Category Archives: The world and my place in it

Doing the best I can for now

This has been a week of staying close to home. I’m not much in the mood to be out in public, rather making comfort food at home–bean soup, carnitas, green chile enchiladas, cinnamon rolls–and enjoying my house and yard.

I drove across town on Monday for the first day of school. The principal had said it would be nice to have another adult on campus. The kids were glad to see me. I handed out star erasers, pencils, stickers, and lots of hugs. Two downtown district administrators were on campus for the first couple of hours. They, like me, adding more adult supervision to the early-morning chaos of first day. After watching me greet and talk with many of the kids and parents, one of these administrators asked how long I had been at Columbia.

“I’m starting my fourth year.”

“I can see you’ve built a lot of relationships. Do you go to other schools?”

“No, just Columbia. Each chaplain is assigned to one school.”

“You should be at more schools. It would help the kids.”

“This is a volunteer position. I’m making an impact here. It’s the best I can do for now.”

The widow moves on

Shirley asked me about the Widow Fiske, the murder victim’s wife. What became of her? The NYC writer sent me some information about her in the form of a newspaper clipping from 1905, 15 years after her husband’s violent end on the main street of Fresno. She had been living a raucous life.

Being married and divorced three times after Mr. Fiske died,  Amanda Fiske-Marceau-Fennell was about to marry husband number four, supposedly an Italian baron, but no name was given. She had three children from all of these marriages. She no longer lived in Fresno and her marriage would be taking place in New York City.

There is still no word on the outcome of the murderer’s three children. The writer who contacted me believed that they remained in Fresno, as wards of the court, but nothing definite to substantiate that. There was only a newspaper clipping saying they were being cared for at the city’s hospital.

Lunch with a murder mystery thrown in

A friend and I went to lunch yesterday. Our birthdays are two weeks apart so we meet half way on the calendar and take each other to lunch. Except yesterday, she insisted that she would pay for both lunches that day. I arrived with a stack of books as I often do as I know she is a good reader and will accept my already-read books. She said that it is impossible to think of anything to buy for me (and she’s right) so she would buy lunch. Okay. She was one of the few people who had sent me a birthday card last week. I delivered her card with the books as it was one of those that takes extra postage (it sings a crazy little diddy).

After I got home from lunch I received a phone call from a friend who knows both of us August birthday girls. We had mentioned her at lunch so I was surprised to see her name pop up on my phone. She was calling about a request that had come into the church office where we were members for 40 years and where I had diligently worked on the church’s 130-year history. She thought it best to ask me some of the questions from this request since I knew the archives so well. No one has worked much with the archives since I left, 4 years ago. Heck, I figure they would like to clear out 135 years of records and make room for something else. The new pastor is not inclined to care about history.

Turns out, the questions go back to 1890 (the church started in 1882), and asks questions about member records for the time period. The man asking the questions is a writer, director, producer in New York City who is tying up lose ends to a murder case from 1890. A prominent Fresnan was murdered in a shoot-out in downtown Fresno. His murderer was found guilty and spent the rest of his life (only 5 more years) in San Quentin Prison. The murderer’s wife died only days after the murder as she was ill at the time. There were three small children and it’s those children that the writer is trying to trace. What happened to them after they were basically orphaned? His questions included ones about what the church did to help the indigent back then. Are there any records?

I’m not too sure we can help. We don’t even know if this family were members or attended church. The newspaper articles that the writer forwarded to me tell that the philanthropic ladies of the city collected funds and paid for the woman’s casket and burial. They also attended her funeral. She is in an unmarked grave in a local cemetery.

Could those ladies have been part of a group of such women from the church, The Welcome Class? I suggested to the friend who called me to look through those records to see if they went back that far. I know The Welcome Class was active in the early 1900s, delivering milk to poor families, taking bread to the homeless who were living in a park, making Christmas stockings for orphaned children. Would there even be a record of something like this?

Fascinating story, with not many leads for us to go on. If you want to know more about the actual murder, read here.


Squatter’s rights

All those products I bought yesterday had a common denominator–the bottom shelf. Two of the books I purchased at Barnes & Noble were on tabletops, but I had to do lots of squatting at the regular shelving to look at various books before making my decision.

Everything I purchased at Sephora was on the bottom shelves except for the new sharpener that the store clerk got for me. You must be young and in shape to shop at Sephora because you will do lots of squatting to find what you want.

Same thing at LifeWay. The cards I picked out were lower than the others, so again I squatted. A number of books on the lower shelves caught my attention so I was squatting a few more times to check them out before making the selection. This store is also for the fit. Unless you are like one lady I saw in the card section. She had a folding stool that she used to peruse the cards, moving it along the line.

When I got to Orchard Supply, I only needed one thing–roach boxes–so I didn’t squat and check out other items, but guess what, the roach boxes were on the bottom shelf. One more time, I squatted, pulled out the boxes I wanted, took a deep breath, and rose from the squat. I got to thinking at this point–what do you do if you can’t squat and get things from bottom shelves?

I have people tell me they cannot get up down and up from the floor. That worries me. I do floor exercises every day and often recommend them to people who complain of sciatica. That’s when I hear about their inability to get up from the floor. Now I wonder if they can squat and rise from the squat. I do squats around the house a few times a day so all that lower-shelf stuff didn’t bother me yesterday. It gives me “squatter’s rights.”

I am not a shopper

I am a buyer. I don’t go to stores just to wander around and look at stuff. I only go to stores when I need something (okay, or want something because I need very little). When I go to buy something, I want a really good selection and really good service. I want a convenient location, easy to get in and out, and back on my way to other things.

Today was just such a day of buying. I left home shortly before 9 a.m., when I knew Barnes & Noble would be opening. The parking lot offered lots of spaces, and I chose one far out in the lot so I could get some walking done. Although I didn’t know what book I wanted, I knew I wanted a book to read because I just finished my previous book last night. I should have a box of books coming from Powells any day now, but they’ve not sent me a notice saying the shipment is on its way. I was stopped three times in Barnes & Noble by clerks asking if I needed help. I appreciated their concern. After finding three books, two of which were on the clearance table, I was able to quickly check out.

Next stop was at the mall, which is not my favorite place to go, but if I get there when the stores are opening (10 a.m.), and I park behind the Cheesecake Factory, I can quickly walk to Sephora which is the store where I had items to buy. Again, a gracious clerk helped me locate the items I wanted and the cashier was waiting for me when I was ready to pay for everything. Oh, and I also got a birthday gift from Sephora. Lipstick and blush. It’s a nice customer service touch.

Still early, it was easy to get out of the mall’s parking lot and back on the road. Speaking of roads, every road in Fresno is under some sort of construction. Sure enough, the road I needed to travel had lanes closed, but right before I had to merge left, I turned right into my next stop–LifeWay–where I was headed to buy greeting cards. I know, I know, I said no more cards, but I want to have a few on hand for death, illness, new job, new baby, that kind of thing. Found the cards, and a book and was out within 15 minutes. I also had a 40 percent discount coupon on the book.

Back to the road under construction, making a quick turn before reaching the point where the next road was completely closed. This has been the city’s state of affairs since the rains stopped. Road work every where. I made a quick right into Orchard Supply where I picked up some roach boxes. We are fighting the plague here the best we know how. Quick in and out. Only to discover another road closed so I made a turn that headed me towards home. One more slowdown for construction. They are striping the road near our house that they worked on last week, taking it down to the bare dirt before reconstructing it. With new white stripes and reflectors, it will be a pleasure to drive on.

No shopping this morning, just lots of buying with excellent service. I call that a successful morning.

When the bugs bite

We have a plague here–bugs. Bugs of all kinds. Flying bugs, crawling bugs, invisible bugs. Ants, spiders, insects, of all sorts. They have taken refuge in my yard. Some of them bite.

There are tiny red spider mites in the backyard. So tiny that you do not see them with the naked eye unless you see a red dot moving on the page of the book you are reading. It’s like the period at the end of this sentence suddenly walks away. That’s how small they are. I remember, as a child, red spider mites would invade the cotton fields surrounding our house. My dad only knew it if he had a magnifying glass to check the cotton plant’s leaves. Then he sprayed a miticide on the cotton fields. All that poison is what eventually took his life.

The problem, though, for people, the red spider mite BITES. I’m terribly allergic to its bite. As is small granddaughter. The boys don’t seem to taste as good. Terry and Judah never get bit. Or they don’t suddenly have swollen red welts all over their body.

Leeya and I were both miserable this past week after an evening of playing in the yards. I took a cool shower and used lavender soap. Leeya took a bath with lavender soap. It calmed our skin but still left us itchy. Then I used tea tree oil on all the welts. That really calmed the itching. But, to make sure we slept through the night, we both took a dose of Benadryl. For the remainder of the week, we kept touching up the bites with tea tree oil.

Then on Sunday evening I walked through an ant hill and got more bites on my feet. Time for tea tree oil.

The routine returns

Small grandchildren went home yesterday. This was the longest of any stay at our house–6 days. We have stayed that long in San Mateo (we get a hotel room), but the kids have never been here that long. Neither of them wanted to go home. And this was after spending 10 days with us earlier in the month when we went to Oregon. As you can probably guess, we dote on them and let them do pretty much anything they want.

Just like the grandchildren, though, we too must return to the routine of daily life and its obligations. When I turned on the sprinklers at 6 this morning, I noticed a shift in the light. Summer is waning. The calendar shifted, too. It’s a new month. I must shift gears this week and start prepping for a new school year. The preparation is nothing compared to all those years of teaching at the high school. I am so thankful I don’t have to do all that. I am so thankful that instead of preparing to teach five classes A DAY, I will get ready to read stories four times A WEEK.

Shopping is definitely in my plans this week and next. I need a new pair of pants and some new shoes for my two school days.  I have bags of shoes, clothes, and school supplies to deliver to Columbia in the next week. Hopefully I can meet the four new first grade teachers on the day I make that trek across town.

Our church participation slowed during June and July. Terry didn’t sing in the choir, there were no committee meetings, and there were substitutes for communion preparation while I was gone to Oregon. The shift to routine was made last Sunday. Terry’s voice was back to normal so he was back in choir. I was on tap to give the prayer of thanksgiving and intercession. Next Sunday I will be doing communion prep. All of the meetings will start again in August.

Our grandkids are getting their school examinations and vaccinations today. Their mother said there would be shopping for backpacks and underwear. They have a couple of play dates before school starts in two weeks. I too have a couple of play dates, one this week with some friends at an art gallery and one next week with Ladies Who Lunch.

The house is quiet. I’m able to remember to do routine things like my exercises and my journal writing. No pressing obligations right now, but on the horizon…