You have probably had your June quota of ‘heavy’ already. So, I thought this week, I would update a few of the personal threads that have been running through this blog from the beginning.  Some of you know the characters and issues, others of you who have joined my community of friends here more recently will catch up quickly as this is all rather soft news. But, there are some issues here where, as strong as I usually am about dealing with curve balls, I would love to have help, as you will see!


As you knew, my Aunt Kate is one of the main players in my perils-of-Pauline life drama.  She is actually my dad’s aunt, pushing 90, sharp as a tack, fiercely independent, robust even though wiry and slim. But, in the past eighteen months all sorts of twilight-of-life issues have surfaced.  Like? Kate’s short-term memory is beginning to deteriorate. Not as severely as my husband’s mother, who is far, far younger, but noticeably.

A retired professional, well-off, and living in NYC in her own co-op penthouse, Kate has just found out that she needs ongoing medical treatment for what could be a serious condition that is being expertly managed by a team of doctors.  Luckily, she has what one of my cousins calls, the Cadillac of supplemental insurance.  For the privilege, this formerly perfectly healthy woman, is paying $900 per month, beyond Medicare. How many elderly people could foot that bill?

Last year I mentioned that she was begging me to come live with her (not Geoffrey, just me!). Naturally, I delicately eased my way out of those discussions by, frankly, just kicking them down the road.  While that was going on, as I wrote in some previous posts, a group of family members systematically helped themselves to the contents of her beautiful apartment.  Most of these people are my generation, but a few are my cousins’ kids and their new spouses. So, there sits Aunt Kate in an emptyish flat with only a view and some clothing to her name.


One of said individuals slyly moved in to the apartment, lock stock and barrel, having wailed to A. Kate a major sob story.  Without going into all the seamy details, every manner of generational and lifestyle conflicts are now plaguing my poor Aunt as she tries to adjust to life without her own belongings, with strangers coming and going, and a health crisis that at her age probably seems like a death knell (even though her doctors say she will be around a good long time, like her centenarian brother).

But, two factions have formed in the family.  One wants to know what’s in the will to protect her from the others, who seem to be commandeering her finances as well as her life.  Both these camps have attempted to persuade me to their side and so I have spent literally hours of time over the past two months engaged in conference calls and Google Hangouts that are emotionally charged and draining. Some of them have been so transparent about their intentions that A. Kate is now fiercely defending her mind, her body, and her bank accounts. But, had already handed over power of attorney and other keys to the kingdom to several stalwart individuals who are being — there is no other way to put this — anal about their rights and responsibilities, in the extreme.


Geoffrey sits “off camera”, while our dinners grow cold and stale, listening to the histrionics and thinking, I am sure, his tea partying family are diplomats and philanthropists by comparison.  One thing I will give them, they never shout.  Not so the fighting Irish on my side. Sigh!

On the home front, as I have written recently, we are attempting to transform our front yard into a xerigraphic ecosystem, reducing water-sucking lawn, and replacing it with drought-tolerant, sun-loving, pollinator-attracting gorgeous flowering yard-cover. Lots of it is working. We now have a huge section that is a butterfly pavillion, stocked mostly with Milkweed to provide an oasis for Monarchs, along with Lantana, Butterfly Bush and Lavenders of various types.  So far so good.

We also planted new roses that are thriving, so we will be putting more in, in the fall.  But! We also decided to start replacing lawn with Gazanias. They seemed to be spreading so nicely that every morning, we would be greeted by new little scalloped red and yellow heads, sunning themselves all over the beds we made for them to call home.


Sunning.  Therein lies the problem.  After having one of the warmest winters ever, we have had one of the coldest, cloudiest springs.  It has not rained sufficiently to end the drought or curtail the severe water rationing, but enough to spit all over the cars each morning and entice powdery mildew to take up residence on our rear yard roses, almost killing half a dozen of them.  That same quirk of nature spread a blight that hit pear trees and Photinias all over Southern California, including ours, a twenty year old tree that forms part of the living screen along one of our high stone walls that separate us from a neighbor.  Witnessing that blight spread, almost in one week, to the whole tree before our arborist told us what it was and what to do, was like watching a friend die.  We will not know if it can survive until next spring. Meanwhile, our neighbor is now able to peer over the wall (doing so, he thinks, ever so indetectably) at last to view us in the pool or around the decks. Hmm.

As for the Gazanias, they are being beheaded!

At first I thought it was the teenagers that live in the neighborhood, hanging out in front of our house because we have (apparently) secluded sitting areas in the front that enable them to do whatever (mj, is my guess) away from prying parental eyes.  But then I thought, they would nip off all of them if they were pranking us, instead of just a few. Next, rodents were in my sights and so we bought a way too expensive natural granular deterrent made with things they consider nasty, like mint, rosemary, lime oil.  But, alas, after a week of that treatment, more sad little dead floral crania are lying outside.  The infuriating thing, too, they keep on opening in the sun, bodyless, until they shrivel and roll out onto the walk, recriminatingly. Snails? Too much water? A beetle? Not enough sun (ironically)? The garden center suggested it could be rabbits or squirrels, but they haven’t hit larger patches of Gazanias in other yards.

Wouldn’t you know, just as we decide to make a high desert garden to replace Little New Jersey here, the sun decides to take an intermittent holiday? And I just glanced at the Accuweather report for this week: more clouds ahead.  If only it would pour, it might make this easier to tolerate!

Our arborist will be coming by for a diagnosis, so I will keep you posted.


Life with a Labrador. We have now had two.  Prior to that we had Snowflake, a Westie.  Ollie (now with Snowy, in heaven) was such an easy dog to raise.  Beautiful, almost pure white, a thoroughbred descended from champions (as Snowy was), he refused to bark at anyone.  As far as Ollie was concerned, anyone who came to the door was a friend.  We thought Labs are just that way and shrugged, making sure we had better gates and locks.  Then Leif came into our lives.  From the same breeder, and a related sire/dam but he and Ollie couldn’t be more different.

Leif is as nervous and excitable as Ollie was calm and serene. If a shoe drops the next town over, he hears it and has to assess the situation.  So, for the past seven years (six since Ollie left us) we have all had to readjust the house and our nerves to a true watchdog.  So much so, that we finally broke down this week and got him a ThunderShirt. I was totally skeptical but this thing really works. Ricky (our nickname for his formal title: Leif Ericson) is a transformed individual.  Very early this morning, he found a way out of his crate (and when I say early, I mean 3 am, because we get up at 4) and calmly padded into the kitchen,  grabbed his toy bone and was waiting for us when we came down the stairs and screamed (well, one of us anyway) when we saw the kitchen door open and heard noises inside. This is a 95 pound dog, all muscle and energy, turned into a Harbor Seal. If you have an excitable dog, I urge you to try it. What a transformation! We’ll see if it lasts and I will update you.

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Little visitors. Yes! It is that time of year again already.  Anna is coming to town.  She and Deanna will be with us shortly, then Deanna is off to a conference and we will have our little dynamo all to ourselves.  I am busy getting new books and surprises for her room. I was told gowns and costumes are her standard daytime attire and may take her right through bedtime (she refuses to change clothes, no matter the activity).  One way we plan to entice her out of her glam rags is with major pool time, as Anna is already a swimmer.  There will be dancing, picture-taking, bookstores, toy stores, garden trawling and, yes! Ice cream.  Stay tuned for more.

That’s it! That was relatively benign for a change, dontcha think?

(But just in case this lull is too soporific, I do feel a major post about healthy diets coming on, so … enjoy this bland Bethism while it lasts!) 😀

Images: BB/Santa Paula

12 Comments on “Newsance”

  1. Hi Beth,
    It’s Janice from Reflections. I have a question about our theme. A respected reader commented that my word are hard to read because I have blue behind the words, and I agree but I don’t know how to have white behind the words like you do and color on the sides. I went to theme, customize, but I only saw choices for the background. Can you please help? Thanks,


  2. Nice newsy post, Beth. The way you share slices of your life make us your readers feel we know you. And we love you more with each post 🙂 Aunt Kate’s story is sad and becoming more common. May we all have advocates to help and protect us as we age. Enjoy your visit with Anna And may your roses and your gazania bloom and grow forever (note: hum to the tune of the Sound of Music tune, Edelweiss).Meanwhile, enjoy romping with your pups and hubby. The little things in life give us the most joy!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Vera, I like to vary these posts so I don’t sound like a crank all the time! Maybe I was even doing that here.

      The issue with Aunt Kate is so exhausting. If she had her own children, they would be hashing this out. But she came from a big family, only had a stepson, who is angry with her and wants nothing to do with her now, and so all the cousins are the ones trying to figure out what the best course is, all with their own motives. Sigh!

      We are having to install a nanny-cam and put a cage over the gazanias as nothing seems to be helping. We tried leaving the footlights on all night, changing the watering, sprinkling both roden and squirrel repellant, and putting down organic bug killers. Still happening! We were out all day yesterday and came home to find more heads rolling. So tragic!

      Hope you are well. I am going to run over to your place shortly and make sure I didn’t miss a post.


      Liked by 1 person

      • Sad and angry over things like this – I’ve seen variations in my family. Aunt K is fortunate to have someone like you who cares and tries to help. As to the lawn thing, I’ve never had one but can commiserate. I do well with my balcony flowers and the grounds are kept by others. It is lovely to look out on greenery and flowers. Summer is almost here 🙂 Enjoy yours as much as you can Beth.

        Liked by 1 person

        • There are a couple of us who are looking out for Aunt Kate and trying to keep the truth about the shenanigans from her while keeping the perps from getting out of hand. I talked with her this morning and she was in great spirits, clear and sharp. She gets fuzzy in the afternoon. Ah, me, I just don’t like the general direction this is headed and it scares me about my own future too!

          We finally put netting up with stakes over our gazanias. The poor things are finally able to bloom and keep their heads. If the culprit is human, they could easily displace the system we installed. We think it is rabbits and I don’t think they will want to become entangled, so I am hopeful.

          Yes, today is a good day — yesterday was another story but I will spare you the drama. You are kind and good, Vera, thank you for your comments and support!


  3. We all need to cultivate relationships with those who truly care about our wellbeing (I feel the same as you do, Beth – hope it doesn’t happen to me).. May the gazania stake-out work so you can enjoy the blooms. And I hope your tomorrows a very enjoyable one 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I will keep us updated on my poor gazanias. As for the rest. I feel strongly about only being with caring, kind people. I have had enough of mean ones. I hope your tomorrow is wonderful, Vera!


  4. I will offer no solutions but sympathy for your Aunt Kate who sounds amazing, Beth. I admire strong, independent and intelligent elderly women. I dislike people who take advantage of others. I feel for her and also, you.
    My Mom is more rapidly losing her thought processing but my youngest brother and wife are already her executors. I just wish her to have a peaceful and safe life. I plan on seeing her from June 26 thru July 5th.

    I like eco-friendly yards where flowers, wild undercover and milkweed pods for butterflies are the focus. Less grass and need for formal gardens are a great trend. You have some beautiful roses you mentioned. I am trying to remember if you took photos of them? Where you live this series of changes is more practical, too. We have had only one lab which was also a German Shepherd mix. Golden in color, sweet and faithful. My ex told me he died, but he had been on Earth for 14 years. Beth, your experiene with your dog’s being like night and day reminds me of brother and wife’s two golden retrievers where one they got as a rescue and they named him Indiana Jones, “Indie” for short. Understandably, he was a little psychotic or neurotic. He bonded fairly well with Rich but the othe one they had had was so.much more genial with strangers.
    I need to make 2 kinD’s of.dips for my DIL’sbaby shower her good friends are holding. Hugs to you all, especially happy Anna is coming soon. I would say that “inside out” is a lititle deep and 6 year old, Micah, got restless. Enjoy your company, yard and hope something works out for your aunt!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Robin. Anna will be here in a few weeks and I am sure I will be writing about our adventures together. Luckily she comes at Christmas as well because it is scorching here right now and we all virtually melt trying to take her out to entertain her.

      Ricky had a trauma as a puppy. The farm/kennel where he was born suffered a devastating wildfire and so at just a few weeks, he and all the dogs on the farm were driven to various locations for safety before being able to return to the farm. In fact, he never went back and we picked him up at 13 weeks at one of these locations. He had been moved three times. We think that has made him permanently anxious. Our next dog will likely be a rescue, but we have to be careful of who we get, as we have a parrot too and cannot put her in danger. It is like having two very high strung children, LOL!

      You must be looking forward to that time with your mom. I hope my parents will have their faculties to the end, and that Geoff and I will too. Otherwise, other people’s decisions might not be the ones we would have chosen. So important to have explicit instructions in place beforehand.

      I talk to Aunt Kate every week and she seems to be in a good mood lately and that, along with her health, is all that matters to me.

      Hugs, Robin, thank you for your comments. I will keep us updated on all this, periodically. xx


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