Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Betty Hagan reflects on the Reagan Library

July 2016



The recent death and the beautiful memorial service that followed Nancy Reagan’s home-going caused me to look back and ponder the lovely, exciting, unique and memorable hours I’d been blessed to share at the newly completed Reagan library in Simi Valley, in 1992.  

Having just had my own unanticipated loss I was yearning for a meaningful place to give my time and energy.  A very close friend excitedly called to inform me that she had been one of the first to sign on as a docent at the Library.  It was the perfect opening for my empty nest need.  How fortunate I was to be accepted as one of the first sets of docents at that spectacular library in the hills of Simi.  

Training followed as we were introduced to the various duties and skills required to represent the library to the public.  Historical information regarding many of the early presidents, President Reagan’s meetings with international political greats:  Helmut Kohl, German Chancellor, Margaret Thatcher, and Russia’s Gorbachev, to name a few; information regarding the Ranch in Santa Barbara so loved by the Reagan’s.

As I progressed with my Reagan education I not only had growing respect for his presidency, but joy in remembering significant moments in history. 

Then came the big memorable day – the opening celebration of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.  The music was spectacular, the gathering was enormous and thecast was amazing.  Standing on the stage were five living presidents:  Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, President George Bush, Former President Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy 
Carter.  Behind them sat former first ladies. Lady Bird Johnson, Rosaline Carter, Nancy Reagan and First Lady, Barbara Bush, Pat Nixon and Betty Ford.

Following this auspicious introduction to the Library, the docents were prepared to use their training and enjoyed many years as tour guides, gift-shop aides, assistants in the theater and greeters, all knowledgeable and prepared to answer questions regarding the presidency, the library, gifts from foreign dignitaries and history in general. 

I was frequently stationed in the Oval Office as well as acting as a tour guide.  People were drawn to the Oval Office and appreciated the information it provided.  Just an aside, did you know that each president has his own rug created for his term in office.  On the grounds is a section of the Berlin Wall that was torn down due to the relationship of President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.

Christmas was always a beautiful, special time of respect and celebration.  The Reagan’s
were gracious hosts and exhibited heartfelt appreciation to all the volunteers.  

It was a time of precious and meaningful memories.  A time I’m grateful to have had.  Another one of those seasons that gave me a sense of participating in life and my world.  They don’t come often, however, they are treasured and remembered with appreciation  and joy when they come into our lives.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Old Purple Glass


This little glass bottle has a history.  It is very old! Maybe a hundred years old or more. It used to be crystal clear and I'm not sure what the use was because the top is broken.

It was found in a junk pile in a little town called Searchlight, Nevada. You may be thinking why and how was it found. Searchlight Nevada

First I want to tell you about old leaded glass.

It was in the mid 19th century that manganese dioxide, popularly called "glassmaker's soap," began to be used by American glass manufacturers as a decolorizer. By including a small amount of this ingredient in the melt, they could produce glass that appeared virtually colorless.  
1899 publication by Benjamin Biser

An interesting characteristic of colorless glasses which contain manganese dioxide as a decolorizer is their tendency to turn different shades of purple when exposed to the rays of the sun or to other ultra-violet sources. It is a photochemical phenomenon that is not yet perfectly understood. It is generally accepted that the ultra-violet light initiates an electron exchange between the manganese and iron ions. This changes the manganese compound into a form that causes the glass to turn purple.

This lovely little piece of glass lay in a junk pile for many years in the hot Nevada sun.  So why was it there in the first place.


Searchlight was a boomtown born in 1898 of gold discoveries. Sometime in the early nineteen hundreds, great grandpa, Albert Calkins, moved to Searchlight to find gold. He bought a mine a few miles out of Searchlight and mined it until the nineteen fifties.

Great Grandma Calkins was a very proper lady that grew up in Saint Louis as a daughter of a wealthy railroad owner. I'm sure she moved to Searchlight kicking and screaming. Great Grandma brought her beautiful belongings with her to a very nice house in town that Great Grandpa had built for her. It was the nicest house in that tiny town.

But as luck would have it, there was a fire and nice house burnt to the ground. The town was largely a junk pile of stuff in yards that lay in the hot sun waiting to disintegrate.

Later Great Grandma moved to Los Angeles to a Victorian house that overlooked Echo Park and somehow, this lovely piece of glass moved with her. Years later it became mine.

Now why am I telling you this? Now I am considering moving and I have to get rid of stuff no one wants.

I happen to love the broken jar, so I thought I would tell the story of this beautiful piece of junk before I discard it.

Alas, my house is full of stuff that has a similar story attached to it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Dentist


Blessed are they who hold lively conversations with the helplessly mute, for they shall be called dentists. ~Ann Landers


We've all been to the dentist, and for most of us, it's a bit scary. In fact, more people fear going to the dentist than practically any other health care professional, even as good dental health requires visits every six months. It's a good bet that the reason so many people have dental problems today is because they are too afraid to go to the dentist for those check-ups. The question, then, is what can a good dentist do to convince people that he or she isn't frightening at all?

Well...You should meet my dentist! He is so much more than that.
He is a philosopher.
He can talk about solar power and explain how it operates. (Something about electrons and photons)
He can talk about nuclear power plants closing.
He can talk about Madonna (he always has music on)
He tells you about a concert he is going to attend with delightful anticipation.
He can talk politics without taking sides.  (doesn't want to make you more uncomfortable than you already are.)
He is always cheerful.
He talks about his amazing wife with love in his eyes.
He explains each dental procedure before he does it.
He tells you how much he loves his work.
And he makes you feel glad you came.
How good is that?

Bette

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The secrets of French women.

Ten lessons for living a beautiful life into old age, as told by French women

Ten lessons for living a beautiful life into old age, as told by French women

France is the country where almost every woman in her fifties looks beautiful and elegant. These women happily wear skirts that rise above their knees, pay no attention to their age, and just look — and more importantly, feel — great, even if their appearance, by conventional standards, is far from what it once was. They’re not afraid of aging, and they feel comfortable with their wrinkles.
Bright Side presents ten lessons from Rebeca Plantier’s book Lessons From France: Eating, Fitness, Family. There’s definitely something to think about here. Take a look.

1. An active lifestyle means staying active until old age

Being active in your leisure time is an integral part of French national culture, and, in practice, they don’t renounce it with age. The French go hiking, climb mountains, swim in kayaks, play tennis, jog in the park, go skiing and so on. That’s their lifestyle; it’s not simply a commitment to sport. Even on vacation the French prefer going somewhere where they can have an ’active rest’, and not just lie in the sun. However, French women aren’t crazy. They don’t overdo it when it comes to sports: too much is harmful to women’s well-being, Rebeca says.

2. A sense of humor is a powerful antioxidant

The country’s well-known capacity for sarcasm helps French ladies avoid seeing their age and aging as drama. No other language has so many sayings and jokes about ’life begins at 40′ and the second wind of passion coming at the age of 50.

3. Good food as religion

Everybody knows that French are obsessed with food, but the point is that they prefer to eat in small amounts, and only beautiful and exquisite food. French women don’t like big portions at all. As they get older, and when financial opportunities allow it, French ladies’ obsession with eating well only gets stronger: they eat at restaurants and cafes, enjoying miniature portions, wine and a good company more than ever before. All of that helps to keep a rather good shape; there is rarely such a big difference in their weight at this age compared to their 20s and 40s, sighs Rebeca.

4. French women permit themselves more with age, not less

It feels like French girls absorb healthy sense of their own worth with the mother’s milk, writes Rebeca. With age, when their children grow up and demand less attention, French women feel free to pay more attention to themselves. They spend more money on their own pleasures, can to take afford trips without their families, and buy more expensive clothes. A French woman at the age of 40 won’t be overwhelmed with remorse if she buys a new pair of good shoes instead of an Xbox for her teenage son. And even more, she would think it was the only right decision: if you want an Xbox, work. Usually, it’s not French grandmothers who take care of their grandchildren instead of the parents: nobody sees grannies as free babysitters there.

5. As they grow older, French women buy fewer clothes, but what they do buy is more expensive

And better quality. Even middle-income women buy expensive and comfortable things: cashmere, silk, good shoes and at least one expensive handbag. All those things make up part of the highly elegant style of older women.

6. Their social life becomes even more active and interesting with age

Unlike women in some other countries, who often prefer to stay at home in front of the TV, French ladies — especially those in big cities — become even more active than in they were in their youth. Children grow up and no longer need permanent attention, family life is stable and comfortable...so it’s time to go out, go to parties, cafes, the cinema, the Biennale, and so on. An active social life has its requirements: a good hairdo and an impressive style, well-groomed hands, beautiful clothes to go out and, as a total must-have, a comfortable pair of high-heeled shoes.

7. Age isn’t a disease, it doesn’t need any treatment

French women feel comfortable with their age and their wrinkles. Sporting an all to obvious face-lift is a cause for a disdainful smile rather than envy. Unlike other women who are still obsessed with the idea of looking young at the age of 80, French ladies believe that at a certain age the absence of wrinkles is a sign of mental health problems, and it’s surely not a cause for envy. In France, real beauty treatments are far more developed and popular than plastic surgery and Botox.

8. You can wear what you want at any age if it suits you

French women feel free to wear skirts that go above their knees and skin-tight leggings right into old age. In France, you are never ’too old’ to do something; a mother and her daughter can wear the same brand clothes. It’s clear that taste and financial possibilities can change with age, of course, and older women often prefer a more expensive, classic style. In spite of this, you won’t find in any other country in the world where so many 40 to 60-year-old women wear small dresses and skin-tight jeans.

9. There are no age limits on either sexuality or sexual life

On the contrary, if you live in France, you know that your second youth comes after 40: you’ve already achieved some success in life, learned something, and it’s time you enjoy your still great physical characteristics along with that life experience. This is good and bad at the same time, Rebeca writes. It’s good, because it positively influences a woman’s sense of self; it’s bad, because this age can produce a lot more divorces.

10. You can afford everything with age, but in moderation

This includes wine, late meals and even cigarettes. Rebeca describes her French friend at the age of 52 who smokes just one cigarette a day after breakfast. She has been smoking for many years, but thinks that the pleasure from a cup of coffee and a cigarette is better than the stress induced by forcing oneself to never smoke at all.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

More Little Critters in my Garden

It's not easy to find a cute picture of a lizard!



Lizards are wonderful in the garden. They eat bugs and are generally harmless. Look at the little critter as a pet you don't have to feed, walk, or clean up after, who will also work at pest control in your garden. Some of them are beautifully colored, and they're very interesting. I have lizards that watch me work in the garden, then run up to disturbed earth to look for any bugs I've turned up. They'd also come and sip water from a trickling hose put on plants during dry spells. I once had one run over to the bird bath as soon as I turned on the hose.

Snakes are also good to have--along with bugs, they eat rodents and other noxious critters. In Southern California we do have to be careful of rattle snakes.

It is not uncommon to encounter snakes while in the outdoors. What is uncommon is for people to react to the presence of a snake with calm. Most people fear snakes because they do not understand them or their importance in the natural world. While several species are potentially dangerous to humans, most are harmless creatures that form vital links in their ecosystems as highly efficient predators of rodents. Common sense is the best protection against dangerous species when afield: watch where you place your hands, where you place your feet, and where you sit. If you find a snake LEAVE IT ALONE!

Squirrels in the garden

As gardeners, we tend to think of squirrels as pests. They dig up freshly planted seeds, dig holes in lawns, drop the scales of pine cones everywhere. I've had the squirrels eat a flat of flowers before I had the chance to plant them.

Despite their sometimes frustrating activities, tree squirrels play an important role in our world.

You’ll see squirrels caching nuts and seeds in a variety of places, usually burying them in the soil or putting them in a hole in a tree. Just like us, squirrels forget where they put things.

The nuts and seeds that they forget about are able to sprout and become new trees or plants. In this way, squirrels help disperse plant seeds for future trees.

Squirrels also eat mushrooms – below and aboveground fungi.

You have to admit it, squirrels can be pretty funny. I often talk back to the ones that are warning me off with their chirps and flipping tails. It amuses me that such a little mammal is telling me to back off.

Squirrel antics at bird feeders are usually pretty fun to watch too. They’ll try and try to reach the seed no matter what obstacle you put in front of them.

Well, and then there’s this. Squirrels are incredibly clever when it comes to getting a free meal.

Rabbits in the garden

It was hard to find any information about the benefits of Rabbits in my garden. The Internet is full of articles on how to repel them.

Because of the nice wet winter we had on the California coast, the rabbits look very fluffy and healthy. They are fun to watch except when they are eating my plants.

The only benefit I could find was that the fertilizer gained from rabbit pellets.

The rabbits and I are usually at war with each other but we both live here.

Raccoons

Raccoons have furry coats in brown-gray with ringed tails and a telltale black mask across their eyes. Their ears are pointed and their paws handlike, capable of detailed tasks such as pulling apart objects or unlatching a door. These mammals eat both plant-based and animal-based foods and are known for their ability to show up in a variety of locations due to climbing and digging skills.

While you do not want to leave a raccoon problem untreated, these animals do offer certain benefits to your yard. Thanks to their preference for a variety of foods, raccoons help keep your yard free of pests. For example, raccoons will eat wasp larvae, destroying the nest. Raccoons also eat other pests, such as small rodents, keeping your yard free of a variety of problems.

Fortunately they only show up after dark and not been a problem for me.  There once was a big fight outside my bedroom door which frightened me at first when they woke me up.

Can snails be beneficial?

I would say definitely no! But I did find this information

We’ve always viewed garden snails in a negative light so maybe we need to start asking ourselves what benefits could these creatures hold for our gardens.

As scavengers they’re not usually interested in your healthy plants and vegetables. They’re more intent on feasting on something that’s struggling and sick or dying. So, if you find a few snails crawling over your lettuces it’s a good sign that the environment for growing lettuce is not a good one. If it were then your lettuces would be resilient to the mop-up actions of these snails and only the outer leaves would be consumed.

It's hard for me to accept this. My snails eat whatever they please and often.

Deer

I couldn't find one benefit for the garden! The only benefit for me is the pleasure of watching them, and then only if I can remember this after they have feasted on every blooming rose in my garden.

Bees

Bees are critical pollinators — alongside butterflies and hummingbirds — but they’re misunderstood. Many people are afraid of bee stings and think bees are aggressive, but when bees visit a garden, they’re really not interested in people. They come for the buffet of bloom.

Stop imagining bees as dangerous and aggressive, and think of them as watchable wildlife. Showy flowers attract lots of bees, and that’s as it should be: they’re here to help.

Frogs

 Frogs eat bugs
And birds eat bugs
And little deer eat Ivy

Frogs are amazing at cleaning the garden from harmful insects. If you are having such problems, you can easily eliminate them by introducing frogs among your plants. A single frog can eat over 100 insects, such as caterpillars, sow bugs and cutworms and more. These can destroy your entire garden if left unchecked. With frogs around, you won’t need to use harmful pesticides, either.

What else is out there? Spiders? Ants?

Oh my gosh, ants eat aphids and that's good.

Though most gardeners find these anthills a nuisance, they are our first clue to the important, helpful roles ants play in gardens and  lawns—they’re tiny roto­tillers. Tunneling ants turn over as much soil as earthworms do, aerating the soil and redistributing nutrients. Ants are also part of the world recycling crew: acting as scavengers, collecting dead insects and turning them into fertilizer for your soil.


Spiders can be good for your garden. Nothing eats as many garden pests as spiders do. Their appetite is voracious and observing one in the garden is both thrilling and meditative. These little creatures can spend all day rebuilding a web after it has been damaged in the hopes of catching yet another meal. One cannot help but cheer watching a spider catch a wasp or an earwig.

So come one, come all and benefit my little garden!






Friday, June 3, 2016

Tiny quail scurrying about my garden

I tried to garden this morning, but my flock of Quail were scurrying around, exploring and teaching their young to look for food.  I ended up just watching them from afar.

The California Quail is a handsome, round ball of a bird with a rich gray breast, intricately scaled underparts, and a curious, forward-drooping head plume. Its stiffly accented Chi-ca-go call is a common sound of the chaparral and other brushy areas of California and the Northwest. Often seen scratching at the ground in large groups or dashing forward on blurred legs, California Quail are common but unobtrusive. They flush to cover if scared, so approach them gently.

Several Quail broods may mix after hatching, and all the parents care for the young. Adults that raise young this way tend to live longer than adults that do not. This seems to be what is happening in my yard because there are several male guards and several adult hens with a bunch of those cute little ones trailing along , exploring everything in my garden.

I wondered about their calls to each other that sound like they are calling "Chi-caw-go" Pairs call antiphonally, meaning that the male and female alternate calls, fitting them into a tightly orchestrated pattern.

They are mainly seed eaters but also eat leaves, flowers, catkins, grain, manzanita and poison oak berries, acorns, and invertebrates such as caterpillars, beetles, mites, millipedes, and snails. Diet is typically about 70 percent vegetarian. My garden has a lot of these type of things!

As an adaptation to living in arid environments, California Quails can often get by without water, acquiring their moisture from insects and succulent vegetation. During periods of sustained heat they must find drinking water to survive. I provide water during this time and have observed other birds
I turn to my paper, and coffee, and do as I please.