15 Meditations on 2010

  1. Not being on Facebook means that only people who really care enough to keep in touch will keep in touch.
  2. Gifts given with obligation attached are no fun for the recipient, nor for the giver.
  3. Hitting the Delete key is easier, cleaner, and nicer than lecturing people on what not to send me.
  4. There are those of us who continue to think crazy people can become un-crazy. That rarely works, but we just can't seem to let go of hope until we're damn good and ready. I get it.
  5. It's imperative to consider your audience when speaking.
  6. My most strenuous forms of exercise are silence and detachment.
  7. Everything is an offshoot of the degree to which we fear.
  8. My body is God. I know this because it laughs when I tell it my plans.
  9. I like two slices of lime in my gin & tonic.
  10. Every kid should have someone who is irrationally committed to their future. (Stolen from Tony Danza's mom.)
  11. You can unsubscribe and filter junk email, but there is no possible way to opt out of junk snail mail.
  12. Some people are really hard not to stab.
  13. It's much better to risk the judgment of others by continuing to ask questions until you understand than it is to pretend.
  14. I have the courage to be vulnerable and imperfect.
  15. It is what it is, but it is also what it is not.

Pook News

Nazeli Uchparmakyan turned 3 on June 17th. 
Here's a pic of her and her mayrig, Gohar, with the gifts from America. What a pook!!

Sorry it's blurry. Doesn't Gohar look like we could be sisters?!

And a good time was had by all.

Carlene and George in town for a visit. Toasted Jessica.

Judy's 65th birthday. Ate some cake.

Zombie Earl risen from the dead. He looks too fit! I think he was faking.

And a good time was had by all.

Again, why I do it

Amidst the adorable grandson pictures and the family anecdotes and newsy updates, I do like to bring y'all back 'round now and again to the center. I want to remind you of how fortunate you are to take so much for granted and give you some insight into my soul and why  I do  what  I do.

This 18 minute video of a TED talk by Sheryl WuDunn speaks of the global inequity that causes such suffering among my gender. Go ahead, grab a sandwich and watch this video, then tell me what you think.

During that speech WuDunn refers to a girl whose family managed to parlay a $120 charitable donation into a college education for their daughter. The story became the subject of a children's book titled Beatrice's Goat. The goat in question was donated through Heifer International, a cause I've long supported. You'll find a link to their site at the top of the Click Me section over there

Look, I get it that we all have our woes and troubles. We're paying too much in taxes, relationships heap drama upon us, the toast burned and the cat hawked up a hairball. But aren't we all feeling pretty safe and secure? Is there one among us who isn't confident that we're not going to starve or have to sleep in the rain? That we will, whether through our own means or with the help of family, be able to provide for our children? I mean really.

Just want everyone to keep some perspective.

< /rant >

Shark Week

In honor of Shark Week, the Discovery Channel has created a Shark Yourself feature. Just upload a picture of yourself, then select your vicious toothy grin, fins, gills, skin, and, of course, shark eyes. HERE IS WHAT I LOOK LIKE AS A SHARK:

If you have to ask...

Don't ask.

Pay attention people. This is a metaphor for life.

In other news (perhaps exciting only to this gardening geek), we've finished building our new compost corral. It's been a long time coming, but we wanted to put some thought into it and build something that a) wasn't going to cost a bunch of money, b) would last a long time, and c) would be effective and user-friendly. We feel good about this system. Shorty here can easily shovel the contents from one side to the other, stir, water, etc.

It looks like Lincoln Logs, doesn't it? Well, it kinda is. Landscape timbers held together by threading a piece of rebar through each joint. Simple and effective. And, no, those aren't munchkin-stairs for Shorty, just leftover pieces.

Yay for A/C!

New car for Koby and Brooke

2002 Hyundai Accent GS

Happy kids are happy!

Everybody say it with me: "How hot is it?"

It's so hot, a squirrel deflated under my pepper tree.

It's so hot, bees set up a vacation resort in my pond.

It's so hot....
It's so hot....
Aw, heck, that's all I got.

Visalia: not exactly the vacation spot you think of first

I spent a few days in Visalia last week. Joel, somewhat overwhelmed with work, school, parenting, etc., welcomed the offering of maternal help to get his new house put in some semblance of order.

Joel's bought a really great house. It's a 1500 square foot home that was originally listed as a 4bed/2bath. As soon as escrow closed he knocked down a weirdly constructed wall that created the 4th bedroom, turning that part of the house back into the den it should be. He also tiled both bathrooms before moving in!

While Joel was at work Thursday and Friday, I had no shortage of tasks to keep me busy. There were carpets to clean, loads and loads of laundry to wash, and some minor electrical issues to be repaired (which explains the meticulous heart-shaped post-it note numbering system you see all over the walls in the slideshow). Since they just moved in and she has already moved out but doesn't yet have anywhere to put all of her worldly goods, the garage is chock full of stuff to be sorted/boxed/tossed/organized. Think of these as "before" shots...

Joel picked Landon up from Cindy on Friday afternoon and had him until Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately for me, Landon was napping when it came time for me to head back home on Sunday. I didn't get to snarfle him goodbye and missed him and his daddy by the time I got a block away!

I can't see why

Why is it that when you pick up new prescription glasses the doctor has to put them on you? Do they think you can't be trusted to do it properly yourself? Don't they realize you always, always have to right away adjust them anyway? I think it's their way of saying, "It's so simple to examine eyes with that little 'this one? or this one?' giant batman eye mask machine, even a caveman could do it. Therefore, just to prove to you that I am a trained professional and worth every one of your 40,000 pennies, I shall put these spectacles on your face for you." *jab*

Grandma's not used to this (continued)

Day 5 - Monday
Landon spent this day with his Grandpa Dave, Aunt Laura and Uncle Daniel. He had a great time swimming for hours.

Day 6 - Tuesday
After my morning conference call, and after breakfast and a haircut for the boy, Dave brought Landon back here. I'm doing what grandmas do best and spoiling the kid rotten. Heh heh. Grandmimi likes to hold the baby and rock him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, until he releases that baby-sigh of relaxation and his little eyes close. This is how we spend every nap time and every nightly bed time.

Grandmimi had a nice conversation with her boss, who agrees she should not be concerned with work when Mr. Priority One is here. The rest of the week will be All About Landon.

Day 7 & 8 - Wednesday & Thursday
We have a little routine now, and Landon continues to be happy and extremely well fed and hydrated. All systems are operating as they should.

There are walkies in the stroller every day, and, in the evening, sprinkler-play, fish-feeding time, and...

a period of general hyperactivity when Steve, who started out as Faux Grandpa but has devolved to simply Faux Pa, delights the child by throwing him around like a hackysack.

He's very careful, but sometimes Grandmimi just can't bear to watch.

Day 9 - Friday
Joel arrived right on time, late Thursday night. I waited up for him and was awake when he rolled in at 12:42 AM. The three of us spent Friday catching cat-naps, then trying to get through a small to-do list involving his new vehicle and air conditioning. We didn't accomplish very much.

Day 10 - Saturday
The air conditioning in the Explorer gets fixed by Joel & Koby. Unfortunately, their efforts to chill the Jeep aren't as successful.

Ford Repair: So easy, even cavemen can do it.

I spend the afternoon rolling sarma. Brooke and Bill keep me company at the counter, uttering small noises of empathy and appreciation at appropriate intervals. Steve gets home and I have all my favorite family around me.

 Life is good.

Later, after dinner, and nanoseconds before I'm getting the boy to bed, Laura and Hurricane Daniel arrive, putting a whole new spin in the evening! Daniel > (Baby Landon x 6) + (Baby Koby x 12). Bill decides to call it a day, and Steve and Brooke retreat to quieter corners of the manse. Daniel and Landon tear it up for an hour or so, while Laura perches on the sofa looking painfully cute with her little baby-bulge. Finally it's decided Landon may just explode if he doesn't get some sleep, so I spirit him off to Grandma-lap-time in the bedroom. The kids end up in the back yard playing guitar until well past the time Grandma has to yell "Uncle!"

Day 11 - Sunday
It's really hot here today. About 104. I'm so glad Joel's a/c got fixed. He and Landon are now packed off back to Visalia. I gave Koby a haircut,

then he and Brooke went back home. No one wants to do anything but veg in the cool house. Steve, however, is up at Dad & Margaret's, helping around their little ranchero. I hope it's not as hot in the hills.

Although the hum of the a/c in my house is lulling me to a long overdue nap, I miss my little grandson already. Oh wait - what? My next vacation starts July 2?? Hmm.....

Post Scriptum
So what's the deal? Why did I have the pleasure of such a long visit with my grandson? Well, in case you haven't heard, the Visalia Mussos have decided to split. Joel and Cindy are going their separate ways and it's not happening as amicably as one may like. I do hope that changes, and peace and courtesy can dwell once again in the valley as they go through the never-pleasant process of disentangling their lives...but I'm not holding my breath. Right now it's not pretty. That's why it was decided that Grandmimi would take the baby until, hopefully, the storm settled. The storm has not settled, but lives continue and jobs must be attended to, so Landon is back home, being shuttled between Visalia and Bakersfield for the time being.


I sometimes have to resist the urge to blog about how irritating it is that everyone blogs about everything nowadays.

Grandma's not used to this

Day 1 - Thursday:
Landon is here. I had him to myself today from about 1:30 on. Did this afternoon really last three days? Cuz I'm exhausted. This little pistol kept me running and my reward at the end of the day was to get peed on.

Day 2 - Friday:
Thank goddess Brooke is out of school and is willing to come and help! I bought a little stroller so we can take Landon for a walk in the evenings.

He's like a little greased-up water-weenie in the bathtub.

Day 3 - Saturday:
Today we went to Shingle Springs to visit Great Grandpa and Great Margaret.

Even with two of us to share the Landon-wrangling, we're both exhausted at the end of the day. Landon has had a great time splashing in the sprinklers and the bathtub. The wiggling stops only when he's sleeping!

Day 4 - Sunday:
Brooke's gone home. Landon's gone to Grandpa Dave's. This week will be interesting. Landon will come back Tuesday afternoon, giving me time to get through a few conference calls and get some work done. Then he'll go to Koby and Brooke's place for a day or two. Joel will be up on Friday to retrieve his son and spend the weekend with family. I'm looking forward to that.

The house is quiet now. I'm exhausted, but miss the little stinker already. Heck, I missed him as soon as I handed him over to Dave!


There is a point, while packing for a trip, when I'm pretty sure I've got everything in the suitcase, yet I'm pretty sure I'm forgetting something. It's completely maddening, like being caught in a cycle of lather-rinse-repeat.

I'm headed to Spokane early tomorrow morning, returning Friday afternoon. Then, after a week at home, I fly north again for three days. I dread the travel. Every time, I wonder if there's some bargain I can make with the clock, the calendar, the travel arrangement gods, so that I can go by car or train instead of by air. It never works out.

Flying in the 21st century is about as fun as birthing an overweight porcupine. Backwards. Not that I've ever birthed an overweight porcupine, forwards or backwards, but I'm pretty sure the analogy would hold up in a court of law.

Mother's Day was quiet this year. That means I had only 50% of my kids with me. (To the 50% who were here, please don't think that indicates any depreciation of the importance of you being with me on that day.) (To the 50% who weren't here, your guilt bomb has been delivered. You're welcome. Sarma's in the mail, just to put the final sheen on it.)

PS - Happy MD, Mom. Even though I didn't call you, you didn't send me a guilt bomb. Kudos for that.

Happy Martyr's Day

The weather was perfect: 78 on Saturday, 80 with a slight breeze on Sunday. Having done most of my prep work Friday afternoon, I was ready for the Martyr's Day Feast!

Lamb Shish Kebab

Pear and Filo Torte

Cheese Boreg & Hye coffee

We had salad, too, but that was boring so I didn't take any pictures of it. I also grilled some chicken breasts for the odars.

Cory came up from Modesto.
Koby and Brooke came over from Davis.

Pomegranate Shish Kebab

Here's what my kitchen would look like if it had granite counters, new cabinets, white appliances, and a bald Armenian guy cooking shish kebab.

This sounds like a yummy recipe... different, of course, from Derif's. I think I'll give this a try next time I make shish kebab. As mentioned, you can get the recipe from ArmenianKitchen.com!

What are YOU planning for April 24th??

Jaime Escalante

Jaime Escalante, the iconic math teacher who inspired the movie "Stand and Deliver," died yesterday. He was only 79.

Mr. Escalante lived not far from me. Many times, I've seen him shopping at Trader Joe's. He seemed like such an unassuming, humble man, striding purposefully, bent toward his destination as though walking against a strong headwind.

I never spoke to him directly, and that is something I now regret. I should have asked him if I could buy him a cup coffee, because I would have so enjoyed listening to him talk. But I never asked, and we never spoke, and now this loving, intelligent, tenacious and charming man is gone.

Jaime Escalante
1930 - 2010

"You can do anything you want to, it is easy.
The hardest part is that you have to believe you can do it.
The rest is a piece of cake."

'Stand And Deliver' Teacher Dies - KCRA.com
Jaime Escalante - Wikipedia

Nature By Numbers

Gorgeous. Watch full screen, if you can.

Serial Poopers

For some unknown reason, several serial pooper stories have crossed my desk recently. In an attempt to bring the world just a wee bit closer to whirled peas, today I'm republishing something I wrote back in April of 2006. I hope it helps.


Some people's heads are chock full of steaming piles of anger and negativity. Their brains are much too small to contain it all, so they must release it or they just might explode.

What these people do, then, is go through the world pooping all over everyone around them. They bitch and yell at other drivers. They frequently cross over the rudeness threshold with the staff of any business they enter. They complain incessantly. They send nasty emails and leave snarky comments on blogs.

Such people are commonly, aptly, referred to as "shitheads."

I am determined not to be a shithead, so I try very, very hard to have an Olympic level of patience with people like this. I try to remember that it is they who are miserable and that I have no obligation (or desire!) to soak up any of that misery from them.

My Pollyanna attitude doesn't seem to make any positive change in them, but I do believe it protects me from the toxicity they're attempting to spread.


And now that you've had your dose of sugar today, here's a cherry to top it off.

See? Notwithstanding the declaration on the tee shirt, how can anyone be poopy after seeing a grin like that?

Hello? Hello? Is this thing on?

I don't get much feedback on this blog, so I don't know if anyone's watching. Or listening. Or paying attention at all. I hope so, because it's not only my forum for bragging about my unparalleled family, but also the soap box upon which I occasionally stand and preach the value of reaching outside of one's self.

Please, if you're here...if this mic is on...if you can hear me, leave a comment. Just a note to let me know this is reaching someone. You don't need to have a gmail account to comment, although if you leave one as "anonymous" it'd be cool if you end the note with your initials or some secret code just to let me know who you are.

And just in case this blog is not for naught...

Quickie Scampi

(makes 2 servings)


1 lb raw shrimp or prawns, deveined, tails removed
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsps butter, divided
10 grape tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
2 sprigs Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
3 oz dry vermouth (give or take)
seasoning salt
freshly ground pepper


1. Rinse and drain shrimp. Pat dry.

2. Heat olive oil and 1 tblsp butter in large saute pan over medium to medium-low heat. Add garlic to pan, simmer lightly until it just starts to turn golden.

3. Add shrimp to pan. Add seasoning salt and ground pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes, turn shrimp, cook 3-4 more minutes until shrimp is curled and opaque.

4. Push shrimp to one side of pan. Add remaining tblsp butter to pan, brown just slightly. Add vermouth. Deglaze pan, stirring shrimp and vermouth together and loosening any brown bits from bottom of pan. Add tomatoes and stir just until warmed through.

5. Serve in preheated bowls over angel hair pasta. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Six Years

Today marks six years since I met Steve. If you don't know the story, buy me a glass of wine sometime and maybe I'll spill it. The story, not the wine.

Steve is great to live with. We are completely in synch when it comes to our lifestyles, which is not to say that we enjoy all the same things or are socially inseparable. In fact, that's one thing we share: independence. We have a mutual respect for each other's quiet time and personal space. When he holes up in his man cave to play World of Facebook or Doomed or wtf, I curl up with a book and escape to other lands and times.

We have the same affection for a cozy, tidy, well organized home. We love fine dining and fine wining and have not yet run out of things to talk about. I love cooking and he loves eating. We have the same sick, sarcastic, perverted, offensive sense of humor. Moods and roles are fluid; when one of us is Yin, the other is Yan. We both gag at the phrase "you complete me," and neither of us ever wants to get married again.

So, yavrum, thank you for coming into my life when you did, and for sticking around for the ride, and for making me laugh every single day. Baby, you da greatest!

Letters From Armenia

A letter and photo arrived this week from Armenia. Geghetsik is really turning into a lovely young lady. At 13, she's grown her hair longer and is beginning to lose the baby fat in her face. She says the winter there is warm, without much snow. I guess the U.S. took the brunt of it for them this year.

A couple of weeks ago I received a letter from Nazeli's mom, Nazeli being too young to write, of course. Their family is doing fine and appreciates the support from abroad. Her mom seems very nice. She did not, however, include any photos.

I still hope to travel to Armenia one day and meet both the Uchparmakyan and Arakelyan families in person.

They Will Survive

I stumbled across this little video this morning. It was posted on the blog of a friend of a friend who suffered physical and emotional abuse quite literally at the hands of her husband.

The people in this video, men and women, girls and boys, reveal expressions that disclose their various stages of recovery...survivorship. When I look into their faces, I can feel the abuse they've suffered.

It moved me to tears.

These are people who live next door. You may work with them. They are your aunt, sister, cousin, student, teacher, husband, employer, grocery store checker. They are all around us. They may be us.

If you know someone – or are someone – who’s been taking abuse from another, please speak up. The shame belongs to the abusers, not to the ones who, so ironically and so cruelly, have been taught to feel the shame.

Villa Toscano

Steve and I had a wonderful weekend. Saturday, he spent the day with Sara and her new beau, and I went off to pick oranges with friends at Amber's house. After a few hours of enjoying all the good company and the fire pit and munchies, Bill and I went off to relax over a cuppa at Starbucks.

Sunday morning Steve and I met a new friend for coffee, then took off from there and got happily lost driving all over hill & dale in the gold country (Hwy 49 south of Placerville). After enjoying the rolling hills, the moss-covered rocky crags, and the occasional mist in the trees (or was that just our imaginations?), we eventually found our intended destination.

We landed at Villa Toscano Winery, where we are evidently members. We needed to pick up our January selection. First, though, we did some tasting, then had some hot sannies in the bistro. We then went on to some other wineries in the area, tasted more, and bought more.

Sunset found us at our favorite Mexican restaurant in Folsom. They offer unique dishes, excellent Long Island Iced Teas, and a friendly staff. We think it's a great place to munch the hot chips and fresh chipotle salsa, and relax at the end of the day.

Welcome to Villa Toscano, as you enter through the verdigris gates.

Some of the vineyards surrounding the winery.

 This is just the view of the "bistro." The main building with the tasting room is much prettier and can be see on their website.

 Now leaving through those same gorgeous gates.

A Valentine To All Girls

If you are or ever were once a girl, if you have a girlfriend or a friend who is a girl, if you have a niece, a daughter, or a step-daughter, if you have a mother, a step-mother, or a grandmother, please pull up a chair and watch this frank and passionate 20 minute talk by Eve Ensler.

Ms. Ensler declares there is a "girl cell" in us all -- males and females alike -- and that it is something we have all been taught to suppress...but at what cost? She tells heartfelt and gut-wrenching stories of girls around the world who have overcome dramatic adversity and violence to reveal the astonishing strength of being a girl.

If after watching this talk you feel compelled to do something for the girls of the world, here are a few options to consider:

There are many, many more. As always, before you donate to any charity, I recommend you research their business practices and philosophies. I use:

If you choose not to participate in any of these female-focused charities, that's okay. I won't hold it against you. But please remember this talk and the paradigm it conveys the next time you talk with the girls in your life.

Home & Family

Morro Bay & Mary's Memorial

After a quick business trip to Spokane in late January, I collected the boys - all three of them - and we drove out to Morro Bay to attend Aunt Mary's memorial / celebration of life that was put on by the Lions and Lionesses at the Veterans Hall in Cayucos. It was great to see everyone there.

Thanks to Paul and Nell's chauffeur service, even Spike was able to attend.

That area of the Pacific coast is probably my favorite place to be. When Publisher's Clearing House finally shows up with that giant, cardboard check for me, the first thing I'll do is buy a huge, built-for-entertaining house out there within walking distance of the beach. You're all invited.

With apologies to Brooke and Cindy, it was wonderful to have my boys all to myself for the weekend. There was much conversation and hilarity! I didn't even mind all the diaper changing (Landon, not Joel & Koby).

After the leaving the Musso family in Morro Bay, the kids and I drove to SLO to have lunch with Coleman. It was a quickie, but great to see him! (Why didn't we take any pictures?!) Then we headed east again, stopping in Templeton for a quick taste of wine at Four Vines. Then it was back to Visalia for more laughs and a couple of zzz's before Koby and I headed north again on Sunday.

Home Improvements

I've finally finished painting the kitchen cabinets!



Okay, so maybe in pictures it doesn't look like much, but it was a long, difficult process getting all the purple cabinet doors to turn "capuccino" and dying the orange cat grey.

While shopping at Lowe's on Saturday, we found kitchen cabinet knobs that - lo and behold - we both liked. We got them - and the new drapes for the new living room window - installed on Saturday - just in time to host the gang here for Superbowl Sunday.

I'm really happy with the way these projects are turning out. The kitchen looks brighter and more spacious. Next will be the arduous removal of the kitchen baseboards -- which were GLUED ON! -- then installation of cork planks over the existing crappy laminate flooring. Once that's done, we can install new baseboards, sink and faucet (and counters??). I'm also going to remove the 1970's recessed fluorescent lighting, finish that alcove and install a low profile ceiling fan, then put can lighting around three sides, directed to the work surfaces.

When the kitchen is done, I'll start in on my bathroom.

* whew *