Erna Brown started life in Paso Robles, California, a place known for miles of almond trees and county fairs. “It was a small town then and a wonderful place to grow up,” says Erna. She remembers farmland everywhere, perfect for hiking and biking.
Her life changed in 1954 when she was working as a dental assistant and started talking with one of the patients, Jim Brown. He was from out of town, an oil geologist working for Mobil Oil, and he asked her to a square dance. “We sort of clicked and he was funny,” says Erna. After dating 6 months, Jim asked her to marry him but warned that with his profession, they would move a lot. Luckily, Erna was ready for adventure. After all, adventure is in Erna’s blood.
Her family background is Russian Mennonite, farmers who originated in Germany but migrated to Russia at the invitation of Catherine the Great. Over the generations the farmland was shrinking, and Erna’s father Otto decided his future was in America, first in Kansas and then Paso Robles. Erna’s mother Marie was 20 years Otto’s junior and his friend’s daughter. Together they had Erna and her brother Otto, who both spoke German until they started school.
Jim kept his promise about being on the move. Over the years, they lived in Colorado, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Nevada, often moving within the state or back to California a few times in between. Along the way they had two daughters – Susan, who is now a photographer and Catherine, a graphic designer.
As the girls got older, Erna and Jim decided to settle down. They moved back to California and Jim worked for the Metropolitan Water District checking on digs and going down tunnels, which worried Erna. She smiles as she describes Jim as a very caring person who did not like office work. For travel, they visited numerous National Parks. That love of the outdoors transferred to their children and grandchildren, including her granddaughter who works for Lassen National Park, and her grandson who works for a non-profit in water quality for Golden Gate National Park.
In 1989, Erna and Jim retired to Lompoc, California and enjoyed hiking and being active in their church. Over the years, Erna volunteered with several charities, including the Alpha Club and P.E.O. After Jim passed away in 2009, Erna moved to be close to her daughter in San Mateo. Later, after a health scare, both daughters convinced her to move to senior housing.
Erna first moved to a different care facility but almost immediately discovered problems. “I didn’t like the people. There was no privacy. People would just come into your room,” says Erna. “I didn’t know how to tell my daughter and her husband, who had gone to a lot of trouble to move me.”
Luckily, her daughter had driven by Sterling Court and told Erna about it. They came for a visit and Erna liked it. “The people are really friendly.” Erna also enjoys the Sterling Court trips and has visited the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa and the Cliff House in San Francisco.
When Erna wants to relax, she does crossword puzzles and reads mystery novels in her apartment, which feels especially bright, cozy, and welcoming. And this is no surprise. All those moves across the country gave her lots of practice creating lovely places to call home.
Tiding (noun): a piece of news.
– Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Let’s face it, when it comes to the barrage of unpredictable news – aka tidings – we’ve endured in 2019, these past 12 months could be called “The Trampoline of 2019”! So in this article let’s ring in the New Year with calm, hope, and a positive outlook. What better way to do that than to look to those who’ve said it best throughout history, to the leaders, visionaries, and artists who have expressed their hearts in the best of times, in the worst of times (to tip a not-so-elegant hat to one of literature’s best, Charles Dickens, in A Tale of Two Cities 😉). Here are 20 quotes for 2020 from a variety of powerful voices – past and present – we hope will spread some joy and inspiration upon us all. Happy New Year and … “Good-Tidings-a-Plenty in 2020!”
Molly and Charlie McCrory have the perfect “How we met” story. Even though they both went to college in Ohio and knew a lot of the same people, it wasn’t until a couple of years later when they were in the same elevator on Sansome Street in San Francisco that they officially met. They got on at the top floor and talked the whole way down. When they reached the ground floor Charlie went to take Molly’s arm but got only sweater. Holding her empty sleeve he said, “You need something to eat!” and took her to a coffee shop. The result of that chance meeting is three lovely daughters, six wonderful grandchildren, and a treasured great-grandchild who soon turns one-year-old.
The ways Molly and Charlie each got to San Francisco are very different stories.
After college, Molly became a teacher and spent the first summer traveling Europe with friends. The second year, she bought a ’47 Plymouth and with $80 in her pocket, hit the road for San Francisco. When she arrived, she taught school and lived on Pacific Avenue with a group of girls. During summer vacations, she worked office jobs.
The Korean War was on, so Charlie joined the Navy and served two years as the anti-submarine officer on a destroyer called the “USS Taussig.” When he got out of the service, he started law school and had a host of jobs to pay for schooling, including working as a steel rigger carrying a bucket of bolts across I-beams up 8-stories high, maintaining track on the railroad, and serving as a private investigator.
Once they married, Charlie began his legal career and just 3 years later started his own legal firm and Molly was his secretary. He even argued and won a case in front of the Supreme Court! They raised their daughters in Atherton and the family traveled extensively.
In 1999, Molly and two others started a non-profit called “Yes Reading,” where they tutored elementary school children who struggled with reading. What started with 25 students, is now called “Reading Partners” and last year served over 11,000 students across the country. Molly still tutors high schoolers locally.
Charlie organized “Camp T” where every summer he would take his grandsons on adventure weeks that included rock climbing, camping out, or a horseback riding. “Camp T was the joy of Charlie’s life,” said Molly.
Charlie had also been investing in real estate, both local and in Texas, so once he retired from the law, the couple moved to Dallas. They had seven great years there both working and playing a lot of tennis. Molly still plays tennis twice a week!
They returned to California in 2008 and lived in Menlo Park. Earlier this year, when they began looking for their next home, Molly saw a newspaper ad for Sterling Court. On their first visit, Charlie said, “I think I’m home!” He was impressed with the architecture, high ceilings, and the gardens. Molly was struck by how nice and civil everyone is to each other.
They are both enthusiastic about Sterling Court’s menu! “The chef is from France and the food is really special,” said Charlie. “It’s fresh, beautifully prepared, delicious, and a good variety.” Molly said that it’s also well-balanced and nutritious. Charlie is a big fan of Bella who bakes the spectacular cakes, pies, and tortes. Fortunately, Charlie also enjoys visiting Sterling Court’s gym facilities every day! Best of all, Sterling Court is close to their family who visit and gather often for birthdays and holidays. “For us, family is everything!” said Molly. All told, that was a very lucky elevator ride!
The holiday season has arrived – and so have the hundreds of songs that come along with it! While this time of year’s tunes can inspire joy and beautiful memories, their constant repetition can also be a bit much. So, on that note (pun intended), we opted to keep music as our topic for this month’s article but rather than focusing on Jingle Bells or Ode to Joy, to instead shine a light on this wonderful fact: Music has been proven to promote our emotional and physical well-being. This season, we encourage you to explore the healing power of music. Happy Healthy Holidays!
Music brings people together and encourages us to be active.
Would you rather go to the gym or go to the dance? For most of us, music makes movement a pleasure – not the chore of working out. Music inspires us to pick up the pace, let go, and have fun! And if dancing isn’t your cup of tea, simply enjoy the social aspects of musical get-togethers. Be sure to come on down to Social Hour, Tuesdays and Fridays at 4pm in the Living Room!
Singing exercises the mind and stimulates memory.
Singing is a great workout for the brain, and a wonderful way to be around others who adore the beauty of song. Science confirms that music has the capacity to reach hidden areas of our brain because it is stored differently than speech and memory. This is why we can perhaps recall a tune from our childhood more easily than something that happened yesterday!
Music strengthens our overall well-being.
Listening to music you enjoy increases brain chemicals that give you a feeling of well-being. Uplift your spirit, reduce anxiety, say so-long to stress. We’ve all got those special songs associated with happy memories and they are a source of healing and relaxation. Listening to music has been linked to better health measured within the body’s immune system, such as the presence of antibodies plus strong heart rate and blood pressure.
Explore new music.
We often only listen to music from our own generation and avoid hearing anything from a different era. Experts suggest listening to music that your kids or grandkids love. Experiencing the tones and lyrics of new music challenges the brain in a way that old music may not. Though at first it might be a little out of your comfort zone, that unfamiliarity forces the brain to struggle to better understand the new groove.
Embrace the classics.
On the other end of the suggestion above, treat yourself to a listen of your favorite oldie – especially if it came from a time period you’re trying to recall. Perhaps listening to Louis Armstrong will bring you back to the moment of your first kiss!
Music inspires in us a feeling of meaning and fulfillment.
Enjoying music in your own way helps build your self-esteem. Studies show that we all have our own particular musical taste with which we identify, and from that we are instilled with a great sense of meaning and confidence. What a lovely way to ring in the holiday season!
You wouldn’t know that Barbara Mollison has called Sterling Court home for just a few short months as she has settled in like it’s been home for years. Perhaps that’s because San Mateo has been her home for the past 43 years. When it was time to downsize from the family home, she knew Sterling Court would be just right for her. One of her daughters helped her to select her first-floor apartment that looks out over the verdant garden courtyard. It was here that I first met Barbara as she was enjoying time with new friends on a beautiful summer-like day.
Anyone who loves bridge will certainly have met Barbara by now. She plays bridge almost every day and you can be sure she’s quite good at the game having played it since she was 16 years old! She was quick to tell me “I can’t imagine sitting and doing nothing.” As we started talking about her life’s journey, it was apparent that she’s always been doing something – raising children, traveling, flower arranging, and more.
At 16, something else very special happened in Barbara’s life – she met her husband (a fellow bridge player as well!). They got married when she was 22 and were married for 43 years. In the early days, her husband was at the Annapolis Naval Academy and Barbara worked in a doctor’s office. They had 3 children and moved around as he was stationed at different ports – Connecticut, Florida, and Norfolk, Virginia to name a few.
The entire family also experienced living internationally when they were stationed in Japan for over 4 years and the children were quite young. “I loved living in Japan and loved the people. We lived on the naval base and it was a great experience.” It was here that Barbara learned her passion for flower arranging.
I was interested to know how the family got to California and was surprised by the answer. “Our daughter said, ‘everyone lives in California and I want to live there too’.” And, so they did (and to this day, all three children still live in California, two right here in San Mateo and Hillsborough and one in San Diego).
After Barbara’s husband died, her love of travel didn’t wane. She enjoyed immersing herself in the local culture of places like Africa, China, England, France, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. But mind you there are plenty of places in the US she loves as well having mentioned Boston and Philadelphia.
When Barbara is not playing bridge, you might catch her in the library looking for a new mystery novel, attending lectures here or at the San Mateo Senior Center as she likes to stay informed, visiting with any of her 6 grandchildren, or hopping on the bus for an outing. Barbara’s children encouraged her to downsize and join a new community feeling that it would be “less lonesome for her.” They were certainly right. For Barbara, there’s no time to be lonesome at Sterling Court!
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