Thursday, December 27

By Degrees

Last Sunday at church I over heard a beautiful young married telling another of equally enchanting status that returning to school and getting her degree would take so long she would be like, gosh - "in my 40's or something really old like that!" The added emphasis shot from her lips like semi-automatic bullets. I almost tripped into their laps. I think I sputtered "thank you" while both girls fretted about my reaction. "Oh, sorry! We know 40 isn't that old or anything..." yeah, just old enough.

Old enough to be what?
Dead? Stiff and calcified? Totally useless? Beating a hasty retreat, I was wondering what in the world she thought was going to take 18 years to earn a degree in ~

I admit I'm feeling slower in the morning because things ache, and I am super annoyed I can't see anything without stinkin' reading glasses, but I hardly feel like I am so old. I can remember being young and amazing like it was yesterday -

Case in point: leaving the Cameo Wedding Reception Hall on East McDowell 7 Nov. 1975: I'll have you know the geometric patterned polyester slacks and white patent leather shoes of this dashing groom were the height of male fashion. The corduroy jumper and RED wedge shoes of the bride were considered very flashy. You can't see it, but the pukka shell necklace was also "in". The vinyl purse was a cheap imitation for leather, but you couldn't tell right away. Too bad her hair is so curly, or you would agree it was the required waist-length to be truly sensational. Mostly I see in this yellowing Duke photograph a brilliant, double confidence that the world was about to be conquered.

I make no apologies to beautiful young things who see their life expanding in front of them forever and ever and ever. I did that, too. Now it doesn't seem like forever, but it feels a lot more "bite-size". I hope I have more control over my perceptions about what is obtainable, what is worthwhile, and most of all - what is required to get there. I got all A's the last 3 semesters at Phoenix College being the only granny in class for all but one. I loved every minute of it because it was so thrilling to learn.

I didn't conquer the world after all, but I'm not 40, either. I'm better than that. I hope I finally lose weight and buy some cute clothes this New Year. I hope I take my grandson Jack on many more stroller walks this year, that I will hear him call me "grandma", and that I will see all my children happy and approaching life's challenges with creative strategies. I hope I can plant things that don't die, learn how to make tamales and publish one or more of my projects that have sat burning a hole in the file cabinet for way too long. I hope I will always feel the rush of obliging control that ebbs from the tip of a brand new watercolor brush, the heart-racing from music or the magic of "beautiful language", and always feel gratitude for odd, funny little things that happen on a daily basis no matter what.

It is a very good plan to learn by experience as much as possible, and by observation when that option is preferable. Happy New Year to biting quickly into life a little at a time and taking longer tasting it.

Sunday, December 23

Scented Candles Can Save the World

Have you ever caught yourself smiling stupidly at a t.v. commercial for no reason? I just did and I had to leave the room immediately. I creeped myself out.

It was that Glade scented oil candle commercial with the sappy rendition of “Joy to the World” that would make Three Dog Night give up Rock for religion. Young, beautiful housewives lucky enough to light their very own Glade scented candle must then cavort and pirouette for “joy” amid floating fruits and flowers with all the inspiration of a bad high school girl’s beginning gym dance class. All that dancing explains the coincidentally convenient flowing skirts and dance shoes the candle celebrants are wearing for a very busy day at home ~ lighting candles and dancing.

Who does that?! In a day and age when more kids are raised by daycare, fast food is a mealtime staple, the family calendar is an impossible attempt to coordinate schedules and people can’t go anywhere without a Bluetooth stuck to their head; how do we get the insult and idiocy of a marketing campaign which reduces a modern woman’s day into the struggle to find the right scent? And then dance about it?

And another thing; why this song? Was everyone at the table for that particular Glade strategy meeting under 40? Gotta love Three Dog Night, but we thought it was stupid when it came out. It didn’t matter that it was number 1, it was dumb and meaningless and seemed highly appropriate for guys who probably wrote it on a tour bus powered by Mary Jane fumes. Really, who has a talking, wine-drinking frog for a friend? And that last verse – well, I don’t know for sure, but it doesn’t sound like anything to do with candles to me.

I should start my own marketing company. But first, I've got a lot of candle-lighting to do. After I find my dance shoes.

Joy To The World (As originally performed by Three Dog Night, a # 1 smash hit for 6 weeks in 1971)

Jeremiah was a bullfrog,

Was a good friend of mine,
I never understood a single word he said,
But I helped him a drink his wine.
And he always had some mighty fine wine.

Singin' joy to the world,
All the boys and girls now,
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea,
Joy to you and me.

If I were the king of the world,
I tell you what I'd do,
I'd throw away the cars and the bars and the wars,
And make sweet love to you.



You know I love the ladies,
Love to have my fun.
I'm a high night flyer in a rainbow rider.
A straight shootin' son of a gun.
I said a straight shootin' son of a gun

Monday, December 17

Christmas Break is off to a Thrilling Start

The heater is out, cold is in!
The Tanner girls take it on the chin.
They have new down comforters
to cocoon in at night -
But during the day, what a scary sight!

Never mind breakfast of coke and chips -
never mind the pall of bluing lips -
It's cold in our house, Mrs. Li please respond!
There's no telling how long this can go on
before my precious one (languishing so)
is frozen solid in her hoodie repose.

Saturday, December 8

Thinking of Africa

I never gave much thought to Africa until Bi ("bee" aka Robin) read "Cry, the Beloved Country" in high school. I devoured this beloved book. Next she handed me "Things Fall Apart". The first novel deftly unmasked post-colonial Apartheid in the 1940's, the second was brutally honest about ageless tribal conflicts that tore apart Africa's native sons and daughters setting the stage for sweeping European colonialism. We were prepared for Bi's announcement years later that she was undergoing an alarming array of gruesome immunizations and finally going to Africa.

Fulfilling a dream was bitter-sweet: the state language of Mozambique is Portuguese. Robin's mission to Brazil had prepared her to communicate on one level ~ she didn't anticipate how hearts would speak on another. When she came home after repairing water pumps, building shelters and serving in 3 or 4 different AIDS orphanages - if she could have she would have brought home Vincente (having inquired about the adoption process) - a little 2 year old who totally captured her heart and soul. I think she mourned him for a long time.

The corruption and degradation witnessed was mind-boggling. The population is so decimated by AIDS that many villages only have scant numbers of adults (or nearly adults) and all of them have hordes of orphaned, hungry children. A cultural adaptation to this phenomenon is illustrated by the children calling any female who is willing to help take care of them "tia", or "Auntie". Some of these care-giver angels are only teenagers themselves. Another evil reality looms darkly; eventually these same young women must venture out of the dubious safety of their village to supplement meager home gardens and milking goats by walking to the nearest town market. Scavenging for firewood closer to home can be equally hazardous; always the threat of violent rape upon any unaccompanied female is a cruel companion to the tragedy that is abject poverty and plague in a land that is literally the richest on earth. The generous cycle of fatherless AIDS babies is assured a place at the table of want.

Today on CNN I saw part of a documentary entitled, "Living With Corruption" about similar issues which oppress Kenya. The main corruption focused on by the report was bribery. For a little money, virtually anyone could present a false petition as a non-profit charity and receive their documents outside of the officially recognized 3 month process in only 3 days - no questions asked. They are then eligible for internationally sponsored relief monies ~ tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars ~ of which there is no accounting for.

Africa, however, is not the only continent beset by the stranglehold of corruption. As missionaries in foreign countries, three of our children have been tutored first hand in that nasty business. Bi was disgusted by arrogant, self-important public and ecclesiastical officials in both Mexico and Brazil who turned a blind eye to crime and injustice for a few pesos. James watched as people had to pay everyone from the Greek Orthodox priest to the man in a bread line that ran out of bread in Ukraine. Leiland saw the Mexican government brutishly betray her own citizens ravaged by a major, killing flood simply by officially declaring the disaster in ridiculously diminished terms to save herself the inconvenience of relief funds and re-building culpability.

When corruption pervades every single aspect of the social structure, there is no way to excise it for the cancer that it is. It is like an ill patient advancing to the fatal stage as multiple vital organs begin shutting-down. Where's the Doctor?

Now more than ever in the history of the world, good people everywhere feel compassion and charity and frequently respond to need around the globe. Some relief organizations are more successful than others in achieving a high level of efficiency; they have avoided CEO’s remodeling private mansions and can actually distribute the goods they deliver. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints works quickly and quietly within select international relief agencies – including a Muslim agency, to get food, blankets, medicine and equipment where it needs to go in a hostile environment.

There are also many brilliant acts of goodness and enormous bravery sparkling within the darkness of these sinking societies. Men and women who, like the widow of Zarephath, give and give again on faith to others when there is so desperately little to give – or who speak up for justice when doing so is a death-wish. There are impoverished men who never give up trying to provide for their wife and children, and who do not abandon them but find motivation each day to do the honorable thing – and mothers, who once abandoned or widowed, give their all to protecting and caring for their children in the midst of inhuman conditions. I think the prayers of these oppressed in whatever language and addressed to whatever deity in name pierce the Great Heart of Heaven.

It doesn’t sound intellectual, and sociologists would roll their eyes along with human rights advocates and political junkies...but isn’t God the great triage answer? And beyond stopping the bleeding – He alone can HEAL.

I don’t know how the suffering in the jewel that is Africa can finally stop; except as the hearts of men experience a real change. If they knew they were part of a divine heritage, if they understood their countrymen were also their brothers, if they weren’t “past feeling” so that chopping off hands and arms and rape and robbery and murder didn’t please them, if destroying others was abhorrent instead – there would be no support for the corruption cycle that currently enslaves. It would simply ‘fall apart’.

That day of justice for all the world will come. I know it will. As much as we feel helpless to really make a difference in the world condition and as much as we hope for success and happiness in our own families, we DO make a difference! There are little miracles all around us every day that point toward the culminating powers of good and evil facing off at long last – and there’s a clear winner in that story.

The Jehovah Witness lady that visits regularly is getting frustrated with me. She seems confused when I express hope. The Bible verse selected more often is to show me that God will have His vengeance on the wicked. She does not share my observations of the rising good in the world, but seems to be in a ‘lock and load’ mode of ‘us’ against ‘them’. In spite of my cheerful alliance with her about the goodness of our Lord, I think I am one of ‘them’. I wonder if she has ever thought about Africa.

Friday, December 7

Animated Association

How come ~

it always made Papa mad,

“Naah, I am not!” he said,

whenever we watched The Flintstones,

and told him he was just like Fred ~ ?

* “The Flintstones”, a prehistoric caveman spoof based on the successful 50’s show “The Honeymooners”, was one of the first prime time animated shows on television, premiering September 30, 1960 on ABC every Friday night at 8:30pm. Fred was the gruff and blustery working class every man whose booming voice and perpetual 5 o’clock shadow so perfectly personified our equally disposed dad no matter the volume of his protests. This truly was a family gathering time around the television for the fun of lovable, flustered Fred and his wife Wilma, their baby girl Pebble, the family pet Dino and their next door neighbors, the Rubbles. I didn’t realize until years later how ALL the personal and place names were variations on geological and Jurassic terminology.

As for our own family environs - it seemed nothing if not uncanny how much we had in common with the Hana Barbera characters. Our family room was called the 'den'; it was a brand new addition to the home completed in 1961. The walls were a deeply stained pine paneling up to a semi-vaulted ceiling and a massive exposed support beam that gave you the feeling of being in a cabin. The fire place was all natural stone, and the hearth (extending the full length of the room for extra seating) was comprised of small, smooth river rocks. The carpet mimicked traditional braided rug variety, except it was wall t0 wall. Pine bookcases, a desk and a matching gun case lined the opposite wall. Later, a beautiful Pronghorn Antelope bust and an 11 point Elk rack would grace the walls and freak out my sleep-over friends. In this room, it really felt like our big, loud dad had indeed crafted a comfortable lair for himself - into which we were invited. He was about as hairy as I imagined a caveman to be, and certainly strong enough to work at a rock quarry like Fred did. Our mom was a mild-tempered housewife who always wore a dress like Wilma. Not like Wilma; that was short and sexy and held up by only one shoulder strap. Kids notice things like this.

At the close of each episode, it was always the same. A crescent moon is in the sky. Fred opens the door and boots Dino out for the night. The mini-tornado resulting from the reptile’s happy rush to get back inside spins Fred around and slams the front door shut. Dazed and stranded, Fred blinks at the camera - and then pounds on the door with both meaty fists bellowing, “Wil-ma! Wil-ma!” I always, always wished I could run to the door and let him in.

The final episode aired on April 1, 1966.

Wednesday, December 5


There’s nothing quite like

the adrenaline rush

of going all-out, bare-foot

behind the ice cream truck.

* Sadly, the beloved ice cream truck seems to be strictly relegated now days only to depressed neighborhoods. That’s too bad. How do they rate, anyway? The only thing going up and down my street is the FedEx truck and the pampered house dog for his twice daily walk. What do those neighborhoods have that we don’t?

Dry, barren yards, driveways hosting old cars up on blocks and enough old furniture piled up in the sagging, paint-peeling carport to furnish an entire room, trash piled up against drooping chain link - and lots of little children. Happy little children who gleefully rush the LarĂ¡ Brother’s helados van with the same passion we did so long ago on Jellico Ave.

The music blaring from the van is no longer the universal “Little Red Wing” in bell tones from a loftily perched megaphone speaker, but is – well, anything! I’ve heard country, rap, pop, heavy metal rock, musak, campesino and sometimes even just the AM radio on really loud. Inventory has definitely changed. They sell baseball cards, candy, carnival toys, stick-on tattoos and bubble gum just for starters.

The prices are a lot different, too. A nickel used to get me a delicious banana double stick Popsicle or a delectably creamy 50/50 bar. A king’s ransom of a dime was needed for the prized favorite: the multi-flavored Bullet Popsicle. When my oldest daughter was little in the early ’80’s, Bullets were a quarter. Now, almost everything is a dollar.

That’s just wrong.

Monday, December 3



from your knees

upside-down in a walnut tree

sucking on a sour grass

viewing the world through an hourglass

that never

runs out of sand.

* There ought to be a law that grants every kid a really big yard to grow up in.

The 1 acre lot my mother grew up on and all 4 of us kids a generation later was its own eco-system. For a 7th grade graphing project we were asked to plot our homes on a map. The teacher had no idea that I was the one kid in class who had just been assigned War and Peace compared to everyone else who was tucked into a tiny little cracker box plot boardered by smooth, city sidewalks. On this one block stretch of old Jellico Avenue, we didn't need no stinkin' sidewalks! The old cobblestone-like street was laid some years after the founding of the neighborhood in 1929. It humped up along the middle of the street, encouraging water to run off to the scooped edges that met our property lines of deep, baseball-sucking ivy beds.

With a pad of paper and a pencil, I began pacing off our yard. I counted over 30 trees alone - plus many more shrubs, bushes and flower beds. I got extra credit for indicating on my map legend where the red ant beds and horney toad lairs were located, where the horse had rolled for her dirt bath, where the chicken coop sat protected by a gentle overhang from an enormous pomegranate tree, and where my grandfather’s iris and primrose bed was still blooming 18 years after his death, and the sacred ground where all of our many pets were buried under the apple tree. It was daunting, but I loved every minute of it. I knew my yard, and my yard knew me.

English walnut trees are about the most ideal climbing tree you could possibly wish for. The trunk is smooth with natural climbing knots jutting out most conveniently, and the first branches begin low enough for a simple hand-hold and one leg up. The vertical scale is easy and sustains a 75 – 90lb. kid well up into the uppermost branches – the height required to see over our house all the way to Butch’s house across the street. Getting high enough to identify property the farthest distance away was good; seeing a neighbor doing something in their yard who didn’t see you was even better.

There was an absurd sense of power and enlightenment about gaining a bird’s eye view of your neighborhood, and especially your own roof. It was always a thrill to spot the long-lost shoe or Frisbee that landed there last summer and was promptly forgotten.

Mostly it is the freedom of space and time that children appreciate (given the right amount of botanical matter and wildlife) - that combine to present the perfect environment for really deep thoughts.

Public Pool

Surf’s up, sprinklers rule ~

‘cause hardly anyone we know

owns a pool.

Hey . . .

We oughta go to Reseda Park!

Fly over the footbridge

pay our ten cents

stuff our zorries into green net bags

and our hair into bathing caps

then swim like maniacs

in a glorious, blue expanse.

* Summer in San Fernando Valley found most families still positioning ice trays in front of a fan placed in a deep window sill to keep cool at night. I knew less than one hand full of people who had central air - and you could only sit panting in front of the living room window air-conditioner for so long before your nose began to run. We had to utilize other ways to cool off.

A sprinkler on the front lawn was fine most of the time, and when 'Water Wiggle' came out after the 'Slip 'n Slide' (Wham-O Toys 1961-2), that was even better! Until mom complained about the mud bog we left in the yard. Banished from native turf, we would collect our gear and a dime each (the cost of admission) and head out for some real summer fun: the public pool.

We launched from Jellico Ave. on our bikes – picking up friends along the way; sort of a 2-wheeler convoy – full speed over to Reseda Park. An arching foot bridge was the last leg of the journey and we virtually sailed over with a holler of joy! The dumb boys were always ready so fast for that first victory leap into the water; they didn’t have to endure the getting ready ritual girls faced. Absolutely no female was allowed to swim without first volunteering to tear her own hair out by the roots in a bloody struggle to get the dreaded bathing cap on. We were told it was to protect the filter from our nasty long hair, but I'm so sure! Why didn't we form a swimmer's advocacy group or something? But - we were an orderly society; the rule was obeyed without so much as a hairy hint of revolt.

I think calling rubber flip-flop sandals ‘zorries’ must have been a uniquely Southern California thing. Considering a back yard pool a novelty in the Valley was definitely a 60’s thing. Thank goodness rubbery, pinching, mandatory swim caps is one painful, sexist tradition that has gone the way of anything costing only ten cents for the privilege.

~ excerpt from 'Station Wagon Wars', growing up in the 60's by CTanner

Saturday, December 1

3 Days of the Crow

What is the method? What is the cure?

We feel so sorry for his dismay ~

But it’s not our fault a stupid bird

Got stuck in the chimney today.

“Papa, oh can’t you get him out?” we cried.

He prodded, he poked, he climbed on the roof.

Nothing worked, no matter what he tried.

Our troubled friend beseeched from the flue.

As each day passed, his crow voice diminished

Cawing desperately, plaintively,

Then barely squawking ‘til it was finished.

By the fourth day something emitted faintly –

Then much stronger as the sun blazed away,

A new thing replacing that bird retired;

A stench, a gag – rot and decay!

We bowed our heads~while dad stoked the fire.

* The common American Crow is truly a regal looking jet-black bird, and with his larger close cousin the Raven is the most intelligent of all the bird species. Long considered an agricultural pest, there are more ways to bait, trap and kill this very successful creature than seem decent to innumerate.

The urban crows we grew up with were highly social with each other, as they are want to do – and it seemed, with us. I even had a pet crow I named “Orrin” for my dad’s middle name; a fact I thought was especially honorable but my father did not. He had a voracious appetite for anything we were eating, any time. Orrin lived indoors with me until he began to attempt flying. When I took him outside for practice runs, both of his parents swooped down very close to loudly encourage his efforts. I swear I saw love returned in his beady, clever little eye.

I have lived all of my adult life so far in a part of the Sonoran Desert that does not host crows or ravens of any variety. I miss their raucous laughter in the trees, and their wily, obnoxious and ever so endearing ways.


Oh, how I loved her,

I absolutely had to have her ~

the new Thumbelina doll on T.V.

that moved like a real baby

when you turned a dial on her back!

Imagine my chagrin, when

after Santa actually brought her, that

she was too ugly for words ~

and I would much rather climb trees,

catch horney toads

or suck sour-grass sap,

than have charming Thumbelina

writhe luridly in my lap.

* American marketing campaigns in the weeks and months before Christmas were like a direct television brain-wash. Those magnanimous giants Mattel and Ideal were committed to prevent the tragedy of a child waking up Christmas morning deprived of that one, crucial product that could have changed their entire life course!

My craving for this doll was all consuming. The only thing I ever wanted more than a Thumbelina doll was a horse. Who could have guessed that in the “getting”, her pink plastic and rubber features would be as profoundly repulsive as my former desire was acute?

Ideal Toys debuted the sleeping Thumbelina doll in 1964. I saw recently in a magazine that the Sears catalog offered her for $5.99 that debut year. In 2007 she is now a valued “vintage” toy going for as much as $519.99 on eBay. I guess I shouldn’t have dumped her ~ and guess what? She's still ugly.

~ excerpts from 'Station Wagon Wars', growing up in the 60's by CTanner