WISHING ON A STAR


When I was a little girl I wished on the evening star which sat high over my house no matter where I lived. I thought that star followed me because I was such a good little girl and it wanted me to be happy.

I wanted to be like Gail Hollandsteiner, whose family was rich had a housekeeper and she got away with not eating her breakfast before school. But then her father lost his job, and her parents got divorced, so I was happy that wasn’t me.

I took dancing lessons and in spite of getting new curly hair and cute costumes, Nancy Joy became the star of the show. I really hated her and the way her mother pushed to get her in the spotlight. But I kept dancing and when I was in my middle years my father watch a practice session. After the performance he said “Don;t call us, we’ll call you”. I’m glad he got to see I could still step-shuffle-step.

I wanted to live in one house all my life, but instead I got to move every year and live all over the country which turned out to be be a good thing because I got to see most of the 50 states by the time I was twelve.

i wanted to be the most popular girl in the class which was difficult when you are always the new girl, and not particularly good looking. I tried being the smartest, but kids don’t like being shown up; especially young boys. So I settled on being funny which you can accomplish in a short amount of time without making too many enemies.

I didn’t like my Grandma’s church, so I visited all the other churches in town and found that I’m just not religious. I really just wanted to sing in the choir. I also discovered the interesting history of the world in the time of the Bible stories, which certainly helped me win in the quiz shows we began watching on TV.

I wanted to play the piano, but we couldn’t afford one in the Depression, so I took up the guitar which turned out to be a lot better because you can take that around with you and play at parties which makes everyone happy.

I wanted to go to college when I graduated from high school but I got married instead which turned out to be the best thing I ever did. After my children came, a small voice whispered to me that it’s never too late, so I picked up where I had left off and that turned out to be a very good thing too.

During a lifetime of art, I found that teaching others was something that made me quite happy. Life gives us plenty of time to change our mind, and one path may be as good as another if we decide to take it.

I still look at my evening star every night which somehow has found me everywhere I live. Has my star helped me to be happy, or has it only shown me that happiness is up to me? My wishes now encompass so much more than a little girl’s fleeting desires that I sometimes wonder if my star is big enough to hold them all.

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PREJUDICE


It’s a big subject. Too big for a simple blog, but we encounter it in some way each day in our private and public lives, so it needs to be addressed.

Conducting an interview with myself, I wondered when I first became aware of the mean spirited effect of prejudice. The strong Yankee-bred women in my family were ardent Republicans who thought the last best hope for the country had been Herbert Hoover. They gladly overlooked the Depression which was consuming the country; possibly as a result of Mr. Hoovers’ miscalculations.

Without knowing or caring who Franklin D. Roosevelt was, it was apparent from their conversation that he was the devil incarnate, and his busy body wife was a disgrace. My father, away at sea most of the time, did not participate in the conversations, so I had no idea on which side he dwelt.

Somehow, listening at dinner tables and eavesdropping in nearby rooms, I felt uncomfortable with the negative conversations. Surely this man was not as bad as they thought. I often differed from authority, and this gave me one more reason to determine my own path. When my father returned from a voyage, I found that he had voted for this same Franklin D. Roosevelt, which made me feel validated.

Prejudice touches so many facets of our lives. Politics and religion always draw the most heat, making them the most interesting of subjects. Due to my Grandmother’s dynamic leadership, we attended the Christian Science church, at least my Grandmother and I did. My mother and aunt, though believers, were usually busy on Sunday mornings. My father, needless to say, had no interest in the study of Christian Science. Auntie and Uncle Phil, with whom I lived occasionally, followed no religion, and we usually spent Sunday at the movies.

I never determined why, but overheard conversation told me that the Catholics, and possibly a few other religions, were not appropriate friends. I knew no blacks, though there were a few Japanese living in Long Beach in those days. We were a strong Masonic family, with various relatives holding office in the organization. We were a proud flag waving, Anglo-Saxon Protestant family. Not that any of these things were talked about; they were simply there, and you knew.

I had exhibited a few minor talents from an early age. I had a pleasant voice, I could dance, and I could draw a straight line. Grandma was convinced that I was a winner, yet I knew many other girls who surpassed my efforts, so it seemed uncomfortable to take any credit for anything I produced.

My feelings of being at odds with the accepted beliefs sent me on solo trips around town exploring various churches and the lone synagogue in Torrance where we were currently living. It was a marvelous education in the various views people held in the acceptance or non-acceptance of Jesus as the Savior. I realized that I had no opinion either way, which was no surprise. In fact, I took offense to the words of the entrance hymn which entreated the Christian soldiers to keep marching on to war.

On my first trip to the Southwest with my Indian friend Georgia Oliver, I immediately tried to fit in with the locals by identifying which village someone came from by the way they wore their hair. I whipped off a small sculpture of a woman’s head with something which looked like a Dutch cut, Georgia just smiled and said that I missed the back style. I smugly identified a man riding by on his horse as a Navajo. With a curled lip and a sharp retort, Georgia shot back “He’s a Mexican.” Clearly here lived prejudice, even in a country comprised of people who lived rather low on the totem pole.

Yes, there is prejudice wherever we look. It lives in small children and in the very old who should know better. Give it a chance, recognize it when you see it, and speak up to make a change.

ROOM TO LET Kate’s Journal


When I was a child living at Grandma’s house, the largest bedroom in the house was often the first to be rented, because it brought in the most money. In Long Beach this room was in the rear, and was off limits to me. Grandma slept in the small room off the living room at the front of the house, where she somehow managed to surround herself with all the belongings of a lifetime.

At one point between renters, my mother and I shared the big bedroom. I must have been quite small, because I remember the furniture as being very large. I was so pleased with the transition that I stood on a chair before the mirror and cut my first bangs. It gives a child a great sense of accomplishment to have control over such an important part of their anatomy.

The change in my appearance, though pleasing to me, distressed the women in my immediate family. Auntie however, common sense Yankee that she was, took the newly shorn culprit to the local barber and ordered a “Dutch cut”, which went well with my ugly Buster Brown high top shoes. Grandma’s image of me with patent leather Mary Jane’s went counter to her sister, Aunt Georgia, who saw me as an ordinary rough and tumble kid. My own self-image landed somewhere in the middle.

I was born with both feet turned the wrong way, and while years of “step-shuffle-step” lessons did not make me a prima ballerina, they did make me a noisy tap dancer practicing on the linoleum kitchen floor.

One thing you learn early on when living in a house with paying guests, is how to be quiet, so for one reason or another, I was often sent to stay at Auntie’s house in the hills near Los Angeles.

In the early spring, those hills were covered with tall grass, which was the perfect conduit for cardboard box sleds. There were few neighbors around the hill, perhaps eight or nine at the most, and fewer children, but those who came to check me out taught me skills I could never have learned while living in the city.

Country kids know what’s going on in the outdoors. They know what bugs to pick up and which to leave alone, as well as which of the snake family is friendly and which should be avoided. We built large cages for the friendly snakes and fed them the bugs we didn’t like.

Days at Auntie’s were kept to a pattern: early to bed, early to rise. Puffed wheat or rice for breakfast, often accompanied by a slice of cake. Since cleanliness is next to Godliness, we cleaned house each morning. I still remember the smell of Old English furniture polish on the dust cloth hung in the cleaning closet.

Auntie had few clothes in her small bedroom closet; a couple of house-dresses and a dress-up one, and maybe two pair of shoes. We cleaned up early and went visiting perhaps once a week, and one or two people occasionally came for lunch. Her food and cooking were as simple as her clothing. Though she and Grandma grew up in the same well-to-do family in New Hampshire, they were quite different in their life approaches.

Each of my long visits with Auntie had to end, and I was returned to Grandmas’s house. I don’t remember that the big bedroom was ever empty again while she lived there, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to sleep there once.

STILL CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS


S & K

It was the brilliance of momentary decision when he said “I do” and she said “I do too, and that began the journey of seventy years of light- hearted experience and on the job training.

The boy with the little blue car came home from the War in the Pacific and sat on her front porch for two weeks until she agreed to marry him.

Alameda Ave. 1613

Older and wiser heads said it would never last. They were too young, they had no money and no jobs.

Seventy years later they are still going strong, which goes to show you can’t believe all the older and wiser heads.

PAY ATTENTION TO THE SILENCE Kate’s Journal


Tucked away on a back street in the town of Dublin, California an old cemetery lies under the sheltering arms of ancient trees.

A cemetery holds the history of a time, a place, and a people. The artifacts and the stone architecture remain as a reminder–a record of their existence.

The valley was settled by Danish and Irish immigrants, in the middle of the 19th century, and along with the mercantile establishments which made a village, the cemetery came into being, roughly divided into Catholic and Protestant gravesites.

St Raymond's St. Raymond’s Catholic Church, Dublin, CA

I was once saddened to see that a young Irishman had fallen to his death while roofing the church, and later found that he had been an ancestor of a friend, now buried in the Catholic side.

Though the church was the earliest Catholic church in the area, it is no longer used for services, but is available for other uses in the community. The best funeral I ever went to was held there some years ago when a cousin of Dr. A’s said her goodbyes, ending with the marching of a New Orleans jazz band leading us to her final resting place in the Rasmussen plot. True to her individual style she opted for a large rough rock as her marker instead of the usual cold granite.

Each of the old plots holds a sign proclaiming the original settler’s history, thereby giving the cemetery a guide to each original family. The Rasmussen plot lies at the extreme rear of the place though there are family members scattered throughout the cemetery. A baby’s marble crib in the middle of the plot tells of the passing of a baby brother of Dr. A’s father, however family lore tells us “he” is not there but hurriedly buried somewhere in the unmarked ground since the family did not have their plot at the time of his demise. I had often attempted to plant flowers in the crib, including Bleeding Heart, but due to the heat and lack of water it never worked. There are many marble reminders of children taken too early, as in most old cemeteries.

The cemetery lies behind the church, and behind the old school where my father-in-law attended classes. For many years the property was managed by a “Cemetery Board” to which we all belonged with occasional meetings to decide grave cleaning, tree pruning etc. after which we all went out to dinner nearby. It was a social gathering of old family friends, who sometimes gathered for a picnic under the trees. Then as more people moved into the area, it was handed over to the City of Dublin to manage. and it lost its familial feel.

There have been many changes through the years since the City took control, but then, Life is change, forcing all of us tho choose, resist, or roll with it. The large home of a former settler has been moved into the neighboring property making the entire area a park where school children are often brought to learn about the early settlers who were primarily farmers in the fertile valley. While the valley was once carpeted with fruit trees and poppies, today it abounds with business parks and homes. The absent fruit trees and poppies are a reminder that we are all transient visitors.

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In another valley, this one in Grants Pass, Oregon, is the cemetery where generations of the Sweetland family, as well as those who married out of it, repose for eternity. As in Dr. A’s family cemetery it is divided into Catholic and Protestant Masonic.

It is situated on the top of a low rise overlooking the town and shielded by large oak trees planted in the 19th century after the movement to the West. These people were primarily ranchers and farmers. My grandfather was a rancher and the town butcher.

-It's_the_Climate-_sign_in_Grants_Pass,_Oregon

Early Hudson’s Bay Company hunters and trappers, following the Siskiyou Trail, passed through the site beginning in the 1820’s. In the 1840’s settlers following the Applegate Trail began traveling through the area on their way to the Willametter Valley. The city states that the name of General Ulysses S. Grant was selected to honor Grant’s victory at Vicksburg.

The town is situated idyllically beside the Rogue River which flows west to the sea. The river abounds with fish and entices fishermen and outdoorsmen as a vacation destination.

It has never been a hub of business or financial activity, but serves as a direct route north and south. A sugar beet factory was built in 1916, but due to labor shortage and low acreage planted the company was moved to Toppenish, Washington. There still remain acreage of hop fields, where I as a teenager during the War, picked hops because of the shortage of labor.

When my father, a son of Grants Pass, passed away in 1993, Dr. Advice dug his last resting place, as he had done for his mother in Dublin, CA. An honor guard saluted him with the playing of Taps to honor his military service, and as the final notes rang out over the town of his birth I was comforted by the thought that he had returned safely to the place he had longed for.

As the few people said their goodbyes and headed for their cars, a caretaker came through with his happy frolicking black lab. He looked at the stone and said “Oh–Walter’s gone is he?” I nodded and he apologized for the dog sniffing the grave, saying they passed by there every day and the dog was accustomed to walking through the plots. I told him my father, a great dog lover, would be happy to know that the dog would be coming to pay his respects.

SLOW AHEAD Kate’s Journal


Fly Me To the Moon

A strange title perhaps, but that describes the motion taken after a large surgery. My “short vacation” didn’t send me home tanned and energetic, still wallowing in the pleasures of days on a sunny beach somewhere, but it DID get me back home.

The 4 1/2 hour surgery installing a donor vein in my right leg has been an apparent success with the minor inconvenience of a large skin tear on the lower leg which defies efforts to heal itself. There has been a persistent swelling problem as well demanding the elevation of my foot.

There have been nurses, an occupational therapist and a physical therapist checking and giving high marks to my recovery, however, a couple of hours after the PT nurse gave her approval, I slung my leg up and onto stacked pillows and felt an ominous and extremely painful snap in right hip, hence the title of “Slow Ahead”, Very slow today.

Now, to reminisce on the past three weeks, and using them as a learning experience, my last connection to the world of the fairly healthy was in a large well-lighted operating room where a team of professionals gathered about my bed and as all airline pilots do, went over their various jobs, after which I blessedly entered dreamland.

A week in the hospital being looked after by caring nurses most of whom were from the Philippines, prepared me for a “restful” week in a Skilled Nursing Care facility or nursing home. I’m grateful to all of them.

An ambulance with two cute paramedics whisked me out of the hospital just as night was falling, and deposited me in a decidedly unfamiliar facility, with another patient sharing the room.

No one came to give me instructions as to what I should do in the darkened room with only the light from the nearby hallway. Attempting to sit on the bed, it slipped away from me as it had not been locked. Someone entered quietly and tossed a gown and a diaper onto the bed. When I said I didn’t need the diaper, she seemed to think it was necessary. I left it there and got into bed.

The other occupant seemed to be an elderly dark woman curled in a fetal position and muttering to herself in a strange language. She soon accelerated her voice crying “Hello! Hello! Hello”. I soon became aware of other voices throughout the place calling for help. Making my narrow mind up not to talk to her, I attempted to sleep.

Thoroughly disgruntled, early the next morning I called my daughter and hissed “Get me OUT of here!” She asked me if it was like “One Flew Over the Coo-coo”s Nest”, and I said “Yeah”!

I took back my earlier decision and said “Good Morning” to my room mate. When the doctor came later in the morning they conversed in an unfamiliar language which I later found to be Hindi. This was the language she was muttering in all night. (I found out she was from Fiji.)

As the nurses and others filed into the room and evaluated my condition, I began to realize something which had never occurred to me: a nursing home is not a hospital. The nurses who circulate throughout the place have very different types of conditions to deal with. There are people in pain or who think they are in pain who cry and shout all night. No nurse could keep up with the demands immediately, and yes, it could be like the movie “One Flew Over the Coo-coo’s Nest.” It is purely a matter of perception.

Both physical and occupational therapists gave me exercises each morning which greatly helped me on my way back.

The woman from Fiji left and the room was mine for a day or so, and then another patient was brought in. The nurses brought in a large crane-like machine to weigh her and she hit the scale at over 400 lbs with no mobility whatsoever. Her son came to see her and he too, weighed over 400 lbs. Dressed in shorts and a canary yellow Warriors t-shirt and a knit hat on top of his head of the same color, he made a fetching fan for the winning Oakland basketball team.

When her son departed for the game, his mother began shouting and crying for nurses to come take care of her immediately. She too was from Fiji so a great deal of her calling was in Hindi. Most of the nurses here were Indian with the same language. We have indeed a large ethnic population, a great many of whom are Indian and Asian.

This woman was so annoying that the nurses simply ignored a lot of her demands which made her yell all the louder. One evening I quietly asked “Please don’t shout” to no avail. Later she began shouting and crying and my usual patient demeanor left me. I got up in the middle of the night and went over to her bed. “Listen,” I said. “I am a very old lady, and I have had a lot of pain my my life; and one thing I have learned is that crying will NOT help, so SHUT the H— UP!!” I will hasten to add that it did no good.

On my final night a middle-aged woman spent the night flying up and down the halls in a wheel chair screaming “Help Me! Help Me!” She was completely out of her head and had no idea what she was doing.

I have since talked to friends from the medical community who tell me that most all these places are the same. The nursing is very good as well as the attention given to food and medicines and the care given to the physical therapy. I was left with good and in some cases fond feelings towards some of the nurses, but I don’t want to go back.

EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN Kate’s Journal


Episode 35 Fremont, CA 1974

entrance Welcome to our house!

We had no great welcoming home party when we returned, and probably some people were unaware we had ever left. In the five years we lived in the Northwest, we forged a well worn path to family and friends between Kirkland and Fremont, so that technically we almost lived in both places.

What we needed to find first was someplace to put our stuff, which having lost Mrs. Peel, Tuffy and Rudy,now included Liza, a large German Shepherd Dog. I had thought perhaps to buy someplace where we could live and have a shop. I could work while customers dropped in and shopped. We would also have homemade soup and breads and maybe a cricket or two!

This did not work out so we bought with the idea of staying a couple of years while we looked for the ideal spot. Those couple of years have now stretched to forty-two!

Family Room Family Room

The DIY strain was strong in us after our building projects in Kirkland, so we built this very large room in which the grandchildren and I roller skated until we laid the tile.

Teaching at the City and shortly thereafter at the new College which had been built while we were gone, plus watching grandchildren were pleasant occupations while exposing two active boys to camping and fishing.

I began feeling tired. It was a tiredness which seeped into my bones, and which no amount of sleeping could alleviate. Finally seeing the doctor I learned that I had lupus and Sjogrens’s. Going to the library on the way home from the doctor and reading up on both diseases was not encouraging. There was no cure and I began feeling sorry for myself. I told my sister-in-law my tale of woe, and her suggestion was perhaps we ought to hold Christmas early. That snapped me out of it and I settled into a more pragmatic attitude. This was 40 years ago and against all odds I’m still here.

The only reason I am sharing this with you is to show you that you gain another perspective. As Gilda Radner of NSL famously said, “There’s always something.” As things turned out, this diagnosis was the first of many, and you begin to realize that everyone has something. You just keep going forward and hope you don’t trip.

Luckily, while teaching students marketing techniques, I formed relationships with several galleries to handle my artwork. We had always loved Carmel, and I found a delightful gallery which handled my work for years. It gave us a purpose to visit this lovely town often. The small folly in our garden, with its whimsical paintings and built by our late brother-in-law, is my small Carmel.

MouseMaus Haus

The City owned Olive Hyde building where I taught for so many years had become a fine small art gallery, and it was thrilling to bring in so many talented artists from all over California.

You never know what the world has in store for you.

living roomLiving Room