Resolution (2009 Challenge)

Resolution you wish you'd stuck with. (You know, there's always next year...)

Every year I make the same resolution: to clean up my gutter-mouth. Every year I fail within a month. Okay, maybe a week. Okay, maybe a few hours. Oddly enough, on January 1, 2009, I said to myself, “Self, that never works, so just don’t even bother,” and I didn’t make any resolutions at all. More oddly still, I think I’ve cussed less this year than ever. I’ve certainly been aware when I did, and tried to immediately select an alternative expression like, “Fudge!” or “Dang!” or one of my favorites from Peanuts, “Good grief.”

(cartoon by Natalie Dee)

Ad (2009 Challenge)

What advertisement made you think this year?

Here's my top list of ads from 2009. These made me think - in one direction or another. You think for yourself:

#10 - Every one of the "every kiss begins with Kay" or "he went to Jared" ads.

#9 - All patient-directed pharmaceutical ads. Here's an interesting summation from UCD (although I fear Dr. Kravitz may be dipping into his own stash of samples).

#8 - All  of  Target's  2-Day  Sale  ads.

#7 - Jack-In-The-Box's "2 for 99" commercial. I just love Jack's ads.

#6 - "Sonic Drive-In's Hear Me With Your Ears ad".

#5 - PETA's banned Super Bowl ad. (NBC said it 'depicts a level of sexuality exceeding our standards at NBC'.)

#4 - Promo for "This Is It".

#3 - St. Jude Children's Hospital ads. All of them.

#2 - Sarah McLaughlin's Animal Cruelty ad.

#1 - The utmost WTFruit?! ad this year definitely has to be the “get your girlfriend a pap smear” campaign.

You've got to be fudgin' kidding me. And for our Jewish kin:

Listen, schmear-monger, if you want to light up my menorah, it ain't gonna happen with a speculum!

Laugh (2009 Challenge)

What was your biggest belly laugh of the year?

I was at Maria’s house. She showed me a booklet, circa 1950-something-or-other. Here’s her description of it:
It’s from the gas assoc and the title is Food Is Fun, with the scary 1950's version of the Hansel & Gretel witch on the front...however inside you find out that cooking is like dancing.... omg you made me look at it again and I'm laughing so hard I can't breathe!

Okay, it was late. Okay, we'd just spent four hours lolly-gagging over margaritas at an outdoor cafe. But the recipes were hideously hilarious and the pictures hilariously hideous! Example: bananas with bacon. Note the loveliness of the finished product at the 3:00 position in this photo.

We laughed til we peed!

Stationery (2009 Challenge)

When you touch the paper, your heart melts. The ink flows from the pen. What was your stationery find of the year?

Is this a euphemism?

Social web moment (2009 Challenge)

Did you meet someone you used to only know from her blog? Did you discover Twitter?

With apologies for verbing...

I do not Tweet, nor do I Facebook. Both of those are about as enticing to me as a Jump To Conclusions Mat.

Insight or aha! moment (2009 Challenge)

What was your epiphany of the year?

I need a central place to keep all my recipes. Oh yeah, there’s always the intertubes! Now if only I can find a template and the widgets I want….

Gift (2009 Challenge)

What's a gift you gave yourself this year that has kept on giving?

This morning. In my jammies. Jacked up on coffee. Read for an hour and a half straight. Put Nutcracker on the stereo and cranked it to 11. Cooking up a storm.

I am in my element.

And if you’re wondering, yes, it will keep on giving once this killer mac & cheese hits my perfect butt.

Learning experience (2009 Challenge)

What was a lesson you learned this year that changed you?

This year I learned that everyone loves me. Evidently, I am overwhelmingly recognized as a generous, wise and loving woman! There's not a soul on Earth who doesn't acknowledge my wonderfulness, nor anyone who hasn't forgiven me for any transgressions I may have committed in the past (which, of course, is just an interjection of humor here since I am incapable of committing transgressions in the first place).

This knowledge is powerfully liberating! It has enabled me to cease all concern about what people are thinking. (I already know!)

I no longer worry if my butt looks too big (my butt is perfection) or whether my hair and makeup are in line with current trends (trends follow me).

I've saved a ton of money by easing up on those poor Joneses. They've worked so hard, the dears, to keep up with me over the years, I thought it only compassionate to give them a break during These Economic Times.

And here's the really great part. You know how every once in awhile you've thought to yourself, "Good lord, people are such idiots. If only they'd do what I tell them." Well, guess what! Everyone now does what I tell them and the world is better for it! Just look:

So if you have any burning questions about what religion to follow, which way to lean, politically or sexually, or whether to wear that shirt with those pants, just post your questions here. I'll get back to you when I'm finished polishing my tiara.

Web tool (2009 Challenge)

It came into your work flow this year and now you couldn't live without it. It has simplified or improved your online experience.

I immersed myself in RSS technology this year. Google has made it very easy with Reader and I love it!

I now RSS about 70 different blogs, funnies, news topics, etc. At this point, I don’t know what I’d do without it! Well, actually, I do know. I would lay in bed, curled in the fetal position, humming to myself about all or those interesting, thought-provoking, cute and/or hilarious ones and zeros swishing through the intertubes that I would be missing out on cuz I just couldn’t possibly remember what sites to check every day!

Startup (2009 Challenge)

What's a business that you found this year that you love? Who thought it up? What makes it special?

Well, I can't claim to have just found it this year, but I must say I have to give some mad props to whoever thought up monkey business. Genius!

Project (2009 Challenge)

What did you start this year that you're proud of?

This is a great topic for me. As you know, I'm all about the projects!

The year began with completion of one of the most significant DIY projects of my life (aside from making my kids). Bill and I completed work on our second investment house in the Fall of 2008, and in the first month of 2009 we managed to get it rented to a great couple. Even though our tired, old bodies are still suffering as a result of the work on those two houses last year, we couldn't be happier!

In spite of aching backs and arms, we wanted to buy another investment house right away, but it just wasn't to be. So I began fixing up my own house instead and - oh my - there is so, so much to do!

I've managed to get the dilapidated back yard fence replaced. Steve rebuilt the filter and waterfall for the pond. We've done a little primping here and there in the front yard, just to keep things presentable while that portion awaits more of our attention.

Over the winter, I'm focusing on the interior. I'm about halfway through repainting all the kitchen cabinets, finally covering the purple that was applied to the cabinet doors against my wishes. Now the cabinets are a beautiful, neutral cappuccino color inside and out. Voila - fresh and clean!

When that's finished, we'll repaint the purple back splash / dining room wall in a soft, mossy green. Then I'll tackle the flooring, replacing the old, ugly, cracked vinyl flooring with cork plank flooring, and, of course, the baseboards. That's an adventure in itself, since X flippin' GLUED THEM ON. You don't want to hear the blue language coming from the kitchen while I'm hacking and whittling, trying to free them from the base of the cabinets.

When this phase is complete, I'll probably start looking into new counters, sink and fixtures. With the new windows that are scheduled to be installed mid-January, I think it'll all look really great.

Thennnn....when the kitchen is done....I'll turn my attention on the bathrooms. They're both functional, but with wall coverings and fixtures that are nearly 30 years old, it's time.

Can you tell I'm all about the projects?
Didn't I warn you?

Meanwhile, I've been making drawings so that when The Universe drops about $100k in my lap (which, of course, it will), we'll dig a new pond, add a hardscape deck and hot tub, smoosh the two small bathrooms into one large one, and build out to add a new master suite and a den/office.

It'll be epic.

Warning: Very Sad Story

"At 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning, [a 27-year old wife and mother in Eastern Michigan] lost her home, her belongings, her husband, her 4 year old son and her 8 month old daughter to a fire. She was saved by a neighbor who put a ladder up to her bedroom window. Her 12 year old step daughter also made it out on her own. The neighbors tried to put a ladder up to the children's window, where their father was trying to save them, but were unable to due to the smoke and flames. The fire department was able to remove her husband and children from the home within 10 minutes of arriving, but as I already mentioned, it was too late."

I learned about this tragic story originally this morning from CakeWrecks. They linked to Kristie's Notes, where I read of this horrible loss.

Please check your smoke alarms. Make sure you have enough of them, they are placed in appropriate locations, and that they are working. And while you're at it, make sure you have at lease one carbon monoxide alarm in working order.

Kristie's blog includes a link to PayPal where you can make a donation if this moves you. I did.

New person (2009 Challenge)

She came into your life and turned it upside down. He went out of his way to provide incredible customer service. Who is your unsung hero of 2009?

If I was writing about 2008, this would be a no-brainer. But this blog challenge is all about reflection on 2009 and, for the life of me (I've been mulling this over since Friday morning), I cannot think of one person I would call an "unsung hero" in my life over this past year.

Maybe it's because of the subjective value placed on the word "hero." Maybe it's because I tend to sing out loud when I think it's warranted. Anyway, I don't think anyone's gone unsung, tra-la, tra-la.

Car ride (2009 Challenge)

What did you see? How did it smell? Did you eat anything as you drove there? Who were you with?

I'm growing weary of these odd writing prompts. Sorry, but "car ride"? Really? Okay, let's see...

I guess the best car ride of this past year was when I took Brooke and Koby down to Fullerton to visit with Spike. It was Brooke's first time meeting him, and it was great watching the two kids have some good, quality time with him. So the ride there, and the ride back, was filled with a sense of peace, satisfaction and loving thoughts. Plus, we got to see Landon for a quick visit on the way back.

All I Want For Christmas is...

One of the blogs I haunt all year is called CakeWrecks. Ya gotta check it out if you haven't already. As if the photos weren't enough, the captions are a HOOT!

This month, at the end of each hilarious post about baking-gone-bad, the genius behind CakeWrecks is featuring a charity. One a day. You can read all about it here. And they're asking their readers to:

Give one dollar to each day's charity.

That's it - just one dollar per person. Is there a sole among us who cannot afford $31 bucks for charity this month? And they've made it very easy to make a donation by using this site:

** After clicking that link, you'll need to type cakewrecks in the search box. **

So....please....let's all stop giving each other useless crap for Christmas and do some good with our dollars.

Shop (2009 Challenge)

Online or offline, where did you spend most of your mad money this year?

Those who know me in the slightest know that I am not a "mad money" kind of girl. My financial shenanigans are about as exciting as your grandfather's story about how much a loaf of bread cost in 1942.

I am an ant. Okay, not so much with all that "working hard" or "worrying" stuff, but I do put my back into planning for the future. A number of people have graciously offered to live with me when they're old, which is fine, just so long as they make it a mutually beneficial arrangement, if ya know what I mean.

My largest expenditures this year involved real estate, mutual funds and charity. See? Told you I wasn't exciting.

Word or phrase (2009 Challenge)

A word that encapsulates your year. "2009 was _____."


An amusement park at midnight.

You want it to be fun but you're disoriented by an image of what you thought was yourself.

You're frozen by the scream of a roller coaster bearing down on you.

The clowns have reinvented themselves. They're no longer merely troublesome but have become utterly savage.

In the moonlight, things are not quite what they seem.

In the dark no one listens when you scream.

Tea of the year (2009 Challenge)

I can taste my favorite tea right now. What's yours?

In the little town of Folsom, there is a Mexican restaurant we like very much. They make the most awesome Long Island Ice Tea! Best flavor, perfect size, and most bang for your buck.

Just let us know the date and time. We'll meetcha there!

Best packaging (2009 Challenge) / Update to Best Blog

Did your headphones come in a sweet case? See a bottle of tea in another country that stood off the shelves?

This year's award for superb packaging goes to ........badadadada....(that's a drum roll)..... Soap Hope!

There are many reasons they are an excellent company, but for purposes of this blog post, I will happily tell you that they use what they call "ugly boxes." As long as the product arrives safe and sound, it doesn't matter what the packaging looks like, right? It's kind of like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree of packaging.

If you haven't checked out Soap Hope before, now's the time!


I would like to add a post script to December 7th's entry. I've just discovered Flash Fiction 365. This blog is written by Jason Long, a youing father who lives nearby. He uses title suggestions from readers.and then rolls a pair of Dungeons and Dragons dice to come up with a number from 11 to 88. Then he writes a short story with that many words about that particular topic.

Flash Fiction 365 was born on Jan. 1 of this year. He was inspired by the six-word story, attributed to Ernest Hemingway, "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

I will most definitely read all 365 entries. So far I've read backwards only through December, but I'm taking my time and will savor every mini-story like the perfect ganache at the center of a perfect truffle.

Rush (2009 Challenge)

When did you get your best rush of the year?

How sad...and at the same time rather emo. I cannot think of a thing.

Home (2009 Challenge)

What's the best change you made to the place you live?

I want to say something noble about improving the globe, feeding the hungry, clothing the (unintentionally) naked, yadda, yadda, but don't you think this blog deserves an honest response? Taking back my turf, which involved a fair amount of late but necessary personal growth, was truly the best change.

Those who know me well know that I'm a people-pleaser. Generally speaking, if it makes you happy, I'll throw myself in front of a train. Over the decades, this has resulted in a goodly number of railroad track shaped scars. Who can say why some of us learn to be whole when we're 2, 5 or 10, and others take half a century or more? If we're lucky, though, or smart, or diligent, we learn. And if we're really good, we learn how to stand our ground without being complete bitches. That is my quest.

New food (2009 Challenge)

You're now in love with Lebanese food and you didn't even know what it was in January of this year.

While in Van Nuys visiting my Armenian cousin, she and her husband took us to an Armenian-owned market. Wow - I was in heaven! We just don't have enough of an Armenian population in Sacramento to have a really good selection of Armenian restaurants or markets. We bought a bottle of Raki, a tray of paklava, and some sujukh (the sweet kind).

The sujukh we bought consisted of walnuts threaded on a string, then dipped in thick grape syrup. The consistency is like a thick fruit roll-up. You can see sujukh on the right in his photo. Looks rather majestic hanging like that, doesn't it? Well the package we bought looked kind of like logs of poo. Steve, my 55 year old 9 year old, had no end of poo-related comments to make. I just ignored him and reveled in its not-too-sweet taste, chewy consistency, and, of course, the cellular memory thrill I always feel when reveling in my culture.


Zaheea Anan is no longer dancing at Marrakech Morrocan Restaurant in Sacramento.

Although she was the featured dancer there for FIFTEEN YEARS, she's now moved on to bigger and better things.

Marrakech used to be a favorite spot for us to take friends and family, whether just for dinner or for special occasions. We held my dad's 75th birthday party there in 2003. That was the night I discovered Zaheea. She was so fun, so beautiful, and, omg, so talented. She made us feel like she was one of the sisters.

Although the food is okay (frankly, I prefer my own home-cooked ethnic cuisine) and the ambience fun, honestly, it was Zaheea that made that place so special. We've seen other dancers perform there and came away feeling rather, "Eh." Without Zaheea, there's no real reason for us to make Marrakech our go-to place anymore

I've spent my entire life around belly dancers. Zaheea is the BEST I'VE EVER SEEN! I am anxious to find out what her new schedule will hold. When I do find out, I'll post it here and hope that my readers make it out to see a most incredible performer.

Stay tuned!

The best place (2009 Challenge)

A coffee shop? A pub? A retreat center? A cubicle? A nook?

I have a chair. I call it my time-out chair. It's in the corner of the room recently vacated by my youngest son, my last child to leave the nest.

Complemented by a table to hold my tea cup, a floor lamp that came all the way from Michigan, and a spare pair of reading glasses, this chair is always ready to receive my weary ass.

Sometimes I don't read there.

Sometimes I just sit.

My chair is large enough to allow me to curl up with my feet under me, and small enough so that I feel wrapped in a cocoon. I can chat with friends or simply enjoy my solitude. The wing back style allows me to fall asleep without falling out.

My time-out chair represents My Zone. When I'm in that chair, in that room, I feel at peace.

Album of the year (2009 Challenge)

What's rocking your world?

Good question. I'm not a big album/CD purchaser. I generally find that, when I do buy something, I listen to it a time or two and then it gets dusty. Mostly I listen to XM in the car or online, or use Pandora.

That being said, the one CD I bought this year was Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away by Slaid Cleeves. I bought this directly from Slaid's beautiful hands and it bears his beautiful signature. Do I sound like I'm doting a bit? Maaayyybe.

Slaid is, in my opinion, amazing. He snagged me years ago when he sang this on his 2000 CD, Broke Down:

Sherry had a pawnshop band of gold
A sink full of dishes and a love grown cold

He says Rod Picott actually wrote the song and he just polished it up, but I don't know this Rod guy, so my loyalty goes to Slaid for that one.

The Broke Down CD also included the song Lydia, which was actually written by Karen Poston, but Slaid just did it so darn well. And, ahem, so did my sons. I swear, that song makes my eyes leak every time I hear it.

On this new CD, which includes some cool liner notes by Stephen King, Slaid manages to pull and bend my heart while not being too "twangy." (Yeah, tell Tom.) He's a self-proclaimed blues singer...because nothing he sings is upbeat in any way. He sings about battered wives, love gone wrong and dead children. But he does it so well.

Best Movie of The Year!

Joel made this video and played it at Landon's first birthday party last month. Enjoy.

Challenge (2009 Challenge)

Something that really made you grow this year. That made you go to your edge and then some. What made it the best challenge of the year for you?

This year held a few different challenges for me. I was stretched like Turkish taffy professionally, personally, medically and financially.

Probably the most significant challenge has been, and continues to be, learning to live more in the Tao.

My greatest stress is rooted in my inability to control the universe. I can't control what others are thinking or saying about me. I couldn't stop Jessica or the koi from dying. I can't make people live their lives the way I think they should. I can't make people shut up, stop hurting, get out of my way, love me, stop doing drugs, be respectful, live up to their potential, or make their dogs stop barking. Heck, I can't even seem to stop my hair from graying or my butt from growing!

I wouldn't dare to suggest I've conquered this challenge, but I've recognized that it has presented itself to me, and for that I pat myself on the back. Besides, a Taoist would probably advise that challenges cannot be "conquered." But what's the point if we don't evolve, right? So I intend to evolve and to learn how to be peaceful.

Moment of Peace (2009 Challenge)

An hour or a day or a week of solitude. What was the quality of your breath? The state of your mind? How did you get there?

I stopped
And listened
And everything stopped and listened with me
And the forest was very lone and still and peaceful in the sun
Until, suddenly,
Very high above me
A bird began to sing.

Blog Find of The Year (2009 Challenge)

That gem of a blog you can't believe you didn't know about until this year.

This one. Okay, I didn't find it this year, but I did find it to be, this year, more of a blog for me than just the "all about the family" blog it started out to be.

Can I just interject here that I'm finding it hard to keep writing every day? Not only because I'm sometimes too busy to even pee, let alone sit down and write something witty, but also because I have a hard time pulling anything up from the depths of my soul to write about these topics we've been given. Not complaining; just noting.

So anyway... Guess what. It snowed here last night! I'm only at about 80 feet above sea level and it freakin' SNOWED!



Was there a conference or workshop you attended that was especially beneficial? Where was it? What did you learn?

Early in the year I attended a project management workshop in Spokane. The speaker turned out to be much more entertaining and fun that I'd anticipated, and I did learn a lot, but the biggest lesson of that trip was that my instincts deserve respect.

I arrived on Super Bowl Sunday. Spokane was cold, drizzly and windy. Yuck. After getting a car to my hotel, I set about the business of checking in. All I wanted to do was put my stuff in my room and then relax with a room service salad and watch what was left of the game.

I boarded the elevator and slipped the card key in the slot to gain access to the 4th floor. Just before the doors closed, a somewhat disheveled man got on the elevator and pushed the button for the 7th floor. I did what we all do when enclosed in that vertically-mobile little room: gave him a brief hello nod and then stared at the doors. When the elevator reached my floor, he exited right after me. I turned and said, "I don't think this is your floor. Didn't you want the 7th?"

He looked a little nervous and, after hesitating, replied, "Oh." Then he backed into the elevator as I proceeded to the T in the hallway. As soon as I reached the T I stopped, realizing he had gotten off the elevator again. The entire floor suddenly felt as quiet and deserted as a tomb. I put down my suitcase and began pulling my cell phone from my purse. I also scanned the area and located the nearest fire alarm.

The man also stopped at the T. We were standing next to each other and he was just standing there, looking at me. As I fumbled with my stupid BlackBerry. Damn! Why does this thing have to make me enter a password?! I turned and faced him, looking directly into his eyes. "Can I help you with something?"

"Oh, no," he said, "I just needed to get off the elevator to call 911."

"Excuse me? Why do you need to call 911?"

He fumbled. I spun around and got back on the elevator, shaking. Close you stupid slow doors! Close!

I lucked out that night. The doors closed before he made it back to the elevator. Once on the ground floor, I raced to the front desk and told them what had happened. They summoned a security guard, I chose a bar stool hidden behind a large, muscular man watching the game at the bar, and from that perch I watched as Security escorted Mr. Scary from the premises. Three times! Yes, he kept on trying to come back in!

The gentleman at the bar, along with his wife, took me under their wing. They sat with me, drank with me and watched the game with me until my knees no longer shook. They stayed until I was ready to return to my room. The were friends - adopted family - and yet I don't know their names. Thank you, friends!

So, kids, the moral of the story is to trust your instincts. When the man first boarded the elevator, I felt nervous. Why, you may be asking, didn't I get off the elevator right then and there? Because he was black. And I didn't want to be racially offensive.

Okay, now wipe the coffee spray off your monitor.

Night out (2009 Challenge)

Did you have a night out with friends or a loved one that rocked your world? Who was there? What was the highlight of the night?

October was rife with nights out with friends.

Nini & John treated us to dinner at Marrakech* in celebration of their employment with Century 21. The highlight of that evening was, most definitely, watching Nini get up and belly dance after having recently had both hips replaced!

Later that month, I took a weekend trip to San Jose and had a great time with my friends Debbi and Maria. Nothing beats some concentrated girlfriend time. We laughed til we peed ourselves! (Sorry - no pictures of that.)

A couple of days after returning, Steve and I tried a new (to us) Italian restaurant in Davis (it was great) and attended An Acoustic Evening with Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt at the Mondavi Center.

The following weekend, Koby and Brooke and I made the drive to Fullerton to visit with Spike. And the weekend after that, Steve and I drove down again!

I guess we weren't home much at all in October. Each of those events held its own high points, of course. I loved seeing Koby and Brooke have the opportunity to spend time with Spike. I was so happy to see Trevor and Bettie and the rest of that crowd, and glad that Steve got to meet everyone he's been hearing so much about.

* In jumping out to find the link for Marrakech, it appears they've disappeared. I am stunned and trying to find out more info about this. I discovered Zaheea, my all-time fav bd, has retired, but will wait for her reply to my email before I can relate the whole scoop. Wow.

Book (2009 Blog Challenge)

What book - fiction or non - touched you? Where were you when you read it? Have you bought and given away multiple copies?

Even though I've owned this book for years, and read it countless times, to myself as well as to anyone who will hold still long enough, it continues to be the one book I purchase again and again.

In November my first grandchild turned one year old. Click here to read the rest of the story: And Now We Are One

Article (2009 Blog Challenge)

What's an article that you read that blew you away? That you shared with all your friends. That you Delicious'd and reference throughout the year.

Well, I don't "Delicious" anything, and since when did that become a verb? Don't EVEN get me started on verbing.

I wouldn't use the phrase "blew me away," but THIS did definitely stick to my brain and I chose to share it with my little corner of the universe. I can only hope that all my soap-boxing :) doesn't go unnoticed and that someone - anyone - one of both of my Followers - picks up the torch and runs with it.

It's an uphill battle, but it can still be fun!

Restaurant moment (2009 Blog Challenge)

Share the best restaurant experience you had this year. Who was there? What made it amazing? What taste stands out in your mind?

It was only a week ago, so it's very fresh in my mind, but that's not why I've chosen this particular restaurant visit as my "Best of 2009."

I didn't choose it because the restaurant was spectacular. Sudwerk: okay, not horrible, but nothing to write Zagat about.

I didn't choose it because of the view, which actually wasn't too shabby: sun going down over the American River, free-agent cats wandering the balcony looking for scraps of food.

I didn't choose it for the exquisite fare. My meal consisted of turkey cooked just a wee bit too long, ham with a sticky cherry sauce, overly-salty stuffing and overly-candied yams. (The green beans with onions and mushrooms, however, were delish.)

I chose this particular restaurant experience as my Best of 2009 because it was a gift to heal my heart.

Surprising even myself, Thanksgiving hit me between the eyes this year. It's been five years since the divorce, and I could have sworn I was So Over All That, but for some reason -- could it have been the recently emptied nest? perhaps the glaring lack of family around my large dining table? or maybe I just need my thyroid checked again? -- Thursday morning found me sobbing in the shower. I was sad, lonely, and oh-so-angry that my family had been scattered hither and yon without anyone so much as asking my opinion.

I wept in the shower because it is my quiet space, my meditation room. And because there was a part of me that felt really selfish and childish so I wanted to keep it to myself. But Steve found me there, puffy-eyed and snotty-nosed. He stripped down, climbed in, and held me tight, urging me to cry it all out.

I had moved the pork tenderloin from the freezer to the fridge on Tuesday. I intended to stuff it with grilled red and yellow peppers, onions, asparagus and Parmesan, and roast it for our Thanksgiving dinner. We would eat it on plates balanced on our knees as we watched some movie or another. But this was the first year I wasn't making a Family Feast and I felt miserable. All I wanted to do was get out of the house so we went for an aimless drive.

Had you asked me. "Would you like to have dinner at a restaurant this year?" I would have replied, "Are you joking?" I'm all about the cooking and the family chaos and the music and the abondanza! But it happened the way it happened and in the end I felt at peace.

The kids will come for dinner another time. Maybe sometime in January we'll have a Festivus for the rest of us. All of our children had fun with their respective doings, everyone got home well-fed and safe, and the evening ended very differently than it began, with Steve, Kashi and I watching the flames lick at the fire logs, the only source of light in a peaceful, darkened house.

Okay, I'll bite.

I heard it through the grapevine.Blogging every day in December, huh? It's a challenge for me, time-wise, but if you can do it, I'll do my best!

What was your best trip in 2009?

Debbi and I met when we were three years old. It was the early 60's and the houses were just being built. My family's was completed first, and we had moved in a couple of years prior. The Una'Dia family was just finishing construction of theirs. It was five houses down from mine and for some reason my mother felt it was safe to let a three year old wander the neighborhood and play. Ah, the good old days!

As the family arrived to check the progress of their home, they found little ol' me playing in a huge pile of sand that had been dumped in their front yard. Debbi began playing with me, and we've been thick as thieves ever since.

Well, not entirely steadily. As time passed, life sometimes elbowed in between us. High school cliques, marriages and kids, although welcome distractions, were distractions nonetheless. We would still exchange birthday and Christmas cards, and maybe get a call or two in during the year, but for far too long we saw little of each other. Debbi developed some health challenges, and I felt bad I couldn't be by her side more often.

That was it. We decided we had to make a change.

Now we're in our 50s. The kids are grown. The jobs are more lucrative. The husbands (neither of them) pose any demands. So Debbi and I made a promise to spend more time together. We made a commitment to get together at least twice a year and do something special. Just us. Girl's weekend. Sometimes she rides the train the 100 miles to my house and sometimes I make the drive to her place.

In April we took a trip. A very special trip. It was an online deal I just couldn't pass up! A girlfriend's weekend in Calistoga. Wine tasting, facials, massages and MUD BATHS!

Now, it's no secret that Debbi inherited a major dose of germ-a-phobia from her mother. When I told her we were getting into vats of mud, she turned pale, gasped and hollered, "The same mud that other people get into?!" I promised her this was going to be an adventure! Everything is clean and safe! And besides, next time you can choose the trip and try to make me do something disgusting!

In the end, I know the whole mud bath thing was a trial for her, but she did it. We stripped down, naked as jaybirds, and wriggled down into that brown goo. I loved it; she plotted ways to have me murdered.

Because I spent the weekend with my most enduring friend, because we tasted delicious wine and drank in the beauty of the Napa Valley, because she knew I'd love pate on the patio, because she got in the mud for me, and because she's still in my universe, that was my best trip of 2009.

Pictures From Landon's Party

Pictures from the party for Landon, held at the clubhouse in Aunt Laura and Uncle Daniel's apartment complex in Sacramento.

Please keep in mind we were asked to come in a rocker costume...we don't normally wear crazy-lady red wigs!!

Click here to view pictures from
Landon's First Birthday Party

And Now We Are One

Landon D. D. Musso turned one year old today. His parents are having a party for him at the apartment complex where his Aunt Laura lives. It's a costume party!

There is a book that has meant something to my little family for quite some time. It is called Love You Forever, and if you haven't heard of it, well...brace yourself. None of us in the family can read this through without crying; some of us can barely pass it on the shelf without getting choked up!

For Landon's gift I gave him a box, layered with the following:
A silly tee-shirt
A copy of Love You Forever
A poem I wrote for him in the style of Love You Forever
The coat Joel wore when he was Landon's age

Here is the poem I wrote for Landon:

mother wrapped her son in this coat.
He wore it to fancy places and even to play in the snow.
When he came inside again, she would take him in her arms and rock him
Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth
And as her arms warmed him, she would sing,

        I love you forever
        I like you for always
        As long as I’m living
        My baby you’ll be

Well, that boy grew.
He grew and he grew and he grew.
He grew so big that he outgrew this coat,
So his mother wrapped it carefully in tissue
And packed it away in a box.
As she put the box on the shelf, she quietly sang,

        I love you forever
        I like you for always
        As long as I’m living
        My baby you’ll be

Time passed and the boy became a man.
He and his wife had a son of their own and they named him Landon.
Landon’s birth meant the boy’s mother had become a grandma.

Well, Landon grew.
He grew and he grew and he grew.
Before anyone knew it, he was ONE YEAR OLD!
Grandma decided it was time to take the box off the shelf.
As she wrapped this gift, she sang to her grandson,

     I love you forever
     I like you for always
     As long as I’m living
     My grandson you’ll be

Vacation #2 - Birthday and Recovery

Steve and I headed south after work Thursday. After stopping part way for dinner, we made it to Bakersfield by about 11:00 and checked into The Red Lion. I figured this would be a great way to break up the trip and it worked well. We got to Spike's in the early afternoon Friday, in time to help with party preparations.

Trevor is an amazing cook. I only rarely get to taste his masterpieces, but every time has been a treat. He stuffed huge slabs of pork roast with yumminess and grilled them. Yum! Here's Trev showing off his major food groups.

Bettie rounded out the buffet-style dinner with baked beans, potato salad, corn pudding, apples stewed with onions, and a caprese salad.

Steve was amazing. How many guys say, "You want to go visit your ex-husband's family? Heck yeah, I'm in!" But that's not all. He washed dishes almost the entire evening! One of the cousins jokingly dubbed him The Queen of Dishwashing. (Sorry, Steve.)

It was so great to be together with all the Mussos again. Friends, family and neighbors came out to wish Spike a happy birthday. Several of us took thousands upon thousands of pictures, but I won't post them all here. A link may be forthcoming if we can compile them all. Anyway, after a song and cheers of encouragement, Spike managed to blow out all his candles. (We didn't torture him with 95 of them.)

Steve and I spent that night at the Anaheim Plaza Hotel, only to discover the next morning that they did not have any hot water! Back to Spike's house for showers and breakfast. We hung around until Uncle Al was picked up for his ride back to Morro Bay, then it was time for us to head out.

Saturday afternoon we headed up to Van Nuys to visit George and Carlene. Although their world was recently unbearably shaken, they welcomed us warmly and we had a very nice visit with them. I worked on Carlene's computer a bit, they took us to dinner, we spent the night there and had breakfast with them Sunday morning. All in all, I think we accomplished what I had hoped, which was to give them a bit of a diversion.

We learned a few more things about the accident. The Viper was not Doug's. It belonged to the owner of the company he worked for, a man who has been Doug's friend since they were in grade school together. Doug was out making sales calls and picked Jessica up to tag along. About 10 minutes from home he lost control and the car spun around into the oncoming lane. Although no one knows completely for sure at this point, they believe it may have come to a complete stop before the SUV came around the corner - speeding - and plowed head first into them.

Jodi, at the time, was at home. A little after 4:0o she called her parents, concerned that Doug and Jessica weren't home when they said they would be, and telling them she wasn't able to reach Doug on his cell phone. Since they were normally very punctual, and since Doug basically lived out of his cell phone, she was extremely concerned. George started calling the police and CHP. No accidents had been reported, however, because, as it turned out, the location of the accident fell within the jurisdiction of the County Sheriff's Department. While George was between calls, Jodi called back, hysterical, saying Jessica was dead and Doug was severely injured.

Most of what falls between then and now has already been reported, either in this blog or via email to family. Jessica was buried on a hill under a tree. The plots surrounding her have been reserved for the remainder of the family - Jodi, Doug, Michael, George and Carlene - when they go.

Jodi is pressing through this tragedy with amazing strength. While she has a very strong support system surrounding her, she stays by Doug's side nearly every day and goes home to an empty house at night to care for her dog and nurse her emotional wounds. She doesn't blame Doug for the accident. The consensus is that it is his employer's responsibility. He never should have let Doug take his car out without so much as a warning of its power, let alone demanding completion of a safety course - or, better yet, not letting him take it at all. As the bills for Doug's care have begun to be delivered to Jodi's house, she sends them to the employer and those bills are getting paid.

Doug is improving. On Friday evening, his family and Jodi reported that he had begun blinking in response to questions.

"Do you know who I am?"


Last week, surgery was done to repair his jaw. It had broken in four places. He was moved from UCLA to a small facility that specializes in traumatic head injuries. The scrapes on his face have healed and the staff has been able to shave him. His body is beginning to wake up and show some restlessness as his nervous system begins fully communicating with his brain again.

As of Sunday evening, Doug had not been told of Jessica's death.

After we left on Sunday, George and Carlene went to visit Doug. When we arrived home, we got the report that the visit went very, very well. Although Doug is not able to speak yet, he was able to communicate with both of them by blinking his eyes and squeezing George's hand. It was just the medicine they needed!

During our visit, George shared the following newspaper article with us:

Vacation Weekend #1

It's a crazy time, this. Spike (my ex-father-in-law, with whom I remain close) turned 95 on the 22nd. I had spent the better part of the summer trying to get the family down to Fullerton to visit him, to no avail. Either someone couldn't get the time off, or someone else couldn't afford it, or someone else had something else planned. It was ridiculous. So when Koby got Friday the 23rd off, I figured it was now or never.

After putting our plans in action, I found out that the extended family will be there on the 30th to celebrate his birthday with a big family BBQ get-together. Well...Koby couldn't change his days off so we kept our plan for Brooke, Koby and I to go down the weekend of Oct 24-25, and Steve and I will go down Oct 30-Nov 1.

Spike still lives alone, which is a testament to his ... tenacity? stubbornness? resiliency? For 95 years old, he is truly amazing, trimming trees, painting the kitchen, etc., etc. He's looking at surgery soon to get the battery in his pacemaker replaced. He's outlived four of them so far!

So, with no further ado, and too much tiredness to be any more creative, here are some visuals from our weekend with Spike and our stop in Visalia on the way home for a bite of Landon.

Come back next week for more photos from the Musso family's celebration-of-Spike's-95th-birthday-and-excuse-for-a-BBQ-and-get-together!

Please Slow Down

I have only one thing to say today.

A very sweet family that is dear to my heart is in some horrific pain. They've lost their only daughter, their only granddaughter. They may also have lost her father. The apparent cause of all this pain is some hot-dogging on the road.

Please slow down when you're out there. Our roads should not be a war zone. What's the big rush?! Slow down.

Take care of the people who bob in and out of your sphere as you move through this life. Everyone has a family, friends, people who love them, a mother who once held them close to her breast. Devastating loss occurs when you're not paying attention. All it takes is a moment. Slow down.

Please just slow down.

In Memory of Jessica Roberts
Jessica's Memory Slideshow
A memorial held by Jessica's softball team
ViperClub Discussion Board
Memorial in the West Valley Girls Softball Newspaper
Response to story in The Acorn

Welcome Feedback

I got an amazing piece of feedback on my blog today. Te (aka "Annie Maugham") said:

"Reading your blog creates the same sort of effect that some people get from meditation. It's quite uplifting."


Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

This creature is almost ambulatory!

This Bird Has Flown

Look at those smiles!

Brooke and Koby moved into their little apartment last weekend. This was a long time coming for them, and everyone was just so happy!

Koby will continue working downtown while Brooke finishes her education at U.C. Davis, so they'll probably stay in this apartment for a couple of years.

We're all very proud of them. They've been very mature and responsible about this entire move. Each time we tried to buy them something for their new place, we found they'd already gotten it! Koby had spent months saving more money than he'd need for this...just to make sure.

Here's to you, B&K. I don't know anyone who doesn't wish you All The Best!

What I Learned Today

In Japan, the talent show that would be the equivalent of America's Got Talent, was (at least up until 2006) called...

wait for it....

wait for it....

Mongolian Cow Sour Yogurt Super Voice Girl !!!!!!!!!!