Have a happy holiday season, and do it now!

I’ve had to go out to a few stores this weekend to return some things, and I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t window shop while I was doing it – what is the date? November 13th? You would never know it by what’s going on in the shops; seems to have been an agreement made among the retailers that waiting until after Thanksgiving to drag out the holiday gear is waaay tooo late, so the paraphenalia is now on display, and the madness has begun. And when I say “madness,” I mean parents yelling at their kids, wives and husbands arguing, and the jostling for parking spaces amped up to a ridiculous degree. (Seriously, unless a person has trouble walking, why would you bother waiting for a spot, when there are five spots two rows away?)

Not only have the retailers gotten off the blocks early, television programmers have shot out of the gate with holiday programming this weekend – the most prominent example has been the Hallmark Channel, which had a marathon of movies yesterday with the words, “Mistletoe,” “Christmas,” “Noel,” “Jolly,” and other festive phrases in the titles. I have been known to get warm and cuddly during this time of year, except that “this time of year” isn’t really here yet, is it? No, I don’t think so. With the avalanche of media and retail holiday images, the very phrases that we use will soon be obsolete – “holiday season,” “this time of year,” and even carols like “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” will lose meaning, since the most wonderful time of the year will be all-year round, according to Macy’s and Dish TV.

I will say that I am giving it a shot this year; I will put up my pink tree with mermaids and seashells, and have a Christmas party, and bake – this year, I’m going to talk Jamal into dim sum in L.A. on Christmas Day, in place of the traditional Chinese from Sam Woo’s.  (I said I was giving it a shot, didn’t say how – when all of the badness happened, I had to do something to make the holidays good again.  Since I never see snow, I made Christmas into a beach holiday – with chow mein in place of mashed potatoes.)

But when I think of what I’ve been hearing recently, of people who I know who have been harassed by strangers, of others being yelled at and called “an abomination” by people brandishing Bibles like they are weapons, it gets more difficult to understand what the holiday season means. I love what Margaret Cho said in her stand-up (paraphrasing, but the meaning stands):  “I  can’t wait for Jesus to come back and say, “That’s not what I meant!”

How about this – how about we stop yelling at each other?  Here’s a radical idea – let’s be nice, and take care of each other. Give someone else the parking space, open the door for someone, or if you get through the door first, stand there and hold it for them, doesn’t matter who they are – and hug your kids in public, instead of yelling at them for being kids.  Let’s tidy up our behavior, why don’t we?  I think that has to be one of the reasons for the season that should occur all year. Cheers-

Leave me in Seal Beach

I’ve been thinking about what I want, y’know, when it’s time for me to go.  I have to make it legal so that it actually happens, but for now, this is what I want:

1.  Cremation

2.  Ashes scattered over the ocean – Seal Beach, nowhere else, always been the place for me

3.  Before going to the beach, there’s only one song that I want to have played – “A Kiss To Build A Dream On” by Louis Armstrong

Then everyone can go have a little wine and watch the waves.  There, now it’s in writing…my husband’s not happy with the cremation thing, but we wouldn’t be able to be buried in the same place (it’s a Muslim thing), and I don’t want to be put in the ground. So throw me in the ocean, please; thanks….


I love Seal Beach so much – the emotional aftermath of the shooting tragedy this week is reverberating through the town, but yesterday I could see that the residents are pulling together to move through their grief.  After I stopped at the salon to pay my respects, I drove to Devynn’s Garden, just a block away.  Devynn’s is a lovely little flower shop – when I went in, there was a line, and a sign that advertised 50% off all flowers through the weekend. Today the Seal Beach firehouse is having a fundraiser from 11- 8 p.m.for the families of the victims, with music and food.  I’m going to stop by, and maybe take a walk on the pier –

This is a message  from the pastor of Grace Community Church in Seal Beach, Don Shoemaker – his sermons helped me through some very dark times when I was attending Grace Community; maybe this will help you, too. I’m not always that sentimental, but this week brought home the meaning of the phrase, “If you love someone, tell them.”

P.S. – I apologize;  I said the fundraiser would be at the Seal Beach firehouse, when it was actually held at the Sunset Beach firehouse.  It’s going on until 8 tonight, so still time to go…

Lost cause

I would prefer

that you not try to save me – I will swim against the current of your selfish heroism

and into the undertow, just to get away

Save it for someone who still has a chance – for me, to steal a line:

“It has all been measured, and found wanting”… so I will keep, until I sleep,

returned to the waves, ashes floating out to sea.

Sedona diary

Settled in at the King’s Ransom Hotel; dinner’s done (and when I say “done,” I mean fabulous take-out from the Elote Cafe has been eaten) and I’m done as well.  Eight hours of driving has turned me into a soggy noodle; nothing that a good night’s sleep and a couple of long minutes in the the jacuzzi won’t fix.  Here’s where we are:

As we drove into Sedona, it looked as if the town had been washed in watercolors with God-sized brushes; these are someone else’s photos (thanks, Someone Else!), I hope to take photos that are half as nice as these.  The hotel is very nice, if a little bit strict about the pet thing – maybe it’s just because it’s my first time taking a pet anywhere.  Paco did enjoy the red dirt trails, though:


The pup also got to eat with us at Ken’s Creekside Restaurant, on the patio overlooking Oak Creek – boiled chicken and Beneful, brought to him in a pretty silver bowl. Doggie heaven…


I took a walk this morning, and saw the sun rise (the rest of the pictures, along with the windmill at the top, are all mine – oh, the UFO store and the floating man are not mine, I just wish they were):

And this was the sky last night:

End of the day – my impression of Sedona….beautiful, a little bit out-there, and I like it.  Today I walked around town, and stopped in at Ye Old UFO Store, which offers night-time UFO Tours (I’m debating on whether to sign up for tomorrow night – you know you want me to, don’t you?) , and the chance to “Make Contact,” as their storefront promises.  I resisted buying anything there; I did linger on the Area 51 all-access pass, but decided against it, although in this town, it could come in handy…just in case I do get out to the vortex.


Sedona is a town of Western scenes, Buddhists, vortex energies, crystals, wind sculptures, art galleries, UFO sightings, and  red rock formations. More photos, beginning with the outer space stuff (the first one is Jamal in his bug-out glasses; they do look at little bit alien-ish, I think):

Here are photos of some of the gorgeousness I found in Sedona – I felt like my photography skills were inadequate in capturing what I was seeing:

I highly recommend taking a trip to Sedona; the town is filled with art, spirituality, and energy – and those red rocks against the Arizona sky at sunset  will make you believe in possibilities again.

God and dog, TV, and a little more

Watching “The Daily Show;” Jon Stewart always makes me laugh – here are a few things that might make your week a little happier, and maybe more fun:

I fell behind on “Mad Men,”and took a shot at catching up on Sunday. If you haven’t been watching, you should start immediately.  And if you are already watching, take a peek at “Basket of Kisses,” a cool blog about the show. “Mad Men” is so much more than a period piece; one particular episode this season with Don Draper and Peggy winding up spending the night together reminded me more of theater than television. When Don, after trying and failing to catch a mouse, looks up at Peggy from the floor of his office, and says:  “You know, there’s more than one way out of this room,” he is definitely not just talking about the mouse escaping, but also about his own feelings of being trapped.  Superior writing and acting – I recommend starting with season 1, so you can see the development of the characters and the story lines.

The same goes for “Sons of Anarchy,” except that I am up-to-date on this one.   The show takes chances and shows me something new every week – you may not think that a drama about bikers is your taste, but it’s also about family, love, friendships, loyalty, betrayal, and more. The music for each episode is also high-quality, and Hal Holbrook and Stephen King are guest-starring this season. So what are you waiting for?

The band OK Go is becoming known for their innovative videos; I happened to see this one a few days ago, and had to share it.  The song “White Knuckles” is good, but the synchronized doggies tickle me like a thousand little Elmos (what does that mean? Dunno, but please watch this, OK?)

One more dog video ; it’s not a theme, just the way the universe lined up in my field of vision. Kleenex alert: this made me cry.  It’s not mushy, but it is sweet.

The word for the week? Forgiveness. I know several people who are dealing with the subject – I’m working on it myself, with my feelings about my mother.  Maybe we can all forgive one person this week for something that happened with them; true forgiveness is something special, and I know it’s not easy to do. I will do it if you will…and if you can’t forgive someone else, forgive yourself for something if necessary. Deal? OK, deal!

September 11th

I was staying at my mother’s house , and just waking up – we had just gone through losing both my dad and brother within eight months of each other, and we were both grieving.  At the time, I was in the habit of listening to Bill Handel on KFI, and when my clock radio went off, I heard him talking about a plane that had hit one of the Twin Towers in New York.  I was kind of half-listening, because I thought that it was an accident – when he said “We have just gotten word that a second plane has hit the second tower,” I jumped out of bed and turned on the television, yelling “Mom!”

I went to work, where we had radios and TVs on, trying to grasp exactly what was going on and who would be attacking the United States. There were horrible images of the Pentagon burning from the plane that had crashed into it, and the apocalyptic scenes of the Twin Towers in ruins, and of New Yorkers running, crying, bleeding, and dazed in the streets.  We talked about our own fears of being attacked, and waited for the word from the campus so that we could leave.  Finally, the campus was closed around 11:oo am, and we were all sent home.  For weeks and months afterward, there were news reports of the horror that occurred on September 11th, of those who saved lives, and those who lost their lives.  I will never forget watching the first plane crashing into the tower, people jumping to their deaths, and the towers collapsing. We all cried for New York, and for everyone who lost their lives on that day.  We also cried for ourselves, and for our country, once thought of as invincible, now vulnerable, hurt and bleeding.

I remember talking to Jamal on that day (we hadn’t started dating yet), and how upset he was that people who were part of the religion that he had believed in since he was a child should be responsible for what had happened. Evil wears many masks, but is always evil deep down, no matter what religion it claims to be.

Nine years later, what does this day mean?  I think this day changed us, but thankfully, it didn’t break us.  Americans may be many things, but one thing we aren’t? Quitters. We find a way to make things work; we are fighters.  We have big shoulders to hold all of our troubles, long arms that reach across the country, and hearts that can hold and give an unlimited amount of love. We are many different religions, colors, languages, customs, and cultures, and we all feel the loss of this day, because we are all human.  My friend Chris said it: “Flags out;” –  Flags out, America.

5-2-11:  Osama Bin Laden has been killed, President Obama announced last night.  However, his second-in command is nowhere to be found – we say a prayer for those who were lost, and say a prayer for ourselves, because this isn’t over.

Smooth stones at the Huntington Library

Off today, home and weighing my options – I went to the Huntington Library yesterday.  It is in San Marino, which is an old money neighborhood near Pasadena (also old money).  We walked through the desert garden, Japanese garden, rose garden, and Shakespeare garden; if you’ve never been, or not been for a while, you should visit – stunning. It was a lovely, light day with my friends that I needed. I will add some photos here, but for now, here are some of my favorite places at the Huntington:

This morning, reality has appeared with a vengeance.  I think the reason I feel a little unsettled today is that since I’m at home, I have to face everything that I need to do to settle my mother’s estate.  I’ve settled estates before; my brother’s and uncle’s estates both had to go through probate, as neither one of them had a will or a trust. This is a l-o-o-o-ng, involved story, but the short version is that everyone passed away in my brother’s family, and we had to go through one lawyer who did nothing because he was very ill as well, and didn’t tell me until he was in the end stage of pancreatic cancer, and then we had to move the whole thing to my mother’s lawyer, who basically saved my sanity and who I’m working with now.

I was the administrator for both my uncle’s and brother’s estate, and those experiences helped me decide to go back to school at night to get my paralegal certificate.  I haven’t done anything with it yet, but I’m not sorry I went through the four years it took to finish it. I like where I’m working, but you never know what can happen…I like to think that the certificate will be helpful if a need for a sudden career change arises.

So today is about paying bills, going to the bank to take care of estate business, and organizing my life so that my brain doesn’t feel so cluttered.   In addition to yesterday at the Huntington, there have been some really good moments recently – Weird Al at the OC Fair (his show was incredible, great band, and Weird Al has only gotten funnier, if that’s possible); my high school reunion last weekend; and good times with friends who I am so fortunate to see every day at work, and who lend me their ears for support, and their great good humor for constant laughs. These days, I’m stumbling over little smooth stones of happiness in many different places, and I need to pick them up and hold them, if only for a little while.

P.S. Something kind of amazing just happened that I want to share; while Googling images for “smooth stones,” I came across “five smooth stones.”  If you’re not familiar with this phrase, have a Google on me, won’t you? And if you do know about the five smooth stones, let me just say this…today just got a whole lot better than it was an hour ago.  I am off, smooth stones in hand –

God in my omelette

I know that this may ruffle a few feathers, so I will tell you at the start that I may be making a few little jokes about God, but I think that he has a sense of humor, although it’s pretty dark; and really, they are very small jokes that he might even like, you never know.  If necessary, my hand basket is all picked out; no need to worry about me.

I love that we have freedom of religion in this country. I think everyone should be able to believe in whatever they want to believe in, even Tom Cruise (oh, Tom, must you occupy my every post? Is it possible I’m attracted to balding, icky men with power? And is Tom Cruise really Les Grossman in disguise, instead of the other way around?).  It’s part of the First Amendment (cue patriotic music), which is definitely one of my faves. And when it comes to the First Amendment, there are no half-measures; start chipping away at it, and one day you wake up, and it’s your personal freedom that’s been eliminated.

My husband is Muslim, and prays six times daily. He tells me that he prays for me, and I say, I can use all the help I can get, honey.

There are times when I think God is a little like one of the heads of the Mafia; I’ve caused him some grief in some way, and instead of taking me out, he’s decided to do a number on my family.  Then I revert to one of the more conventional ways of thinking; it’s a test for me of some kind, you can’t get roses without pruning, you know, stuff like that.  So I’m either being punished or tested; some of my friends would say that it’s neither, that what happens in our lives is random.  I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the random theory, and I doubt that I’m on some kind of cosmic naughty list (although, again, you never know), so what remains is a giant test where I have to make up my own questions and find my own answers.  When’s recess, please?

If God is love, and food is love, then isn’t God food?  Think about it.

On the serious side, I have no illusions about my mother getting any better, and walking again.  She is about a dozen kinds of ill, and is now on what seems like dozens of different medications.  I pray for her to be out of pain; I am helpless to do anything else except give her my time and attention, so prayer somehow makes me think that I’m doing something good for her.  Do you know the saying, “Religion is the opiate of the masses”?  My brother was fond of that quote, and repeated it to me regularly. I’m not sure that I would go that far; I will say that prayer makes me feel better. Am I getting through? I hope so.