(not the teenage kind)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Out Of Focus Workout

Due to changes in both of our schedules, don dokken and I have had to revise our workout routine. Starting at the beginning of this month, we had to switch our time to 6:30 am which is no problem for me, I prefer to get my workout over early. It was a problem for don dokken who decided that while he was adjusting to his new job he would take a week or two off of exercising.

I think he would have extended his time off indefinitely except that I kept kindly and gently reminding him that now that he was sitting behind a desk all day the poundage would no doubt start piling on. This, of course, is the opposite of what really happened because apparently when he gets all involved in work he "forgets to eat." How does this happen? And then by the time he eats lunch it's almost dinner time and so he doesn't eat dinner. He is already down a belt notch. In less than a month.

Even so, I did manage to cajole him into coming back to the trainer last week. On our short drive to her house I noticed my vision was a little blurry. Sometimes that happens first thing in the morning but this was so strange that I took my glasses off and that's when I realized that I was wearing my reading glasses. Instead of the glasses that I wear to, you know, see.

On this particular day our trainer had us do the hardest balancing exercise in her ever changing repertoire of torture. This exercise involved doing squats on a BOSU. With increasingly heavier weights on our shoulders. On a good day I can barely stand on the BOSU much less do squats. With weights.

I was pretty certain that my blurry vision would be completely disconcerting and that I would be unable to manage the BOSU. In fact, it was the opposite. Having nothing to focus on improved my equilibrium. All future balancing exercises will be performed sans glasses.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Irony Of Landers

Yesterday Julie and I took a field trip out to Landers in the Mojave desert. On the way there, I told Julie that I knew nothing about Landers except that it had a big fault line that resulted in a really big earthquake way back a few years. The purpose of our field trip was two fold; Julie needed to get an orchid re-potted at Gubler's and I wanted to see the Integratron.

We started off at Gubler's Orchids where there is a big sign posted that you must wear closed toed shoes if you want to tour the greenhouses. The tour turned out to consist of a guy walking us around and pointing to plants. The answer to most of our questions was "I don't know." The woman behind the desk refused to smile and barked at Julie when she wasn't immediately ready when our "tour guide" arrived. Let's just say it is probably better for these people to work with flowers than with people.

How do I describe the Integratron? Well, to start, here's a picture:

You would have to go on the website to get the full history but let's just say it's an energy machine where you can go and take a sound bath. Unfortunately, it was closed and they called us back too late to take a tour but I am grateful that I just got to see it and the viewing lived up to my expectations.

We left Julie's orchid in the care of the flower loving, people hating employees at Gubler's and headed even further into the Mojave desert through Johnson County, a homestead community and some unadulterated desert, Joshua trees, rock formations, rock formations with graffiti, old homestead homes, two lane highway with no stolen water greenery. Our destination was Lucerne Valley where we wanted to do some thrift store shopping and have lunch.

We immediately found Jody's Pre Loved Goods. Pay dirt. And not just because of the merchandise. Jody was there with two of her buddies. These ladies were probably in their 70's and one of them was on the cell phone having a conversation I recognized. "How big was it?" "Was anyone hurt?" "Where was it centered?" "We felt it here."

Apparently as Julie and I were driving there was this earthquake. I can't imagine being anywhere safer than that desolate desert highway.

When she got off the phone, the woman said to the other ladies, "The guy next door to my sister has played the same song every day for the last 15 years."

"What song is it?"

"A Lee Ann Rimes song."

"Couldn't be Lee Ann Rimes. She hasn't been around for 15 years. Must be Patsy Cline. Lee Ann sounds like Patsy Cline."

Their conversation soon turned to other things.

"I wish there was a place for singles to meet in this town," one of them sighed. "It would be nice to go dancing, meet someone to have dinner with."

The other ladies offered her some advice at which point the conversation went back to earthquakes versus tornadoes and how one of their sisters slept through a tornado one time and some story about a baby ending up miles away in a tree. They realized that they should have known an earthquake was coming because the ants have been acting strange. They decided that in the earthquake versus tornado contest that earthquakes rule.

After we made our purchases (I bought nine silver bracelets for $4.00. They may not really be silver but they make a nice clanging sound), we asked them for a lunch place recommendation and they sent us down the street to an awesome Chinese place where they said people come all the way from Apple Valley to eat. I'm not sure where Apple Valley is but impressive, yes?

On the way back to my casita, we stopped in Yucca Valley at my favorite coffee house, Water Canyon Coffee Company. Yucca suddenly seemed like a big, booming town compared to Landers and Lucerne Valley. Perspective.

Monday, July 28, 2008

My New Gig As A Back Model

Here I am back at my desert paradise. At this moment, I am sitting outside on the huge, private patio of my casitas, sipping coffee, reading and getting ready to go to the spa in Palm Springs where I will take a fitness class, sink into one of their deep bathtubs, and then rest with cucumbers on my eyes in the quiet room.

Yesterday when I arrived Julie and I opened a bottle of champagne and the she asked me if I would model a jacket for her Etsy store. The jacket is a gorgeous green with a mink fur collar. The problem was that it was a little snug in the front. But she thought it looked good from the back and then she remembered this handbag she wanted to sell. So here I am modeling the back of a jacket and a nice big pocket book....

You see that pearl bracelet I'm wearing? Someone already commented on Julie's Flickr page that it makes for a perfect accessory to the jacket. I brought it myself to the photo shoot. I am a full service back model!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Whoops, I Did It Again

I have now almost set my house on fire twice while trying to cook.  And by cook I mean making pasta. And by making pasta I mean heating up water, throwing in the pasta, and then heating up store bought  sauce.  

The first time I was talking to my sister as the pasta finished.  I remember draining the pasta, adding the sauce, and then hanging up.  I finished eating and then went into my office.  Awhile later there was a strong smell coming from the kitchen.  I forgot to turn off the burner for the sauce.  The remaining sauce had burnt as had the skillet.

Yesterday, I put a pot of water up to boil.  And then I got bored.  And a watched pot never boils. So I went to my office to play on the Etsy shop that Julie finally convinced me to open (more on that in another post).  About 45 minutes later I remembered the boiling water.  Fortunately, it was a big pot so a quarter of the water was still there.

I give up.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Change In Perspective

Almost four years ago, my dad, mom and I went to Houston one weekend in October to attend the wedding of my second cousin, Nathan.  I was still working my corporate job and the timing turned out to be very stressful for me.  I spent a great deal of time on my blackberry and remember working on the computer in the business center of the hotel until late both nights. As we were getting ready to board the plane going home, my dad discovered he had left his cell phone and his wallet in the rental car, got extremely angry and upset, and started treating my mom and I horribly.  The rental agency found his stuff and sent it back to him but when I got home I wondered why I had even bothered going.

During the wedding reception, I kept going outside to check my blackberry and I kept running into Christopher, also a second cousin (first cousin of the groom), who was outside a lot taking cigarette breaks.  Chris has a big personality and is extremely personable.  I do not know what we talked about but I could not help but like him.

Chris' parents had a BBQ at their house the day after the wedding and, unbeknownst to me, my dad and Chris had a talk about law schools.  My dad told Chris about a law school here in L.A. that Chris had never heard of.  He applied and was accepted and the only time we saw him in his three years of law school was when he unexpectedly showed up at my dad's funeral.

So I was surprised to receive an invitation to his law school graduation which was this past weekend.  I love graduations.  They are filled with hope and corny music and corny speeches and they make me cry. Chris' mom, dad, and one of his brothers were here and my mom and I joined them and our other cousin Sam (who lives in L.A.  and is the brother of Nathan, the one who got married four years ago.  Are you still following along?) for lunch in Hollywood after the ceremony.

I sat next to Chris and he told us that during his first week of school he was at the law school library and looked out the window and saw my dad motoring on his scooter down Wilshire Boulevard.  Later, we all talked about the BBQ after the wedding and how my cousin Liz had bought portobello mushrooms for me and how her husband Bill had BBQ'd it for me.  "I never cooked a portobello mushroom before,"  Bill said.  "So I just cooked it the way I would a steak.  Was it any good?"  I told him it was great.  "But you and George kept making fun of me.  You gave me a really hard time about that portobello mushroom."

And then all my memories of that trip four years ago started to shift.  Suddenly, it wasn't about being stressed at work and losing a cellphone.  Now it was about helping Chris start his career and remembering that my cousin cared enough to buy me special food, and getting to bond later over the memory of  being teased by the menfolk at a Texas BBQ.  

Friday, May 16, 2008

Get Your Choo Choo On

Last Saturday was National Train Day and I volunteered to sit at the Conservancy table at our very own Union Station. And even though I did not see one advertisement for the event, the place was hopping. Train geeks have their own way of knowing.

My friend John was sitting with me. He is leaving this summer for M.I.T. and in two or three years when he comes back he is going to do great things like make the L.A. River work again or make all the traffic go away or maybe even stop my dog from barking whenever the sprinklers turn on which is what is happening here right this minute. Because I totally want to be John's assistant when he comes back, I agreed to pose with him for this picture:

John was sure that this thing was supposed to be an artichoke and, in fact, kept calling him "Artie" but it turned out that he was a leaf. Because Amtrak is going green! And to really ensure my place in John's entourage, I insisted that he pose for me with the "Wicked" car so I would have something with which to bribe him:

Also at our table was a local newscaster who, during our Union Station docent training, was assigned to trail me and another John and give us feedback before we actually started giving real tours. He chose to go the tough love route and never removed his sunglasses, never smiled, told me I pronounced "epoch" wrong, and claimed that a fact I was citing was incorrect even though it was right there in the training manual. John and I sat as far away from him as possible.

At the end of our shift, however, he made eye contact and mentioned that he remembered me and the hard time he gave me and said something like, "You understand now why I needed to do that, right?" And I mumbled something and John and I ran to the miniature train exhibit as quickly as we could.

And, no, I didn't understand because I have now been doing these tours for several years and there has not been one group who hasn't looked me in the eye and smiled and wanted me to be successful.

Except yesterday I was back at Union Station giving a tour to a group of home schooled kids and maybe I did need tough love to prepare for them. I purposely volunteered for that tour because I wanted to see my bias against home schoolers challenged. Sadly, I think my bias stood up well. There were twelve kids ranging in age from nine to fifteen and seven adults, all moms, and when I asked how many of them had been to a mission the showing of hands among the kids was dismal. And I'm no expert but I think that if you're nine or older you should be able to contain yourself from randomly lying on the floor in a public place. Or jumping on counters at a historic landmark. Or that you should be able to ask more insightful questions than "When are we going to Chinatown?"

They were actually a nice enough group and sent a complimentary note about me to the Conservancy so I'm not really complaining. I was taken aback, though, when I was saying good-bye and one of the mom's (who had earlier told me that it was obvious I felt very passionate about Union Station) said, "May the force be with you." Indeed.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Better Than Brad Pitt

The other day my mother was walking behind me and commented that I was looking really good from the back. I like to pass these comments on to our trainer because 99% of the time I'm telling her that (a) I hate her, (b) I'm going to faint, (c) I'm going to barf, or (d) I'm going to die and I want her to have some reason to feel happy about coming to work.

However, a few minutes after passing on the compliment I blurted out "But, wait a minute. What difference does it make what my mother thinks? It's not like Brad Pitt said he liked my backside." After conferring for a bit both don dokken and our trainer agreed that, where Brad Pitt might do the smooth thing, mothers speak the truth so a mother's opinion is way better and more accurate than Brad's.

Then the other night I was paying a parking lot attendant and he said to me, "Wow, what a great smile" and I was all yeah, yeah, I know, whatever. And then he said "Where's your husband tonight?" When I told this story to don dokken his response was "He might have said 'smile' but I'm sure he was talking about your backside." Which was EXACTLY what I was thinking.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Erasing The Whiteboard

I have a whiteboard hanging in my office which has a list entitled "2007/2008 Planning."  It is time to erase the whiteboard and write down some new plans because, as of today, I have completed everything on that list.  Except really I'd rather just sit all day and stare at the check marks next to each item.  I thought it would be nice to document my accomplishments somewhere before letting them go and replacing them with new ones that would have no check marks so would not be fun to look at all day. Here they are:

1.  Create budget
I actually created a budget and have been tracking all my spending against it including cash since January. Though sometimes a pain, I love the process of getting a true understanding of where my money really goes.  And it makes me hesitate before spending because I know I have to write it down (I hear this works with food as well....)  

2.  Lower expenses
Under this category there were two subheadings - Phone bills, Insurance.  I  have three phone numbers:  home, business, cell.  I was successful in getting a better cell phone and land line plan.  I also read the bills in detail and noticed I was billed for things I didn't want (for example, I was being billed a roadside service fee on my cell phone which I didn't need because I have AAA.  It was only 99 cents or something but really.  Gone.)  The insurance stayed the same.  I got other bids and they weren't much better than what I already have.

3.  MMP brochures and website
MMP is Manage My People which is one of my businesses.  I have business cards for that business and a URL but I never developed the website.  A brochure has been written but never printed.  I do have a few clients under that business, as opposed to my compensation consulting business, but after much thought I decided to merge the businesses.  And even though I love the name and my logo I am letting it go.

4.  Meet with insurance agent about long term disability and long term care
My financial planner and I had a meeting with an insurance agent about these issues late last year.  At the time, we decided that it was still too early for long term care insurance but definitely worth purchasing long term disability.  The reason for #1 (create budget) is largely so I can make my final decision on how much income I want to replace when I purchase the long term disability insurance.

5.  Separate business and personal funds
I had been using the same checking account and credit card for both business and personal.  I knew this was wrong but since I am good about tracking the business income and expenses it didn't seem like too big a deal.  But then earlier this year I hired two people to do some work for me and I thought it might be tacky to pay them with a check that had "Pro-Choice" embedded in the background.  So now I have a bona-fide business checking account and a business credit card that gives me cash back on all sorts of stuff including gasoline so now when I go to visit my niece and nephew instead of costing me $12.00 in gasoline, it now costs $12.00 minus 5% and looks much better in my budget (see #1.)

6.  Update business website
And so here we are.  don dokken made some awesome changes to the look of the website and I updated some content and, though I've always liked my website, I am really proud of how quickly we worked this through.  Check it out here.

And stay tuned for planning list 2008/2009.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Birthday E. & I.

A few days ago Grandma Diane, Jenny, and I took you to Sears to get your two-year portraits. We walked in the store and I couldn't believe how well behaved you were. You held onto our hands and looked at all the merchandise. Grandma Diane pointed out a blouse that she thought would be nice for you to buy her for her birthday. When we got to the portrait studio, you sat quietly playing with a bead game while the photographer set things up. Then it was time for the pictures.

At first the set-up looked like a bed and the two of you refused to approach for fear you'd be forced to go "la-la." But then the photographer showed you that it was really a drum and you were both all into that. Eva, you are going to be America's Next Top Model because once the camera came out, you would not stop posing. In fact, we had a hard time getting you to step down from the "drum" so your brother could have his turn alone.

Isaac, once you got comfortable you had no interest in the picture taking process and great interest in finding out what was behind every door and curtain in all of Sears. Grandma Diane spent a lot of time running after you, proving that however much money she spends on Jazzercize, it is a wise investment. At one point, you slammed your finger in a door and at another point I was trying to pick you up but you fought me so hard that you banged your head hard on the floor. Of course, the only person who could comfort you was your nanny, Jenny (who you call "Nenny" but who per Grandma Diane I am not allowed to call "Nenny" because that would be sabotaging your language development skills.)

Yesterday, both of you stopped by to visit me near your house where several of my friends and I were having lunch. The whole time you were there I kept asking you how old you were going to be tomorrow and neither of you would answer. You did, however, have a great time splashing water from a fountain all over yourselves and my friend's backyard. When you left, I walked you to the car and your mama and I strapped you into your car seats. I asked you one more time, "How old are you going to be when I next see you?" and you both simultaneously raised your little fingers and said "two."

Isaac, you have been trying very hard to communicate in what I call "secret twin language" or what could possibly be some obscure Chinese dialect. It breaks my heart a little because you speak so emphatically and there are lots of wild hand gestures involved. You must be trying to tell us something very, very important like who shot JFK or the identity of Deep Throat. Don't worry, we already know!

I have so much more to say about how good natured, affectionate and sweet you both are, how you love books and being read to which is a requirement if you want to be related to me and how, for the most part, you act properly excited whenever you see me, but your birthday party is in a few hours and I am in charge of getting the fruit so I must go. Happy birthday, E. and I., I love you!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Morocco in the Desert

While researching new places to stay on my semi-annual trip to the desert, I found a place called El Morocco Inn which had great reviews on Trip Advisor.   I sent Julie on a scouting mission and she called me as she was walking out the door and told me I needed to book a stay there right away.  So I did and a few weeks ago I went.

 I would call this my most relaxing trip to the desert yet.  The owners have gone to great lengths with the decor which Julie has documented (along with other parts of my visit) on her flickr site here.  They have a happy hour every afternoon where they serve "morocco-tinis," introduce all the guests to one another (though all the guests at the time were an elderly couple and me), and tell stories.  They have a a DVD player in every room and an extensive DVD library.  I watched two films  - "Girl Interrupted" (and, wow, you could really see why Angelina won an Oscar.  She totally eclipsed Winona who was billed as the star) and "A Few Good Men" ("I want the truth.  You can't handle the truth."  Can't believe I never saw it before.)  I had the swimming pool and the swimming pool size jacuzzi to myself.  

They were wonderful to Julie and gave her a key to the front door so she could come join me whenever.  We went to dinner one night and when we came back there was a a decanter of sherry and glasses for us waiting in the dining area.  Oh, and they have a little room with games, a fireplace, and a TV that runs a continuous loop of "Casablanca."

When I went through the purge of 2006, I had put aside several bags of vintage clothing that I knew were too good to donate to Goodwill.  I decided to bring the bags down to the desert to get Julie's advice on their dispensation.  One afternoon I had a fashion show by the pool where I pulled out the items from the bags and Julie told me what she thought each item's value and selling potential was.   At some point in the fashion show, the owner of the local newspaper came by to interview Bruce, the proprietor of El Morocco, who had just won a General Manager of the year award.  And that is how Julie and I came to be pictured in the latest issue of the Valley Breeze (click to enlarge):

(I am on the right, holding a bunch of vintage clothing in my hands. I point this out because I sent this picture to my own mother and she wrote me back saying, "I see Julie but where are you?")

Monday, December 17, 2007

My Two High School English Teachers

This excellent Op-Ed piece was published in the L.A. Times yesterday. The writer, Barry Smolin, was two years behind me at Fairfax High School and my sister was friends with his sister. It is an ode to George Schoenman, a long-time English teacher at Fairfax, and tangentially talks about Richard Battaglia, another English teacher, as well.

Please read the article. Both of those teachers influenced me as hugely as they did Barry and he describes them well. Mr. Battaglia was my teacher for pretty much every semester I was at Fairfax. He taught me how to write. He exposed us to films that I still think about ("Blow-up," "I Never Sang for My Father," and "The Pawnbroker" being three examples.) He offered an independent studies Shakespeare class where we read the plays,went to see the movies at The Royal Theater and then wrote papers and analyzed. He encouraged us to be adventurous. He sponsored me in my own self created independent studies class and gave me a note authorizing me to leave campus during that period so I could study while eating chocolate chip sweet rolls and french fries at Cantor's deli. I was his teacher's aide - he called me "Radar" after Radar O'Reilly from Mash - and working for him was the first indication that I was really good at all things organizational. He carried all his papers and paraphernalia in a banker's box that became very worn. I tore off a piece of the box at the end of the school year and had him autograph it. I will not say how long I held on to that particular souvenir. Just before graduation, Mr. Battaglia took me out for a thank-you breakfast at The Melting Pot restaurant on La Cienega and Melrose. We drove there in his BMW. Did I mention he looked like Sam Elliott in "The Lifeguard?"

Mr. Schoenman was different. He taught us how to analyze great literature and exposed us to existentialism. The summer after I took Mr. Schoenman's class I visited my piano teacher in Santa Barbara. We were building sand castles on the beach and she asked me to describe my idea of the perfect man. Mr. Schoenman was on my mind and I described someone of his temperament. I must not have done as good a job as Barry does in his article because my piano teacher looked mortified and said, "Oh no, you don't want someone so introspective. You'll never know what he's thinking!" But she was married to a fairly well known and gregarious Hungarian cellist who may have had an eye for the ladies - so there.

When he was my homeroom teacher, Mr. Schoenman offered some words of wisdom which had nothing to do with literature. He told us that, when using the girls' restroom, we should avoid putting our purses on the ground as there had been incidences of theft. Though this warning says much about how things were at Fairfax High School in the 1970's, I think of this advice every time I enter a ladies room stall and always make sure my purse is elevated even when there is no hook. It has served me well.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

An Organized Year In Review

Almost a year ago I wrote this post which describes how great it felt to clean out my house and get things in order. The great purge of 2006 included eliminating 26 bags of clothing, hiring a company to come and shred documents, some going as far back as the '80's, and actually displaying and using things I liked that I had kept hidden away because I liked them too much to use.

For 2007, I continued getting organized in other ways and I am feeling really good about it right now so this post is all about me giving myself a big pat on the back.

The first thing I did was switch financial planners to a fee-based advisor who worked with me to accomplish several things:

1. We consolidated all my money under one administrator, Fidelity. My old advisor was unfortunately with LPL and my big complaint about them (which I found out through one of my mutual fund clients is known throughout the industry) was that for me, the client, it was not easy to transverse their website and their general administration was not very good. I could do very little on-line. Through Fidelity, both my advisor and I can conduct transactions which is great because some things I really like doing on my own and when I screw them up my advisor can just swoop in and fix things (yeah, this really happens. Just helping my advisor earn his fee!) Also, LPL could not consolidate their paperwork so that I had three different accounts from them and three different statements. Fidelity is just one consolidated statement. So much paper saved. And less time with the adding machine.

2. We developed a financial plan. I now know exactly how much money I need to save every year in order to retire when I want to retire. I also know that, if I want to buy my dream vacation home in Palm Springs, I can afford to do that.

3. I worked with a lawyer to set up a trust and the lawyer and my financial advisor moved all my assets into the trust.

4. My advisor and I met with an insurance broker to discuss whether I need long term disability and long term care insurance. I am still mulling over everything I learned and it is on the list for 2008 to make a decision.

Other things I did that make me feel more organized:

1. Though I track my business expenses in Quicken, I was using the same credit card for both business and personal expenses. I finally got a business credit card which has my business name and which I use for all business transactions. It's platinum so it will impress all those clients I take out to big fancy lunches (kidding!)

2. I set up a monthly budget for 2008 so I can really see where my money is going. I know all the big stuff but don't have a handle on all the small stuff that adds up.

3. I fired a client that was using up way too much time for way too little money and banished their file to the garage. It felt really good getting that thick, annoying file out of my filing cabinet.

4. The catalogs I receive have gotten out of hand. All my dad's mail is forwarded to me and he was a catalog junkie. I also accidentally didn't opt out of something when I bought a birthday gift for my niece and nephew online and, since then, I get about three children's catalogs a week (not kidding!) Yesterday, I heard about www.catalogchoice.org and I have signed up for both me and my dad. They say it takes about two or three months for it all to stop but I can decline all catalogs I currently receive though this site. I think the catalog reduction is going to be life changing.

5. I called up my phone companies, landlines and cell, and negotiated better rates. When my car and home insurance come up early next year, I plan to do some major comparison shopping.

So now that I've put this all in writing and see how much I've accomplished I think I won't be as hard on myself as I was going to be for neglecting this blog. Writing more is, however, on my list for 2008.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

It's just frightening, isn't it?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I am somewhere in this picture wearing my red University of Wisconsin t-shirt and marching in support of the Writer's Guild of America. I have walked picket lines with the teachers and the farmworkers. I have marched for choice. This felt different. I'll explain why later in this post. But let's just start by saying this was no civil rights march. The median annual salary of a Writer's Guild member is $95,000. And, yes, I understand that's the median and that most of the guild members can go years without working and rely on residuals (of course it also means that many guild members make way more than $95,000. Whatever).

Not that I don't agree with what they are asking for. Except that it is complicated, there may or may not be a lot of misinformation out there, and I have become cynical. They are asking that reality show and animation writers be covered. They should be except that I heard the guild's negotiating team already took this off the table. If this is true, I am not surprised. I have sat in on union negotiations as part of management's bargaining team (here's where the cynicism comes in) and I have seen union negotiating teams throw the rank and file under the bus for their own best interests.

They are asking to double the residuals they receive for DVDs. Because DVDs were so new the last time they negotiated, they are really getting screwed. But, by far, the most important issue is that they want to be compensated for new media - downloads and streaming videos. Since in the very near future we will all be receiving our creative content on the computer, they really did need to go on strike for this. For example, over the summer the writers for The Office wrote a series of "webisodes" for which they won an Emmy. These mini episodes were considered to be "marketing" and the writers did not get paid any extra for them.

But, this whole paying for the internet is complicated. Here's an example. Scrubs is produced by an ABC owned company. NBC has purchased Scrubs and receives revenue from advertising when they air it on their stations and when they show an episode on their website. ABC, the company who produced the show and pays the writers, actors, et. al., does not receive any revenue from advertising from television or from advertising or downloads from the internet because they have sold the show to NBC. So, basically, the writers are asking for something that the people who pay them don't even get. Except that these are smart people and they should be able to work something out, right?

But back to why I had trouble getting my passion up during this march and why it was different. Well, first let's go back to the striking itself. I read everyday how this star or that star walked the line with the writers and brought them pizza or Starbucks. And how the writers were visited by fans of their shows who brought them pizza or Starbucks. It feels somehow pretentious and too much fun. Can you imagine Cesar Chavez being handed a latte by an adoring fan? And at the march itself:

1. There were agents from CAA dressed in suits and ties serving up scones on a platter to the marchers. Scones!
2. Debra Messing was marching next to me in full on make-up. Every once in awhile a fan would come up and ask to take her picture with their cellphone camera. She very sweetly complied.
3. Many years ago anti-choice groups were blocking clinics in Los Angeles so that women could not get in and have abortions. The pro-choice groups mobilized and blocked the blockers and helped the women get in. I participated in one of these and it was scary and intense and I was jostled and there was much screaming but it was important. Yesterday at the march I ended up standing next to a group of writers who were drumming and rapping and getting a lot of attention. In trying to get a picture, one photographer knocked me in the back of the head with his camera and another one shoved me out of the way with his back. It was scary and intense and I was jostled and there was much screaming but it was NOT important.

By the way, I now understand why Britney ran over the toes of those paparazzi. Solidarity, Britney!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My New BFF

Besides showing the abundance of bonding going on between me and my nephew on Halloween (note his handmade Superboy outfit and my orange shirt), I think my hands look really nice in this picture. In case you didn't notice.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Malibou Lake

Maybe you saw the episode of "The Office" a couple of weeks ago where Michael drives his car into the lake because he's following directions from his GPS. Or maybe, like me, you've watched "The Bad Seed" over and over again and maybe as a child you were traumatized when Rhoda got struck by lightening and falls into the lake. Or maybe you've seen "Frankenstein" and were traumatized by the scene when the monster sees the girl at the lake, she offers him flowers, he tosses her into the lake.

All those productions were shot at Malibou Lake which is pictured above. The lake is man-made and the community is exclusive with just three miles of houses. Only residents are allowed on the lake. Well, residents, and film and television productions.

I read about Malibou Lake in the L.A. Times a few weeks ago and they also mentioned that there was going to be a free lecture about its use in the movies. It was a chance to see the lake up close and personal and I am so glad I did. It was a beautiful day and the trees around the lake were changing colors. There was the lake, the mountains, the fall foliage, birds - what an oasis.

We saw a DVD showing footage from the films made on the Lake. I could not begin to list them (this goes back all the way to Charlie Chaplin....) We saw the class picnic scene from "The Bad Seed." We then walked out to the lake.

"Okay, so which of these docks is the one where Rhoda bites it?" I asked the lecturer.

"Actually," he said, "we're pretty sure that was done on a sound stage."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Economy of Words

don dokken and I have taken a quick, maybe even less than 24 hours, trip to see his mom and to give me the opportunity to see my lawyer and sign some papers. We are now at our favorite free wireless coffee house. One reason I love this place is that whenever we are here they play the greatest music.  Right now it's Tom Jones.  Last time we were here it was "Rubber Band Man."  I rest my case.

Best of all, at this moment we are sitting across from each other and sending each other emails. So much better than talking, especially so early on a Friday morning.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

More Excitement

After leaving the casino where I won enough money to pay for the first night of my vacation, I picked up Julie and we went out for lunch at a restaurant/coffee shop that is part of a hotel near her house. As we were waiting for our food I looked outside and noticed that the top of a palm tree in the parking lot of the hotel was engulfed in flames. I dialed 911 but for some reason I couldn't hear anything. I think my phone was on mute. I hung up and 911 called me back but in the meantime a second palm tree had caught on fire. Our seats in the restaurant were adjacent to the pool area which cleared out fairly quickly. I am pretty sure that was due to all the smoke. The fire department arrived quickly and put the fire out and we never could get a straight story on how the fire started our own theories being that it was either a car fire in the parking lot or some crack addicts in one of the rooms. It is just that kind of place. What will happen next?

How To Start A Vacation

Man sitting next to me at the video poker machine: You just got 4 of a kind!
Me: Yeah, and I don't mean to be greedy but just one time in my life it would be nice to get a royal flush.
Man: Well, we're really old and we've never gotten a royal flush.
Me: I once met a woman who has gotten tons of them.
Man: Really?
Me: Actually, she lives in Vegas and she plays almost every day.
Man: Oh.
Me: I guess that's not really healthy. (Pressing the button to cash out). I do want a royal flush someday but today's not the day.
Man: Good choice.
Me: Good luck to you!

I am on my way to to a four day, three night vacation at my favorite resort in the desert. My winnings will pay for my first night.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Serendipity Maybe?

The other day I went on a job interview even though I'm not really looking for a job. It all started out because I thought I was talking to them about a consulting assignment and that led to me agreeing to at least talk to people in the organization to see if I could become interested in working for them full time.

I was scheduled to talk to four people and the night before the interview I did some computer research on all of them. I found that one guy I was talking to was on the Board of a non-profit that was started by a woman who had once started a different non-profit with the help of my dad. And if you're thinking that this is the serendipity part of this post, you are wrong although I thought so too at the time.

The name of one of the guys on my schedule was very familiar to me but I could not figure out why. I was first interviewed by a woman who walked me over to meet the familiar name sounding guy who we actually ran into as he was standing outside talking to the non-profit guy who I was going to meet last. The woman introduced us and he started shaking my hand and saying "nice to meet you" when he stopped himself and said "Wait a minute, I know you!" He then turned to the other two and said, "She took care of my boys before they were my boys." And in case you are now totally confused, here is part of a post I wrote on February 2, 2005 which explains it all:
More than ten or so years ago, I used to volunteer at an Infant-Toddler shelter. One night I went over there with my boom box and some tapes thinking I would have a dance party with the kids. As I was walking in, one of the staff members was walking out, on her way to the hospital. She told me that two new kids had arrived that morning and one of them had bitten her. Hard. And she wasn't the first staff member to have to visit the hospital because of this kid.

Well, the new kids were two brothers - 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 years old - and I have never before or since seen two kids in worse shape. The older one, the biter, was emaciated and unable to speak. That is why he bit and banged his head and screamed. He had no other way of expressing himself. The youngest was a lump. There was no joy in that kid. He just sort of sat there. It still surprises me to say this but I was terrified of the older child. He was wild and uncontrollable. And how weird is it to say you're scared of a 2 year old? But there was a staff member, Marla, who fell in love with this boy and turned everything around. Meanwhile, I just adored the little one. In fact, Marla and I really got in trouble with the agency for favoring these two boys. But they needed it.

The full story of these boys is for another time but let's just fast forward and say that they were adopted by two men who by coincidence live just blocks away from me. Between Marla, the foster family they were placed with initially, and these two men who adopted them, they have more than thrived. They are doing great. And they have been very important to me as a symbol of hope and the resilience of children. Because I really, really thought there was no hope for these boys.

Anyway, over the years I have not talked to them often. Maybe there's a Christmas card here and there. Marla moved to Maryland and she came back about two years ago with her little girl and we all met at Jerry's Deli. The boys said they remembered the Infant-Toddler shelter and us. I asked them if they had any questions about when they were little. The youngest one asked what his favorite color was and one of the dads said to say "purple." That's the last time I saw, talked to, heard from them.

I get home last night and check my e-mails. After the adoption day and the ride home and thinking about all this stuff there, out of the blue, is an e-mail from the oldest boy. I open it. It just says "hello."

Yep, he was one of the dads. And I can not believe it but the boys are now 15 and 16 years old. He says they ask about me sometimes and he wants me to come by and see them. They are still living in the same place, pretty much walking distance from my house. When they were about five or six years old, I stopped by to see them one Christmas Eve. They were out of the group home and living in foster care. As I was walking to my car, the youngest boy came running after me and handed me a tree ornament he had made. It was gold sprayed, in the shape of a Christmas tree with his picture glued in the center. The reason I can describe it so clearly is that it hangs from the lamp in my office and I look at it every day. don dokken thinks this all means that I am meant for this job. I just think it means that I am always meant to know what happens to these boys.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

And Speaking Of The Dentist

Last week on the penultimate episode of "The Sopranos," Tony Soprano is sitting in the waiting room of his psychiatrist, Dr. Melfi, leafing through a magazine. He finds an article with BBQ recipes and tears it out, folds it up, and puts it in his pocket. As I watched this I thought, how endearing. Tony Soprano's world is falling apart, his son just tried to commit suicide, and yet he is looking forward to a summer of barbecuing tasty new dishes for his friends and family.

Dr. Melfi did not see it the same way. Influenced by her own psychiatrist who has cajoled her into reading an article about how sociopaths are aided in their craft by talk therapy, she yells at Tony for his selfishness in tearing out the article and then fires him as her patient.

Here's my question. Last week when I was at the dentist instead of tearing out an article from a magazine I was reading, I actually took the whole magazine. I am thinking this makes me a way better person than T because, when you remove just one article, someone could pick up the magazine, see the article referenced on the cover or listed in the table of contents and then be completely disappointed when they turn to it and it's not there. But when you remove the entire magazine, no one would ever know the difference. So I shouldn't feel guilty, right? I mean, as Tony said, that's what they're there for.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

All About My Teeth

This is going to be so boring that all of you out there who have been begging me to update my blog are going to wish you had never said anything. But I'll try and make it snappy....

Spring/Summer 2006

This was when I discovered that my dentist had neglected to point out to me that my gums were really, really bad. So bad that I required three surgeries. The first was a tissue graft. After the tissue graft, I started having a pain on the top left side of my mouth. No one knew what caused the pain but everyone decided that I needed more gum surgery.

I went to a new dentist and had two laser gum surgeries. During this whole time, my dad was getting sicker, don dokken's mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, don dokken's aunt died, my dad died. In fact, I had a follow-up visit for my last surgery on the day after my dad's funeral.

At that appointment, the dentist told me that I needed a night guard because I was grinding my teeth at night. You know how you can only deal with so many things at once? I totally didn't believe her. So I put off getting the night guard.

January 2007
A new year, a new maximum on the dental insurance. I decided to get the night guard. Only the technician who made the mold seemed like she didn't know what she was doing. Then I went to pick it up and, after keeping me waiting for 45 minutes, they told me the night guard was not there yet. I considered billing the dentist for my wasted time. When I did pick the night guard up, the dentist did not even come and look to see if it fit and I decided it didn't. So I never wore it.

Also, I still had that pain on the top left side of my mouth and the dentist couldn't figure out why. I noticed that my teeth were shifting and there was a gap you could drive a truck through on the top left side. When I mentioned it to the hygenist, she told me that it had probably always been there but I was noticing it more now because my gums were good now. Huh?

One Month Ago
I became convinced that the gum surgery had caused the big gap between my teeth and I could no longer stand the pain on the upper left side of my mouth so I decided to consult with a new dentist. I brought the night guard with me.

The new dentist is quirky. What do you know. That gap in my teeth? It's because I grind them at night. And my night guard? He LOVES it. The pain on the upper left side? He is unsure of the cause but it could be that I ground a crack in it. He says that stress is written all over my mouth. I told him that the pain started right around the time my dad died and he asked what my dad died of and said his mom died of lung cancer too. He then said, "So, did you do the morphine? I hope he had the morphine." And I actually answered, "Oh, yes, yes, it was REALLY great!"

He told me that he wanted my night guard to become my best friend and that I should come back in two weeks and he would do a complete exam and try to figure out this pain I was having. After he left, the technician talked to me to explain all the possibilities. She said that, if the tooth is cracked, they will have to remove it and replace it with a dental implant. That is when I burst into tears. She told me that, as terrible as it sounds, the worse thing about it is the cost.

It turns out I know lots of people, young and old, who have dental implants and they concurred but, still, I was deeply depressed. Until last year, my teeth were something I could count on. I felt so old. And I prepared myself for another summer of dental fun and expense.

Last Week
I wore the hell out of my night guard and I went back to the quirky dentist. He told me my gums look great. He told me I have beautiful teeth. He also said "You have the mouth of a creative person who is a multi-tasker whose mind never shuts off. If I had a job opening, based on your x-rays, you would be the person I would want to hire." In other words, I grind my teeth.

But here is the good news. In the area of the pain, there is an old filling that needs to be replaced that might be causing some irritation. So, I have two appointments: one to replace the filling and one to have the gap in my tooth the size of a truck bonded. I am not going to need a dental implant! It is not going to be the summer of dental fun and expense.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

We Angelenos Are Wacky

This just in from Yahoo News and all I have to say is, oh my goodness, where am I going to throw my trash now? (The bold is mine, all mine.)

Los Angeles residents were urged on Wednesday to take shorter showers, reduce lawn sprinklers and stop throwing trash in toilets in a bid to cut water usage by 10 percent in the driest year on record.

With downtown Los Angeles seeing a record low of 4 inches

of rain since July 2006 -- less than a quarter of normal -- and with a hot, dry summer ahead, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the city needed "to change course and conserve water to steer clear of this perfect storm."

It is the driest year since rainfall records began 130 years ago.

The Eastern Sierra mountains, where Los Angeles gets about half of its water supply, marked its second-lowest snowpack on record this year.

That and the lack of rainfall could force the nation's second largest city into full drought mode in coming months, officials said.

Below average rainfall for the past few years has also turned the traditional summer southern California fire season into an all-round event. Firefighters battled two major brush fires in May alone, at the Los Angeles landmark Griffith Park and on the tourist island of Catalina.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

About Town

The end of last week turned into "do things I've never done before in Los Angeles week." And I didn't even plan it that way.

On Thursday I was called to a TDM (that's Team Decision Making meeting for those playing at home) about my CASA kid in a place called Santa Fe Springs. I have vaguely heard of Santa Fe Springs. It is southeast of L.A. proper and that is my full and complete knowledge of Santa Fe Springs. The meeting was held in one of those business park type places but as I was driving around I noticed that right next door there was a train exhibit. And being morally and maybe even legally bound by my duties as a docent at Union Station, I knew that after the meeting I would be checking out the train exhibit. Also I made the should-have-been-obvious connection between Santa Fe Springs and the Achison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railway company. I am such a genius.

After the meeting I wandered over to the train exhibit which was actually in a place called Heritage Park which had even more exhibits and a whole park and a cute little cafe and who knew? The things you learn if you just get out of the house once in awhile.

The next day I went to a networking event at the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens and arranged to have tea in their famous and fabulous and heretofore unvisited by me tearoom. The networking event was sponsored by the Metropolitan Water District. They have a huge business outreach program for small and minority owned businesses. The head of the program talked about how MWD is the only business that is actually running a campaign to tell people about NOT using their product. It is conceivable that Los Angeles will lose 40% of their water supply (the part that is purchased from up north) due to a class action suit regarding some environmental problems at the water source (I believe it is causing a type of fish or bird to go extinct.....I need to read up on this.)

The MWD put on the event for free and got us free admission into the Botanical Gardens and library. It was a beautiful day. The tea really was fabulous and I am so glad that I finally got to have this experience. It was interesting from the networking side as well. I don't think I made any good business connections but I learned about government opportunities and got an invitation to another free event at JPL. Did I mention they serve food at these things?

And then Saturday I was invited to a reception in the rare books room of the Los Angeles Central Library downtown. This room is not open to the public. They served us food there which made me really nervous. They also gave us white gloves. The manager of the room had pulled out several items that he thought would be of interest including posters and old books in Spanish from the original settlers that came to Los Angeles. The rare book collection also includes a substantial collection of old menus and he had pulled out the menu for Scandia. Scandia was a restaurant on Sunset Boulevard and it was actually the place where my dad took me for a late dinner on the evening before my 21st birthday and made sure we were there at midnight so I could order my first legitimate drink which I believe was a margarita.

Train exhibits and decision making about the life of a child (more on that in another post), beautiful gardens and networking, eating food in a room full of rare books - what a week, huh?

Thursday, May 03, 2007


The invitation to join a friend of mine in VIP seats for "Dancing with the Stars" was extended last week. The instructions stated that the dress code was formal....no jeans allowed. This was clearly a shopping opportunity and I was really pleased to find this perfect dress at Ann Taylor:

And a little jacket to go with it as well because I don't do sleeveless. My friend and I also decided that glitter was key, we wanted to sparkle, so I pulled out all my rhinestones. And I even wore make-up.

We were supposed to arrive at the studio no later than 3:45 so we decided to drive into Hollywood and have lunch first. We sat outside, ordered wine and a cheese platter and watched the people go by. And wondered why so many people weren't at work. And, also, referring to my previous post, reflected on how, yeah, I guess this really is why I work for myself.

At the appointed time, we arrived at the studio and were shown to our seats, right behind the judges. Just before show time, a production type person came over and said "I meant to come by earlier. You guys are going to be on the camera like 99% of the time. You need to sit up straight. And don't chew gum. Believe me, chewing gum does not look good on the camera. You will really, really regret it."

After some discussion with my friend, we decided that the prudent thing for me to do would be to take off my glasses. You know, because I would be so visible. So I really can not tell you much about the actual taping of the show because everything was quite blurry. The only thing I know for certain is that Apolo could fit in my pocket. And Billy Ray is completely obnoxious but the fans just love, love, love him.

When the show ended we were invited to the green room where they had food and drink and the dancers were hanging out. We didn't stay long as we needed to get home and watch ourselves on the TV because the camera was going to be on us like 99% of the time.

The production type person lied. Because this was the results show and not the actual dancing show, the judges were barely on and, when the camera did turn their way, we in the audience were pretty much in the dark. By freezing one frame, I did manage to catch a glimpse of myself. You will have to take my word for it but I looked totally hot. So glad I took those glasses off.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Conversation With A Client

Me: I'm going to have to leave quickly right after our meeting because I'm going to a taping of "Dancing with the Stars" this afternoon.

Client: Really? That sounds fun.

Me: Yeah, being able to do stuff like that is why I don't work. I mean, why I work independently for myself.

Client: Absolutely!


Me: Well, actually, I never really thought I'd be going to things like TV show tapings.

Client: Yeah, you probably thought you'd be spending your time reading all the great books.

Me: Something like that.

Stay tuned for the details on the taping....

Sunday, April 29, 2007

You'll Never Walk Alone

I have started watching "American Idol" for the first time since the show has been on the air. A week ago I even picked up the phone and tried to vote for my personal favorite, Jordin Sparks. But I couldn't figure out how. Whatever.

This past Tuesday night Jordin sang "You'll Never Walk Alone." That song is from the musical, Carousel, and it is also the song that the sixth grade graduating class at my elementary school would sing at the end of the graduation ceremony. I have always felt a strong emotional attachment to that song and, you know, I really don't hear it all that often.

The summer after my sixth grade graduation our graduating class was asked to reprise the singing of "You'll Never Walk Alone" for the Paul Mazursky film, Alex in Wonderland. And the big bummer was that my family had chosen this particular summer to take a road trip across the country. To make this trip happen my dad had to miss my graduation. He would drive to Milwaukee in four days with my cousin Joe and then my mom, sister, and I would fly to Milwaukee after the graduation. We would attend our cousin Michael's bar mitzvah and then take several weeks to drive back to Los Angeles.

As you might imagine, the whole scenario was the worse possible tragedy that could happen in my whole pre-teen life. My dad was missing my graduation and I was missing being in a movie with all my friends in order to be stuck in a car with my family which included my sister and which was going to be FOREVER. Obviously my parents should have been reported for child abuse. Except that on the day of my graduation I received a telegram from my father which I still have and which I read so many times that I memorized.

Isn't it funny to look back as an adult and be able to see the big picture and know how things turn out? Because it is possible I wouldn't have been quite so mad and upset if I had known that (a) I would not even recall which family members attended my elementary school graduation but I would cherish the telegram from the one who was not there and (b) at cousin Michael's bar mitzvah my dad would meet a young girl from Chicago and invite her to come to Los Angeles and stay with us and she would accept his invitation and end up marrying into the family and having two children and those four people would be amongst my very favorite people in the world and (c) Alex in Wonderland would totally bomb.

So, after Jordin finished singing You'll Never Walk Alone, even Simon Cowell talked about how old that song is and how Jordin was so amazing that she could record that song and it could be a huge hit. I knew I had to figure out this voting thing because she chose that song and then she sang it even better than my sixth grade graduating class (and you can verify that by renting the Alex in Wonderland DVD although it won't be exactly the same because I'M NOT IN IT.) And that is the long winded story about how and why I voted for an American Idol for the first time ever.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

I Have Joined A Cult

Happily it is a cult that pretty much every I know has already joined. I am the extremely happy and excited owner of a brand new, shiny and silver, MacBook Pro. The ceremony to throw my Dell PC out the window will be happening very soon. That laptop was just a bit over two years old and it was falling apart. Two keys were falling off. But, worse, it was so slow that in the morning when I started it up I would brush my teeth, wash my face, take a shower, eat breakfast and only after that would I be able to sit down and work. The Mac is all booted up and ready to go after one stroke of the toothbrush.

The transfer was relatively painless. My documents and pictures were an easy transfer by disc. After finding instructions on the internet, my Quicken file transfer was a piece of cake. don dokken thought this transfer might be difficult or not work at all so when it was done I ran into the front room where he was watching TV and screamed about the rock star that is me. The only glitch was my music. There was too much to transfer by disc so I transferred directly from my iPod and for whatever reason not all the songs went over, there was a copyright message I believe. That's okay because the next step is to upgrade from the Nano so a whole revamp of the music is in order.

The best, though, is that my brother-in-law sent instructions on how to use the video iChat so I conversed in person-like with my niece and nephew four times yesterday. I saw my nephew's new haircut and tried to make them do tricks like pointing to their nose and clapping and saying my name. We are going to do this everyday and so they are going to grow up remembering me on the TV screen that is their computer every day. Until kruthless and I get bored with it. And with our attention spans that could be by next week.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Color Car

The street I grew up on was a one block street which saw a lot of traffic because it was a quick way to cut through from one major street to another. My sister and I used to look out the living room window and play a game called "color car" while waiting for my dad to get home from work. We also played this game on road trips. We would each pick a car color and when a car of that color drove down the street or drove by on the highway the picker of that color got to scream "Color car. Color car." As I recall, it wasn't a contest where the person who picked the color that drove by the most won. The reward was the shear joy of being able to scream "Color car. Color car." Picking the color white was forbidden.

Today I got home and I just had a feeling that the toilet pipes were getting ready to back up and it was time to have the clean-out thingy snaked. So I called the plumber and then waited. It was a grey and rainy day and I sat on the couch, peering out of the living room window and for some reason (well, I think the reason was that I was bored and restless and looking out of the living room window) decided that I needed to play color car and that my color should be red since that was the color of the plumber's truck.

Three red cars came by before the plumber arrived and all three times I yelled "Color car. Color car" and all three times Rudy came running so it was like I was really playing color car with someone. Okay, I know it sounds a little wacky and maybe I need to get out more but it was good clean fun on a rainy day and anyway here's a picture of Rudy playing color car:

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Tomorrow would have been my dad's 78th birthday. So it was ironic and coincidental that the condo that he lived in for thirty years and which was a big part of his life, our lives, and his death was going to have their annual homeowner's association meeting on that day. I thought it would be the perfect way for me to "celebrate" his birthday - attend the homeowner's meeting and then don dokken and I were going to go to one of my dad's nearby old haunts and have a meal in his memory.

But the meeting has been postponed because another person in the building has died.

Ed got up last Thursday morning, got his newspaper, poured a glass of orange juice and had a massive stroke. A concerned co-worker showed up at the building hours later and he and one of the building's residents went inside Ed's unit and found him slumped over in his chair with the open newspaper and the glass of orange juice. He was not officially dead but brain dead or whatever when the paramedics arrived (and from the moment he had the stroke) and he died in the hospital on Easter Sunday. His parents are both dead. He was an only child. He had no children. He had two cats although he had to put one to sleep a few weeks before he died. We won't talk about the other cat. Ed was 54 years old.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Dependency Justice

I usually need to go to court for my CASA cases every six months or so for an RPP (Review of Permanent Plan) hearing. However, the case I have been on for the last year has been going poorly and the Judge has been ordering every other week progress hearings. During these hearings, she spends about a half an hour berating the social worker and the social worker's boss and the social worker's boss' boss off the record and, when she is done, she then proceeds to berate them for an additional hour on the record. By the way, social workers usually don't come to court, they just submit a report, but the Judge has been ordering the social worker and her boss and her boss' boss and probably soon the boss' boss' boss to appear because she is clearly very, very angry.

The issue is that the social workers seem hellbent on not allowing this child to be placed with her grandmother. The child is 10 years old and she is highly unadoptable. But a year ago this grandmother, who had lost touch with her granddaughter, found where she was and came forward as a person who wants to adopt her. The grandmother is not perfect. She has had inconsistencies and allegations about her in the past. Along with that, the sticking point for the social workers seems to be that her house is not big enough and that their rules and regulations say that they can not place a child in a house where they will be sharing a room with an adult. And we all just need to ignore the reality that there are lots of really large famillies living in really small spaces in this county. The Grandmother can not afford to move to a 3 bedroom house (she is now renting two bedrooms and has two of her grandsons living in one of them) and the Judge says week after week after week that the social workers need to either figure out a way to get Grandmother into a situation where she can afford a 3 bedroom house or get some kind of waiver on the bedroom sharing thing.

I learned early on with this Judge to not speak unless spoken to so I sit in the proceedings and just kind of nod at her because she really gets the case and most everything that comes out of her mouth is exactly the same as the thought going through my head. She understands that it would be detrimental to move this child to anywhere but her grandmother's house. And she understands that if the grandmother does not adopt this child, she will never be adopted, she will be institutionalized the rest of her life and then set out when she turns 18 with probably nothing and no one.

We go to court again next week and I have a feeling that there will be two hours of yelling off the record and three hours of yelling on the record because the social workers just don't get it and arrived at the place where my CASA kid lives without telling her therapist or her attorney or me or anyone and brought along a potential foster parent and introduced the child to this foster parent, telling her that her grandmother is just not ready to have her come live there.

When I visited my CASA kid a few weeks ago before the last progress hearing we were reminiscing about how she used to go AWOL from the place where she lives but she doesn't anymore and she told me that she owes that all to her Grandmother who taught her about the consequences of her actions. She also told me to tell the Judge that she wants to live with her Grandmother. After the visit from the social worker and the foster parent, her therapist told me that her behavior has regressed - that she is having tantrums and refusing to do her homework because, what the heck, she doesn't have to follow their rules, she's going to be leaving to go live with the foster parent lady.

I went to see her yesterday and expected to see an emotionally traumatized kid. The first thing she said to me, though, was "Guess what? My social worker came the other day with a really, really nice lady who's going to be my foster mother and guess what? She has a pool!" I asked her if she was sure she wanted to leave the place where she is currently living and she said "Yeah, I've been here a long time." I said, "So you want me to tell the Judge that you want to live with this lady." She said, "Oh yeah, she said I'm going to have my own room." And she did say to tell the Judge that when her grandmother is ready she would like to go live with her.

The thing is that the place where she is living now has it all. They have an on-site school that caters to her special needs. They have nurses who make sure she takes her meds. They have a psychiatrist who comes every month and monitors those meds. She has an on-site therapist who she talks to several times a week and they have also provided her grandmother with a family therapist who is teaching grandmother all the parenting skills she needs to work with this child. The people at this place have known this child for a long time and are invested in her future. Their hope was that the child would move in with grandmother in the summer but continue to attend their summer school (to which they would provide the transportation) to make the transition less abrupt. All this effort of coordination and single service provider will be lost if the child is moved to a foster home.

I have to go write my report for next week's progress hearing now.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Where There's Smoke

My eye doctor works out of two offices, one within walking distance of my house, the other not too far away in Burbank. I saw him on Thursday near my house and he wanted a follow-up appointment for Friday afternoon in his office in Burbank.

This worked out perfectly as I had been invited to have lunch with a group of people in Burbank and lunch and an eye doctor appointment were good diversions from the hell of not being able to read. As I left the lunch and headed for the doctor's office, I noticed a lot of smoke coming off of the hills up ahead. As I got closer, I could see the flames.

I turned on Newsradio just as the announcer said "And now for a special report on the fire in the Cahuenga Pass." I naively took this to mean that there would be a newsperson doing some actual reporting on the news that was the fire but instead they went to a hysterical woman named Maria who was screaming incoherently something like, "OH MY GOD, I never seen anything like this. There is fire. And it is so close and OH MY GOD. I have never seen anything like this. It is red. The fire. And OH MY GOD."

By this time I had pulled into a strip mall as I had time before the doctor and needed to stop at the ATM. There were several people standing outside looking at the fire, taking pictures with their cellphones, and talking on the cellphones. And I realized that one of them could be Maria. And then I realized that from my vantage point I was just as qualified as Maria to call up Newsradio and "report" on the fire and, if I did, I could say things like 'OH MY GOD, I just got my car washed and now it is being covered with ashes from the fire" or "OH MY GOD, I have a damaged cornea and the smoke from this fire is just about killing my eye." In the end, I decided not to unleash my news coverage of the fire on the listening public. I did, however, take this picture with my cell phone.

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Eyes of March

So I was innocently sitting in my hotel room in the desert on Tuesday night, watching TV, when it felt like something like an eyelash had fallen into my left eye. I looked, saw nothing, tried to flush my eye but the uncomfortable feeling remained. It was late, I went to sleep, thinking that whatever it was would work itself out by morning.

It was still there in the morning. But I soldiered on....Julie and I went to aerobics class and then to the spa. By this time I decided that what I was having was an allergy attack from the weird weather even though I have never really had an allergy attack before. At the spa, I went into the eucalyptus sauna and the mineral baths thinking this would all be good for my allergy problem. Julie and I went out to breakfast and then I drove home.

It was 2 1/2 hours of discomfort and pain. While driving, I called my eye doctor's office and espoused my theory about the allergies and is it possible to have allergies in one eye? They said that it is, especially with this weird weather, that I should take Claritin and if the pain was still there I could come see the doctor in the morning. They said as long as my vision wasn't effected, it wasn't an emergency.

I got home, took a Clairitin and went to sleep. In the morning, things were worse. I went into the doctor. They did a vision test and I guess I am no judge of vision impairment because I could not see the bottom line with my left eye anymore. It turns out I had scratched my cornea. At first, the doctor could not find anything in my eye to cause the cornea scratch but then he said "Okay, I am going to flip your eyelid over and see if there is anything there." I said, "I wish you hadn't told me that." He said, "Oh, wait, look, there is a foreign object in there." He pulled it out and showed me - it was a little black thing, the size of a poppy seed, if that. One little poppy seed sized thingy, causing all that pain and trauma. He gave me two different kinds of eye medication to use every couple of hours and told me to go home and lie down. I have to go see him again today. I guess he is taking this seriously.

All I will say is that not being able to read is my idea of Hell, always has been, but on the positive side I am now the most well rested person in all of the world as I went to sleep yesterday afternoon and did not wake up until 7:00 this morning. There really was nothing else I could do.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Spring Break

So I thought I would get away for a little fun in the sun, my semi-annual trip to the desert, but those are not even raindrops you are seeing in this picture. Julie and I took a field trip up to the high desert and as we walked into our first shop, snow started falling. We ducked into one of my favorite coffee houses, Water Canyon Coffee, and sat upstairs, watched the snow, had some soup and coffee. I have seen falling snow exactly three times in my whole life and two of those times were this year. I do believe this is proof that the globe is warming. Or that I am doing a lot more traveling in the winter.

The snow stopped and we decided to continue to go up the mountain to Pioneer Town. Julie pointed to the outdoor temperature gauge in her car and told me to let her know if it got to 32 degrees because, if so, we would turn back immediately before everything would turn to ice and she did not feel like slipping and sliding down the road. I watched the temperature drop from 41 to 35 but we did not need to turn back. And I am so glad we didn't. I had never been to Pioneer Town before. There was a fire there last year (or was it the year before?) and the snow on the burnt out trees with the stunning rock formations was worth the risk of getting caught in a snowstorm.

On the way here I stopped again at the Morongo Casino and proceeded to lose $20. There is a casino across the street from my hotel and this morning on my walk I stopped in. I accidentally sat down at a $1 video poker machine rather than my usual 25 cent machine. I immediately won $60. It proves what I know to be true but am always too chicken to put into practice - you can only win big if you bet big.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Uncomplicated Grief

I am finally at the point where I can put most of my dad's files in the garage but last night I wanted to have one last look before deciding what should stay in the house, what should be thrown away, what stored. It wasn't a particularly easy day to begin with. It was my niece and nephew's one year birthday party and of course there were several mentions of my dad. My Uncle pointed out that it was the first time he had walked into my sister's house without seeing my dad in his scooter parked in the family room. My sister's mother-in-law said she really believed that his spirit was there watching. And don dokken gave a gift of magnetic yiddish phrases to the mother of the birthday kids and everyone agreed that no one would have loved those more than my dad. Also, for some reason, I woke up that morning and got myself furious all over again with the people who had transporated the flowers from my dad's grave to his house on the day of the funeral against our wishes.

In going through the files, I found the notebook that the hospice kept that for some reason we were told not to destroy for two years. I had never read the pages written by the hospice people on the day before and the day of his death. The nurse who was with us when he died wrote that he died peacefully with his family unit with him including me, his next of kin. She wrote that the family expressed "uncomplicated grief." I did not know what that meant but I thought it made us sound so....simple?

So of course I googled "uncomplicated grief" and learned that uncomplicated grief is actually "normal" grief and that us expressing "uncomplicated grief" meant this:

The first phase is one of shock. This phase begins immediately after a loss and it generally lasts two weeks or less. During this period the survivor is often in a state of numbed disbelief. Somatic symptoms include crying, dysphagia, chest tightness, nausea, and a sensation of abdominal emptiness. Individuals may feel lost, dazed, stunned, helpless, and disorganized.
Evidence from the files going out to the garage show that the "helpless and disorganized" part is not true. Looking back, I can not believe the business I took care of on the day that he died. I won't paste in the next two phases of uncomplicated grief but I will say that we are still uncomplicated in our grieving and right on track and that my anger at the flower people is all part of the Phase 2 process. I am so glad I found this as both my doctor and the pamphlet from my health insurance provider led me to believe that all this nonsense should have been over with at the six month point on March 8th.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Killjoy Me

I had a visit with my CASA kid today. We were sitting outside, it was kind of chilly, so she suggested we go to the cafeteria. She said there was a new machine there and you could get hot chocolate. Except it cost 25 cents. I told her I thought I could spring for that. We got there and it was a machine that dispenses fancy coffee and hot chocolate and it was not 25 cents, it was 50 cents, but I bought it for her anyway along with a Chai for myself which was so sweet that I had to throw it away.

We went back outside with our hot drinks and after a short while she told me that the doctor had told her that she needs to exercise and lose some weight and he had suggested that she walk around their campus twice a day. So we went for a walk and I soon realized that this was not really about following the doctor's advice but was all about showing off her hot chocolate. I realized this because walking around the path was definitely the place to see and be seen and every time we passed someone she would say, "Hey. Have you tried the hot chocolate from the new machine? See, I have one right here. My CASA bought it for me. It cost 50 cents." We ended up walking around the campus three times instead of the prescribed two so she could share the joy with as many people as possible. And not one of them had tried the hot chocolate from the new machine but everyone agreed that it looked really good.

I could not, however, stop myself from telling her at the end of the visit that, if she was really serious about losing weight, hot chocolate was not the best choice of beverages. She looked shocked and really puzzled and I think that until that moment she truly believed that hot chocolate had the same nutritional value as spinach. However something must have clicked because after thinking for a moment the puzzled look disappeared and she started listing all the kids who live there who are diabetic.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Rudy Update

I know Rudy looks all dejected and sad in this picture as opposed to the picture in the previous post where he is at least much more alert. Well, I think he is getting kind of depressed. You see, he has developed a "seroma" which happens a lot after surgery especially to active dogs. It is basically the surgical site filling up with fluid. I took him to the ER the other night and they drained it but the next day it started filling up again. Look, here's a picture:

Nasty, huh? I took Rudy to see his wacky vet today who said there is nothing to do. There's no point in draining it again. He also gave me the news that we will be postponing the removal of the stitches for another couple of days. That news, coupled with the just as distressing rumors that Veronica Mars is going to be cancelled, is really making for sad times at our house.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Rudy Conehead Aviator Braveheart

Rudy had surgery to remove a "large mass" near his ribcage last week. Actually, he had more than that. They also cleaned his teeth, did some sort of gum procedure, did an ultrasound and a urinanalysis. And he wasn't even under general anesthetic, just sedated and the paperwork said something about "morphine."

A new (to us) vet performed the surgery. Rudy had the same vet since two days after I got him and, I won't go into too much detail, but basically she stopped being a good communicator. And also the last time we went in there was undigested dog food vomit behind the reception desk. When I pointed it out to the people that work there, they said the vomit was from the vet's dog that he vomited up his food and then ate the vomited food. "That's just what he does," the receptionist said. Which is fine, I guess, but it seems a little uncouth to just let your dog vomit at your workplace.

The new vet is a bit of a drive but came highly, highly recommended. His associate had done the initial consultation so when we went in for the surgery, the vet was meeting him for the first time. I felt like I was on an episode of Grey's Anatomy as the technician introduced the doctor to Rudy, "This is Rudy. He is here today for a mass removal and a teeth cleaning. There is also a possible issue of crystals." The doctor looked at Rudy and said, "Hello, Howard Hughes." He then checked him out and took him away saying, "Don't worry, we'll move him into the 21st century." I thought he was a bit eccentric but in a good way.

I did not understand the Howard Hughes reference until I picked him up and then I was mortified. It was Rudy's long nails which they had trimmed in a way that Rudy's nails have never been trimmed before. They were short, neat, and perfect. Rudy was loopy for the first few days after the surgery but he adjusted well to his conehead. For some reason it calms him down. Without it on, he paces. Since he can't see anything with it on, he usually just curls up and goes to sleep.

We went for a one week follow up yesterday. And here's where I have to brag about Rudy's apparent genius. The two other times we were there when they called his name they immediately took him to the scale to be weighed. So this time when they came to take him he walked right to the scale and sat down. They said that he is a very smart boy. His gums look great but the surgery site is swollen. The doctor is not worried, though. I said (and I do not know why) "Well, he seems great. He just seems very happy." And the doctor said, "Well, he's very, very brave. Far braver than I could ever be." I am not sure how to take that especially since I was just making toast and Rudy bolted out of the kitchen in fear when the toast popped.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Side 'Do

Many years ago I was working for a company that had casual Fridays and one casual Friday I was unexpectedly called into a meeting with the CFO. I was ranting and raving to the guy who had been called to go with me (he was a dweeb then but is now a big mucky muck who I sometimes read about in the business section of the paper) about how I would have dressed differently if I knew this meeting was going to be happening. The dweeb/future mucky muck was quite amused. As much as I tried to explain the difference between just seeing someone and having to be taken seriouly in a meeting, he could not understand what the difference would have been if I had just run into the CFO in the hall. Bottom line, he said, I shouldn't have dressed in a way I did not want to be seen. Period. And I do know it is true that some people put on full make-up and get all decked out just to go to the market but that clearly is not me.

Last weekend I was reading Crazy Aunt Purl and she mentioned the "side ponytail" in her post. I hadn't thought about side ponytails in a long time and for some reason thought it would be "fun" to put my hair up into one. Because I can. So I did and then I went out for my walk.

I was heading back home when I realized that someone was running after me and calling my name. I did not hear him initially because I was rocking out to Tom Jones singing "What's New Pussycat?" on my iPod. It was a client. We started chatting about weighty matters like PC versus Mac and whether one of his employees was a good manager when I caught sight of my shadow and remembered that my hair was in a side ponytail. OMG, I was talking to a big client with my hair in a side ponytail. Mortified. The only saving grace was that the rest of me actually looked okay.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Resourcefulness And Weird Dreams

I got an email yesterday which had my dad's name in all caps as the subject. It was from a man in Tennessee who was not sure he had the right person but who had met my parents on a cruise and had just found out my dad had passed away. He wanted to know how to get in touch with my mother and wanted to offer his condolences. He said he had only known my dad for a few years but considered him a friend and would have liked to have spent more time with him.

The most intriguing thing about the email was the address to which it was sent. It was sent to my business but not even to my own business email but to the general "info" address. That address is only on my website and on my brochures. So either my dad was handing out my brochures on the cruise (which would only be possible if I had given him any which I did not) or the guy googled me. Although I can barely find myself via googling - a lot of people have my same name. Plus how did he know my name? I did write back and asked him how he found me. I hope he responds.

And how did he hear that my dad died? It could be he called my dad's phone number. My sister and I, because we are cuckoo, asked the people who rented my dad's place if they would keep his phone number. They were amenable but then said the phone company wouldn't let them. So we MADE my dad's assistant work her magic with the phone company and it was all good. We have known that number for 30 years and we could not bear the idea of letting another thing go. And we are cuckoo.

I am sure that receiving the email, the weird death scenes on Grey's Anatomy last night, and trying to figure out what to put on my dad's marker led to the strange dream I had last night. I won't go into all the weird detail but basically, in the dream, I went to find my dad's unmarked grave and there was a piece of cardboard that had his last name which I moved and my dad got up and he was alive. I believe we went shopping and he was on the cell phone calling people and telling them he was back. I pointed out to him that he was walking and didn't need his scooter. He said something very angry about all those wasted years on the scooter. Then we went back to his condo. The tenants didn't live there. It was mainly empty. We went into the room that used to be the office and somehow he got blood on the carpet and I thought about how his assistant was going to be upset because she had just got the carpet cleaned. Then he was watching TV with some headphones and he started to sound very angry about the sound quality.

Random things happened. I found a cigarette butt and got upset with him for smoking (I think this came in because I had been talking to someone about the people she worked with who took a cigarette break every hour. Whenever I see people smoking I think about how my dad quit when he was in his forties and still got lung cancer and emphysema and I want to say "I see an oxygen tank in your future.) At one point I was going to go into the living room to check the phone messages to see if any of the people he called had called back. He asked for a catheter. I could sense he was fading and I took his cold, cold hand and said "I miss you more than I ever thought possible." And then I woke up.

I knew right away I had a strange dream but it took me a moment to remember. It was really an unpleasant dream because he was not happy at all. He was very curt and angry. And then I got mad at myself because I had spent the whole time we were together worrying about logistics - how were we going to put back together everything we had taken apart? - and hadn't asked the important questions like "what do you want us to write on the marker?"

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