Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Santa's Workshop

My mom has always had a way with making things seem fantastic and better than they are. She created her own bedtime stories in addition to being reading to us out of our favorite books--Mine was The Forgotten Door. At bedtime my mom wove stories of riding into dreamland on the back of Night Mare a beautiful dapple grey with a long silky mane and tail. Once in dreamland we would visit our favorite places including the gumdrop tree (borrowed from poetry) and would always end our visits with cookies and milk at the Wise Old Owl's. Numerous time Richard and I would wake up certain that we brought goodies back from Dreamland.
When I was young, we lived in an old farm house. Oklahoma sunsets in the fall are vast painted canvases of reds, purples and oranges. The warm ethereal glow demands an explanation. My mother was at hand with a handy one that gave her some practical peace from 3 constantly bickering kids and added everlasting wonder to our lives. My mother told us one evening as we watched the horizon in wonder my mother explained that the beautiful array of colors was from the glow of Santa's workshop at the North Pole. He was making toys for all the good children around the world. Determined to be a child that got toys, I resolved again and again to be good.
Now as an adult, I look at red skies in the fall and remember fondly those incredible vast skyscapes that a farm in Oklahoma has to offer.

Monday, December 22, 2008


That is what I uttered this morning when I decided to step on my bathroom scale which is located in the kitchen. Technically I guess it would be called a kitchen scale.
After over a week of potlucks, Reyes Family tamales, gift bags of candy, cookies, cakes and everything else left on break table and my own indulgences I have reached saturation point and now weigh more than I have literally ever weighted. So it is time to drag those resolutions out and put them into action.
I read an article in LA Yoga about resolutions that was kind of neat. It talked about re-solving and doing re-solutions. I never thought of it that way. If I had lost the extra 50 pounds this year, I wouldn't have to re-solve the bloody problem. If I had actually logged 25 miles a week, ditto. So obviously my past solutions weren't very effective. It is time for me to search for a new way of solving the old dilemmas of weight, exercise, diet, finances, etc.
What can I do differently this year? I haven't gotten it worked out completely but I think that the focus is going to be on reducing my stress and beating myself up constantly with should, could, would haves.
So here is the mantra I am going to live by this next year. It goes like this: Remember: Living a life of joy without undue stress is vital. In all I do focus on making myself a better me but also take time to enjoy being me. Find a time to move but also a time to still myself. Be happy in my skin by shedding bonds of stress and neagativity. Always live without regret and the past modals (should, could, would haves). How's that. I will let everyone know how this works out.
In the mean time good luck with finding your own re-solutions and re-solving.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holiday Festivities

It has been a busy holiday season. First, there was the my library region's annual holiday breakfast where we have a white elephant to raise funds for our scholarship fund. I was one of the three organizers for the breakfast. I nominated myself for decorations and I was nominated to be the MC on the morning of. I love things like this. I enjoy decorating and seeing how a room is transformed. I also enjoy being the center of attention and my voice is loud enough to command attention. It is hard to believe that my first adult students in Japan told my boss that although they liked me that had a heard time hearing me. Talking through numerous throat infections--either from the pollution in Hiroshima or hanging out in smokey bars (I claim the former rather than the latter)--has given me a powerful resonating voice. But anyway back to the story. I had fun but was exhausted afterwards, I spent about an hour presenting gifts to the winning person. An hour of walking in my high heels albeit comfortable ones were about all I could take.
Tuesday was the Friends of the Library potluck and "gift" exchange. The gifts here were donated books that we picked up. We drew numbers and chose a nicely wrapped gift. We could steal something already opened or choose a package to open. I made fondue and ate way too much of all the other goodies that everyone brought.
On Thursday we had our library's potluck and gift exchange. I prepared stockings and other gifts that everyone could draw a number to choose or steal already opened presents. I got a pack of 5 scratchers and thought that would be the hot prize but no, the most wanted gifts were little stuffed lambs I got from Bath & Body. One employee was so disappointed that her lamb was stolen she complained about the next day. The good manager that I am, I went to Bath & Body yesterday to get another one so that she will feel better. For the potluck I made fondue again--that goodness for Sam's big blocks of cheese. One block was good for two fondues. I am so glad fondue is back in vogue again.
Yesterday & this morning, I went of to M's sister's house for the Reyes family Birthday and Christmas. The made tamales. Wow! were they ever good. I am usually just so-so about tamales although most of my tamale experience has been the Hormel canned variety. But the tamales were made with a spicy masa and the meat was nicely seasoned. I went back for seconds and then had another this morning when I arrived. It is nice to spend time with a big family. I miss that I am not with my own family but I am thankful that M is such a good friend that she has made me feel a part of her family.
So now with my apartment in a big mess, I still need to get my Christmas cards out. I will do that tonight or tomorrow. M has invited me back over to her sister's house for Christmas Eve dinner and I will probably spend Christmas with P. I am so glad he is back. It has been a good season. I am beginning to feel that California is my home and I am getting grounded. Now if only I could find a boyfriend things would be complete--well, I think that would also take getting a dog. Things are good, so I will be happy with what I have and not dwell on what I don't.
I hope everyone's season is as fullfilled as mine is. Merry Christmas, Happy Winter Solstice, and Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

There's a Reason Why I Don't Travel to Oklahoma...

in the winter. Yesterday, we had low temperatures, rain, snow and road closures in LA County. In Canyon Country it was just cold and rainy but up the Antelope Valley got several inches. The 14 Freeway was closed as were a number of highways in and around LA. M says the last time it snowed like it did yesterday was 23 years ago or slightly longer than a blue moon.
J's library was closed so he called me telling me I should call in sick--although I was already at work--and drive up past the winery on Sierra Hwy where it looked like the east coast with snow blowing around and swirling. About an hour later, they closed the Sierra Hwy. I presumed that J didn't get stuck because this afternoon he re-deployed to my library. His library was still closed today.
I don't like going back to Idabel in the winter because you just never know what is going to happen, it might be sunny and 50 degrees on moment and minus 12 the next. No joke, I have seen it happen. One year, little brother and I came home for Thanksgiving. On Saturday an ice storm hit. This meant that my dad had to drive us 250 miles on icy roads and then turn back around to drive back. I was a basket case by the time we got there. Another year, it was returning after Christmas holidays--I just happened to also have had a virus that was at first passed off as a nervous disposition. Three days later and still no stomach relief told another story. But it was a miserable ride back with me being sick in the back coupled with ice roads.
One year I had to go to OKC to fly to Houston get my visa, fly back to OKC to fly to Japan. Like all my trips to Japan, a very tight turn around. My friend Cathy was down on business and offered to drive me to OKC. We got to Shawnee when the ice storm hit. At first we thought we would press on but when the truck on the other side of the divided highway swept another car and itself in the ditch, Cathy looked at me and we both said "We're stopping for the night." The next morning it was 50 degrees and OKC was not a problem. I even had a couple of hours to spare to get to the airport and my plane.
I live in Southern California for a reason. And weather like yesterday is one of the reasons. If it visits once in every 25 or so years, I guess I can live with it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Freezing Your Eggs

Yep, I went and did it. I froze my eggs--6 of them. I was surprised to see what they look like when they are frozen. They looked all kind of cracked and not so pretty. I decided that once they were frozen they probably wouldn't be any good--so I threw them away. Chances are they weren't fertilized so it didn't really matter.
I can get more. This time I won't freeze them.
Here is the story. P came over for breakfast to grab the bag he left at my apartment in October. After coffee it was time for breakfast. P took his bag, my futon, Japanese blanket a couple of sweatshirts and towels out to his truck (Hawaii people are generally not prepared for cold weather)while I rummaged through the fridge for breakfast stuff. When he returned, I informed him that we had to go to McDonald's for breakfast. He looked at me questioningly so I had to explain that I wanted to make scrambled eggs. He said "I like scrambled eggs." "Yes," I agreed and continued with "But, when I couldn't find my eggs in the fridge I thought I would look in the freezer to see what was in there for breakfast. That was when I discovered the egg carton in the freezer with frozen eggs." P exclaimed "You froze your eggs?" Yes, I did and showed him the carton of cracked eggs. We both agreed that eggs probably didn't freeze very well and were no longer usable. At any rate it was clear that they would not thaw in the next few minutes so it was to McDonald's that we went for breakfast.
Ladies, I recommend leaving the eggs out of the freezer. Use them while they are still fresh and you won't go wrong. Trust me on this.

Monday, December 15, 2008


This afternoon I went to Baja Fresh for lunch which I generally do about once a week or so. I usually walk but because it is raining, I drove over. I spotted a parking spot between Cold Stone and Baja Fresh which meant no worries about melting in the rain. As I was turning off my headlights (A California law says that if your wipers are on so must your headlights) I noticed that the shop next to Baja Fresh had a realtor's AVAILABLE sign on the window. What!? Quiznos used to be there--it was there last week--no it is gone.
Last week, I noticed that the Office Depot in Canyon Country is closed. As is the Starbucks across from Sam's Club. Down in Stevenson Ranch both a shoe store and Linen's and Things also closed or closing. Mervin's of course has a big yellow--store closing sign on it. Furniture shops have been closing for the past year, ever since the housing bubble burst.
The only good news in all this is that gas is lower than I have seen it since I returned to the United States 8 years ago. Otherwise, I am worried about the future. I hope that Obama can inspire America the way Kennedy did and can make clear and decisive decisions. He is already being built up to be the next Roosevelt. But as my mother pointed out it was really the war that got us out of the last depression. What will do it this time? Getting us out of the war that helped get us into it?
I remember the 70's, many of my earliest memories have to do with Watergate and the end of the Vietnam War. I remember gas prices rocketing from 25 cents a gallon to over $1. I remember eating a lot of beans and cornbread. These were not easy times. Then the 80's hit and everything seemed to get better--for a while--until the Savings and Loan scandal wreaked havoc and the bottom seemed to drop out again. By the time I was getting ready to finish college others were planning on Master's and PhD's--anything to keep from having to pay the mounting loans off with few job prospects. Advisers recommended that everyone be prepared for a 6-12 month job search. I chose to go to Japan where I had a job waiting for me. I bounced back and forth between the US, Japan, and Europe for the next 10 years. Clinton came in and the country was soaring. In the mean time, I lived through the bubble and bust of Japan's economy--a yen rate that got out of control, I saw approximately a 30% reduction of my salary using exchange rates. Clinton was in office, America was riding an economic tidal wave. I decided to come back.
So now, I am living through the bust of America's economy. It took years for Japan to grapple with their economy and I am still not sure that they have ever addressed some of the major problems with it. Korea got their's under control with a population that was willing to drag out their gold from family coffers and give it to the government. Is that what it will take for us? Would we be willing to make the sacrifice? I am still worried. But I remain hopeful.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holiday Time of Year

Tis the season as they say. I have always enjoyed decorating for Christmas and took over decorating the house when I was about 12. My mom reminds me that I didn't take over taking down the decorations until I moved away from home and no longer had her to do it. I must have scratched my head in confusion that first year when the decorations didn't magically take themselves down.
I have a collection of ornaments that go back years. Each one has a special memory attached. "These were the ones Chip and I painted when I was 10" "I got this one when I was home for Christmas from Japan." "Karen made this one for me." "I had this on my tree in Japan." etc. Each year as I take the ornaments out, I revisit memories of the past. I have a Christmas stocking--white (kind of dingy now) with angels that I got my first Christmas and have hung up lovingly for over 40 years. Several years ago I discovered that the "Made in Japan" foil sticker had somehow survived on the back of the stocking. Perhaps it was destiny that my life would be wound so closely to Japan.
In Hawaii, C and I both loved to decorate the house. I had a tree and a number of clear, glass & crystal ornaments, she had brightly colored ornaments. Together we created a beautiful tree. The first Christmas after she had moved back to the mainland and thoughtlessly took her ornaments with her. I unsuspectingly put of the tree, stepped back, viewed my handiwork, only to discover that my tree looked very anemic with the plethora of clear ornaments. I never missed my dear friend more and even with the color balls I rushed out to buy, I have never felt the tree has looked exactly as it did with the mixture of mine and C's ornaments.
I also have a collection of nutcrackers. I have them setting on my dining room table as a center piece. I fell in love with the Nutcracker ballet and Baryshnikov when it aired on TV when I was eleven years old. I have collected them since, my collection would be considerably bigger if I hadn't lost an entire box of them.
I have discovered that what I enjoy most about Christmas is the decoration aspects of it. I have spent so much time away from my family during Christmas that I am sometimes melancholy on Christmas day. While in Japan, I discovered that if I engaged in normal American Christmas activities, like attending a Christmas chorus, I would like become distraught with homesickness. One negative experience made me wary for the future. Christmas Days that I have enjoyed were at the beach with Paul and sushi for dinner; setting my tiny Barbie sized kitchen on fire making chicken Kiev (OK not so much fun as memorable). As I was coming unglued in the kitchen, the men were wrapped up in Pulp Fiction in the living room. By the time, they registered my panicked cries, I had the fire out--flour burns on electric rings by the way!
This year, I don't know what I will do for Christmas. Paul is now in LA so maybe something with him. Perhaps not Sushi because I am still avoiding it since my poisoning. But whatever, I know that I have friends and family that will be thinking about me and that will be enough

Sunday, December 7, 2008


We all probably have a few. I know I do so I am usually sympathetic to people who seem to have harmless ones. J self-admittedly has a weakness. He has an addiction that demands any spare cash he may have on him. And I have to admit I am often an enabler, funding his addition occasionally just to see him become completely involved--I am a good friend that way. Besides I often benefit from his tumbles into uncontrolled behavior. J is addicted to claw machines. Like sirens sing to him when he in their proximity. As in the presence of sirens you can visible see the will drain out of him as he changes his bills for a jingling pocket full of quarters. I would be worried about him, but he is actually pretty good at the game so I get a contact high from him. Personally, they sing nothing to me. The claw sirens definitely target men. The purse, jewelry and shoe sirens are generally heard by females leaving men to think we are crazy.
Last Friday, J and I went to Oggies to celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the End of Prohibition (December 5, 1933) with pizza and pitcher of beer. When the bill arrived, J threw down his half and then produced a tenner telling me he was going to win everything in the machine. I used the facilities next to the machines and found him completely engrossed. I asked how much he had spent. Like all addicts he lied. He said it was his first 50 cents but later felt guilty and amended it to his third try. The machine was pretty empty so it was clear to J that he was going to chase good money after bad so he asked "Do you want to go to Walmart?" As a good supporting friend agreed. We walked home with his pockets still somewhat jingling, put up the left over pizza and took his car to Walmart. Claw machines beckoned in the distance. He checked the machines out and decided that he would use the $1 machine--in my estimation the difference between crack and coke. He lost a few dollars on the imdomitable snowman from the Rudolf cartoon. Then he started to score, first with a stuffed box with a snowman head and feet. Then with a spunky green donkey and then he got it the snowman. As I was dragging the winning out of the bin, a group of teenagers walked by and "Awe is that sweet" my filled arms. J had 50 cents left, not enough for another try. Completely caught up in J's success, I dug a $5 out of my purse. He refused, I came up with a dollar bill, he agreed. So with my dollar he snagged an Elvis Elf--complete with sunglasses and a green satin cape. Elvis is now under my Christmas tree next to the snowman. Other winning that I scored from J's addiction are living in my car. I am cultivating a menagerie in the backseat until my car-pet Sam starts complaining about sharing his car.
I really want to go to Vegas with J, because if I have this much fun watching him win small prizes with his money and sometimes mine. I will have a blast watching him go saucer eyed at the craps table. Anyway watching other people blow their money is pretty cheap. So I think I will make out pretty well in Vegas with him there. He just has to join M and me for a 3 hour champagne brunch. Also a pretty cheap way to pass time in Vegas. My final words are Viva Las Vegas!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

From Luddite to Tech Trouble Shooter

How did this happen? I started college before Bill Gates made PC's a household name. I was at the cusp of the tech revolution. Some friends like K embraced the new technology. Me--I thought my electronic typewriter was nifty enough. I avoided the issue of technology by fleeing to Japan. I know how that sounds but as late as 2000 internet cost 10 yen (about 10 cents) a minute and not so many people had computers at home. One friend described Japan as a cross between the Flintstones and the Jetsons. Boy was she ever right. In 1998 another friend set up a Hotmail account for me and walked me through the steps of how to use it.
In 2000, I came back to the States and was contemplating a career in Library Information Sciences. I realized I had to get over my fear of computers. Also I had just been promoted to Managing Director of the little language school I worked at which required a few more tech skills than I had. I began to take some courses--Saturday workshops--at the local community college. Then Devon found a grant for small businesses that paid for us to attend classes. We both took a number of Office program courses and suddenly we were cranking out fliers, spreadsheets and other documents like pros.
So here I am in 2008 working for the County with public PC's. I still consider myself a novice by a long shot. However, that being said, I am constantly amazed when I am the most tech savvy person on staff. I have a couple of young part-time employees that know more than me, but otherwise I am the troubleshooter. I am the one that figure things out. And with the public, I am the pro that can solve most of their problems most of the time.
I no longer quake at the thought of learning some new application but neither am I overly thrilled at it either. I generally use technology at work and then go home to my quiet home without internet and cable TV. If I want to check my e-mail, post blog entries, I head off for Cuppy's coffee or wait for my lunch hour. I suspect that other people my age are either very tech savvy or just uses it on a needs to basis.