Archive for June 2015

Inside Out

June 30, 2015

Last night was date night. Every week or two Paula and I try to get out to see a movie and have dinner alone together. No kids, no mother-in-law, just us. Monday, is a really good time to go to the movies. There was only about 10 people in the theater.

Last night we decided to see the movie “Inside Out”. Here’s the IMDB link. This is an animated movie produced by Pixar diected by Pete Docter. The movie depicts the inner workings of the mind of a 12 year old girl named Riley who has been uprooted from her home in Minnesota and moved to San Francisco.

Riley’s mind is a sort of control room governed by fear, disgust, sadness, anger and joy. Joy is voiced by Amy Poehler, fear by Bill Hader, anger by Lewis Black and sadness by Phyllis Smith.

So everything is going just fine with Riley until she ends up at her new home in San Francisco. The moving truck is delayed and none of the family’s furniture has arrived. So Joy and Sadness through some magical means are transported to the nether regions of the mind, far away from the control center. 

Meanwhile back at the ranch Fear, Disgust and Bing-Bong alternate try to fix things. Things are not going well for poor Riley. So Joy and Sadness try desperately attempt to get back to the control center and to make things right. So our intrepid pair meet up with Riley’s childhood imaginary friend and together they continue to slog on.

The film is rated PG. I wouldn’t recommend anyone taking kids under the age of 11 or 12. The scenes from the subconsious parts of the mind could be pretty scary for a little one. The movie is certainly okay for seniors, though.

So, 90 minutes later, Joy and Sadness make it back to the control room. Mom and Dad give Riley big hugs and everyone lives happily ever after, per omnia secula, seculorum, amen.

I particularly enjoyed Lewis Black’s performance as anger. Anger is right in his wheel house. I give the film 3.5 stars.

Finally, we stopped at Taxco Mexican Restaurant which is just around the corner from us on Western in San Pedro for margaritas and some Mexican food. Very tasty.

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Mary K, Inc.

June 29, 2015

Back in the day, Mary was the one who managed the family finances. All Harold wanted was enough money so that he could do his Lodge and Shrine activities. Harold didn’t care  a fig about paying bills. Mary was happy to do it. So it was a struggle for Mary to give up this responsibility. So when Harold died in 2009, she was already handling the finances.

Three years ago when Paula and I arrived in San Pedro after moving from Mass, I was beginning to see warning signs. Bills were not getting paid every month. Sometimes, bills would get over paid. Since we were living with Mary, I could see the mail arriving every day and see the bills. i would also see piles of mail on the table that would eventually get put into a shopping bag and then forgotten. Sometimes, Mary would write a check then put in envelope and forget to mail it.

To add to the problem of incoming bills in the US Mail, she was also receiving mail from every right wing politician and organization looking for money. Indeed, even Harold (who has been dead now for almost six years) was receiving (and continues to receive) political mail. She was donating money to political causes. Not a lot, but enough to get her on numerous mailing lists. Even dying won’t get you off of the mailing lists. She was getting to be unable to filter the important mail from the chaff. More on that later. My view is that giving money to politicians just encourages them.

So, our goal has been to keep Mary safe and to avoid nursing homes at all cost (pun intended). Paula watches over her health issues, I watch over her fiscal issues. We both are cooks and chauffers. So I have become the CFO of Mary K, Inc. It didn’t start that way but after her first fall, it became clear that I had to do a more active role in managing her finances. Living with her certainly makes that easier.

After her fall in Dec 2013, we took a trip to Wells Fargo Bank. WF is her primary checking and savings account. At the time I was examining her bank statement and found three fraudulent checks written to the tune of about $12k. At the time Paula and I had Mary add us as signers on the account. If I hadn’t been looking over her statements, she would have never seen the issue

Because of the fraudulent checks, we had to open a new account and close the old one. WF has an electronic banking feature that allows me to get email notification on balances and checks paid. At the time, she had over $30K in her checking account. So I moved most of that money to her savings account. My goal was to have no more than $5K in the checking account and no less than $2K. Fraudsters can empty an account in a heartbeat. No use making it too easy.

So over the past year or so, we made trips to the other banks where Mary had money stashed away and got our names added to the accounts. Once again using electronic banking to monitor the cash flow from pensions, investments and payments. The faster I can notice something amiss, the easier it is to get the bank(s) to fix it.

Back to the political mail. Even though I tend to be more leftist in my thinking I would be throwing out mail from Democrats as well as Republicans. The donations are not tax deductible. Sending them money just encourages them to send more mail. There is a large trash can in the mail room. The political mail doesn’t get past the trash bin. We would be drowning in paper if I brought it upstairs.

One more “Mary” story and then I’ll shut up for today. Over the years, one of Mary’s “hobbies” has been real estate. Several times over the years when she came to visit us in Mass., she would go out looking at houses with little intention of buying. And so it went in San Pedro. She would look at real estate. So the real estate agent would call after a couple of weeks to check on Mary. I had to tell him or her the bad news. Mary would not be buying any real estate this time. Though from time to time she would decide to buy. She tended to move every 7 years or so. I don’t know how Harold managed to put up with that.

So not long after we arrived in 2012, she went out to look at some new town houses not far from us. I knew this because she brought home several glossy brochures extolling the wonderfulness of the property. I told her, “Mary we need to talk”. I can’t tell whether you are “just looking” or are “serious”. I told her that Paula and I had just finished a difficult trans-continental move. I told her that if she did this, it would be on her own. She could move, but we wouldn’t move with her. That was the end of that little adventure. As it turns out, the townhouses would have been spectacularly bad for her and us. Stairs are not our friend.

TTFN,

Joe

Mary!

June 27, 2015

  Time for another update on Mary. She is more or less the same as two weeks ago. Here are a couple of stories worth telling.

Mary needs someone at her side almost constantly. She uses her cane. She has a walker but doesn’t like to use it. So we need to walk by her side so that she doesn’t fall. A fall in this point in her life would be deadly. So this week she decided that she would like to attend the monthly luncheon meeting of her Republican Women’s club at the Ports’o’Call restaurant in San Pedro.

So this caused us to have some logistical issues. First, neither Paula nor I are members. I fail to meet two of the requirements, that of being a woman and being a republican, Paula passes the first requirement (of being a woman) but not the second. What to do? One time early in our stay here in LA, Paula did go with her but swore to me and to herself, NEVER AGAIN!

So that means making alternate arrangements. We call Mary’s friend Beth to see if she can give her a ride home. Paula would take her and leaver her. Beth would make the lunch reservation and bring her home. So far so good. Then on Thursday morning Beth calls me to tell me that she has had to cancel. That means we need to make alternate arrangements. I relayed the information to Paula while she was with Mary getting her hair done at Rose’s Beauty Salon.

Paula would go and pick her up at 2:00 PM. We tried to get someone to stay with Mary until Paula picked her up so that she didn’t go wandering off. Paula picked her up on time. Mary had won a door prize which was a bottle of Kahlua with rum. Not sure what we’re going to do it. Mary doesn’t do rum or coffee brandy. Perhaps we’ll donate it to the lodge for pub night.

One time a year or so ago, one of her friends asked Mary why Paula didn’t come. So Mary, told the friend that Paula’s husband (that being me) wouldn’t let her. Well Paula just about blew a gasket when the story made its way back to her. She had a word with Mary about making up stories. To which we add, “God Bless President Obama”.

Now for the second story. Paula and I try to keep up with what Mary likes to eat and drink. Sometimes the best of plans go awry. First example: Mary has been eating Cheerios with blueberries for a long time. Suddenly she decided that she would like to try something different. We offer her instant oatmeal, nope that’s not it.

We tried frozen waffles. She tried them once but doesn’t seem to care for them long term. Once she suggested that we make waffles from scratch. Paula and I said that’s not going to happen,

I usually have some Raisin Bran Crunch. She decides that she’ll try that with blueberries. Well she loves the stuff. Lucky for us Raisin Bran Crunch is on sale at Haggen’s.

Next example: For a while now, she has been drinking either cranberry juice or apple juice. She was also drinking Dr Pepper. But we have weaned her off of the sodas. We thought that the caffeine and the sugar couldn’t be doing her any good. Now all of a sudden she wants hot chocolate. (Nestle’s Quik mixed with 2% milk and put in the microwave for 45 seconds. Now we have a couple of gallons of juice that is not getting consumed. She will have to have the juice tonight because we are out of milk and quik. We will push the juice before we restock the Nestle’s Quik.

Occasionally people give us suggestions on places to take her. One suggestion was some fashion show in the South Bay. We gently tell people that Mary isn’t the same person that she was five years ago. Going to some of these events takes planning. How accessible is it. Are there enough HP parking spaces? Crazy as it might seem, the store that seems to have the most HP spots is Home Depot. And award for the least number of HP spots go to the grocery stores. We have an HP placard, but a lot of times the HP spaces fill up fast. Evening events are trouble. She gets tired easy and walking in the dark is a big problem. And then after all is said and done, two days later she doesn’t even remember going.

We prefer going to known venues that we are comfortable for Mary and us. Church and Lodge fit the bill nicely. There are either ramp and/or elevator. The church has about four HP slots plus a number of spaces for the “elderly”. So we’ll have a quiet night at home and go to church with her tomorrow.

I will add a new picture next time I write about Mary.

S.S. Lane Victory

June 26, 2015

2015-06-26 13.56.30Paula and I were feeling kind of bored this morning. We were all caught up on our errands. Nothing on our OES or Assistance League calendars. And, Mary didn’t have anything on her agenda. Seeing as we didn’t just want to just hang out. We decided to take a ride down to the harbor and take a tour of the SS Lane Victory. The Lane Victory was holding a grand celebration of the 70th anniversary of her launch at the end of WWII

The Lane Victory is one of only six remaining Victory class cargo ships built during WWII. There were over 5000 victory ships built during the war The Victory ship design was based on the earlier Liberty ship. The Victory ship had a larger engine and slighttly larger cargo capacity. Faster speed allowed them to better evade German U-Boats. Victory ships could do about 14-16 knots while Liberty ships only about 10 knots.
 We had a personal tour done by Art Morrison. .Mr Morrison is one of the few remaining veterans of the US Merchant Marine and served during WWII. He did pretty good for a 90 year old man going up and down the steep steps.

We started with a tour of crew quarters, then officers’ quarters then up to the bridge. There were a few modern devices add to the bridge (eg. ship-to-shore radio). Here’s the views from the bridge.

 
  
  

Then we headed down to the number 2 hold. The hold is set up as a mini-museum with four Jeeps, a steam engine, a torpedo and a mine plus a ton of other memorabilia.

  
  

Here are a few more outside views.

   
     Finally, we finished our tour with a hamburger, chips and a beer that was being served as part of the anniversary celebration.

Pink Flamingos

June 24, 2015

Pink FlamingosIt was with great sadness this morning when I read of the passing of Don Featherstone. Who was Don Featherstone you might ask?

Don Featherstone was the creator of the plastic pink flamingo. Click here for the obit in the NY TImes.

It brings to mind a fund raiser for the youth group at our church a number of years ago. It worked something like this. A flamingo had a ziplock bag tied to its neck with list of names inside the bag. The flamingo would be furtively place on a member’s lawn. The instructions in the bag told you that you’d been flamingo’d by the youth group and add to pay a fine.

Your job was to put on the next person on the list’s lawn without being caught. If you were caught planting the flamingo your fine was doubled. And so it went. The pink flamingo would make its way around town. (mostly at the dark of night)

Perhaps you’d like to buy a pair of flamingos? Not a problem. Head on over to Amazon and the good folks there will be able to fix you up. Click here While you’re at it you can buy some Star Trek Lawn Gnomes over at Thinkgeek.com Click here for the gnomes.

Alas, I now live in a condo and don’t have a front lawn. We do have some common areas of greenery, but our condo association might not take kindly to a pink flamingo planted there.

Mr Featherstone said in an interview that he had to keep all of his flamingos in his back yard. If he put them up front the college kids would keep stealing them.

Pot Roast & Cannolis

June 17, 2015

2015-06-16 19.23.38Today is our daughter in law Theresa’s birthday. We celebrated it last night when her family came for our usual Tuesday evening dinner. We had an excellent cannoli cake from Amalfitano’s Bakery in San Pedro. The cake was very tasty indeed. If you are ever in the Boston area, the place to go for cannolis is Mike’s Bakery in the North End. No visit to Boston should go without a trip to Mike’s. You haven’t lived until you have had a cannoli from Mike’s Bakery.

Now let me talk about the main course. I made a pot roast in our crock pot along with potatoes, onions and carrots. It was very popular with the family. There was not a scrap left. Well, truth be told, there was some gray left. But.leftover gravy is not much use without something to put it on. Plus, when you save leftover pot roast gravy you find out how much fat was in the gravy because the fat congeals in the refrigerator over night. I don’t want to know that.  I probably could have added an extra potato or carrot. Though the crock pot was pretty full. Here’s the pointer to the recipe.Pot roast is best when the meat falls apart when poked with a fork.

Even Jonathan liked it. Jonathan is 3 1/2 and has moved up to a booster seat to sit at the table. He usually likes to have his food on his Winny the Pooh plate. Jonathan is going through a ketchup phase. He likes ketchup with most everything.

Sometimes the ketchup phase lasts a life time. Our friend Shawn is 40 some years old and still puts ketchup on his eggs and other stuff. Sean’s significant other (Vickie) still tries to break him of the habit. So far that hasn’t worked. I always tell Vickie that there are far worse habits that a man can have. Ketchup on eggs is not one of them.

School’s Out

June 4, 2015

So Mary was feeling dizzy again and decided not to do the Y. That meant that Paula and I could go shopping together. It’s sort of pitiful when you think of grocery shopping as date time. We didn’t need a lot of stuff, but it gave us a chance to go out together and get away from Mary for an hour or so.

So we arrive at Haggen’s (nee Albertson’s) at about 11:30 AM. We got in line at the Starbuck’s for our usual refreshment. Iced Coffee for me and  Iced Chai for Paula.  Our barista, Kim, knows what we usually order. She just asks me, Grande’ or Venti’ or as I prefer to call them medium or large. Large today.

So by the time we got through aisle 4, we see a hoard of tweens arrive from Dodson Jr. High. So you don’t want to be in the chip and soda aisle when the kids arrive. I saw a kid on a mission with a six pack of soda and a bag of chips running for the check-out. You never know they might run out of soda.

Then I saw the line for the Starbuck’s. As we left, the line was about 10-12 deep and growing. (normal queue is about 2-3 people) Good thing we got there when we did. I would not have been happy.

So I ask Paula, “Why’s school getting out so early?” Last day of school for the summer, she says. Oh, I get it. By now, every park bench and bit of curb was occupied by the tweens snacking on their purchases. Working on getting their sugar high.

We just got out of there in time.