It swivels. It comforts. It rocks!

I just bought a recliner.  For myself.  Oh yes I did.  Me – the woman who once threatened a man with dire consequences if he so much as browsed in the recliner department. I believed then (and maybe it’s true) that the combination of a recliner and a TV remote spelled the death of a relationship. Only now I don’t care because I have a big crush on this chair.

It’s butter-color leather, and it’s one of the smaller ones.  It’s looks a bit like a side chair, but make no mistake, it reclines.  One touch of that side-lever and whoosh, legs are lifted, back and neck are supported, and it becomes a cocoon. A cocoon that swivels and rocks and does everything except read my book to me.

Some people I know who’ve owned and loved recliners were disposed to do so because of health issues and these chairs are certainly the ticket for people who need to nap in a propped-up position.  My father, toward the end of his life, was more comfortable in his recliner than anyplace else in the house, and from his seat of honor, we all gathered around him to visit.  

But I didn’t buy this lovely hunk of leather for any sensible reasons.  I simply fell in lust.  I’ve always been partial to rockers, and especially swiveling rockers.  Yellow is my favorite color, so this one called to me from the corner of the hospice thrift store, where it was almost hidden away.   

I sat down and in a policy reversal worthy of a seasoned politician,  decided this chair needs to be delivered to my house tomorrow.  

Ó Anita Garner 2009


Extreme re-purposing – turning a funeral home into a preschool

A notice appeared in the newspaper saying the old funeral home had been sold and would become a preschool.  That building’s been there for decades.  It’s handsome, the way those places always used to be.  It was vacant for a long time but the grounds around it were always manicured.


Our town has experienced a population boom-let in the under-5-year-old category and every preschool has a long waiting list, so though it seemed odd at first, making use of this well-situated property does make sense.  Still it’s quite a stretch to imagine this place changing so far from one point in the circle of life to the extreme other.


The construction permit was taped to the heavy door, then the orange cones and heavy equipment arrived. The parking lot concrete left in trucks but the building remained intact.  Those leaded windows could stand replacing and how they’d reconfigure remained a mystery.  It still looked more funeral home than preschool.


I returned from an overnight trip and all of a sudden bright blue playground equipment had appeared, rising up from the very spot where people used to enter in a hearse at the end of life.


A giant blue jungle gym, blue slides and swings changed everything.  With these in place, the real promise of the project is already realized. For the next however-long this incarnation lasts, it’s gone from a place for sadness to a smile-inducing destination.  From stately to noisy is the perfect re-purposing.


Ó Anita Garner 2009



An artist’s date

Keeping a date with an artist is an important part of my life.  Not the fantasy kind of date of extreme youth, but a date to appreciate the art that surrounds us, made by  geniuses living or dead.  With a little planning, I can be at a museum or a play, a movie or a concert or a festival, soaking in the output of creative souls.

I’m  looking forward to visiting the new Walt Disney Museum which opened this month at the Presidio in San Francisco. I’ve made a date to go and no matter the size of the crowd when I get there,  a date with an artist is really time alone.   Just me and the art.

Going on an art adventure alone encourages a focus on what we’re there for. The idea is to take ourselves to see or hear something that we’re not exposed to every day.  Appreciating while in the company of a friend is fun of another kind, involving the inevitable “what did you think of that?” discussion, but alone we soak it in on our own schedule, every bit of it, even the parts we disagree with, and then we’re free to form our own opinions about it.

We don’t need an excuse to keep dates like this, nor do we have to wait ’til we’re desperate for an escape.  I want this to be a regular part of my life, going out of my way to  see and hear the artistic output of other individuals.   There is another advantage – the  freedom to appreciate something that nobody else we know cares about.

Ó Anita Garner 2009


Seeing ourselves as others see us is not for the weak.

We’ve heard that aging is not for sissies.  Here’s another truth.  Accepting the reality in the mirror first thing in the morning is not for the faint of heart.  And the photo taken for my driver’s license is not necessarily the real me.  I choose not to see myself the way the Department of Motor Vehicles sees me.  You’d think with that photo in my wallet I’d believe it’s true.  Nope.  I’m able to convince myself that picture is a fluke, a trick of lighting. 

I need my illusions.  People who care anything about me know that and leave them alone.  Some days I’m my worst critic.  Other days I look in the mirror and decide I like it. Sometimes what I’m liking is not the way I really look, but the way I think I look.

If I could see myself as others see me, would I want to? 

1)  No. 

2)  Depends on what day it is.

3)  Please, no.

It’s hard work staying inside my bubble. The real world is filled with so many bubble-bursters, they don’t need any help from me.  So rather than seeing it as delusion, I prefer to think of it as an elaborate alternate-reality scheme, one that helps me to keep on keeping on.

Ó Anita Garner 2009

Bath time rituals – a soapy story.

Bath time is sacred. I enjoy it an unreasonable amount, but a private bath isn’t always easy to achieve.

When my daughter was very young, I announced I needed a few minutes after work to decompress in the tub and then she could tell me everything, ask me anything.  At first that was okay with her – until it wasn’t.  She sat outside the bathroom door, asking me is it time yet? 

Then we got a puppy and she “helped” him get into the bathroom, so she could shout from outside,  “Buster!  Naughty! Come back here.  Mommy is having her bath time.”  Then it was “Can I come in and get Buster?”  Then the two of them sat on the bath mat and they were so cute, I surrendered. The new rule was you can sit here if you learn a song.  Starting from whenever she could carry a tune, we sang in the bathroom together while sharing my “private, sacred, must-have” bath time.

Now her little girl, Caedan, is already bending the definition of the word, “privacy” to suit her needs.  She’s supposed to ask, “Do you need privacy?” before opening a door.   From the other side of the door, I heard,  “Do you want me to scrub your back with that big brush?”  and “May I open the door now?  With no puppy to use as an excuse, she employs other means.  

She visited me in a hotel room and while poking around the amenities laid out for guests, she asked, “What’s this?”  Until that day, she’d never seen a bar of soap. She knows from hand sanitizer and liquid bath wash, but a world of miniature soaps beckoned.    

Back home, I related this to our friend, Pam, who promptly sent an assortment of guest-size bars of soap in all colors and fragrances to Caedan.  My daughter put them into a pretty dish where she can reach them. 

During a recent visit, I was soaking away in a “private” bath when she knocked on the door and asked,  “Would you like to use my soap?” I sensed some hesitation.  This was the ultimate sacrifice.  I said yes just to see what would happen. She told me she would choose which soap.  (Generous – but not to a fault.)  She brought it in and handed it to me, but a couple of seconds later said, “I  need my soap back now” and quickly exited.

From now on when I really need privacy while visiting my daughter’s house, all I have to do to be left alone is mess with those little soaps.  Note for Christmas list:  A stocking filled with bars of Ivory soap – “So pure it floats.” 

Ó Anita Garner

New TV Season

For several years, the TV pickin’s have been slender around here, since I’m not a fan of legal shows, police or procedurals, or medical, supernatural, vampire-specific or futuristic shows, nor most reality shows.  What’s been missing are the comedy blocks from years past, the real escape stuff.  Plus every year I hope for something completely fresh and unexpected.  I’m still not over missing “Frasier.”  This week Kelsey Grammer’s new show, “Hank,” debuts and I hope it sticks, because the last one he tried didn’t – and the man’s a singular talent.  

With longer nights around the corner and the rainy season approaching, it’s nice to see a bunch of promising new shows in the mix.  I’ve already programmed  several of them for series taping.  There’s Drop Dead Diva, the new Community, Modern Family and Glee.  Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother are back, and both Mad Men and Entourage recently returned.  Add Dancing With The Stars and my DVR’s getting more use these days than it has in ages.   

Ó Anita Garner


“Glee” is being hailed by critics as new and fresh and like nothing we’ve seen before (except for those other critics who’re saying it’s a show you’ll either love or you’ll hate)  but what I’m enjoying  – in addition to the singing and dancing and good performances all around – is that everything about it is kind of old-fashioned.  Retro.   

Take sad high school stereotypes we all recognize and give them some fine memories in spite of themselves.  Of course so far it’s the viewing audience who realize the characters are having the times of their lives. In real life, the kids would be too loaded down with  angst to notice right away that their differences are their strengths.

What a colorful assemblage of characters the producers and writers offer – one of every kind of not-popular kid and a few of the ones who run things in every high school.  

I admire the storytelling – based on solid narrative, and oh those quirky twists! 

The misfits try to make a place for themselves using their unusual talents and interests, with the popular kids swatting them back, using age-old high school hierarchy as their main tool, along with some nefarious schemes hatched up by the wonderfully evil cheer-leading coach.  All this is mixed with enough new music and fresh dialogue and situations to add the right elements to hold the interest of a whole family. 

Forget about the family for a minute.  Matthew Morrison?  Girl, please.

Ó Anita Garner 2009

IHOP breakfast favorite – Ham & Caeds

My granddaughter, Caedan,  calls me Hammy.  For nine  months while we waited to meet her,  I got to choose what I’d be called.  I chose Grammy.  As soon as she could speak, it was Hammy.  We could have changed it back, but why? 

Now she’s in kindergarten and nicknames are cool.   She’s taken to calling me Ham and I’m calling her Caeds.  Occasionally it’s The Ham and  The Caeds.

When I go to L.A. to visit, we  go to International House of Pancakes on Ventura Boulevard in Tarzana. On the way there, in the car, she likes to talk about the children’s menu.   She always orders the same thing, but she likes to talk about it in advance.  Sometimes this conversation begins the day before our IHOP date.


“Yes Caeds.”

“Know what I’m having at IHOP?”


“That pancake with the face.” 

“Create-A Face?”

“Yes.  With the squeezy yogurt.”

“No kidding.”

“First I’m gonna squeeze some of that yogurt in my mouth. Then I’m gonna put some on my pancake.” 

“Uh huh.”

“Then I’m gonna eat those bananas and strawberries on top.”


“And then I’m gonna put syrup on it and eat all the rest.”




“Ham, here’s a good idea. Why don’t you have a pancake too?” 

“I’m thinking about scrambled eggs.”

“But if you get a pancake like mine then you could squeeze on some yogurt.”

“I think I’ll have eggs.” 

“And if  you don’t use all your yogurt, maybe I could have it.”

“Tell you what, Caeds.  I’ll think about it.”

” Ham?”

“Yes Caeds.”

“Are you thinking about it yet?” 

Ó Anita Garner 2009

What really attracts us to each other?

How much of what we’re drawn to in other people – either in friendship or in love – is that they seem to be our opposites?  Or are we most attracted to people whom we feel are exactly like us?

One theory says we choose people who possess something we wish we knew.  Or wish we owned.  Or wish we could be. The other theory is that we seek people who mirror us.

The longer I live, the more I feel most comfortable with people with whom I have the really important things in common – values – and the less I care about whether we agree on the superficial stuff.

In childhood, there’s a fascination with people who venture where we don’t dare to go.  For a while they seem the most fascinating. As parents, all we can do is hope our kids will eventually figure out that some common ground is also important.

Remember the affair in Bridges of Madison County? The attractive photographer, Robert Kincaid (played by Clint Eastwood) meets a woman, Francesca Johnson, (played by Meryl Streep) who quickly falls into a longing state.  For him.  About him?

Or – as one writer suggested – maybe she’s attracted to the fantasy of  the independence she traded for family life.  Is Robert, deep down, a manifestation of Francesca’s dream for herself?  From time to time that idea pops back into my head.  The writer asked, if Francesca had become a photographer herself, couldn’t she have skipped the affair?  The theory being that  Francesca was really drawn to things Robert knew that she wished she knew.

A while back, after leaving behind a friendship I once thought I wanted, I began thinking that particular writer and W. Shakespeare both make good points.  If we all followed our own drummers, whatever tune is playing inside our heads (the old “to thine own self be true” theory) would we be attracted to a different type of person?

Ó Anita Garner 2009


We need high speed trains – now!

Trains contributed so much to our country’s vitality, but unlike some other nations, we almost completely abandoned ours.  (Sorry Amtrak.) Now everything about training seems, once again,  exotic, adventurous – and best of all, practical. 

In California, we’ve been promised high speed trains many times.  Finally, we voted to re-build our rail system within this state, one link at a time, but now the start date of the program, like most big statewide improvements, is uncertain. 

I’m counting the days/months/years until I’ll be able to hop on a high speed express from the northern part of the state where I live, to the southern part, where the rest of my family members live.

The “high-speed” part isn’t even the most important. I won’t mind spending time in a comfortable seat watching the world go by, instead of circling to find a parking spot at the airport. I don’t mind if it takes a while longer to arrive by train than it takes to fly to the same destination.

I’m ready – really really ready.

Ó Anita Garner 2009