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Reader Mail: '60s decor, grandkids, mice and more

March 22, 2010 |  7:14 am

Y'all aren't shy, that's for sure. Readers have been sounding off on home and garden articles, weighing in on parenting and grandparenting strategies, remodeling techniques, even the best places to buy agaves.

We published Al Martinez's first-person account of raising his unruly teenage granddaughter, prompting Joannie Flynn of Anaheim Hills to write in and call the teenager a "brainless twit" who needs some tough love.

After we profiled a Brentwood house whose owners sheathed the exterior in a new sun-reflective skin (headline: "Call It a Wrap"), Heidrun Mumper-Drumm of Pasadena slammed the concept and suggested we title the article, "Call It Trash." (But how do you really feel?)

And our feature on designers' timeless quest to build a better mousetrap prompted one reader to ask:  What's wrong with mice? We've posted these letters and others, all with links to the original articles. Keep reading ...

Martinez_illoLetters in response to the article "Suddenly Part of a 'Grandfamily' ":

Joannie Flynn of Anaheim Hills writes: Al Martinez and his wife — and his son and daughter-in-law for that matter — sound like warm and caring grandparents and parents. Martinez’s granddaughter, Nicole, however, comes off as an entitled brat. Foster care is involved because this little hellion does not want to follow her father's rules? Her father is almost arrested after she breaks into her grandparents’ house?

The first thing I would have done with this little girl was give her an earful (complete with photos of really abused children, who, sadly, do need the foster care system). And now, because this brainless twit is lucky enough to be the product of well-off grandparents, she is living rent-free while indulging her art? I don’t care if she is the next Georgia O'Keeffe or Van Gogh. You wanna be an artist? You and your live-in get jobs and work, like the thousands of other extremely talented kids out there trying to make it.

She not only owes her parents a humongous apology for her behavior, but she needs to get off her grandparents' gravy train and really show them how their selflessness and love have given her a foundation to make it on her own.

I am sorry, Mr. Martinez. I am sure your story was heartfelt, but indulging the antics of an ungrateful little “artist” undermines your message, especially for the real grandfamilies that are raising children due to neglect, drug abuse and abandonment.

Elaine Livesey-Fassel of Los Angeles writes: I have been a loyal fan of Mr. Martinez’s humor and perceptive commentaries for years. I was very moved by his story of angst, courageousness, familial loyalty and tribulations. How upsetting a situation for all involved, but I am pleased to read that all seems to be well with Nicole. Since she could not have been blessed with a more solid and loving family, maybe it was a case of hyperactivity that could have been treated by medicine or a psychiatrist, and perhaps it was. Either way, it is, indeed, a tribute to that family that it nurtured this young child as well as it did.

Jeannine Schummer of Encino writes: When are you going to stop enabling this girl? She is 23 years old; it’s time for her to be on her own. By letting her and her boyfriend live rent-free in your apartment, you are continuing to cripple her — maybe for the rest of her life or until you are dead, whichever comes first. Let them both stop working part time and start supporting themselves.

I didn't enable my daughter, and she is a prosecuting attorney in the district attorney's office. She did it almost without any help, and I am very proud of her.

Kathleen Boss of Montrose writes: I appreciate that family means so much to Al Martinez that he would sacrifice the well-earned relaxation of retirement to go through the arduous process of becoming his granddaughter's caregiver.

It could benefit other families to know that the county Department of Children and Family Services offers financial assistance and classes at community colleges to grandparents in this situation. The Kinship Care classes are taught by other grandparents raising grandchildren and by a social worker. They direct people to resources and teach and share what has worked for them to help the kids — and you — become successful. I have found that you often have to ask about this; it isn't always brought up in the fostering or adoption process. The monthly stipend, along with Medi-Cal and healthcare options, makes life a little easier.

In the process of adopting (unrelated) children, I learned of the challenges that the children experienced in environments of neglect and abuse — yes, even while in foster care — and chose to become an advocate and teacher with the college-county partnership.

Becky Baker of Fort Worth, Texas, writes: I am not a parent, so not a “grand” either, but I genuinely enjoyed and learned so much from this article. Thank you very much.


In response to our photo gallery and article on the eclectic updating of a 1960s ranch house, above, built for "Dragnet" star Jack Webb:

Cima Balser of Marina del Rey writes: Why in the world would anyone buy an iconic midcentury Palm Springs home and then furnish it with banal classical furniture?

Inspired by the period? I don't think so. The dining room tabletop, with strange points positioned on the top, directly in front of the common old-fashioned uncomfortable chairs, will surely wound any guest trying to position the chair close to the table, even if it can be squeezed in between the thick, ungainly brass legs.

With all the designed-for-comfort (at last) elegant dining tables and chairs produced by Herman Miller and Knoll, surely designers Charles Eames, George Nelson, Eero Saarinen, Arne Jacobsen, Finn Juhl, Hans Wegner and George Nakashima, among others, are turning over in their respective graves.
In response to our photo gallery and article on the hillside home in Brentwood, above, that got wrapped in a second skin as a budget-minded alternative to a tear-down, Heidrun Mumper-Drumm of Pasadena writes:

Barbara Thornburg writes that architect Lorcan O'Herlihy wrapped the client's "uninspired stucco home" with Textilene 90. This "progressive, sustainable material," I read, is made of PVC-coated polyester and blocks 90% of the "sun's damaging rays." I guess it's great that the house won't get a sunburn (though I would be more interested to learn if cooling loads go down and, more important, by how much). It also appears that a dumpster-sized load of this “sustainable” PVC-coated material will be sent to the landfill every 10 years. Maybe the article should have been titled “Call It Trash.”


In response to our feature on small-scale "boutique" agave plants, Nancy Tracy of Venice writes:

In your list of where to buy agaves, you neglected to mention Desert Images Nursery in Ojai. It is a great source of agave and other succulents. If you have not been there, it is well worth the trip.

Mousetrap And finally, in response to our feature on modern mousetraps and the decades-long quest to perfect the design, Cherly Kohr of Redondo Beach writes: Many of the newer traps mentioned by design cause long, tortuous deaths to the animals. The Kness Ketch-All no-kill trap, invented in 1924, was the only humane trap mentioned.

Why are rodents viewed with such disdain and contempt? They are living, sensing creatures.  Removing them from homes should not involve cruel, inhumane treatment.  We are judged by how we treat the least among us.

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Credits, from top: Mouse photo from Associated Press; "grandfamily" illustration by Rebecca Bradley / For The Times; "Dragnet" house by Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times; wrapped house by Tate Lown; Agave victoria-reginae by Debra Lee Baldwin; Victor Multi-Kill electric mousetrap from Woodstream Corp.