Friday, February 25, 2011

29 Years Ago

The Daddy, mid-1970s.
My favorite photo of him.

Twenty-nine years ago on this day, the Daddy died from a heart attack. He was 76 years old.

Maybe he didn't pick how or where he died, but I think he was happy it wasn't at home where the Mama would've come home to find him after a long, tiring day at work. He was always protective of her.

That day the Daddy decided to go to lunch at the senior center with his good friend Danny, one of the godfathers of mine. The Daddy hadn't been there for quite a long while. He hadn't been feeling well, but those last three days, I was told, he'd been going strong, visiting, babysitting, doing so many of the things he liked to do.

So, there he was sitting at the lunch table. He was bending down for a spoon on the floor, I was told. He was there longer than he should have been.  "Hey, 'Pare (short for compadre), what you doing down there?" called a friend. Then, a scramble to get help for the Daddy. That was it.

While the Daddy was dying, I was sitting in a restaurant over 100 miles away with my new colleagues. It was a lunch to greet the new editors, another woman and myself. All of a sudden, I felt a shiver and a flush go through my body. A feeling of sadness, then relief, then joy. I figured at the time it was just the emotion of having finally been hired to my dream job. Nothing more. 

Back at the office, I was told by the company president that the Daddy had died. Later, when I thought back at that moment, I knew it was the Daddy floating by to say good-bye one last time.

Today, the husband and I bought a pot of gardenias for the Mama. She has been a widow for 29 years. Flowers are nice for graves. They are so much nicer for the living. 

The spirit of Daddy, I am sure, is having himself a ball right now.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

T is for the 23rd

Today's letter is T.
For more T posts,
please click here.

As some of you dear readers know, on the 23rd of each month, the husband and I run away from home and office to become tourists, adventurers, and slackers for the moment. For February's special date, we headed over to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve on the Monterey Peninsula, just south of Carmel by the Sea. Neither of us had ever been there.

We saw quite a lot in the two short hikes that we did.  I took 90 photos, more or less. No, no. Don't groan or gasp. I'm not going to post them all. Only a few. Just to tease you. If you ever make it to Monterey, you'll have to go see Pt. Lobos for yourself. It's well worth it.

Pt. Lobos was established to protect
the Monterey Cypress trees.

Pt. Lobos is one of the only
two cypress tree reserves in the world.

See how flat they get.
The husband says it's because of the wind.

This little fellow sat patiently
for his photo to be taken.

It wasn't till I looked at this photo that I saw
the elephant seal on the rock.
I was too busy watching
an otter swimming just below that rock.

Kelp or mermaids on the beach?

The water was so green and clear here.
If only it was warm enough to swim in.

Diving is permitted at a couple of coves in the reserve.
I've read that Point Lobos is one of the best places in California
to see underwater nature.

For  info about Pt. Lobos, check out these two web sites:
Point Lobos Foundation
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Irresistibly Sweet Award

Alice Audrey gave me that award up there. It was unexpected, and very sweet of her. Thank you, Alice!

So, now it's my turn to play it forward.
The Rules:
List 4 Guilty Pleasures
Reading the afternoon (or evening) away
Buying a mocha latte from Vertigo Cafe
Watching yet another movie made from a Jane Austen book
Taking a nap 
Reward other bloggers
Carmen's Chronicles
JDaniel4's Mom
Quicky Pickings
Widdershins World
Irresistibly Sweethearts, check out sweet Alice's post, if you're not sure about how to handle these blog awards. It surely turned on a light for me.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

S is for Sssssssssssssssssspam

Today's letter is S.
For more S posts,
please click here.

Congratulations are in order.  Maybe. I am a new multi-millionaire.

Rather, I would be a multi-millionaire if I respond to these e-mails.
  • Morgan David & Associates from Bristol England stated I am the beneficiary of over 8 million pounds. The firm broke the delicate news about an unknown patron with  "Dear Sir/Madam."

  • Chan from China, a former investment banker, wrote that his former employers have asked him to contact me and let me know that if I do not accept $15.7 million dollars from an American account, they will keep the money forever.  All I need to do is give them my phone number and date of birth.

  • Mr. Oyi John, of the Federal High Court of Nigeria, wrote that I must prove I am not dead. Otherwise, someone named Mr. Jones McBolt will transfer $2.5 million from my account into his. There is a hitch. How shall I prove that I am the one and only living Charbel Aad?

  • Mrs. Anthonia Emma has been instructed to pay me $1.5 million. It will be paid in amounts of $5,000, three times a day until the end of the year. And guess what? This same message was sent to me by the Western Union Office.

  • A British citizen named Mr. George Clesse, working as a financial manager for the Chevron British Oil Company, wants to strike a secret deal with me. Shh! He says he is willing to give me half of $13.1 million from a client in Mexico, with whom he has lost touch and who he thinks was murdered by drug lords. All I have to do is contact a certain London bank and so forth and so on.

  • Olarn Chaipravat sent me a top secret message. So secret and so long, I have no idea how much I will be receiving. I just must make sure I don't tell anyone. He did say "Good luck."

  • London barrister Ken Cole sent me an email because my surname is similar to his deceased client and no closest of kin has stepped up to claim $32 million. I must send him my contact information tout de suite so he and I can get our money ASAP.

  •  Yahoo/msn sent me a brief congratulatory note saying that I have won a computer balloting sweepstakes. Just email it back and I will soon receive an undisclosed sum. Whoopee!

  • Some unknown person wrote that I have won 815,950 euros in a Spanish sweepstake and all information could be found on the attached Word file. I just can't decide if I want to chance getting my computer possibly infected. Do I really want to be stuck with euros?

  • Someone named MARIA CRISTINA GAMBOA just wrote to get in touch with her pronto. A very legitimate transaction awaits me.

  • Madam Janina Tom is dying and she wants her $$ to go to someone who would be willing to meet her conditions. If I accept, I would give 50% to charity and use the other 50 percent to invest as I see fit and to "support and establish" her house girl when she comes to meet me.  Madam, huh?

  • Mr. James Schoenberg, secretary (U.N.) wrote that he has $2.3 million to give me for overdue payments. FedEx will deliver my $$ once I give him the essential contact information.

  • The Yahoo International Lottery in Thailand sent me a notice that I am one of 25 people who have won $1 million. If it's from Yahoo, it must be legitimate.
So, there you go. I could be a multi-millionaire.

Unfortunately, and not so regrettably, I chose to respond to these e-mails by forwarding them to

Just think.
I could've bought myself

a bunch of these boots—one for

each day of the year.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I picked up The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows,  at the bookstore early last year because the title caught my eye. Really delightful, don't you think? But, I put it down when I read "the German occupation" on the back cover. Let's face it, I don't like to read depressing tales anymore. A few months after that encounter, I read a review about it that made me think "maybe, I'll read it." Using correspondence to move the plot forward intrigued me. Now flash forward to my birthday last December. What do you know? A friend gifted me a copy of "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society." Thanks, again, evil2win.

The setting: London and the Island of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands in the English Channel.

The time: Several months after the end of WWII.

The characters:  Juliet Ashton, an author, and the people of Guernsey.

The story: Juliet no longer wants to be thought of as a "light-hearted journalist." She wants to write something more serious, but doesn't know what. Then one day she gets a letter from Dawnsey Adams who's asking for help to find a London book shop where he can order more books by Charles Lamb. He had found her address in a book, by Lamb, she once owned that is now his. Juliet writes back and in no time she is corresponding with Dawnsey and several other members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

The Guernsey folks had started the society as a cover-up for a lie they had told to  German soldiers when they were out after curfew. The truth was that they were eating a roast pig which they were not allowed to have. Charming and mysterious, right? Through their letters, Juliet learns little by little about what the Guernsey people's lives were like under the German soldiers during the war.  Horror, dread, and serious concern with joy, laughter, and love snuck in. As Juliet comes to love the Guernsey people and feel like she knows them through their correspondence, so did I.

Juliet decides to write a book about the Guernsey people, which, of course, means she must go visit the island. Just before she goes off, the love that is in her life, essentially gives her an ultimatum in the form of a marriage proposal. He sees it as him versus Guernsey. To me, the question was whether Juliet would choose to live a life of hedonistic pleasure or a life unshallow?

My thoughts: I liked the story. Pure and simple.  Near the beginning, I got confused about whether I was reading a novel or correspondence between actual people. And, even when I knew better, I still wondered.

The book has two authors. Ms. Shaffer is the main author. Unfortunately, she passed away before she was finished. Her niece, Ms. Barrows, an author herself, completed it for her. Since I have no idea who did what, I can only say that Ms. Barrows was successful.

FYI: This title fulfills both of these 2011 reading challenges in which I'm participating. They're both still open, if you're interested.

For more info,
click here.

Click here
for more info.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Today's letter is R.
For more R posts,
please click

I'm sure this happens to you.

You're walking along in the real outdoors. You know the type—where the landscaping was done by Mother Nature. Your being gets attuned with the reality of what's around you. The sky, the topography, the fauna, the flora. Beautiful, oh, so beautiful.

Then, maybe you move your head to the left or right. Or, perhaps a slight change in lighting occurs. Something shifts in some weird way that suddenly the natural scene takes on a different reality.

Do you see a dead stump or
a creepy figure with a rodent crawling up his body?

Do you see a small grove of old oak trees,
or a battle between foes just horribly ended?

Ah, maybe the reality is: You need to get more sleep.

Or, maybe the mama's sense is right: "You have too much imagination."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Book Review: Homicide in Hardcover

Homicide in Hardcover by Kate Carlisle was a very fun and quick read. It's been a long while since I've read a book in one day. No, not all at once. I would've if I wasn't so responsible. Ha!

Brooklyn Wainwright is a bookbinder who lives in San Francisco. She attends a book event where she reunites with her mentor Abraham who had gotten miffed when Brooklyn decided to start her own business. An hour later, he is dead and Brooklyn becomes a suspect. She also is hired to complete the bookbinding job on a very old copy of Faust that Abraham was about to start working on. The copy supposedly has a curse on it and by all the misfortunes that fall on Brooklyn, it may be true. Brooklyn is worried that her mom may be the murderer, so she starts sleuthing on her own.

Thrown into the troubled mix is Derek, a handsome British security consultant who has been hired to protect the book. Lots of sparked dialogue go on between Brooklyn and Derek. Also, interesting to the tale is Brooklyn's parents, who still live in a commune. When the mom becomes stressed in the moment, she zones out everyone and everything around her by instantly chanting.

Homicide in Hardcover is the first title of Ms. Carlisle's Bibliophile Mystery series. When I finished it, I wished I had the next book in the series. So far three books have been published and another one will be coming out in May. I read at Ms. Carlisle's blog that the publisher plans to publish a title every six months. Wow.

FYI: This title fulfills both of these 2011 reading challenges in which I'm participating. They're both still open, if you're interested.

Click here for more info.

Click here for more info.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Mama's Banana Grove

A few weeks ago, the Mama and I cut back her banana trees and she stripped off the dried leaves. A banana blossom had actually made it through the frosty days. It was quite yummy.

The Mama decided to leave quite a lot of the trunks in tact. Usually, she likes to hack them almost to the ground. It shall be interesting to see how tall her tiny groves grows. Here's a close-up of how happy part of it looked last year.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Q is for Questioning

Today's letter is Q.
For more Q posts,
click here.

A couple of letters ago, O to be exact, I griped about the high medical bills we got for the 10 stitches in the husband's finger at our local emergency department. They amounted to over $3,000 for about 45 minutes of medical attention. And, we were there for five hours. The doctor's bill was over $1,600. Man! I thought it would be about $300.

After getting the doctor's bill, we questioned all the charges, including the hospital's, which we had already paid. I talked with the emergency department director, who after trying to feed me the corporate line finally listened and understood my complaint. She became outraged at how much the emergency medical service, with which the hospital contracts, was charging. She told me that if we write a letter, she'd be sure to investigate our case.

So, that's what we did. We did our homework and learned that the contractor pays temporary emergency doctors who work at our hospital about $130 per hour. Why then did the company charge us $1,600 for the 25 minutes that the doctor spent with the husband? Makes your head spin, huh? Forget about saying supplies and equipment. That was covered in the hospital's bill.

The whole time we were sitting in the emergency department, the husband was applying pressure to his finger. Except for the intake nurse giving him a bandage, no other medical expert looked at his finger until the doctor saw him. So, how did the hospital come up with charging us over $900 for sitting on two chairs in the patient's room? Okay, occasionally, the husband sat on the bed.

We wrote a three-page letter with attached exhibits and sent our package to the hospital's gatekeeper of patients relations, as well as copies to the emergency department director, the hospital CEO, every member on the hospital board, and the contractor, which is based in Pennsylvania. You bet, we like to cover all our bases.

Yesterday, we got two results after a week's wait. First, the contractor slashed the doctor's bill by 40 percent. Hurrah!

Second, the medical director of the local emergency department spoke with the husband over the phone. It was a long conversation. The doctor's job, of course, was to tell us that the medical community is forced to follow the system in place. The husband firmly and calmly told the doctor that his answer was not acceptable. He let the medical director know that the local medical community needs to figure something to make their services affordable to patients, particularly those hurting financially in this economy. The hospital is the only game in town for emergencies, after all.

The husband also talked specifics, for which the medical director had no answers (yet), such as:
  • Why was there a redundancy of charges by the hospital and the contractor?
  • Why did it take so long for the husband to receive medical attention after he was placed in a patient's room?
  • Why does the contractor charge patients such high doctor rates?
  • Why did the hospital give us  a 20 percent discount when its contractor gave us a 40 percent discount for the same emergency management level?
The husband thanked the medical director for calling, but he told the director that he wants the director's answers in writing. I'm so proud of the husband.

The moral of the story: We don't give in to something that we think is unfair. We have to question the institutions. How could we live with ourselves, otherwise?