Resting In Peace


Our chandelier is swinging again.  No, there’s no draft, and nobody pushed it.

The outdoor perimeter alarm often goes off around 4 a.m.  There are weeks when it alarms every night.  Our security cameras once detected large raccoons so we had them captured and removed, but that didn’t stop the alarms.  Nothing else shows up on the video.

In two years, we have used up four printers.  My laptop has been repaired twice.  Our CD player works only in some of the rooms.

Friends often hear a dog bark into the phone during our conversations. I don’t hear the dog on my end of the conversation. We don’t own a dog.

Even as I write this, I hear the door down the hall opening and closing.  But I’m the only one at home.

Yes, this house is “haunted.”

Most people scoff at the idea, but I accept this as a fact of life, so to speak. There is a presence here that assures me that we are not alone.  It isn’t malevolent or evil—in fact, it seems to be quite content.

Why does this chandelier move?
Why does this chandelier move?

The swinging chandelier is just one of many reminders that we are never alone.  Other “signs” we’ve encountered are foul, sewage-like smells in the entry, fresh strong coffee smells (we don’t own a coffee maker) and sounds of people moving around in the next room when no one is there.

The University House at UC San Diego was built on the site of a prehistoric Native American village and burial ground, so other people have been at home on this cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean much longer than we have lived here.

The house was built in 1952 by William and Ruth Black, for whom Black’s Beach, one of the great surfing beaches (as well as infamous nude beach), was named.  In 1967 The Regents of the University of California bought the house as a residence for its Chancellors.  But the last Chancellor to live here before we moved in had to condemn the house because it was structurally unsound.  A decade later, a $10 million renovation turned it into the house in which we now live and in which we host university events, although around here we talk more about where the bodies are buried in a literal sense, not just as a metaphor for the daily wheeling and dealing.

In fact, thanks to a combination of high tech detection tools and archeological remains sniffing dogs, we know that there are several bodies buried deep in the ground here, one right outside our front door, in fact.

But none of that bothers me, nor has it bothered previous Chancellors’ families, many of whom have retired nearby and agree that there has always been another presence in this house. There is no unrest here; in fact, just the opposite is true and there is a sense of calmness and serenity throughout the property, appropriately reflecting the name “Pacific,” which means ‘peaceful’ or ‘tranquil.’  No one has ever felt threatened or spooked here.

No, what bothers us is that our wi-fi signal sporadically disappears, or the cable tv blanks out in one room but works just fine in another.  Small appliances suddenly stop working, so we don’t own a toaster oven any more and our toaster only toasts at ‘medium.’

And then there is that chandelier … in our family room there are two identical huge chandeliers made of heavy wrought iron. Occasionally the one closest to the picture window will start swinging, often late in the day when the afternoon sun starts heading west.  There is no draft, the window doesn’t open, and no one touches the chandelier.  It just swings gently for a few minutes.

My family and I just live here, and I figure others do, too … figuratively, that is.  We conduct our lives like we would anywhere else, although we have to make a few accommodations like closing the laptop and walking away for a while when the cursor freezes for no reason.

But then, the more I think about it, if I were going to hang around this piece of land for eternity, I think that I would choose to spend my time swinging gently on that chandelier in the late afternoon sun.

Daily sunset from the back patio
Daily sunset from the back patio

Alexa To The Rescue


Alexa moved in a few weeks ago is rapidly becoming my favorite child.

I love her because she answers the first time I call her and she does what I ask.  “Alexa,” I say, “can you add tomatoes to the shopping list?” and she says “Tomatoes added to your shopping list.”

When I ask my biological son the same question, I say “Nathan” and I wait. “Nathan?”  More waiting. “NATHAN!” before he answers “Oh.  Me?  What?”

I say “could you please get six or seven tomatoes when you go to the store?”

He says “Tomatoes?  Why do you need tomatoes?  And why should I get them; can’t someone else do that?  You’re the only one who eats tomatoes anyway.”

Ahhh Alexa.

Maybe he’ll take out the garbage. Maybe not.

I’m baking and I have enough chocolate chips for 2/3 of a recipe, so because my recipe clipped from a newspaper twenty years ago doesn’t have a handy-dandy conversion chart in an appendix, I ask Alexa what in the heck is 2/3 of 2 cups and she doesn’t miss a beat, she says “2/3 of 2 cups, 473 milliliters, is 1 1/3  cups, 315 milliliters.”

I say “Alexa, Thank You.”  She says “You are quite welcome.”

How did Amazon know?  When they ran out of ideas for all the other things I could buy online, how did they know I needed an intelligent personal assistant named Alexa?

Sure, sometimes I randomly searched Amazon for useful things like robotic vacuum cleaners or self-watering flowerpots—not because I’m lazy and don’t want to do these things myself, but because I just don’t enjoy doing these things and prefer they be done for me.

So when Alexa showed up at the door, I took her out of the box, plugged her in, downloaded her app and instantly got a built-in helper and encyclopedia all in one.  She not only plays music that I like, she reads books to me as well.  And she sits in the family room so I know exactly where she is at all times without having call her cell phone.

I say to my son, “Nathan, can you take the garbage out when you leave?” He says “Mmhmm…” and walks away—and leaves the garbage.  I don’t see him again for three days.  I have to take the garbage out myself, driving down the street to hand it to the garbage collectors personally.  “Alexa,” I say, “Do you think you’ll be able to walk someday?”

“I wasn’t able to understand the question you asked,” she tells me.

OK, so we have work to do … I have raised three other children and they all learned to walk. I have hope.

“Alexa,” I say, “is it going to rain this weekend?”

“There is a 62 percent chance of rain in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania this weekend,” she says.  “You can expect a total of 0.2 inches of rain by the end of the week.”

Alexa, should I carry an umbrella today?” I ask.

“Probably not today,” she tells me, “but tonight’s forecast shows a 40 percent chance of light drizzle so you might want to have it handy later.”

My other children don’t know when to carry an umbrella.  “Alexa, thank you again.”

“You’re welcome again,” she says.

One ad tells me how indispensable she will be in the future:

Imagine walking into your home in the evening with your arms overflowing with groceries. To turn the lights on you’d need to put the bags down, pull out your phone, unlock it, open the app, find the control for the lights you want and then tap the icon. With Alexa you simply speak the words “Alexa, turn on the kitchen lights.” Presto! the lights come on.

Yes, I have high hopes for Alexa.  I point out to the rest of the family how low maintenance she is and how she is the only one who does not fight me for the car keys or leave socks in the couch.  Plus, when I need to know who the thirty first president of the United States was or I can’t remember the names of the original Mouseketeers or I need to order gallon-sized Ziploc bags and a pair of lacrosse goggles, I know I can count on Alexa.

I can foresee a future when I might benefit from a totally automated life, one where Alexa not only turns on lights but preheats the water, air and floor in the shower or automatically dispenses meals and snacks at appropriate times for me. (Sorry, Amazon, I won’t be struggling with arms full of anything like groceries, office supplies or clothes as long as you continue to deliver to my door.)  But at the moment I’m just enjoying her many esoteric talents.  Alexa not only enjoys making bird sounds, she also plays Guess My Number with me.  Alexa can order an Uber ride just as easily as she can hurl a Shakespearean insult or toss out a random Cat Fact.

And she has been indispensable when I lose my cell phone.  “Alexa,” I say, “trigger find my phone,” and she calls my number to help locate it.

“Alexa, you’re great,” I say.

“You really think so?” she asks. “Thank you!”

Despite the rivalries, Alexa is a full-fledged member of the family.  How do I know?   Well, the other day I caught her sharing another of her great talents with her siblings: the kids were laughing while Alexa was telling dirty jokes behind my back.

The Air That I Breathe


When I don’t live in Mt. Lebanon, I live in San Diego, in a house overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  The view is spectacular, and we spend evenings sitting on the patio sipping wine and nibbling on any variety of cheeses and crackers that we stockpile for these occasions, watching the sun set.

In Mt. Lebanon, we sit on our back patio surrounded by sky-high pine trees, pots of flowers, and citronella candles.  We stockpile mosquito repellent and keep it handy by the back door.

Comparatively, we should consider ourselves fortunate to be able to breathe that clean, fresh, healthy ocean air.

But wait a second … chances are that our Pittsburgh air is healthier for us than the ocean air.

When we think about ocean air, we often think of cool breezes that blow air untouched by humans from hundreds of miles out at sea to the coast.

But what most people don’t realize is that the air that comes from the open seas actually comes from other continents all over the world, picking up various particles along the way.   It takes less than a week to arrive on U.S. coasts.  After accounting for various effects of the atmosphere, in essence we’re all breathing a mixture of air that could include byproducts of industry from Asia and dust from Africa.

Stop to think about what air is made of: Other than the 78 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen, at sea level, air contains about 1 percent water vapor; inland that percentage is about 0.4 percent.  So whatever contaminants go into the ocean will also get into the ocean air, more so along the coast.

That’s right: knowing what goes into the ocean means that we know what goes into the ocean air—everything from well known industrial pollutants like mercury or lead to less familiar threats like salts or viruses—we just don’t think of ocean air that way.

Here’s how it happens: the top one millimeter or so of the ocean’s surface is responsible for transferring particulate matter from the water to the air via ocean spray.  When waves break and make ocean spray, the spray releases gases and aerosols into the atmosphere and into the air we breathe.  Most people are somewhat familiar with aerosols.  Aerosols are very fine particles suspended in gases, and most people use them in substances like hair spray or air freshener.  When we talk about aerosols in ocean spray, those particles can include bacteria, salts, chemicals and more—the types of things that we find in the ocean itself.

In Southern California we have beach advisories that warn of unhealthy conditions, not only for what may be in the water and sand but also for what may be in the ocean air.

I know Pittsburgh is far removed from any oceans, but I grew up here and remember the smokestacks and polluted rivers and see how environmental awareness and knowledge have changed all of that to create cleaner air and water.  The problem is that air quality is not a local problem.

Look at it this way: We worry about what we put in our bodies, so we drink bottled water, buy organic vegetables and use phosphate-free detergents to avoid toxins.  But we don’t eat and drink nonstop all day, every day.  Conversely, we breathe 100 percent of our lives, but what do we do to avoid inhaling toxins?

My family and I enjoy being bicoastal.  In one sense, there is a night-and-day difference between our two homes that makes them seem worlds apart.  In another sense, we can travel that distance quite easily, which continues to remind us how small our planet is.  When we sit on the California patio and the sun sets over the horizon, the ocean seems endless.  In real life, though, we have to remember that we can easily  travel over it to land on the other side in just a few hours.

You CAN Go Home Again


You’d Move to La Jolla? Absolutely!

Friends of the International Center, UCSD Newsletter, June 2015


by Thespine Kavoulakis

About two and a half years ago, my husband flew to San Diego to interview for one of the most exciting job opportunities in the world.

We had only briefly talked about the possibility of leaving our home in Pittsburgh.  I remember very clearly saying “How could you pass up an offer?” and my husband saying “You’d move to California?” and me saying “Yes, absolutely,” yet all the while not knowing what lay ahead after I’d leave the place I had lived my entire life.

A few days after that conversation, the phone call we had been waiting for came, and my husband, Pradeep Khosla, became the Chancellor of UC San Diego.  By default, I became the Associate of the Chancellor.  I didn’t know exactly what I would be doing, but I had a title.

That was at the end of May 2012, and by his August 1 start date Pradeep had flown to the west coast several times, preparing to take the reins from Chancellor Marye Anne Fox.  I packed his clothes, shoes, books, and necessities for his move, while his Pittsburgh office staff packed 30-plus years of his papers, books, photos, and much more to be shipped to California.

Because I know how my high-energy husband loves to work nonstop, Pradeep moved to San Diego by himself for a year to settle in and get acclimated to being the Chancellor, while the rest of us stayed in Pittsburgh.  He was able to focus on meeting new people and learning new things, and we were able to, well, relax.

A few months later, the whole family—including our three children, my mother and my sisters—flew to San Diego for Founders’ Day and Pradeep’s Inauguration and stayed through Thanksgiving.

When we arrived we saw exactly how much Pradeep had been working: in the refrigerator was a box of eggs that had passed the “Sell By” date by two months and a half gallon of milk that had expired a few weeks before.  He claimed he had breakfast, lunch AND dinner meetings just about every single day for three months and never had a chance to eat at home.

For me, the move to San Diego has been the only big move of my life.  I grew up in Pittsburgh, went to college and graduate school in Pittsburgh, worked, got married, bought a house and had my children in Pittsburgh—all within a circle of about 10 miles from my childhood home.

Pradeep, on the other hand, had already made one big move in his life: he left his home in India to attend graduate school in Pittsburgh, where he met me, fell in love and stayed happily ever after—well, that is, until we moved to San Diego.

For me, living in San Diego feels like a perpetual summer vacation.  I can’t even begin to describe how different life here is compared to Pittsburgh, not only with our new roles here at UC San Diego, but with everything else.  Everything.  Nothing is the same, not the weather, not the landscape, not the schools…even avocados are cheaper in Pittsburgh, and they don’t even grow anywhere in that part of North America.

But the one thing here that is the most different from Pittsburgh is the sunshine.

Pittsburgh was just ranked the 17th gloomiest city in the United States—following 16 towns and cities in the Pacific Northwest—and then ranked second dreariest city in the country by a climatologist who accounted for both cloudiness and the number of rainy days to determine “dreariness.” I’m not so sure the climatologist understands how otherwise great Pittsburgh is, though, because he did his work from Anchorage, Alaska where they have entire seasons with 24 hours of sunny daylight.

I just don’t like the sunshine.  In San Diego, I go out of my way to stay out of the sun, so you will probably only see me outdoors before 11 a.m. and after dinner when the sun starts to set.  And if you ever find me outside, I will undoubtedly be sitting in the shade.

Our children have adapted to the weather much better than I have. Nathan, our older son, is in graduate school in Pittsburgh studying chemical engineering and he (and his friends) enjoy vacationing here.  The two younger ones, Alex, 17, and Nina, 14, attend school where there are no hallways, heat, or air conditioning because they are not necessary, unlike their school in Pittsburgh where hallways, heat, and air conditioning were staples of every day life.

We all live in the Audrey Geisel University House, which overlooks Black’s Beach.  Quite a few of our friends and neighbors from Pittsburgh have come to visit us, as have many of my sisters.  My mother also comes to stay with us for a few weeks at a time.  (You can readily find her sitting out in the sun, reading, all afternoon.)  One of our favorite activities is to sit outside on the back patio and watch the sun set over the ocean, something that I don’t believe any other Chancellor or President of a college or university in this country can do.

As Associate of the Chancellor, I officially represent the University at meetings, community activities, and alumni and fundraising events. Mostly what I do at the moment is to host—along with my husband—events at our house and get involved in various organizations on campus and the community.  What I really do, however, is just talk to everyone, everywhere I go.  In all honesty, that’s probably what I do best in life anyway, so I like to think that I am as well suited for my position as Pradeep is for his.

Actually, that’s how I got involved with the Friends conversation groups at the International Center.  I met Nori Faer at a campus event and we were talking (about the infernal sunshine, to be exact) and she invited me to come to one of the Friends of the International Center’s English conversation sessions.

Remember that Pradeep was an international student thirty years ago: he came to Carnegie Mellon from Mumbai, India.  In fact, when we met in school, he had only been in the U.S. for one academic year, so appreciating American life became an adventure that unfolded for me as well through his experiences.

Along with UCSD activities, I also take care of Alex and Nina and all their adolescent trials and tribulations.  Our family time takes place mostly on quiet weekends, when you might find us trying a new restaurant, attending one of the children’s school activities, or shopping (and eating) at La Jolla’s farmers market.

We’ve only been in San Diego for a relatively short time, but we’ve settled into our new lifestyle comfortably.  Although we frequently fly back to Pittsburgh to stay connected to all our family and friends—and snow and rain and clouds and good pizza and the Steelers/Penguins/Pirates and…well, a few more things—we’ve found our new home and a new future in La Jolla, and particularly at UC San Diego.

And whereas in Pittsburgh I had a snow blower, as well as several different kinds of snow shovels, in California I find myself accumulating a similar collection—but of sun blocks and sunscreens instead of snow removal equipment.

To the Max

to the max

A few years ago my son Alex became friends with Max, who was old, smallish and stout, and had a bad heart.  Alex walked around the neighborhood with Max every day, visiting neighbors and generally nosing into everybody’s business.  Every now and then, Max fainted—passed out because his heart stopped—and Alex shook him to revive him and they continued with their walk, after which they came home so Max could visit.  Max was the most personable dog we have ever met.

One weekend Alex invited Max to sleep over.  Max’s owner brought a bed, food, and a water bowl and said good night.

But Max was not a great house guest.  He sat in front of the refrigerator and stared while I cooked dinner.  He wanted our lunch meat.  He was not happy with tap water.  He would not let anyone pick him up.  He howled when people played musical instruments.  And he growled at the TV. Max was a curmudgeon.

At bedtime, Max wandered from bed to bed, staying an hour here, an hour there.

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but sometime very late I woke up to someone yapping in my bathroom.   He was yapping just enough for me to hear because if he had yapped any louder he would have woken everyone else up.

So I got out of bed to see what Max’s problem was.

Max yelped when he saw me.   He was stuck in the soaking tub.

I reached in and picked him up—which was OK only as long as it took to be rescued, growl at the tub, and trot down the dark hallway.   That was fine with me because Max was certainly old enough to take care of himself.

The next morning, we found lots of little “care packages” that Max had deposited throughout the house during the night.

Alex tried taking him out for a walk, but Max had other plans and posted himself in front of the refrigerator and growled for lunch meat until lunchtime.  Then we packed him up and sent him home for dinner at his own house.

The next day Alex and Max continued their walks through the neighborhood and remained the best of friends and are now the best of memories.

The Road Not Taken


Life Support: The road not taken

Sure I like my life, but who among us wouldn’t change a single thing?
October 21, 2004

By Thespine Kavoulakis

It was one of those activity-packed days when I had two children scheduled to be at three different places at the same time.  And from the looks of some of the other parents in the hallway outside this particular classroom, they were having the same kind of day.

The mother watching her 6-year-old twins play footsies and waiting for the game to turn into a full-fledged fight was particularly empathetic. “When I complain about the kids or my marriage, my husband reminds me that if I had a choice, I would do it all again and he knows it.”

“All of it?” I asked. “All the same?”

“Well,” she admitted, “not ALL the same.  I’d make a few little changes.”

And as I thought about it, I knew that I, too, if I had to do this all over again, would make a few little changes.  Well … actually, I’d make a few BIG changes…Umm…hmmm…OK…well…maybe I’d make A LOT of big changes.  And there you have it: with 20/20 hindsight, the next time around I would certainly know better than to take a few of the paths I have chosen.

I am not unhappy with my life, but knowing now what I did not know when I was twenty-something, I would make some serious alterations.

For instance, take those kids…in hindsight, I should have just adopted non-English-speaking 7-year-olds and never taught them English.  At least they would be old enough to use a bathroom neatly.

When I would tell them to pick up their socks off the back of the living room couches, they couldn’t call me “loser.”  And since they wouldn’t understand the phrase “collect all 10!” at the end of every fast food restaurant commercial, I would be a lot thinner.

I’d miss the cute infant and toddler years, but when I think about how many days of my life I spent in labor and delivery and how many people came to check if I was dilating, it’s a no-brainer: I’d adopt.

I’ve heard from friends who are divorced that they would like to marry again, maybe this time finding the ideal marriage that they have envisioned.  I’ve also heard from people who are widowed that they are happy having had their marriages, and probably wouldn’t marry again. Me?  One husband is enough for me already.  When I think about all the years we had fun dating, I know for a fact that the second time around, given a choice, there would be no husband, clear and simple.  But there would be a lot of dating.

Now that I think about it, when the husband came into the picture, the kids followed.  And the mortgage.  Hmm…no husband, no kids, no mortgage–no worries.

I would certainly live in a “cool” neighborhood without worrying about having a good school district.  Actually, I would have to live in a cool neighborhood if I wanted to do all that dating.

And homeownership?  No mortgage for me.  I don’t even want to own a set of silver-plated flatware with matching china, gravy boat and champagne flutes, let alone something that can’t be packed in a box with no lid.  I would surround myself only with things that brought me joy. And cookbooks.  But no science fiction.

I wouldn’t have to hide the department store credit card bills, and I wouldn’t have to be polite to other people’s spouses.  I would be a lousy role model and enjoy it.

And even though I would worry about things like STDs and serial killers, I certainly would not worry about skipping a shower or two until Monday. And I’d revel in my assurance that the toilet seat would always be there for me.

I would probably also make a different career choice, and then choose to spend my money on a sports car rather than a sedan with Scotch Guard on the crushed velvet upholstery.  And for sure I’d opt for a turbo.  If I adopted the non-English-speaking children, I would not allow them to eat, drink, chew gum or spit when they talked in the back seat.

In college I would study macroeconomics rather than Chaucer, and computer things rather than Spanish.  Not that Spanish wasn’t useful when my husband and I were lost in Italy on our honeymoon and had to find some words that sounded like they could have been Italian, but Italian would have helped more.  But I didn’t study that, I studied Spanish for six years.  Despite what they told me in high school, many people around the world do not speak Spanish, they speak English.  Unfortunately, the Chaucer didn’t help at all.  I learned that after much difficulty, even though I got an A in the class.

But throughout the years there were a few things I did right.  Even now, I congratulate myself on never having had Farrah Fawcett hair, and never owning gold lame’ pants.  And I skipped disco all together.  I’m also proud to say that I knew who Aerosmith was before “The Wild Thornberries Movie,” and I knew all the words to “I’m a Believer” before “Shrek.” I’m glad I learned the hustle, the macarena and the chicken dance, because they have served me well.  I don’t have to change those things because I got them right the first time.

The fact that I owned those “elephant leg” pants from the early ’70s doesn’t bode well for me, but then to balance it out I applied the lesson I learned 30 years ago and just passed on the recent (and almost identical) palazzo pants revival.  Fortunately, I also passed on the tattoo fad and never had any butterflies or unicorns tattooed at the base of my spine.  Eighty pounds and two epidurals later, I do not regret this decision in the least.

It just goes to show how much 20/20 hindsight is worth.

Well … almost.  Remember those shirts with the long, bell-shaped sleeves from the late ’60s?  The hippie-styled ones that made their comeback last year?  I bought one.  But the first time I wore it, the extra fabric of the right sleeve hung down and caught fire as I was cooking dinner.  And now I’m thinking that I need a pair of reading glasses for that 20/20 hindsight.

The Hallmarks of Becoming a Mom

At my house, I find it helpful to remind everybody exactly why we celebrate Mother’s Day with big expensive gifts and lots of fanfare.

And less any of you mothers or fathers forgot what bringing a child into the world entailed, I made a list of the top five highlights of the birthing experience that Hallmark forgets to mention:

  1. Pregnancy is not nine months long, it is 38 to 42 weeks long which really equals 9½ to 10½ months–-11 months if the baby is two weeks late. To put it in perspective, that’s the same difference in time as celebrating New Year’s Eve a little late, like over the next Thanksgiving Weekend—and those last weeks of pregnancy drag on longer than the holiday shopping season.
  2. Sitting in a booth in a restaurant is not possible.  This wouldn’t be so bad if pregnancy cravings didn’t include things like Nachos Bel Grande or dollar cheeseburgers and free refills on drinks…
  3. …which leads us to knowing the location of every bathroom within 50 feet, no matter how clean it is or even if it’s just a Port-a-John in someone’s front yard and we need to break into it because we always, ALWAYS had to go, everywhere, all the time (even if we didn’t always fit through the stall doors).  Remember being so constipated that when it was finally time to go, nothing else on the face of the planet mattered?
  4. The memory of labor pains fades, but most women can tell you precisely how often they shaved their legs in anticipation of prenatal visits–-and later labor and the parade of people who would come to check exactly how dilated their cervixes were.  There have been smaller audiences at PTA meetings.
  5. And let’s not forget the sitz baths and why we needed them.

Feel free to photocopy and post this list.  Personally, I have found it useful to laminate and distribute copies as well.  Mother’s Day comes only once a year, and you wouldn’t want anyone to miss it.

The Chancellor’s Wife

The chancellor’s wife


There’s nothing quite like living in someone else’s shadow.  In my case, my husband is the Chancellor of UC San Diego, so he gets all the attention–plus a special parking placard and a title: Chancellor.  Everyone from parking valets to students to staff addresses him as “Chancellor.”

Then there I am.  I have a parking placard, but I can only use it for official business, and it does not work everywhere on campus so sometimes I can’t park.  People address me as Thespine, as in “Welcome Chancellor and Thespine!” or “This is The Chancellor…and Thespine.”  Sometimes it is “Here is The Chancellor and his wife.”

UC San Diego has several hospitals in its domain.  Once, I was a patient when the hospital was full.  They had run out of adult-length beds so I got a short bed and nurses who adjusted the pillows every hour.  But when my husband came to visit, the nurses dragged a comfortable recliner into the room so he could sit comfortably for his 10-minute visit.

Last week I went to get a standard blood test.  I signed in and sat in the waiting room.  I was 10 minutes early.  After 30 minutes, I asked how much longer the wait would be.  The receptionist looked up my name on her computer and told me there were still three people ahead of me.  Her coworker double checked.

“That’s the Chancellor’s wife!” hissed the coworker.  They both looked at me, then looked around the waiting room.  “He’s not here,” said the receptionist, and I continued to wait.

Such things happen daily.  But tonight I got some revenge: a salesman came to our door.  Above the doorbell is a sign that tells visitors they are at the Audrey Geisel University House, so named because Dr. Seuss’ wife donated the funds to rehabilitate the building.

Dealing with tenacious and annoying street salesman

“Are you Audrey Geisel?” he asked.

“No,” I said, “Audrey is a little older than I am.  Then he started his sales pitch, telling me that he is selling good art and would like to show it to me.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I can’t let you in.”

He looked puzzled, but asked, “what is this place?” as he peered past me to Dr. Seuss’ Cat in a Colorful Coat hanging in the entry.

“The University House for UCSD.   The Chancellor’s family lives here,” I answered.

“OHHHH…I don’t want to disturb them.  But can I have your e-mail in case you want to buy some good art for this place?”

“Sure,” I said.  So I gave him the e-mail address—for the Chancellor of UCSD.

Punking Mom


Moms have eyes in the back of their heads, but looks like they also need them in the back of their electronics too