Remarkably Excellent Reads

Remarkably Bright Creatures

On Mother’s Day, I was feeling a little weepy since it was my first since I lost Mom. But I did have some pleasant moments, too. My kids called and I learned how to “merge” their calls so the three of us talked together. My husband and I went for an early morning walk before it was hot.

We went to our favorite Carefree Coffee Roastery for breakfast. We got there early, believing we’d beat the crowd. No, there was a line waiting for the cafe to open! We got a table and didn’t have to wait too long. I had an everything bagel with cream cheese and lox. It was delish!

We had a lap swimming reservation later in the day and we had the pool to ourselves. The hour was booked with six swimmers, but we were the only ones who showed up! That was a treat in itself!

With nothing planned the rest of Mother’s Day, I dove into “Remarkably Bright Creatures” which was recommended to me by no less than three bloggers I follow. THANK YOU for the recommendation!

WOW! I was reading stretched out on the sofa in the casita with Olive the cat purring on my tummy. At eight o’clock I finished the book and walked into our bedroom in tears.

“What’s wrong?” my husband asked.

I sobbed and said the book was so good.

I’ve read two debut novels in May that were excellent. The other was “Black Cake” that I wrote about HERE.

Of course, I also loved Cheryl Oreglia’s “Grow Damn It” weeks before. A debut book by blogger of Living in the Gap fame.

Book by Cheryl Oreglia called "Grow Damn It."
“Grow Damn It” by Cheryl Oreglia

I’m looking forward to reading the debut novel by Eve Marie from the blog CupCakeCache called “The Bayou Heist,” available on Amazon.

Other bloggers that I follow with books either coming out soon or released include Victoria, who has the blog Victoria Ponders and Wynne Leon of Surprised by Joy. Both write for The Heart of the Matter.

Victoria’s book called “Surviving Sue” is about her mother and will be released soon.

Wynne’s book about her father and her faith, “Finding My Father’s Faith,” is available on Amazon.

Eilene Lyon of Myrocopia has a first book coming out in September. It’s called “Fortune’s Frenzy: A California Gold Rush Odyssey.”

I’m looking for more remarkable books to read, so please give me ideas.

Also, if you’ve published a book, please tell us the title and a bit about it.

Retirees sue ASU dive bar

saguaro in the Sonoran Desert
Saguaro in the Sonoran Desert

I like the concept of senior citizens living on campus with students. I learned about an apartment complex at the Arizona State University campus in Tempe in an article in the Wall Street Journal called “Who Let Retirees Move on Campus at Arizona State?” by James Fanelli.

It caught my eye since we live about 45 minutes from the campus.

From the article:

Senior citizens who moved into a pricey housing complex at ASU, once named America’s No. 1 party school, want more quiet, less loud music

Housing at Mirabella requires one-time fees that go from $440,000 to more than $1 million. Residents pay another $4,000 to $8,000 a month, which includes classes and meals.

Mirabella also is restricted to seniors. Residents must be 62 or older. It is one of the country’s few senior-living facilities set on a college campus, mixing older and younger generations by design. It hasn’t gone as well as hoped.

For the kind of money Mirabella’s 260 residents are paying, some are asking why they can’t get a little peace and quiet.

Some have complained about music that blasts late into the night. The vibration of bass notes has rattled the windows and walls of Sharon Murry’s apartment at all hours, the 72-year-old said. “That unrelenting bass thumping sound makes it difficult to concentrate or do anything else,” including sleep, she said in a court filing.

Like I said, I think the concept of living on campus and being able to take whatever classes you want would be an amazing experience as a senior citizen. But the noise of a dive bar across the street blasting EDM until the wee hours of the morning would be too much.

I should know. Our old house was across from what used to be a health retreat for middle-aged women (once called a fat farm). It sold to a hotelier who wanted to turn it into a resort with live outdoor concerts. Our windows shook. My kids would lose sleep on school nights. It was a nightmare. We went to the county courthouse because I found a law that said we were entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of our home. The liquor license got restricted and if we could hear the music in our house, they would get fined. So many fines and their license would get revoked.

However, this case is different than the hotel across the street from our old home. The senior citizens of Mirabella knowingly moved on to the kids’ territory. The judge is trying to work out a compromise.

What are your thoughts? Should the old folks have a right to demand peace and quiet on a college campus?

About those college loans

sea wall Santa Barbara Harbor
Flags along the seawall at Santa Barbara harbor. Photo is from my summer beach vacation.

Whatever you think about forgiving college loans, something jumped out at me on Twitter yesterday.

There were a lot of people on Twitter in favor of college loan forgiveness who are pompous elitists. I was going to use stronger language but I stopped myself.

Here is one of the tweets I saw:

She implied that a person who didn’t go to college is lazy and partied their senior year. Also, that a college graduate is “more understanding and well-rounded.”

Someone else tweeted that a nail salon owner took PPP money “wink wink” to pay her staff. Does this person believe shop owners aren’t honest? Seems judgmental to me. But then I’m being judgmental also.

Someone else commented that people who decided not to go to college in favor of working SHOULD have taken out a loan.

I saw over and over that college is the only path to a success for an enriched life.

I know many people who did not go to college. For example, in my high school graduating class probably 25% went to college. That estimate is probably too high. Our small town was filled with small businesses and farmers.

Our good friend who died Thanksgiving night never went to college. He was hardworking and spent his days managing and fixing up his 300-plus rental units. He enjoyed his work. He had two adult kids he loved to travel with. Would his life have been better with a college education?

I have another friend who owns a construction company who ironically builds buildings at California universities. He has a waterfront home with a yacht parked out front at his private dock. He and his wife have kids and grandkids who fill their life with joy. They spend their summer weekends on their boat at an island that they helicopter back and forth to. Would he have been better off going to college?

Another friend has owned several auto mechanic and tire shops. He and his wife are proud of their family and work hard at their business. They devote their free time volunteering at their church.

My point in this rant is that college is not the only path to success or a life filled with joy. I have a college education because it was never an option in my family not to go. My dad was first generation college grad with his parents immigrating from Finland. On my mom’s side, I’m not sure how many generations went to college. My great-grandfather owned a printing press and a newspaper. My husband’s grandmother was in the first class at UCLA that graduated women. So, yes, our kids were off to college, too.

In my humble opinion, college does not guarantee success nor happiness. Life is what you make of it.

Do you have any thoughts about the college loan forgiveness? How about whether a college education makes you a more understanding person as I read on Twitter?

The desert in bloom

We went away for the weekend to Puerto Penasco and came back home to warm weather and the desert busting out in bloom. What I’ve discovered is the blooms don’t last long. One day a cactus may have a gorgeous flower — the next day it’s gone.

I’m amazed at how many flowers are in blossom in the Sonoran Desert.

I have a little plant guide from the McDowell Sonoran Preserve called “Wildflowers” that categories native blossoms by color. I’m doing my best to use the book to identify the plants.

Here are blooms I saw during my morning walk:

Hedgehog cactus in bloom.
Palo verde tree in bloom.
budding hedgehog cactus
Buds on a hedgehog cactus.
purple blossoms.
This looks like Desert Hyacinth according to the wildflower book. But since it’s in a yard, it might not be a native desert plant.
Century plant with tall bud
The neighbor’s Century Plant keeps getting taller, but hasn’t blossomed yet.
red blooms on hedgehog cactus
Another blooming hedgehog cactus.
red flowering desert plant
I’m not 100% sure but the closest I could find is called Hackberry Beardtongue.
Honeysuckle orange blooms
Honeysuckle in my back yard.
Pink Fairy-duster pink blooms
Pink Fairy-Duster. Isn’t that a great name?

Red Four O'Clock
Red Four O’Clock

What is blooming in your neighborhood?

Thoughts about women’s athletics

women's swimming meet poster
My daughter featured on a women’s swimming meet poster for her University.

You’ve all heard about the controversy swirling around transgender Lia Thomas winning events at the Ivy League and NCAA championships.

First, as Kaitlyn Jenner said, Thomas isn’t breaking any rules — she followed NCAA stated rules. Jenner also said it’s not fair for someone who went through male puberty to compete against women. They are taller and stronger. They have bigger hearts, lungs, feet and hands. Those things don’t change with hormone suppression.

The swimmer who got bumped out of finals by one place (she was 17th and there are only 16 spots) wrote a letter to the NCAA. She’s supportive of Thomas but thinks the NCAA rules are not fair. I read she was banned from Twitter for expressing her opinion.

I know several women swimmers who competed against Thomas at the Ivy League champs and NCAAs. I watched them when they were young race against my daughter. The woman who got second place at the Ivy Leagues Champs to Lia Thomas in the 1,650 (the mile) used to race my daughter in So Cal. She was younger and would be in the lane next to my daughter, drafting at her hip. My daughter couldn’t shake her but would touch her out in the end and say “Who is that?!”

I feel for this young woman who lost the title of Ivy League Champion. I wonder how her parents feel?

Prior to 1972 and Title IX, there were few opportunities for women in college sports. Since then, we’ve taken women’s athletics for granted. Yet 50 years ago, most colleges didn’t have women’s sports.

I’ve interviewed swimming stars and coaches for my website socalswimhistory. One story is about Bonnie Adair, the Loyola Marymount head swim coach who as a swimmer held 35 National Age Group records. She talked about when she was college age and there weren’t many teams for women swimmers.

Her freshman year of college was pre-Title IX, and there were limited opportunities and college programs for women. She was training with Jim Montrella for the ’72 Olympic Trials and didn’t want to change up her training regime, so her freshman year she was a commuter at UC Irvine and lived at home with her parents. She said during those days she swam 11 practices a week and lifted weights. 

Looking back, she said it was unfair that the women stayed at home and didn’t get to experience college life.

“All of a sudden when school began, there would be all girls in our training group. The fast guys went off to swim at UCLA and USC. We were freshmen and sophomores in college, and we stayed with our club team to train. We lost that experience of being a freshman away at college.”

Prior to the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, women weren’t allowed to compete in the marathon.

When I was in high school, one of my friends and I joined the Boys Golf Team because there wasn’t a girls team. We went to practice every day, but we never once got to compete in a match. We were not the worst players, either.

My daughter and her friends who swam, put in years of hard work and sacrifice beginning at age five. They benefitted so much from swimming and being part of a team. I’m glad my daughter had that experience. I hope that other women get the same experience, too.

What are your thoughts on women’s sports? Did you know how limited the opportunities were 50 years ago? What are your experiences with women’s sports as a mom or competitor?

You know you’re officially old when….

Video of Alexandra and Christy Simpson playing viola during our Christmas vacation.

My son’s girlfriend’s sister is playing in a concert in Scottsdale. She and another sister will be staying with us. I looked up the concert and guess what?

I only knew one of the artists listed as headliners for the four-day concert. How did that happen? I don’t feel like an old fogey. I used to be really into music. I kept up with music when my kids had their ipods. We listened to the radio driving to and from school and the pool.

We had a huge music festival called Coachella near our old home. My kids would go. We had friends of our kids stay with us for the concert, too. I knew the headliners if not the lesser known groups.

Here’s a link to our guest’s website with her bio and videos. She promised to play for us while she’s here since the concert she’s playing in is sold out. We’re so excited and have invited neighbors to join us for our own private concert.

Here’s the list for the upcoming concert. How many do you know?


With Special Guest



With Special Guest



With Special Guests



With Special Guests


Do you keep up with current music? Or do you prefer to listen to music from your youth?

Christmas crew in Santa Barbara

It’s that time of year….

I’ve noticed changes during my morning walks. A few homes have Christmas decorations. Because of our desert locale, the decorations are so very different than the ones I’d see in Southern California. In both homes, we were in the Sonoran Desert, but this end of the desert is wild, while Palm Springs was tamed and manicured. The yards and decorations in Palm Springs were traditional strings of lights along eves and a few inflatable Santas.

The weather has gotten colder and cups are placed on cactus (cacti?) in our new neighborhood. The cactus can freeze and die from the top. That’s why we use styrofoam cups to give them a little insulation. We moved here December 15 last year and I was spending countless trips to grocery and hardware stores unable to find anything styrofoam. Amazon to the rescue.

cactus wearing styrofoam cups for the cold weather
The community cacti are decked out in styrofoam to protect them from cold weather.

saguaro cactus wearing Santa caps.
A neighbor has dressed up their saguaro in Christmas hats. I like the simplicity.
Christmas decorations in the Sonoran Desert.
This yard is all decked out!
Reindeer and Santa light display.
I’ll have to go back at night to get the full effect of this display.
Cactus with cups
Another cupped cactus.

What type of displays do you see in your neighborhood? Do you think there are more or less displays than pre COVID days? Do you put up lights or decorations?

My one Christmas decoration out besides poinsettias. I bought this in the 1990s at Target and love it.