Personal Thoughts

So 2016 has been a tough year for losing celebrities, but now the loss has become personal. When I joined the Maintenance/Sail Crew at the Maritime Museum, I did so, in part, in hope of being able to sail the Star of India. My hard work was rewarded in 1999 by being chosen to sail on the Star, something we did four times that summer. It was in those days of sail training that I first got to meet Captain Rich Goben. As we started sail training, Capt Goben took the time to explain the physics of how the ship and the wind worked together to travel. He was explaining the larger picture of square-rigged sailing, not just which piece of rope did what, so that we would have a complete understanding of how the ship worked, and what he had to keep in mind as Captain. I heard him repeat those explanations over and over in the 11 years that I worked around the Star and the Museum’s other ships. He diligently repeated himself because he know that there were new crew members who could benefit from his lessons, and that was part of why they were at the Museum.

In 11 years, I saw his helpful, cherry attitude deal with all sorts of situations, always with grace, understanding, and strong leadership. He could be quite silly, when the situation called for it. In 2008, when the Star of India wasn’t able to sail, Capt Goben and a small crew took the Medea out to see with HMS Surprise and Californian. I’m not quite sure why, but Capt Goben set up a fishing pole of the aft deck of Medea. He had to clear the line many times, and never caught anything except seaweed, but it seemed the perfect  addition to our day ride on the 100+ old steam yacht (or fishing trawler, I guess).










And the crew knew that when Capt Goben picked up his mandolin or violin to join the music on the main deck, we could all take a break as well. Cause we knew that he wasn’t likely to yell, “Ready About” in the middle of a good reel. Sadly, Rich Goben died on Monday after a short illness, and now I’d be happy to hear him call for a tack or a wear or just about any command I can think of. Fair Winds and Following Seas to my friend and shipmate, we’ll not see his like again.

Capt'n Fiddles 11:15


I’ve known about the Christmas Truce of 1914 for over twenty years because of John McCutcheon’s wonderful song Christmas in the Trenches. This lovely commercial (imagine those words) gives a version of the story. Don’t miss the making of video and the history video that are linked at the end.



So, after my last post, one of my friends asked for a checklist. I got such a list from the lawyer after Jo Ann died, but I found it incomplete and poorly written. So after looking around, stealing some verbiage from another source (AARP), pulling together things that we learned that I didn’t see anywhere else, and adding suggestions from friends, I do have such a list.

Caveats –

  1. This list does not contain everything for every situation. Especially, it contains things that may not apply if the decedent is married (that changes a few things). But, as I was told  lately, it’s a place to start.
  2. I am not a lawyer. This list does not apply in every state. Probate laws can be different, especially in the time frame that certain things need to be done. Google ‘Probate in <my state>’ for particulars. California’s laws are somewhat different than Colorado.
  3. Lawyers. They (and Paralegals) are expensive, but they know exactly what they are doing. It’s just best to use than as little as possible, but for the things that are easier for them than you (e.g. filing the few docs in court that are necessary – they have a pipeline to such things that outsiders don’t have).
  4. This list assumes that the decedent had a will, at the least. A will is like architectural  drawings – they don’t build the building, but they do tell you where to put everything. I can’t speak to probate without a will. I fact it gives me the willies just to think about it.

So without further ado, the list. A link to a pdf is listed at the end, so you can take it with you.


Documents and other Items to Gather Upon Death

  • Death certificates (start with 4-6, you can always order more)
  • Social Security card
  • Will and Trust Agreements
  • Marriage certificate
  • Divorce Papers
  • Birth certificate
  • Birth certificates for any children
  • Insurance policies – life, property, automobile
  • Pension, IRA and retirement statements
  • Deeds and titles to property, leases (both leasee and lessor)
  • Automobile title and registration papers
  • Stock certificates
  • Bank passbooks, statements, Certificates of Deposit
  • Military Records including Honorable discharge papers for a veteran and/or a claim number
  • Recent income tax forms and W-2 forms
  • Loan and installment payment books and contracts
  • Funeral and burial plans
  • Safe Deposit rental agreement and keys
  • Computer accounts and passwords
  • Bankruptcy filings
  • Partnership or corporate agreements
  • Unpaid bills

If you have a scanner, scanning document makes them much easier to convey. Most agencies will work from an emailed copy or will return an original to you. The one other document that you may need certified copies of is Letters Testamentary, which gives the Personal Representative their power over the estate. Many agencies will make a copy if you let them see the original (our bank seemed to work this way).


What to do when someone dies


Immediately after death

Arrange for organ donation. It may be the last detail you want to think about, but arrangements need to be made almost immediately at death. Not certain about the person’s wishes? Two sources to check: the driver’s license and an advance health care directive, such as a living will or health care proxy. If the answer is “yes,” the hospital where the person died will have a coordinator to guide you through the process. If your loved one died outside of a hospital — that includes in hospice or a nursing home — contact the nearest hospital. Staff will be on hand to answer questions about what’s next. There is no cost.

Contact immediate family. Of course you want to update key family members. Bringing them together in person, by phone or electronically (via mass email, Skype or Facebook Family page), is an opportunity not only to comfort one another but also to share information about important decisions that must be made — some of them immediately. Do any of you, for example, know of an arrangement for the funeral or other source for burial wishes?

Follow body bequeathal instructions. If the person made arrangements to donate his or her body to a medical school, the family must respect those wishes. An advance directive, living will or health proxy may guide you to a particular institution.

Consider funeral preparations. If possible, bring together key family members for an early conversation. This is especially helpful if the deceased left no advance instructions. Factors to consider:

  • What did the deceased want?
  • What can you afford?
  • What’s realistic?

Choose a funeral home. Most people want a funeral home to transport the body from the morgue to its facility. The deceased may have identified which home to use — and even prepaid for funeral services. If there’s been no conversation about arrangements, the choice will be up to the family.

Notify close friends and extended family. Make a list of as many people as you can. Find contacts through email accounts and personal telephone books. Contact an employer and organizations the deceased belonged to, if necessary. This is an ideal job for a close family friend who wants to help.

Secure property. Lock up the person’s home and vehicle. Is the car parked in a secure and legal area? Will the home be vacant? If so, you may want to notify the police (dial a non-emergency number), landlord or property manager or alarm company. Have someone care for pets until a permanent arrangement is made.

Notify the post office. Use the forward mail option. This will prevent accumulating mail from attracting attention. It can also inform you about subscriptions, creditors and other accounts that need to be canceled.

To Do Before the Funeral

Meet with the director handling the funeral or memorial arrangements. Use instructions your loved one might have left and the earlier family discussion to guide the many decisions to be made.

  • Will the body be embalmed or cremated?
  • Will there be a casket, and if so, will it be open or closed?
    • If body will be cremated, will the ashes be scattered? If the ashes are deposited urn, will it be placed in a mausoleum?
  • Where is the burial site?
  • Do religious traditions need to be respected?
  • Will there be contributions to charities in lieu of flowers?

For a veteran, inquire about special arrangements. A range of benefits can help tailor a veteran’s service. You may be able to get assistance with the funeral, burial plot or other benefits. You can find many details about options at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website. Or call Veterans Affairs at 1-800-827-1000 or your local veterans agency, often included in local government listings. You can also inquire about veteran’s survivor benefits.

Enlist help for the funeral. Relatives and friends may be needed to serve as pallbearers, to create or design the funeral program, cook meals (for a repast gathering or simply for the household of the deceased), take care of children or pets, or shop for any items needed for the funeral or household of the deceased.

Organize a post-funeral gathering. Depending on your tradition, it’s called a repast or a wake. It can be held at the church, a banquet hall or someone’s house. Enlist the help of friends and relatives to plan.

Spread the word about the service. Once a date and time have been set for the service, share the details with those on your contact list. Include an address to send cards, flowers or donations.

Have someone help you make a list of well wishers. Keep track of who sends cards, flowers and donations so that you can acknowledge them later.

Prepare an obituary. The funeral home might offer the service or you might want to write an obituary yourself. If you want to publish it in a newspaper, the funeral home will usually help you check on rates, deadlines and submission guidelines. You may want to put funeral notices in decedent’s hometown paper. Don’t include such details as exact date of birth that an identity thief could use.

To Do After the Funeral

Lists I made a list of every agency or business that I called with the date and what they needed me to do, even if it was nothing. I have gone back to that list various times and it has been nice to know exactly what I was told and when. I did the same for every catalogue I called to be removed from the mailing list.

Get duplicate death certificates. I have seen many helpful sites suggest you get a dozen death certificates – that’s crazy. They aren’t exactly cheap and you shouldn’t need that many. Start with 4-6 and get more if you need them. Your funeral director may help you handle this or you can order them from the vital statistics office in the state where the death occurred or from the city hall or other local records office. Each certified record will cost in the neighborhood of $10 or $20. (And if you buy 12, that’s $240 the estate can’t get back.)

Send thank-you notes. From the contact list that you acquired earlier, send thank-you notes and acknowledgements. Consider delegating portions of this task to a family member, if you desire.

Bills/Payments. Make a list of regular bills to have as a reminder – be sure to note if any are on automatic payment plans, or note when payments are due. Some examples of bills to locate:

  • Utility Bills (electric, heating, telephone, cell phones, water/sewer/garbage, internet, etc.)
  • Long Term Debts (home mortgages, Bank Line of Credit, car loans, etc.)
  • Rental fees (home, apartment, assisted living, or nursing home, etc.)
  • Credit Card and Debit Card bills
  • Insurance bills (health, Long Term Care, home, car, life insurance, etc.)
  • Property Tax bills (if paid separately and not included in home mortgage)

Banks, Financial Institutions, and Credit Card Companies. If you were a co-signer or had a joint account with the deceased, you must notify the Bank or other Financial Institutions of the death. For joint accounts “with the right of survivorship” the survivor owns all of the money in the account, but you still must notify the bank of the death. Credit card accounts will quickly go to a collections agency if you notify them of the death. Our lawyer recommended that we obtain the balances before we notified the card companies if we could. If you have access to online records printing out a few months worth might be useful for finding ongoing billers.

Power of Attorney. If you were the holder of a Power of Attorney (sometimes called an “attorney-in-fact” or the “agent”) for the deceased, your authority to act under the Power of Attorney ends at the time of death.

Notify local Social Security office. Contact your local Social Security office or the national office, (1-800-772-1213). If your loved one was receiving benefits, they must stop because overpayments will require complicated repayment. Even a payment received for the month of death needs to be returned. If the deceased has a surviving spouse or dependents, ask about their eligibility for increased personal benefits and about a one-time payment of $255 to the survivor.

Handle Medicare. If your loved one received Medicare, Social Security will inform the program of the death. If the deceased had been enrolled in Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage (Part D), Medicare Advantage plan or had a Medigap policy, contact these plans at the phone numbers provided on each plan membership card to cancel the insurance.

Look into employment benefits. If the deceased was working, contact the employer for information about pension plan, credit unions and union death benefits. You will need a death certificate for each claim.

Stop health insurance. Notify the health insurance company or the deceased’s employer. End coverage for the deceased, but be sure coverage for any dependents continues if needed.

Notify life insurance companies. If your loved one had life insurance, appropriate claim forms will need to be filed. You will need to provide the policy numbers and a death certificate. If the deceased was listed as a beneficiary on a policy, arrange to have the name removed.

Terminate other insurance policies. Contact the providers. That could include homeowner’s, automobile and so forth. Claim forms will require a copy of the death certificate.

Meet with a probate attorney. The executor should choose the attorney although you may remain with the decedent’s estate lawyer if that works for you. If there is a will, the Personal Representative or Executor named in it and the attorney will have the document admitted into probate court. If there isn’t a will, the probate court judge will name an administrator in place of an executor. The probate process starts with an inventory of all assets (personal property, bank accounts, house, car, brokerage account, personal property, furniture, jewelry, etc.), which will need to be filed in the probate court.

Contact financial advisers, stockbrokers, etc. Determine the beneficiary listed on these accounts. Depending on the type of asset, the beneficiary may get access to the account or benefit by simply filling out appropriate forms and providing a copy of the death certificate. If that’s the case, the executor wouldn’t need to be involved. If there are complications, the executor could be called upon to help out.

Notify mortgage companies and banks. It helps if your loved one left a list of accounts, including online passwords. Otherwise, take a death certificate to the bank for assistance. Change ownership of joint bank accounts. Did the deceased have a safe deposit box? If a password or key isn’t available, the executor would most likely need a court order to open and inventory the safe deposit box. Most probate courts have administrative rules about steps to access the box of any decedent.

Close credit card accounts. For each account, call the customer service phone number on the credit card, monthly statement or issuer’s website. Let the agent know that you would like to close the account of a deceased relative. Upon request, submit a copy of the death certificate by fax or email. If that’s not possible, send the document by registered mail with return receipt requested. Once the company receives the certificate, it will close the account as of the date of death. If an agent doesn’t offer to waive interest or fees after that date, be sure to ask. Keep records of the accounts you close and notify the executor of the estate about outstanding debts.

Notify credit reporting agencies. To minimize the chance of identity theft, provide copies of the death certificate to the three major firms — Equifax, Experian and Transunion — as soon as possible so the account is flagged. Four to six weeks later, check the deceased’s credit history to ensure no fraudulent accounts have been opened.

Cancel driver’s license. Clearing the driver’s license record will remove the deceased’s name from the records of the department of motor vehicles and help prevent identity theft. Contact the state department of motor vehicle for exact instructions. You may have to visit a customer-service center or mail documentation. Either way, you’ll need a copy of the death certificate.

Cancel email and website accounts. It’s a good idea to close social media and other online accounts to avoid fraud or identity theft. The procedures for each website will vary. For instance, Google Mail (Gmail) will ask you to provide a death certificate, a photocopy of your driver’s license and other detailed information.

Stop catalogues. Register the decedent at the Direct Marketing Association website ( This will stop catalogues and other direct marketing materials.

Cancel memberships in organizations. Reach out to sororities, fraternities, professional organizations, etc., the deceased belonged to and find out how to handle his/her membership status. Greek organizations may want to hold a special ceremony for your loved one.

Contact a tax preparer. A return will need to be filed for the individual, as well as for an estate return. Keep monthly bank statements on all individual and joint accounts that show the account balance on the day of death.

Notify the election board. According to a 2012 Pew Center report, almost 2 million people on voter registration rolls are dead.

Arrange for headstone. You can typically purchase a headstone through the cemetery or from an outside vendor of your choice. Consult the cemetery about rules, regulations and specifications such as color and size, particularly if you go with an outside vendor.


And here’s the link –  What to Do When Someone Dies pdf. Best of luck.


So after two years and two days, Stan closed the Jo Ann’s Estate bank account yesterday. (He was made the Personal Rep on July 26th,2012 so that’s the formal opening of the estate, but you get the picture.) This last six months have been quiet, but I’ve tried to stay on things, so this didn’t go on and on. The official language is “personal representative has fully administered this estate by making payment, settlement, or other disposition of: all lawful claims; expenses of administration; Federal and state estate taxes; inheritance  taxes and other death taxes; and decedents estate federal and state income taxes. The assets of the estate have been distributed to the persons entitled to receive such assets in the amount and the manner in which they are entitled.” This sounds like an awful lot of work and it was.

In the spring, we had the final taxes done and then we started the dispersal of the remaining funds. I had to keep on the tail of the paralegal to finish the paperwork, which was a tad annoying, but we did get things done including the final accounting of things and money that had to be submitted to the court.

Annoyingly enough,  when Stan wanted to close the estate account (and an old account of his with $36 in it), Wells Fargo wanted $10 per account to issue a check instead of cash. So it’s my money, but unless I want to carry around a wad of cash when I close my account, I give you $10. Wow, I can’t tell you how much I hate Wells Fargo. We kept Jo Ann’s Estate account with them because we though it would be easier (and they have a branch fairly close to us), but I’m not sure I’d do that again. (We did have some good help from one of their Customer Service Reps on a number off occasions, but their general procedures and rules are bad.)

If I had the chance to do it all again I would have made a few different choices, but not too many. We didn’t buy too many death certificates, although we have more leftover then I would’ve preferred. I’m still calling catalogue companies to get Jo Ann’s name off their list, something I have a feeling I may be doing for the rest of my life.  In the final accounting we were somehow short about $24, which according to the paralegal isn’t very much at all so I feel pretty good about our accounting (not that I wouldn’t like it to be zero).

I can’t say that I look forward to ever having to do this again, but I’m glad that I have the knowledge I have. I never realized how involved even a small estate can be to handle and distribute under the laws as they exist today. I have realized how much more difficult this would have been had JoAnn not had all of her paperwork finished before she died, and that reminds me it’s time for us to make an appointment with the lawyer to start our paperwork. That might be the best lesson anyone could learn from this whole experience.


AsandiegooperaSo, the San Diego Opera announced yesterday that after 49 years of performing their Board of Directors had voted to close down operations at the end of this season. As the article points out, SD Opera has run in the black for 29 seasons (not an easy thing for any non-profit to do) and made this decision because they saw the handwriting on the wall that they wouldn’t be able to continue their strong fiscal history. A couple of thoughts….

First, I was a season ticket patron of the opera for 34 years, from ages 12 to 46, and saw around 200 productions. At first, I was not a willing participant. My dad and grandparents wanted to go to the opera, and at 12 I was not old enough to stay home alone, so I got to go too. I found that I enjoyed some operas and not others, but as I grew more familiar with opera, I grew to enjoy it a lot. Yes, I’ve seen La Boheme and Aida many times, but usually it’s hard to not love those operas – that’s why they are favorites. But I also saw less produced operas that I’m glad I did because they were great instances of opera, voices and production values coming together (Love For Three Oranges, Dialogues of the Carmelites, and The Passion of Jonathan Wade come to mind). By the time I was free to choose not to go at 18, I wanted to continue. Far be it for me to increase my own importance, but the loss of my patronage when I moved couldn’t have helped.

Second, in repose to the closing of SDO there have been lots of voices of sadness, with whom I agree. In addition, there have been calls for smaller, more nimble companies to take the place of these larger companies that are dying out. Up to a point, that would be great, but grand opera is called that for a reason – it’s not a small enterprise. Some operas can be produced in smaller venues with smaller casts and be perfectly great. But that does’t apply for most of cannon of great opera. Most operas have sizable chorus member requirements – 20 people at least (5 in each vocal register), some operas need a chorus large enough to split up and portray two opposing armies. And then there are the supernumeraries, some operas need 10-15 of these people. They could be done by chorus members in some productions, but that’s not as easy as it seems. And then there’s the voices-trying to put together a small opera doesn’t mean small voices. Even if you produce Aida with a cast of ten, you still need people who can perform the music. I lived through the years when Tito Capobianco ran SDO, and though he brought some very big names to San Diego to sing, he also brought his fare share of Carlo Bini’s (could sing the role, but often referred to as a ‘screamer of opera’). Ian Campbell brought us a few stars on their way to stardom, but mostly he brought a regular crop of above average voices across the board, and some real standouts. And bad opera singing is just as bad as you can imagine it to be.

Third, I’ve also heard some folks saying it is time for this ‘elitist’ form of entertainment to die. Yes, I will admit that opera is costly to produce and the tickets can seem expensive. The average ticket price at SDO appears to be $120 (I did a quick survey of their prices on the website). That’s not cheap, but there are tickets in the $45-90 price range too. Is something elitist just because it’s expensive? My water bill last month was $30, but my cell phone and cable bills were in the $150 range – are they elitist and the water is not? You might argue that I don’t need the cable or phone, but how many people have no cell phone? And that’s a bill that didn’t exist 20 years ago. Do we call BMWs and Mercedes Benz cars elitist because of their cost? No, people say they paid for ‘German Enginering’ or ‘Luxury Cache.’ I’ve never owned a car that cost more that $30,000 and only the most recent one comes close, and I have no real desire to have a BMW or MB. And the cost of an orchestra seat at a  Broadway show can easily top $200, does that make Broadway elitist? Art in all its forms is ephemeral and hard to create a cost basis for. I may love it and you hate it – that doesn’t make it less valuable.

Fourth, I’m sad for the people who will be out of jobs and those who will have reduced employment because of the demise of SDO. In addition to the employees of SDO, there are employees of the Civic Theatre (where SDO performs, but home to other production companies as well) who will miss out on 20+ days of work-box office employees, ticket takers, ushers, maintenance people, parking attendants, bar tenders and refreshment sellers, and others I can’t think of.  Musicians who won’t be playing in the pit, local restaurants who will not feed patrons before and after the show. And the patrons. You may think the everyone coming to the opera had furs and diamonds, but as someone who went for many years, there were buses from most of the local senior citizen living facilities outside picking up people after the performances.

Opera isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I see that. Oddly enough, I have almost no interest in going to the symphony. I’m not a classical music buff, I enjoy the theatricality of opera. In fact, opera is the most complicated form of theater, bringing high drama, vocals, musicianship, musical composition, and technical theatre together in one place. Here in Denver, Opera Colorado is only doing two production this year because they have financial issues. And yes, I’m planning to go to see Carmen, an opera I can almost sing along to because I’ve seen it so often. But the only reason for that is that I went to SDO for so many years. Tomorrow night SDO will perform a sold out performance of Verdi’s Requiem, seems appropriate. RIP, SDO we  will not see your like again.

{ 1 comment }

A Pet Peeve

by Mary on 02/13/2014 · 0 comments

in Daily Life, Personal Thoughts

imgres.jpgSo, ok, I’m going to go on a small rant here, one that some may have an issue with since I’m not a parent. But, I’m a child and I have that prospective on this issue.

So, you may have heard that a college football player on the verge of being drafted into the NFL came out earlier this week. Michael Sam, a defensive end for Missouri and likely to be picked in the 3rd-5th round of the NFL draft, came out to the media (and the rest of us). He was already out to his teammates and others he was close to. He is, in some ways, an unlikely candidate to be the first openly gay athlete entering his pro career. He is one of 8 children, one who drowned as a 2-year old, one who was shot and killed at 15 breaking into a house, and one who disappeared in 1998 and hasn’t been heard from since. Two of his living brothers are in prison. Suffice it to say that his plan to go to college with his football prowess was predicated on his desire to get out of his hometown and try to stay alive. More power to him, but my peeve is only tangentially related to him.

Yesterday on NPR’s Here and Now, a former NFL player who has since come out as gay, Wade Davis, was being interviewed on the situation. He was at Sam’s press conference supporting his decision. But in response to some comments that Sam’s father had made to the effect that he was uncomfortable with a gay player in the NLF, even if it was his son, Wade said the following;

A lot of people won’t like me to say this, but I’m OK with that. You know, when I came out to my family, it was about three to four years of a really tough time. But I think that we have to sit back and go, like, what is the life of a parent like when their child announces that they’re LGBT.

Oftentimes our parents’ dreams die. So for my mother, when I told her I was gay, this dream that she had for her son has now died. So parents need to time to kind of grieve and to mourn, and everyone grieves very, very differently.

So, here’s my peeve. The idea that parents need time to ‘grieve’ when the dreams they have for their children ‘die’ is a crock of shit. Children are not born to be the repository of their parents hopes and dreams. I’ll give parents two dreams for their children – 1)that they are healthy and 2) that they find satisfaction with their lives. Beyond that, the idea that your children are on this planet to do anything other than live the lives they choose, and that you should somehow need time to mourn that their not doing what you had hoped, is ridiculous. How many bridezillas are created by mothers who are trying to have the wedding that they wanted from their mothers? How many boys (not only but mostly) are pushed into sports by dads who always wanted to be the star quarterback or point guard when the kid wants to participate in band or chess or poetry? How many couples are hounded by their parents and called selfish when they consider that they aren’t interested in having children?

And considering that Sam’s father has lost 5 children to death and prison, how is he grieving his one child that appears to have escaped the toxic environment that he helped create? (It’s possible that he’s not and that Wade is putting words into the father’s mouth, but I’ve heard that line many times about children who decide to reveal that they are gay.)

Parents need to help children find those things that they love, it’s part of growing up. Seeing a child you love find great joy in something they love had to be a wonderful feeling for a parent. But grieving that Sally won’t be a prima ballerina and Scott won’t play football on Friday nights is going a bit crazy. Grieving is something that is part of life, but it should be reserved for things that are really important – like death. And we are entering a world where members of the LGBT community have the same choices to have spouses and families as us boring heteronormative people do. What part of their lives are we supposed to be ‘grieving,’ except the possible discrimination they will suffer from idiots they encounter?

I was lucky that my family was more interested in me finding my place in the world than having me take the place that they had always wanted. But I saw other kids pushed around by their parents (including college students who were told what to major in). Having a child isn’t like creating a robot that you’re got programmed for life; it’s closer to throwing a rock in a pond and watching the ripples play across the surface.

(And, if you’re interested in reading a book about raising children with identities different from their parents, I heartily recommend “Far from the Tree:Parents, Children and the Search for Identity.” It’s a long book, but the insights are deep.)


Space Oddity

by Mary on 05/13/2013 · 0 comments

in Daily Life, Personal Thoughts

Even in  a select group of individuals such as astronauts, this guy is special.


In Honor of…Me

by Mary on 03/29/2013 · 2 comments

in Personal Thoughts

So I was minding my own business in January when I got a call from an old friend. As in someone I’ve known over 30 years. He was calling me to let me know that I had been nominated and chosen to be an honoree at their annual Honors Gala along with my father.

A bit of history…when I was 12, my dad saw an ad in the paper for a production of Best Foot Forward (it’s a musical by the folks who wrote the music for Meet Me In St Louis among other things) in Balboa Park. The production was done by students in San Diego Junior Theatre, a youth theater organization. Since he had been slowly introducing me to theater, he thought this would be a great activity for us. It was a great show, with some of the best talent at JT (that’s what we all call it) on stage. Knowing that I liked to perform, my dad asked if I wanted to take classes and I said yes. Little did I know how much that decision would change all of our lives.

At JT, you enroll in classes, which give you the opportunity to audition for the main stage productions. After each two productions you are cast in, you must work on the backstage crew before you can be cast again, which keeps thing more egalitarian. This program in an after-school program; though many talented folks come through and go on to careers in front of the lights, this isn’t a school for performers.

In 5+ years, I was in 5 shows, on the crew for 10+ more and generally found my home away from home at the Casa del Prado. Since my dad had to drive me there, he started volunteering in the office, where he helped the Box Office Manager. A few months in, Inez, the well-loved secretary dies vey unexpectedly, and the Box Office Manager, Bernita Fox, took over the office on a temporary basis since no one else knew how to keep things going. My dad got a battlefield commission to be Box Office Manager – a volunteer position. This was around 1977; he stayed in that job until I came home from college in January of 1986. He was there when the city put permanent seats in the theater, which required a new seating chart (which my grandfather lettered by hand). He oversaw the computerization of the Box Office and the addition of accepting credit cards. He also served at least two terms on the Board of Directors.

When I came back from college, I took over. for the first 8 months I was a volunteer, but they started to pay me in September on 1986. I was there for 2.5 years. When some of my fellow alumni wanted to put on a fund raiser, I gave them a hand, which lead to an auxiliary organization, which continues to raise funds and do volunteer work for JT. (It’s now more of a parent organization, but they do great stuff.) I also served 2 terms on the board, and have helped at the December Nights (Christmas on the Prado to us old folks) and Gala Fundraisers throughout the years.

So for all this and more, my Dad and I are being honored on May 4th with some other great folks by JT. And though both my dad and I are pleased to accept this honor, we also know that plenty of other folks have given as much and more to this organization. In addition to the great training I received at JT, for things theatrical and not, I had a place to belong. And to this day I believe that JT continues to be that place for many kids. And all the other accolades aside, if I have contributed to this organization’s continued success, that’s the greatest honor I could receive.

My thanks to Skypp Cabanas who nominated my dad and I, and my congratulation to the other honorees. If you’re in San Diego on May 4th and you’d like to join us, it would be great to have you there, and have you support this organization.  This is the website for tickets.

I’ll leave you with this piece of wisdom (I’m almost 50, I’m allowed to dispense wisdom now). For all the hours that I have spent volunteering my time – JT, Friends of UCSD Theater, the San Diego Maritime Museum, The County Trails of the Sweetwater Valley, The Boulder History Museum and others – I have always received back more than I have given.


So, I’m a bit behind in wishing everyone a Happy New Year, but it’s all about the sentiment, right?

Summing up a year like 2012 that some real highs and lows isn’t easy. Offer on the condo and two weeks to find a house to buy (and finding a house that we really liked) was great. The moving and settling in was tedious, but the being settled was great. We had two great open houses – one to show off the new house and one for Christmas. Stan and I had great trips to San Diego (for my nieces’s wedding), to CA to camp with our friends, and driving to Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. Stan celebrated his ten year anniversary at his job. We attended dinners, games days, beer trips, and other great events with our friends.

And then there’s the elephant in the room. Yes, dealing with the death of Jo Ann was a shock. We were able to lean on our great friends and families, a real blessing. They helped us get through the first foggy days with few issues. The learning curve was steep, but we did come to understand estate issues that can only come in handy in the future. And we have only one major item, selling the house, left to finish things up.

Sadly, life doesn’t work like a scale that evens up by the end of the year. But the longer I live more I am sure that (as I said back in college),”It’s the pain that makes the pleasure worth it.” Bittersweet. Topsy-turvy. Unpredictable. Unscripted. Life.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2013 for everyone.


Election Day

by Mary on 11/06/2012 · 1 comment

in Daily Life, Personal Thoughts

So, today is Election Day 2012. For our household, it’s also the end of an average of 5 election-related calls a night. Coming from California, I’ve never been in a swing state, and most of the calls I did get there  were about local elections. Even then, I don’t remember getting more than 5 or 6 total each election. I’m actually kind of glad I’m not in San Diego; there are some really tough choices to be made on local and state races in CA. (The San Diego mayoral race is just ugly.) We had only one set of local votes in Westminster, a county tax vote for schools.

Some of the calls we got were asking our opinions about the elections. (Mostly they asked for me not Stan, not sure why. I must be a coveted demographic – Lucky me.) Since I voted by mail at the beginning of last week, those folks haven’t wanted to talk to me anymore. And we don’t even get up to answer any call that’s announced as Toll-free. (We have talking caller ID on our phones. Was worth whatever extra we paid during this election cycle.)

We also had at least a half dozen visit by local canvassers. Most were for the Presidential election, but one for for our local Congress-critter race. I’ve had visits in California, but always for local candidates. Of course, my old district was very clearly Democratic. Being a swing county in a swing state was crazy. My favorite was the three houses across the street (2 GOP, 1 Dem) with dueling election signs from every race. I get free speech, but a dozen signs in each yard makes the corner look kinda tacky.

Also, I really looking forward to enjoying social media without having to ignore about 20% of the posts my friends made. Now, I can understand that folks have differing opinions; I’m clearly on the left side of the political spectrum. But I’m really tired of the ‘the world is going to end if my guy doesn’t win’ or ‘go out and vote if your voting for my guy, but stay home if you’re not’ posts. I have to question whether I want to keep those ‘friends’ – do they really not understand or are they just willing to spew stupidity for the sake of fitting in with their  ‘party.’ Either way, makes me wonder.

Part of the value of US Democracy is that the world doesn’t end no matter who wins. Checks and balances, baby. Doesn’t mean I don’t care about the outcome. I do, but this ship is the Titanic, it doesn’t pivot on a dime for anyone. Not for the guy who’s been in office for 4 years, trying to change things, or for the guy who thinks he can change everything on day one (not that I think he actually thinks that – he just says that for his base.)

And joking about telling people to stay home or giving them the wrong day or place to vote is just stupid. The election is supposed to be as fair a fight as we can make it. Everyone who is eligible should participate; this is our government and when we choose we are doing the only duty that our nation asks of everyone. We aren’t required to serve in the military or civil service. The only way we could lose our county is by not participating.

We forget that the idea of the populace electing their representatives – from local mayors to the Presidency – was a radical idea that many learned men thought would fail. That the people were too flaky to make such critical decisions. Originally, only land-owning men could make those choices, but eventually that changed. Is our system perfect? Not by a long shot. But I choose to endorse the system we have as the best I have seen. And I do so by voting.

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