Research the old-fashioned way


by cheri block, Mrs. Sabraw, Cherylann B. Sabraw,

My dear friend Richard in far-off England sent me a Boris Johnson solution for peace in the Middle East in commemoration of  the 100th Anniversary of the Balfour Agreement on Friday, November 3, 2017.

My kind-hearted high school friend Bruce up in the California gold country sent me an article this morning from the Daily Signal which chronicled the plight of a small  Indian school–the Havasupai Elementary– located at the base of the Grand Canyon– which can’t seem to stay open for the business of educating its children. Bruce and I both have concerns  about government-run educational institutions.

I am, at times, an old-fashioned girl: I like soda fountains (and sodas), nylon stockings, patent leather belts, British cars with stick shifts, and libraries ( especially the Dewey Decimal section of 813. 52 on literary criticism).

“Libraries, you say? Are those places where Cicero’s works are now housed? Who goes to libraries any more? Why would we NEED to go there when we have Siri???”

This morning, as I cogitated over the material Bruce had sent me, I wondered if the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is housed under the Federal Department of Education.

So, I asked Siri, who in her robotic sexiness directed me to Wikipedia.

When responding to Richard–and I know Richard will forgive my staccato and over-simplified answer to him–I asked Siri the following:

“Hey Siri, what is the difference between Fatah and Hamas?”

Siri wanted to help me. Sincere Siri. That’s who she is. She was not crude as those on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update with Dan Aykroyd.

But Siri sent me a link for the difference between feta cheese and hummus.

It seems like only 1950 that I finished my Master’s thesis in 2014. Where was Siri when I needed her then? To think of all the databases and Google Scholar (an oxymoron, for sure) references that I called upon in trying to support my ideas. To think of all of those 40-mile treks to the Green Library at Stanford, the bridge toll, the parking, just to sit in a study carrel  and ruminate over my chosen topic. To think!

At heart, I believe in 813.52 and here is my 2009 blog post which I offer to you as solid evidence that shows how all  of us will go to any length to cut corners.

Oh, and btw, :), ;), I asked Siri the following:

“Hey Siri, what IS the difference between feta cheese and hummus?” Siri responded, “Hello Sheree, what is the difference between FedEx cheese and hummus?” and sent me some links.


by cheri block sabraw

In the days before 1995, in order to read literary criticism,  students had to go to the library, use the Dewey Decimal System, and browse the stacks with heads clicked to the right, ear to shoulder.

This is a story of repetitive ambush  the old- fashioned way.

As usual, this is my story.

But it is really the story of cheaters, the story of parents who want their kids to go to Stanford at any cost, the story of desperate over-scheduled  kids who are too busy to think for themselves, and finally, this is the story of a teacher who had nothing better to do on her Saturday and Sunday afternoons than to…..well. Let’s get on with the story.

Good Morning everyone.

Sorta Good Morning, Mrs. Sabraw.

OK. We’ve finished The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible and now it is essay time.

[Sigh.] Can’t you put this off?  All of our other teachers have given us way too much to do this weekend. Pleeaasseee.

No way. You guys enrolled in too many A.P. and honors classes for your own good.

No way. Listen. Just listen, Mrs. Sabraw. Just listen.

For physics, Mr. Van Bloy assigned an egg case design. We have to insulate an egg that, when we drop it from a crane, won’t break. That assignment alone will take us all weekend.

[Mrs. S is thinking about this request, and the awkward use of English.]

And Mrs. Needless is having us translate part of Moliere this weekend.

O.K. As I said five minutes ago, it’s essay time.

But before I pull the screen up to reveal your essay topic, I’d like to discuss how I want you to go about the assignment.

First, you are not to contact last year’s students or read any of their essays. Everyone, put up your hand and repeat after me: I, state your name, will not contact a senior about his/her Scarlet Letter essay.

I, state my name (ha ha), will not contact a senior about their Scarlet Letter essay.

That’s his/her. Everyone is a singular indefinite pronoun.

[Groan. Ticked off, but trying to maintain sycophantic façade.]

Second, you are to do your own work. No tutors, no older brother’s help. No Cliff’s Notes. Remember [ I take my worn and underlined yellow/black copy of Cliff’s Notes out to show them I know it by heart.] Everyone put up your hand and repeat after me: I, state your name, will do my own work and will not contact a tutor, an older sibling, or use Cliff’s Notes.

I, [grumbling]   James Lee, Iris Wu, Kavya Bulgari, Anu Pommu, and Chris Johnson, will do my own work and will not contact a tutor, an older sibling, or use Cliff’s Notes.

Third and last, reading literary criticism and then restating it in your own words without citing your source is cheating. Since you all are so overloaded this weekend, you might be tempted to plagiarize. Desperate people can do desperate things. Do not go to 813.52 at the library. Just think for yourselves.

Repeat after me: I, state your name, will not go to 813.52 at the library.

I, [highly irritated but hatching a plan]  Caleb Kim, Emily Geddy, Vijay Singh, Trinh Tran, and Mario Puzo, will not go to 813.52.

Great!! The paper is due on Monday.

[Bell rings and the week is over.]

On Saturday afternoon, around 1:00 pm, I arrive at the library, dressed in jeans and one of Judge Blah’s old army t-shirts. I have my camera, a stack of dittos with the pledge taken only a day before, solemnly and sincerely.

I find a study carrel, one near the window [for the view], one hidden from the stacks.

I am here.

At 813.52.

Before long, I hear voices, voices of accomplices who plan to get in and get out, quickly, so they can get back to the mink-lined egg case they are designing.

In their hands are small ripped pieces of paper, with numbers hastily scribbled on them: 813. 51, 813.67, 813.82.

Titles accompany the numbers.

I wait until at least four of my students are standing in front of literary criticism, heads cocked, searching for their falsie [so to speak].

Hawthornian vocabulary circles my intentions. Phantasmagoric. What an ignominy. Certainly, they are on the scaffold with their sins.

Flash!!  [Photo taken.]

Hello. What are you guys doing here?

We are looking for notes on Moliere.

Or gravity.

Or poultry management.




Posted in Education, Life, My childhood, My Thesis, People, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

The ‘Young-old’ are going to lunch in November

by cheri

One of my old friends invited me to lunch sometime in the next several weeks.

I say “old” because we have known each other for 35 years and because she just turned 70.

According to AARP, we are part of the “young-old, ” that is,  those of us from ages 65-75. The “old-old” are 85-95.

After 95, AARP doesn’t seem to have a designation but I would say Decrepit.

Please don’t be mad at me because I, like many of my friends, are in the young-old category and working my way down to decrepitude.

Our email thread was something to behold, sort of like a first kiss that went awry. You know: he kept his lips closed and you went in open mouthed. Or he tried to French-kiss you and you turned away, so his tongue hit your cheek. That type of “something to behold.”

I will confess that for my part, I was not on my computer but rather on my iPad, hunting and pecking a note. I was also at the beach with a glass of wine. There! That’s my excuse.

I suspect that my friend (whom  I will call Ipanema to preserve her anonymity) was also on her tablet or phone in her responses to mine. She doesn’t drink, so who knows?

Here’s how it went:

Ipanema: Know your birthday is either coming up or just past Wanted to wish you the best and thank you again for coming to my 70th  If you are in town would love to take you out to lunch this coming week Aside from a dentist Appt on Monday I am free


Cheri: Thanks so much.
My birthday was October 9.
Just in time for it, I fell off my bed doing a stretch and fractured my toe along with dislocating it. It was sticking out like your husband’s little finger.
Had it reset twice without anesthetic.
Anyway, in a boot.


Ipanema: (Several weeks later): Any ideas on date and time for lunch?


Cheri: Are you available on Thursday, November 3?


Ipanema: November 3rd will work. The next day, Friday, I’ll be headed to my son’s for a weekend of babysitting. They are traveling to Austin. Actually they’re only coming back on Tuesday so Ill probably be trying to catch up on sleep, the rest of that week. Let me know what time and where on the3rd!!


Cheri: Friday or Thursday? 2nd or 3rd?

Ipanema: Sorry you said Thursday Nov3 and I didn’t check I knew I had to be at my son’s on Friday so I assumed that would be the 4th Yeah Thursday the 2nd will work
Cheri:You are right.   I am available both days.  Let me know which one is best for you
and it will be a date!
Ipanema: Ok Thursday the 2nd at 12:30 Elephant Bar? or any other restaurant you chose!!


Cheri: Ok . Elephant Bar has closed.How about the crepe place in the Raley’s shopping center? Petite Crepe or something like that…Thursday November 2 at 12:30. I will email you to confirm.

Ipanema: Oh Cheri promise you won’t write a blog about this email thread ,but it is hysterical Had no idea Elephant Bar had closed and I am in that neighborhood quite often because of my mom! Okay, crepe place it is Thurs. Nov2      12:30pm
Shall we synchronize our watches? Oh I forgot No one wears watches any more.
*  *   *   *   *
I can’t remember how AARP labeled the 75-85 year-olds, but I need to find out.
Posted in Life, People | Tagged , , | 22 Comments

Light and beauty all in one


by cheri sabraw

I’ve been drawing horses for the last several months in preparation for a class I hope to take in Arizona entitled “Drawing and Painting Horses in the Light” so you will understand why I stopped at the bottom of our road to photograph some new additions to Mel and Jim’s herd.

The Clydesdales now come to see me when I approach if they are grazing on our side of the hill. Privy to 80 eighty acres only 1/4 of a mile next to a major freeway, these gentle giants are lucky, indeed, to have the space.

I’m a sucker for paint horses so as I sped down the road, imagine my delight to see this sight on the hill.



His buddy, Black Beauty, was keeping him company.


One of the Clydesdales, the mare, called to me in what seemed a jealousy flare.


And then, another new chestnut girl came over the hill and right up to the fence line to check out whether I had an apple.


Alas, the apples were gone so she opted for an oak instead. I love this photo. It would, however, be difficult for me to paint with all of those shadows.


You can almost feel how soft that nose is, can’t you? I rubbed it and tickled her under her chin. That act, in itself, made my day.

I must remember to pack carrots on my way down the hill next week.

Posted in clydesdale horses, Life, My photography | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

I’m going, stag.

by cheri block

I drove home yesterday (carefully with a modified boot on my injured foot) from a birthday lunch with my sister and her husband. Still warm with the pot roast and mashed potatoes inside, I gingerly stepped out of the car with my left foot, balancing myself like a pro.

I gimped out of the garage, my eyes sensing movement on the upper lawn. My brain registered “turkey” but my eyes saw “stag.”

With an eight-point set of antlers, a charcoal dark nose, and taupe muscular body, he and I spied each other simultaneously.

Four thoughts registered:

  1. What a magnificent animal!
  2. How did you gain entry?
  3. Please don’t go up the road any farther or those there at the end will shoot you!!
  4. Have you been in our olive orchard, weeks before our harvest is to take place?

He trotted up the lawn at the sight of a human with a large black foot and an old yellow dog. As usual, the dog could have cared less although she did perk up, sensing available deer poop to add to her daily special–a smorgasbord of turkey poop and acorns.

We have a deer fence to prevent this type of stealth entry but somewhere a flaw exists in our design.

I managed to hobble to the telephone and electronically open our gate.

Then, gimp gimp gimp back to the buck, who stood frozen like a bronze statue on a lawn destroyed by prairie dogs.

I put up my arms and waved them, coaxing him softly, “Go on boy, out the gate, up the driveway, out the driveway, up to the park district land, avoid the end of the road, Bambi’s father.”

Unlike the frenetic tour jeté of does and fawns, the stag listened to reason, high-stepping out to freedom.

How many olives did he eat?, I wondered.

Why didn’t I have my camera with me, I lamented.


His girlfriends, taken last week when I could walk up the road.

Posted in Growing Olives, Life, My photography | Tagged , , , | 19 Comments



by cheri

I watered my pock-marked lawns twice today while ruminating about the fires burning in Sonoma County.

Moisture invariably attracted the wild turkeys, looking for loam, loaded with leaves.

The dog headed up to the lawn, in a brisk trot,  (for once, I thought) to scare them off.

The world seemed to freeze in my frame.

Daylight  was darkness.

and then?

A heavenly spotlight shone upon the yellow girl,

The black walnut tree shimmered,

leaving small rocks and leaves illuminated like dirt gems adorning the fingers of roots.

Animal, bird, tree, and earth unified, captured through the lens of mankind.



Posted in Life, My poetry | Tagged | 17 Comments

High on a hill stood a lonely goatherd…


by cheri

For most of my life, my body has not only cooperated with me in my explorations through the labyrinth  of human  existence,  it has also allowed me the confidence to navigate this maze despite uncertainty about what is around the next corner.

I’d like to think that you, too, feel this way about your body. That is to say, you like your body and are grateful that it operates in a way that enhances your life experience. It allows to do your work and your play in a satisfying way. It protects you from assault by the elements of age and abuse.

My body has never boasted that it is a natural athelete’s body. But, by the same token, it has never screamed “klutz” at me. Thus, I have excellent self esteem in my ability to perform bodily activity such as yoga, weight training, and walking 15k steps a day,

I have always been grateful to my body, even through menopause, for staying, generally, in the same shape it has been since I was a girl.


This week.

I betrayed my body by asking it to do something awkward and it rewarded with a big lifeshock.

There is irony here.

My longtime friend Bill and I were exchanging email on Wednesday morning about Porches and painting, physical therapy and Stanford. Since Bill retired last year from his position as a university professor in physical therapy,  I shared with him that I had begun a 6-week regimen in a local physical therapy rehab to  stretch and strengthening my muscles, tendons, and ligaments because of some disc discomfort in my spine. Blah, Blah, Blah.

“Good bye, Bill. Have a great day, “I wrote without the slightest intuition that my day was to change quickly.

I climbed onto my bed still in my nightgown, my newly arrived (from Amazon) kelly green stretching strap in hand.

I followed my therapist’s directions to a T:  lie on the edge of the bed, lower my right leg off the side of the bed with the stretching strap around my ankle,  pull on the strap with my right hand, and bring the heel to meet the hip for a necessary stretch.

And then, in one of my body’s most uncoordinated moves in my lifetime, I pulled myself off the bed.

In trying to recreate this bungling, rolling, thudding 2.5 foot drop, I still do not know how I landed on my right set of cute little toes.

I splayed my little toe from its friends in a split second of pain.

Then the event ended. I immediately apologized to my foot and body in a loud screaming way.

To remind me that I need to pay attention to the little things in life, my little toe saluted at a 25 degree angle.

And thus began a long day of medical assistance which included, I might add, a twice-attempted effort by a cute podiastrist to re-align my toes. He told me I had great feet. I told him he looked the picture of Wisconsin Dutch health. He told me my feet had great circulation. I told him he looked as healthy and fresh as a block of Wisconsin cheese. He laughed, talked, and yanked. He told me I had a bad fracture. I told him I was still flying to Portland to see my granddaughters on Monday.

How you doing?

Hey, I had two babies, I bragged.

The torture ended; I drove myself home.

When my husband arrived home from trial, he found a tiny woman in a big boot and aside from  sympathy, wondered how in the world I did such a thing.

I simply pulled myself off the bed, I said in  a cranky voice.

That night after  my husband and the dog were fast asleep, both snoring to some degree, and  I lay with my tootsies wrapped like a mummy on an Egyptian cotton pillow, I apologized to my body and promised to do better.

I took an AdvilPM and dreamt of the Alps and my journey on a soft dirt path up to a spectacular field of edelweiss where I then frolicked like a young lamb without a care in the world. I kicked up my tiny heels and sang The Lonely Goatherd.

As with all events in life, it is not what to happens to your toes, but how you handle them.













Posted in fitness, Life | Tagged , , , , , | 21 Comments

Quality of Life?


Boise Airport on a weekday afternoon.

by cheri

For years now, I have returned to the first chapter of Dr. David R. Hawkins’ book, Letting Go. In that chapter, he provides a step-by-step process of how to surrender to all things that we cannot control, which is just about everything.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, those of us who grew up here have been asked to let go of and tolerate the tremendous change we see everywhere.

Seven million people now live here. The weather and technology are to blame. Is the weather changing? Some might argue yes but I think no.

Is techonology going away? Not unless Shallow Alto, Cupertino,  and San Francisco fall off in a massive tectonic shift. The population density will continue to grow.

We now live in a multi-cultural sardine can where those 7 million people, speaking 100 different languages, strain infrastructure to its breaking point.

In Fremont, where I live, our mayor tells us on Twitter that we are the new “funnel city” as a way to explain the complete gridlock that occurs between 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm every weekday. He, along with the city council, also seems to agree that every single undeveloped piece of land should have vertical expansion, zero lot lines, and multi-family inhabitance.

In Warm Springs, once a quiet district of Fremont,  Mandarin is now on the storefronts instead of English. What happened to the American Dream of coming to your new country and assimilating?

I’m trying to picture 50 American families moving to Dubrovnick and suggesting to the town fathers that we put English signs in the downtown of the old city.

In our post office, the old “hello’s and how are you’s” have been replaced by…well… I was going to write…by “nods” but most of the time, people do not even nod.

For those of us who are still friendly and still like people (moi), these circumstances are disappointing.

Some of us will surrender to the traffic, to the Whole Foods parking lot at noon, to the hundreds of people with cell phones trekking up to Mission Peak…

I am not sure I will.

Back to Dr. Hawkins’ book.

Posted in Life, Places | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Ketchum to Boise to Baker City



Sun Valley Swan

by cheri

Averell Harriman, Chairman of the Union Pacific Railroad from 1932-46, brought many celebrities, including Ernest Hemingway, to Sun Valley where an elegant lodge had been built in 1936. It was a way to let the world know that a special lodge and ski area were open for business.

Hemingway would return there when seeking solace away from the demolition derby that was his life.

In fact, he wrote the last chapter to For Whom the Bell Tolls in Room 206 of the Sun Valley Lodge. He was, according to the concierge who graciously offered to show us the room (now Suite 228), superstitious and visited Room 206 to ink the final sentences of many of the stories and books that came afterward.

Sadly, when the Sun Valley Resort was entirely updated two years ago, the Suite itself was updated.

But I thought you might like to see the room where his desk was, the deck outside the room,  and his grave at the Ketchum Cemetery.


The Room where Hemingway finished For Whom the Bell Tolls.


The deck from which he wrote


We walked about a mile on a cold blustery day to visit Hemingway’s grave


A party at the grave, for sure

We left Ketchum, drove up Highway 75 and through the Salmon Valley, which is bordered by the Sawtooth Moutains.


Sawtooth Mountains


We arrived in Boise, one of the most civil cities we have ever visited. Alas, it was a Monday and museums were closed.

“I know what we can do, Cheri! Let’s drive to Baker City, Oregon.”

A man with more stamina for his age than any other man I know, he coaxed me into the car for another 2 hour (4 round trip) drive and off we went.

Have you ever seen Baker City, Oregon? All I know is that it was on the 2017 Solar Eclipse path of totality. After walking around this small town, I tried to imagine what it was like when 20k people descended on it last month.

Can you believe another building there was named after my family?


Good Ol’ Alfred


The Geiser Grand Hotel


Mining made many men rich at the end of the 19th century.



Baker City, Oregon


And then back to Boise.


Posted in Life, My photography, Places | Tagged , , , , , | 20 Comments

Snow on September 15?


My first purchase: a wool hat

by cheri

On Tuesday last the temperature was 85 degrees. We turned the noisy AC on in our room.


Paradise Valley, Livingston, Montana on a grey hazy day

On Thursday last the temperature plummeted to 32 degrees; we found ourselves looking for soup and crackers in Livingston, Montana.


A study in greys in Livingston, Montana

Akin to Texas weather, Montana’s (evidently…) can change like a high school girl’s latest crush.

On our way to Southern Idaho, we headed out through small towns like Twin Bridges and Dillon.

I took a picture for our good friends from high school, the Dillons.




Should I have my boots repaired or hit the lounge?

Then, the driving became serious and long. The terrain–sagebrush, sagebrush and sagebrush took me back, once again, to those brave souls who forged the West and traveled here on horseback. Invariably, when traveling in Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, you cannot help but think of the Corps of Discovery.

Here is Beaverhead Rock, where upon seeing it as Sacagawea traveled with Lewis and Clark, she remembered it as a summer childhood home and reunited with her brother, the chief of the Shoshone, who then helped the Corps of  Discovery. This fact, in itself, has to be one of the most serendipitous moments in the entire story!


Beaverhead Rock


Naples yellow, burnt sienna, and sap green


We have now reached a place which reminds us (unfortunately) of the PC California lifestyle: Ketchum, Idaho.

Don’t get me wrong: the surroundings are stunning! But I will have to look through the spandex to see the trees.

I do plan to see Ernest Hemingway’s grave (and his 4th wife, Mary’s, as well) and conclude the lazy day by wandering the downtown and watching all of the beautiful people.

Posted in Life, My photography, Places | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

From Goodkind Block to the Lower Madison


by cheri goodkind block

On my way out of Helena, I noticed this stout historical building that bore my maiden name Block. I wondered who Misters Goodkind and Block were. After consulting the Helena history of this building, I learned that Mr. Wise and Mr. Goodkind ran a wine, liquor, and cigar building in the late 1890’s on this block.

On to Bozeman, Montana, and a morning of fly fishing.

We left Helena for the short drive to Bozeman down Highway 12. I’ve visited Bozeman before but had entered from the North Yellowstone direction. Always on the photographic lookout for horses, I saw in the distance behind a large cattle truck, behind a large Swift 18-wheeler, behind a chubby silver Airstream pulled by a ginormous black Dodge duelie, I saw….a herd of black horses grazing on the hillside.

Oh Goody-Goodkind, I thought and rolled the window down so the bugs that had met their smattered death on my side window would not spoil my photograph. The driver, my husband, immediately rolled his side down to adjust the air pressure in his inner ear. As you can imagine, it was a noisy, smoky din in the car.

I snapped a burst of photos and Miss Block-Wisely said, ” Those horse aren’t moving.”

That’s because they are sculptures, Miss Block.


A rigid herd outside of Bozeman

We entered Bozangeles (unfortunately, the California zeitgeist has begun to permeate Montana) in time to find our lodging and prepare ourselves for some serious river fishing.


Amsterdam, Montana


Quiet anticipation on the Lower Madison at 8:00 am


Geologic angst on the river


The fire that came through here three years ago is still evident


A wild brown trout about 20 inches that Ron released after catching. No planted fish have been let go into the Madison since 1979 since “catch and release” is the way here.

I’d like to note here, for the record, that I caught a 7 inch baby rainbow. How I hooked it, I do not know.


Treeless mountains on the river, too. Rain is in the air. Snow too. 


Cat tails in green

When one travels to a place like Montana, where for the most part, people are in the minority of living things, one begins to wonder about so many different things.

What was this place like when Meriwether Lewis and William Clark came through the area in 1804 with the Corps of Discovery?

What would it be like to go to the store without battling traffic?

Will the massive immigration from within and without  that is clogging the West Coast from Vancouver, Canada, to San Diego, California, continue on like an invasive plant,  eating up open space?

Will there be trout in the Madison for my great grandchildren?

Posted in Life, Murder at the Monument ( a story of New Mexico), Politics | Tagged , , , , | 19 Comments