Friday, August 28, 2015

Rest in Peace

Gertrud Inga Maria Svensson Stockton

Born January 25, 1920
Died August 22, 2015

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Do You Remember the Green Nail Polish?

Our waitress had an ugly blue nail polish on her finger nails. But, she doesn't have anything on women from my generation when it comes to finger polish color. You may remember a story I told you about my nail polish color choices when I started blogging.

When I was young we were as foolish with the color of our nail polish as women are today. I would never had gone for green nail polish because it was ugly when your hand came near to your mouth. It was ugly, ugly. But measures had to taken to cure my future-husband from nearly drowning me because he said he hated my red nail polish. Mine wasn't red. It was a beautiful, delicate pink color that reminded me of a daphne bush growing outside my grandmother's house when I was a child. I was wearing this lovely color on all my fingers and my toes.

Sam didn't say anything at first about my nails when he came to visit me in Warm Springs, Georgia that weekend from Fort Benning where he was in officer's candidate school. However, after we jumped in the pool together, he promptly held my head under water long enough to really scare me. This happened when we first met and he decided to fix my elegance by nearly drowning me in protest of my nail color.

Sam's mother was high-society San Franciscan and I'm sure she never wore any nail polish other than natural so in his mind that was the proper behavior for woman. I think he was afraid when I met his family that I would look cheap wearing my nail polish. But I knew I had a way of telling him that I won this battle.

When he went back to Fort Benning that Sunday, I called a good friend in New York City.

"Please send me a bottle of green nail polish. I have to do something to stop my husband from being so dictatorial about what I wear on my nails."

The package arrived on Friday and Sam arrived on Saturday. When he saw me wearing the horrible green on my finger nails and toenails, he realized I was not one to be fooled with. He said okay you win. You can wear red.

Now that I'm 95, it's wonderful when a slight detail brings back such a fond memory...

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

This is our happy group of knitters at the Redwoods in Mill Valley.

We are so lucky to be involved with Sara Oliver and her handbags. She comes every Thursday for 2 hours, inspects the results of our knitting and doles out yarn. We are the happiest group in this place (300 seniors live here). Among the newcomers, our first question always is: Do you knit? as we're always looking for new knitters to join our productive group (click for more pictures of us and of Sara's handbags).

There are about 10 - 20 knitters in our group that includes 2 men. One man had never knitted until last fall when his grand-daughter taught him how to knit. When he found he had 56 knitted pot-holders in a drawer, he joined Sara Oliver and is a great producer.

I've been knitting for Sara Oliver Handbags for over a year now and the experience has changed my attitude. I love getting up in the middle of the night to knit. I am legally blind and with my magnifying lens attached to a nearby piece of furniture I have two hands free to speed along.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Roosevelt Season

Now that there is so much talk about the Roosevelts, I want to share my time with Franklin D. Roosevelt. I have mentioned before that I was lucky enough to get a post-graduate scholarship to Warm Springs Foundation in Warm Springs, Georgia. I had been there a week or ten days when one lunch time in the big dining room where all ambulatory patients, nurses, physical therapists, doctors and aides ate together, I noticed a strange young man sitting at the table next to ours. The next day, I sat at lunch with another physical therapist and found the same man was siting very close to where we were sitting again.

I asked everyone if they knew who that handsome man was. They said he's probably Secret Service.

"Are you an American citizen, Svensson?" someone asked.

"Not yet," I replied.

"Ah ha! that's it."

I liked to walk barefoot in the forest around Warm Springs and I kept thinking that poor man must have to follow me. So I made all sorts of strange moves and followed different paths. That didn't last very long because I became so busy learning new things.

One day we heard that the President was coming for a weekend. Everything was spruced up: windows washed, gardens raked and the two pools cleaned. Young male patients were told they could not wear their bathing suits when having a treatment they had to wear the outfits all the regular patients had to wear.

The day when the President arrived, he went to his cottage -- though his house was much bigger than the house we lived in. Suddenly, we found out he was coming to dinner at our place in our huge dining room.

He was driven in a convertible Ford with FDR license plates. He walked in, looking very tall and very proud, but when he got to his table with his two secrets service men or two sons who had the duty to help for the day, he had a lot of struggle with his braces when he sat down.

Normally he was helped down and up by his sons or secret service people by them grabbling him under his arms. It was does so quickly and gracefully that people weren't aware that he was having any trouble.

After he sat down, he gave a speech to the patients:

  • Be patient
  • Work hard
  • Do more than people expect of you

He wished everyone good luck.

Then it was time for us to leave and we left in a long, long, long line, snaking between the tables. Patients lying on their stomachs on a gurney were attended by a nurse or an orderly. Everyone got to go in front of the President of the United States of America and get a hand shake and few words of encouragement.

Then my turn came. He told me he was sorry about the investigations before I arrived here. Before coming to Warm Springs, I was in Tennessee and my departure date kept changing because my clearance kept being delayed until I was checked out to be an innocent Swedish immigrant. Then he asked about my home town in Sweden and did my family come also? And all that took about 1 1/2 minutes.

That was a hard day for him because there were so many people there.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Cast Iron Bread Baking Pot

The photo of me and the cast iron pot in the middle of the table made me think of cast iron utensils we used when I was little. We did not have money for a standing rib roast. I think chicken was the only meat we ate -- once a week we did have a roast on Sundays, sometimes veal, mostly chicken. Otherwise we ate fish.
Many times with fish as the main course we would have Yorkshire Pudding. The utensil we used for Yorkshire Pudding was cast iron and deeper than a muffin pan and I guess we used bacon fat when we didn't have fat to use from a standing rib roast (which is what the English ate for a standard Sunday dinner -- standing rib roast and Yorkshire Pudding). Our old-fashioned kitchen stove needed have very small kindling and then a little bigger pieces of wood and then coal or coke as they called it sometimes and that would keep the temperature high enough to bake Yorkshire Pudding.

A man came and delivered wood and this man knew the size that every person needed in the little village where we lived and he cut it so it would fit in everyone's house. Everyone had a fireplace but not open like we have here but made out of ceramic tile and they always stood in the corner of whatever room we're talking about -- the only room that didn't have a fireplace was the dining room.

I remember as a child the little door on top of the ceramic fireplace was open and it made all kinds of scary shadows on all the walls.

But back to cast iron. The only other utensils we had were frying pans and they were cast iron. They had to be treated with lots of respect because if you washed them and you didn't dry them carefully rust formed from a drop of water and there would be hell to pay because the next time you made pancakes or something else delicious would stick.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Third Eye

In the first post I wrote about Eyes, I mentioned I went to the Berkeley Sidewalk Art Show. Walter Keane and his family were across the street from where I was drawing. I had never heard of him so I crossed the street to see what they were doing. I was interested in how he could be successful in portraiture when he enlarged the eyes to such an extent.
 It turned out he was a very good friend of the man who owned the shoe store in Danville and so news of his success came readily to us and we all enjoyed his fame.

However, his fame was a flash in the pan because soon his name became tainted by the stories of his wife being the one who actually painted the portraits.

Many years later, I read in the newspaper that there was going to be a sidewalk show in Walnut Creek and they asked me to submit a painting for the show. I didn't have one available so I took an old painting of a beautiful girl and changed her to very small and insignificant with pupils as small as raisins. I signed it Naek Retlaw. To my surprise, the painting was accepted. None of the jurors were suspicious and, since I didn't want the painting back, I hadn't put my proper name.

Next blog will be called The Nose.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

More Eyes

About 30 years ago, Sam and I took a cruise through Mexico as if we were on a ship moving through foreign waters only we were traveling on land on a train. An unforgettable trip. To explain a little. A man in San Francisco loved railroad cars and since he had a lot of money he bought a railroad car like you would buy a pound of sugar. Finally his mother said, you now have at least 10 fabulous railroad cars and from now instead of buying railroad cars you have to earn money with the cars you now have. And so he arranged the trip to Mexico.

He hired a famous chef from San Francisco and had a crew of well-known train people and he had made arrangements with the Mexican government to cruise on their tracks. We had American locomotive until El Paso. We crossed the border and from then on we had to have a Mexican locomotive or simply get attached to trains running regularly.

The train went from El Paso to the million dollar beaches on the west coast of Mexico where we stopped for one night. Then we went to Mexico City and stopped and checked into hotels and the train waited for us at the station. Then we continued to the east coast --the Yuccan and the north coast Vera Cruz and eventually back across the border. But… what happened on this trip was truly excited.

We had to get off the main track whenever we were in competition with a local scheduled Mexican train and we often sat on a spur for hours and hours and hours. Early on, when we were sitting on a spur, I decided I would I would see what I could find as an adventure. I got my sketch pad, sat on the steps of the train and waited. All of a sudden, a boy about 10 appeared whistling on his through a forest and in my broken Spanish, I asked him if he would like a portrait of himself. When I was finished I tore  off the sketch and handed it to him to give to his mother. In about 5 minutes he retuned with his mother, his brothers and about ten more buddies his age.

Before we left there was a sea of people waiting their turn. One of the waiters from the train was behind me and if anyone got out of line, he would say one word I didn't understand and everyone waited patiently. I'll always remember the sea of black eyes waiting and hoping to have their faces sketched before the train left.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Eyes I Have Known

A couple of months after my first painting lesson, I signed up to do quick sketches outdoors in the Berkeley Sidewalk Show. It was my first public affair and I had to leave home at the crack of dawn, get into Berkeley, find my assigned place on the sidewalk, unload the car and then park it.

When I was ready, there were very few people walking by. I saw a little old lady with little white gloves and a little hat on her head with little flowers or feathers on top. She looked interested so I asked her if she would sit down so I could practice before people came. I assured her it wouldn't cost her anything.

So she sat down and I started drawing her. When I got to the hat, I was already finished with her face, so I said you may get up and move around because I'm just going to do the white things on top of your hat. She got up and stood behind me so see what I was doing. I heard her blow her nose behind me. Then I head her sobbing.

I turned.

"Why are you crying?" I asked, worried she didn't like what she saw.

"The eyes look exactly like my father's eyes."

"Did you look like your father?"

"Not at all."

It was moving experience for both of us.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Last week, I awakened with a dream still in my head. It was a memory from one of my more confusing first days in America.

I arrived in America late September 1938. I was 18 years old. It was imperative I get a job because I had no money when I arrived and I needed to continue my studies.

I went to a Scandinavian employment agency on Madison Ave. in New York City and, within hours, I had a job. My salary was $70.00 per month plus room and board and I had the fabulous title of kitchen maid. The butler, who's name was Urban, was waiting for the lady-of-the-house to make up her mind and then he drove me to Princeton, New Jersey. It was a scary moment. Eveything was so different.

The help -- and there were lots of us -- there were parlor maids, a chamber maid, a butler, a chauffeur and several gardeners. The gardeners lived elsewhere. The chauffeur had a house of his own. The rest of us had a separate 2-story house where we slept and ate.

All of a sudden, Halloween was coming. People decorated and bought candy. I had no idea what they were celebrating. I had never heard of Halloween in Sweden. We lived on the outskirts of Princeton in the country where we didn't have any children knocking on the door. There were two children who lived in the main house as the children of the house. They had a German governess. They didn't go out trick-or-treating and they didn't get any candy.

We each had a bedroom in this separate house. Halloween evening we were off from work and gathered around our living room radio. Someone said let's turn on NBC. The broadcaster was Orson Wells. In a hysterical voice he was shouting about Martians who had landed on the New Jersey hillsides. He had a strong voice as he spoke very emotionally about how the Martians were looking for mischief. I had no idea what was happening. I think the chamber maid was from the area. She was terribly upset because her elderly parents lived in Trenton where the Martians were headed. She worried her parents could be picked up aliens.

The next morning we read about Orson Wells show in the newspaper (the big house had lots of newspapers delivered). When we learned he almost lost his job as a newscaster, we realized then what a historical event it had been.

When I woke up, I was amused by the memory. When I picked up the newspaper, I saw an article about Orson Wells and his Martian joke. I thought, wow! I was right there. Such a historical event in a different century and now very few people remember or have even heard about the historic Halloween night.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


The other day it was raining just slightly and I decided I should have more exercise. I put Edgar on my walker with a leash and we walked down to the parking lot for residents.

 Then we out on the sidewalk of Miller and to Alto Camino. It was a mistake I discovered early on and I should have turned back. Edgar was absolutely hysterical. He tried to run away. I picked him and put him back because he jumped off the walker a couple of times.

Since I am pretty unsteady on my feet and I had to let go of everything to pick him up, I was afraid I would tip over.

I wondered if I should let go of the leash and let him run home but I was afraid he may not know his way or could get caught on his leash and get lost. The sound of the cars scared him so much.

So scared I was going to lose him, I hurried along, turned the corner and came in the front door. There he was happy. People were talking to him and petting him and he loved it.

I gave him a treat. He ate it and went next door and went to sleep on my neighbor's pillow.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

How Could a Day that Started Out So Badly End So Well?

At 7:30am the telephone ran. Who would call me at 7:30? It was the desk at the Redwoods: "You have to get up and move your car because workers are there and if you don't move it right now you'll be trapped behind all that equipment."

I apologized profusely and promised to immediately move my car. Then I thought, what do I need to take with me? Car keys, of course. Will I have to park in the Safeway parking lot (with their overflow parking places)? Then I thought, how can I? I haven't driven for over a year. I called the desk back and explained they had woken me up and in my stupor and I'd forgot I can't move my car. She said okay and, in minutes, a young man arrived and asked: "What brand is your car and what color?" I couldn't remember the name. I said: "It starts with a S." He said: "Oh, a Subaru" and asked the color.

He said he'd move the car and leave the keys at the front desk. So I felt since I had been awakened so rudely, I would do the rest of my chores. I took off all my night clothes and starting cleaned the cat box. Then there was knock at the door. I thought to myself, now what? I'm naked (I don't like to work with smelly stuff with clothes on). How do I handle this problem?

So I found my robe, put that on, clutched it to my chin and went to the door. There stood the most gorgeous man -- one of our bus drivers, young and blonde and so extremely tall. There he was with the car keys in his hand. He had been sent down from the office to deliver my keys. I know they want me to move my car from where it's parked now in the front, but of course I can't. So there it sits in the front.

Then I got ready for my luncheon with my handsome son-in-law.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My New Year's Resolution -- 2014

I started taking a medical bus here at the Redwoods for periodic blood tests. My first time taking the bus was frightening because I had to stand with my walker on this little shelf that raises up to the level of the bus and I thought to myself: they don't know how much I weigh. How do they know I'll get up there?

Now, I do my own blood tests and phone in the results to a clinic. Because I'm not yet 100% successful doing it myself at home, I receive phone calls from the clinic.

A woman calls me from the blood testing office. She speaks through some sort of a machine that makes her sound like she'd been dead for more than a month. And she says in an outlandish and scary voice to check that I'm who she wants me to be.

It scares me so much to hear this voice from beyond that I hang up and do not write down the number I'm supposed to call back.

She'll have to call me again, next time preferably with her own voice. It's scary for people as old as I am; her voice is fraught with scary images.

When I was done needing to go by a long bus ride to the blood clinic, I said I'm through with this now and I'll investigate the other buses which will take me out to outings, shopping, lunch...

Today was my first step toward that intention, though ended up not working because the bus arrived with no lift. Next time will better because we'll let Art my favorite bus driver know that I need a lift. I know I can get up the steps and I just know I can't climb back down again and need the lift.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Happy New Year!

Martha, who is very organized, said that last year on New Year's Eve I expressed my wish. My wish was that I would live one more year. So here it is almost New Year's Eve and I did achieve my wish. Can all of you say that you were as successful?

New Year's is important and I'd like to wish everyone who reads my blog Happy New Year!

I was reminded this weekend how frail people are when they get older. On Christmas Eve, I went outside and with just one wrong move, I wrecked my already bad knee. If you protect someplace where you are hurting, you ruin the balance in some other parts of your body. However, now I feel fine and my knee is not much worse than it was before.

 I am happy to inform everyone that I now have a new event in my life -- I have a great grand-daughter. She is 4 months old but until I held her it was a dream. Holding her and seeing her is an entirely different event that seeing pictures and videos of her.

She's a good baby and she looks intelligent in her young age and I wish for only good things happen to her.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What's in a Name

Before I married, my last name was Svensson. There were many in Viken with the same last name. Viken was a small village, 2200 inhabitants. A lot of us were related and some were not. Kallentin Svensson was one of my father's cousins, they were double cousins, their mothers were sisters and their fathers were brothers.

Kallentin had two children - Fritjof and Ingeborg (read Icelandic saga with that title). Ingeborg was my favorite relative of all time. She and her husband Curly (named so by my children when they met him) had two sons and legally changed their name from Johansson to Kallertin. There was someone already with the legal name Kallentin so they were denied that name.

When you go to work for the government in anyway you were seriously advised to change your last name if it ends with: sson, ssen, sen, son and sue for a new name and if someone else already had that name and if they objected, then they had to think of a new name. The government it too difficult to keep track of all the different spellings (this obviously was before computers).

Kallentin had a brother Karl who also had to take a different name than Svensson and he chose the name: Remberg. Heaven's no, I don't know why he chose that name. He was a coastal traffic officer so he had to change his name. He saved people who's ship went down. Unlike our Coast Guard, they were not armed.

Karl had as sister name Nanny. She never married, owned a weaving school and wove large pieces for churches and public buildings. I went in her studio one time and there 4 women at one loom passing the shuttle one to the other and it was a huge rug they were making. At one time I knew where it was going but I don't remember.

Her brother owned a place where you could order fence posts and gates and decors for inside or outside a house. He forged. It was a very noisy business.

The bakery was owned by a cousin of these two brothers also named Svensson and they had to change their name. They owned the bakery up by the windmill in Viken. If you wandered through the little village I could have named many, many more whose name was Svensson.

Until I married, I never thought to change my name from Svensson but I was very happy to change it to Stockton.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

World Series Time

I watched President Obama introduce the new head of the FBI, which made me think of a young man who's father was an FBI agent and my search for his name in the World Series baseball roster for the past fifty years.
My son and this young boy, the star pitcher, played on a Little League baseball team together. When it became apparent they may go all the way -- a bombshell hit. The star pitcher may not be here because his father was being transferred to Seattle and thus the team would lose their pitcher for their big World Series type play-off.
We asked the pitcher's parents if he could stay with us until our Little League season ended. They agreed, provided their son was okay with the arrangement.
It was a fun time having him with us. I remember especially scaring him witless when I cackled like witch dressed in black on Halloweeen when he was out trick-or-treating with my children.
Rather than accept his parents' offer of money for room and board, I asked the young boy to sign a contract saying: I promise if I ever pitch in a true World Series, I'll send you air and game tickets.
For years and and years and years I kept checking pitchers on rosters and never saw his name.
I'm now nearly 94. My son is nearly 70 and this young would-be pitcher must be the same age as he is. Now I've stopped checking.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Voice from the Past

This is in order to tell you why I've been quiet for so long. I moved from Santa Cruz to Mill Valley and am now living at the Redwoods. Life here is wonderful. We are constantly occupied and educated and there is no reason for anyone to ever be bored.

I've had a strenuous time trying to get news of my eyesight which is waning faster than I want it to. But I'm fine otherwise. I go shopping across the street to a Safeway store. I do my own cooking and I feel well.

By doctor's orders, I'm not supposed to take the local bus system but one of the bus connected to this place has walker accessibility and I can go to whatever doctor's appointments I need to or go shopping locally. Everyone here, all the staff are so unbelievably loving and caring and its a joy to live here.

For example, we were told our electricity was going to be off for two hours the other day. I was sitting in my recliner taking my afternoon nap and forgot my recliner was electrical. Suddenly, every light went off and I couldn't get up because my feet were up in air in the chair and I couldn't get them down because of my electrical recliner. I had to press the button I wear around my neck. In came a wonderful person we have who is friend to everyone. She moved a couple of things out of the way that had been blocking me and I could climb out of my chair. She said goodbye and the whole thing was over. In couple of hours the electricity went on and I put my chair in it's correct posture.

I have much joy from my cat Edgar who is here. He now has two homes, having adopted my neighbor. She leaves her screen door barely open and I do, too. If I miss him and he's been gone too long, I call Adele and she says, oh, yes he's sleeping on my bed.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Once more

Since moving here I have had a lot of trouble with three things: my computer and my two eyes. The computer became slow and dim, I became slow and dim. My eyes are not only dim, they are also distorting. If I am reading, the first one or two letters are missing from most words / difficult when I go to the store and see that Cod costs 00. Lately I have a magnifying glass with my shopping list and I catch the 9 which was missing.

I love living in Mill Valley. There are so many things to get involved with. A person named Elizabeth took the time to help me get this missive off. More later.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The end of Blix, More about Svensto

Several readers guessed that Blix was supposed to be my mother' story.

I can tell you that my mother went to America. A new friend took my mother along to see a friend on Long Island. The name of this friend was Hilda and Hilda's home was in Viken.

Hilda was older than Blenda and had left Sweden late in the 1800 hundreds. But she was excited to meet another Viken-bo. And Hilda said, My brother is coming in a couple of weeks. Let me know how to reach you so you can come and meet him. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Blix felt so lonely. She did not understand herself. She had been offered a great gift and she was not sure she could accept it. I think I will go down to the grave yard and see if I can somehow reach Mother's spirit. It always made her cry when she visited the grave site. It was dalways cold and stormy near the grave yard where her Mother and all other dead relatives were burried. There were grave markers from 1500, so she could not blame the situation on any living person. Probably, the early people who chose so foolishly were Danes during one of their captures of our province. They wanted their dead beloved to be as near Denmark as possible.

When she arrived at Mother's grave, she was thankful for the bench Father had placed directly behind the large grave stone of the adjoining space. It was a large expensive stone that was also a good wind breaker. She thought of her Mother and cried. She thought of the kitten she lost when she was little and cried. And then she sat up, wiped her eyes and blew her nose. She would go to see the Blacksmith.

Malte's father had been sdo kind to her; He tried to save the kitten and when that failed he had burried the kitten out on the heath. Andd then he gave her work so she could repay him. She weeded and watered all the flowers in front of his house. And he always went next door to the bakery{the owners called it Konditory and got her a drink of water and a cakelet with whipped cream. It took her all summer to repay him and since then He was always very friendly when they met on the street' Since father retired and the family moved to Viken that happened quite often. Maybe he could help her decide.