Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Health Care Is In The Toilet

Or at least health care for the California mentally ill.  Here's how it works.  Counties get funds with which to provide services to the chronically mentally ill.  Those funds are called County General Funds and are based on fees generated by licensing automobiles.  The most expensive license plates are those for new cars.  Guess what!  No one is buying new cars so the fees have dropped way down.
In the meantime, people have lost their jobs and thus their benefits.  So folks who suffered from manageable mental illnesses can no longer benefit from their psychiatrists or their medications because, duh, they no longer have health insurance because, another duh, they are no longer employed.  No new car, no health insurance, no job, and soon no home.
Say a county receives a million dollars in County General Funds.  Cut the million down to eight hundred thousand because of said scenario.  Not all of that goes to direct services.
Here's how it works.
MediCal pays fifty cents on the dollar.  I bill MediCal a dollar and I get back fifty cents.  Weird, Huh?  That's what the County General funds are for.  So I can never provide more services than I can match fifty cents on the dollar.
And then there's the chronically mentally ill who don't have MediCal.  What do I do with those people?
And where do I hospitalize them and what kind of medications do I give them.
Sometimes there are no psychiatric hosptial beds available in all of Los Angeles County and I've got someone in my office who more than anything wants to commit suicide.
Welcome to my day.
Welcome to health care on the skids.
Who needs health care reform?
All of us even those of us who are employed with good benefits because this just isn't right.
Thanks for listening.  Now let your representative or senator know that you care about social justice because you know a social worker who lives each day in the trenches and sees the cracks getting wider and wider.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Listen Up While You Can

I know very little about the World Cup games.  I don't care who's playing and I certainly don't care who wins.  I love, though, that they give so many people not only a common language (even if the game isn't broadcast in their common spoken language), shared loves, and shared hates.
The other day we were eating lunch at a local hamburger stand.  Outside in the shaded patio several men sat mesmerized by the games showing on the television suspended from the ceiling.  They men spoke excitedly in Chinese while watching games played in South Africa broadcast in Spanish.
Apparently their favorite team was winning because they cheered frequently -- in Chinese.
I've heard a lot about the constant noise at the games.  People seem to have really strong feelings about that noise and the source of the noise, the vuvuzela (pronounced /vuːvuːˈzeɪlə/ if that's any help).
Go figure that a piece of plastic could create such strong feelings.  I guess when its blown at the same time by hundreds of thousands of people strong feelings are bound to happen.
Strong feelings aren't the only thing the horn causes.  At close range the sound can lead to permanent hearing loss for unprotected ears.  For that matter so can flying Continental Airlines across country with a screaming baby in back of you and a yelping dog under the seat in front of you.
It's not, don't forget, who wins or who loses but who can hear themselves tell about it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

What A Treasure Is The 'Sky Mall'

Or -- I hate flying so much I'm reduced to this.  Nevertheless, there it was in my lap -- a veritable treasure of weird and useless stuff for sale.  I feel that it's my responsibility to share at least a few tidbits with you.
For example --
If you suffer the ill effects of stress and tension (and who doesn't) you can relax away those pesky migraines and more without drugs simply by wearing the Head Spa Massager.
It will apparently melt away your troubles.  That's pretty impressive because I was just hoping it would melt away my stress and tension.  Apparently, though, it will actually melt away the source of said stress and tension.  Like an ice cube out in the sun, my daily commute will turn into just a puddle on the 210.  I'm not sure how that will happen or what will become of all the other cars.  We'll see.
All I have to do is fork over fifty dollars to the 'Sky Mall' people and start wearing my very own silver helmet Head Spa Messager.
I'm told by the 'Sky Mall' people that I can wear it at my desk, at work, or just around the house where, apparently, I am relaxing enjoying television.  The 'Sky Mall' people really know me, that's for sure.
It's rechargeable battery makes it really portable, they say, and I can get my 15 point massage vibrating my neck, back, and head any time and any place.  This will be good to know because I won't worry about whether or not it will work while I'm standing in the unemployment line.
Maybe I'm just being, I don't know, sensible but I can't help but think that any responsible employer would fire any employee (responsible or not) who showed up wearing one of those things.
But, my oh my, the "Sky Mall" catalogue is a sanity saver on long flights.
Trust me.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

LIfe Cycle of a Balcony

About twenty-five years ago my parents retired and left New York City for a condo in a senior community in New Jersey. The development was brand new and they had their choice of apartments. The one they picked is on the second floor and has a nice balcony that overlooks the golf course. The balcony was the selling point for my mother.

They bought a charcoal grill and some patio chairs, and for quite a few years really enjoyed that balcony. Then they got older. My parents are now in their early nineties. The single step is now an obstacle for them and they seldom have occasion to go outside. The balcony was abandoned. The one remaining patio chair was weatherbeaten and covered with dirt and spider webs.

Then, their live-in caregiver came into the picture. She finds it hard to endure a space that is not filled with life. When I came to visit today, the balcony was swept clean. Flourishing tomato plants and pots of herbs are growing out there. So goes the life cycle of a balcony. Makes me happy.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Toss Your Trash on the 405

The San Diego Freeway, or the 405 as it's known here in LaLaLand, gets a lot of bad press under the best of days.  Lately, though, its become a magnet for odd marine debris which ties traffic up for hours if not days.
The other day a catamaran fell off the trailer and into pieces over all four north bound lanes.  No sailing that day.
The next day a truck transporting marine motors broke down and blocked traffic.  Today a truck transporting frozen fish lost its load and spilled the boxes all over the freeway.  They, of course, ripped open and frozen but quickly defrosting dead fish littered the lanes.
No one gets on the 405 unless they have to.  Or, lately, unless they just want to see weird stuff falling all over the place.
So, if you want a nautical experience but can't afford the cruise, get on the 405.  You never know what you'd run into.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

So Much For The Early Bird

Not only does it not catch the worm.  It doesn't get its final in a series Hepatitis vaccines nor does it get to pay the rent on its Post Office Box.
Oh, wait.  That was me.
I didn't notice whether the bird was early or not all I know is that I certainly was -- early.
I showed up bright and early this morning to receive my last in a series of three injections to keep me from getting Hepatitis A and B.  I work in public health care and so such injections are really important.  I was feeling pretty good that I'd made it on time for this injection only to discover that I was a month to the day early.  Sorry no shot.
Not to worry.  The day was still young.  I went to the Post Office to pay the year's rent on the box.  Sorry, said the clerk.  Your payment isn't due until July and it's still June.  Couldn't give my money away there.
So off I went to work and got there two hours earlier than I said I would on account of -- well -- being turned away at the other two places.
Funny thing about work.  No one said go home and come back in two hours because that's when you said you'd show up.  Nope.  Not a single person.
I just went to work like the early bird I was.  No worm though.  Just the regular stuff.
Some days are like that, I suppose.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Out of House and Home

The Family Dog had surgery. The Family Cats have prescriptions for everything from Pepcid for acid reflux to Glucosamine/Chondroitin for arthritis. The effect is that we're running out of food.

The Family Dog is a rather large fellow. His dose of antibiotics consists of three capsules twice a day. He'd never swallow them without something good, so the Other Family Human emptied the capsules into a dish of cottage cheese, which he loves. I went to have some the other day, and the big container we had bought was almost empty. When the cottage cheese ran out, he got his pills in peanut butter, and now he's getting them stuffed into those Laughing Cow soft cheese triangles. In the meantime, Scraps the Cat is getting her arthritis medication mixed with organic blueberry yogurt. There's nothing left to eat here. And once we pay the vet, I don't know what we'll have left over to buy more food.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Find What You Love

There I was stuck in traffic.  Who knew that how most people in Southern California celebrate Fathers' Day is to get in their cars and drive.  Or at least that's how it seemed to me this warm, Sunday, summer afternoon.  I wasn't in that mix of odd celebratory driving.  I actually had someplace to go and a certain time to be there.
And there I was stuck in a long line of cars going nowhere.  So I had time to study the vehicle directly in front of me -- ahead of me in the line going nowhere.
It was a black Ford Explorer that looked like it hadn't seen the inside of a covered structure since it left the show room years and miles ago.  The migratory patterns of generations of birds could be mapped on its top and sides and I'm sure, had I been able to see around it, on its hood.  Twigs and leaves clung to the rear window wipers.  The back window, in addition to being darkly tinted, was filthy with dust and mud and fingerprints and, yes, mapped bird migrations.  What caught my attention, though, was the bumper sticker in the back window.  As filthy as the rest of the window, the letters were difficult to make out.  When I finally was able to decipher the sticker's message, my opinion of being stuck in traffic changed just a bit.
Here's what the sticker read:  Find What You Love - Love What You Find.
Similar in ah ha depth to 'Where ever you go, there you are' here's what the message meant to me.  If you look for what you love in all you do, you can't help but love what you find.  And if you don't wind up finding what you love, you can choose to love whatever it was that you found.
It's all in the journey.
I chose to love that I found a pretty compelling message on the back of a dirty Ford Explorer -- and I wasn't even looking for it.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

It Really Is All In My Head

If I had the outdoor space I would make my own labyrinth and daily walk a meditation.  Well, at least I think I would.  On second thought, that's similar to saying that if I lived on the beach I'd walk in the sand everyday.  The fact of the matter is that each day finds us or at least me snared in the maze of driving to work, being at work, coming home from work with just enough energy left to eat and go to bed to begin yet another day.  Weekends are spent catching up on all of the work I didn't get done during the week.  I don't think my routine - my maze - is much different from yours.
How'd we get to this point of fending off exhaustion and barely keeping up with the basics?
Don't know.  Can't even guess.
Here's what I do know.
We -- read I -- can stop this maze madness if I -- read we -- want to.  Stopping it means changing a whole bunch of stuff and change is hard.  We all know that.  Besides, we know how to be stuck in a maze.  Walking the free and easy meditative path of a labyrinth is a whole other story.  We don't know so much about that.
But we can learn.
So if I had the outdoor space I would make my own labyrinth and daily walk a meditation.
Right now I don't have the space outside my house.  I do, though, have the space inside my mind.  And change, after all, begins in the brain and eventually works it way out to life.
As a first step to making change, I shall daily walk a meditation in the peaceful labyrinth of my mind.
You might want to try the same thing.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sports Fan

Los Angeles is crazy for the Lakers, and it's only going to get crazier now that they've won the NBA title for a second straight year.

Today, I was eating lunch in the cafe on the ground floor of the office building where my new job is based. It was my second day at work so I had been in there a couple of times and most of the conversations I overheard were about the Lakers. Finally, one of the customers asked the counterman where he was watching the game tonight. His wife responded for him. "He doesn't watch important games like this one. He's afraid the Lakers are going to lose. He records the game, waits till it's over, then checks the news to see if the Lakers won. If they did, then he watches the recording of the game." The counterman sheepishly agreed that that was what he does.

It's none of my business, but isn't the reason you watch a ball game precisely because you don't know who's going to win? Where's the fun and the suspense in rooting for your team if you already know what has happened? There are lots of good uses for the technology of recording TV programs, but this is about the saddest one I've heard. Oh, maybe I'm being too hard on the poor guy. I hope he enjoyed the game. Two and a half hours later than everyone else did.

A Mystery

I can't believe it -- they're trying to kill me! Everyone is glaring at me like they would like to grab me and tie me up and beat me to death. I don't know where all the blood came from - down my left arm, splattered on the wall and dripping to the floor. I was dodging them in the hallway, ducking into empty rooms and hoping they wouldn't find me.
The next I knew, I was back in bed wondering how I got there and why all the blood and tubes. I was extremely fearful for my life. I knew they were plotting to eliminate me from humanity. I just had to keep quiet and still so I wouldn't cause a disturbance. I couldn't trust anyone - what a terrible position I found myself. I was afraid for my life. When they came into the room to take my vitals, I prayed they would not slip poison into my medication or tie me to the bed so they could kill me later.
The following day (or so I thought it was the following day), I was quiet and reserved. I barely spoke to anyone - I couldn't trust anyone at all! If I didn't ask anything or ask for help, I would be safe since I wouldn't be calling attention to myself. I watched T.V. - "Hold on to your dreams" was being sung for a Ford commercial. Hold on to your dreams I thought - how true! Can my dreams be strong enough to save my life? Can my prayers save me? Can the Chaplain save me with his prayers? I didn't know - my mind was so confused with what was reality and what was not. All I can remember is I didn't want to die. Face-to-face with my God, I knew He wouldn't let me die. After all, I have a son with Muscular Dystrophy and I just couldn't die - could I?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I'm Seeing the Future and I Don't Like It

In the past month, I have heard that three people I know who are dedicated young teachers have been laid off from their jobs. One of them is a talented special ed teacher, another is a devoted English teacher who coaches his school's basketball team as a sideline, and the third is a PE teacher and baseball coach who had a slew of parents petition the school board to save his job. They are all now unemployed. They have school loans to pay off and young families to support. No matter.

I know that municipalities and states have no money, and budget deficits are growing every day. The recession is still with us, and vital services like libraries, parks, firefighters and police are trimming their budgets when there is nothing left to trim. Still, it is undeniable that education is the single most important factor in creating critical thinkers, people who can transform this world into the kind of place we all want to live.

It seems to me that a society that devalues its young and energetic teachers is a society that is headed nowhere good.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Nephew's on I-Tunes

Okay, you've heard about the youngest Nephew. He is the drummer of The Gaslight Anthem, a band that has been seriously devoted to their music, worked and traveled hard, and, as its members will readily admit, been lucky. We saw them at their first Southern California appearance three summers ago as the opening set of four bands in a small bar in Glendale that would be complimented by the term "dive". This July when they appear in L.A. they will be headlining at the Wiltern.

Today is the official release date of their newest album, "American Slang". The title song is the I-Tunes Single of the Week, and can be downloaded free at I-Tunes. Of course, you don't need to do that because you've already rushed to your local store and bought the whole CD. Well, haven't you?

Monday, June 14, 2010

No Way To Get Caught In A Labyrinth

While a maze can be defined as a 'tour puzzle' in which its easy to lose your way, a labyrinth will always return you to your point of origin.
A maze has complex branching passages through which you must find a route.  Its many branches are designed to confuse and lead astray.  Mazes are not comforting.
Prehistoric labyrinths are believed to have served as traps for malevolent spirits or as defined paths for ritual dances. In medieval times, the labyrinth symbolized a hard path to God with a clearly defined center (God) and one entrance (birth).
Labyrinths can be thought of as symbolic forms of pilgrimage.  People can walk the path, ascending toward salvation or enlightenment. Many people could not afford to travel to holy sites and lands, so labyrinths and prayer substituted for such travel. Later, the religious significance of labyrinths faded, and they served primarily for entertainment, though recently their spiritual aspect has seen a resurgence.  Labyrinths are used to help achieve a contemplative state. Walking among the turnings, one loses track of direction and of the outside world, and thus quiets the mind.
The god of the Tohono O'odham Nation, I'itoi, is depicted as a man caught in a maze.  I'itoi lives on Baboquivari Peak, (19 miles north of the Mexican border and about 90 miles southwest of Tucson).  He is rarely is a good mood.  That's because he's caught in a maze instead of peacefully strolling on the paths of a labyrinth always to return to his point or origin.
I work in community mental health.  There used to be a vacant lot next to my building.  The lot was overgrown with weeds and strewn with broken bottles and old mattresses and all sorts of life in poverty detritus.  The empty lot is now a community garden.  At its center is a labyrinth.  Nothing fancy.  Just a good place to wander for a few minutes confident that no opportunity exists to feel trapped.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Because Good Friends Are Rare

And birthdays deserve celebration.

Happy Birthday, Carole.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Abuse Is Abuse

Federal legislation provides an identifying a set of acts or behaviors that define child abuse and neglect. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) (42 U.S.C.A. §5106g), as amended by the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003, defines child abuse and neglect as, at minimum --
  • Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or
  • An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.
This definition of child abuse and neglect refers specifically to parents and other caregivers. A "child" under this definition generally means a person who is under the age of 18 or who is not an emancipated minor.
 How is allowing a sixteen year old child to sail alone around the world anything except abuse?  Abby Sunderland wanted to sail alone around the world and so her parents waved bon voyage.  I mean, come on, her brother did it when he was seventeen and he's still alive.  Before she began her journey way back in January, according to today's Los Angeles Times, Abby said that her parents had tried to 'scare me out of it'.   By doing what, I ask the world.
Here's something they might have considered saying -- "No!  You want to sail alone around the world, get a job, save your money, and the day you turn eighteen you can set sail around the world or around the block because you will on that day be legally an adult."
Might this be considered a parental act which placed a child in danger?  Might this also be considered just a tad exploitative?
 Joel Achenbach writes the Achenblog for the Washington Post and has this to say about Abby Sunderland's parents:
Pondering the rescue of the teen sailor Abby Sunderland, who was attempting to sail solo around the world, my first thought is that I barely trust my girls to operate a blender. I will let one of my kids sail solo around the world the day I let my ancient cat Phoebe drive my Honda.
Let's do the checklist of yes/no/maybe when it comes to teenage daughters:
1. Use the oven. Yes, with advance warnings about burning down of house.
2. Ride bike to video store. Yes, with stern commandments involving helmet, looking both ways, returning before dark, and avoidance of slasher movies.
3. Go to "mixer" at distant preppie-sounding school full of rich kids. Depends on parental mood and results of protracted interrogation about who will be there and what will be the purpose and why it's not more fun to hang out at home with Dad.
4. Go to what sounds like a teenybopper concert. Yes, but only after obligatory dismissive comments on quality of music from parent (followed by parental discovery later that it's actually a Metallica concert).
5. Talk to boys loitering on sidewalk. Yes, but only if boys agree to play catch with Dad first and then watch ballgame with him in brotherly solidarity against tyranny of the matriarchy.
6. Drive car. Yes, but only if Dad can keep hand on emergency brake at all times.
7. Wear that dress. No.
8. Wear those shorts. No.
9. Discuss rules with Dad. No.
10. Roll eyes and sigh dramatically as Dad speaks. No.
So you see, there's just nothing in there about "sail solo around the world." I mean, as I understand it, Abby Sunderland was doing this whole thing in some kind of BOAT. Like, on the ocean. Right? Insane.
I bet she didn't even wear a helmet.
By Joel Achenbach  |  June 11, 2010; 12:47 PM ET

 Each day Departments of Children and Family Services throughout the country investigate reports of sucpected child abuse.
These parents are not heroes and neither are their children.  This is plain and simple child abuse and Abby's parents should be investigated as quickly and as thoroughly as the South Central mother who left her children alone in the house while she worked to earn just almost enough money to feed them.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Faster Than A New York Minute

Lately I've been hearing that a lot of things happen 'faster than a New York minute'. I've been assuming that things in New York (and it must be the city and not, for example, the up state to which they refer)happen at a fast pace and so time seems to fly and thus everything seems shorter than out here in LaLaLand where we are too busy laughing at the new Republican candidate for Senator to notice time passing at any speed. I didn't think the expression really meant that time passes at a different pace in the Big Apple. Come to find out I was wrong.
According to - a self proclaimed statistical database which allows us to research and compare a multitude of different data on the United States as a whole and the individual states of same - a New York minute is a really short period of time, sometimes significantly shorter than sixty seconds and other times a form of hyperbole for 'perhaps faster than you would believe possible'. Apparently New Yorkers take this pretty seriously and define their minute as the amount fo time between the light in front of you turning green and the taxicab behind you honking. This amount of time is generally defined in negative numbers.
Having explained all of this, I now see that most witsendmagazine postings cannot be read in a New York minute.
Sorry gang.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

And Sometimes We Just Need To Be A Little Goofy

California has elected two completely unqualified but really wealthy women to run against two really qualified and seasoned political greats. What else is new? Let's just dance it off.
Perhaps that will help.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The World's Largest Dump

Call it a water fill or a water float just as long as you also call it terrifying or shameful or disgusting.  It's the North Pacific Garbage Patch and it's about half the size of this country just floating east of the Hawaiian Islands.  The garbage goes below the water's surface at least a hundred feet. This rubbish-strewn patch of water floats within the North Pacific Gyre, the center of a series of currents several thousand miles wide that create a circular effect, ensnaring trash and debris.  Around and around the currents go and in that holding pattern floats bottles, plastic bags, fishnets, clothing, lighters, tires, toothbrushes, and traffic cones.  The trash stays in that vortex until it either disintegrates, escapes to travel to other oceans, or bobs out of the vortex to wash up on yet another beach to eventually return to the seas and back to the vortex.  Some of the garbage drops off and sinks to the ocean floor.
A single one liter water bottle could break down into enough small fragments to put one on every mile of beach in the entire world.
This perhaps wouldn't be too much of a problem if the plastic had no ill effects. The larger items, however, are consumed by seabirds and other animals which mistake them for prey. Many seabirds and their chicks have been found dead, their stomachs filled with medium sized plastic items such as bottle tops, lighters and balloons. A turtle found dead in Hawaii had over a thousand pieces of plastic in its stomach and intestines. It is estimated that over a million sea-birds and one hundred thousand marine mammals and sea turtles are killed each year by ingestion of plastics or entanglement in plastics.
Some of the plastics in the North Pacific Garbage Patch will not break down in the life times of the grandchildren of the people who threw them away to begin with.
Environmental organizations such as Greenpeace are trying to do something about the world's largest landfill.
We can do something, too.  We can contribute to such organizations.  They always need our financial help.  We can also think before we toss stuff into the trash.  Certainly none of us would toss our empty water bottles onto a beach but how about instead of the trash we recycle?  Or even more radical, how about we stop buying those individual water bottles.  How about we buy a good, reusable water bottle and fill it from if not the faucet our filtered water or our five gallon home delivered water bottles?
At the very least we can be aware that most of the things we throw away are never actually gone.

Monday, June 7, 2010

How To Get Ants Out Of The Garden

Notice the spelling here.  If your father's sisters have extended their visit past the point of endurance, this information will be of no use.  However, if - like me - you find yourself trying to work in a garden full of red ants, you might want to read on.
Insecticide is not an option in my garden.  I read 'Silent Spring' when it was first published and still shudder.
Here's what I learned today about pest removal, though.
The magic word is Diatomaceous.  If you want to make that two magic words they are Diatomaceous Earth.  Ants eat the stuff and then they die possibly from too much of a good thing.
Diatomaceous Earth is a naturally occurring siliceous sedimentary mineral compound from microscopic skeletal remains of unicellular algae-like plants called diatoms. These plants have been part of the earth's ecology since prehistoric times. It is believed that 30 million years ago the diatoms built up into deep, chalky deposits of diatomite. The diatoms are mined and ground up to render a powder that looks and feels like talcum powder to us. The good news for us is that we don't eat our talcum powder.  The bad news for ants is that they do.
If all of that seems way to old and scientific for you, here's another thing I learned today.  Corn meal kills ants.  Yeah.  Go figure.  They love the stuff.  They eat the stuff.  And then they die.  It should probably be noted that the corn meal has not yet been baked into corn bread or corn fritters or cone pone although I once ate a piece of corn bread that I thought would kill me.  Apparently it takes a lot of corn meal mixed into the soil to wipe of an ant colony.  Several pounds of corn meal does, though, seem a lot friendlier to the planet than the poison generally used unless, of course, you're an ant in which case none of it sounds too attractive.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My Brother The Dream Keeper

My brother and I write.  We create stuff as a way of navigating our days.  We've been doing it all of our lives -- making up characters to enrich the childhood games we played, creating imaginary baseball leagues because just playing catch wasn't sufficiently fulfilling, naming the cows on the ranch and then giving them personalities and stories of their own.
Years ago before e-mail and fast computers (or even personal computers for that matter) we decided to write a book about a small Arizona town and two kids who grew up on a ranch about an hour's drive from that small town.  He'd write a section, make copies of that section, and mail the copies off to me.  I'd review what he wrote, add my own section, make more copies and mail the whole thing off to him.  So it went for about a year.  It should probably be noted that during that time the nation experienced no increases in postage rates because the two of us were underwriting the United States Postal Service.  At the end of all this we had our story.  It was a really long story -- almost a thousand pages.  We submitted it to a couple of places and then onto the shelves it went in each of our homes.
Neither of us ever stopped talking about our writing projects and neither of us ever stopped writing.  Several months ago I finished the first draft of my soon to be published novel 'But This Is Different' and as has been my life long practice handed it over to Tom for his diligent consideration and editing.  He gave it, as he always does, his full attention.  I took his suggestions to heart and launched into the second draft.  Inspired, he says, by my accomplishment, he took his copy of our first novel off of the shelf and started chipping away at it and restructuring it.  No longer burdened by hefty postage expenses, he always kept me in this new loop with e-mails sometimes with and sometimes without attachments.  One recent holiday weekend he came to visit and together we created a web site of which we are both quite proud.
 And now - because he refused to let our dream novel live out our lives boxed up on shelves -- 'Contrary Creek' has been published by WheatMark out of Tucson.
I am so proud of my brother.

He says that I inspire him.  He can't imagine how much he inspires me.

Thanks, Tom, for - like the little sister I will always be - letting me tag along on this project.

Step into Contrary Creek.  The water's wicked.

Check our the website:

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Scraps The Cat Goes Greek

Among her growing list of physical 'issues' Scraps the Cat has a bit of arthritis.  Not a problem, one would think.  The new family vet, of whom I am frankly terrified because she looks like a cross between Jane Goodall and my first grade teacher Anne Marie Rehtus, prescribed a capsule version of some sort of feline arthritis stuff.  "Sprinkle it on baby food," said the terrifyingly serious and direct veterinarian.  Off we went, therefore, to buy baby food in several equally unappetizing flavors.  Comes to find out that, while I would not dare disobey the vet, Scraps (a more courageous creature than I) thought nothing of it and refused to eat the pureed stuff.  I happened to have already known that Scraps loves yogurt because to eat yogurt in her company is to risk if not life and limb at least the yogurt.  She once walked the length of my right and extended arm to get to the container.  Situation solved, it would seem.  Just sprinkle the medication on the yogurt.  Life was, indeed, simple until I bought some Greek yogurt for myself.  Scraps somehow obtained the sound track from Never On Sunday and has filled the house with her sing along wailing which include the not too subtle subliminal message of 'give me the Greek stuff'.  As it works out, Scraps does, indeed, know her yogurt.  Greek yogurt, it seems, really is healthier than the other stuff on the dairy shelf.  I know this now because I looked up the benefits of Greek yogurt.  The taste leaves you feeling full and satisfied. It can be used the same way as regular yogurt is, including as a snack, in recipes, desserts and smoothies. It comes in the same flavors or plain. There are benefits to eating Greek yogurt, and comparing it to regular yogurt can help you choose which one is best for your dietary needs:
Protein -- Greek yogurt can have twice as much protein as regular yogurt. The extra protein will help you feel full and leave you feeling satisfied. Commercial Greek yogurts at supermarkets have almost double the protein content of standard yogurt brands. One cup of plain, low-fat conventional yogurt usually contains 5 to 10 grams of protein, where Greek yogurt averages about 13 to 20 grams of protein. Sodium -- Salt is a big red flag, and many consumers are looking for lower in salt items. According to the USDA, Greek yogurt has less sodium by up to 50 percent. Plus, it still has a full-bodied taste without the high sodium content. Low in Carbohydrates -- If you are watching your carbohydrate intake or have a sensitivity to carbohydrates like diabetes, then Greek yogurt is your ticket. Regular yogurts have 15 to 17 grams of carbohydrates per cup, where Greek yogurt averages around 9 grams.  Easy to Digest -- Because Greek yogurt contains less carbohydrates than regular yogurt, it has less lactose, the sugar in dairy products that can sometimes upset people's stomachs. This is especially helpful for people who have lactose intolerance.  Versatility -- Greek yogurt can be used for many dishes including savory and sweet. Due to its thick texture and rich taste, many people use it as a substitute for milk, sour cream and even use it for baking.  Texture -- Greek yogurt has a smooth, rich and thick consistency. Part of what makes Greek yogurt different than regular yogurt is that it is strained to remove the whey. When whey is removed, so is water, which creates a thicker, more substantial yogurt product. This is why Greek yogurt is so popular because of the satisfaction after eating something creamy and smooth.
The above information is from - a site with a lot of interesting stuff about what we eat.
Or you can just ask Scraps the Cat.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Burn Notice Is Back

Several years ago Michael Weston, the quintessential spy working for some bunch of good guys got burned.  Indications were that we would follow his adventures for one summer only and then never see him or Sam or the amazing Fiona again because as everyone knows when you're burned you're going nowhere.
Come to find out the series went and continues to go somewhere.
The series developed from a one summer thing to prime time on USA.
Yesterday evening the new series began with more of the wonderful adventures of Michael and Sam and Fiona and yeah Michael's mom played by Sharon Gless of Cagney and Lacy.
It's a wonderful series.
If you are looking for just good, escape from the moment entertainment give it a try.
If you are hoping to start from the beginning, you can do that, too, because previous seasons are now out on DVD.
I'm not necessarily suggesting that you buy them from Amazon, but I am suggesting that Burn Notice is first class entertainment.
And the good guys so far always win.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Of Course Sometimes We Need Dynamite

Either building upon or tearing apart yesterday's metaphor of delicate sculpting and patience in changing our lives I cavalierly stated that we don't use dynamite when sculpting our lives because of the debris factor.  Come to find out, one of our most famous set of carved images came to be with the help of dynamite.  Without dynamite, Mt. Rushmore would probably still pay tribute to only a couple of presidents instead of four and Cary Grant wouldn't have had much room to run from the bad guys in North By Northwest.  Ninety per cent of Mt. Rushmore, in fact, was carved using dynamite which blasted the mountain face down to no more than six inches of granite.  Then the carving began in earnest as did the scooping away by hand of everything that didn't look like one of the four presidents.
I don't understand how Mt. Rushmore was created any more than I understand how the David was created.  And while Mt. Rushmore requires a different kind of patience metaphor it took 400 workers and a couple of decades to make the thing happen.  That's still a lot of patience.
However, more than a metaphor for slow, constant focus on change Mt. Rushmore is currently our best and perhaps only example of true bipartisanship.  Washington DC, take note.  Two Republicans, one Democrat and one there weren't parties yet all getting along on the same rock.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Chipping Away At The Big Stuff

I've got a lot of respect for sculptors.  They look at a piece of rock -- perhaps marble -- and see something inside it waiting to become.  I have no idea how sculptors go about with hammer and chisel chipping away everything that wasn't what they saw inside the rock to begin with.  Here's the main quality of a sculptor -- patience.
That's the quality most of us lack when we try to sculpt our lives into something different -- something healthier or more productive.
The other day I was talking to a woman stunned to discover that she weighed over three hundred pounds.  She couldn't imagine how she had achieved that weight and was anxious to shed it -- immediately.  When asked how many years she had spent gaining the weight, she replied over seven.  And yet she could not imagine chipping away the weight ounce by ounce until she had achieved her goal.
We are so eager for success that we forget the sculptor's patience.
Consider Michelangelo's works if he had used dynamite instead of the delicate tools of the sculptor.  No one would expect anything from such a plan except debris.  And yet everyday we dynamite our own personal goals instead of patiently chipping away at the big stuff.  Here's to patience and success.  Go for it.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Out Of The Pit

I used to think that the ultimate betrayal was watching any version of Star Trek except the original William Shatner/Leonard Nimoy series. After all, one of my writing mentors was James Goldstone who directed the pilot of that series. And so I have never watched any of the subsequent permutations. I could not stoop that low.
And yet I have now stopped even lower and committed the penultimate act of betrayal.
I love to cook outdoors. I'm descended from a long line of folks who cooked by campfire. Years ago when I worked in South Central Los Angeles (Watts) I admired the pit bar-b-ques made out of barrels cut in half and welded together and mounted onto stands. So I bought one and enjoyed firing up the charcoal, watching it go out, firing it up again until finally the coals glowed and eventually were ready to use for cooking. There was just something about getting covered with smoke and watching sparks fly into the night sky.
Not so these days, though. I've finally admitted that I live in a high fire hazard area. It just didn't seem right to use charcoal and risk even one single spark flying through the air and landing on grass begging to burn. Besides the old South Central pit had rusted through.
However, here it is summer and the call of the wild is calling. Or at least the call of cooking out of doors is whispering.
Off we went, then, to Sears which has, as we well know, everything, to buy a grill. A gas grill. The final and ultimate act of betrayal and we were committing it. We were switching from charcoal to gas. The generations before me tossed in their graves and then, after all the tossing ended, admitted that cooking with gas was probably better than burning down houses all for the sake of a hot dog.
We bought a Weber Q. It's little. It doesn't use those huge tanks of gas but little canisters which last a couple of hours.
The final insult to charcoal is that I love our little new grill. It's easy. It's clean. I don't finish cooking covered in soot and smoke.
On the other hand, I also don't feel like I truly deserve the terrific meal we've just cooked.
Go figure.
Life is complicated even under the best of circumstances.