Category Archives: Rabbit Remembers

Heroes Come in All Sizes



Who remembers the ones who stay behind?

My brother called today to remind me of our terrible beautiful mother’s death exactly one year ago today. Fitting it should be on Veteran’s Day actually, given how much of our lives was devoted to waiting for my father. He was an Air Force career man and he was always going away on TDY or coming home soon from some other country or the DEW Line.  He got sent into the cold for six week week stints constantly when I was a kid.

Jean Groves,  hamming it up about 1950

Jean Groves, hamming it up about 1950

During the Cold War, the DEW Line, Distant Early Warning System, was a line of sites that were monitored for enemy activity. Dad was a cryptographer and into computers very early on so he was always getting sent to some ice bound hell hole or other for temporary duty. We talked to him weekly on the MARS radio, the kind where you say something and then you say, “over”, because its not true two way communication, but kids love it because its so spacey.

My father was not a big presence in our growing up years, my mother shouldered the yoke and dragged us along the path in my father’s wake. Wait until your father gets home didn’t work with us, everyone would have forgotten the issue by the time he showed up.

Here’s the thing, no one ever talks about the families of military men, the career men whose wives and kids give up what we would call a normal life. Those wives are heroes too. The military is notoriously underpaid when it comes to families. The saying,”If they wanted you to have a family they would have issued you one”, still rings true. It was then and is now a struggle to make ends meet for families of career enlisted especially.

It goes a ways towards explaining my mother’s constant fury and  my father’s passivity. He had someone telling him exactly what to do and she was forced to comply with the stupidest regulations ever written on a daily basis. Things like a white glove inspection before we could clear quarters when we lived on a military base, never mind that the first time she flipped the lights on in the place 10 million roaches ran for the hills. Things like getting decent dental care for her kids on a military base which didn’t ever happen. I broke my front teeth when I was 8, they got fixed when I was 21 and could pay for them on my own. Things like just getting a doctor’s appointment for a kid sick with a high fever were an exercise in the power of anger.  I salute my mom for never giving up and never giving in. My ability to fight like a tiger for what is right and mine came directly from her example during those years.

My brother had Teddy and I had Rabbit, gifts our father brought to us. We had so few gifts from him, we still have them.

My brother had Teddy and I had Rabbit, gifts our father brought to us. We had so few gifts from him, we still have them.

Military kids are overlooked unsung heroes that no one ever thinks about thanking for their sacrifice, but they give up so very much. The average military brat changes schools 6 times in 12 years. They never have time to make lasting friendships or build relationships or put down roots. When they get to new schools they are treated like they are stupid and automatically put in the slow classes. They are never in sync with learning. I still don’t know my times tables because one school hadn’t started and the next one was finished with them.


We bloom where ever we get transplanted.

They are packed up and taken without being consulted to all corners of the world and they make it work. My husband is the kid of a career Army man and I grew up in the Air Force. To thrive,  I developed a Pollyanna outlook early and I still have it, It was an adventure and I was having it. I learned to pass in any society I was pitched in and I’m a lucky one. My husband grew up terribly shy and without close friends because he never had any opportunity to make or keep those friends. He had a successful career in the fire service but he still struggles with social situations and innate shyness because he never had the opportunity to be ‘normal’.

So, here’s to those other heroes the wives, and now husbands,  who do the parenting work of both mother and father for as long as they need to fill that role, when their partner is serving their country somewhere else. Here’s to the smallest heroes, the kids who didn’t ask for this,but cope and survive and live their own kind of normal. Don’t just thank the vet, thank the family who stands with him everyday.

Backwards at a High Rate of Speed


Number 3, Prieger Promenade, Ooshie and our dog in the window

When I was a kid, aged eight actually, my family moved to Bad Kreuznach, Germany in 1956. This was during the height of the Cold War and McCarthyism. Nuclear war wasn’t on the threat horizon yet but the phrase “Ugly American” was in play. After  World War II, Americans had a sense of belligerent entitlement– because America had saved the world all by itself.


Mother and Ooshie going out in our 1957 yellow Dodge station wagon. Mom is mugging for the camera and it’s obviously before my mother ripped the door handle off the car on a narrow German street.

My mother was a terrible mother in many ways with a violent temper and unpredictable mood swings. She was a narcissist, a word I didn’t know then, but I lived in constant fear of her anger and her ability to manipulate us all. One thing she did and did well, was to understand that America was filled with racist, misogynistic bullies, and a lot of them were in the armed services with us. My father was a cryptographer with the Air Force and we were ostensibly attached to an army post, not part of it but for the convenience of the base.

Mother refused to live on post. She wanted as little as possible to do with the Americans represented by the army in 1956. Most of them hated being in Germany and hated the Germans, calling them names like ‘dirty kraut’ and exploiting them at every turn because “they lost the war and they deserved it”.


The weekly market where we did our shopping with big wicker baskets. It was about 1/2 mile down the river and over the bridge from our house.

We lived on the economy, as the saying went,  on the first floor of an amazing three story palazzo for lack of a better word. We got the house at Number 3 Prieger Promenade because of the importance of my father’s job. I didn’t know that until years later, I just knew I loved living there. We were across the river from a bird sanctuary, next to the Orion Gardens and in front of us was a 3 kilometer long pedestrian pink cement promenade facing the Nahe River. It was heaven on earth for two little kids.


Our housekeeper Annie and her daughter Gretel, my brother and me on a picnic on Kuburg Hill

We had a series of wonderful housekeepers and maids we loved dearly. Ursula, aka Ooshie was my favorite. She was tiny, about 5 feet tall and we all adored her. She gave me a pair of green satin high heels to play dress up in and I clopped everywhere in those things. One night the police came and took Ooshie away. We couldn’t understand it and as 7 and 9 year olds, my brother Sonny and I were terribly confused. I found out much later she was an East German plant placed with us to try to glean information from my father. Her sister was arrested in a different household the same night. These 20 somethings did not want to be spies, they just wanted a life again but their family was in East Germany. This meant they had no choice, spy for the Russians/East Germans or your family members will be punished severely.

These things happened and we accepted them. My culture vulture mother made sure we spoke German, dressed as German kids and had German friends. This meant among other things, that I was toasty warm in reindeer hide boots and long wool stockings while the American kids froze their asses off in anklets and inadequate shoes through the snowy winters. We looked German and we assimilated and we inhaled the culture of Europe like miniature vacuum cleaners sucking up  everything in sight and loving it.

It was shocking to go on post to visit other American families that I recall as rude  and pretty repulsive for the most part. I remember one kid well, Ronnie Pilcher. His bedroom was piled halfway to the ceiling with comic books. My brother Sonny and I weren’t allowed to have comics so we would go in Ronnie’s room, flop down and devour his comics ignoring him completely.1germ

Once in awhile my parents would go out to dinner with friends and sometimes the Pilchers got included. They appalled me at the tender age of 9. Ronnie would whine about how he hated the food and he wanted a hamburger and French fries. Why this left such a mark on my budding gourmet soul, I don’t know, but I tried to stay as far from him and his embarrassing ugly American behavior as possible. His parents spoke no German so they would speak English really loudly, the classic behavior of the foreign idiot. I could see my mom gritting her teeth and ordering another glass of wine just to get through the evening.

Black Americans were ignored or actively discriminated against by the ignorant white Americans in the army back then. My dad and his buddies were musicians who had jam sessions on a regular basis, usually in our giant house. A lot of the musicians were black and in and out of our house on a regular basis. I noticed immediately the Germans were pretty color blind even in the 1950s,  treating the African Americans as equals. One night Bing Crosby’s son came to our house to jam although I had no idea for years who that guy was. It was all pretty wonderful and there were a lot of nights I fell asleep under the piano.


Every single weekend we were exploring and camping somewhere from the spring to the first snow. A lot of weekends were spend on the Neckar River in Heidelberg with friends. We could run wild all over the castle, swim in the river and generally be ignored by the partying grownups. Paradise. We had a striped French tent, very avant garde, and our black and yellow Dodge Station wagon. We stopped traffic at every campground.

Germany was my first lesson in what not to be. It blew my small farm town  California upbringing away and it never came back.  When we went home again, I cried on the plane for the entire trip, on some level my heart is still broken. I never fit in to my old hometown quite the same. I had seen too much and knew too much. I spoke a foreign language and had traveled all over Europe. I had sipped beer out of my dad’s stein in Munich and  met gypsies in the Black Forest. I saw the Mona Lisa and was unimpressed but I loved the Egyptian wing at the Louvre. I had onion soup at 5 a.m. in Les Halles at a long table with working farmers and camped at the Brussels World’s Fair with people from all over the world.

What those years taught me is that Americans are not as great as they think they are and they never were. We can be appalling bigots in so many ways. I don’t want to see America great again if it’s like those years.  Women were held down and back, and they were complicit, which is the worst part. Bigotry and institutionalized racism were the order of the day. Name calling was accepted and intended to insult and hurt , Jews, kikes, wops, krauts, Japs, slant eyes, chinks, spics, beaners, and  n_____s; only white males mattered, and sadly the people that were kids then are in power now with their parents tiny values locked in their heads.

I am so grateful to my crazy mother for having a bigger horizon in her head, I hope I have been able to pass on that positive piece of my past to my children. It’s the horizon that’s important not the fence you put around yourself. Greatness may be in our future but its certainly not in our past if you understand the history  beneath the shiny feel good imagination of a bunch of old white men.


Afterwards: The Miracle

white camellia


I lost my beloved crazy sister just before Thanksgiving, tragically and in a house fire. She died of smoke inhalation and when the firefighters reached her it was too late. She was cremated and I wondered about that and wrote this.


There is beauty in this can of ash that is not ash
It is the story of you.
Sometimes I still hear your voice and always, your laugh.
I opened the container,
Just a cookie can from an old Christmas,
and I looked inside.
Would it make you smile,
to know you sit on a child’s chair in my living room?
The chair you found for me,
The one we both loved in Carlsbad.
You put it in a cardboard box and mailed it to me with that antique bowl,
The one that was Oaxacan green and it was broken before I got it.
It was so beautiful I saved all the broken pieces from the box,
And we both cried over losing it.
I wanted to find the perfect container for you, as perfect as that bowl was,
but there you are in a cookie can.
My sister and my first best understanding of unconditional love,
my measuring stick of love and crazy.
I wondered if I had your kneecaps in that can,
or your beat up dancer’s feet or your collar bones
made strange by childhood pellagra?
I love that your bones are the story of you,
everywhere you lived, the water you drank, the food you hoarded,
all those dances you danced, the pain and the joy that marked your life,
everything was saved and marked in your bones,
unique and amazing.
It seems that we are each a map sketched out by the table of elements,
all of us one-of-a-kind wonders,
our bones like fingerprints or snowflakes.
I love knowing that since the beginning of time
things had to happen just exactly the way they happened
for us to be sisters.
Miracles really do happen don’t they?
And I think you were mine.

Me and Marji on a beach day.

Me and Marji on a beach day.

The Violet Mystery



It isn’t often that I am flummoxed by research into something I’ve found, but this case had me chasing my tail. Here’s the back story: I recently acquired a batch of stuff being sold by a gentleman whose very old mother had gone into assisted care, he was beginning to sell her bits and pieces to pay for her stay in the facility. It’s a common story and a sad one, but sometimes it lets me send lovely things back into the world for another life so I try to be positive and honest. In this case he had a silver Mexican bracelet that was to die for, I gave it back and told him it was worth in excess of $150 and he needed to get more than I could give him for it. Its just good karma to be fair in my world.



None of what I got had a ton of value other than curiosity and my love for bits of Odd Stuff. One of the other people I was with acquired lots of depression glass and some serious pieces of carnival glass, I opted for stranger things, like two shoe horns, one from JC Penney and the other Sears and Roebuck.

Paris Souvenir bracelet

Paris Souvenir bracelet

I also got a small wooden box of things including ten tiny ceramic deer, a cool brass souvenir of Paris bracelet, a hat pin and sundry bits of things that will be used to create other things.

My tiny deer accidental collection

My tiny deer accidental collection

My favorites in the mix were of course, the French bracelet and the ten tiny deer. I seem to have accidentally begun to acquire deer. They are seeking me out but that’s another entry entirely.v16 I  also got a set of very old Lancôme perfume bottles still  in their box and an odd little wooden case. More about that in a moment. The Lancôme bottles go back to the late thirties and were well and truly stuck shut. A little hot water unstuck the tops and I could pull the stoppers out and smell the heavy old perfumes in them. Did you know there are serious collectors of empty and almost empty old perfume bottles? Who knew. Those will be on their way to a new home soon…

Rieger violet Coffret

Rieger violet Coffret

Now, for the wooden box. It’s 2.75 inches tall and looks like an old cannon barrel standing on end. It’s actually a coffret, a tiny wood case, of maple that is threaded about an inch down and unscrews. The exterior has a purple and silver metal paper label that reads Florosa Fanoma, W Rieger, Frankfurt A/M, which is most likely for Am Main. At the bottom is the single word, ” Violet”.

Inside the tiny wooden coffer, or coffret more properly, is an eight-sided lead crystal bottle with a cut glass stopper. This stopper was also stuck shut until I gently ran warm just over the top, at which point the crystal perfume dauber/wand slid cleanly out. No label on the bottle inside and amber colored liquid fills the bottle about three-quarters of the way up.

Open Sesame!

Open Sesame!

A little background here: My favorite scent in the entire known universe is violets. As a child in Germany, I loved that they grew in the parks and lawns in Springtime with great abandon and very long stems. I would take hours and pick huge bunches of them to take home. Their scent was so haunting and so elusive and the air smelled like heaven wherever they perched in the water glasses my mother gave me for my bouquets. In France a few years back I brought home a bottle of Violettes de Toulouse and I have hoarded it until I can go back and get more. That’s enough of a reason to go back to France for me. Yes, I love violets.

I am serious about my violets, so it was with both  fanfare  and trepidation I pulled the stopper out and sniffed it carefully. Holy Cow! It smelled like it was bottled last week! I dabbed some on one wrist and then the other and sat there with essence of violet all around me.

How could this be? The container was old, the label was old, so how old was old anyway? I started digging and found very little information on the elusive W. Rieger. I know that he was part of Wilhelm and Guillaume Rieger and they founded a perfume company in 1860. I found a reference to Violet Perfume then and in about 1910. The style of the label tips me off that this is an old, old bottle but how can it still smell so good?

And there is another Rieger connection:Paul Rieger of California was famous for his ‘flower drops’ perfumes from the early part of the 20th century. There are a ton of Paul Rieger ads for sale on eBay, all clipped from magazines that survived until now. Apparently flower drops were THE perfume to give and wear as the ads are everywhere. There are still many actual flower drops bottles around with CALIFORNIA flower drops printed on the labels.v6

The two Rieger thing was making me as crazy as a raccoon with a can opener and a six pack of tuna. Paul Rieger and Wilhelm Rieger? How does this whole thing go together? That’s just too much of a coinkydink as my mom would have said. A few more hours of digging (God bless the internet and my research abilities) and I uncovered the 1910 San Francisco Crocker-Langley City Guide. Bingo. Paul Rieger, big wig San Francisco perfumer, is the owner of Paul Rieger Perfumes but guess who the manager is? William Rieger. I’m betting Wilhelm became William in America. There is even a Mrs. Paul Rieger, widow, listed so there may have have been even more Rieger generations in the Bay Area.

  Croaker Langley Directory

Croaker Langley Directory

Paul Reiger must have been a marketing genius, his perfumes were in Saturday Evening Post, Sunset Magazine, Photo Play and every magazine out there at the time. Reiger’s Flower Drops was the 1910 creation of Paul Rieger, but I’m betting someone else in the family made them first back in Germany and the family took the concept to the new world and unleashed it.

“Reiger’s Flower Drops were advertised as the ‘soul of the flowers’ and ‘lasting 50 times as long as ordinary perfumes’ and ‘the rarest and finest perfume ever produced. One bottle holds all the delightful fragrance crushed from thousands of living blossoms. The acme of elegance and refinement-entirely different from any other perfume you have ever known.’

The regular sized vials were about 3ml and retailed for $1.50, sample sizes were available for 20 cents.” (quote from Cleopatra’s Boudoir perfume blog)

The secret to the fragrance and my own ah ha moment was in discovering they used no alcohol in the process. In addition it’s been stored in the dark for all that time in it’s little maple coffret, and probably somewhere nice and cool to boot. This is straight concentrated oil of violet, and that is why it has lasted perhaps 100 years. If this fragrance was acquired as late as 1929 it’s still  74 years old.

Why 1929? The McKinley Tariff Act of 1930 meant everything imported had to be marked with its country of origin, as in “Made in”.  This says Frankfurt a/M, it does not say Germany, therefore it landed in the USA before the tariff did. Additionally, it predates the California Flower Drops labeling although it is similar. This purple foil label is so over the top that it has Victorian style all over it, so I’m educated guessing it was made about 1890 or so.

Imagine, this scent was created before there were telephones, or record players, or commercial airline flights, or typewriters, or plastic, or refrigerators or ball point pens or mechanical pencils, or flush toilets, washing machines and running water in every house- and it’s still alive.

I will keep it and wear it and enjoy every single lovely drop of time I wear on my wrists, I think it’s better than a watch because it doesn’t just mark time, it has kept it alive.



Perris, Trains and Tracks and Time


Marji in front of our house, you can see the railroad tracks and downtown behind her in the distance.

In rummaging about for an appropriate offering for Throw Back Thursday, a fun Facebook phenomenon, I found a wonderful old photo of my sister standing at the gate of our house in Perris. Looking at the photograph  brought back so many memories of times that are fading. Like it or not, I have become one of those people who remember “the old days”. It seems very strange that the old days are the 1950s and the 1960s. As a teenager of about 13, I used think how appalling it would to be 50 and so very old. At the age of 65 I look back and realize just how young 50 is.

Grocery shopping in Germany was a little different

Grocery shopping in Germany at the markets was different but I loved it.

I had  most of a real American graffiti childhood in a small town in California. It was rudely and wonderfully interrupted when I was 8 and my Air Force father was sent to Germany.  That was 1956, I got home again in 1962, and I never quite fit in again. Looking back now, I think it was a blessing instead of a curse, although at the time I would have begged to differ. I thought how different my life would be if I had never left, if I had always been one of the gang instead of trying to figure out to reinvent myself to fit.

Because I was always a little out of step, I felt like that person at the dance that is watching everyone else’s feet to try and figure out the dance steps. Trying not to be obvious about not knowing what to do and watching my surroundings like a hawk I developed an artist’s eye and sensibilities early. That was the blessing although I didn’t know it until later.

Perris Train Depot

The Perris depot, right down the street from our house

There were some halcyon days and months in my childhood in Perris among the tough times with my mother.  I remember having dinner on summer evenings and then being allowed to go out and play until dark. Escaping into games of hide-and-go seek and tag until the stars came out.  There was always one cat under every streetlight, like they had been assigned to catch each night’s moths.   I liked to sit at the open window in my upstairs unheated bedroom, which was freezing in the winter and meltingly hot in the Southern California summer, listening to the engines purring on the tracks. That was my lullaby, locomotives just waiting, rumbling like big cats all night long half a block away.

We lived in a farm town, and onions and potatoes and the sheds where they were packed and shipped were a fact of life. The tracks ran right behind the main street, right behind the single row of town businesses that made up downtown. Packing sheds were strung along the tracks the entire length of the town and locomotives would pull in and park on the sidings waiting for their loads. The depot was just two blocks away, we could see it from our house when we crossed the dusty empty field that was railroad property.

As kids we never wore shoes from about February to November and I have a love/hate relationship with shoes to this day. I love them but they are off my feet far more than on. We were grateful when the city put new white markings on the street to warn of the railroad crossing half a block away.  In the summer, that white stuff never melted in the heat like tar and you could pelt across it barefoot without burning the soles of your feet before jumping into the blessed dust on the other side. Sometimes my mother would send us to Kirkpatrick’s market, a kitty-cornered block from our house to pick up things she’d forgotten to get for dinner. We crossed a field full of stickers, railroad tracks full of  glass and splinters and assorted trains, usually barefoot on a regular basis. Back then you could go in a store with no shoes if you were a kid, I remember still how cool the linoleum felt on the bottoms of  my scorched feet.

Grocery Store in Perris, it was Kirkpatrick's when I was a kid but I'm happy its still there!

Grocery Store in Perris, it was Kirkpatrick’s when I was a kid but I’m happy its still there!

The trains scared me when I was small and I was terrified that I couldn’t get off the tracks fast enough, although walking on the rails themselves to the sidewalk was easier than crossing 20 feet of rusty nails, rock and broken glass. We would stand close enough to the trains to feel the breeze they kicked up as they passed but we knew enough not to get close enough to get hit and to make sure all the tracks were clear before we scampered across.

In my sister’s picture you can see the railroad tracks and the railroad crossing sign in the background. That’s how far away the trains were, from our house. Early one warm spring Sunday morning when I was about 15, I was sitting in my window watching the world go by, when I spotted our fascinating neighbor, Mildred Caylor who lived one block over on B Street.

The back of our house, their is a staircase right behind the window and then fence is a whole other story.

The back of our house, their is a staircase right behind the window and then fence is a whole other story.

Mildred was a blind woman and probably in her late 60s at the time. She had a series of German Shepherd guide dogs and we could see them in their pen when we climbed the Chinaberry tree in the vacant lot down the alley. That tree always had four or five kids building a fort in it and we probably sent the dogs around the bend with our noise and proximity.  On this morning, one of the loopier later members of the menagerie of dogs was guiding Mildred to town. She had a net shopping bag and her handbag and her dog, and they proceeded briskly down the street in front of me and turned the corner and then turned the corner again.

Mildred’s dog  was taking her right down the railroad tracks like something out of a bad movie. I yelled at the top of my lungs. “Mildred’s on the railroad tracks!”  I sprinted down my steep flight of stairs and found my Dad had run out of his bedroom  half asleep to hear my frantic screeched explanation. He bolted out the front door and I ran outside after him, watching in horrified amusement. My father in nothing but his underwear, consisting of tidy whities and an undershirt, was sprinting down the street barefooted. He ran down the tracks, collared Mildred and the dog and hauled her off the tracks. A train came through about sixty seconds later. I don’t know who was shaking most, Dad or Mildred when they got back to the house. Mildred never knew she had been saved by a middle-aged man in his skivvies. She would have been so shocked.

Dad put his clothes on and Mom fed everyone coffee and doughnuts. Later, we got Mildred home in one piece. The dog was replaced a week later and life went on, the trains kept coming and we kept growing up in that magical time and place, Perris, California in the “olden days”.

Main Street, Perris. This hotel was never a hotel in my memory. The Reynolds sisters, elderly ladies lived there, but I was so glad to see it still stood when I was home last year.

Main Street, Perris. This hotel was never a hotel in my memory. The Reynolds sisters, elderly ladies lived there, but I was so glad to see it still stood when I was home last year.

Old Protestors Never Die, Just Cause

The finished poster

The finished poster

Prowling around in my archives and hunting for a photo of Los Angeles theater marquees I took a few years back, I unearthed this piece of memory: the National Lawyers Guild poster I did in 2009.

This story actually began when I got a call from a friend,  “Would I be interested in talking to the NLG about doing an image for the poster for their annual meeting in Seattle?”  I had to stop and think about it. What was the National Lawyers Guild anyway? I do poster art regularly but I did not know what they did, who they were, and about their work across a sea of causes and cases. They were involved to their eyeballs in representing the people who were arrested in the melee that became the “Battle of Seattle.”

The NLG is serious business, and although I am fairly well known as an artist here in my corner of the Pacific Northwest, my work has been cursed with the rubric “whimsical”, so was I really a good choice for this?  On a meltingly hot July day, fortified with a pitcher of iced tea and a fan, I met with the guys from the Evergreen Law group to try to get a handle on what they wanted from me.  I wound up promising to think about it and to put some sketches together and I did my research.

Even a tee shirt. Capitalism at its best.

Even a tee shirt. Capitalism at its best.

On November 30, 1999, thousands of people disrupted and ultimately shut down the World Trade Organization talks in Seattle. The crowd was mostly peaceful with a few idiot anarchists mixed in. The Seattle police assumed the worst and responded to the mass of protesters by firing tear gas and rubber bullets point blank into the crowd. Hundreds were arrested, many were sickened by the gas and others were hurt in the melee.

The protest was organized by the Direct Action Network who decided to shut down what they considered the most undemocratic institution on the planet, the WTO, aka World Trade Organization. The WTO ostensibly negotiates and aids countries in making trade easier between member nations, but in point of fact much of what they do is heavily skewed to making rich nations richer and poor nations poorer. They have fallen off a wagon that was supposedly oriented towards development-friendly outcomes in all participating countries towards a ‘market access’ direction. Poorer countries, especially those in the third world,  are being pressured to open up their agricultural, industrial and service sector leading to exploitation by the bigger WTO fish.

This scenario electrified organizers who truly believed a peaceful demonstration could send a message around the world. They began by marching out 7:00 a.m., setting up blockades around the city. Word spread and before too long a lot of people in Seattle spontaneously joined the demonstration. Linking arms and keeping delegates out of the meeting. They were amazed that they were actually shutting it down with people who had never demonstrated for anything previously.

A wood cut version of the art that became a shirt.

A wood cut version of the art that became a shirt.

The Seattle police under shaky leadership panicked, put on full riot gear and showed up in force. By 10:00 a.m. they had opened fire with chemical weapons, tear gas, concussion grenades and brought in armored vehicles to fight unarmed citizens. The people didn’t give in, shutting the meeting site down until after dark. That same day, there were corollary actions across the globe. The longshoremen  shut down every port up and down the entire West Coast.

I had seen the slanted news footage of “looters” and “rioters”, the media loves a good rampage and played it to the hilt. Slowly, the truth came out, the police were brutal that day, and it was completely unnecessary in the face of what should have been a non violent protest.

I thought a lot about the genesis of a political image. Was I a conscripted hack, a tool for the left? The answer was a solid no. I grew up in the late 60’s and my history is closely intertwined with Vietnam protests, the struggle for racial equality and women’s rights. The words that galvanized my own life? My parents saying to me, “We can’t pay for your college, we have to send your brother because he’ll marry and need to support a family. You can just get married and stay home, it would be a waste.” It may feel like a small drama in a domestic teapot, but that was when I understood how pervasive and complacent American attitudes were towards women, minorities and non-wars like Vietnam.

That was 1966 and I never did get over being angry about it. I finally finished college and like a lot of women in America, I graduated in my 30’s as a single parent, with a long history of kicking up dust along the way. I’m not sure how much has really changed since then. We are still complacent and still about 85% sheep looking for that magic shepherd who won’t morph into a wolf and eat us. The important thing seemed then and seems now to keep trying, to leave the herd, to find my inner moral compass and follow it.

So I looked at NLG on the web, I looked at photos, I talked to friends, and read up on the “Battle in Seattle”.  I thought about what this image should say. I thought about it a lot. I thought about the accidental warriors and those who set out to change things, those people who cannot and will not give up. nlg art

The result was a whole wastebasket full of discarded muddled mixed up drawings. I really didn’t think I could do it. I knew what I wanted to say but I couldn’t seem to say it. I was so far out of my bright, fun, snarky wheelhouse that it was miserable. It felt like I was drawing wearing boxing gloves and a blindfold. It seems simple, but this is the hardest drawing I’ve ever done. I had to scrape it out of someplace inside that was buried and collecting dust, and when it came, it came whole in one quick sitting, like someone else was guiding my hand and holding my pencil.

The simple graphite on paper image is homage to the great artist and Polish worker for social justice, Kathe Kollwitz, who created searing personal images of oppressed people in the early 20th century. The couple in my drawing is drawn as Kollwitz might have portrayed them, androgynous because I wanted the viewer to bring their own story to what happened in Seattle. For me, this is everyman and everywoman who fought back and stayed in touch with their internal compasses along the way.

Art is not always easy. Its not always pretty, and it wears so many faces they are uncountable. Painting is words made with pictures and you experience the best stuff viscerally. It might be Kathe Kollwitz who almost makes me cry or it might be Helvi Smith, whose ridiculous Pink Fifi Poodle painting made me laugh out loud at her perfect catching of the essence of poodle.

Snarky Fifi cracks me up!

Snarky Fifi cracks me up!

I’m glad I had a chance to reach past my limits, yep. I am.

Danny and Mr Tolkien


The Quest, fulfilled.

Once upon a time, the June I turned 19, I moved clear across the United States from my Southern California roots to Alabama and then Kentucky to be with my helicopter flight school attending husband. For us and the other young couples in the air cav, time together would be measured in months, before they all shipped out. We lived in the present, there was no future that we could see from where we were standing.

I didn’t mind being away from home. I was more fascinated than lonely and I didn’t complain when my pilot husband was off for days training to go to Vietnam and fly, he loved helicopters and the army. For me, there was too much to experience, see, do and understand in this new alien place. I was an Air Force brat and the military lonely lifestyle was something that was second nature in my family.

My chariot of choice in my explorations was a black and yellow, brand new 1967 Barracuda convertible with a huge engine and straight pipes. Gas was 25 cents a gallon and that car let me explore old towns, old cemeteries, and all the history I could find within a day’s drive. I hated the muggy weather, the daily rain and the snakes, but still…. driving down a tree lined street with houses looking like Tara on either side made up for a lot.

In November, we moved to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, assigned to the 101st Airborne. The winter actually came in Kentucky, with snow, ice and cold. I bought boots and a black furry coat with a hood and even a pair of long johns. Because it was too cold to explore for the California Kid, I discovered the base library and changed my literary life forever.

I was hunting through the shelves and found a book called ‘The Hobbit’ by J.R.R. Tolkien. The end papers were maps and it looked like a giant fairy tale. I checked it out and devoured it. I discovered there were four books making up the cycle, and the Hobbit was just the beginning.  I trekked back to the library and the only one on the shelf was the second book. I read it anyway. I went back and this time I found the last book and read that. In weeks of waiting, I never found the first book and I remember being so frustrated because there were such gaps in the story. There were no bookstores close enough to either buy or order the book and time was moving on. My husband was shipped out and I was shipped home, back to California.

Danny took this photo of me in 1969

I was 18 when I got married, right out of high school and in a haze of doomed romance. I married someone I really didn’t like and I knew it. I even tried to get out of it, but my mother had already paid for the wedding and I was going to go through it dead or alive according to her. The best thing about that marriage was finally escaping my mother’s claws and her influence. She went on to completely destroy my brother’s life and my sister’s, but my trajectory was up and out and I never looked back. I left the pilot, I couldn’t do it anymore. He returned in one piece and went on to remarry and have a good life in Oregon.

Art car, Sausalito, 2005

I had my life back and the summer I was 20, I went on a long camping trip, again in that Barracuda, up the California coast with my friend Danny. Danny’s fiancee Brenda had just dumped him, becoming unengaged after a full year, and running off with a guy who was wanted for punching a cop in Dallas. Hey, it was the 60s and we were young and full of angst and hope and upheaval. I was half in love with him, he was still half in love with her, it was the stuff of bad novels and it made for a memorable trip which included skinny dipping in the Russian River, exploring Big Sur and every inch of highway 1 before it was a heavily traveled tourist trap.

Hippie Harbor, 2007, Sausalito still has its soul

San Francisco was heaven and Sausalito was even better. In 1968, Sausalito was a sleepy, hippie, fishing town. It is now big money but there are still patches of that vibe and I love going back and finding it to this day. Sausalito also had an amazing bookstore and in that store I found on 9/23/68 all FOUR volumes of the Lord of the Rings plus the Hobbit. I will never forget that store, that moment, or that day. Danny bought those four paperbacks for me and as our budget was small, it was an enormous gift. The books were the Ballantine Books authorized editions, each one was 95 cents.

Art Car, Sausalito, with a message for me

That was the cherry on the top of the trip for me. We spent a few more days exploring and camping and resisting returning, but jobs were calling us home and funds were getting low. We made it to Eureka, California before we turned around to drive almost straight through 12 hours to Redlands and home. The real world came back with a crash and life went on for us, but those weeks out of time were magic. It was the start of our relationship and we wound up with marrying and having three amazing sons.

Sausalito mailbox

Our marriage didn’t last forever because I am very bad at the art of marriage, we even tried twice. We made it through the bad parts and our friendship was close and it was forever.  I thought someday we’d wind up rocking on a porch and arguing about politics.

Dan Snow, taken in Palm Springs, 1968

Dan died on April 9, 2002, after a recurrence non-Hodgkins lymphoma surrounded by his sons and his wife, Dorothy, the real love of his life.  I’m glad they found each other in time because if anyone deserved to be loved, it was Danny. I still miss him and when I look at my boys, I see their dad so clearly. Corey looks most like him and the resemblance is startling as Corey gets older. Joel moves most like him, he has his father’s physical gestures and joy in living. Josh is the passionate one, Danny could argue all night long and drill you into the ground when he cared, Josh can do the same thing and does.

As for me, I’m the one who remembers him as a young man, the twenty-four old with the longest eyelashes I ever saw and as much curiousity as I had about what was around the next corner. We had fun, we really did, and the best years of our lives were spent together. For a very long time, I religiously read all four of the Tolkien books every September, the anniversary of fulfilling my quest to read the last book, and perhaps to remember a magic moment in my life when everything was as perfect as it ever gets.

The books are now getting tattered and fragile and yellowed, they have obviously been loved, and one had a fishbowl break in its vicinity years ago, but it was saved and dried out.The Fellowship of the Ring had a corner land in a coffee cup, but that too passed, and nowadays my quest for the fourth book filled, they are on my shelf of best loved books and most cherished memories of There and Back Again.



I’m not sure I want to share this post, but I definitely want/need to write it. I am headed back to California in the morning, most likely for the last time to ‘visit’ my family there. My dad died in the fall, I miss him terribly, and my 93 year old mother is going off the rails slowly but surely.

Its odd how normal she sounds when I talk to her, but there are breaks where she yells and screams at me for what  she assumes is criticism or comments on her life and how she is living it. This is a woman who has never had a single happy day in her life as far as I can tell. The analogy for my mother is the kid on Christmas morning with too many presents who rips through all of them and looks for more. She has never taken the time to enjoy being in the moment. There is always another prize to acquire, another Thing to get, hold and hoard.

I did have a really happy childhood in many ways, probably because I am the antitheses of mom. I seized every single joyful moment and relished it like another one was never coming. I’m still that way.

I fight my weight and the idea that there is never another good thing coming is what informs a lot of my ingrained behavior.  I may never completely get my own mental garden completely weeded.  I had parents who had Rules for Them and other Rules for Us, my brother and me. My father was like the spoiled oldest son, mother kept him in line by indulging him ala Life With Father. Best porkchop, heart of the watermelon, only the best for dad and ultimately my brother, the Golden Child.

I think my dad died to escape. My father was no angel. He was charming, weak and spoiled and he loved my mother more than life itself. They yelled, screamed, threw things and fought incessantly. I didn’t know some families weren’t like that until I was old enough to spend the night at friend’s houses.

They kept boxes of candy in their dresser drawers and didn’t share them. My mom was always working on a Whitman’s Sampler. We were adept at looting the lower layers invisibly. She turned us into sneaks and thieves and liars because we were so afraid of punishment. My brother lost his moral compass then and he couldn’t steer true north, even after we were grown up.

We weren’t allowed to eat between meals. I can remember as a teenager earning my own money in a part-time job, starving after school but afraid to be caught eating. I could wolf down a burger and a coke in the space of two blocks in my friend Gayle’s Volkswagen. My mother was always dramatic, violent anger and sweetness in the same ten minute period, it was crazy making. When she hit menopause she got a bad case of violent crazy and the happiness pretty much left us, I spent my teenage years at home being yelled at and belittled and hit with hands and a belt. The psychological abuse from the person who was supposed to love me unconditionally was the worst of it all.

There was a level of crazy there that I still don’t quite understand. I know why she is the way she is and a lot of what happened to her but I still can’t quite grasp it even after all these years. We had some insanely happy times, camping in the desert, going on fishing trips in Colorado and decorating for holidays and so much more. I have wonderful memories but I think they are more intense and lit up because there was always an undercurrent of fear running through the good parts.

My brother never escaped her orbit. He is now 63 and a complete failure at everything. He put a business up his nose in the good old cocaine days, destroyed two marriages and families, and got deeply into street drugs. He has cleaned up the drugs but the addition of an alcoholic stupid girlfriend iced that cake. He has lost every job he has managed to land through his own actions.

Both he and my mother have never been able to accept responsibility for their lives and actions. He lost his last job and his home a few years ago and landed on the street with two big dogs and the drunken girlfriend. They showed up on my parents doorstep and never left. My brother has never been able to escape his mother’s barbed wired apron strings. He lives in the same small town where the police know him by name and his reputation precedes him. He is so emotionally crippled he can only talk about what he’s going to do and where’s he going to go, but he can’t make it happen. His mouth is foul and so is his temper, he is unemployable in part because every job interview he gets my good old mom calls the business and says don’t hire my son the drug addict. She does it from pure malice but she won’t ever admit it.

Just like she won’t admit the 33 phone calls to the police in the last few months since my dad died. The police are now so tired of her and her fabrications that they are threatening to lock her in an old folks home and confiscate her estate. She doesn’t understand this. She doesn’t understand a lot of things.

Her house is completely wrecked, her yard and property are trashed and fouled beyond belief. She has had a string of ex junkies who “helped” her,  helped carry off everything of value is more like it, while selling drugs from the guesthouse. This is what I’m having to walk into. I am not looking forward to this trip.

I feel like owe this last trip to my dad. I left the house on bad terms two years ago and said I would never be back. My dad’s last words to me face to face were, “Next time you see me I’ll be planted in the ground.” We were both sobbing at the time. He was right. I don’t want to go but as the only sane member of my family of origin I feel compelled to at least understand and try to make some decisions that will affect my mother’s ability to live her life. She just turned 93 and I can say truthfully, I do not love her, I do not respect her, but I do respect what a mother is and that these people are family, like it or not.

I escaped when I was 18 years old. My trajectory was up and out and I never looked back, I hate having to do this with all my heart but my own moral compass says I must give it this one final effort before I let go of the rope on their sinking ship.Yesteerday, I fielded 13 insane phone calls from them all, I have no idea what today will hold. I have to give it to God and the universe to keep me on course through this.

We are planning on camping in the yard because the house is so awful. God bless Terry, he is going with me for the one to two weeks, depending on how much I can actually stand.

I will be writing posts from the war zone. Stay tuned.


Get the Flock Out- Show Off Your Collections for Christmas

Loving the sparkly lights, crystal and my sheep collection for Christmas

I am sitting here in front of my computer, writing and listening to Percy Faith and Mantovani”s Orchestra playing the Christmas music of my childhood. Thank you iTunes for not letting this wonderful stuff disappear from my life. I got a new photographic backdrop this week and I was just dying for a free morning to play with it.

Between Instagram and my new gradient background-winning! These are my first two sheep, Germany and 56 years old.

I love what it does to ‘product’ pix!  For fun, I got my two sheeps, yes sheeps, out and took their portrait. That reminded me of childhood Christmas memories of being a kid in Germany. There is no place more magical during the holidays than a German city. Its like every old fashioned Christmas card ever printed. To this day the smell of coal burning almost makes me cry with nostalgia. I loved living in Europe and I still miss it every day. that being said, I’m lucky I have so many amazing memories of Christmases past–including my sheeps.

These two funny looking animals are made of plaster or clay with cotton flannel ‘wool’, painted faces and wooden legs, circa 1957. We got them as a gift from Saint Nicholas, one each for my brother and me. They always had pride of price in the manger when we were growing up although they didn’t match anything else in that elegant Italian manger.

Tiny Wade sheep and English sheep and Japanese sheep mix it up.

I have to hand it to my mom, she knew how to entertain kids. She would hand us a giant enameled tray and send us outside to build the landscape for the manger each year. Moss, trees, sticks, rocks and hours of labor went into the building before it was carefully carried inside and installed. Then we got to put the actual pieces in place. Three wisemen, a camel, a cow, a donkey, Joseph, Mary, the baby Jesus, a shepherd, his sheep and our sheep.

Not sheep, but I love, love, love what happens when  you cover little trees with glue and roll them in glitter. So pretty!

The years rolled by and I left home and sheep behind. Over time,  I kept looking for the right sheep to replace those two funny looking sheep of memory. Sheep became one of my first collections and mostly they live in a cabinet these days.

I couldn’t resist these goofy sheep from a thrift store. They remind me of my youngest son’s favorite story from his childhood, “Sheep in a Jeep”, although this is definitely a sled.

I never found a sheep to replace the first two, but last time I was home I found THEM. They were abandoned in a drawer in my mother’s antique desk. I tucked them in my suitcase and now here they are, Christmas again, 56 years later. Holy crap, how did that many years pass me by?

Pretty and romantic.

I decided to bring the flock out and use them to decorate for Christmas. After all there were sheep in the Holy Land when Jesus was born right? I highly recommend to anyone, if you have a collection you love, bring it out and integrate in your celebration decoration.

vases are pretty with crystal garland wound into arrangements, light catchers!

I mixed my sheep with little bits of crystal, perfume bottles and spheres, because they do such a great job of catching and reflecting light.

The fat sheep in the background was made by a famous Dutch artist who lives in France, I got to stay at his bed and breakfast and buy this little sheep treasure.

There are my two old faves and a charming china doll, tiny, along with a crystal jar that has an enameled lid. Sparkle!


If my brother ever finds out I liberated his little sheep, in the foreground, I’m in trouble. It needed a home and now it has a whole flock!

Boo Who?


This is the 14 year old me.

The year is 1962 and it is Halloween, my last year of trick or treating according to my horrible mother. I  am about to cross the magic line into that place where grown ups look askance at your size and give you the worst piece of candy in the bowl and ask, “Aren’t you a little old for this?” Mind you, this was back in the day when we still locked up our garbage cans and put everything away for fear of pranksters with mayhem on their minds. I longed to live in the days when kids put outhouses on the school roof and played other elaborate jokes on unsuspecting adults. The best we could ever come up with was soaping all the gas station pump windows in town, pretty puny.

Spookiness, this is in Colorado and perfect for halloween don’t you think?

Halloween 1962 was my grandparents 48th wedding anniversary. Who gets married on Halloween? They lived next door to our big white Victorian house in a brick bungalow right across the driveway. My grandad Floyd had been living in twilight for about five years after a diabetic stroke left him unable to move or communicate.

My grandad always had a cigar and my grandma always looked put upon. I think she was born wearing a hair net and sensible shoes.

My grandmother was his main caregiver and I can only imagine now how hard that must have been for her. At the age of 14, none of this even dawned on me. I used to go into the bedroom and read to him, I worried that he was lonely in a room where the only window was high up in the wall. I liked to think he could hear me as I read the Reader’s Digest aloud and carried on one-way conversations.

My grandmother was a cook who worked in her profession until she was 85. I have good cooking genes.

Before his stroke, my grandfather was a terrible grump who yelled at everyone. He had a cigar in his hand at all times, sometimes I wondered if he slept with it. I was never afraid of him, as his only granddaughter I was the princess and I remember very well how patient he was with me, teaching me to tie my shoelaces and my doll’s bonnet strings. It was probably because he was sick of tying my shoes for me but it made me happy then and it does now.

A black wreath hung on the door. This door is actually in Philly but its much cooler than my grandparents’ door.

Halloween afternoon, 1962, after 48 years of marriage, my grandfather died. I remember being sent to go call the doctor when he passed. My mother ordered a black wreath from the florist in town and when it came she hung it on the door so everyone would know not to knock and trick or treat there.

My mother decided I couldn’t go trick or treating. I had to be the responsible dragon at the gate, keeping the hordes of kids from thumping on grandma’s door. Rats. I remember being devastated because I was already facing the end of my candy-gathering years and here the last one was yanked right out from under me.

I had a set of beautiful gold angel wings but I more closely resembled a devil under that white gown.

I had my costume ready and everything. For some odd reason, I had landed the role of the angel in the Chritmas play when I was twelve and we were still living in Colorado. No one was further from angelic, but I ate that role up. My dad had made me a set of cool gold cardboard angel wings with little gold glass balls all the way around the edges. My mom had made my white wide-sleeved angel gown from old bedsheets. They were always white back then. I even had a gold halo that was cleverly mounted on a circle like a tiara. It sat on my head allowing my halo on a wire to float above me.

Yes, I was a sneaky snake that year and proud of it. Photo taken at RC Ridge in Olympia, Halloween spooky perfection.

No! They couldn’t take it away from me! Yes. They could and they did. For about five minutes. It took me that long to realize I could sew a pocket into the bottom of my wide-winged sleeve and cleverly drop it off over a kids bag of candy with some snappy patter. I figured it would take me about two seconds to scoop up a nice fat fistful of candy from every victim’s hoard bag and drop it in my giant sleeve pocket.

Angels have been inspiring me since 1962, I love taking photos of them. I wonder if Halloween is why?

I was sent out at dark to park in my grandmother’s driveway on one of her metal chairs. I still wish I had those chairs. I loved those chairs, I see chairs like them now and they bring back so many memories of granma on the porch. This night it was just me in the driveway with a flashlight and a bowl of cheap jelly beans. My mother was nothing if not frugal. We gave out the kind of candy kids throw away, orange circus peanuts and black gumdrops.  The Whitman’s Sampler she hoarded in her lingerie drawer, ‘hidden’ from us kids and we knew better than to touch her chocolate so Halloween was our chance for a chocolate fix.

My granma’s chairs were like these although I found these deep in Oklahoma. Memories.

The whole thing went off without a hitch. The whole town was trick or treating and bringing their candy to me. Bwah ha ha ha!  I had a pillowcase full of candy and I didn’t have to walk a step to get it. I felt like Donald Trump that night. I did excercise some restraint and I didn’t pillage little kids who had just started their rounds but the big kids who practically had to put wheels on their candy bags were fair game.

As Garfield put it, “Candy, candy, candy!”

Luckily for the neighborhood’s candy stash I had discovered the wonder of boys by the next Halloween and my my angelic/devilish trickery was a one time event. Still, I wonder if it would still work….hmmm….somewhere I have a witch costume…

Happy Halloween!