Some Christmas Thoughts

Last week, watching a rerun of my favorite sit-com “The Big Bang Theory”, Sheldon said, “My sister was enjoying her life wrong.”

As funny as it was, that line hit home. I was surprised at how big a laugh it got. There were obviously a lot of other people out there feeling judgmental about how their sisters led their lives.

‘way back at the beginning of this Blog thing, I wrote about my sister and how embarrassing I found the fact that at nine years, she still believed in Santa Claus, while I, at age six, already had figured out the hard truth. I’d also figured out that she lived in Fantasy Land. Happily. It made me crazy.

I demanded she face the hard cold fact that we were not getting a new table and chair set for our tea parties but that the old set was sitting in the cellar waiting to be painted.

She had to admit I was right because I dragged her into the basement to look at the old set. She cried. I was – not happy exactly – more like smug – because I was right about something for a change.

It was many years before it occurred to me to wonder why it was so important to me that she be less emotional and more logical in her thinking. I spent our entire childhood trying to get her to face reality (as I saw it). But chipping away at that sunny disposition was a thankless task. Luckily, I wasn’t looking for thanks, so I kept at it.

One of my most successful campaigns to lead Jackie into the land of reason occurred when we went to visit a friend of hers.

Brenda was a very, very erudite woman. A fact she pointed out to you on many – any – possible occasions. She could recite chapter and verse from any book she’d read. And it seemed to me she’d read them all. She did NOT however seem to really understand any of them. I found her amazingly boring and I wanted Jackie to admit I was correct!

I finally won the day. Jackie admitted Brenda was a bore in spite of her “book learning.”

But this time I wasn’t so secure. I couldn’t explain to me just why I wanted to dent Jackie’s happy world filled with folks she liked and fantasies she still enjoyed.

I never really convinced her to look at life as I did. So, I guess I failed. But I’m glad I did. I can still hear her say every spring, “The flowers are coming up” and during the holidays, “Betty, let’s go look at the Christmas lights” with as much enthusiasm as if she hadn’t seen them all the year before.

I never changed Jackie. She changed me.

Merry Christmas.IMG_5747.JPG


A few weeks before I disappeared into the dreary role of invalid, I had an unusual – and to me personally – a damned annoying, encounter.

I was finished with my songs and chatter at Oil Can Harry’s.  Both went well and were, happily, well received.  I did what I always do when my good buddy, Wayne Moore, is in the house: I walked off stage. Wayne was waiting, as he always did, to escort me to my table.  I took his arm and off we went, chatting easily about how much fun we both get out of performing or some such thing.  Wayne smiled, pulled out the chair for me.  I thanked him and we both went on with the night…happy that the show went well, and how much we both love being a part of it.

However, all was not well with at least one woman in the crowded room.

I didn’t see her coming.

“What’s with him?” she said.  “Doesn’t he think you can make it back to the table on your own?”

I didn’t even try to answer her.  Wouldn’t, couldn’t, even if she’d stayed long enough to hear what I would have told her.

So, it took me about eight months to get back into fighting shape (strictly vocal of course) but I want to invite you to listen in while I explain to her how much she is missing by dragging all that discontent along everywhere she goes.

I imagine that most of you are aware of the tale of the woman who moved into a new neighborhood.  She asked one of the new neighbors if it was a friendly town and the neighbor answered with a question:”   “Were the people you left behind friendly or not?”

“Oh, they were dreadful.  So full of themselves!  I don’t think I met one worthwhile person in 10 years.”

“I’m sorry,”  the new neighbor sighed, “But I think you will find the same kind of folks here.”

“I knew it! “ the questioner said with a resigned sigh, with only a touch of self righteousness…”It’s the same everywhere!”


If you go out looking for a neighborhood full of dreadful folks, I can pretty much guarantee that that is what you will find.  But if you set out to “Spread joy up to the maximum”, your chances of being greeted with a smile and maybe a home cooked dinner will be improved one thousand percent.

My point?  Well, just that you have to believe in yourself first.

I don’t think I am one of the great singers in the world.  As a matter of fact, I’m not the best singer at Oil Can’s.  But I sing well and I’m happy with that.

Am I the consummate performer, singer, song writer, actor that Wayne is?  Nope.  But that has been his primary drive for most of his – maybe even all of his – life.  But as a dilettante, I’m pretty damned good.

Where this unhappy woman sees condescension, I see tribute, and I relish it.

Now before anyone mentions the uneven field and the glass ceiling, I am not denying that it exists, but really, the ceiling is cracked now and the field has lost a lot of its slope.

The idea that every nice gesture hides a nasty anti-female accusation is much more insulting to the woman than to the man.  The male population is mightily confused by just what their role should be…….

A bit earlier in this everlasting battle of the sexes, my son Anthony had an experience that soured him on “doing the polite thing” for quite a while.

He was walking home one evening when the woman walking ahead of him suddenly dropped a load of papers she was carrying.  She stopped, probably swore quietly, and began picking them up.

Anthony, naturally, stopped to help her.

Did she smile and say thank  you?  Nope. Did she acknowledge his intentions at all?

You bet.

She stomped on his hand and yelled at him.  “I CAN DO IT MYSELF!”

Anthony came home, nursing a bruised right hand and a really bad attitude.  “I WILL NEVER…NOT EVER…TRY TO DO SOMETHING TO HELP A WOMAN AGAIN.”

And we all lost a little ground.

He was just being nice.

So is Wayne when he walks me to the table, and the fact is, that lovely gesture brings me joy.

Accept NICE for what it is.  Take along the idea that you are worth being nice to.

And you are capable of being nice in return.

Nobody can convince you of your lack of worth faster than you.

Presenting Dominic Bonaduce -guest blogger!

I’m slowly figuring out the blogging world – and one great blogging concept is The Guest Blogger. As soon as I heard about this, I know I wanted one.

Presenting my grandson, Dominic – my first GUEST BLOGGER!

Disgraced and Victorious—by Dominic Bonaduce

Among the many qualities that define the college experience, there are two that usually resonate louder than most within the average college student: it is a time made up of limited responsibility…and infinite freedom, a triumph of our upbringing that my friend Steve and I celebrated routinely.

Like many weekends during my college years, Steve and I found ourselves in Philadelphia visiting my uncle and enjoying the cornucopia of cheesesteaks and cheap (relative to DC) drinks. On one such occasion, we were joined by my 86-year-old Grandmother – “Grammy” as she is known to my family, my friends and me.

There was an unspoken competition during those halcyon days concerning whose grandmother was ‘cooler’. Steve and I were no strangers to recognizing and taking advantage of opportunities, and we saw my Grandmother’s visit as one. What better way to settle the debate over ‘whose grandmother is cooler’ than a night on the town with Grammy.

We followed the typical structure of a ‘night out’. We ate some greasy food, pre-gamed (Where you drink a little before you go out to ease the stress on your wallet and bar tab), and then set off. The night was off to a great start. We even ran into some folks we knew from DC and invited them with us to join in the adventure – this might have been a bit of a self-serving gesture. We needed witnesses to corroborate that my grandmother was cooler than [yours]. This is where things started to take a turn…

We were used to people not returning calls or confirming plans so we started off by going with our compatriots to a few local spots while we waited for Grammy to call. Around midnight I began to think she wasn’t going to call. Maybe she was tired and wanted to stay in? She was 91 after all. We decided to turn it up a notch and go to a few more spots.

At 1 AM I receive a text message: “Knock; 225 S 12th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107. I’ll be there in 20.” I handed the phone to Steve. We exchanged glances as if to say: “are we really doing this?” Bars in DC close at 2 so we were already thinking about winding down. We consult the group and after very little deliberation, off we went to Knock where we would join my grandmother and her large group of friends.

We approach the door at 225 S 12th Street and are greeted by a nice bouncer – rare in these areas. He took my ID and said, “Oh, you must be Betty’s grandson. Right this way” and we were taken back into a private area of the lounge. It was absolutely packed with who I now refer to as my 30 Philadelphia Gay Uncles – turns out we were in the aptly named Gayborhood of Philadelphia. Grammy was nowhere to be seen. I glanced ahead and as the crowd shifted, a small seated figure at the head of the room appeared. Grammy seemed to have been holding court as everyone had just finished greeting her and singing her praises.

It was late and we had already been drinking since 6 – as, apparently had Grammy –  that evening. We needed to slow down. We took our places at one of the lounge table adjacent to my grandmother and started chatting with her friends. We each took turns getting up and singing, entertaining Grammy and her subjects. “You make me feel so young” was my choice that evening and the humor and irony behind it didn’t escape me. We hadn’t been drinking since we arrived – which is good because few of us could stand at this point – let alone sing. Finally one of my Grandmother’s friends noticed this and the four of us were approached by a congruent number of gentlemen who wanted to buy us drinks. My communication skills intact, I was able to  order Crown Royal for my grandmother, Jonny Walker for me and Steve. My two friends ordered Apple-tinis. The room went silent. The hammers on the piano seemed to strike all at once letting out a dissonant chord that seemed to reflect the opinion of everyone in the room.

“Appletinis?!” shouted one of my grandmother’s friends. “you ordered drinks gayer than we are!”

The night went on for another hour or so and Grammy seemed to be getting tired. I wondered if I should get a cab back to the house for the three of us (Grammy, Steve, and myself). A sense of relief came over me and I signaled to Steve that it was about time to wrap up the night. I asked Grammy, “are you okay? should we head home?”

Her response: “No, no, I’m just tired of this bar. Lets go somewhere else”. At that point I knew that my greatest fears had come to fruition. Not only was my grandmother cooler than everyone else’s, but she was cooler than me. I knew my limits. I could barely stand, but my grandmother was able to vocalize this quicker than I was. “You and Steve should probably head home. You’re not looking well, dear.”

The rest is a blur. The next thing I remember: it is 8 AM and someone is knocking on our door.

“Wake up!” my grandmother shouted through the door. “We’re going to brunch.” I woke up, threw up, threw something at Steve, and we headed to City Tavern – the historical restaurant known for its pewter goblets, plates, and beer (produced from recipes from Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Franklin).

“Do you want one of these beers? Our founding fathers made these!” Grammy said.

We declined as we were a little fragile to say the least. The idea of more alcohol made my stomach lurch. I ran back to the bathroom. When I returned, Steve’s bloodshot eyes said it all.

I had the coolest grandmother.

I sat back down at the table and prepared to salute Steve with a shaky victorious toast. But what drink to choose? There was a flight of beers – one from each founding father – waiting for me.

dom for Blog

So What’s All This About Tiny Houses?

Let’s start at the very beginning…a very good place to start. It seems that everywhere you go these days, people are talking about Tiny Houses And there is no doubt about it, they are fascinating.

I am rapidly becoming an authority on Tiny Houses…not by reading or watching House Hunters, but by doing. I, with the connivance of some outstanding friends, am walking the walk and talking the talk.

I am living in my own Tiny House. Admittedly the T.H. is not quite ready for me yet, and I, I don’t hesitate to tell you, am not yet ready for it.. but I have moved in – ready or not!

First things first. You need a place to PUT the Tiny House and that can be touchy. States have all kinds of reservations about the best way to regulate them…Learn them BEFORE you buy one.

If you are exceedingly lucky, and sometimes I am, you will find that you have a collection of amazing friends and family who are willing to work their collective butts off to put things to right.

David Traub and Jay Winger have been on my BMF list for a lot of years, and man did they ever step up for this! I’m now sharing hearth and home!

My collective family joyfully accepted the offer of wildly practical help and began the actual work of choosing the size and style of home we wanted.

You want to know about Tiny Houses? I’ll tell you about Tiny Houses.

They are VERY small!

More than that, they are GREAT disciplinarians, and I feel that every young person, starting out on his/her own, should take a course in how to live in one.

What it comes down to is this: There are two ways to deal with everything. You either put it where it is assigned, or you throw it out. There is no room for your casual “Oh, I’ll put that away later.”

Unless you learn that lesson early on, you will never accomplish happy living in a Tiny House. A thing goes where it is supposed to go or it is taking up space assigned to something else.

People who have actually LIVED on a boat, tell me that Tiny House living is like that. If you have three people living on a boat, you don’t take on four forks for example. You only need three. And you don’t buy anything new unless you plan to throw something out.

I hear you howl and I feel your pain. But you haven’t learned about Tiny House pain until you discover the kind you get from hitting your head on a cabinet you’ve hung too close to the floor – or the sink – or perhaps, the bathroom facilities.

For reasons totally aesthetic – meaning not practical – I hung the medicine chest right opposite the toilet.


Every other time I got up I banged my head, I had a bad headache all the time! Practicality finally won out. But let me win that battle for you. FACT: Your head is more important than aesthetics.

Here’s another bit of information you will need – everything is also something else.   Prize example? Your dining table. That is also your desk and your prep surface. So when you finally decide that you are capable of feeding two friends at dinner at one time, you must first clear off the computer which resides rather smugly on the table. My large screen computer lost an uneven battle with a laptop simply because it took up too much room – and required a large, separate keyboard.

Daughter Celia, who is the expert on Tiny Houses, due to her stint as a field producer on Tiny House Hunters, tells me that the secret for success in Tiny House Living consists in large part in your ability to work the outside into your plans. To that end, she is shopping the internet for ways to store some of my larger cooking utensils in the garden without calling attention to them.   That means things like the Foreman Grille and the “cooks everything” electric pressure cooker and the juicer and the blender and…well, all the gadgetry you couldn’t resist and must now find a home or be put up on Craig’s list.

One of the wonderful things about Tiny House Living is that the American marketplace is ready for you. Stores are devoting entire sections to all kinds of wonderfully imaginative items that will simplify your life. For the first time in my life, I have made a plan to go to IKEA.

Lisa, a former neighbor and a friend, tells me IKEA has room after room already made up to help get the best, most efficient use of a Tiny House. Tomorrow, we will go check that out.

Meanwhile, there must be something like 25 boxes still sitting around the house, taking up space that isn’t there,

I am attacking the problem mentally, and thus far all that has accomplished is another headache. Somebody pass the aspirin.


Where there is this kind of activity, there must be pictures. So here are just a few. At least one before I moved in and a few several days later. Progress has been made – just not enough.

Next month a complete unveiling…I hope. Trust. Think. Come on. It COULD happen.



One thing about packing to move…you find all kinds of things that you never knew were lost – a favorite piece of jewelry, a photograph or two, a letter that you wrote to thank someone and never sent.

Things like that.

Some of the memories are lovely.  Pictures of the kids when they were tiny babies for example. And for a moment you feel like a bad mother because you can’t tell the boy from the girl.  Then again, most babies look a lot like Winston Churchill so instead of berating yourself for not knowing one from the other, you can find joy in the fact that they are beautiful and don’t look anything like the great man.

But some of the memories are not joy-filled.  Like a letter I received from my sister Jackie – who died a bit over nine years ago.  She had a heart problem and I got an emergency call from Philadelphia that she was going in to the hospital for a “procedure.”  Nobody said just what the  “procedure” was, but they suggested I come immediately…So I booked a ride on the next available plane.

The letter was her thank you to me for showing up so promptly and staying with her through the whole thing – which turned out to be merely the placing of a stent.  Of course, when it’s your own heart, there really is no such word as merely. But it was over and done fairly quickly, even though it had to be redone in a few days. Ultimately  It DID work.

Anyway. The sad thing was that she wrote so eloquently.  Nothing maudlin, no drama.  Just a beautifully phrased letter of appreciation.

The sadder thing?  I never reciprocated in kind.  I planned to.  I meant to write and tell her how having a sister was a great thing.  That whatever inconvenience she worried about me enduring in her behalf was more than worth it.

I didn’t say anything like that.  Actually, I didn’t write at all.  I didn’t call and tell her I loved having her for my sister.  That life was better for me because she was in it.  After all, she was only 67 wasn’t she?   We had plenty of time.

And then we didn’t.

A few years later, Jackie was coming home from a movie…a very funny movie according to Lee, her friend of many years who was with her.

“We were laughing about one particular scene when all of a sudden she said that her hand felt funny…”It’s tingling.’ she said.”

Lee swung the car around and headed immediately to the closest hospital…but it was too late. A massive stroke killed her. And I didn’t get to say all those things I was gong to say…later.

I don’t know why I don’t learn that lesson.  I didn’t say beautiful things to my Mother before she died either.  Not because I didn’t love her – very, very much, but because I just don’t do that.

And now I wonder why.

I cherish the letter I have from Jackie where she tells me how much it meant to her to have me there.  But I’m looking for the reason I never gave that kind of thing back to her.

It wasn’t that I didn’t’ know she wanted to hear it.  I did.  But I‘m just not very good at saying it.  If I could make a funny line out of it, I’d give it a shot, but just telling someone she is important in my life comes hard to me.

I think I might frame the letter.  Maybe if I post it where I can see it, I’ll remember to tell people I love that I do, indeed, love and cherish them.

But probably not.  Just putting it on paper feels like I’m writing someone else’s line in a not very good play.


PROCRASTINATE: To dally, dawdle or defer.

Now those are nice, harmless words.  But toward the end of the list in the Thesaurus come put off, stall and  vacillate.  And each of those is an accusation.


Moral of the story.  Stop finding reasons not to—just say it. Write it. Sing it.  But let your people know.


Funny story about procrastinating.  In Philadelphia there was actually a club know as The Procrastinators Club.  Its members actually sent a letter to the President of France during my lifetime, decrying the shoddy work that caused the Liberty Bell to crack.

I love that.

Progress report on my Tiny House.  I went to see my soon to be home today.  It is incredible.  It’s hard to believe that David is able to show this much imagination is that small space.  But the biggest thing he has accomplished is to make it feel – not small at all.  He has added extra windows and extra large double glass doors and skylights so that it is bright and airy looking and feeling.

Everything does double and triple duty. And nothing looks crowded. It’s going to be wonderful for boy and me.


The Blog and I are moving!  In the meantime, enjoy this picture of one of my favorite things: this little squirrel was center stage – or rather center table – at my surprise birthday party in Big Bear two years ago. Since then he’s had a place of honor on the coffee table in my apartment.. Even though I’m moving to a tiny house, he’ll be coming with me. Somethings are too precious to part with – both literally and figuratively. See you next month. I suspect I’ll have lots to say!100_3512.JPGA very rare species.  A squirrel I’d invite home.



I have read just about every article on “How to Get Organized.” I have tried most of them – however fleetingly – and declared most of them to be worthless.                                 Now at the age of 91, I have decided that when all else fails one has to depend on ones own abilities. Long pause here while I deal with the fact that, organizationally speaking, I HAVE NO ORGANIZATIONAL ABILITIES!

I have, however, been able to pin down the main difficulty. I am too easily distracted.   I have noticed this particularly as I am trying to pack up things in my apartment to get ready to move into my wonderfully planned new Tiny House. And yes, you may certainly come visit once I move in, but only one of you at a time.

There it is. Right there. I got distracted. I was about to discuss the problems of packing up but my mind went to my exciting new journey into a Tiny House. That led me to invite you all to come visit. That lead to mentioning that you should all come alone because I don’t like crowds in small spaces., and then on to the worrying about what I should plan to feed any of you who decide to take me up on my invitation. I mean, after all, a Tiny House can’t hold dinner for eight.


At this particular moment the phone rang and I am totally incapable of not answering a phone. Even when I know it is someone I’d rather not speak to, I answer the phone. It’s just the polite thing to do…and everyone knows how important doing the right, polite thing to do is to me and… But let’s start again. I AM disorganized. I realize it. But apparently the first part of the problem is learning to concentrate on one thing at a time…dealing with it…

Wait. That phone call. It was my neighbor reminding me that she brought me some home made cupcakes a week or so ago and I never returned her plate. I have to do that.   Hold on. I’ll be right back.

I’m back. My neighbor met me in the hall. Apparently she thought when I said “I’ll be right there” that I meant immediately. Of course that was an approximation. But anyway… She’d just colored her hair. It is a rather involved process so we had to discuss it for a few minutes…But now I’m back. Again.

Organization.   Right.

I organized stuff once upon a time. It was right after my divorce. I took a job – and god knows how or why anyone would hire me for it – as a secretary.

Aside from me, everyone in the office seemed to know what they were doing. THEY were organized. I was mostly bored. So I set out to fix me. I had four guys I was to assist. I gave each of them a color. Ed was Orange, Mac was Blue, Ted was Purple and George was brown. I didn’t really like George and brown is one of my least favorite colors.

They began to invite folks from other offices to come view our colorful files. “See?” They would say. “All that stuff in the Orange file is mine…” They were proud and so was I. Until the time came when they were beginning to look for things I’d filed.

I gave notice and left – not just the job – but the town…actually, the whole state. I went back to Philadelphia where no one could find me because I used my pre marriage name. Steck.

Now that’s another funny story. Here in California the initials aka (Also Known As) are very familiar. Almost everyone has one…or used to before foreign names became acceptable as compared to Rock and Troy and Todd. But in Philadelphia aka was strange.  I was at the bank, opening up new accounts in my new, old home town and I listed myself as Elizabeth Bonaduce aka Betty Steck. The checker looked at the application and then at me. She stared a moment then excused herself. She joined another lady who looked at the application, then at me. It became her job to confront me. “This aka,” she said. “What is that? And the antsy teller broke in. “What are you, some kind of criminal?”

Now what was I talking about? Oh. Right. Organization. But you can see what happens. It isn’t my fault. Life just keeps interrupting me. My original plan was to ask you all for tips on how you organize your worlds. What is it you do that’s different. Or maybe what do you do that’s the same every time.

Every time you walk in the door, do you remember to hang up the keys right were they are supposed to hang? I find that every once in a while I forget to do that, and then, when I go to look, and they aren’t where I knew they were going to be, I have no idea where to even START looking.

One strange thing that I am really organized about is toilet paper. I do not like toilet paper that is hung wrong. And that means, in my world, that the roll goes over the top and then down. I even go so far as to rehang toilet paper in public bathrooms. Why do I care? I haven’t a clue, but for some reason, THIS is important to me.

Organization? Hell, I don’t know. Maybe we can deal with it next time if I can get myself together by then. Meantime,


OLIGARCHY: A small group of people having control of a country, organization or institution. Example: the ruling oligarchy of military men around a president.

And here’s a little note of interest – or, perhaps, a note of little interest . It took me a while to find the proper definition because I was spelling OLIGARCHY with a e not an i. Now I see the need for dictionarians (okay, I made that up. ) but if there were a word like that, I think they should organize a way to look up misspelled words. Otherwise how does anyone know where the correct spelling is hiding?