Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I know I'm a day early but I've got 4 pies to bake this afternoon - 2 pumpkin, 2 apple. Made my cranberry sauce last night and all the cookies "the kids" expect when they arrive. I've got my lemon bundt cake (and vanilla ice cream) at the ready too. Thanksgiving is all about the desserts for me since I'm a baker.

I was going to "do it all" this year but decided to let family help out. Why make myself crazy? Husband will do his famous deep-fried turkey (no, it's not greasy); my youngest brother & his better half will bring salad; niece & nephew-in-law from Oregon are making the sweet potatoes and bringing our NEW BABY to his first Thanksgiving feast; other niece & fiancée are making Guy Fieri's garlic mashed potatoes; ex-SIL & husband are bringing the appetizers (yes, we are a civilized bunch). I will complete the menu with my legendary sauteed brussels sprouts, turkey gravy and Mom's apple-sage dressing. Some cousins and dear friends will join us around our table again this year too.

I'm thankful for all the blessings, expected and unexpected, our family has received this year. I'm thankful we can gather together and enjoy one another's company - and like it. No matter what life throws our way, we will always have each other, and no one and no thing can ever take that away.

I'm thankful for my blog friends as well, although we will probably never meet, you are an important piece of the puzzle that is my life. I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and hope you are able to spend it with people who mean the most to you. Take care.

Friday, October 28, 2011

R.I.P. Uncle Gilbert

Received the news last night that Uncle Gilbert passed away. He was cremated and his ashes will be interned in a Veteran's cemetery in the Central Valley (CA). A memorial service to be held soon. Here's my April 2011 post about his illness:
Impending death is not an easy event to deal with.

Mr. itsme’s Uncle Gilbert was told by his Doctors to go home, put your affairs in order and enjoy whatever time is left. He’s stopped all treatments like chemo and has stopped taking all medications (relating to cancer) too. Uncle Gilbert is very aware that his declining health is leading him towards death. He faces this fact every second of his life now starting with the moment he found out his cancer was terminal, but his positive attitude and childlike gratitude is an inspiration to me.

Because there are 7 brothers and sisters, the family decided to have a luncheon at a local restaurant. With one or two exceptions, every family member was in attendance.

When we first got the invitation I felt a little uncomfortable by the whole thing. Would it be awkward? Would it be maudlin? What do you say when you arrive “You look good for an almost dead guy." And what do you say when it’s time to leave “Take care, see you soon?” And to the other relatives “See you at the funeral.”

I was surprised that the most important thing I came away with was to make Uncle Gilbert’s passing as peaceful and happy as possible. It is up to us, the family, to be his net of support. Too many times I’ve seen family members overwhelmed with their own grief and instead of providing a joyful atmosphere, they generate an atmosphere of gloom and depression. The luncheon and gathering to talk and reminisce about all the things the family loved and would always remember about Uncle Gilbert was an excellent activity, for him and for us. Lots of pictures were taken, old stories told, and yes, a few tears were shed. A few beers were cracked also.

Life is precious and fleeting, enjoy.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Occupy Wall Street"

Something amazing happened on September 17, 2011, one thousand people began a march through the streets of New York City to protest social and political inequality and corporate greed. Participants of all ages, all races, all religions, all political persuasions, united in the belief that the middle class is being screwed. This march, now called “Occupy Wall Street,” has spread like a wild fire all over the US and now, even to the UK.

One thing is clear, whether you agree with these folks or not, “Wall Street” (investment bankers, millionaires & billionaires) keep getting richer and richer, while “Main Street” (teachers, the struggling middle class & average Joes) are getting poorer and poorer. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that bankers and hedge fund managers should be held responsible for all the ills of the world; it’s that Wall Street has become emblematic of an entire economic and political system that no longer seems to have the best interests of most Americans at heart. While Wall Street was bailed out of a crisis created by their own greed, Main Street was, and still is, suffering and no one is offering us a bail out.

What I think the “Occupy Wall Street” folks have figured out is that there is no voice in current American politics for the average person, the so-called “99%” of us who make huge economic contributions to this nation and who deserve better treatment. Many of our so-called political leaders say the protesters are not politically cohesive and have no specific set of demands or changes to accomplish (and this may seem true at the moment) but it's ridiculous to say they don't stand for anything. Only proves to me that they still aren't listening.

I admire that the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters have the courage to make transforming our country their #1 obligation. As long as we put survival first rather than patriotism, the moneyed power elite have control over us. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Monroe, John Hancock and Paul Revere all knew this. This is what will change the world.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

California's New "Dream Act" Law

While I believe that everyone deserves equal opportunity, I must disagree with this law. How are we funding education for illegal immigrants while we cut funding for public education for grades K-12 (the UC and the CSU too)? Our schools are ranked 30th in the nation and 43rd in per-student spending. It has become increasingly difficult for legal residents of California to get financial aid for college, so how can Governor Brown justify spending money that the state supposedly doesn't have on financial aid for illegal immigrants? The educational goals of legal citizens are being compromised in order to serve the interests of illegal residents of California, not to mention that a legal citizen from out-of-state gets to pay more in tuition then an illegal resident. (Isn’t that nice?) It is an injustice that will continue to set back many innocent, struggling legal students in California by making it even harder to receive financial aid.

Under current law, illegal immigrant students who have graduated from a California high school and can prove they're on the path to legalize their immigration status can pay resident tuition rates. This new law, which goes into effect January 2013, will allow illegal students to apply for state aid. Seems to me that this not only undermines current immigration laws but may actually encourage more illegal immigration by granting access to state resources reserved for legal residents, as well as creating an entitlement program for the thousands of illegals looking for a way to stay in the country.

I rarely agree with the Republicans on any issue but why am I beginning to believe that maybe California isn’t so broke after all?

Monday, October 10, 2011

What a Road Trip!

I told you I'd be back!!! Thanks for leaving the light on . . .

Mr itsme and I left Saturday, September 17th, in a rented car for Petersburg, Illinois. We were going to meet up with my newly-found half-brother and his wife at the home of his oldest son, my nephew (who newly-found me on his wife and two darling little girls. We drove through Nevada, Utah (spent our first night in Salt Lake City), Wyoming, Nebraska (spent our second night in Lincoln), the very tip of Kansas, Missouri and then into Illinois. Even though each state we drove through had it's own unique character and beauty, I surely know why they are called "the flyover States." We arrived at my nephew's place just in time for dinner: BBQ steaks! We did bring a case of California wine with us so we knew we'd be welcome.

During that week we went to Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site, a reconstruction of the village where Abraham Lincoln spent his early adulthood. Residents of Springfield are B-I-G on Abraham Lincoln. We also went to the Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum in downtown Springfield. We got our pictures taken with the entire Lincoln family (wax), it was awesome. Also that day we got our first taste of genuine Chicago-style hot dogs: like a salad on a bun. The only thing missing was the neon green relish I was expecting. It's "against the law" to put ketchup on your hot dog in Illinois, so watch yourself.

Another day we went wine tasting at Hill Prairie Winery not far from my nephew's place. The winery is surrounded by restored native Illinois prairie grasses that have been around since the time of the settlers and the advent of the steel plow. They boast over 15 wines, mainly on the sweeter side, but the winery also is a year-round host of Mystery Theaters, a huge calendar of live music entertaiment weekends and festivals. We had a great time and came away with a case of wine to take home. That day the food experience was a "horseshoe." My arteries started hardening just reading the menu - I decided on the Italish beef - but my brother had a ground beef "horseshoe" and my nephew had a buffalo chicken "horseshoe" . . . go here to read about the food and restuarant "horseshoes" Quite an experience. Adam Richmond "Man vs Food" has been here I believe.

My nephew's "place" is over 12 acres in the middle of nowhere and we spent lots of time on the porch in rocking chairs star-gazing - it's amazing how many stars us city dwellers can't see because we're surrounded by all those city distractions. A great time was had by all, getting to know each other a little more and making plans for future visits.

On our trip home we stopped at the Bonneville Salt Flats (I stood ankle deep in salt) and watched the sunrise over the Great Salt Lake. Because we had to make the trip short, we took notes on where to go when we come back through with our travel trailer, which hopefully will be sooner than later. It was a quick trip but being able to spend time with family was worth every moment.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Going on Hiatus Too

Like our hiating friend bob, except without the hernia & truss (whatever THAT was about). Seriously, I'll be back on Monday, September 26th with stories of our road trip to Petersburg, Illinois. Now that I finally know how to post pictures (!), I'll have some to share then also.

Until the 26th, leave the light on for me.

Meet the New Generation

Finally got to meet the newest member of our family last night, Dylan Michael (5 weeks). Had a big family gathering at the new Grandma & Grandpa's house, it was like Christmas and he was the "star." Words cannot explain how awesome it is to see our family's younger generation continuing family traditions in their own way.
He may have been born in Oregon but he's a "California Dude" through and through.

Showing Great Auntie itsme how to do it - notice he's holding the bottle - it doesn't get any better than this. We are blessed.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Childbirth via Facebook

We received an awesome addition to our family this afternoon, after 12 hours of labor, Dylan Michael came into the world today at 1:30pm. He weighed in at 8lbs 12oz and is 20.5 inches long. The fact that he's perfect and gorgeous is not the reason for my post.

Dylan was the reason I joined the "Dark Side" (Facebook) last April. Now I know I said I'd never do it but how can anyone keep up with family scattered all over the country without having Facebook? I still hate the artificiality of it but keeping in touch with the Younger Generation, who only text, tweet and "share their status" online can be daunting.

Since 2am this morning I've been getting fast and furious texts and reading posts on Facebook: my niece's water broke, we're on our way to the hopital, dilated 3cm, now 9.5cm, this is it, she's getting the epidural, they can feel the head, we're going to start pushing at 11:30am. I mean I felt like I WAS THERE! Not to mention that literally moments after he was born the pictures started appearing on Facebook (and I uploaded them all immediately to my Flickr account), as well as all the friends and family posting every minute. I actually got very little work done today, but don't tell my boss.

I have to admit, I am awestruck by the technology we have today. Technology that will probably be obsolete a year (or less) from now. Technology my newborn Great-Nephew will probably only read about and will later in his life laugh at as archaic. Texts & tweets will evolve into something else --- and I hope it's wonderful.

I'm happy and tired and teary all at the same time. My family is amazing and blessed, and always the most important thing to me; I can't imagine myself without them. And now this sweet wonderful little boy called Dylan has finally joined us on this planet Earth.

Oh geez, now I have to get a Skype account.........

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Lost Art of People-Watching

I was listening to a talk-show yesterday and the topic of conversation was people-watching. Many were calling in saying that because of the popularity of the Smartphone, the art of people-watching is dead. People are too busy walking around with their eyes down, thumbs punching out text messages and emails that no one really looks at anyone else these days. Being an experienced people-watcher myself, as well as an amateur social scientist of sorts, I take exception to that premise.

People-watching involves unobtrusively studying people - mostly strangers -and making up stories about who they are, where they are coming from, where they are going, what they are thinking, and yes, sometimes even making fun of them (not so they can hear of course).

I was taught the fine art of people-watching as a preteen by my step-mother. She’d take me, my teenage step-sister and infant half-sister to the White Front store - similar to today’s Wal-Mart except there was a huge food-court to the left as you enter the front door - and we’d sit, literally, for hours nursing chocolate cokes making up stories about the more interesting people we’d see. To qualify as “interesting” the person would have to stand out from the rest of the crowd in some way. Maybe it was the color or style of their clothing; were they stylish or completely clueless about fashion? Maybe it was an interesting hairstyle that drew our attention, their mannerisms or an unusual facial feature. Were they appropriately dressed for the weather that day? We’d make up stories about what they did for a living or invent some deep dark secret they were hiding. We’d even try and spot “Doppelgängers,” people who look like people we knew or well-known people like movie stars.

Today, the best places to people-watch are cafes & coffee shops, libraries, bookstores, the beach, sitting on a park bench or waiting for the bus. Wherever you do it, the most important thing is not to look conspicuous. Make it appear that you're already occupied. Look busy by pretending to read something, work on your laptop, or text on your Smartphone (doh!), just don’t just sit and stare. If outside, wear sunglassses so it’s hard to tell where you’re looking.

Like the line in the Simon & Garfunkel song “America” that goes like this
“Laughing on the bus,
Playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said "Be careful his bowtie is really a camera."

Real people watching is harder than it looks and definitely more fun to do with a friend, but there’s a fine line between perverted staring and the simple observation of pedestrians. You have to let go of your stalker tendencies and observe simply for personal enjoyment.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Drug Testing Welfare Recipients

I was recently sent this online article about the Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, wanting to require welfare recipients to be drug tested before receiving public assistance benefits.

At first read, it sounded OK until I realized that, unfortunately, most of the people getting public assistance are single women with children. Not to mention it's already a given in most welfare programs that if a recipient is suspected of using drugs — because of current behavior or past history of abuse — he or she will be referred for treatment or screening. The whole issue began to smack of unreasonable search and seizure to me; just because you’re seeking public benefits doesn’t mean you don’t have the same kind of protection from unreasonable searches as anybody else. If we give our government the right to strip 4th amendment rights from anyone who benefits from public assistance programs, we may ALL live to regret it. Besides, there are plenty of ways to beat a drug test and people that use know that. Focusing on poor people is easy, they rarely fight back.

The obvious question the Florida Governor needs to be asking himself is if all the people in his State have access to enriching schools, resources for higher education and/or training, justice, healthcare, and employment. Seems to me that ensuring these things would be a much better use of the proposed drug testing money.

The phrase "I don't have to pay for their habit" or "Not with my tax dollars" is simply never true. Whether through the government agencies providing financial assistance or the tax dollars paying for the justice system that handles the crime related to drug use, or the cost of cleaning up parks and cities drowning with homeless or unemployed people with addictions, you ARE paying for them and it is just a technicality of the allocation of your money.

Do you want to support the welfare program or pay for the social toll of these violators when they take their problems into the streets? Either way you pay. That is the cost of living in a society.

It also got me to thinking about the wealthiest among us and how we "little people" pay for rich people's drug problems. Sure we do! They run large corporations and while sniffing the magic white powder make big mistakes that cost lives and money. It's just a larger scale abuse.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

That's Vaginal!

"Join the movement to place one incredible word in its rightful place of superiority over all other words."

They say this new advertising campaign by Summer's Eve (yes, the douche people) is going to go viral.

I'm not so sure. I mean I understand the rational behind the campaign: to sell more douche you have to tap into the younger audience and before you can sell them douche you have to get them thinking about and talking about the part of the body involved. As a feminist I like the idea of reclaiming the word "vagina," but I don't like the fact that Summer's Eve pretends to be empowering women when actually their sole purpose is to sell douche.

I do think they've captured "catitude" perfectly though.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Shared Sacrifice

I am posting this for anyone interested: a letter from Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) to President Obama. I signed it and promised to pass it on. Shared Sacrifice

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Mind is Blank

I'll do one of those bob exercises and type whatever comes into my head:

It's raining here today; Winter has returned temporarily.
I ate an almond Snickers bar after lunch.
I still haven't washed my breakfast dishes.
I've been in a real funk lately.
I have four empty water bottles beside me.
I have gone to the ladies room once.
Where has all that water gone?

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

My Alaskan Adventure

I have travelled pretty much all over this fine country of ours –as well as a few places in Canada- and after this, my third visit, I think I’ve finally figured out why I love Alaska so much. I’ve observed that the mindset most Alaskans cherish is one of indifference (and yes, many enjoy making fun of us “cruise ship rats” walking around town and even have secret code names for us). I suppose I could even label Alaskans elitists because no one considers themselves as being part of America - even though every single “Alaskan” I’ve met (except for the Native Americans) is from somewhere else. In truth, most Alaskans refer to the “lower 48” as an entirely different country, and from an Alaskan point-of-view, it really is! Still, I think there is something about this state that draws very independent and eccentric types. Most people don't just "end up" in Alaska, it's a place and a life style you pretty much choose.

For starters, eight months of the year, in most of Alaska, there is snow. I’ve been told stories about how the winters are cruel without exception, but if you weather one, residents claim, you can pride yourself on being able to survive anywhere. I often found myself asking "How can you stand only three hours of sunlight for six months out of the year?" The answer was always one word: Summer. One shop keeper told me that what seems like overnight, the frozen tundra explodes into life and everything turns green. It's actually called "breakup" because it happens so fast but when it does, it leaves no doubt in your mind why mosquitoes are jokingly called the “State Bird.”

I’ll share a few highlights of our trip:

While I didn’t see Russia (dang!), I was told by a local that Little Diomede Island (Alaska) and Big Diomede Island (Russia) are only about 2.5 miles apart so Russia can definitely be seen from Alaska ….. as long as its light out and the weather hasn't reduced visibility below a couple miles. Realistically though, without the aid of some kind of mirage, it's impossible to see mainland Russia from mainland Alaska. So I guess *technically* Ms. Soccer Mom wasn’t a total Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire.

Speaking of Momma Grizzly, there is actually a Sarah Palin store in Skagway. Apparently she lived there when she was a child but locals claim that her home no longer exists. It was a rental and was torn down. Her store carries life-size cardboard figures of her, T-shirts, Sarah Palin paper dolls complete with the $1500 wardrobe bought for her with GOP money, McCain/Palin campaign signs and bumper stickers (had a lot leftover is my guess). Mr. itsme actually went inside but I just couldn’t stomach it and waited outside gnashing my teeth and spitting a lot.

I met and shook hands with Libby Riddles, the first woman and four time winner of the Iditarod sled dog race. She gave a nature talk aboard ship one afternoon and she was AWESOME. Found out how the dogs to be trained to race are chosen, what they eat, and their training regime. She told us what it felt like travelling with only canine companionship the 1,100 miles beginning in Wasilla and ending in Nome. Let me just say here and now that I could never do what she did, even if my life depended on it.

Our cabin was wonderful. We were on deck 9, the Dolphin deck, and had a mini-suite with a balcony that we used a lot. Food on cruise ships is notoriously abundant and outrageously good. I can’t say I had a bad meal in all of our 7 days aboard. Twice we went to the ship’s wine bar, ordered a glass of wine and gorged on free sushi and tapas. And seafood. Words cannot describe all the different kinds of fresh fish we ate (had lamb one night, all other nights it was seafood). There were lots of things to do too. Besides walking around the different Ports of Call, we watched a martini making and ice carving demonstration one day while at sea; had a cooking lesson from the Chef de Cuisine and toured one of the galleys (kitchens). Got to meet the ship’s Captain at a champagne reception one night, found out that he and most of his crew were Italian and the majority of the galley staff were Greek. I finally got to watch the movie “Toy Story 3.” We went on a Pub Tour (our only shore excursion this time around) in Victoria, B.C. and sampled some great microbrews. Canadians do know how to brew beer!

Then it was back to reality as we headed home. I still can’t get used to making my own bed again every morning and I miss the foil-wrapped pieces of chocolate left on my pillow every night. And where is our waiter with my glass of wine and beautiful platters of sushi when I get home from work? At least our three kitty girls were happy to see us!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

I'm Baaaaaaack!

Did anybody miss me?
Did anybody even notice I was gone?

Friday, May 06, 2011

On the Death of Osama bin Laden

I like what the Dalai Lama recently said about the killing of Osama bin Laden, "From a Buddhist perspective of your enemy being your greatest teacher, it was sad." But he also went on to say "Forgiveness doesn't mean forget what happened. If something is serious and it is necessary to take counter-measures, you have to take counter-measures."

While I can never forgive what bin Laden did, I definitely can not forget either. Am I sorry he’s dead? Absolutely not! The United States military was justified in taking his life. I don’t see his killing as an act of revenge, but more of an act of helping prevent future acts he could inspire others to do. If I could be transported back in time and given the opportunity to kill Hitler, knowing the great evil he would do in the world, would I do it? Absolutely!

The thing that’s bothered me about the whole issue is seeing the faces of people on TV, Americans, celebrating his death in the streets. Isn’t this what we condemned “less civilized” countries for doing right after 9/11 when we saw mobs of people in the Middle East, and elsewhere, pumping their fists in the air shouting "Death to America!"?

A subdued sense of justice and gratitude would have been a more appropriate reaction, as well as the right way to separate ourselves from bin Laden. It is bin Laden and his kind who celebrate death.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

James Durbin

If you're watching American Idol these days, you know this name. James Durbin is a "local boy;" born, raised, and educated here in my neck of the woods, 15 miles north in Santa Cruz, CA. I mean, we like breathe the same air when he's in the area. The Santa Cruz music community even nicknamed him "King of the county's karaoke scene" sometime back.

I admit, I don't watch American Idol. OK, once when another local, Lisa Leuschner made it on the show (and lost mainly because Simon thought she was fat) and then was the Grand Marshall in Watsonville's 4th of July parade in 2004. But that was nothing like this. There are huge public gatherings every Wednesday night starting at 8pm at various pizza joints, bars, and BBQ restaurants all over the county (it's aired live on the East Coast, but is tape-delayed for us "Left Coasters).

At 22 years old, Durbin has been called "brash and supremly talented" and has managed to unite the Deadhead & Reggae-loving old Hippies all over the county with his hard-rock and heavy metal style. Give me Rock & Roll over Reggae ANY day.

When he wins this thing (and he will) it'll put a whole new meaning on "local boy makes good." Now that's FAR OUT man.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter 2011

It's amazing how this holiday, the most important Christian holiday on the calendar, ain't what it used to be. Mr. itsme went to Home Depot and found them open for business. In fact, most everything around here is open.

Oh well, I'm going back to baking my ham, roasting my asparagus, and icing my lemon bundt cake. Hope ya'll are spending time doing whatever it is that makes you most happy on this Easter Sunday.

Take care.

Friday, April 22, 2011

This Mobile Tracking Brouhaha

So, is it really a surprise that iPhones and other iOS-based Apple devices can store unencrypted files that track their users’ location? Android phones do the same thing btw. But seriously, are you shocked by this? I’ll admit that while I’m not shocked, it is getting to be too much like “1984” for me.

We should be used to being tracked. There are video cameras pretty much everywhere, like department stores, public elevators, and even in the parking lot at my local Starbucks. Most people, especially the younger crowd who has never known life without a computer or a mobile phone say: “My life is boring. I have nothing to hide. Who cares if they track me?”

Even I’ll admit that tracking can be a godsend for those lost in the wilderness or involved in a car crash off road somewhere. However, it is two edged in that it has a nefarious side to it. I wouldn’t be too thrilled about the government getting access to my current whereabouts, or who I have visited and where I’ve been. And even though my life is boring and I have nothing to hide, I should have the option of turning off GPS tracking if I want to. In a free society, people should have the choice of being tracked or not being tracked (unlike like libraries who use RFID to track their library materials, but that’s another topic for another post).

Similarly, both Apple and Google regularly track and receive location data (remember that the next time you fire up Google Maps on your Droid) which here in the Silicon Valley is being used to create a massive database to tap for the purposes of future location-based services and is becoming a big business, THE big business, in fact.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this would have been such a big deal if Apple and Google had simply asked permission, as they make their apps do. It is easier to ask permission than to ask for forgiveness. And I don’t mind tracking that can in turn be useful to me, but it has to be agreed to. Secret tracking is like stalking, and it’s a bit unnerving no matter who’s doing it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Uncle Gilbert

Impending death is not an easy event to deal with.

Mr. itsme’s Uncle Gilbert was told by his Doctors to go home, put your affairs in order and enjoy whatever time is left. He’s stopped all treatments like chemo and has stopped taking all medications (relating to cancer) too. Uncle Gilbert is very aware that his declining health is leading him towards death. He faces this fact every second of his life now starting with the moment he found out his cancer was terminal, but his positive attitude and childlike gratitude is an inspiration to me.

Because there are 7 brothers and sisters, the family decided to have a luncheon at a local restaurant. With one or two exceptions, every family member was in attendance.

When we first got the invitation I felt a little uncomfortable by the whole thing. Would it be awkward? Would it be maudlin? What do you say when you arrive “You look good for an almost dead guy." And what do you say when it’s time to leave “Take care, see you soon?” And to the other relatives “See you at the funeral.”

I was surprised that the most important thing I came away with was to make Uncle Gilbert’s passing as peaceful and happy as possible. It is up to us, the family, to be his net of support. Too many times I’ve seen family members overwhelmed with their own grief and instead of providing a joyful atmosphere, they generate an atmosphere of gloom and depression. The luncheon and gathering to talk and reminisce about all the things the family loved and would always remember about Uncle Gilbert was an excellent activity, for him and for us. Lots of pictures were taken, old stories told, and yes, a few tears were shed. A few beers were cracked also.

Life is precious and fleeting, enjoy.

Friday, March 18, 2011 Works

When I was about 10 years old, my Mom told me of the son she had when she was 18 years old and had placed for adoption. She told me where he was born and what adoption agency he was placed with. At that young age, I really didn't understand the enormity of what she was telling me and pretty much put it out of my mind until I got to high school.

I began wondering about this half-brother of mine, out there somewhere. Was he looking for us? Did he hate Mom for what she did? Would he be happy to know he had a younger sister (he would have been 5 years older than me) as well as another younger brother? I had so many questions. I started a search to find him through an online adoption website without success. When I had no luck, I began to think because of his age group, maybe he had been killed in Viet Nam.

Of course we didn't have the research tools available to us then like we have today, so when I heard about a number of years ago, I immediately registered and began building a family tree and made it available for anyone to view. Hope springs eternal.

Fast forward to March 10, 2011. I go to my account and there is a message:

Hi itsmecissy!
I am conducting research on my family tree and came across the family tree you posted on Ancestry. I am exploring a possible link to the ---- family who I believe originated in ---- and then moved to ----. I was hoping you may be able to help me connect some of the lineage in my research. I look forward to hearing from you soon! Take Care.

I was curious but wasn't going to get my hopes up, so I casually replied:

Hi ----,
My Mother's maiden name was ----- and her family originally came from ----. My Mom was one of 10 children, 5 were born in ---- and 5 were born in ----. Maybe we are related?

We emailed back and forth a few days, exchanging startling information. Turns out this person was my nephew, the oldest son of the half-brother I'd been searching years for and he had figured out that my late Mother was his paternal Grandmother.

To make an already long story short, I have been emailing my newly found brother ever since. We've exchanged family pictures, he looks just like our side of the family, a "dead ringer" his wife of 40 years said. They have 4 sons and 1 daughter. I was so happy to hear that he had had a good life and a wonderful family.

Needless to say, there's been an ocean of happy tears (even as I write this) and lots of questions. We're going to have a family conference call this Sunday and will all speak together for the first time. Plans are already in the works to meet, possibly this summer.

It's been an unbelievable week. I wish Mom were here to see this. Somehow I think she planned the whole thing.

We're Having a Baby - Part 2

Got the call from my niece last night, it's a BOY! Dr said the little guy was not shy about showing "his stuff" during the ultrasound either. So far the name they've chosen is Dylan Michael. I've always liked the name Dylan. The name is of Welsh origin, and the means "son of the sea." The name Michael is from the Hebrew and means "resembles God."

Whatever his name, he's gonna be one spoiled little boy! I can't wait to meet him in August.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Go Wisconsin!

If it can happen in Wisconsin, it can happen anywhere. This Union member in California is with you ALL THE WAY!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

We're Having a Baby!!!

Um, not me, it's much too late for that (thank god). My niece and her husband from Oregon were here and made the announcement at our family gathering this past Saturday. Due date is August 10th. This will be the first Grandchild for my youngest brother and his ex-wife. Actually the first Grandchild for this side of the family.

I have so much crochetting to do and baby clothes to make!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Obama vs O'Reilly

Whether you voted for Barack Obama or not, you have to admire his agreeing to be interviewed by Bill O’Reilly on Fox News last Sunday. O’Reilly was his usual arrogant, classless, and disrespectful self, while Obama displayed elegance and enormous dignity and succeeded in making it look like he didn’t notice O'Reilly' Personally, I wouldn’t have had the patience to sit politely by while Bill O’Reilly attempted to publicly insult my intelligence but then again, I'm never going to run for an elected office.

By far, my favorite moment was when O’Reilly asked the President if it bothered him that so many people hate him (although he should have added “…simply because you’re black”), the President’s reply was priceless:

"The people who dislike you don't know you. The folks who hate you, they don't know you." He also added, "What they hate is whatever funhouse mirror image of you that's out there. They don't know you. And so, you don't take it personally."

How many of us were told the same thing by our parents while growing up? (and I can see the President and First Lady saying the same thing to their kids). That’s one of the reasons I admire our President so much, he’s REAL and not afraid to show it. Yes, there are many things I’m upset with him about at the moment but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s pretty much unflappable, a genuine person to the core.

And perhaps, for the first time ever, Bill O’Reilly told the truth about something when he went on to say that extreme rhetoric would continue to thrive, because "there's a lot of money to be made if you can polarize people." So that means that he (and Beck & Limbaugh & Coulter & Hannity) know exactly what they are doing. Not surprisingly, there lies the big problem: it's always been about money, not what's necessarily best for the country - or what the real truth is, for that matter. It's about lining your pockets. I think it was Frank Zappa who said the US would be destroyed by Americans only too happy to sell their country down the road for a profit.

In the end, O'Reilly wasn't trying to get knowledge to share with his audience. He was trying to "get" the President and the President refused to play the game. To say the President was the better man doesn't even begin to cover it.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Ain't Technology Grand?

During lunch this afternoon, I organized a family dinner at our house this Saturday. Our Niece and her husband are here from Oregon for a week and it's the only day we can all get together as a family. Then, I organized and planned our annual family reunion for my step-side of the family in June. It's always food themed: last year it was Mexican, the year before BBQ, etc. This year everyone voted for Italian (we're doing paella).

From the comfort of my office, I send out emails and get instantaneous replies (of course, everyone of my family peeps has an iPhone or a Blackberry). Still, it sure is a time-saver and technology never ceases to amaze me!

That's my two cents for the day. Now I'm off to a Dr's appt.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Facebook: the Newest 'Big Brother'

I'm (still) so glad I’m am not on Facebook.

Apparently, founder Mark Zuckerberg has gotten the bright idea to make Facebook users’ current address and mobile-phone numbers PUBLIC without getting their permission. Thankfully, two members of Congress took notice -- the Republican & Democratic co-chairs of the Congressional Privacy Caucus -- and have sent him a letter asking for a lot more detail about his plans.

Think about it: by using Facebook, you may be giving up every aspect of your personal right to privacy just to drone on about –and let’s face it - the most mundane events in your life. Facebook users willingly put up with this invasion of privacy because it’s fun, convenient, and cool. It doesn’t bother them that soon there will be absolutely no privacy and that every aspect of everyone’s life will be monitored. Anyone remember HAL?

It got me thinking about those wonderful insurance companies out there, the ones looking out for our best interests when it comes to our health. You know what I’m talking about, the ones who want to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, even newborn babies and children; the ones who decide whether you live or die by paying or not paying for your cancer treatment drugs; the ones who decide whether to pay or not pay for ANY lifesaving treatment.

So, consider this scenario: these same wonderful insurance companies monitoring social web sites, like Facebook, to spy on their customers. Is that person drinking? Is that person smoking? Are they living the healthiest lifestyle they can? Are they partying too much? Eating too much fast food or red meat? And, given how these same insurance companies want to rule the world - for profit of course - does anyone doubt they will take this and run with it as far as they can? And that's only one industry, one aspect of what's happening and what's going to take place.

Nope, I'm not missin' a thing by not using Facebook. It will be interesting to see how much autonomy, privacy, and “freedom” people have 5 years from now.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


Looking in my freezer last night I was embarrassed: I found 11 bags of frozen cranberries that I don't remember putting there. OK, I remember putting aside a few bags, but 11? It never fails, in the middle of July I get a hankering for some cranberry relish or chutney and we can't get frozen cranberries out here after Christmas, so I have to have my stash.

Digging a little more, I also found 5 bags of peeled frozen bananas. You know, when they ripen perfectly for banana bread but you can't drop everything and bake at that exact moment? I usually peel them and put 4-5 in zip-lock freezer bags so they'll be ready when I'm ready for them.

And finally, right there, hiding under the Garden burgers (yes, but that's another post when I'm ready to talk about it), I find 4 bags of cooked and skinned chicken breast. Mr itsme & I can't finish the store-bought rotisserie ones by ourselves, so I cut up what's leftover and freeze for soup. These were freezer-burned (and now you have a pretty good idea of how long it's been since I made chicken soup) and into the trash they went.

Hoarding. I never knew I had it in me.

Punxsutawney Phil

Well, the furry fellow peeked out from his warm and comfy groundhog hole and didn't see his shadow so that means we're in for an early Spring this year. Don't know if that helps the middle and eastern part of the country right now, but hang in there friends, sunshine is on the way. And pollen and humidity and record scorching temperatures. Yessiree, a few things to really look forward to.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Little Things

When I was growing up, my parents -each in a different way- taught me to pay attention to little things. “If you do a thing at all,” my Dad said, “do it thoroughly.” I was taught to leave any place I’d been, looking better than before I’d been there. That’s why on every camping trip, our campsite was cleaned before and after we’d inhabited it. Completely swept of leaves and rocks, down to bare dirt (mostly so’s the tent would sit flat), Dad set up the “perimeters” of our outdoor living space in a neat and orderly way. His outdoor kitchen was his pride & joy and no one but he did the cooking (and Mom never complained!) It was always my job to create a small, artful arrangement of wild flowers, leaves, or stacked stones for the center of our picnic table and it was left for whoever had the campsite after us. Dad was ahead of his time when it came to Earth Day. We’d go on walks to pick up trash and debris just to make the world a nicer place. If he were alive today, he’d have his name on one of those Adopt-a-Highway signs seen on every California highway. He also took the time to teach me the names and spelling of the trees, the flowers and birds we’d encounter along the way.

I can still be an annoying know-it-all in that way if I’m not careful.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Full Moon 1/19/11

"It's a marvelous night for a moon dance..."

Is the moon as beautiful tonight where you are as it is here?
Truly amazing.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Webcam Modelling Offer

So, I get this unsolicited email in my Spam folder:

"Break into the biggest industry on the planet and start earning great money from the comfort of your own home as a webcam model! Women of all shapes, sizes, styles, and personality types are doing it. Top models in the industry are earning any where from $1,000 to $4,000 per week”

WOW, I’m getting excited here:

“The bottom line is anyone can do it, and anyone can be a big success. You don't have to have 'traditional' great looks, don't have to be a computer genius, and you don't have to make a huge investment to get started. Men from all over the world are shelling out huge dollars EVERY SECOND to watch a variety of unique beautiful women perform live online. Would you like to take advantage of this opportunity and get your piece of the pie?”

Oh and here’s the catch, there’s ALWAYS a catch:

"What you do need is a fun outgoing personality; you should feel comfortable in front of a webcam in your own home, and have the desire to make huge money as a webcam model!"

Oh, whoa there Nellie,

But you want me to WHAT? Dance with “toys” sans clothing? In front of my webcam for strange men? You want me to give up my dignity, self-respect and privacy for $1,000 a week? (everyone has their price)

Biggest industry on the planet? I thought pot farming in California was the biggest industry on the planet?

Keep your piece of pie, I’ll bake my own thank you!

Censorship and Banning Books

Mark Twain himself once said: "Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it."

Every year, during the last week of September, I get downright giddy (no, not because it's my birthday), it's because at this time the library world celebrates "Banned Books Week." During this week, libraries all over the country celebrate our freedom to read and have open access to information, and serve to educate patrons about the importance of the First Amendment, specifically drawing attention to the harms of censorship.

Take the current controversy to “sanitize” the story of Huckleberry Finn, a blistering critique of the hypocrisy and brutality of slavery and the norms and values of white society, as seen through the eyes of an innocent, Huck Finn. The book is actually an anti-racism work of the first degree: a white boy realizes that a black man is human. While today, the use of the “N” word is absolutely unacceptable, in its proper literary content - as if Twain was poking us with a very sharp stick just to see us squirm - it adds to the time period and issues in the story. To edit it out would be insulting to the writer and to the potential reader (imagine “Roots” without the beatings and racial slurs).

It is dangerous to rewrite history in this way. How can a person, especially children & young adults, know how far we have come if he/she does not know where we came from? One of the most important aspects of education is learning how to think critically and sanitizing "Huckleberry Finn" will take away provocative discussion and analysis. We need a novel like Huck Finn to understand a more modern novel, like “Beloved” for example, in order to think critically about why a mother would murder her own child rather than see her suffer a life in slavery.

We’ve truly lost our sight & our vision when we want to take apart literary works that have had such historical significance.