Tasha at 12

Yesterday, 1 May, was Tasha’s birthday. Tasha, you likely know, is our beagle-border terrier mix and our only child. We don’t know that it is actually her birthday, but we have designated it as her birthday.

Tasha2016Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know that calculation. For those of you who don’t, it works like this. We brought Tasha home from the shelter on 1 November, All Saints’ Day. We took her to our vet, and she said that Tasha looked like she was about a year-and-a-half. As it happened 1 May, exactly six months later,  was the birthday of my late, beloved Grandma Monaghan. So in honor of Grandma and to have an easy way to calculate full years for Tasha, we designated that day as her birthday. It was 1 November 2005 that we brought Tasha home, so yesterday she was 12.

You wouldn’t know it. She is as busy and active as ever. She insists on her walks and on her daily routine. She is, probably, more vocal and more demanding than when she was younger. But she is well, healthy, and active. She takes a thyroid medication, but that’s it.

She is an integral part of both of our lives.


remembering Michael Barlow

The world lost one of its lights on Saturday with the passing of a man named Michael Barlow.

Mike was married to Anita, who was my first wife Ruth’s cousin. He gained a certain amount of notoriety in the 1980’s when, as the chief negotiator for the teacher’s union in the Oklahoma City school district, he took the teachers out on strike. He later left the union and went to work for the school district as their lead negotiator.

But I knew him on a personal level. Ruth, who, you will recall, was Jewish, and Anita were very close, and we visited their house a number of times. The fact that I was not Jewish did not matter to them, and they were very gracious and welcoming. When Ruth and I got married, her mother, Leah, not only refused to come to the wedding but disowned her. Leah and Ruth’s Aunt Dorothy were very close, so Dorothy did not feel that she could come to the wedding. But she did bake a challah loaf and sent it with Mike and Anita who were enthusiastically present.

I always enjoyed the time we spent with Mike and Anita. We did a Passover Seder with them and their two sons one year.

When Ruth was in the hospital and we knew what the likely outcome of her ruptured brain aneurysm was going to be, I asked Anita to come out to help me deal with Leah, with whom I had reconciled, but who was still a basket case (understandably). Anita graciously flew out from Oklahoma City to San Jose and made things a whole lot easier for me. I stayed at Mike and Anita’s house when I flew back to Oklahoma City for Ruth’s funeral.

I knew Mike as a large, robust persona. I knew he had had some health issues, though I don’t know the details. In August Terry and I attended the wedding of Ruth’s daughter Debbie in San Diego. Mike and Anita were there, and Debbie thoughtfully seated us together. Mike was by then a small, gentle, quiet person with a gray beard, but was as kind and gracious and ever.

I was privileged to have known him, and I will miss him.

Michael Barlow, Alav Ha-shalom.


I don’t remember growing older

…when did they?

Terry and I became a great uncle and aunt earlier this month. We were already, actually, because my nephew Eric’s daughter Teaghan was born in 2001. But on 9 November Race, son of Terry’s sister Julie, and his wife Brigida became the parents of Race II.

This is particularly significant to me because when Terry and I got (back) together in 1991, Race was an infant. I remember him being a baby in Julie’s arms as he ran his finger along my forearm. We watched Race grow up, even if we were a few hundred miles away and only saw him a few times a year.

I remember Race, when he was three or four, repeating what his mother had taught him in case he ever get lost. Stating loudly and carefully, one word at a time: first name – middle name – last name – address – city – state – zip code – phone number. We attended his high school graduation before he left for the Naval preparatory academy. And Terry attended his wedding while I stayed home in Gilroy to conserve funds due to my state of career transition.

And now they are two adults living their own lives and making their own decisions.

As is Eric. He was ten years old and had a terribly hard time seeing his mother take off on her honeymoon when she married my brother Brain. But here he is today, divorced, perhaps a bit cynical, but doing a marvelous job of raising Teaghan. If you can say that he is still raising her, as mature as she is.

Sunrise, Sunset.


a marvelous Thanksgiving

Many years ago my first wife Ruth and I hosted a small Thanksgiving dinner for friends without family in the area. Terry and I, however, have never hosted a Thanksgiving in our home. (We did cook Thanksgiving dinner at Terry’s mom’s house one year, but that is a different story.)

This year, as I wrote earlier, we volunteered to host Thanksgiving. My sister-in-law Bobbie’s sister and her husband were not coming down from Reno. Terry’s sister Julie’s son Race is overseas in the Navy, and Race’s new wife has her own family. So it only made sense.

We had some trepidation, but it worked out marvelously.

We told everyone that we would sit down eat at 2:00 p.m. and I called everyone together for grace at, if I recall correctly, 2:23. Not bad.

We had lots of help from my brother Brian and Bobbie, who brought dressing and chafing dishes. We were joined by my dad, Julie, Julie’s long-time friend John, and Julie’s almost mother-in-law Laura. Also present was Bobbie’s mother Phyllis. Sadly missing was our nephew Eric, who was home with a cold.

There was a lot of history at our Thanksgiving table. We had Terry’s Granny’s china, the expandable table that was so much a part of events at my Grandma and Grandpa Monaghan’s house over the years, and the silverware that Grandma and Grandpa Monaghan and Aunt Miriam and Uncle Johnny gave to my great Grandpa and Grandma Osgood.

The turkey turned out well. I also did mashed potatoes and green beans with Kalamata olives and slivered almonds. Terry did salad, Julie baked a pie, and Dad bought two more pies.

And you know what else? I made guacamole from scratch. The non-onion version of which, at least, was a big success.

And Tasha? Tasha was, for the most part, and I emphasize for the most part, well-behaved.

It was a marvelous day.


ten years with Tasha

Yesterday was All Saints’ Day, and this year is one of those rare years when All Saints’ Day falls on a Sunday. November 1st is also the day we brought Tasha home from the shelter. It’s hard to believe that was ten years ago. Really. It was 1 November 2005 that Tasha officially became part of our family. The vet said at the time that she was about a year and a half old, so, as I have reported to you here before, we designated May 1st as her birthday, since that was my late, beloved Grandma Monaghan’s birthday.

TashaOct2015That means Tasha is now 11 ½ years old. Terry and I are so delighted that she is well, healthy, and happy. She has a lot of energy, and has not slowed down a bit since we brought her home. As you’re aware, we have moved from a two-story house to a one-story and she takes advantage of that by galloping at full speed through the great room. The only medical issue she has is an underactive thyroid which is controlled by medication.TashaOct2015_2

The one thing that perhaps has changed is that she has less patience than she once did. If it is time for her walk or her food she is more vocal in letting us know about it. She’s still very committed to her routine. And I am still responsible for dinner whether I am cooking or not. She shadows me when she thinks I should be starting dinner, and if Terry is cooking she’s right there with me when she thinks it’s getting close to time for eat.

We’re so delighted that she is doing so well after all these years.


a Thanksgiving decision

Terry and I thought it would be a good idea to offer to host Thanksgiving this year.

Terry’s sister Julie would have a very small contingent for Thanksgiving this year, as her son race will be at sea in the Navy and her daughter-in-law will presumably have Thanksgiving with her parents. That would mean Julie would have only her friend Laura (who almost became Julie’s mother-in-law before her son’s untimely death), and her long-time buddy John, for Thanksgiving. We got the sense that she really didn’t want to do that.

Meanwhile, we knew that my sister-in-law Bobbie’s sister and her husband weren’t planning on coming down from Reno as they normally do at Thanksgiving. After breakfast on a recent Saturday I mentioned to Bobbie that we could possibly do Thanksgiving if they were interested. My brother Brian was involved in a conversation with our dad, so she turned to Brian and said, “Mike and Terry are doing Thanksgiving!” I said, “It was just a suggestion.” And Bobbie said, “Mike and Terry are doing Thanksgiving!” So I guess we’re committed.

It will be fun. It’s been a long time since we’ve done anything like that, but it’s an opportunity to share our new house which we enjoy so much.


a new Saturday routine

When Terry and I were in Gilroy we had our Saturday morning routine. We fixed a home-cooked breakfast, squeezed fresh orange juice, and listened to West Coast Live. But we are now here in Hemet. And West Coast Live is sporadic in producing new shows.

My family has long had a their own Saturday routine here. Everyone gets together for breakfast/brunch/lunch at one of several locally owned restaurants. Terry and I participate. It’s good to spend time with family and engage in conversation.

The new Saturday routine works.


garden party (or the wedding garment parable)

I have been privileged to stay in touch with Terry and Debbie, the children of my first wife Ruth, after her death in 1989. As it turns out, both are here in Southern California these days. Terry is in Los Angeles with his wife and children. Debbie is in San Diego and just got married. We were honored to be invited to the wedding.

Yes, yes, I know. I never seem to be able to smile for the camera. If you can tell me how to fix that I'll buy you dinner. Even if it means sending you a gift card for your favorite restaurant in your city.

Yes, yes, I know. I never seem to be able to smile for the camera. If you can tell me how to fix that I’ll buy you dinner. Even if it means sending you a gift card for your favorite restaurant in your city.

The invitation said the dress was “garden party formal.” I wasn’t sure exactly that was. And that was one of those times when the gears in my mind did not mesh. Rather than googling it, I guessed. I thought that a guayabera, a formal business shirt used throughout South America, Cuba, and the Caribbean would be suitable. After all, I read, it was also known as a Cuban wedding shirt. So I ordered one from Amazon.

When we got there I saw that almost all of all the men were wearing ties and jackets. Had I simply done a search on “garden party formal,” as I did after the fact, I would have found what I should have worn, and discovered that I had everything I needed and that there was no reason to buy a new shirt.

All I could think about was the passage about the wedding garment in the parable of the wedding banquet, a passage found only in Matthew.

quoteBut when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Fortunately, this was a Jewish wedding, so I suppose the tenets of New Testament parables didn’t apply. Lucky for me.

It was a marvelous wedding. The ceremony was heartfelt. Debbie was beautiful and very, very happy. Clearly she has found the right person.

Terry (my wife Terry) and I are delighted to have been there.


relics from the past

I  had a bunch of stuff from my previous lifetime stored in the garage in Gilroy. All of it made it down here to Hemet.

I had pictures of Terry and Debbie, who are the children of my first wife, Ruth, when they were young. I had Ruth’s certificates and diplomas. I had programs and yarmulkes from Terry’s bar mitzvah and a program from Debbie’s bat mitzvah. There was a challah loaf cover for Shabbat, Shabbat candle holders, and a Shabbat veil.  There was a Chanukah menorah and souvenirs from Israel.

As it happens both Terry and Debbie are here in Southern California. Debbie is in San Diego and Terry is in Los Angeles. We all met in a Google Hangout video conference and I showed them what I had. While Debbie was interested in what I had, she really had no attachment to it. Terry, on the other hand, was interested in acquiring all those relics from the past. I was happy to pack everything up and ship it all to him.

I hope he is finding those things useful in sharing with his family where he came from.


a different Saturday routine

Terry and I long had a standard Saturday morning routine. We slept late and fixed a big breakfast. It normally included scrambled eggs and sausage. Sometimes we would have waffles instead. For the past couple of years we got our sausage from Rocca’s Market and I squeezed fresh orange juice (thank you Tahoe Mom!). We listened to West Coast Live via the live KALW stream.

But we’ve moved, and new shows on WCL have become so sporadic it’s hard for me to give the show much respect any longer. And in any case, things are done differently down here.

My brother Brian and sister-in-law Bobbie, my dad, our nephew Eric and his daughter Teaghan have long gotten together for a late breakfast, brunch really, on Saturdays. We are now part of that routine.

It works like this: once Brian and Bobbie are up and moving about they make a decision as to where we’re going to meet for breakfast. They then let everyone know. They have a rotation of locally owned restaurants, at which they are well-known and valued customers, from which they select. The decision is always last-minute and we never know which place they will choose. We generally meet some time between 10:00 and 11:00.

It is a very different routine for us, but it is a lot of fun sharing a meal and conversation with family.