Monday, July 6, 2015


Maps of dry season (September–November) shows how California's groundwater has been vanishing at a shocking rate. 

On his way to be crucified, Jesus Christ stopped to address a group of women who were ceremonially weeping and grieving loudly.  Instead of comforting them, Jesus gave a haunting prediction: “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For behold, the days are coming, in which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the breasts that never nursed. Then they shall begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us’.  For if they do these things when the wood is green, what shall be done when it is dry?” (Lk. 23:27-31).

In Bible school, students are taught that Jesus was speaking of the coming slaughter of the Hebrew nation and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, which was consummated in A.D. 70.

If we look even further down the road, we can see more.  Jesus knew on his way to the cross how bad things would become. This world, that is so comfortable for you now, will end. 

In recent days, I’ve thought of this haunting piece of scripture as I have forged my way through my geology class – the hardest class I have ever taken in my life.  Through scientific and mathematical processes, I have learned about the rock planet we live on.  It’s core, its mantle, its crust – its propensity to be friendly to its inhabitants.  My college professors unknowingly confirm what Jesus predicted: our world is not eternal.  We are heading for global changes that no one seems prepared for. 

Global warming is a result of the earth growing older, inching toward its destiny to eventually die. It will end slowly and barbarically.  The wood will dry - water shortages will dominate the globe.  Global food will dry up; people will turn against each other and become self-protective beasts.  Governments would deem evil things to be good and good things to be evil.  It was coming; Jesus could see it.  He was on his way to be crucified because of human corruption and governmental interference.  This is why he encouraged the women – demonstrative in their wailing and flailing – to cry, instead, for what was in store for the generations to come. 

Weep for yourselves

Today I am doing homework related to groundwater, the underground water that occupies open spaces in rock or sediment.  It has been a little more than slightly depressing.  Four years into a severe drought, California has just suffered one of the driest winters on record. Many of California’s reservoirs are less than half full. The natural reservoirs that we rely on for summer water, the Sierra Nevada snowpack, are at a historic low. According to the United States Geological Society, no one knows for sure when the drought is going to end.

California has recently passed legislation to invest hundreds of millions of dollars (that we don’t have) to deal with the current drought.  We are accustomed to “spending” more of our water than we accumulate and it’s starting to catch up to us. 

 In the past, California has depended heavily on dams and aqueducts to enhance statewide water reliability, creating one of the largest and most complex water systems in the world. It still is not enough and we need help finding answers.

The earth is in a fast-paced climate change and the warming trend doesn’t look like it’s turning around. 


Monday, June 29, 2015



Jaclyn and the giraffe

Jaclyn is the only woman I can tolerate hearing my husband’s admiration for, the only girl I know to touch the head of a giraffe, and the a girl who helps protect our financial interests no matter where she is or what time it is.

We met when I was twenty nine, when we first moved to Sacramento.  Mario had taken the afternoon off to attain car and home insurance for us, and came home to announce that I had to meet our new insurance agent. 

“She’s a kick in the pants,” he gushed, smiling.  I was already jealous.  Mario has always been relatively clueless about the power he has over women. 

“Really?” I asked him, raising my eyebrows.  He looked at me and held up his hands. 
“Just meet her, then tell me she isn’t going to be one of our best friends ever.”

He was right. 

Jaclyn’s office wasn’t exactly traditional.  It was in a Victorian house in old Elk Grove, where the oak trees were massive and the streets still had hanging stoplights.  I walked in and she was smiling right at me. 

“You must be Janet,” she said.  “He said he’d bring you back and I didn’t believe him!”  The chairs in front of her desk were covered with her stuff.  An open computer bag, piles of files, a sweater.  She laughed and picked up a pile and transferred it to another chair.  “Have a seat!”

I liked her immediately.  We left about twenty minutes later, after we talked about everything but insurance.  We managed to set up a date for coffee.  She recommended a couple of good restaurants.
Jaclyn saw us through years of different cars, including the ones we bought for our kids when they first drove.  She helped us negotiate great prices, but even more than that – she was the epitome of what a good business person should be.  She knew us, liked us and wanted to help- and she was a kick in the pants.

Years after that first meeting in old Elk Grove, Jaclyn came to visit us in South Africa.  We reconnected quickly and she stayed for a couple of weeks, where we visited every place we swore we would when we first arrived.  She even went with me to a small business meeting in Diepsloot, where she offered business advice to two young entrepreneurs.  She met our friends, got to know our schedule, and… touched the head of a giraffe.

“I don’t think you’re supposed to get that close,” I laughed.  Instead of batting her away, the giraffe basically cuddled up against her, like a friendly horse.  It was the sweetest thing I’d ever seen.  The giraffe was genuinely a good judge of character. 

Jaclyn is a good friend – still is a bright star in our lives.  We call her our ninja, because she can do anything, anywhere in a stealth manner.  Afterwards, she acts like it’s no big deal.

Happy Birthday, Jaclyn.  You really are an incredible friend.  We are so glad that we know you – this world needs more kick-in-the-pants-ninjas. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Physiological response to stress (fight or flight)

Keeping my proverbial head above water during the summer school session has been a feat of note.  I’m not much of a multi-tasker and (by my own admission) I have only recently learned how to study for a college exam.  Summer school is a combination of speed and endurance – with a little bit of crazy thrown in.

I have to say that my favorite class so far is Health Education 300 (HEED 300), where we have already tackled subjects such as disease, stress, psychological health, sex, pregnancy, childbirth, contraception, and drug abuse. 

There is always class participation.

My fellow students are diverse in age, background and academic majors.  Most of them like to ask questions and participate.  I laugh out loud almost every class; it’s so much fun.

These are some things I have learned while I have been enrolled in HEED 300:

·         Wellness is different from health.  Health typically refers to the absence of disease or physical injury.  Wellness ( a relatively new concept) refers to the happiness and quality of a person’s life.  We experience wellness in physical, emotional, spiritual, interpersonal, financial, and intellectual ways.  Americans who form relationships on all of these fronts have a better chance at being WELL, not just healthy. 

·         Americans live a lot longer than we used to.  According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Americans today are living longer and healthier. Life expectancy in the United States has jumped from 47 years in 1900 to 78 years as reported in 2009.  Disability in people over age 65 has dropped dramatically in the past 3 decades. In recent years, nationwide rates of new diagnoses and deaths from all cancers combined have fallen significantly.

·         Chronic disease has replaced infectious disease in the USA.  At the turn of the century, it was not unusual for someone to die from the flu; now the flu (even H1N1) has a harder time killing people.  We know how to boost our immune systems, increase our fluid intake, rest  and stay away from people when we are contagious. Yet, we surround ourselves with toxins: alcohol, tobacco, fast food, drugs, etc. that increase our chances of contracting disease.  As a former smoker, drinker, partier, and McDonald’s French-fries addict, I have to fight the urge to stand on my chair and shout “YEAH!!  Preach it, sister!!” at my teacher.  I look around and see faces like mine, having heard it all before… and ready to go out and do it all over again. 

·         Stress can kill you.  Not just figuratively, stress is a killer: it increases our chances of heart attacks and strokes and actually causes our systems to shut down – at least temporarily.  Americans experience stress at work more than any other place, but they bring that stress home with them.  To relieve stress many Americans go home and unwind by watching TV, drinking alcohol and eating “comfort foods” – all of which can kill you if stress doesn’t.

·         I know where to get a bookmark with different colored condoms on the front.  It wouldn’t be a health class if we didn’t get an obligatory visit from a “family planning clinic”. We had a guest speaker from Planned Parenthood who actually passed out bookmarks with colored condoms on the front.  I laughed out loud -then took a picture.  I doubt that anyone who actually reads books will take one of these, I thought.  The bookmark had a long list of all the services that Planned Parenthood provides.  In between rolling my eyes at the way she phrased things, I realized that she was a person who deserved a modicum of my respect.  Once I got over myself, I was able to smile and join in.  I even helped her to remember some HIV/AIDS facts that she had forgotten.  I resisted the urge to ask for equal time from a Crisis Pregnancy Center. 

If you think you know everything about health, you’d love this class.  Really, it has been eye-opening on many levels for me.  It has been the class that champions participation, and with extremely diverse opinions the conversations can get intense.  It is only week three and the class activities force getting to know one another, so I have met a lot of my fellow classmates… and loved each one. 

My kind of class.  


Thursday, June 18, 2015


Mario grew his beard back this year...

For some reason, I have been given a husband so wonderful and stable that I  have had to discipline myself not to think of him as my savior.  Our relationship has always been a combination of romance and friendship, one that began as the greatest surprise of my life.

From the moment Mario saw me, he was able to recognize the diamond in the rough; the princess beneath the layers of insecurity and doubt.  He was able to provide me with  much needed love and acceptance, after years of deprivation in a (self-inflicted) cold world.  He was handsome, financially stable, loved my son and made all my bells and whistles go off like a smoke alarm.   I was a twenty-five year-old young woman desperate for attention and starving for love - a proverbial catastrophe waiting to happen.  Instead of taking advantage of my vulnerable state, Mario loved me.

He loved me.

The thought still brings tears to my eyes.  His love was real and genuine and the stuff that legends are made of.  He didn’t manufacture it – it came naturally.  I received this love suspiciously, waiting for him to come to his senses and figure out I was just me.  

He stayed. 

Today Mario is sixty one and he is still in love with me - after twenty-eight years.  I look at him and still wonder why this guy who was light years out of my league saw into my soul and fell in love.  I am married to the best guy I know.

God has mercy on the humble; this mercy in my life has translated to Mario.  If a person has been kissed by God, they have noticeable imprints of that love that He has the mercy to leave on them.  I thank God for this mercy – because I know I don’t deserve it.

Happy Birthday, babe.  You really are the best thing I have in my life – and my life is overflowing with good things.

Sunday, June 14, 2015


Angus, the boy who loved food

Once upon a time, dear Laurel, in the beautiful but crowded city of Glasgow, Scotland, lived a Dad, a Mum and their eight children.  Their family name was McKinnon, but by the late 1800’s there were so many McKinnons in Scotland that they were referred to as the Old and Young McKinnons.  Eventually, the family name became Young and there was no way to change it back after the computers took over.

But that is another story.

Back to the Young Family – and their eight children.  They lived in Glasgow, a city known for its rain and clouds -and a band that Abuela used to like, called the Bay City Rollers.  I keep getting distracted. 

The Youngs had eight kids and lived in a cramped apartment, next to the MacFarlans and MacFies who also had a lot of children.  They played in the streets with sticks and balls, and the kids knew who their friends were; the kids knew who their enemies were.  The apartments were on a street of four-storey tenement blocks, which were very high and very poor at the same time.  Pa Young actually helped build apartments just like them, as he was very gifted at laying concrete brick and worked alongside friends.   

On  some days, in just the right light, the clouds would separate and the Young children would stand on the balcony and look into the distance, where the green hills were spotted with white purple heather and sheep feeding in flocks.   The Young children asked their parents if it would be possible if they might one day visit the hills and touch a sheep, but Pa and Ma would not make promises they could not keep.

With eight children, there was plenty of hunger but not a lot of food.   Ma used to take in other people’s laundry, and wash it by hand for extra money when things were very bad.  Pa would always find out she was doing this and hang his head, ashamed that he could not make enough money to support his family.  He finally told her: “Margaret, do not exhaust yourself! You have eight children, ranging from eighteen to five years old!”  Pa would shake his head and look at the children, who would pretend not to hear the conversation. 

“I wish I could say that I can keep up,” Ma would say, wringing her hands.  “The children need to eat.  I wish I could say I gave birth to children who didn’t like food, but they all love it so.”  

“And the youngest of all our children loves it the most,” Pa said, looking over at Angus, a mass of curls, freckles and short pants.

It was true.  The Young children loved food and ate anything that was available to eat.  Alex, George and Michael were the fastest of the eaters, devouring their food and then watching their siblings eat.  Since Angus was the youngest of the Youngs, his mother always took pity on him and tried not to deprive him of any morsel.  Many times, he ate the fatty portions of meat, or the gristled part of the steak, only because he was the last plate served. 

“One day,” Angus thought to himself, “I will eat to my heart’s content!” 

The dreams of food followed him to school, and he tried to concentrate on his studies, but never could. 

When Angus was eight, Pa Young made an announcement to the family: they were moving to Australia.

“I have an opportunity to work there,” he said.  The Young children watched him, doubtful that the move could be good.

“Do I have to move?” Alex, the eldest, asked him.  “I’ll be eighteen in a few weeks.”

Ma Young gasped and clutched her hand to her chest.  “My son!” she cried.  Pa rose to his feet and walked back and forth on the worn carpet. 

“You want to stay here?” Pa asked Alex as the other Young children watched.  “Go ahead.  Good bloody luck!”

It was a painful move, and Alex did indeed stay in Scotland.  It took Ma five hours to stop crying on the plane, and the only reason she did was that she went to sleep.  Angus sat next to her and watched as she faded off, tears streaming down her cheeks at the thought of leaving her son behind.  Once he was sure Ma was asleep, Angus took the uneaten food from her tray and ate it.  He was sure Ma would not notice.

Lauren, so many things happen for a reason, and I am sure that Alex was very pleased that he stayed behind in Glasgow, even though his family was half a world away.  He eventually moved to London to start his own rock and roll band, one he called Grapefruit.  Believe it or not, they were fabulous and wildly successful.  Almost as talented as those Bay City Rollers that Abuela told you about earlier.

Alex made enough money to send his parents some,  and they were so delighted that they split it seven ways and gave it to the children.  Angus, who by that time was fifteen years old, took his share of the money and bought an old guitar, a Gibson with devil horns on it.  When he brought it home, Ma forbade him to bring it into the house and warned him not to start a rock band like his brother. 

So, Angus put that guitar down and studied hard to become a chef because he liked food so much.

Wait a second… that’s not true.  Angus brought the guitar inside and learned to play and became a band leader, just like his brother.  Only the band HE started became wildly famous, and Abuela used to listen to their music, too.  Alright, I’ll be honest.  Sometimes I still listen to their music – it’s a little wild, but what can you expect from the youngest of eight children who had to fight for their food?

I guess I can say that Angus still loves food – and he doesn’t drink alcohol, which surprises people.  He’s actually still in that band - and wears his school uniform when he is on stage.  Don’t believe me?  Ask your parents.

I love you, granddaughter.  Remember that the baby of the family always carries such special talent.  Let your light shine!

Angus Young of AC/DC
Public Domain Image 

Thursday, June 11, 2015


1/2 of the Minerals Tray 

I started summer school on Monday at American River.  The campus is relatively sparse, in comparison to the spring semester. 

As a kid, I loved summer school and used to beg my parents to go.  I attended Catholic school from autumn to spring, but summer school was my opportunity to go and rub elbows with the wild hooligans that populated the public schools in Tracy.  This is where I met a lot of my childhood friends.  They didn’t know me as a girl who struggled with academics, sports, or social status.  These fresh new public-school faces met me and instantly proclaimed me as pretty and funny.  You have to understand that I have never placed first in any contest, but the anonymity of summer school brought out the best in me.

Here I am – 52 and returning to summer school – and this time it’s all business.  I am attending  for the same reason everyone else is: to pick up extra credits that I need for a degree.  Normally, the Los Rios Community College district allows summer school students to take 8 credits for an eight-week semester.  Classes move at a faster pace, so 8 credits is a full plate. Before I left the spring semester I petitioned the school to take an extra class –I am taking 10 credits.

Geology 300 – Physical Geology – 3 credits
Geology 301 – Geology Lab – 1 Credit
Business Tech 350 – Virtual Workplaces – 3 Credits
Health Education  300 – 3 Credits

After carrying a full load in the spring, which included two honors courses, I thought I’d be ready for the heavy load at triple pace.  I think I was wrong…

Dr. Teerlink lectures about the Rock Cycle

Geology  is technical stuff and I thought I'd enjoy this branch of science.  To fulfill a science requirement (and all students do to earn any degree) I must take a lecture with a lab companion.   
I used to love Geology as a kid, so I decided on placing this as my first choice for science - and I got in.  The truth is, most students in class (and our class is FULL!!) have taken biology and chemistry and knew how many tectonic plates were crashing into each other or moving apart from each other...before they walked in.  I didn't.  I was the girl in the back of the class with tears welling up in her eyes as she shook her head.  I guess I didn't have a “working knowledge” by any means.  

"Yeah," Mario sympathized when I got home.  "You'll have to study like crazy." So I have been.  My text (which is massive) is already getting a workout.  I will not get left behind.

On Monday we were given a tray of rocks and told that we would be identifying each one (and their chemical makeup) in three days for a test.  There was no time to say “WTF?” or cry.  We all sat down and started identifying.  My lab partners were so helpful to me…  The test was today and I think I did pretty well.  Geology Lecture/Lab  is from 4:30 – 10:30 Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  Health Ed is from 11:00- 2:50 Tuesday and Thursday.  On Tuesdays I stay in school twelve hours.


That’s how summer school students describe the pace for summer school.  It's almost two in the morning and I have Health Ed in a few hours.  I almost didn’t blog, but I have to - this is important stuff to chronicle.  I remember what my nineteen-year-old classmate told me on the second day of school:

“They have that 8 unit rule in summer school for a reason.”

Out of the mouth of babes....