Monday, December 13, 2010

Cursive handwriting - how, when, why?

I haven't spoken with elementary school teachers about their method/s of teaching handwriting,
although I think they start with printing, and at some point transition students into cursive, or longhand.  I recently met a fourth-grader who could not read handwriting - saying "we haven't had that yet."

I  would like to know how and when handwriting becomes so individual.  If everyone initially learns alphabet printing, and later cursive lettering, when does their individual handwriting become distinct enough that experts can identify forgery?  When you receive a handwritten letter or postcard, how do you so easily identify the sender without looking for an address or a name?

Why do some people use little hearts or circles to dot their 'i's'?  Why is some handwriting extremely illegible, and sloppy?  Why do some writers scrawl boldly, and others crowd their miniature writing into minuscule spaces?  Why slant one way, or the other - prompting experts to decide they are pessimists, or optimists?

I have seen writing by educated adults which looks remarkably like hen scratches - while others have apparently been schooled in calligraphy.

As for the content of what is handwritten - that will take another diatribe - later.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mail pondering - snail and otherwise

Why did someone invent envelopes with windows?  What happens to all the paper cut out from the envelope? Have you ever inserted something into one of these open-faced windows upside down, sideways, backwards?  And, if you did, was it accidentally mailed?  Why does one open-faced envelope not fit another's contents?  Is it a conspiracy to keep the envelope from falling into the wrong hands?

What about Dead Letters? Years ago while I was living in North Carolina I put an unstamped envelope into a mailbox. The minute it dropped in I realized my mistake.  Luckily, the mail carrier who came to empty the box possessed genuine Southern-gentleman-manners, and let me rummage through the stack and stamp the envelope, avoiding a long wait for its return from the Dead Letter Office.  Do they still call it that?

Are lost letters or strayed packages "returned to sender"  nowadays? Or do they pile up somewhere in a musty warehouse? Occasionally I have been contacted about the non-receipt of something which I am certain I mailed.  Validates "the check is in the mail" belief, but causes frustration for me, and the non-recipient.

Mis-addressed emails are no longer returned "unable to deliver."
Either there were too many for our ISP's to handle, or someone lost his/her job programming the software to return them.

This time of year my mail box overflows with catalogues -  obviously many companies have yet to stop printing - even though they all have comprehensive websites - and often suggest that there are more
items to view on the internet than in the catalogue.  Covering their bases no doubt.

Film critique - Girl with Dragon Tattoo

Catching up with friends who read them years ago, I recently finished the spell-binding Swedish trilogy -
starring Lisbeth Salander - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.  Regretfully, the author, Steig Larsson, died soon after completing the third. (Some speculate that he planned a series of ten volumes.)

I have just watched the Swedish film version of the first, and am baffled by it.  I would love to talk to others who have read the books, and then viewed the film/s.  Throughout,  all I could wonder was: how in the world could anyone get caught up in this story? The film is quite episodic and fails to covey the suspense, the characterizations, the nuances which as a reader I found compelling - and haunting. I am also disappointed with the actor cast as Lisbeth - she is too pretty, not as edgy as I expected, nor as diminutive. Larsson makes a point of her size frequently  - with comments on the strength such a tiny person exhibits.

I expect to view the other two films - just wondering how I will react.  It has been ages since I have seen a film 'based on a book' which I had read, consumed, and enjoyed.  Recollection informs that this was among the most disappointing.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Urban drama on a drizzly day - it takes a force

I telephoned our local police department today to report a late model 4-door BMW which had been parked in front of my home for several days - with four pavement-touching flat tires.  I was told that the police were busy on calls, but would attend to it as soon as possible.  In less than half an hour, a police car, a fire department tow truck, a police tow truck, a fire engine, a van with a flashing red light over the dash, and a pickup truck  arrived. At least fifteen minutes of manly discussion resulted ultimately in the beginnings of an Official Police Tow,  stopped when the truck driver got on his cell phone, apparently trying to figure out how to drag a car on its rims - carefully.

A young man in a white hoodie seems to be involved.  He may be the car's owner because after all the excitement, with official document in hand, he trudged into the apartment building across the street.

Another police car has arrived -apparently the police department photographer. The tow truck driver continues to struggle with the proper placement of the tires - using miniature tires on an axle.

A lot of manpower to remove one car .

Darby finds it barkingly entertaining.

The apparent owner has come back out - he looks a little mournful.

The car may have been leaking - the tow driver has sprinkled a bucket of sand where it had been parked which he is spreading with a broom.

Urban drama on a drizzly day - it takes a force.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Water aerobics at the Rose Bowl

The Rose Bowl Aquatic Center, Pasadena, Ca, offers water aerobic workouts - early mornings for seniors, evenings for anyone, including seniors. The evening group (almost entirely female) is more I-fit-in than I expected - age range mostly middle and up, sizes from very 'fluffy' to solid and toned (more of the former than the latter) - many proclaim their long-time attendance, year round, even on the coldest days.  Yes, the pool is outdoors and temperatures drop, even in sunny southern California.

The two regular instructors, Alanna and Tracy provide a full hour's workout.
Alanna, Mondays and Wednesdays, a chunky ball of fire and sass - a grandmother, Harley cycle spokesperson, owner of various exotic vehicles including a Corvette, and a luxe camper.
Rock music, lots of fast movement.

Tracy, a retro-look, curly hair in ultra-long pony tail, so thin her shorts threaten to slide down her hips,
entire session from the pool's edge - using  pantomime ala Marcel Marceau to indicate tummy in, head up, back straight, legs straight, toe pointed - a spellbinding routine.  I hear that she is a physical therapist and a dancer.

I have been introduced to websites featuring water wear for cold climes - not quite wetsuits, but designed for year-round outdoor swimmers, and websites featuring every possible shape, color, size and type of swim suit, coverup, sandal, and beach towel.  All sorts of new fibers - micro, poly, bamboo, hemp -

I am determined to continue, on into the cold - providing I can find a suitable,  affordable garment to ease me into goose-bumpy water.

Family swimming begins the minute our group of fifty to sixty aerobicists climb out.  The families often consist of a father who sits and watches, a mother who plunges in with a reluctant infant, siblings shoving and splashing - so many that there is only space to jump up and down - not stretch out and paddle.

A new sign appeared this week  - "Absolutely no boy over age three allowed in Women's Locker Room."  Wish I had seen what prompted this.

After the first day or two of damp floor, damp air, damp hair, damp infants, damp bodies, wet benches,
wet towels, wet howlers, I changed my routine.  Wear swimsuit to Center, towel off poolside, use alternate bathroom to change into dry panties, put suit into plastic bag, don coverup, drive home sitting on additional towel if necessary.  I notice a number of aerobicists with the same plan.

Darby tries to trick me

Wednesday is Farmer's Market day in Sierra Madre.
Although we have only a few faithful vendors, I am addicted.

This afternoon I brought home a crisp round loaf of bread wrapped in cellophane. I also brought a delicious crepe -filled with fresh herbs, tomatoes, ham, chicken, cheese, spices, on  spinach-dough - the aroma heaven-scent (sic).

First, Darby eyed the crepe, under my nose, and his.

Next, he dashed by heading for the stairs -with the loaf of bread in his mouth, snitched from the counter. I no sooner grabbed it than he dashed for the table, and began to gorge on the crepe.  Made a great dinner for both of us - I won.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Television cartoon featuring onset of labor pains - a new trend?

Martha Speaks is a book about a talking dog.  I discovered it at a local library during one of the Barks and Books sessions my labradoodle MaeRose and I conduct on behalf of the Pasadena Humane Society's Companion Animal Program.  Because I have written a book about a cook in an alphabet factory who makes all the letters for alphabet soup, Martha Speaks spoke to me. (groan)

That is, until last week when I viewed a cartoon episode featuring a flashback to the day one of Martha's human family was born.  Martha sat in the back of the car, driven by the father.  In the car were an obviously pregnant woman who spoke with an hispanic accent, and one young child.  The weather was cold.  The mother was stuffed into a puffy down-filled jacket - with her oversized tummy showing.

I am a little fuzzy about all the details of this episode, but the scenes which I found remarkable showed the pregnant woman announcing the onset of labor pains, and the subsequent race to the hospital, with several mishaps, changes of types of transportation, and an arrival at the hospital just in time for the birth.  Martha was responsible for finding each new mode of transport, while the anxious father- and mother-to-be discussed the ensuing labor pains, their frequency, and their urgency.

I am curious about how often this event is portrayed in cartoons for the young.  I don't think I am uptight, just wondering.

In fact, it is not the pregnancy so much as the birthing prelude which seemed a new topic for Saturday morning cartooning.  Or am I way behind?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Give a dog a bone

Yesterday Darby and MaeRose had their annual veterinarian's visit - routine shots, and a discussion about teeth getting tartar scaled (they need attention).  The vet suggested that I purchase beef bones, boil them till they are "powdery white" and give them to the dogs as a stop-gap to expensive teeth cleaning.

I went to our local butcher - with real over-the-counter butchers, and meat which is fresh, not packaged,  and asked if they had beef bones, expecting to be told they were scarce, or not available at all.
Instead, off the butcher went to the freezer - returning with a cardboard box filled with humongous
bones - I had no idea they were going to be so big.  He asked what size I wanted.  My baffled look was enough to have him disappear to the back room where he sawed one of the two-foot long, four inch thick bones into seven or eight formidable chunks.

They never actually turned powder white after boiling for hours, but seemed properly tooth-gnawing ready.  This morning I gave each dog one of chunks. (I planned to do some sweaty gardening, and did not want to be interrupted.)  MaeRose began immediately to suck, gnaw, nibble, gnash, savor her bone. 

Darby, on the other hand, went into a frenzy of pacing back and forth, up and down the garden stairs, round and round the flower beds, right and left, over and under.  River rocks, flagstone slabs, potted plants, and bushes made excavation almost impossible.  He plowed out a pile of dirt from an empty pot, and uprooted a kefir lily. And still he kept pacing.  Once he even let me take the bone from his mouth, reluctantly, but with grace.  By this time it was covered with mud from all the aborted digging.  I scraped off as much as I could, and gave it back to him.  Finally, after at least 45 minutes he decided it was time to sample his prize.  And so he began a lengthy munching.

Meantime, MaeRose had cleaned her bone inside and out - turning it into a beautiful white napkin-ring
size trophy.

When I finished in the garden I wangled the bones from each dog, and put them in the freezer (the bones, not the dogs).

This evening Darby explored the entire garden, nose to the ground, looking for any possible remnants from his morning promenade.  No luck. Tomorrow I will let each dog have his/her leftover bone.
And, then I will boil two more.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Earthquake and Afghanistan

I went to Radio Shack in Hastings Ranch, Pasadena, today, to get batteries for one of my portable radios, and purchase another.  The gentleman who helped me is from Bulgaria.  He has a son in the midst of the action in Afghanistan, a marine in the Medical Corps.  Another son is finishing studies at West Point.
We got on the subject of Texas (headquarters of Radio Shack) - and he went on to say that
his wife had given him a copy of a book by a Navy Seal from Texas.  He said the book was terrific, included something about the Seal's hometown residents turning out in large numbers to greet him on his return. Later I tried to find it on Amazon, only to discover that there are several books by and about Seals -

Had to return to Radio Shack to get my inexpensive little radio programmed, and had another chat with the gentleman from Bulgaria.  One of my chosen stations was KUSC 91.5, causing him to comment that classical music kept him sane on a long ride to work.  A jovial encounter.

Writers chat and schmooze

Today was my last day as coordinator for the West San Gabriel Valley SCWI schmoozes, which have met six times yearly.  Purpose to network, share experiences, encourage writers of books for children. My first schmooze was at Gay Kinman's home six or more years ago. Then Peggy Spears was our master-mind at her lovely home in Altadena, until she was lured away to Claremont.
Our next locale has been the Hastings Branch of the Pasadena Library, not as comfortable as a home perhaps, but accessible (not only for us, but in the path of the occasional homeless person who wanders through on the way to his weekly/monthly? ablutions)

We have had as many as a dozen attendees, as few as two - each event a success - with a surprise speaker - Joe Cepeda (professional award-winning illustrator) - or a planned guest, Erika Oller (illustrator and creator of greeting cards and peripheral items) - Susan Lendroth and Ann Garrett, terrific tag-team about writing picture books - Gay Kinman on query letter writing - Ann Garrett on best websites - Elana Blum, Education Director of the Pasadena Humane Society along with a mini demo of Barks and Books, plus the pros and cons of what makes a good picture book.

Participants have met, spun off, returned, and always shared terrific feedback. Even tho' we are not on the heavily populated "west side" we have fun - and merit.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Losing my earthquake touch and more on Fluffy

Took a nap this afternoon with the doodles - we had a great long walk this Easter morning -
and discovered via the internet that there had been an earthquake in Baja California, felt in Los Angeles, and reportedly as far away as Phoenix, AZ.  Neither the dogs nor I felt a thing - for the second time recently -
surprising, since I used to be uber sensitive to the slightest tremor.

As for Fluffy, the poor neglected dog, I wonder if an intervention is in order.  This morning there he was again, shabbily moping around his yard - so lonesome.  I wonder if he even has a water bowl anywhere.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

More about dogs

Poor Fluffy- he spends all day every day out in the yard - often while his so-called caretakers are inside sitting in the widow ignoring his misery.  Dogs are companions for the most part.  I label his owners "so-called" because they apparently don't care, or know, that a dog wants company - and needs to be included in family life.

I wrote this days ago - and it still goes on - other passersby have noticed it, too.  I feel like we should have an intervention, before this dog gets totally depressed.  On the other hand, he was rescued - so maybe, just maybe, living in a fenced yard is better than living in a shelter day to day.

My heart still bleeds.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Children's advocacy

Robin Smith Jurado arranged for a group of Five Acres volunteers to visit Ed Edelmun's Children's Court this morning.  We got to see where all children are cared for during the day they are in court -

and to learn about CASA, the child advocacy volunteers who do so much behind the scenes.  We also got to sit in on a court hearing - the mother was picked up for being passed out drunk on a public street with her 18-month old daughter, the father was in shackles, serving 5 years for drug dealing.  The issue was over the father wanting parental rights - but it was apparent he was after the mother, one way or the other.
The judge was amazing - 

No child under four appears in court - but all children over that age must appear before a judge before they are placed - either in foster care, a foster home, with a caretaker, etc.  When the child is brought in they are given caring, loving orientation.  The spaces for them to play are amazing - big, filled with toys for the younger children, games including pool tables, ping pong tables, for the older - television sets -
every child who appears in court gets a teddy bear - The judge continues to see the child every six months till permanent residency is established, adoption arranged, etc.  Each child has his/her attorney, each parent has an attorney, social workers, court reporters, a bailiff, etc. are among those present. 
The case-load for that day was 75 hearings - in just one of the courtrooms.  

Hearings must be scheduled within 72 hours of "detention" (I learned that this word has a different definition from what at first assumed - it means that a child has been taken into protective custody from a home where abuse has been reported, a drug raid has been conducted, a crime witnessed, etc.)

We heard about major layoffs of supervisors and staff.  Robin's contact, a long-time supervisor of the CASA facilities, was spending his last day - about to transfer to Criminal Court in Compton.
Several other desks were empty - it is so sad to hear of these jobs lost from a place overseeing all the children in seven county areas in and around Los Angeles.

Truly eye-opening, amazing, and heart-touching.

peacocks on michillinda

A few weeks ago I watched a mother peacock and her brood of five or six young birds saunter across Michillinda, stopping traffic.  Years ago I had seen what looked like a huge palm frond hanging from a wall on Michillinda - only to discover it was the tail of a large peacock perched atop the wall.

Today I almost ran over a mid-size peacock, probably one of the flock from earlier.  I saw another halfway down the block - so they all must hang out nearby.  I would love to know what the residents of that area think, how they cope, and if they are tolerant (I hope so).  I know the birds are messy, steal fruit and vegetables from home gardens, and make lots of noise - but there is something joyful about seeing them wandering around in a busy city.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St Pat's day 2010

This morning a tiny little green insect with transparent green wings landed on my sliding glass door - and did not want to fly away when I first asked it to leave.  I plucked it up and released it - hoping that it survived -
what a lovely way to start a green day.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Jack in the Box unveiled - in my dreams

Last night I dreamed I was on a freighter far out in the ocean on a dreary day - there was nothing between the deck and the water's edge except two lines of heavy plastic rope-like material - then the dream divided into two parts - one was the rescue of someone who fell into the ocean - the other was a procession of passengers - among them a strange looking couple.  She had an unusually long thin head, wrapped in part by a white scarf - the man accompanying her was wearing a flowing black cloak over evening attire.
His black hair receded from his forehead, parted in two waves similar to someone from The Munsters -
there was a touch of gray above each ear.  He was carrying a large round white styrofoam head - and I knew immediately that he was the Jack in the Box "Jack" - I asked him to say something so I could hear his voice - he obliged - and then I asked him if he had done any other commercials, because I had heard a voice quite similar to his advertising food - I was thrilled that I had met him - and wanted to tell everyone.

Now, why in the world would I dream such a fantasy?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tornado in the Southland

I turned on television this afternoon to watch People's Court. (I am addicted to judge shows, but particular about which 'judges' - Marilyn and Judy my top choices.)  Instead, for me a surreal experience - across the bottom of the screen "Tornado Warning" - so surreal it didn't register at first - I don't recall ever hearing or reading onscreen "Tornado Warning" in the Los Angeles area.  The newscasters are warning everyone to stay indoors away from windows, and clearing all public areas.  They are using loudspeakers to warn people, and I know that my reaction is the result of all the years I spent in Oklahoma and Texas - where thunderstorms, tornados, winds, hail, frost and snow went with the territory - along with extreme heat, dust storms, flying insects, and slithering reptiles.

I am not as concerned as the warnings warrant. Technology with radar, doppler weather, etc. has advanced exponentially since I left Dallas in 1977 - last century!

Sunshine for a moment, then clouds again, and the telecaster continues warning 'stay indoors' -

Darby looks like he has dreadlocks.  MaeRose, clipped two weeks ago, is almost curly as a poodle -
and my thin hair thins.

A car flipped over in the wind somewhere in Seal Beach - boats tumbled in the water, the newscasters are over the top with their reportage.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sunday - parching and eventless

Here is a blog I began months ago - before the fiasco with a lost password and my confrontation with Google -
I have three double-spaced typed pages of passwords - tried to have an all-purpose one, but some require numbers, punctuation, varied lengths - and I wonder - are they really necessary -

Took the doodles for a walk - returned at 9:30, already warm and drippy. Our groomer is going to scold me when we see her Thursday. Both dogs look like wooly mammoths- and no matter how hard I comb, their fur is still matted. I have yet to confirm or negate the notion that a fur coat insulates an animal, no matter the temperature. In other words, shaving them in the summer is not advised. But, look at all the down-to-pink-skin dogs out and about.

Continuing on Tuesday, September 29 -
our critique group became a trio Sunday afternoon - Susan, Diane and I talked about how the future of our meetings should be shaped. We admired Diane's elaborate sketches of the queens, which will be part of her picture book in progress.

Last night Erika and I attended an event featuring four authors/illustrators of children's books. First, it impressed that they were all men,  My impression of the gender of writers for children has been they are mostly feminine with a sprinkling of brave men around the edges, or at the ends of the aisles, ready to flee. Those whose works I've heard/read write some of the best -
funny, strong, insightful.

The audience brimmed with early grade children - wildly enthusiastic. A gap-toothed boy in the front row leaped up signaling "touchdown" every time the author paused for the page turner.

More thoughts on library visits

Little girl readers who come to Barks and Books, ages from four up to eight or nine, vary in appearance, and I  wonder if it has to do with their cultural background.
Those who have chosen their own attire wear a delightful mismatch - clashing colors, tattered skirts, sparkling ballerina shoes, layers of tees, and often have leftover paint splotches, chocolate syrup or chewed pencil on their cheeks.
Those, whose mothers no doubt chose the attire,  are fashionable top to toe, scrubbed faces, combed hair, quiet demeanor.
Then, there are the boys - exuberant, spirited readers with over the top expression, charming and rarely messy.
And, the toddlers - whose approach to a dog could be an ear shattering screech, a tug of fur, a vigorous pat,
a launch onto the dog's rear end.  Some toddler moms or caretakers don't monitor this as well as they could. But, it is a learning process for everyone.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lots of speculation about the future of Conan O'Brien, NBC, etc. But, the earthquake in Haiti is a much much more serious news item. I was in a 5.9 earthquake (among others) in 1991 - the fright lingered for months - every time a truck drove by and shook the windows - or a floor creaked underfoot - almost as nerve wracking as the aftermath of the time I was mugged -
looking back, I count several dramatic events in my past - the death of my mother when I was 21 and just married,
my divorce, death of a partner in a drowning accident, a robbery, a mugging and robbery, moving nine times in ten years - coping with 17 regional managers during my 27 years in publishing,

Friday, January 8, 2010

I have to sound off on recent new television shows

I can't believe that I am finally seeing a news feed about the content of the Jay Leno show - as if this was not apparent from the first weeks - a bunch of boring, repetitious segments - stale -unimaginative after one or two airings. Who wants to hear stupid headlines time after time? Who needs to hear ten questions mumbled to deer-in -the-headlight on-location celebrities?
Who wrote the inept skits? I can't believe Leno isn't embarrassed by the material - where did it originate? Why?

It's no doubt hard to find another hit which appeals to the ten o'clock audience - look at the trials/failures - among the most recent (admittedly aired earlier than ten) - Kelsey Grammer's absolutely inane attempt at suburban renaissance. And, he had the gall to say he took it off because it just wasn't taking off - instead of saying the scripts were bombs, and the "cast" was equally mis-.
Another ten o'clock show which lasted barely two seasons - on cable -The Riches - it was well cast, and had an intriguing premise - "travelers" (hometown gypsies) - out of their comfort zone -
and, other cable shows - some to return, others probably gone forever - The Closer, Saving Grace, Damages, In Treatment, Deadwood, The Wire - their common denominator - good writing - skilled actors - ability to intrigue intelligent viewers.

I will continue - have more to say

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dog maintenance - parks and grooming

Today I had MaeRose professionally groomed - she looks like a black velvet plush toy - soft, clean, cuddly. I used to think that black dogs were boring (although I have had two - Trudi, a standard Schnauzer, and Tar Baby, a mini Schnauzer) - but their care is easier - they don't show dirt the way lighter colored dogs do. If Darby, cream-colored, runs across a dusty park, he smudges immediately - and a week after a bath he looks like he had been attacked by a dirty mop - for that first week he is stunningly handsome. Then reality sets in. I found out that a four-doodle owner scissors his dogs' coats himself - no electric clippers - just a day-long scissoring. I am thinking about trying. I love having my dogs look spiffy - but the cost of grooming is outrageous - and their fur just won't stop growing, tangling, and attracting dirt.

But, that is a lot better than having a dog which sheds. We don't have bits and pieces of fur all over the house.
I wanted a dog with a waggy tail, a nice disposition, and non-shedding - I got just what I wanted. Every now and then I drool over the labradoodle breeder websites - the puppies are so cute, and there are soooo many available nowadays - tho' still costly - I lucked out because my two are perfect specimens, and extraordinarily good looking. Plus, they are friendly. Especially Darby, who is a kisser who never met anyone he didn't like.

Our town has a large dog population - all sizes, some quite exotic - Portuguese Water Dogs, Great Pyrenees, and probably
every popular breed - plus many rescue combos. Sad to say our local dog park has been neglected for years - nothing but a dusty surface, shabby shrubbery, weeds. Another victim of the economy - whose neglect began long before the collapse.
Like many things, it will be a long time, and much harder to restore than the time it took for it to deteriorate.

I love walking here - we see lots of familiar faces, have hills to climb, almost enough sidewalks, trees to shade us.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Barks and Books - Arcadia - December 2009

The last Saturday before Christmas - at the Arcadia library

Heather, the children's librarian, was delightfully cordial, and explained that there would probably not be too many readers this morning because of the pending holiday. She was right. We had one toddler, who loved petting MaeRose, and two readers - an extremely shy Chinese boy who read in a whisper, and Anika, an amazing six year old girl, born in Singapore, of Indian heritage. What a brain - she announced that she is six, and had been to Barks and Books before. She confided that her sister is 11, and her mother is 34, and both of them are afraid of dogs, although she herself loves them. She knew that a "masterpiece" was something big and wonderful, and she used the word "carefully' correctly - something adults don't always do -

Her father told me that she learned all the lyrics to Miley Cyrus songs, and sang them at a So. Cal Edison party in front of several hundred people. She has already lived in New York, and Belgium.
I am certain that she is going to be a super star someday - her vocabulary and her poise far outdo her young age. And, she has the benefit of the tiniest bit of an English/Indian accent - quite polished.

The number of enthusiastic Asian adult library patrons is inspiring - and daunting in a way - where are all the Anglos who should be using the libraries?

Barks and Books - one of many posts - South Pasadena, and others

Another note to Elana about substituting at the South Pasadena Library with MaeRose, and at La Pintoresca in Pasadena

Today at the South Pasadena Library the last reader looked quite familiar. Turns out it was Nathan - a young boy I met at Dr. W's. office last week - who has been on the waiting list for Barks and Books.

His mother said they got a call from the library saying there was space, and came right over. It was such fun to have him as one of the readers after our meeting at the vet's. They have two elderly cats (17 and 14 yrs. old) and an 11 year old dog who, they say, looks like MaeRose.

There were six readers in all. One was a four-year old girl who says she is trying her best to get her father to buy a dog. Twin sisters, who seemed identical, but one was blonde, the other with light brown hair.
A six year old boy who got to read twice when there was an interlude with no one waiting. Twice, I have to admit, I have met a reader whose sex I mis-read. The first was in Sierra Madre - a plump child wearing dirty sweats and a baseball cap - with short blond hair. Thankfully, she did not find out that I thought she was a boy. She has been at each of our visits. We have also met her on our walks.

Back to my mis--reading the sex. Today the mistake was with a child wearing khaki jeans and a tee shirt. Straight black hair below shoulder length, olive skin, eyelashes to die for, beautiful smile.
I asked her/turns-out-to-be-him her name. The response was indecipherable - long, probably first and last names slung together, and maybe Tagalog for all I know. If his mother hadn't been sitting nearby and said "he has to hurry, he's meeting someone" I would never ever have know this was a boy. His mother has dark short hair, and a very pale complexion - hard to tell whether they are blood relatives.

Brian Lee appeared at the Sierra Madre library Saturday afternoon. He is a "canine counselor" who calls his method "The Way of the Dog" - an approach with stern practices, and, according to him, remarkable results. He was interrupted so many times during his talk that it wasn't as comprehensive as I would have liked. Each interruption was from a dog owner with a specific problem or question - which took him off track from presenting his dog training philosophy.

We had three girls and two boys who read. Sweet children. One, a five year old named Gracie, twinkled when she smiled. She loves Halloween, and looks forward to being a witch.

I put little ghost stickers on the Barks and Books stickers when I went to Hastings, and had some left for today. I go to Five Acres October 30 - and will take something Trick or Treaty. I like Halloween, too.

Barks and Books - one of many posts - San Marino

My regular Barks and Books visits are monthly at the Sierra Madre Library, but we love filling in for someone else on occasion. I enjoy reporting my adventures to Elana Blum, our Humane Society coordinator. Here is one from a visit to the San Marino Library on a Saturday morning in 2009 -

We arrived in the midst of their first Chinese/English story telling. Tera, the children's librarian, and a Chinese speaking woman were reading Goldilocks - taking turns in English and Chinese, using a felt board to illustrate the bears, bowls of porridge, chairs, beds, etc. The story hour ended with a craft - cutting a Chinese lantern from construction paper. The group consisted of about ten very young children with mother/father/grandmother. All were Asian, except one African American family.
Our first reader was an amazing two year old who told a story with delightful flourishes, big smiles, and the brilliance we have come to expect from Chinese toddlers. The next reader was an extremely shy fidgety blonde, whose parents remarked that she sat still with us longer than usual (all of three minutes) -I'm guessing she was two or three -

And our next, and final two, were sisters - Madison and Kaitlin - whose Golden Retriever had died recently. Their father says they are considering a Newfoundland. The girls were in their white Tai Kwan Do uniforms. Madison read, and Kaitlin told us the story of Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug. Their interpretations were, as expected, filled with smiles.

Walking my dogs

Last week on our walk we stopped to peek through a fence at a little cream colored dog (Fluffy) and his companion black cat. MaeRose is absolutely hypnotized by cats
Fluffy was busy licking the cat. Darby was indifferent, but I literally had to drag MaeRose away forcefully -scraping her toenails on the pavement -
I am not sure what she would do if we had a cat - chase it, try to kill it, or love it to death. Anyway, wishful thinking - I am limited to two animals, under 20 pounds by my condo association -
and have already exceeded that regulation twice over.

Yesterday as we reached “Fluffy’s corner” (that’s how we identify it these days) all 34 pounds of MaeRose yanked so hard on her leash she almost pulled me over. The reason – Fluffy was outside of the fence – heading for the street.

With mail in one hand, two leashes in the other, I had only one choice – drop everything and catch Fluffy. I plunked his soft little body over the fence back into his yard. At first I couldn’t figure out how he had gotten out – til I reached the unlatched gate. No telling who opened it. No one was home, and I was without paper or pencil, just scuffed envelopes filled with after-Christmas notes. Next time we walk by I hope to see the owner, who is often sitting at her computer by the window. We just hope Fluffy doesn’t try any more escapes. His home is on a street with lots of traffic.

Volunteer anecdotes - first of several

When Darby, now seven, reached his first birthday, making him eligible for Companion Animal volunteer work, we began participating in the program sponsored by the Pasadena Humane Society and SPCA. Every month for four years we visited convalsecent homes, retirement communities, and the playgrounds of residential foster homes for children. Nowadays Darby, MaeRose and I visit the children’s foster homes, and MaeRose and I participate in two or three Barks and Books events every month. We spend an hour in the children’s section of Pasadena area libraries. Young children take turns reading to her, patting her, asking dog questions (will she have babies? do you put her in a car seat? does she bite? does she lick faces? will she jump on me?)
The reward is a sticker “I Read to a Dog Today,” along with lots of pats and pokes on a furry black dog with pearly white teeth, a pink tongue, and a totally lovable personality.

The longest day of the year

I love the summer solstice - twice I have been in Europe shortly after the longest day -(how can a day be short or long when it is always 24 hours?) - anyway, Munich at 11:00pm, Stockholm at 4:00am - Helsinki all night long - the locals never slow down - and they don't believe in blackout curtains in their homes, or in hotels - the only place I found with a thought for those who might want to sleep in "the dark" in the summertime was a luxury hotel in Helsinki - courtesy of Finnair - the last night of my stay. But, as I said, I love the summers in Europe -
One memorable holiday was a ten day walking trip in Italy around Lake Como - amazing food courtesy of young guides with big appetites, group of 20 with only two smokers (mother and daughter) including a judge from Canada, a retired couple from St. Louis, the mother of a famous movie director before his rise to famedom (Michael Bay) and her friend an artist from Malibu, a couple whose behavior intrigued - loving during the day, separate rooms at night- did one of them snore? was this an affair? or an experiment?