Sunday, January 14, 2018


The SPPOAC Legislative Team with Lt. Governor Leo McCarthy: (l to r)
Mike Lynch, Vic Trevisanut, McCarthy, Lisa Beutler, and Mario Rodriguez

I usually remember most things—especially meeting iconic people—but I cannot remember meeting Vic Trevisanut.  That is why it is ironic that he takes residence inside my important memories of the 1980’s, when I was a young, idealistic, young girl who wanted to change the world.  Vic was a State Park Ranger and union organizer—a personal friend and colleague of my roommate, Lisa Beutler.  They had the same birthday, and worked together to organize SPPOAC (State Park Peace Officer’s Association of California). Vic and Lisa also had a close friend whose name was Mario, who I would later work for, fall in love with, and marry.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
In 1982, Lisa B. and I worked for the Lieutenant Governor, Leo McCarthy.  Lisa was a consultant with her finger on the pulse of the Law Enforcement community and women’s groups—making her invaluable to the office.  I was an accounts payable clerk, thanks to Lisa, who recommended me for the job.  It was my first time in the big city of Sacramento—I came from the small town of Tracy—and most of the time I went to work bubbling over with enthusiasm and gratitude.  Because Lisa and I shared a house, many times I got to hang out with her legislative/law enforcement friends simply because I was around.  It was a wonderful time in my life, being part of an eclectic crowd that included peace officers (mostly rangers), legislative analysts, lawyers, and lobbyists.  Inside of this think tank was Vic Trevisanut. 
Vic seemed to know every legislative bill coming through the California Assembly, especially if it affected law enforcement agencies or their budget.  He worked full-time as a State Park Ranger, but he also gave a lot of hours to the ranger’s union afterward. 
“So, how do you know Lisa?” Vic once asked me.
“I used to work with her,” I answered.  “I was a park aid at the same place where she was a ranger.”
Vic nodded as if he understood, and turned to Lisa.  “Hey LB!  You brought your Park Aid to Sacramento so that she could be your private secretary?”
Lisa shrugged.  “Doesn’t everybody?”
Vic was always making jokes—often about himself—and I liked him.  He made us all laugh, even during intense conversations about legal issues pressing down on the law enforcement community.  That’s how I remembered him.

Fast forward five years, and I was back in Tracy trying to start my life over, with a new baby.  The relationship with the baby’s father ended disastrously, and I was devastated.  I reconnected with Lisa one day, over the phone, and she encouraged me to go get my old job back—at the same State Park where we met. 
“You know who is supervising that park now?  Mario!  You remember him.”
“Kind of,” I answered. Mario, Lisa, their friend, Bartlett, and I shared a dinner together after the Lieutenant Governor’s inaugural.  But Mario was Lisa’s friend, not mine. 
“Go back to Carnegie and apply,” she said.  “Tell them how good you are—or better yet, show them.”
I did.  In my interview, I convinced the new staff that I could do the job better than anyone else.  I also mentioned that I knew Mario and Lisa.  I was rehired, but when Mario— my boss—returned from an extended vacation, he neither remembered me from the legislative crowd in Sacramento, nor approved of my swift re-hire. 
“You were hired illegally,” he told me when he first met me in the kiosk.  “We’re supposed to hire only AFDC recipients.”
“I need this job, please,” I pleaded.  “I have a baby and I need to work to support him.”
He thought about this for a moment, and then, straight-faced and through his mirrored sunglasses said: “You’re out of uniform.  You need a black belt.”
I was able to keep my job, but Mario proved to be a silent and distant employer, compared to the other rangers who had supervised me in the past.  I felt like I was always trying to prove my merit around him.  It wasn’t until Vic called that things changed.
I was sitting in the main office one weekday afternoon when the phone rang.  I answered it, and a man asked for Mario.
“It’s his day off,” I told him.  “Can I take a message?”
“Yeah, just tell him that Vic called.”
I grabbed a message pad (fifty points if you remember those) and wrote it down.  “Alright, Vic, I’ll have him call you back?  Why not give me your last name just in case.”
“I’ll spell it,” Vic said. “Because no one ever gets it right.  It’s T-R-E-V-I…”
“Is this Vic Trevisanut?  Vic?”
“Yeah…” Vic sounded nonplussed on the other end.
“This is Janet, I don’t know if you remember me.  I am Lisa’s friend, her roommate from Sacramento…”
Vic suddenly became animated. “Janet!  The park aid that came with her to Sacramento? How are you?”
“I’m good,” I answered.  This was only half-true.  I was alive. I had a job and a healthy new baby, but I was a city hollowed out from a bomb blast.  I had extremely low self-esteem.  “How are you?”
“Yeah, listen, Janet.  You need to get Mario to campaign for this guy in Daly City who’s running for state assembly.  His name is Mike Nevin; he’s a good guy—really important to Law Enforcement.  Just give me Mario’s number—I lost it somehow.”
I thought for a second.  Giving out peace officer’s phone numbers is strictly forbidden—I was trained to never do this.  It was hammered home several times; a violation of this might mean losing my job.  I needed my job.
“I know you’re not supposed to,” Vic said, reading my mind.  “But you know me and you know that Mario and I are friends, right?”
I did know Vic—and I knew he was friends with Mario.  Vic was also a Ranger. I knew that I wasn’t supposed to, but gave Vic Mario’s phone number anyway.
“Don’t worry, Janet,” Vic said, laughing.  “I promise I won’t tell him you gave me his number—but on one condition.  You have to convince him that he needs to campaign for Nevin.  And you need to come, too, alright?”
“Alright,” I agreed.  I was no stranger to campaigns, and I relished the thought of reconnecting with the crowd I once knew.  I smiled as I said goodbye.
Five minutes later, Mario called the office.
“Janet, this is Mario.  I just talked to Vic Trevisanut.  He told me you gave him my phone number.  I’m pretty sure you have been briefed about this.”
I froze.  I had the sudden urge to release my entire bladder.
“In this case it’s alright, Janet,” Mario continued.  My heart started to beat again and I almost relaxed.  “I know Vic, and we’re friends, but I am a sworn peace officer and you are not supposed to give out private phone numbers to anyone, even if they say they know me.  Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir,” I said.  “I’m sorry.  I know Vic from Sacramento…”
“Yeah, that’s what he said.  He also said that you were going to help the union by canvassing neighborhoods in Daly City.  He told me that you suggested I be a part of this?”
I shook my head.  Vic was known for assembling an army on short notice using any means necessary.  “Umm… he asked me to ask you.”
“Alright,” Mario said.  He seemed to be putting things together. “I guess I’ll call him back and tell him that I can’t be part of this.  You can do this, but I have too much on my plate right now.”
He hung up; I was pretty sure I was in trouble.
Five minutes later Mario called back.  After pleasantries he sighed. “You know, Daly City is pretty nice this time of year.”
We both laughed.  Vic had talked him into it.

The canvas was well-planned; it was still hard work.  Mario and I covered several neighborhoods together, delivering small house plants to supporters of Nevin.  “Thank you for your support,” I would say, handing a potted plant to a pleasantly surprised constituent.  After a long day of scaling stairs up and down steep hillsides in Daly City, we were exhausted. 
And hungry.
The after-party was at a fancy banquet hall, where a campaign fundraiser was being held for the candidate.  The cost of one plate for the deluxe buffet was ridiculously expensive, but the volunteers were given an appreciation plate.  Vic, Mario, and I (like everyone else who worked the campaign) were given small plates, about the size of our hands.
“What the hell is this?” we asked each other, comparing our little saucers to the normal-sized dinner plates on the donors’ tables.  We were granted as many trips to the buffet as we desired and we definitely made use of this.  I made three trips to the sumptuous buffet, shamelessly mowing down food.  Vic and Mario made several more, all as we relaxed at a comfortable table of eight and caught up like old friends.
I looked up to see Pat Johnston, San Joaquin County’s Assemblyman, walk in and start greeting people.  I gasped. 
“Look, guys!”  I whispered to Mario and Vic.  “There’s Pat Johnston!”
“Yeah?” Vic asked, as if I was overreacting. 
“He’s our assemblyman!  He’s a wonderful representative!”
“Do you want to meet him?” Vic asked.  “It looks like he’s making his way around the room.”
Before I knew it, I was shaking hands with Pat Johnston, smiling and gushing about how I thought he was doing such a good job for our district. 
“You were actually the first person I ever voted for,” I told him, beaming with unashamed admiration.  “I turned eighteen and voted for you as an assemblyman!”
“Thank you,” he said, graciously.  He wore an expression of guarded confusion, as if he wasn’t used to such attention by smiling young women.  It was then, over his shoulder I saw Vic and Mario looking at me.  I could tell that something was wrong by their expressions—like football coaches when a quarterback throws an interception.  It was Mario who pulled me out of the game.
Without even thinking of its effect or awkwardness, Mario interrupted my gushing admiration by whispering loudly in my ear: “You have a big green piece of something stuck between your teeth.”
I froze.  In that moment, I imagined that I could see it, sticking out of my teeth like an olive tree on the side of a cliff.
Without so much as “Oh, please excuse me,” I sat down and dove into my purse for my mirror.  By the time I had pulled it out, I had run my tongue over my teeth at least five times.  When I opened my mirror and smiled, it was gone.  When I looked up, so was Pat Johnston.  I had never before been so embarrassed…and I do embarrassing stuff all the time. 
Mario and Vic came up to me, trying to suppress their laughter. 
“That was the biggest piece of greenery in between someone’s teeth I have ever seen in my life!” Mario said—pity mixed with admiration.
“Yeah,” Vic agreed eagerly. “It was there for ten or twelve smiles!”
I couldn’t help laughing.  It was so embarrassing, but Mario and Vic now were having a good laugh.  Throughout the campaign—which Nevin did not win—I was sentenced to be part of an embarrassing story that Vic retold to anyone who met me. 
Vic recruited, but also united, Mario and I to the Nevin campaign—and others after that.  On the trail, I fell in love with Mario.  Once outside the office, I saw him as a person, not just a boss.  He eventually saw the same humanity in me.  We were destined to be a couple.
Sue Trevisanut, Vic’s wife, was also a person who told good stories.  Their tales were about normal happenings, but were transformed into extraordinary events simply because of the way they retold them.  One story I remember was about the fate of their family pet—a rabbit.
“The rabbit was old,” Vic told Mario.  “It was time for her to go and so…” He made a motion of a quick cut across the neck.  The gesture made me laugh—I thought he was joking.  “So Sue made a big, beautiful stew!”
Sue was laughing as he told this, but also shaking her head.  “The kids came home from school,” she said.
“And they figured it out!” Vic leaned forward to punctuate his surprise. “My daughter came right out and asked us, where’s the rabbit? That’s her, isn’t it?”
“None of us ate the stew,” Sue laughed.  “We had to throw it out.”
Remembering the story through the week made me break out in laughter. 

Last week we got an email telling us that Vic had died.  He had been living in Missouri and had remarried.  His beloved Sue had died before him and their children were all grown with children of their own. It made Mario and I shake our heads in disbelief—and think of how fast time passes when it comes to friends and memories.  I recount all of this as if it happened last week, but when I look at pictures of us back then, Mario has light brown hair and I have big 80’s patterns in my dresses.  We were so young when we socialized with Vic and Sue—and now we have grown to be a couple of our age, wondering where the time has gone.  On his obituary page, fellow rangers share stories like this one and memories they shared with him.  We even saw a message from Vic’s daughter (maybe the one who called him on cooking the family rabbit), a heart-felt thanks to the people who were sharing.  It made Mario and I remember how Vic was so important in the formation of our relationship—even in our lives.  He was a man who meant so much to so many people.
To me, he will always be the guy out in front, bringing everyone together, with that infectious smile on his face and a great story to tell.  If you are going to make friends, make sure they are stand-up fellows whose memories endure the test of time.  
Like Vic.

Vic’s obituary can be accessed here for the next few days:

Friday, December 29, 2017


Taken about 15 minutes ago.  Me and my love...

Mario and I have been married 30 years today!

Tonight, I asked him a question. “I’m blogging about our anniversary later. Are you in?”

He raised his eyebrows and looked at me.  “What do you mean?”

“Come on, babe,” I said, insinuating that he should have been expecting me to ask him about this.  I do this every year, for crying out loud.  “What if someone asked you the key to staying happily married for 30 years?  What would you say?”

Mario looked over his dinner plate—he was polishing off a lamb chop.  “That’s a loaded question.  Can I get back to you?”

I sighed.  “Alright.”

I started cleaning up the kitchen, since my daughter-in-law made dinner, and returned to my desk about fifteen minutes later.  Mario handed me a yellow post-it note.  “This is all I got, sorry.”

I looked down and saw a list, one that he had just written.  Mario is a list-man.  In response to my inquiry, he made a list of what he would answer if someone asked him for the secret to a long and happy marriage. 

“Thanks, babe,” I laughed.  I kissed him on the neck.

“That’s all I got,” he said, shrugging and trying not to laugh.

I should end this blog here, with that cute little story, but I won't. If anyone is curious, I'll explain the items on his list; it’s pretty cool.

Our family decided to use all the props at the photographer's for a humorous family picture

1.  Humor.

Mario and I make each other laugh—sometimes in response to terrible circumstances.  If you want to bond with your partner, laugh together.  Mario has a great sense of humor; I love to laugh.  This makes us a good team.    

Humor is a weapon of love; laughter releases endorphins. Whenever we share humor, we admit that we don’t take ourselves so seriously.  We laugh to connect with each other, but also because we’re both pretty damn funny. 

On a trip to Sudan --2008

2.  Service to each other. 

Mario underlined the word “to” twice.  We are servant-hearted people by nature.  We both believe in the love-language of service to people.  If he asks me to do something, I do it—gladly.  The same is true for him serving me, and I would probably say more so.  

Service gets your eyes off yourself—it is a chance to do something for someone else and in doing this, you invest in their life.  Who better to invest in?

Mario and I after running the California International Marathon --2002

3.  Admiration of each other’s gifts.

Mario is athletic and I have attended more than one wrestling match, track meet, and softball game.  I am his head cheerleader.  He thinks in lists and equations—I admire this tremendously and look to him for his organizational eye when I am writing. I am social and creative; Mario loves to hear me tell stories.  He is my first reader, editor, sounding board, and counselor.  He is wise; I am compassionate.  We know each other’s value and with each passing year, we are more and more grateful for the other’s  incredible gifts.

Our 5-year-old selves

4.  Pics of us at 5 years old.

This is one that I need to explain.  Mario and I have not always been happily married—in fact, we’ve come close to splitting up.  When we were in counselling (about twenty-three years ago) one of our counselors explained that we were essentially fighting with the person inside of our spouse—our inner five-year-olds.   She suggested we carry pictures of our spouse at five-years-old.

When I met Mario, he was my confident boss; I was his beautiful employee.  Once we exchanged pictures of the little kids we once were, my heart broke.  Mario’s portrait was of a careful, frightened boy with messy hair.  His eyes held the sadness of the whole world.  I looked up at him, and realized that my words had been wounding this precious child.  I have never seen him the same—and I carried that picture around for years in my wallet. 

So, the short story is, if you wouldn’t cut a five-year-old child down in your anger, don’t do it to your spouse.  Maybe the other part of this story is—get help if you need it. A good counsellor is worth their weight in gold.

On board the Queen Mary II - January 2017

5.  Forgiveness.

How fitting that this comes after the 5-year old pics. 

Once a fight is over—maybe while it is still going on—make the decision to forgive.  Forgiveness is not some magical feeling that descends from heaven, it is a decision, like love.  Forgiveness is not forgetting, it’s not excusing, it’s not even being nice to the other person.  It’s recognizing the other person said something wrong—or did something bad—and deciding to throw that thing into the sea.

This concept doesn’t apply to behaviors associated with addictions.  Addiction is the equivalent of acid in a relationship. If you have an addiction (to ANYTHING) ditch it.  If you have a negative pattern of doing something, break it.  If you need help, get it.

So forgive.  Often.  Forgive so much it feels like you’re the one doing all the forgiving.  It’s like medicine…

Before Opening night --Man of La Mancha 2016

6.  Humility

Mario wrote (eventual!) in parentheses after this. For those of us who like to be right, humility is a tough concept, but a necessary one.  Think of being on the same, level playing field with your spouse, since you are fellow travelers in this marriage. 

When making decisions, it is important to (eventually) agree.  Have the humility to admit that the other might have a better idea than you, or might know as much and have a different opinion.  So many unnecessary fights are started because one partner thinks they are right and the other is wrong.  Usually, Mario and I are both right—and both wrong—but we listen to each other thoroughly before deciding.  I trust Mario; he trusts me.  We are co-laborers in the same life—what good would it do for one of us to rise haughtily above the other?

7.  Devotion.

I am deeply devoted to Mario, and he is to me. I will think of him first above anyone else; I will never even consider another man the way I do him.  He champions every dream I have, even if it seems inconvenient at this point in our life; I support him in every endeavor. We are each-other’s cheerleaders, best friends, and greatest admirers.  I am loyal to him and he to me.  This devotion might seem sappy or old-fashioned in today’s world, but it works for us.  After all, it is genuine.

Our Wedding Day--December 1987
There's been a lot of prayer since then!

8.  Prayer.

Mario and I are Christians, so we share a common faith. We believe in a God who hears us and communicates with us.  Our prayer life is something that is private, between us and God.  And yet, when we join to pray there is something incredibly intimate and special—and powerful. We both feel very blessed to have this as part of our relationship--and we know it is necessary to our survival.  

So that’s Mario’s list.  I think it is a pretty good list—and to think he did it in just a few minutes makes me laugh.  “That’s all I got,” he said, handing it to me while trying to suppress a laugh. He knows very well that his list is awesome—written on a piece of yellow paper like it’s a simple note. 

In fact, it’s almost like a love letter, isn’t it?

Thursday, December 28, 2017


 55 today

I will love this year.

I still remember the day I called my father to wish him a Happy 55th Birthday.

“Hey, Dad!” I said, “Stay alive with 55!”

“That’s about it,” he chuckled. 

It was 1989, and major networks were saturated with the Stay Alive—Drive 55!” advertising campaign.  Our nation had been experiencing rising gasoline prices, but the Department of Transportation insisted that its focus was about freeway safety, hoping to minimize high-speed accidents.  Television commercials were everywhere, interrupting our favorite shows: “Stay Alive—Drive 55!”  Since these public service announcements were everywhere, I thought I was being funny and clever by merging my father’s birthday greeting with a nation-wide slogan.  Hilarious!

Today, I am 55. (How did this happen?)

I was born on December 28, 1962—a Friday.  My mother began that particular weekend by delivering me, her second of five children.  I was one of the babies born in the space between Christmas and New Year’s—a time where most people were catching their breath from the holiday gatherings or gearing up for one.  

I grew up believing that December 28th was an unfortunate time of year to be born, but when I eased into adulthood, it didn’t take me long to appreciate the sheer brilliance of being born on this day!  It is a relaxed time of year—and family gatherings are more frequent.

My 54th year has been amazing on many levels—I graduated from university and won two significant awards for my writing—but it has also been very painful. Mario and I have both lost dear, close friends.  It has been (as all other years have been) bursting with joy and pain, grief and celebration—chock-filled with life.

The “Stay Alive—Drive 55” campaign was designed to encourage drivers to slow down and enjoy their journey.  The concept never really caught on for Americans; we tend to speed through our lives, rushing from one place to the other.  It is quite easy to forget that along the way there is laughter and miracles in the seemingly mundane and ordinary steps in between. 

Today—on my 55th birthday—I will stop and reflect on the journey.  It’s actually an amazing one that I share with all of you. Today I told my daughter, Alicia, that I seriously am grateful for the life I have.  In fact, I feel undeserving of all the blessings that are in it.  I am grateful to God, my family, and friends for loving me. 

And I will love this year.

“But as for me, I trust in You.” 

Psalm 55:23

Saturday, December 9, 2017


My stole and cord--Ready and waiting

I am supposed to be working on a final paper that I will turn in on Monday—the date of my last final exam.  Instead, I am flipping through the web—random searches for news, Christmas gifts, homes in the area that are for sale….  I am putting off the paper.  Why?  I just arrived home from Chico and I am feeling a little dreamy.  There is nothing else for me to do but to write and write and write and write….
I am scheduled to graduate on the 16th of this month, at the Golden One Center downtown where I will wear a black mortarboard and gown and a gold tassel. Monday is officially my last day of school at Sac State (CSU Sacramento) and I am feeling a little exhausted—and sad that I am leaving such an incredible place.  Tonight, I found myself writing this—a blog about random numbers that relate to graduating with a bachelor’s degree at 54. 


120:   Academic Units required to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in English degree—
                              I have 122.
19:   Maximum Number of units I have taken in one semester—
In my final semester at American River, I powered through five classes—one of them was six units, another was four (the average class is 3 units).  Three of these classes were honors classes, which meant more writing and a greater demand for class participation.  For every unit, the student is advised to reserve two hours of independent study per week.  21 units=42 hours per week of study.  You can see why students are considered to have a full-time job.  This semester I had a pleasant 18 units—all English classes with the best professors.

3: Years of my life it has taken to do this—
At 52 I returned to college.  I completed one semester of college when I was eighteen—right out of high school (1981).  I hated college back then.  It was lonely and hard work.  No one knew who I was—or cared.  When I returned at 52, I found the same loneliness on campus.  Don’t misunderstand me—there are plenty of people and I have made plenty of friends, but it became obvious very quickly that each student is on a separate journey. Unless you belong to a club or involved in a group project, students don’t really have a sense of shared purpose.  I had to remind myself that I was part of a family, a church, a marriage that valued what I was doing.  This way, I did not lose hope in the journey, which can be very lonely at times.

3: Average hours per day spent in the library or Learning Resource Center
Best place to study at ARC?  The Learning Resource Center.  Best place at Sac State?  The library.  I grew attached to the community of nerds that hung out in both places, typing away or researching on the AMAZING databases we got access to with the price of tuition.  Sac State’s library is so amazing—I have never seen its equal—and I’ve been all over the world and visited many libraries.  I like the NYC Public Library in Manhattan, but I like Sac State’s even more…

2 and 2: Number of Analytical Math and Science Classes I had to take—
I am an ENGLISH MAJOR—a writer who knows how to BS her way through most subjects—until it comes to math and science.  I took Geology (which loved) and then I took Biology (which I thought was the study of life but turned out to be the study of life systems and microbiology)—both in the summer where I got to sweat it out in summer classrooms for at least three hours a day.  The focus helped.  I had to pass Statistics –but ARC had a wonderful class called STATway—which is the hardest class I have ever taken in my whole life! Yikes! Thank God for my gifted, talented, and very sympathetic professors.  They genuinely wanted to help me—I genuinely wanted to learn. Every single student who graduates with a bachelor’s degree has to satisfy the compulsory general education requirement to show you have at least a working knowledge of science and math.   Ask me the odds that most students will forget what they learned.

550: Dollars I spent on parking passes—
Forget books and tuition, parking is expensive for students—and a pain in the butt.  Everybody complains about parking; everyone has to do it.  In my last semester at Sac State, the campus was at sixes and sevens because they were building two additional parking garages.  Just in time for me to leave.
4: Number of rolling backpacks I bought—
Take my advice, if you return to school and plan to lug around books for as many classes as I took (I averaged 15 units per semester), INVEST in a good rolling backpack.  My first two were actually rolling computer bags, but those things are meant for business people carrying a computer from the car to the office.  I went through those wheels like a 14-year-old acne-faced skateboarder—and found that a rolling backpack was the ticket.  My latest one is on its last legs, but it was a trooper: a black JWorld New York.

5:  Average number of times I cried my eyes out in total frustration per semester—
This can’t be due tomorrow!  I didn’t get published in Lit Mag again!  I won’t be able to attend a friend’s wedding because I can’t dig myself out of my massive amounts of homework!  This professor hates me! I talk too much! 
You get it.  Three weeks before the end of the semester is high stress, and I –like many of my fellow students—panic with the amount of work that has to be done in those last crucial weeks.  I think this semester has been the calmest—maybe because I expected the overload. 

1 guy who got me through this—my husband.

Without a doubt, I could not have done this without Mario.  Then again, that goes for most of my endeavors.  I cannot imagine anyone doing this while working full time or with a partner that does not support them.  It is a hard business that requires intense focus.  If your partner is not on board, it is virtually impossible to succeed.  I had all the support in the world from Mario—and it shows.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


Liliana Grace is the grandchild whose face glows with wonder and excitement about nearly everything.  She is extremely artistic and has won awards for her paintings and drawings. Fiercely independent (like both mother and father) Lilli has a unique thirst for knowledge.  She also has a strong desire to see justice and fairness prevail. 

I miss her so much…

Because Lilli lives with her siblings (Callen and Lauren) in Kansas and Mario and I live in California, our relationship is not exactly traditional.  I wish that we could have our kids together within a one hour radius, kind of like my parents have it with their children, but it is not possible. Lilli has four sets of grandparents – and we are the furthest away. But love knows no boundaries.  Love has the power to skip over natural barriers as easily as stones skip over water.  Lilli is in my daily prayers and I carry her with me wherever I go.  Because she is so incredibly valuable to me, I will continue to learn about her and find new reasons to love her.

Today is Liliana Grace’s birthday, and we are here in California and she is there near Kansas City.  We will most likely call her on the phone, sing happy birthday and hear all about how her Halloween was.  We learn how to count our blessings, and talking on the phone is a huge blessing to a Grandparent who has lived in a foreign country for so long.    

Today, our Lilli will blow out candles on a birthday cake and the glow of her candles will light up her face like she lights up the world.

Happy Birthday, Lilli.  Today I walked through campus and thought of you—your beauty, your truth, your moral courage.  I love you and I’m proud of you.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017


4 Generation 1987 -- Mario, Chev, David and Joe
When I first met David, my step-son, I laughed out loud because he looked so much like his father—my boss, Mario.  He was wearing a striped shirt with a collar and shorts, and he marched into my office like he owned the place.   

“Leave Janet alone, she has work to do,” Mario teased.  David at him and then back to me.  “Come on David,” Mario persisted.  “Come into my office now.”

“He can stay here,” I offered, bringing out a ream of paper and a jar of colored pens. Joe, his brother, kept his distance, clinging to Mario warily.

“Joe, do you want to color with us, while your Dad returns phone calls?”   

Soon, David, Joe and I were drawing pictures as Mario talked in his office.  Now and then he would look and smile at me.  At that time, we were still employer/employee, but Mario would soon become my boyfriend, and then my husband. 

So, my first memory of David is this– us coloring pictures at my state-issued desk. 

Supposedly David is 38 today, but I’m sure that’s impossible.  It was only yesterday that I met him, dressed in a striped shirt and leading Joe into my dusty office at Carnegie.  He was beautiful, with brown eyes alive and seeking to know everything.  He was only six, but spoke with wit and humor that made me laugh.  He liked making me laugh.

Looking back, I realize that Mario and I were meant to be together (as corny as that sounds, it is true.)  David and Joe were part of Mario’s “package deal” and Vince was part of mine.  Blending our little families together meant we were in for some heart-stretching and learning to love one another.   

David at the computer - 1987
I learned to love David easily.  He never smart-mouthed me, ever.  He loved computers and math, solving puzzles that involved reasoning and figuring out recurring patterns of things.

“Do you have a math brain?” I asked when he was in Jr. High.  He shrugged like it was no big deal.
“I think so,” he answered, without boasting.  “I’m not a genius, but I just see patterns.”

He graduated from high school, went off to college and then learned UNIX, which changed his life.  A series of crazy girlfriends drove me nuts and caused my prayer life to take on new forms; then he met his wife, Lennae, a person I truly love and cherish.  His kids were the first to make us grandparents – Callen, Lilli, and Lauren – whose humor is so like their father’s.  

David is what people call my step-son—Mario’s eldest child with his first wife, Cathy.  A long time ago I dropped the “step” and just said son…David is our eldest son.  He lives in the Kansas City area, so we don’t see him as much as we want to.  When we do speak, there’s instant connection and a lot of laughter. 
David "fishing" 1985

Tonight, I am sitting here remembering him…and thinking of how blessed I am to know him—let alone have him in the family.

Happy Birthday, David!!  We love you!!

David and Mario Smokin' stogies --2014

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


Once upon a time there was a girl who loved stories and her name was Harmony. 

Harmony loved stories so much that her Grandmother began writing them, just for her.  She wrote stories about silly things, like ponies made of ice cream that never melted.  Harmony laughed when the ponies were chased by two mad scientists who could never prove their existence and went crazy trying.  In the end, the mad scientists gave up trying to prove the ponies existed—and the ponies let them move in with them.

Of all the stories I write, the ones I like best are the stories I write for Harmony, my daughter Alicia’s eldest daughter.  She is a joy and a light to anyone who knows her.  She is kind to strangers, loving to her family, an eternal optimist and an incredibly intelligent child. 

Harmony has many unique, brilliant things that make her lovable.  She cares deeply for Alannah, her little sister, and shows her the way through the passages of childhood and growing up.  She loves her mother and is quite protective of her.  She loves to grow plants, make arts and crafts, draw freehand, and read.  She reads so well!

There are many things in life that I do, trying my best doing each one.  But being with Harmony is effortless.  We can do anything—anything—and it’s easy.  We cuddle on the couch, read or watch TV and it’s beautiful. 

Every Friday, I go to pick her up from school and volunteer in her classroom (or Alannah’s) for one hour.  Harmony greets me with a big hug, so happy to see me.  Last time I went, her new teacher asked her to introduce me to her class.  Harmony stood up tall and held my hand.

“This is my Grandma.  She’s a Christian and she was a teacher.  She loves to read and she says, ‘Reading is power!’”

I stood in front of those second graders, tears in my eyes and a big smile.  It might have been one of the proudest moments I have ever had in my whole life.

Harmony and her 2nd Grade Teacher, Mr. Mike
Happy Birthday, Harmony!  I love you and I’m so proud of you!