It’s Christmas Time! It’s Christmas Time!

I remember when those words sent thrills, chills, worries and joys sailing though my body. Way, way back…just a bit shy of a century, I knew that Santa, that wonderful, scary, loving, threatening all powerful figure was sitting in judgment somewhere deciding just how good or how bad a little girl I had been.  I knew, but I sure hoped HE hadn’t noticed.

I remember when the center of attention shifted from Santa to the BABY JESUS.  It was a confusing time to be a first grader in a Catholic School. There were now TWO judgmental figures in the Xmas mix. And one of them was GOD!

I was a fairly confident kid and I figured out ways to misdirect Santa’s attention.  But God’s Son, Jesus was a whole new problem. But wait! There’s MORE! Or maybe there is less because it seems that God and Jesus were one and the same person. See??

Next came “the age of reason”, otherwise known as the year you pretended to believe in Santa and his elves, without, somehow, ignoring the Baby in the manger.

If you were a dedicated, crafty (read sneaky) kid, as I certainly was, you could get two good years out of that. It waa fun. Mother and Dad racing around hiding things and whispering and enjoying their misplaced joy in  “one more year.”

Now, I am not about to ask everyone to get back on the Santa sled, but maybe get off the hard drive of an exchange of gift cards.

OR…There is always an OR…

Admittedly, for far too many folks, money is needed.  Wanted. Required.

So give it.  Grab that cold gift card from the rack at Ralph’s, but wrap it in a tiny, thoughtful gift. Take a quick trip to the dollar store and let your imagination lead you to something you know the recipient likes.

I’m dropping one gift card into a bag of sugar free Life Savers and another into a bag of Cheese Bits. My friends still gets the money but they also get a laugh and the knowledge that I love them enough to go the extra dollar.

And that, is the magic.

Give it some thought.  Maybe homemade soup will tell someone that we remembered they really LOVED Lentil soup but hate cooking. Merry Christmas!

One year, when finances were really ‘way, ‘way down, Celia and I scoured thrift shops for pretty bottles which cost, on average, about 5 cents. We filled them with olive oil seasoned it with spices. Happily, we had a huge bush of rosemary growing in our garden that year. It became our favorite flavor. Financial investment per gift?  about 27 cents.

Imagination . That does it.

Make someone happy.  Spread joy and love. If you can afford a gift card?  Yay, you. But if love is what you’ve got to share – do it now.

Sometimes, tomorrow is too late.

gift card

Ready. Set. Move!

I think the fastest four minutes in the world must be the time between when you call for either Uber or LYFT to come get you, and when they arrive.. I know, I know, they tell you ahead of time to be ready to go once you call, but who, in California, gets anywhere in four minutes?

Right, your driver.

I am a real stickler for being on time, although, I will admit I have built in a bit more leeway since my arrival in CA many years ago.

I had a standing rule back in Philadelphia.  YOU DON’T KEEP ME WAITING FOR MORE THAN 20 MINUTES. I usually extended it to three times in a row. From then on, if you didn’t arrive by the time we’d agreed on, I was already gone when you finally DID arrive.

         My sister didn’t have this particular time tic.  She was ALWAYS late.  I hated that.  So one day I set out to be the late one.  I almost drove myself crazy arranging to be later than Jackie. And even then I failed.  She came five minutes after I arrived.  I think she hid out and waited for me to get there first.

         But here? In California?  There is no way to know what the Freeways have in mind for your journey.   I do know that one night it took me 35 minutes to travel one block from the freeway to The Other Side.  By the time I got there I was a complete disaster. But even worse -no one had even noticed I was late. That hurt.

         Even more irritating I think is the fact that you never seem to find out why or what happened ahead of you to cause the breakdown in another wise smooth journey.  There you are, driving along at – well – say it’s a crowded evening and you are stuck at 35.  But still you are moving, right? And then all of a sudden you are not…moving that is.  Instead you are sitting there in a sea of frustrated drivers waiting. That’s all.  Just waiting.

         Then, all of a sudden, you are moving again.  You are immediately sailing along at 65…with no explanation what-so-ever! I’ve been stopped for 10 minutes, I want an explanation.  A smashed up car or two, preferable sitting upside down in the middle of the road.

         But no!  Nothing!  Nada!  Everything is just smooth sailing.  It’s like a miracle!  But I don’t want a miracle.  I need a gory explanation about why I am going to be late.

         My next move is to turn the radio on…Or, if it is already on…to turn it to the all-news station and find out what happened.

         Good idea. But it doesn’t work.  It seems that while you were not moving on the 101, stuff was happening on every other freeway in town.  You can know in just moments what’s happening on the 110 or the 134.  And god knows what that was on the 210,but it’s better now.  However, on the good old 101, everything is FINE!

         IT IS NOT! 

         Even the next day, when I search the newspaper or tune in the morning reports…there is absolutely nothing about a stoppage on the 101.  I find that frustrating in the extreme.

         So now I am a passenger.   All I am required to do is be ready when the driver arrives. Sounds easy.  It is not!  No matter how I plan, I find myself rushing breathlessly around my Tiny House, gathering up – What?  

         Just what happens to me when I see that warning:  “Your diver will be arriving in Four Minutes!”  Easy peasy, right?  

         Wrong! But why and how?  Well, let me tell you.  I decided to calmly follow my movements once I have placed my LYFT order.

         First things first. Cell phone in to purse so I can make my call for a return trip…Cell phone. Got it!

         Blue Purse got…No!  Damn all!  I can’t carry a blue purse with a purple shirt!  Dump blue purse grab purple shirt.  It’s the wrong shade but it’s too late to rethink by now.

         Your driver will be arriving I three minutes.

         Keys!  Where did I see the freaking keys?  I just had them!  OH, right. There they are on the table….Grab keys, upset cup of cold coffee  I forgot to drink.  Grab paper towels and mop frantically before it drips over on…Too late.  It dripped already.  More dabs and growing hysteria.

         Mop.  “Your driver will arrive in one minute.  One minute?  Whatever happened to two minutes?

         Race to the door, open it and I’m out.  Still have time….But no!  Boy thinks we are going for a walk and he races past me to the – thank heavens – locked gate.

         Grab Boy, drop keys. Pick up keys, drop indignant Boy.  Toss Boy into house and slam the door.

Your driver is here.  Don’t bother to lock the door!  Being prompt is the important thing.  I run out just as the car with the LYFT sign in the window drives slowly past the house.

I wave my cell phone frantically at the driver.  He sees me and stops and backs up.  I open the door and hop in, ready to apologize abjectly for keeping him waiting.

But wait.  My driver is apologizing. It seems he drove past the house because he didn’t see the address.

I was very gracious.  Assured him I wouldn’t hold 30 second against him.

It was a short ride but a pleasant one.

         One more thing.  I still demand strict observance of deadlines.  Except sometimes. Like this month’s Blog.  


Thank you for understanding.

Darling I am Growing Wiser

I never planned on being old.  I took it for granted that I would die before my 60th birthday…no, scratch that…I planned on dying at 58 because my mother died at 58 and I knew I would never live to be older than my Mother. How or why I arrived at that particular bit of  wisdom I haven’t understood since I turned 59.

I turned 60 and I was convinced that I had miscalculated.  What I was not convinced of is that there was the possibility of sticking around to 93  Yet here I am, seemingly living up to everyone else’s opinion that I would “out live us all.” People actually applaud my cleverness in living this long when really,, all I have done is not die.

There is a rumor that “with age comes wisdom” I believe it.  Unfortunately the thing I have learned most frequently is that an awful lot of the things I congratulated myself on were wrong.

Now who wants to learn that at 93?  Certainly not I.

I DO realize that I am a lot luckier than an awful lot of people. For instance I DO know that that particular sentence is really poor. It is not a number of awful people…numerous would be better or a large number would suffice…but I knew that before I hit 93 so that is a bad example.

Let’s start again.

I spent a great deal of my life using the phrase “People are no damn good,” as my mantra. I am now going to admit that I was – well – exaggerating, and the proof, unbelievably, frequently lies in the behavior of millennials.

It’s my damn cell phone. We, my cell phone and I, are not very frequently in sync.

Just recently I sold my car and began a life of Ubering or Lyfting All by itself, giving up driving is a blow to the heart…an admission that you are, if not old, at least getting there.

Then you add the cell phone. You can’t have one without the other.

My daughter was patience personified trying to teach me the ins and out of summoning a car, and after every lesson I felt sure I knew what to do. But no. Son John and his extremely patient wife, Eileen, offered to make the calls for me, but I was determined to overcome.

And I Have.

Here is a perfect example of wisdom and aging. These days when I go shopping and need to summon a car to pick me up – and for some unfathomable reason I cannot connect with my cloud, I casually but confidently, hold out the phone to any available young person and say…

“I need to call Uber. Can you do that for me?”

The young person smiles. And conjures my Uber. The young person does not ignore me, nor, shockingly, turn to stone in the process. More importantly, I do not turn to stone in the process.

Being able to ask for help is a certain sign that you are – finally – growing wise.uber

Don’t Even Think About It!

I am, on the whole, a good patient.  I have a high tolerance for pain and enough

of my mind left that I can participate in my own care. So, when my doctor says to me , “Betty, you need to get more exercise,” –  I am willing to try exercise.

Something I must admit I have avoided with amazing success up to this point.

But, what to do?  

“Join a gym,”  friends say, which I could  but never would  do.

One well-meaning friend suggested golf. ³ “You get to spend some healthful time out doors, the walking is good for you, and it¹s immediate

gratification whacking that ball and watching it arch through the air to land on the green so far, far away.” I would happily join in that kind of euphoria, but it ain’t gonna happen. The one time a friend took me to a practice green so that we could enjoy this wondrous experience together, I was so bad that people around us stopped practicing their own swings in order to watch me miss that damn ball.  Finally one of the spectators came over and suggested to my companion that he should take me home because nobody could get any practice in. They were mesmerized.

I used to be a rather fine riding and all, but these days no stable will let me near even one of their more benign horses.  I might fall and break. Disney won¹t let me on his toys for the same reasons. 

Okay, so the question still remains: what to do?

Walking is good.  Everyone agrees to that it seems.  My doctor certainly thought it was my best option. “You can control your own pace and distance. You get to admire the blue skies and breathe deeply of the fresh air,” he said.

But wait!

Fresh air?  This is California.  Southern California! Remember fire and ashes in the air and the dreadful heat?

I point this out to the doctor and I can see him rethinking that advice. But he seems to have his heart set on this walking-thing. He quickly adds,:

“Just don¹t go out until the fires are under better control. And until the record setting heat has gone. AND – don¹t go out in the noonday sun.”

And I, always ready with a song title, fill in the rest of that line with Only Mad Dogs and Englishmen Go Out in the Noon-day Sun.”

However, my doctor, like many of my readers, is much too young to remember that classic bit of music frivolity by Noel Coward. He looks a bit disconcerted and makes a hurried note on his computer.  He tries to explain to me what he means but at the same time, I am busily explaining Noel Coward, so I didn¹t listen. We blink at each other and he tries again.

“The best place until the air clears,” he says, “Is probably in your own home.”

 He asks if I have good air conditioning and I assured him that I do.Š

BUT…”I begin.Š“He doesn’t listen for the “but” part.  He takes a deep breath and hurries on “Why don¹t you just map out a path that takes you all the way around the house and through all the rooms.  Do it for about a half hour, stopping for a drink of water when you think you need hydrating.”

He looks so relieved at having arrived at this master stroke that I don’t have the heart to explain my Tiny House to him. But the fact is I have already mapped out the exercise room available to me within the four walls of my own T.H.

I can take 17 steps north and 17 steps south.,. so, in order to achieve the 10,000 steps I have heard real enthusiasts mention as a healthful daily goal, I would have to make

Oh good lord, I don¹t even want to think about it! 

So I won¹t.


Age-old traditions are falling by the wayside. Gentlemen do not have to rise each time a woman enters the room, or walk on the side of the pavement closest to the ongoing traffic just to be in position to save his ladylove from the galloping horses that might threaten her.

Women are allowed to wear slacks to church, fairly secure in the knowledge that the priest, minster, guru, whomever, might embarrass her with a statement that at one time, was actually said by the man (who, these days, could be a woman) officiating:

“Any woman,” he said, “who is wearing pants, will kindly leave this church!”

But that WAS, strictly speaking, the traditional stance of the church.

So traditions change.

I don¹t believe my grandmother would believe half of the marriages conducted today should be allowed.

I can hear her now!

“What do you mean she isn¹t getting married in church!”

“What do you mean the bride is not going to wear white!”

“What do you mean that woman has the nerve to wear white?  Everyone knows about her and Mr. Smith!”

and, finally:


But some traditions survive despite all.  One of my personal favorites was triggered by the wedding recently of my granddaughter Celia, Jr., to her love, Rodney.

Everyone knows this refrain:

Something old, something new,

Something borrowed

and something blue.

I don¹t now why it lingers, but linger it does. And the single thing that makes that so very important to me is that Celia chose – as her “something old” – to wear a bracelet I gave to her a few years back.

It is a simple, gold band.

Not a show stopper – just a lovely bit of decoration. But its history is long, and the fact that it has survived and goes on is important.

Okay, now this is not a change of topic, just some background:

When I went to Temple University in Philadelphia so very long ago, I developed a warm and ultimately wonderful friendship with a girl named Zelda.  Zelda Goldich.  The name probably tells you that Zelda was Jewish. She was my first Jewish friend as I was her first Catholic.  Her grandmother was a wonderful older lady who cooked all kinds of great foods for me, but wouldn¹t eat with me because I wasn¹t KOSHER. Zelda was a bit vague on the details and I was wary of asking too many questions.

But I knew Grandmom liked me. She would introduce me to any visitors in the house.

“This is Betty Sex,” she would announce.  “She isn¹t Jewish but she¹s a good girl.”

The name came from Bubba¹s inability to understand my name, which was Steck, so ‘sex’ was the next best thing.

And now, back to the bracelet.

By the time Grandmom died, Zelda was in New York and I was

in Philadelphia.  Zelda was an independent woman in an era when everyday was a fight for women¹s rights. She confounded her family by living alone in a fifth floor walk up for years – up until the time, in her fifties, when she called me to tell me she was sick and needed help.

I raced to New York, hired an ambulance and brought her back to her family in Philadelphia.

Now, the fact is, Zelda was a rather difficult person to know. But I knew her, and loved her and spent a lot of the next two years helping her.  She lived alone in an apartment in Philadelphia, but her mother was in the same apartment building as were her uncle and aunt. Everyone worked to making life as good as it could be for my friend. But for a woman like Zelda, it was often easier to let her guard down around me, because she thought we were a lot alike.

Unavoidable, and not soon enough to avoid the horrors of a ravaging disease, Zelda died.

She left me that bracelet.

In her last goodbye she told me the story of the bracelet.

Zelda¹s grandmother came here from Russia as a bride – probably somewhere in the late 1800s. They were not rich but were always able to take care of their needs.  She brought very little from Russia.  Some linens that had been carefully embroidered by either Grandmom, herself or her family members.  Apparently they were not allowed to bring much of value with them and the bracelet was hidden somehow so whenever police-type persons checked for things would not find it and take it from them.

Zelda wrote that, while she had very little of great monetary value, she did have the bracelet, and she wanted me to have it because I cared.  Those were the word she used – I CARED.

A few years ago I decided that the bracelet needed a new life to keep it moving. After all am not going to live forever – though it sometimes seems I might.

So I chose to give it to Celia, and to trust that she will bring it the honor of living with someone who is choosing a life aimed at helping others.


Doing good.

Offering kindness.





Ode to David Traub

david and jay for blogIt’s been a little over a year since they told me.

“David is dead,”  they said.  But in my hospital bed, drunk on the pain killers and whatever else it was doctors were using to keep ME alive, I felt nothing.  I remember looking from the face of my son John who had said the words, to Ron who was watching, warily, wondering if I could take it, to Jay, David’s beloved husband and my dear friend, who looked as empty as I felt.

Ultimately the emptiness was replaced with pain and pain with fury.

It wasn’t fair!  I should have been there!  What kind of a God would take David away from me without giving me a chance to say goodbye?

And then one quiet evening, Jay knocked on my door.  He didn’t say anything – or at least that’s how I remember it.  He just held out a lovely card,  and smiled.

I took it and read it and then I cried

God, whoever and whatever he means to you, HAD given me my chance to tell David I loved him.

And I had used it as well as I could.  I wrote it down.  In RED ink.  Because everyone knows that things written in red are VERY important.

It was about 10years old this card, but if I were writing to him today, the message would be the same.

Dear David

I want so much to write something really clever here.  I want it to say how much I appreciate having you in my life and how aware I am of all you do for me. – so quietly, so selflessly.

You make it so easy to accept help that one might take it for granted.  And I do sometime.  But I don’t mean to.  Ever!

I am forever aware that you have brought something kind and wonderful to my world,  You make it possible for me to believe there is still grace in the world.

In the past, when I would do something nice for someone, I frequently felt unappreciated.  Then someone would say to me, “What goes around comes around.”  Personally I felt you had to   do good things because you want to – or have to – to live with yourself.

Then you arrived in my life – and if you are my payback, I won the jackpot.

Thank you so much for all of that.

I love you dearly.