How Did We Get Here & Where Are We Headed?

Locust Valley - holidays<img

This was my last blog post – almost two years ago.  It’s time to get back to it, I think.

Several people have asked why I stopped writing my blog. It really isn’t that I don’t have anything to say. It truly is that I have had so much in my head and my heart that I’ve felt too overwhelmed to start. What am I afraid of? I mean, it’s a free country and free speech is part of what’s so important about who we are.

Right? So where do I start?

I guess at the beginning.

I was never a “political person.” For far too long I believed politicians were obviously smarter than most of us because they chose to be dedicated public servants. My very first political memory was JFK running against Richard Nixon. I vaguely recall my father supported Nixon, which was interesting because his Uncle Joe was a politician and had been Borough President of Queens. Uncle Joe was a Democrat. My cousin, Linda, helped with the shovel for that million dollar sewer. I remember Uncle Joe for the free tickets to “Fairyland” ~ an amusement park somewhere in Queens.

My first “political action” was to write a letter to President Kennedy telling him I was glad he won and I was thrilled to get a response. Imagine a letter arriving addressed to me from the White House. I had that letter pinned on my bulletin board for many, many years. I remember “duck and cover” and air raid drills. I remember the Cuban Missile crisis when my mother brought cans of soup into the basement and was old enough to recognize those windows probably weren’t “bomb shelter” quality. I remember Walter Cronkite’s tearful voice as he announced the President’s death. I remember taking the letter off the bulletin board, crying as I read it. My heart was heavy then. My heart is heavy now.

Fast forward almost twenty years. I’m in Los Angeles and have a brush with politics while working at the Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center. One of the Board members was also on the board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. My husband and I went on a “Water Junket” through Northern California and visited the Hoover Dam. I remember thinking at the time that it seemed like a colossal waste of time and money but in the early 1980’s my conscious awareness wasn’t plugged into water and its’ connection to politics. In Los Angeles. I mean, I’d seen Chinatown. But that was then, right?

I have this autographed picture of me with George McGovern but the only thing I did was go to this event. I am certain I was the most “unconnected” person there.

I was never a “political person” but I always held strong beliefs. I believed that it was through the grace of God that I was born who and where I was. I believed that all people deserved help when they needed it. I believed I was no better than anyone else and that we all were in this thing called life together.
I have tried to be kind and considerate but at times I’m sure I’ve been shallow and thoughtless. Being from this place called New York ~ born in Queens ~ I also believed that outspoken opinions were part of my DNA. Perhaps the lack of a filter is, as well. Oh, and I talk with my hands.

I voted for Bill Clinton. I remember where I was the night he was elected President. I was picking up Chinese food at a restaurant in the San Fernando Valley and the television was on behind me as I waited for the food. They were playing “Don’t Stop Thinkin’ About Tomorrow,” and I remember thinking a President that was from MY generation would be a good thing. No more “fathers” running things. Time for US to be the grown-ups. Were we up to the task?

I became disillusioned during those eight years. Perhaps for the wrong reasons but they were my reasons. I saw him once after he was out of office, walking out of the Russian Tea Room as I was walking in. He exuded charm and charisma, which helped me understand my disillusion up close.

I had also spent many years in California and watched a beautiful State full of natural wonders and bountiful gifts begin its’ fall into a state of disrepair as well as disrespect. I started working full time in non profit and learned first hand that you just can’t spend money you don’t have no matter how worthy the cause or the people involved in it. I drifted to the right fiscally but held liberal social causes close to my heart and mind.

9/11 changed me. Having grown up in an amazingly bountiful bubble on the North Shore of Long Island I don’t think I recognized just how terrible our world could be. Intellectually, yes. Realistically. No. I watched the next seven years unfold feeling both fear and faith. Our country would prevail. Good versus evil. Yet it seemed our leaders really were unsure of who was who.

Prior to the election in 2008,I listened to the candidate say we were five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America. Something about that statement bothered me. I didn’t vote for him. Twice. I do not regret my decision. I did not discuss that decision with many people. Remember, I live in California and I clearly understood the thought that people should never discuss politics or religion. But, now we had the internet. We didn’t have to discuss anything in person. Boundaries began disappearing. Civility wasn’t far behind.

People learned talking points. Both in the media and in the world, real and virtual. We learned what was happening from carefully crafted sound bites. 140 characters or less. Many of us, including me, recognized that politicians weren’t smarter than the rest of us. Neither were most of the folks in the media. But what we all had in common was the fact that we all wanted to keep our jobs – if we had them. Most of their jobs paid better than most of ours. At some point the line between opinion and fact started to blur. Everywhere. On both side of the aisle. In fact, it now was pretty apparent how “news” folks – both pundits and journalists – felt about politics. Very clear. And many of us started to distrust them. All of them.

I have to go back in time before I move forward again. Bear with me, please. In 2006 we moved from Los Angeles to Seattle.

We bought a house on Mercer Island where I fell in love with the small hamlet charm I’d grown up with on Long Island. We had rain.
We had snow.
In so many ways I felt I’d stepped back in time to my Long Island hometown roots. I remember crying at the 4th of July Parade when little kids walked down Main Street with their dogs. I felt a sense of community that day. But a 4th of July Parade does not necessarily a community make. I planted flowers, went to work for Special Olympics and hoped for the best.
The first time the recycling officer – his words, not mine – came to the door and told me my efforts were unacceptable I chuckled inwardly. I had never been the best at separating recyclables but I try. The third offense ~ a small pizza box – had the recycling officer and I at a stand off. First, don’t get me started on the terrible pizza available on Mercer Island. Second, I had gone over that box and removed a small amount of cheese to avoid this problem. The grease apparently offended the officer’s sensibilities. My recycling bin became his target. Dorothy, you’re no longer in Kansas. Or Los Angeles. Or Locust Valley.
Mercer Island

In September of that year placards for political candidates started appearing. Soon they were everywhere. Flyers started appearing on our doorstep and in our mailbox. The “big” news was a Republican might actually have a chance at becoming Governor. An outside chance. As I recall, he didn’t win. As I recall, I didn’t vote. For the first time. I wasn’t invested in Washington.

People in Seattle did not like people from California. I would quickly point out that while I had lived in California for a long time I was FROM New York. But my car still had California plates on it, which meant it was very difficult to change lanes on the freeway. Even on a floating bridge.
Floating Bridge

I kid you not. I went to the DMV for new license plates. Side note: the DMV was privatized rather than government run and had NO lines. Jay got a Seattle Seahawks plate frame and we both experienced a definite ease in our ability to merge. People were “Seattle polite” as THEY described it.
There was a windstorm and we were without electricity for a week; trees fell on our house TWICE and it SNOWED for the first time in years.





It is a breathtakingly beautiful place. Green, clean fresh air. A lovely place to spend a year. A wonderful adventure!!
public market

Jay accepted a job on the air rather than in management. We left Mercer Island.
For San Francisco. His hometown. I did not say goodbye to the recycling officer.
In 2008 it was time to register to vote. We’d lived in LA for a very long time and in Washington only briefly. I had always been a registered Democrat. Jay and I were at the outdoor mall in Corte Madera, in Marin County, and saw a Republican registration table. I made the decision at that time to re-register as a Republican. After Jay and I had “signed up” a woman asked to take our picture. Truth!! I realized we were part of a very small group in that county.

My work in San Francisco was diverse. I was involved in the campaign to have a net on the Golden Gate Bridge, which eight years later has been approved, but not yet built. I was a volunteer fundraiser at Marin Humane Society and then entered the world of non commercial radio at KWMR in Pt Reyes. All eye opening experiences.

I drove a Mercedes at the time and wore red nail polish. In Pt Reyes I became known as the “corporate person,” which I was told “was not a compliment.” I thought it was funny. For a while. It became clear that as an “outsider” I would never be accepted. I’d really just come to help them raise money. But in their minds, my car and my nail polish were more of a statement about who I was than my ability to fund raise. I shudder to think what would have happened if they knew I had recently registered Republican. As I said, eye opening experiences.

Everything came to a screeching halt in 2009. The economy. The stock market. Then it crashed. Loudly. Blame was thrown around by everyone. Loudly. Many of us went into survival mode. Personally and professionally. Seeds of discontent were sown and began to grow into full blown bushes of blame ~ pun intended. The blame game became VERY popular. Both sides of the aisle used it during the next three election cycles. Control shifted sides and nothing was done for “we the people.” The same “if only” they’d work with us became the pathetic political rallying cry. Debts increased, the “broken promise” cans continued to be kicked down the road and finally it seemed we had reached a dead end politically.

It was clear who the Democrat candidate would be. Or was it? Sixteen men and one woman got in the fight for the Republican nod. As did many of us, I sat back and decided to listen to them all. Never a fan of extremes, except when it comes to eating too much pasta, my politics were settled firmly in the middle of the road. Everyone offered a little bit of what I liked but no one was the full package. But then, had anyone ever been the full package? Anywhere in politics? On either side of the aisle? My disillusion had grown over the past few years where I felt nobody really listened to the people. Or, perhaps my disillusion grew because I’d spent more time on-line, listening to other people who felt lost in the shuffle. Anger seemed to be replacing apathy as the candidates fought for their place in the pack. On both sides of the aisle.
I felt Congress had let us all down. Always excuses as to why nothing could be accomplished. I tired of listening to the media because I felt “news” wasn’t news at all. It became opinions from pundits and contributors rather than facts reported by journalists. It was also obviously about money. Ratings for the media. And support for the politicians. What was about US? The people.

While I have lived in several very different places, geographically, they have been in coastal, urban locales in states that have moved farther left during the past decades. Every state has a different, distinct sense of who and what they are. Seemingly, extremes have become more so all throughout our country. Would Ronald Reagan, once a Democrat, be “conservative” enough today?

Are labels, in fact, the essence of who we are? There will always be hateful people walking among us in this world and in this country, but is the heart of who we are hatred?

Who among us has determined their right to be the arbiter of our moral compass?

The left? The right? The media?

Claims to the moral high road have become a slippery slope.

We are at a crossroads in our country. Politicians and the media are running us around in circles. Trust is at an all time low for all. On both sides of the aisle. But is the answer for us to begin turning on one another? I’ve been fairly silent about my vote because I’ve paid a personal price for it. I’ve been outed at work. That’s been fun. I’ve had people cry and become emotional because I voted for Donald Trump. As if the devil reached out of hell and came back to walk among us. I’m not alone. Many people I know voted for him and are afraid they will be “discovered.” What is THAT about?

My doctor and I had a conversation during my physical in March. I said I was sleeping poorly and all this election stuff had really gotten to me. He’s in Beverly Hills and said he recognized the Trump voters when they came to see him because they said nothing. I laughed and said “yes,there are more of us than you realize.” He said he thought one candidate was crazy and the other evil.
I didn’t ask which was which.

The President is surely a flawed human being, as are we all. Do I wish he would try not to strike when he feels backed into a corner? Of course. Perhaps being born in Queens gives me a bit of insight into his brash bravado. But I also know that unlike many politicians this man did not want to be President to become wealthy. He traveled this land and listened to people. People I can’t claim to know who decided he was the person to give voice to their frustrations. They voted for him. To the surprise and consternation of most “in the know,” he won. I think he may have been just as surprised.

His election has never been accepted. He has been maligned daily for both imagined, exacerbated and real mistakes. He has been President for six months and surely is not responsible for the all the ills of the world and our country.

Perhaps we’re too far down the rabbit hole at this point. When I said I remember Walter Cronkite announcing President Kennedy had died, I also remember people had no idea who Walter Cronkite had voted for. Now it’s very obvious who every pundit and contributor has voted for. I’m afraid I don’t see many “journalists” around these days. I do recognize Washington DC and New York may be the News Mecca, but they do not represent our population.

I could point out flaws in the logic of the tolerant. I’m not sure that a statue of Robert E. Lee located in the Capital for forty years is suddenly a problem for the politicians who have been looking at it for more than twenty. But that would become a tit for tat conversation.

I tire of the next shiny object overtaking the news cycle and our emotions.

I tire of politicians on both side of the aisle not doing their job to help the people while collecting their paychecks and pensions.

I tire of being told we are a nation filled haters and bad people, and am sickened by the fuel being added to the fire of violent protests.

Perhaps we’re too far down the road of anger among us to recognize the best in one another rather than assume the worst.

I hope not.

I don’t believe one man is responsible for this mess.

Do you?


You think getting rid of him is going to fix it all?



The Hot Comet ~ Teenage Tale

A long time ago in a hamlet far, far away from where she eventually wound up, a teenage girl went to get her driver’s license.  It was summer.  August.  Her mother reluctantly drove her to the appointed location at the appointed time.  The girl took the driving test and joined her mother for what became a very silent ride home.  Those were not days of “instant gratification.”  She was not rewarded with her license on the spot.  She was told “you’ll be notified by mail with the results.”  The ride home was very silent because she was certain she’d failed.  She could not parallel park.  Now, let’s discuss her mother’s car.  A 1959 Chevrolet Impala. 1959-Chevrolet-Impala-2dr-hdtp-rvl The fins on the car seemed a mile wide.  In fact, one of the first times her mother had backed the car into the garage she’d knocked a hole in the wall. However, on this fateful summer day, after three unsuccessful tries the instructor said “let’s move on.”  Three words she didn’t want to hear during her driving test.

The wait was interminable.  Every day she waited for the mailman.  He arrived around 10:00AM.  Truth be told, she liked having an excuse to wait for the mailman.  He was the very cute older brother of one of the first friends she’d made when they moved to the hamlet six years earlier.  This fateful morning he headed up the front walk with a big smile, waving an envelope.


Picture the teenager shouting in glee as her mother came out onto the front porch, uttering the words ~ “the only test I prayed you’d fail.”  The teen age girl had her driver’s license.  She wasted no time asking her mother if she could, “please, please drive the car today.  Please?????

My mother reluctantly relented.  Despite serious concerns Emmy let me drop her off somewhere and drive her car for a couple of hours.  I do remember driving down Ryefield Road and flooring it as I passed the school field and the left turn that led to the Dutch Reformed Church.  When I hit 70 I slowed down, recognizing my newly found freedom wouldn’t survive a first day speeding ticket.

About  year later my Grandfather’s 1960 Mercury Comet found its’ way into our driveway.  Another car with big fins.  hot comet

I nicknamed the car “The Hot Comet,” which it surely wasn’t either in looks or speed but I surely loved that little car.  I can’t remember how long I had it but I do remember the day I lost it.  Very clearly.

Before I get too far ahead of myself with this story, I’ll provide a bit of background information.  If you’ve been a reader of this blog you know I talk about Emmy, my mom, often.  I haven’t mentioned my father.  Big Joe was his nickname.  He’s the one on the left at a wedding reception of mine.  Reception.1980  A man used to being the center of attention. He was a self-employed attorney.  I grew up on his witness stand, with his favorite phrase “do you think or do you know?”   A simple way to describe him is in his own words.  “I don’t get ulcers, I give them.”   My mother had ulcers.  My brother had ulcers.  I had a big mouth and would often respond “I think I know.”  Enough said.

Let’s just say from a purely observational stand point, my gene pool was not meant for deep diving.  There are stories I could tell to emphasize the point, like the time my father wanted to shorten the electrical cord on the kitchen wall clock and attempted to do so while said clock was plugged in.  My mother and I watched as he went to do so without uttering a word of caution.  In our defense, we couldn’t believe what was happening.  His resounding “holy shit” was louder than the brief electrical crackle so all ended well.  I like to think of us as “colorful,” albeit more than mildly dysfunctional.  But weren’t we all to a certain extent.  Growing up behind the facade of 50’s television was the truth.  Nothing was as it seemed.  The facade of my childhood was aided and abetted by the wonderful place we lived.  The “hamlet,” Locust Valley, on the North Shore of Long Island.Image

There were simple, family fantasy shows, “Father Knows Best” and “Ozzie and Harriet,” but s we moved through the 1960’s there were a few a bit racier.  One was Peyton Place, the first prime time soap opera, based on the novel of the same name written by Grace Metalious.

One beautiful summer day I decided to go to the the library to check out THAT book.  The library was down the hill and around the corner from our house but I drove into the village.  Yes the center of town was, and is still, called “the village.”    Locust Valley - holidays

I filled up the Hot Comet’s tank for a future adventure before heading to my destination.  Book in hand I left the library and headed home.

I pulled into the driveway, turned off the ignition and heard a “pop.”  It didn’t sound ominous, rather odd, but as I got out of the car I noticed smoke coming out from under the hood.  No one was home.  I stood for a moment thinking, “this is not good” but truly had n idea of what to do next.  So I said, “HELP.”  Really loud.  Our neighbor from across the street, Mr. Kropp, came running out of his house.  He grabbed the neatly rolled hose from the backyard, turned it on, started watering the hood of the car and said, “call the fire department.  Now.”  I ran into the house and did what I was told.  When I came back outside,  Mr. Kropp was still standing over the car hood, hosing it as he yelled.  “GET ACROSS THE STREET .”  Again I did what I was told.Fire House

The fire house siren went off.  I forgot to mention the fire house is also around the corner, so although it felt like an hour the volunteer firemen arrived very quickly.  Mr. Kropp stayed with the car hosing the hood.  What a guy!  I was terrified the car was going to explode, hurt Mr. Kropp and catch the house on fire.  The fire truck came speeding up the hill and firemen rushed to the car with extinguishers and hatchets.  Mr. Kropp stood with me on the lawn of his house with his arm around my shoulder saying “it’s OK.”  By the time they were finished the “Hot Comet” was no more.  The loss of my freedom loomed large along with the fact that I’d probably get busted for borrowing Peyton Place from the library.

My mother came speeding up the hill around the time the fire truck was leaving.  Our next door neighbor, Annie Fitzgibbons, had figured out where she was and called.  From Anne’s vantage point at her kitchen window, the message was,”Janet’s car is smoking in the driveway.  Stan Kropp has a hose over the hood.  The fire whistle just went off but I don’t see Janet.”  How did we ever survive the complexities of life without instant, accessible communication?

My father’s first acts that evening were to bring a bottle of scotch to Stan Kropp and then head over to the fire house to thank them for their help.  Whoever he spoke to told him the car didn’t explode because there was a full tank of gas.  No fumes in the tank.  My father never said a word to me about it.  Since I spent a large part of my teenage years in the dog house of his discontent over my actions, or lack thereof, no words were a good thing.

Someone I never knew “back in the day” was going through an incredibly difficult time in her life around the time the hot Comet met it’s driveway demise.  Just recently she and I connected on Facebook and she related the fact that my father had helped her through her personal hell with his legal expertise and support.  The man she described was someone I saw only infrequently.  Kind and supportive.  To quote her, “see, your Dad did something so very good and you never even knew about it.  I remember him as a very kind man who was so proud of his daughter.”

Who knew?  I hope he was proud of the way I acted that day in the driveway.  I did yell HELP … really loud.

The moral of this story ~remember to tell those you love how proud you are of them, even if you think they already know.

And always top off the gas tank.  Just in case.

Peyton Place


The World We Live In ~ then and now

Boomers...Broken down or Blissful?

Saying this has been a difficult week is an understatement.   The world we live in today is not the world in which I have lived the majority of my life.   I really did grow up in a town with a little white church. Dutch Reformed Church  I also grew up during a time when “duck and cover” and the fear of mass nuclear destruction were very real.  Yet we always felt safe enough to play kickball in the circle on our street.  We always felt safe enough to get excited when we heard the bells on the Good Humor truck and search for lightening bugs when it became dark during the summer.   We lived through the Cuban Missile crisis and the assassination of  JFK but felt safe enough to go to The Valley Tea Shoppe after school, hang out at the library with the cannon out front and the bowling alley in…

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As the “booms” at Camp Pendleton were fierce today and poor Harley was scared, this blog post about devotion came to mind. Hope you enjoy!.

Boomers...Broken down or Blissful?

The definition of devotion ~ love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person, activity or cause.

I’ll start with love.  I have been fortunate in this life to have experienced an abundance of it.  Some did not end well, but it was love.  Some did not last forever, but it was love.  Some left behind better memories than others, but it was love.  I will start with the blessing of unconditional love.  My first.My mother.   She loved me dearly and completely throughout her life.   Emmy and JammieThat gift helped form my psyche and my soul and although I lost her while we were each far, far too young, I know her unconditional love was one of my life’s greatest blessings.  Occasions I was far too young to remember, immortalized in old pictures, remind me of the feelings I have to this day whenever I think of Emmy.  Safe.  Loved.Christmas Eve

Many people know that…

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You Still Got It

Boomers...Broken down or Blissful?

ImageWhile we were at the park the other morning with Riley and Harley, I was thinking about how lucky I am.  Others have pointed that out to me throughout the years and I wondered why they would ever say that because I have had some really bad stuff happen in my life.  I’ve had some really dark moments as I’ve wandered through this tunnel they call life.  But then, haven’t we all?   A dear friend recently told his story of going to a shrink, beginning with the opening, “you won’t believe this story.   The shrink replied, “with all respect, there are really only five stories…the rest are variations on the theme.”   While we all like to think we are unique and individual ~ and, to a certain extent, we are ~ the themes of what we all experience are similar.  Abandonment, grief, loss, love, happiness.  There are more, I’m sure…

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Our Greek Adventure with Barry Manilow

Boomers...Broken down or Blissful?

ImageI love Barry Manilow…always have, always will.  The story I am about to tell about last night is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

But first, some history about Barry and me.  We go back a LONG way…all the way back to his first appearance on Midnight Special in 1975.  I was working at NBC in Compliance and Practices and I was assigned to the show this taping.  There was this young man, introduced by Clive Davis and the host was Mac Davis ~ ok, be honest, who remembers him?  He sat at the piano and played “Mandy.”  That’s all it took for me.  I was hooked.

In 1977 he came to the Universal Ampitheater…it was a large, outdoor venue at the time.  We had lousy seats but I didn’t remember much about the concert.  That morning I’d received the call from my Father that changed…

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Happy Memories

Meanderings about the dogs I’ve loved…..

Boomers...Broken down or Blissful?

Today we were at the beach and met a schnauzer named Duke who could have been Riley’s twin.   We first saw him when we were stopped at a light before parking the car.  We watched him approach another dog and interact politely so we said “nothing like Riley.”  Seconds later this little guy started the “schnauzer snark” and we laughed recognizing the fact that schnauzers are always schnauzers.  We ran into them on our walk and got to meet Duke up close and personal.  It made us laugh.   Jay had never heard of schnauzers until he met me.  We all have our baggage.  Mine includes multiple schnauzers.  At the beach It all began with Smokey.   A miniature schnauzer, brought home as a surprise when I was in Kindergarten.  The breed was chosen because my Mom had really bad asthma and schnauzers are supposedly hypo-allergenic because they have hair instead of…

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Tradition ~ Part One

tra·di·tion ~trəˈdiSH(ə)n/ noun

the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way.

THEOLOGY ~ a doctrine believed to have divine authority though not in the scriptures, in particular.

We all have them.  Variations on a theme perhaps, but they exist in our hearts and often spill over into our present.  Especially around the holidays.  Memories that we annually duplicate with varying degrees of success.  Like the ice-box cake Emmy used to make every Christmas.  I know I speak glowingly of the woman but quite honestly, Martha Stewart she was not.  Domesticity was not her long suit but she gallantly stepped up to the plate every day as she threw herself into hearth and home.  I remember the time I asked her to help hem a coat dress ~ remember them?  Well, when I put it on one end was at least two inches shorter than the other.  Her solution was to just double fold the offending end.  She giggled and said, “At least it’s the side that goes underneath.”  She had the very best laugh.

Jay and I were walking the other morning with Riley and Harley and I was thinking about how lucky I am even though I have had some really bad stuff happen.  I’ve had some really dark moments as I’ve wandered through this tunnel they call life, but then haven’t we all?  A dear friend recently told his story of going to a shrink years ago, beginning with the opening, “you won’t believe this story.”  The shrink replied, “with all respect, there are really only five stories…the rest are all variations on the theme.”  We all like to think we are unique and individual.  Special snowflakes, and to a certain extent we are.  Yet the basic themes of our experiences are similar.  Abandonment, grief, loss, love, happiness.  There are more, I’m sure, but I’ll stop with the first five that came to mind.  If you’re lucky the good themes outweigh the bad.

I started this blog a couple of years ago with encouragement from my high school BFF, Geri.   When I got stuck, a childhood friend contacted me out of the blue and remembered things about me I had forgotten.  How much I enjoyed writing.   But I had to figure out what to write about.   It is, and will always be, a post-by-post work in progress.

The Knolls

Diane and me ~ The Knolls – reminding me I loved to write

I’ve done some interesting things and had some fascinating experiences but as far as my daily life, I’m really a pretty run of the mill extroverted introvert.  So, as in many other times during my life, I just started.  While I usually have a general idea of what I want to say I never have any idea of how I get there.  Some posts meander more than others.  I have a feeling this is one of them, so please bear with me.

Holiday traditions during my childhood included my cousin, Patty.  Our fathers were the two youngest of four sons and for many years were best friends.  Patty and I visited Santa together.  Patty and Me We spent Christmas Day together ~ and had a one-time holiday tradition of going to Radio City with our paternal grandmother to see the Rockettes.Janet and Patty

Grandma Mafera was not a warm and fuzzy type.  At all.  In hindsight, it’s obvious that life had been unkind to her emotionally but at the time she just seemed cold and more than a bit preoccupied with human tragedy.   Seriously, she kept what we called a “Book of Horrors” ~ a scrapbook containing newspaper clippings about terrible occurrences.  I think that’s all you need to know right now about the skeletons in my familial closet.

Grandma was a great baker and every year on my birthday she would make a most delicious chocolate cake.  We spent most of the summer I was seven in Rocky Point and I remember it and the party very well.  It was my brother’s first summer and Rocky Point was pretty far out on Long Island and required a trek for all concerned. yellow rock I remember my Grandmother attending said event and I also remember saying,  “Look Grandma, I have a birthday cake with my name on it.”  It was not chocolate and she did not bring it.  It came from, gasp ~ a bakery.  Unintentionally, I set off a family catastrophe.  There was never another chocolate cake…for anyone.  Ever.  Honestly, I never really noticed but then I’m not a sweet person, literally.  Years later Patty shared the tale.  “Oh yeah, after that birthday Grandma stopped baking chocolate cakes because ‘Janet wanted a cake with her name on it.'”  From this picture with both my grandmother’s on my brother’s first birthday ~ occurring a few months following mine at Rocky Point ~ I seem to think the cake from the bakery was more Emmy’s idea than mine.  As you can see, Grandma Mafera is about as far as she can get from the offending cake without being out of the picture entirely. Grandma's.jpg  The end of THAT tradition.

Sadly, as happens in many families, a disagreement over something stupid led to estrangement so our holiday tradition began anew with our Locust Valley next door neighbors, the Fitzgibbons.   We had wonderful times that included playing lengthy board games ~ Monopoly and Risk come to mind ~ during holiday breaks.   Christmas fun with the Ouija board.  When we asked what my father did, we expected the word “lawyer.”  It spelled out “attorney.”  We didn’t cheat, really.  But when it spelled out the answer to a question neither Kathleen nor I knew the answer to we decided to move on to another game of Monopoly.


Summer traditions included summer barbeques, games of croquet and badminton in the backyard and kick ball in the circle.  While our parents are gone what remains all these years later is a deep friendship that picks up with love no matter how much time has passed.


Kathleen and me ~ 2014

This holiday season I decided to make a family comfort food favorite.  The recipe comes passed through Grandma Mafera given to my Mom.  Over the years I remember much trial and error on the ingredients, as I think Grandma just might have omitted proper quantities, perhaps as retaliation for the “chocolate cake incident.”  The recipes live in a copper box in a cabinet in the kitchen on the top shelf, along with many cook books I never use.  To be fair, I’m my mother’s daughter.  Not Martha Stewart’s.  Book case

For a reason I cannot logically explain, when I turned around to put the box back in the cabinet a Bible had fallen to the floor.  My mother’s Bible.  I admit it was a little freaky ~ the books sit far back on the shelves and I surely didn’t hear it fall.  Bible

Jay told me to open it and read whatever was there.  I did, and it opened to the first page of a book I’d never heard of, let alone read.  The book of Habakkuk.  So I turned to google for an answer.

The major theme of Habakkuk is trying to grow from a faith of perplexity and doubt to the height of absolute trust in God.

Did I mention this all happened on Emmy’s birthday?

The Spanish Rice was excellent.  Here’s the recipe ~  I promise the quantities on the top card are right! Spanish Rice

There are no accidents!




It’s All About the Tree?

I love Christmas trees.  I love the shape of them, I love the size of them and I really love the smell of them.  When I was little, I remember the tree usually went up just a few days before Christmas.  There were wonderful old ornaments that, carefully wrapped when they were put away, came out of big boxes brought in from the basement.   Our tree was always very traditional.  Big, full and filled with decorations and tinsel.  Oh, I loved the tinsel.  I was inclined to throw huge clumps at the tree which drove my father nuts.  He insisted on the “one strand at a time” method which drove me nuts.  But at the end of the day, the tree was always perfect to me.  Janet and Smokey

Childhood holiday memories are brought back through old black and white photos my Mom usually took.   Visits with Santa were carefully documented and Christmas cards were always prominently displayed. Christmas Dress I remember how much fun I had opening the cards as a little girl.  They were filled with sparkle and glitter and usually oversized.   Everything lead up to the main event.  Christmas morning.  Wrapping paper flying and gifts galore.  I was a very lucky little girl.   A Shirley Temple doll and my Jerry Mahoney puppet were two of my very most favorites!  Right about the time I had figured out Santa wasn’t the real deal, Not so fast Santa my brother was becoming aware of the old gent, so there was an extension to my childlike thoughts.  Waiting for Santa

When I was ten we moved to picturesque Locust Valley.   Christmas there was dreamily perfect in many ways.

Locust Valley - holidaysThe Fire House was decorated then as it is now and was down the hill and around the corner from our house.  Fire House  That came in especially handy the day my “Hot Comet” caught fire in the driveway, but that’s a story for another day.   Unfortunately, sometime during the 1960’s there was a rash of Christmas tree fires on Long Island and that marked the end of “live” trees in many homes, including ours.   The trend went toward aluminum but that brought yet another potential disaster.  ALuminum trees

My mother remained “traditional” and our tree was green, stored in the basement for the annual decking of the halls.  It looked pretty much the same when decorated but there was no wonderful smell and my enthusiasm for participating in decorating dwindled.

Well, not completely.

When I hit my teens my parents were very social and I was their “go to babysitter.”  I remember being particularly bored by that one weekend night and called upon my neighborhood cohort in crime, Kathleen.   She came over and we dragged up the Christmas tree and decorations from the basement and set the tree up in the appropriate spot.  My parents returned home that night to a fully decorated tree and I chortled in my room as I listened to my father’s very vocal consternation.  It was July.

When I moved to California I missed the feel of Christmas on Long Island as well as the reality of it, so I have no memories of trees on my own until 1977.  My Mom had just passed away and my brother, Dad and Great Aunt Alice came to California.  Jody, Aunt Alice and I spent Christmas Eve at Disneyland ~ long before it was a popular holiday destination.  It was quietly deserted and we returned to have Christmas Eve dinner with my father at the Brown Derby in Hollywood.  There is nothing worse than people trying to have a good time when it is just utterly impossible.  I had bought a huge tree for my first grown up apartment complete with corduroy couch from Bullocks charged to my very first credit card and my dark wood laminate dining set. I don’t remember much else other than the harsh reality  ~ the tree did not make the holiday.  

A few years later my father sold our family home.  He was re-marrying and moving farther out on the island.  I came home for a last visit.  He pulled his car into the garage and opened the door to the basement.  Proud as punch he pointed to the vast emptiness and said “Completely clean.”  My first reaction was one of horror.  Where was everything that had resided in that basement?   Everything, including the boxes of Christmas ornaments was gone….all gone.  “I’m starting a new life, Janney,” was his response to my question.  Starting his new life meant throwing out some of the most tangible, wonderful memories of mine.  My stomach still aches when I think of that moment.  There is nothing more to say about it.

When I returned to the tree decorating tradition in the eighties different years meant different things.   Bows, all white lights, even once….gasp, a flocked tree.   I began collecting special ornaments, a few each year.  I drifted toward the traditional.  Christopher Radko and anything old looking I could find.  I also drifted back toward the traditional big colored lights.  I was never consciously thinking that what I was trying to do was replicate my past.

There was the big tree in Seattle ~ followed by the tree falling on our house and knocking out our power for six days the day after we decorated it  ~ in 2006.    Christmas.jpg

tree falls on house.jpg

It gave new meaning to the phrase “decking the halls.”

There was the tree when we returned to Tarzana only to find my favorite “Christmas Store” was no more ~ a casualty of the recession.

Christmas in Tarzana

When we moved to San Diego two years ago there really was no place for a big tree so we downsized.  As I carefully unpacked the ornaments last year, I realized this little tree would be  laden with my very most special ornaments ~ my memories.

I didn’t plan to buy an ornament this year, but found myself in a store I don’t frequent walking down the aisle filled with them.  One caught my eye.  Big time!  A red fox with a fake fur tail.  You may know of my special relationship with the fox thanks to my Mom.  It has been her way of letting me know she’s still around.  So, let’s just say this ornament caught me by surprise….big time.  Of course it was the only one of its’ kind.  It was there waiting for me.  Of course.

Christmas Fox

I bought it for the bargain price of $3.88 and sat in the car laughing and crying at the same time.

I realized something I’d known all along.

It’s not about the tree or the ornaments.

It’s about the memories.
Happy Birthday Mom ~ 12/14/1920

And Merry Christmas one and all.  May your days be merry and bright!

1st Christmas


The World We Live In ~ then and now

Saying this has been a difficult week is an understatement.   The world we live in today is not the world in which I have lived the majority of my life.   I really did grow up in a town with a little white church. Dutch Reformed Church  I also grew up during a time when “duck and cover” and the fear of mass nuclear destruction were very real.  Yet we always felt safe enough to play kickball in the circle on our street.  We always felt safe enough to get excited when we heard the bells on the Good Humor truck and search for lightening bugs when it became dark during the summer.   We lived through the Cuban Missile crisis and the assassination of  JFK but felt safe enough to go to The Valley Tea Shoppe after school, hang out at the library with the cannon out front and the bowling alley in the basement.  LV Library Our mischief was benign ~ confined to sneaking cigarettes at Shu Swamp and in the cemetery before choir practice.   Nothing was perfect, there are always problems, but our environment on a daily basis was very safe and very secure.   Not so today.

I have friends who still live where I grew up.  A girl and boy I went to high school with got married and raised their family in the house I grew up in.  I went to visit them many years ago and they showed me the circuit breaker in the basement still said “Janet’s Room.”  It’s nice to know that once in a while you really can go home again and have something about it be the same.  Even if that something is only a circuit breaker.     our-house

As life went on we all went our separate ways and went through the roller coaster we call life, for the most part, independent of one another.   Yet many of us found each other again here on Facebook and became “friends.”  We weren’t all close friends in high school, but I can honestly say I feel we have become closer friends now and a lot of that is because we share the close connection of our time spent in our idyllic home town.

When the sh*t hit the fan in my life, as I think by this stage of life it has for most of us, I could lose my footing ~ sometimes literally ~ but never my faith.   I came by said faith both logically and ethereally.  Some of you who will read this knew my Mom.  Others know my Mom through Facebook because I post about her. me and Emmy Emmy died in 1977 following a short battle with breast cancer.   The summer before she passed away I was home for my brother’s graduation from college.   We had no idea she was ill but I had an ominous feeling someone close to me was going to die.  Years later an ex would call me “strega”  ~ maybe he truly thought I was a witch, but that’s a whole other story.   My Mom and I were talking about my fear of losing a loved one when she said “when we grieve it’s for us left behind because we will miss the person and not see them but we should be glad for them because they are in a much better place.”  My Mom was a truly faith-filled woman.  As she was going through her brief battle in the Catholic hospital  ~ the same hospital where I was born~ a nun/nurse told me she said “I have my family, my friends and my faith.  I will be fine.”   But I wasn’t.  As I flew home for her funeral I was mad.  This just wasn’t fair. I was in no way prepared to live my life without my emotional lynch pin.

Even though we aren’t Catholic there was a two night wake.  The first evening we returned after dinner to find the room filled with amazing floral arrangements that hadn’t been there that afternoon.  Tributes to a truly wonderful woman and at that very moment a thought entered my mind and a lightness entered my heart.  Someone that good and that full of faith couldn’t possibly get gypped by dying young and not finding the eternal pay off.  The firm foundation of my faith was formed that night and while it has shifted from time to time during the dips and down times it always returns with renewed strength and solidarity.  I am grateful for that gift.

Like most of us, I have had many blessings and adventures but there have been times of adversity.   On a scale of 1 – 10 ~ ten being best ~  I’ve had more 8 & 9’s than 1 &2’s.  For that I am grateful.  I have survived living 2.4 miles from the epicenter of the Northridge earthquake where I very clearly learned the difference between being alone and being lonely.   I have survived causing pain to myself and I hope others have survived any pain I caused them.  I am young enough to still be very mobile but old enough to be very grateful for that fact.   I am young enough to clearly remember my life but old enough to now see very clearly just how much life in general has changed.  I am fortunate to have grown up in a sweet little town with a charming railroad station and fortunate now to live in a sweet little city with a charming railroad station. Locust-Valley_Banner2  Carlsbad

Some things come full circle, or close enough, to sincerely appreciate the proximity.  I feel safe in this small city but it is less than two hours from San Bernadino and I am only two degrees of separation away from a 22 year old survivor of that horror.

I have lived long enough to watch our country go through times of turmoil and strife where we do not all agree.   I don’t know that I’ve ever lived through a time when we, as citizens, have ever been as aware of our individual disagreement as we are today.  That hurts my heart.

These are different and difficult times.  The fear of a devastating nuclear conflict coming to our country has disappeared and has been replaced by the devastation of terrorism on our soil.   Again.  What remains most important to me is the hope we each remember the importance of our freedom and that we believe in the protection of the sanctity and safety of our country.  We may disagree on how to get there but I hope we agree on the fact that we must.  There is no more time to waste.

My faith in the world we are living in right now may be shaken and it is true that much has changed during my lifetime.

It is also true that one thing remains the same.

I still have a schnauzer.

July 3

God Bless America

God Bless America~ Please