Merced Life

Merced Life

Reclaiming the person I once was

As I raised my children, somewhere along the journey I seemed to forget that I was ever a person in my own right, and then at some point I realized that, over all of those years, I had stopped doing many of the things that had once brought me joy. Before I became a mother, one of my favorite pastimes was meandering in the outdoors— sometimes on foot, sometimes on horseback— discovering trails, and places off trails, that often held surprises. Though I was never an intrepid world traveler, I was the kind of person who wandered close to home, finding the small hidden places that were easily accessed, even if no one else bothered to look for them. For a period of time in late spring one year, I rode my horse every evening to a spot less than a half-mile from my home, in the middle of a suburban neighborhood still being developed, to watch an owl tend to her nest. I had a favorite weir in a canal just a few minute’s ride from my house, where I enjoyed letting my horse eat a little grass while I sat by the cascading water. Sometimes I hiked the roads in the designated wetland parks, stopping to watch waterfowl through my binoculars. Occasionally, I enjoyed trips into wilder, more remote places, although I do not want to give the impression that I was ever an experienced backpacker or hiker.

Merced Life

Enjoying the Lake Yosemite Sailing Club

Twenty-six years ago, when my husband Matt and I were still newlyweds, we launched our Santana 21 at Lake Yosemite for a day of cruising on the water. We intended to put the boat back on the trailer after we had finished sailing, but just as we were coming up to the ramp, a man flagged us down.

Merced Life

Why I’m excited for the Merced Mall renovations

Recently, I have been thinking about shopping malls. You might have caught on to this if you read my last two articles for this column. I think this interest began when I visited a couple of upscale malls in southern California; if you have seen these malls, walked around in them and realized that there isn’t really one single thing you can afford to buy, you might have begun to think that everyone in southern California lives better than we do here in the Central Valley.

Merced Life

I’m pulling for the Merced Mall. And I’m dreaming big!

Go to YouTube, type in “Dead Malls,” and you will be able to view a series of depressing videos featuring dying and already dead malls throughout our country. Ask anyone under the age of 30 about the popularity of malls in America today, and you will receive confirmation that malls are no longer the social hubs of commerce they were just 10 years ago.

Merced Life

Nutria rats are the stuff of nightmares

I consider myself a gentle lover of wildlife. I do not like to kill flies, literally, because who am I to determine the fate of a fly? The value of a fly’s life might be infinitely more significant to some superior being than we mere mortals might suspect, and it is certainly important to the fly, even if flies are incapable of conceiving thoughts such as “important” or “I think that newspaper hovering over my head means I am about to die.”

Merced Life

Cursive penmanship’s decline into obscurity. I don’t miss it.

It is almost certain that if you attended elementary school at any time after 1950 in the United States, you learned cursive writing from a teacher who was wholly unqualified to teach it. That’s because stodgy Mr. McCullen, with his runny nose and squeaky shoes, or crazy Mrs. Vierra, apt to become apoplectic at discovering a wad of chewing gum on the floor, would have attended a university where formal penmanship was no longer taught, a development that began in academia around the 1930s, when most professors began to accept only typewritten work from their students. Thus, if you are inclined to look with nostalgia upon the days when you were required to write in longhand “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” — a sentence which contains all the letters of the English alphabet — over and over again, until you got all the loopy letters right, then you will need to go back about nine decades to pinpoint the moment at which the art of cursive writing began its slow decline into obscurity.

Merced Life

Watching American Royalty

Over the past century or so, our nation’s celebrities have become the American answer to British royalty. We lesser mortals fawn over them, rolling out red carpets for them to stride and pose upon. We hunger for candid pictures of them, engage in gossip about the seamiest details of their private lives, name our children after them. Many of them are remarkably talented, though also astonishingly overpaid. Many have no talents at all, but somehow, through outrageousness or mere association with other celebrities, worm their way into the public consciousness. Few of them do much real work for the public good, but I am not one of those people who ascribe to the conviction that celebrities should just go about their business of entertaining us and leave politics to other, better-informed individuals.

Merced Life

Marriage is easier than owning a home

This coming week, my husband Matt and I will have been married for 25 years. This is the same number of years we have lived in our house, and so we are left with the question of which anniversary is most worth celebrating. We never anticipated 25 years of marriage or home ownership, but here we are, 25 years having passed by without our ever taking much notice of time marching along.

Merced Life

The things I like about Merced in the summertime

Recently, I came back from a trip to Huntington Lake. Huntington is in the High Sierra, 7,000 feet above sea level, off of Highway 168 in Fresno County. Daytime temperatures in the summer are around 80 degrees. It’s a beautiful location, with terrific hiking trails. The lake, about five miles long, is well-known as a prime sailing lake. We were there for five days, enjoying the cool temperatures — every night, we wore long pants and sweatshirts—and as we drove back down the mountain, heading for home, I dreaded descending into the triple digits again.

Merced Life

Rockettes strangers to controversy

Over the years, the Rockettes have traveled with the USO to entertain troops overseas, danced during the half-time show at the Super Bowl, and greeted service personnel during New York City’s Fleet week.

Merced Life

Mannequin challenge shines light on natural abilities

I have often been ahead of trends without even trying. First it was karaoke. I had been warbling off-key and butchering the lyrics to sentimental rock ballads decades before bad singing became so popular people decided to do it in public. Then came big butts, which Jennifer Lopez made fashionable in the late 1990s. I was way ahead of her, and I didn’t even need implants. Now it’s the mannequin challenge, an Internet game started by Florida college students who probably should be spending their time in more productive activities, like figuring out how to re-phrase their plagiarized papers to avoid detection by Turnitin.com.

Here’s how this father learned that his son was killed in prison

It took three days for California prison officials to tell Takis Kalatzakis that his son had been beaten and strangled to death by his cellmate at Salinas Valley State Prison. He found out through a telegram, dropped at his house in San Jose.