.

And what a time I had! There was hard work involved, too, schlepping heavy boxes of books around, the endless task of bill paying ....... to get the right mix of merchandise, I shopped from hundreds of vendors, always looking for new ones to supply the unusual. 
How I love this picture. Somewhere there's a snapshot of this scene with a customer looking at greeting cards in the fixture to the left. It showed that the shop was indeed open during Mr. Bob's snooze. Note the open book in his lap.

When he retired from his 42 year career as a commercial printer, Mr. Bob often came and helped at the bookshop. After a while he'd get fed up and quit. Eventually I'd coax him back and the whole scenario would repeat itself over and over. But no one else ever quite treated the customers the way I wanted it done and his presence made all the difference in the world. I especially loved the days he and I worked together. (Maybe because while in the shop, he considered me the authority, a condition that changed the minute we stepped across the threshold to go home at night.)

The book, the giant book. It came to us in the same miraculous way that so many things happened. I saw it in a bookshop in South Pasadena in a store that had a display window that went right down to ground level. The book was tilted back slightly and at its base was a tumble of used paperbacks. I dared to go in and ask of the possibility of renting it once the window display was changed. The owner said, "I'm closing in two weeks. You can have it." Imagine! It was made of styrofoam, light in weight, but awkward to handle. I fear that it ended up in the landfill when the present owner had to move, downsizing in the process.

So, that's it for today. More pictures and memories are waiting in the wings to be shared another day. And then we'll get back to the Manor. 

Funny thing to tell you. The administrators of our facility have taken to reading the blog and one of them was horrified to see our picture eating from trays. It is said that she cried out, "Oh, dear! People will think we eat from trays at the Manor!" Not to worry. We were at IKEA enjoying their famous meatballs. It's much more refined here, unless we order a meal to be served in our rooms and then, truth to tell, it does arrive on a tray.

(To be continued)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I FORWARDED to you a letter from the current owner of the bookshop we founded in 1966. I was already planning to do a couple of entries here, reminiscing about our bookstore days, so this is as good a time as any to push the nostalgia button.

Taken sometime between 1981 and 1987, this picture shows a younger Jane and Mr. Bob with one of our nephews. It was in our third location and one I liked a lot, in spite of its being darker than the other places from which we peddled books.

There are so many features I could tell you about the store, one of which is the Hans Christian Andersen clock which I purchased in 1966 from the toy department of Bullock's Wilshire. It was beyond my means, and seeing my disappointment, the clerk brought from the back room a clock which had arrived with a cracked face and without any guarantee of its working condition, I was able to buy it for half of the exorbitant price. It was made in Denmark and in place of numerals, characters of the fairytales were used. It chimed on the hour and above Andersen's head are the words, "Once Upon a Time". You can see why I HAD to have it.

You can see in the first photo, that silhouettes were painted all around the walls. I thank Mr. Bob for that; when I told him of my vision but said I didn't know how it could be done, he assured me that he'd see to it and indeed he did. Over the front door we put the gypsy scene, satisfying my fascination with people who were always happily on the move.

Soon after we moved to that location, the Whittier earthquake put a crack right through the painting. We lived with it that way for years before fixing it, much to Mr. Bob's anguish. I tried to tell him that Mexican restaurants paid someone to create that effect, but he was never convinced.

Our monthly newsletter bore the name SILHOUETTES  and Christopher designed a series of six bookmarks. If nothing else, I learned in that 37 years, that one can't be subtle with the public. Even our employees didn't notice that on the lower right, the picture varied, from a perfectly flawless egg, to a tiny crack, to a gosling finally emerging and in the sixth bookmark, the baby appears over on the left hand side and the mama (the white goose) bends over to greet him. We had a contest once and any customer who could bring in all six bookmarks received a prize. There was only one winner......a 12 year old boy.

We held a weekly storytime and I find it poignant that our youngest grandson won't agree to my reading him a book. Admittedly, he has two parents that do a fine job of storytelling, but how I would love to be a bookish grandma.
Oh, well.............

So many stories could be told about the things that happened in Once Upon a Time. 

Around the corner from our bookshop was the office of a Certified Public Accountant who, as a hobby, restored old bicycles. He asked if he could use our shop display window to surprise his wife with her birthday gift when they took their nightly walk. Of course our answer was in the affirmative.

(to be continued)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011


IF IT TOOK me 30 years to get around to 

reading "Act One", a book I've had on my 

We processed it for the library, which consists of stamping the ownership on the title page and noting inside the back cover when the library acquired it. New-to-us books get placed on a rack just inside the library door. It took its place near another book we'd read and raved about to many of the residents. ("Losing Mum & Pup" by Christopher Buckley.......a memoir, both critical and at the same time loving, of his parents) We urged all people who read in their free time to consider these two titles.

When Harvey and Sheila arrived to stay in a guest room for a week, the library, of course, was one of the first stops. I wanted them to check out the two books, feeling absolutely positive that they'd enjoy both. I went to reach for one of them and not only was it missing, but so was the other title. GONE! I quickly went to the check-out area where residents note what books are borrowed, but there was no trace of the titles there. Between us, Nadine and I scoured the shelves with no success, we announced the disappearance of the books at the Residents Association Meeting, we wrote a short article for the newsletter, pleading for their return with no success.

Feeling we'd waited long enough, finally we went out and purchased another of the Buckley book and I donated my copy of "Tattoos on the Heart", making sure I was the first to check it out. Once a bookseller, always a bookseller, for now that I have only two chapters to go, I'm urging you to run out and find a copy.  What stories the author has to tell and the preachy bits (after all, he IS a man of the cloth), a little off-putting at first, really do belong where he put them. I don't know when I've been so moved by a book. I've had to put it down several times until my sight recovered from being tear-dimmed.

Unfortunately, I've misplaced the red book in which for years I've written quotations from books I'm reading. I guess I'll need to start a new one for there was a sentence in "Tattoos on the Heart" that sums up my reason for continuing to write this blog:

"This way will not pass again and so there is a duty to be mindful of that which delights and keeps joy at the center, distilled from all that happens to us in a day."

I firmly believe that. It's one of the joys of reading to come across words that perfectly convey a feeling that until now you've not been able to give voice to.

I beg you, don't delay.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


MOST OF THE TIME, we enjoy each other.

There has always been much to be happy about:

Laughter has been prevalent in our 57 year long marriage. I'll be the first to admit that we are known to bicker more than the average couple. And sometimes it goes beyond what is known as squabbling and silence blankets the union. Mr. Bob, as a Capricorn is incapable of sustained rage. However a Taurus is not quite so quick to get over hurt feelings and I can go on and on, in a bottomless pool of stillness. Just as our kids used to rejoice in the few times I lost my voice to laryngitis, I'm sure Mr. Bob relishes the periods of silence.

At the moment we're in one of those uncomfortable periods and wouldn't you just know it? We were selected to have our picture taken for some sort of promotional material for Southern California Presbyterian Homes. And we were to pretend we were dancing and having a whale of a good time. This took place yesterday and I'm still reeling from the experience. I've never been drawn to acting and find it most discomforting to pretend. If our current state of irk comes across in the photographs, we certainly won't persuade anyone to move to a retirement facility.

Someday, when I look back at the circumstance, it'll be funny. I have enough objectivity to know that. Right now it just feels like a failed charade.

And for the record, people of all faiths move here.........not only Presbyterians. I think that's part of the purpose of the new marketing, along with showing that many of the residents are young at heart, not doddering old folks.

"Family quarrels have a total bitterness unmatched by others.  Yet it sometimes happens that they also have a kind of tang, a pleasantness beneath the unpleasantness, based on the tacit understanding that this is not for keeps; that any limb you climb out on will still be there later for you to climb back."                
                                                                 ~Mignon McLaughlin

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I'M HEADING OUT into the world. By myself, leaving Mr. Bob to enjoy doing nothing which is one of his heart's desires. He's finished the photo album for 2010 which was a job that hung over his head for too long, but it's part of the job description of his volunteer job of photographer / historian. He took on the task in a weak moment.

Recently the cushions had been put on the patio chairs during some very pleasant weather and then it rained the other night. Another storm is expected this afternoon, or put in another way, we're expecting rain. The media, after reporting a drought, screams "Storm watch, storm watch!" with the first prediction of rain. Frankly, I'm glad that we don't live up the hill where the burned terrain releases mud which slides down the mountain when the rain comes down hard.

So I shall try to get back home with freshly curled hair before it rains. Hardly worth blogging about, huh? 

Oh, wait. Look across the patio and over the lawn and you can see the library window, with Susan's giant snowflake hanging in the center. With the advent of Spring, we've taken it down, to be used again next winter. 


Monday, March 21, 2011


WHEN THE SEASONS change, we at the Manor find a little bag, or in our case, two bags, hanging from our doorknobs. For the arrival of Spring we received a juicy, seedless tangerine and this pictured card. "Summer in the light, and winter in the shade"; I wasn't familiar with that Dickens quotation. There are a few menu changes, too, as different produce and fish come into season. In many ways it's wonderful to have someone else do the figuring for us and only once in a great while do I miss the opportunity to be the menu planner and cook.

The sole cookbook I brought with us to the Manor was Peg Bracken's "I Hate to Cook Book", which pretty well sums up my outlook. Before the move I managed to clutter my kitchen to the point that I had only a square foot of working space which took the pleasure out of any culinary activity. I tend to fool myself into thinking I enjoyed the exercise and it takes a picture like this to remind me of how it really was and to make me doubly glad to be here where a kitchen staff of 30 people makes mealtime effortless for us as residents. No regrets, not really. I wonder when I'll cease poring over magazines looking for recipes that don't require a stovetop or an oven? Who do I think I'm kidding?


YESTERDAY was lazy, but at least today I'm dressed. However, I'm being shiftless about the blog today and offering this, suggesting that you visit the linked site. I think you'll be gobsmacked, which means clapping a hand to one's mouth in astonishment. Courtesy of my artist brother.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


THE WRINKLIES were sent on their way yesterday as they embarked on the last couple of weeks of their four month trip. Their choice of travel to Seattle was Amtrak, on the Coast Starlight. I'm feeling a tinge of envy, for it's such a beautiful trip. We've only ridden it as far as Oakland on the train, but that stretch of the route was highly scenic. I take that back. We once traveled from Seattle to Los Angeles at the end of a trip, but what I remember best about it is a lot of boisterous children.

Harvey & Sheila reported that they saw, on their trek from San Antonio to Los Angeles, a decline in train travel amenities but they still think that Amtrak is a good way to travel. 
My pipe dreams include the possibility of either taking this trip or buying a pass and wandering around the country by whim and then I think of our difficulty of walking from here to there and wonder about walking on a lurching train and getting from one car to another which wasn't the easiest thing I ever did in less physically stressful times. I did go to the Automobile Club to ask about getting from here to North Carolina on blue highways and the agent had never heard of that term . So much for that. She handed Bob a map of the United States and suggested buying local maps along the way. 

It's a rainy, blustery day as another storm moves in. Northern California actually had a tornado warning yesterday as the storm headed south. We've decided to stay holed up in our rooms today, all cozy and snug. No socializing for us until tomorrow.

The wind is howling and Mr. Bob just asked if I didn't think it was a good thing not to have to worry about making sure the windows were tightly closed and checking that the roof wasn't leaking. My answer was, "Yes" and for me, the best part is not having a store in which I have to worry about merchandise getting wet. In four locations, every single commercial building leaked and it was a constant worry when it rained. 

We have books to read, Netflix movies to watch, the onerous world news to follow, and plenty to do should the mood strike us. I'm glad that bathrobe I wrote about way last October is two sizes too large. I'm swaddled in it and it's comforting.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Now that we have so many new residents, there's sometimes a wait to be seated in the dining room. Millie was ahead of us in line and was asked to wait for 10 minutes or so. Quickly I introduced myself and suggested we sit down together for one of my 8 question interviews.

  6. FAMILY?
When we were called to be seated 10 minutes later, we felt like old friends. The longer I work at this job, the better I like it. By and large, I think we're getting natural looking pictures of the new residents. It's a matter of teamwork and it's one of the places that Mr. Bob and I work well together.

In putting together the questions for the staff (numbering 100 or more), I decided that "Hobbies" might not be a good term for people from other countries who often as not are working two jobs to make ends meet. So here are the seven questions I'm using for the new directory.

  3. FAMILY?
I've interviewed five of the staff so far. When Sal, from Mexico, said his favorite thing was "attending my people" I could have wept. We are well cared for here and that sincere quality exhibited by the staff was what impressed me when I first visited all those years ago.

We had dinner with Millie and because Nadine and Mickey were shown to our table, the conversation was easy and the laughter was frequent and I hope we made Millie feel just a bit more at home than when she came down for dinner. 

I have two more new residents to interview.......Dot, whose husband was a publisher. You may have read his maps. The other is Nancy, who brought with her a companion, a bird by the name of Dulcinea and as soon as Dulcie settles in, they'll be ready for their interview and their portrait sitting. 

Friday, March 18, 2011


WHEN WE MOVED here in the summer of 2009, early on I sat down in the lounge with the Residents' Picture Directory. It's a good way to pair names with faces. I soon discovered that with the press of other important matters, the directory had been neglected for some time and a year later, when we took on the task of updating the book, 39 residents didn't even have a page in the album. Many of the existing pictures had none of the interesting, biographical information below the images. Between us, Mr. Bob and I decided to bring the directory up to date. Of course, the job is never finished as people continue to move in. I interviewed a gentleman just yesterday. It's an interesting job and takes relatively little time. 8 questions to be answered, getting the person to relax enough to get a 

good picture, then I write up the answers on the computer, download and print the picture. Mr. Bob does the paste-up, inserts it in a plastic sleeve, goes downstairs and puts it in the notebook. And there you have it!

When I was interviewing Betty, one of the new residents who was among those displaced from another retirement facility, we were going right along and when I came to the question "Education?" (one lady replied, "Yes" and I giggled for I do feel it an 

intrusive question, somehow, maybe because of my own drop-out tendencies) Betty's answer was "One year at Blackburn College". Inside my head, bells rang, a light flashed. Blackburn? The college in Carlinville, Illinois, the little town where my father was born and my mother taught high school? The town of 5,000 people? Yes, indeed. 

Carlinville is one of those little midwestern towns with a town square and a bandstand in the middle. My aunt and uncle owned a jewelry store on the square for years. The whole setting is pure Americana. 

Only yesterday, a knock came on our door and there stood Betty with a portly gentleman who, as a Blackburn representative was visiting alumni, just to be sure that all is well (and possibly hoping for a donation). It boggles my mind, that sort of thing does and once again I had the same urge to tell my mother (the other time was when Eulalie, who illustrated my childhood copy of "Mother Goose", came to the store and autographed the book I received as a three year old.)

A little add-on to this story is that I've been contemplating an idea but knew it had to be approved by the higher-ups. Today I asked and was granted permission to compile a Staff Directory to be placed in the Manor Lounge. Mr. Bob has agreed to continue pasting. Life is good.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


SHE WOULD BE 112, if my Mother were still living. I'm wearing one of her gold shamrock necklaces today in her memory, for even beyond St. Patrick, we honored my mom on March 17. From a photograph, Christopher painted this likeness of her. 

The Manor decorates up a storm on each and every holiday and some events in between. Today is no exception. Bells of Ireland decorate each dining table.  I always wanted to grow those in my garden, without any success, so it's a delight to see them here.

Today, everyone is Irish, even Victor, who hails from Romania.

Tomorrow he'll go back to his Armenian heritage.

"Never iron a four-leaf clover, because you don't want to press your luck."  
                                                            ~Author Unknown

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


IT'S ONE OF THOSE TIMES when, by and large, the world's attention is focused on one area and our hearts go out to what the people in Japan are experiencing. Not just one disaster, but another and now another. One wonders how much the human soul can bear.

I've long been a flickr member, flickr being a photo sharing community online. No charge to join and a fabulous way to make friends around the world. I've become acquainted with Pilar in Spain who sometimes comments on these blog entries (she's the one who asked to use one of my entries as an assignment in her high school class), Linda in Germany, Lidolil in England, a married couple in Portugal as well as Altus, in Japan. Altus is originally from Texas, married to a beautiful Japanese woman and is the father of 2 handsome boys. He's a real outdoorsman, enjoying skiing and snowboarding among other sports. This morning I read this entry from Altus. I'm moved to share it with you because, as readers of this blog, you've proven yourself to be interested in something beyond the media blitz we're exposed to every day.

We must do what we can; whether it's contributing financially, crossing our fingers, saying our prayers, many people are in this heart-rending situation.  Scary stuff and closer to home than we may like to consider. The world is a smaller place than it used to be. At least send blessings.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011




Here I am at the Apple Store, relearning what I've forgotten. I'll write more later. On to the spreadsheet.

Monday, March 14, 2011


"Are there Gypsies in Ireland?" I asked Harvey and as the words issued forth, I knew the answer full well.

My question was prompted by anticipation of a group coming to the Manor to entertain the residents for an hour in honor of St. Patrick's Day. The troupe calls itself the Gypsy Folk Ensemble and I did it again......wondered and pondered something for a while before the lightbulb over my head lit up with the remembrance that Google is there to help me with everything I've ever wondered about.

This afternoon four people appeared offering a wealth of information about St. Patrick, who if they're to be believed was Welsh and kidnapped, ultimately reaching Ireland. I, the reluctant student, was far more interested in their folk dancing.

While it came nowhere near "Riverdance", the performance was entertaining. The best part of all was when one of the men played the spoons. I shot a little movie, hoping to share some of his performance with you, but alas, I've forgotten what I learned in my computer lesson about posting movies. Is it because I'm growing older that unless I continuously apply a new skill, in short order I forget all about how to do it?

Here are a few shots of the dancers. The last one is of the man who played the spoons. Until my next lesson you'll have to use your imagination about the sound. Maybe I'll ask for a refresher session tomorrow or I may stick to my original intention of relearning the skill of keeping a spreadsheet so that Mr. Bob doesn't have to agonize another year over the preparation for paying our income taxes. What made me think the task would be easier once we no longer had a retail shop? That's one question that Google can't answer.  For one hour of Irish music this afternoon, I blessedly put aside all thoughts of readying numbers for the IRS

And here's the man who could play the spoons so well.

Don't hold your breath, but there's a chance you'll get to hear him some day in the future. There's no chance that I'll bore you with my spreadsheet if that's what I opt to learn.