Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Jimmy Kimmel's Tearful plea for justice
Cecil was a lion who was hunted down and killed by an American dentist.  It’s all over the news today, where the dentist has been named, identified and targeted by animal rights activists.  Today, my facebook and twitter feeds are all about Cecil.  I predict that profile pictures will be of his beautiful face.  

The whole affair makes me shake my head in disbelief; not about the big-game hunter who illegally poached the lion, but about the reaction of people I love and respect.  I’ve been purposefully staying OFF my soap box after witnessing the tapes of Planned Parenthood doctors haggling over the prices of fetal tissue and organs, but now I cannot.

Don’t get me wrong- poachers are evil.  I can’t stand them and I love the way that Africa brings them to justice…but I’ll get to that later.  BUT a lot of my friends didn’t have much to say about the public funding of Planned Parenthood.  I guess we are all used to defending our own human rights violations.  The world news reported the travesty in this way:  Americans fund and support an organization that sells unborn baby parts.  Swallow that.  Is it bitter? It should be.

After living in Africa for seven years, I can tell you that life over there and life here in America doesn’t compare and contrast the way that most Americans believe it SHOULD.  Upon arrival on that beautiful continent, Mario and I were not even able to bring our American money over and put it in a South African bank.  This was a problem for us because we needed money; I was quickly schooled about how things are different in Africa.  There are different ways, different laws, and different ways to get things done.  Keep my American pride to myself and abide by our rules. 

While living there, I saw the truth more and more.  This is Africa; not America.  How could I expect to personally demand that human rights or my idea of conservationism be respected?  It was vain and conceited of me.  I was a foreigner – a guest on a wild continent whose rules were equally foreign.

Morgan Tsvangirai with Obama
That is why my introduction to Zimbabwe was a slap in the face.  The first time we travelled through the country was in 2006; I was acutely aware of the terror of Robert Mugabe’s regime.  Once revered as the leader who ousted the white minority rule of Rhodesia to take back the land for native Zimbabweans, Mugabe and his cronies quickly lapsed into lazy totalitarianism.  His military police were resident Nazis, raping local women and kicking people out of their homes to live there themselves.  They also tore down the homes of the very poor, telling them to “flee to South Africa” for their lives.  Many did, seeking refuge.  When opposed by educated leaders of that country, Mugabe arranged for their deaths.  The most famous attempt happened in 2009 on Zimbabwe's prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, who survived a car crash that killed his wife, Susan, near Harare.

George W. Bush made a public speech against him.  Mugabe promptly ousted many American “guests” in his country.  We had been in Malawi when this happened and one of the local leaders told us about it. "Be careful," he warned.  "Mugabe is bloodthirsty."  We called our consulate, who advised us to stay out of Zimbabwe.  We had to travel through Mozambique in order to get “home” to Johannesburg.  It cost our team an extra day of fuel and food – we weren’t popular! 

With Mugabe’s human rights violations being listed in the top 5 with Human Rights groups such as Amnesty International, I wonder why Americans are now concerning themselves about animal rights?  I want to ask those people (including Jimmy Kimmel) if he has ever spent more than five minutes changing planes in another country.  Want to focus on Zimbabwe, may I ask you if you KNOW who the president of that country is?  Do you know he murders his own people? Do you know that it is a crime to be gay in Zimbabwe?  You can be murdered for supporting the wrong cause, the wrong political party, for having the wrong friends…for being from the wrong tribe?

Today, the only one who seems to share my outrage at the hypocrisy of America is a pompous old windbag named Rush Limbaugh – and that disgusts me.  Where is the outrage of my friends?  Where is the “call for justice” of what is happening to PEOPLE?

Don’t get me wrong, I grieve for what happened with the lion; I detest poaching on any level.  BUT I detest human rights violations EVEN MORE.  DRAMATICALLY MORE.  I am human, above anything else; my obligation and allegiance is to humans FIRST and animals – second.  A distant second.

 I once visited a game park who had caught a poacher the night before we arrived.  The administrator (a white man) was all smiles in the morning, telling us about how he caught the team of thugs who led an illegal hunt.  Since it is illegal to poach in a protected park, the authorities had to be called – but not before the thugs were “questioned”.  After an all-night torturing session, the thugs were “released” to authorities, hog-tied with their faces swollen.  The administrator had no sleep all night, but seemed to be at peace. 

“Yeah,” he sighed, proudly.  “We got a lot of valuable information out of those poachers before the police came.”

That’s how poachers are treated there- sound brutal?  How is announcing their identity on nation-wide TV and calling for justice?  Give me a break. 

I mean really…how bad are your ratings?  

Let me hear what you have to say about the Zimbabwean people – then I’ll listen to what you have to say about one lion.

Want to get behind a GOOD cause? Check out Amnesty International!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Alicia (held by Mario) at three months old - Big Trees State Park

My daughter was born at 4:45 after I had been in labor for thirty two hours.  I was worn out and exhausted and instantly exhilarated after I found out my new baby was a girl.

“A girl?  A girl?”  I shouted in disbelief.  “We have a girl?  Oh, Mario!  Oh, Mario!”

Mario had recorded the whole thing and I can still hear the tapes of my joy, interrupted by her first cry. 

It was yesterday; twenty-seven years ago.

Alicia was our girl; she came after three boys.  Mario had David and Joe when we married and I had Vince.  We blended our family together and sealed it with a collaborative effort: our new baby girl.

The years ahead were a whirlwind of activity.  In true “baby sister” fashion, Alicia grew up with boys and kept up with them.  She was a girly-tomboy, more athletic than anything else.  We homeschooled for eight years and I enjoyed each step of the way; it was over before I knew it.  Once she started school, she was a blur of activity and passion that either burst with joy and sunshine or raged with discontent.  

She jumped into life and devoured it.  School.  Basketball. Graduation. Africa. Alicia came home, fell in love and told us she wasn't coming back with us. It all went so fast that I was left fluttering my arms and wondering where my little daughter went.

“How is Alicia?” someone will ask me, expecting a five second answer to an hour long question.  I smile and tell them about her children, her two daughters that her life revolves around.  I talk about her business, of which she is sole proprietor.  

In reality, my heart moves like an ocean at the very mention of her name.

My daughter has never been easy to describe, which is hell for a writer.  I have always seen her as having two contrasting personalities: one yearning for fulfillment, the other soaring toward the sky.  Her smile lights up the room; her sorrow concerns everyone around her.  She is a thunderstorm over the Great Rift Valley; a rainstorm in the middle of the Amazon.  She is lightning and diamonds and tears cried out loud at a full moon.  My daughter is more than all of the words in my heart, and I have an incredible, inexpressible love for her.

Happy Birthday, Alicia.  You are all the colors of the rainbow; all the keys on the piano.  You amaze me and confound me.  I love you! 

Just as a treat...let me give you this video taken in 2006.  We were newly arrived in Johannesburg, ready to take in the world!! And still a bunch of goofballs!! 

Sunday, July 26, 2015


My daughter, Alicia, runs her own business and can keep her day's schedule on her phone.  She is the mother to two beautiful daughters that are under five years old, so she balances work and family.  She knows how to invoice, bill, do taxes, and pay employees.  Our son, David is an entrepreneur that has sold one of his companies to Hewlett Packard and been a part of several start-ups.  He is the father to three of my beautiful granddaughters and he can eat dinner in one room and toddle over to his office in the next room.  My friend, Wouter has a global business and is a wizard at figuring out facts, numbers and statistics.  He is married to Lulu -one of my besties- who has a mind that can do calculus in the air, no paper needed.  They have passed on these genes to their children, all kids who are business geniuses already.

I have always thought that some people are born with a mind for business and...then there's me. I avoid all business discussions; I hate math.  I keep my receipts in a basket in a dark corner of the closet and Mario retrieves them to do the bills.  Business scares the daylights out of me.

So, when I signed up for an online business course (part of a general ed requirement) I was shaking in my proverbial boots. To make matters even shakier, the class was the first ever that I've done online and I had to force myself to adopt a whole new student rhythm. Once everything was said and done, I realized that an online class was just like any other, where I would set aside time each day to read and complete assignments.

I have just turned in my last assignment - and I can honestly say I will miss this class.

Here's why:

1.  I loved the subject matter.

Business Technology 350 covers "Virtual Careers" or online work environments.  There are so many now - even my own.  I am a freelance writer and most of my work, submissions (and this blog) is done from a bedroom in my house we call "the office".  Since the world of business is changing, Virtual careers are becoming exceedingly popular.

The online format of the class was highly conducive to the assignments.  Internet research, networking, support systems all came to life! I loved the concept and the follow-through.

2.  I loved my teacher!

I found my professor, Melissa Fish, on "" (check out that website!  It's cool).  She had received many high ratings from students who said she was a refreshing version of calm in the midst of a lot of assignments.  She was a fair grader and an encouraging force in the process.  She also scored a "smoking hot chili pepper" on the "hotness scale".  Yeah, it's 2015, but college is college.

It turned out that the ratings were right - Prof. Fish was a calm and cool business woman who knew how to pass on knowledge.  She also had to juggle quite a bit - our class was full and she had to schedule many online conferences with all of us!  The teacher sets the mood for the class, and I was grateful for her!

And she's pretty damn hot.

3. I loved my classmates.

A portion of the class involved an online discussion board where fellow students would post about the week's reading and written assignments; it turned out to be my favorite part.  Most of the people were holding full-time jobs  and doing this class in the hopes of becoming their own boss.  Their posts were heartfelt, vulnerable and inspiring.  I will miss reading their thoughts and dreams each week.

4.  It made me have an honest assessment of myself.

As a fifty-two year old Grandma, I should have honesty down by now!  Instead, I was skirting around the issues of financial responsibility and planning for the future.  This class made me get real with myself and set a price scale for the work I do already.

Now and then, we stumble upon a serendipity; this class was one of them.  I highly recommend it for anyone - and I'm glad it showed up on my radar.  It was something I needed to show me that business knowledge is an acquired skill, not a genetic disposition.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


In the last weeks of Health Ed, I have revisited a subject that is near and dear to my heart: nutrition.  As many of my friends (and all of my family) can attest to, I lost fifty pounds after the age of fifty by getting honest with myself. 

Part of the recommended curriculum in the course I’m taking is an awesome website, called Choose My Plate:

I perused this site the other day and found it both fun and informative.  Here are some things I enjoyed the most about it.  

1. It began in an effort to help Americans think.
GWB on a road race.

The “.gov” address is purposeful to this administration, even though the one before was already cooking it up.  First Lady Michelle Obama released a plan to influence consumers to make healthier food choices, near the beginning of her husband’s first term in office.  USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack joined her and together they released the federal government’s first new food icon: My Plate. 

This was a gutsy move, as most Americans prefer not to be lectured about what they should or should not be eating.  The previous White House also championed fitness and healthy eating, but George W. Bush’s administration wasn't as quick on the draw to make it policy.  Even so, we can say that both Republicans and Democrats agree that Americans need to change the way they live and eat.   

2.  Choose My Plate outlines a good way to view food.

The Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), which maintains the website, is on a mission to present a “Food Guidance System” for the American people.  

Choose My Plate illustrates the five food groups that are the building blocks for a healthy diet using a familiar image – a place setting for a meal. “Before you eat,” the site warns, “think about what goes on your plate or in your cup or bowl.”

3.  Guidance, not control, is the goal.  

As Americans are experiencing epidemic rates of overweight and obesity, they are concurrently spending more time online.  With guidance resources and tools, people can choose to empower themselves by making healthier food choices for themselves, their families, and their children. With all of our high-tech knowledge, user-friendly nutritional information remains rare in cyberspace.
“What is a food plan?” one of my friends  asked me last week.  “How do I know that this person’s diet is any better than that person’s diet?” She was honestly confused about all the conflicting information floating around.  I can relate; getting healthy meant learning all over again what was a reasonable serving size.

What used to be common knowledge among us is no longer taught in schools, no longer pitched by food companies, and no longer outlined in our (non-existent) home-economics courses.  Instead, we are a nation on our own, each person doing what is right in our own eyes.  We are also getting fatter and this is why ChooseMyPlate makes sense.  

Guidance is given – and it’s user friendly.

courtesy of
4.  There's lots of tools to help us succeed.

There are  online resources and  tools to help you learn about and manage your weight.  For the “old me” a BMI calculator was the enemy and I hated seeing it.  Once I got real with myself, I accepted that the tool simply identifies if you are at a healthy weight.  

There is also the Super Tracker, a tool that helps you track what you currently eat and drink.  If you want, the same tool can give you a personalized plan for what you should eat and drink.  This guidance might lead you to make better choices.

5.  Quiz me!

How big is a bagel?   How big did it used to be in 1980?  Why have our portion sizes changed?  Once you eat that bagel, how long will you have to rake leaves to burn it off? 

To see if you know how today's portions compare to the portions available 20 years ago, you can quiz yourself with a game they call “Portion Distortion” ( I have to admit right now that I failed- but I learned a lot!)
 These quizzes are cool because they balance about the amount of physical activity required to burn off the extra calories provided by these larger portions.

6.  Focus on fruits and veggies?

A section called “The Ten Tips Nutrition Education Series”  provides professionals with high quality, easy-to-follow tips in a convenient, printable format, perfect for posting on a refrigerator.

I wish this site was in existence when I was a teacher- I would have used it in my classroom!  There are poster-like .pdf files that encourage “varying your vegetables” and “focusing on fruit” – in English and Spanish.

7.  Are good food choices enough?

While Choose My Plate does provide a lot of guidelines about proper food choices and portion sizes, it is quick to recommend moving it all along with exercise. 

Available online there are The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  While a government publication, it is far from clinical.  It challenges your thinking as well as describing the types and amounts of physical activity that offer the greatest health benefits. It also gives helpful links to information about physical activity and health, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) physical activity page.

Ever think your tax dollars are wasted?  I was happily surprised at the efficiency and friendliness of this site.  It is a resource that I have bookmarked and will plan on using.  Even after I finish summer school.  

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Today is my last day in Geology class.  Taking a science lecture and lab together has been a challenge that requires a lot of reading and study.  I am coming away from it with a deeper respect for scientists and a greater knowledge of the earth.

My mom likes to tell the story of how I wanted to be a geologist when I was young.  I collected rocks from a young age, even having a rock exhibit in kindergarten.  When I was old enough to know how to classify, my parents gave me a rock-collecting lab for Christmas.  I loved it.

Fast forward forty years, and I am in a geology classroom at American River College, trying to keep up.  The teachers rely heavily on our (dense) textbooks and Power Point Presentations that have slides like this:

Extensional Faults - basement involved and detached.
Oh, yeah.  I said it.  That's right.

I eventually learned, for the evening classes I was taking, that early morning study sessions were my only hope.  I also had a kick-ass lab partner (whose mother is younger than me – and a geologist) and a killer study group.  We all learned basic vocabulary together and questioned the scientific process.

I call this my summer of science.  The science of doing well in any subject is study.  Enough study and one may become knowledgeable.  After knowledge comes proficiency, after proficiency comes mastery.  I am almost knowledgeable – and the semester is almost over.


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.