Friday, December 28, 2012


Mario and I - taken two days ago
Today I have been married twenty five years.

The day we wed, I swore like a sailor.  Mario had a terrible flu and I was worried he might not make it to the seven o’clock nuptials.  Why did I choose a winter wedding?  Why did I choose an evening ceremony? 

 I asked myself these questions like they would make a difference.  At that moment they didn’t matter…  At that moment we were going to get married and Mario had a horrid flu. 

The day was a forecast of the next twenty five years.  The less than ideal settings allowed me to see my exceptional husband rise above the terrible circumstances that threatened to steal my happiness.  He married me, sick as a dog and practically fainting from fever.  That night our idyllic honeymoon surroundings found us in bed, Mario shivering with fever.  I fell sick the next day and thanked him for going through with the ceremony.  I don’t know if I could have done it.

 Mario and I are polar opposites.  He is a realist; I am a romantic.  He loves the steady, predictable mathematical patterns that drive me nuts.  I adore fried foods and rich fare; Mario is a high-protein man who is content with steak and salad.  He is a perfect introvert and studies with no distractions; I love tons of people around me, write with my earphones in my spare time.  He is athletic; I am creative.  He loves our family and so do I; he loves me and I love him.

Somehow he married me…and we have remained best friends.  Our private struggles have been scary and unsettling; our trials in public have been embarrassing.  We have endured the sorrow and grief of death, hardships and lean times.  We have enjoyed wealth, lavished on us by a God who loves us beyond measure.

 Yesterday I woke and watched him.  He is a hunk; a beautiful man who has been strong every day I have known him  What made him marry me?  I can’t figure out why he did and why he has stayed,  but I am grateful.  We have a covenant partnership and he takes it seriously.   He is easy to love, appreciate and adore.  He is beautiful, sexy, tender and real.  He is my genuine husband, an inheritance here on earth that I truly don’t deserve.

 Today is silver; but I have been given a golden man.

Happy Anniversary, babe.  
I love you.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Today I am 50. 

Half a century years old, that’s me.  I renewed my International driver’s license yesterday and the clerk just looked at me and said “No way!”  I was flattered, but felt like telling her to keep her compliments.  I have lived all of my fifty years, and I feel them.  Still, I am happy and satisfied in my skin. 

I was thinking of how I was when I was younger.   I was gorgeous, fearless and thin – but very insecure. I decided to pretend I was meeting this younger version of myself and impart a few bits of wisdom…or encouragement.  Today, I encourage all people twice as young as I am with some tidbits of advice you never ever asked for.  These are the things I would tell you to prepare you for the years to come:


·        Live by the truth.

You are most likely surrounded by a bunch of people who have watched you grow up and are worried about your direction.  Listen to their advice, weigh it if you want…but don’t stress about life.  It gets easier.  For certain, this life is a marathon…one that is infested with people trying to get you to think like they do.  Grab a hold of truth in every form and cherish it.  Learn to sniff out wounds, hurt and offenses that cloud other people’s advice to you… they speak with poisoned hearts.  Remember that in the end you will be accountable for your life.  Make sure your decisions are based on love and truth.


·        Surround Yourself with People Who Love You.

Want to know something?  You’re amazing!  I mean, really.  You’re unlike anyone else and you are destined for greatness in your own way.  Friends who notice only your outward appearance are not worth much.  Friends who can talk you down from the ledges…those friends are worth their weight in gold.  Also, don’t discount your family….you need them and believe it or not, they need you.  Make peace with your past and cherish the people who love you.  They will help you manage your life in an unsure world.


·        Read

The education that was compulsory will never measure against the voluntary action of increasing your knowledge through the written word.  Read whatever you can get your hands on; and read a lot.  Fiction, science, how-to manuals, spiritual training books, and the best book of all - the Bible.  Reading increases your capacity to understand others love your fellow man and hold a conversation with even the most monochromatic person you can meet.  Read and you’ll never regret it. 


·        Never Burn Your Bridges

You will encounter many, many heartbreaks in the years to come.  Especially in the area of work - many people will take advantage of your desire to work hard, to be a blessing to others, to be a good person.  You will most likely wake up and realize that the place you are in is not healthy and you will want to leave.  Leave GRACEFULLY.  Remember that today’s prick may be tomorrow’s bridge to the future.  Keep all of the incredible comebacks in your head and shake hands as you leave… God will take care of them – and better than you ever could. 


·        Get in/stay in shape…of some kind.

There are several ways to exercise…choose one and do it for the rest of your life.  Whether you walk, run, swim, lift weights, garden or cycle, movement brings a sense of well-being.  A sedentary life can bring depression or all of the physical repercussions that are obvious.  I’ve been thin and I’ve been heavy – but at all times I have tried to maintain an activity level that would benefit my being. 


·        Learn Forgiveness

Everyone I love (and learn from) is a forgiving person.  We all need it and we all struggle to give it out.  BUT the very fruitful people are ones who forgive often and sincerely…without holding back.  Very seldom do we deserve the hurts that people give us; it is the ones we decide to forgive that we heal from.  The person we free when we forgive others is ourselves – it sounds trite but it’s true. 


·        Never be afraid to laugh out loud

Laughter annoys those nervous people who haven’t earned how to do it.  It blesses everyone else.  Enough said.


So, my twenty-year-old friend… you are a miracle.  You will grow to be an amazing blessing to all who know you.  God is smiling on you and everything is going to be okay.
Life is good, and it gets easier. 
Love and Blessings….



Saturday, December 22, 2012


I was born in the fertile valley of San Juaquin, where the fields spilled forth alfalfa, corn and all different vegetables, including the tomato.  It is this last fruit that made Tracy famous...kind of.

Heinz built a factory to save costs on shipping and produced bottles and bottles of ketchup next to the local high school, my alma mater.

In 1956 my mother was the Tomato Queen of Tracy and rode through its streets on an elephant.  She has the pictures still, a beautiful, confident queen smiling and actually taking the attention away from the mammoth beast, my mom. 

We wrapped Christmas gifts together yesterday, taking turns talking about what God has done in our lives.  Our beauty is now considered much deeper than outward.  That's what they say to us...

Tracy is what I call home, but my real home is heaven.  I remember all that has been promised to me by my father, and take great delight in what is waiting.  It makes what is happening to our homeland easier... kind of.

The farms that used to dominate the town have all but disappeared and the farmers have taken to selling Christmas trees.  The housing market has boomed, then fallen and housing values have plummeted while I have been in Africa.  The Federal budget has not been balanced, Congress has taken a Christmas break to stop fighting and rest... the national debt is astounding. 

Today I am north of Tracy in Chico, here to see my beautiful daughter who has two beautiful daughters of her own.  I will lap up my time with them here, hoping to make up for our long absence...kind of.

Yesterday I said goodnight to Harmony, my granddaughter as I finished reading her "The Christmas Story" book that my beautiful mom read to me, I used to read it to my beautiful daughter when she was young and she now reads to her beautiful ones.

As I finished the story, I said "Now it's time for bed!"

There is a small Christmas tree in her room that functions as a night light.  Although safe and warm in her bed Harmony didn't want to go to sleep - typical three-year-old.  As left the room she began to cry, saying "Don't go.. don't go!"  I steeled myself, just like I did for my own kids and shut the door.  It was then I heard her say "Don't go back to Africa..."

I had to stop in the hall before I joined Mario and Brian and Alicia in the kitchen, composing myself.  Harmony's cries made my heart tear and ache.  It's supposed to, if it's full of love and spilling over. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Jane Austen in her cottage
garden at Chawton.
Painting by Tom Clifford, 2002

In the 1983 movie, Max Dugan Returns, Nora McPhee yells at a new love interest that Jane Austen was her favorite author because she liked an author you could depend on.  I liked the line (even though I had never read Austen) and remembered it years later.  Twelve years later, to be precise, when I dove into Sense and Sensibility after seeing the movie.  

I fell in love....  With the author you can depend on, that is.  

  • She Wrote about Universal Themes
Jane Austen, a daughter of a British gentleman lived in post-Victorian England and wrote from the heart about things she was allowed to.  The eternal elements in her story are in every one of her stories: the evil and good in all of us, true love (and fighting to get it) and maintaining an even keel in the face of gossip, false accusations and when your enemies appear to be triumphing over you.

  • She Wrote about People we all Know

Jane Austen is eternal because she  wrote about genuinely irritating, loving and enigmatic people that are a lot like the people we have in our lives.  The relatives that have it better than you and make you feel inferior at every family gathering.  The poor, unfortunate friends who seem to have happiness, despite their poverty.  The mothers who love too much; the sisters that behave the way they shouldn't; the unexpected generosity of the good people in your life who quietly believe the best about you.  The deep, layered characters could be anyone - even you.

  • She Wrote as a Woman Who Valued Relationships

In her books (and she only finished five novels) I am given a wind of strength by a feminist author who believes in romance.  I am reassured by Jane that it is okay to love and lose your heart.  Men are worth it (at least the good ones are).  In a world that hints I shouldn't trust people and make myself my own best friend, Jane tells me that it’s okay to need other people.  Friends and sisters are there for us to confide in and it’s alright if I want to cry –with a select few I can trust. 

  • She Wrote Wrote Wrote Perfect Endings

While Jane wrote, she revised her work a lot. She knew that her stories would stand for a long, long time and that the endings had to have a fabulous pay-off.  In doing this, her polished work is eternal.  First draft was good, but most of her books were revised at the end at least once before publishing.  She teaches us to have patience in the process of writing: be believable but reward the reader with something that will leave them smiling for days!

  • She Wrote for the Sheer Joy of Writing  (without much of an audience)

While she was alive Jane’s novels didn't fit in with what people were reading: Victorian literature and Romantic literature.  She was never a best-seller.  Even modern fiction enthusiasts preferred Charles Dickens and George Eliot .  To top it off, if you did buy a book she wrote it would attribute authorship to “A Lady”.  Anonymity that respected the  laws of a gentry that never quite saw ladies as people.  *sigh*  No one says “Poor Jane” now, though.  Austen’s five novels outsell most classic English Literature today.  In academia, she is regarded as one of the serious contributors to English Fiction, studied widely in Universities and Colleges.  She is also seen as a feminist author – oh! What would the gentry say?

  • She Wrote in the Face of Death

My friend Jane died when she was  42, probably from bovine tuberculosis or Addison’s disease.  She got really sick the last year of her life and the doctors were puzzled with her sickness so for that reason couldn’t prescribe a good treatment.  After all, the year was 1817 and treatment for unknown diseases were very crude and ineffective.   Jane wrote this in a letter in February: 
 "I certainly have not been very well for many weeks, and about a week ago I was very poorly, I have had a good deal of fever at times and indifferent nights, but am considerably better now and recovering my looks a little, which have been bad enough, black and white and every wrong colour.  I must not depend upon ever being blooming again.  Sickness is a dangerous indulgence at my time of life."  

In June she died, having published three of her five novels.  

Her brother and sister campaigned to get the last two published –Northanger Abbey and Persuasion both the year of her death.

  • She Wrote Love-ly Love...

In the end Jane gives us what we want: a mended heart, a faithful man in a sea of slimy 
blackhearts, and a family restored to hope in human-kind.  The queen of the happy ending, Austen pulls it off and makes me believe it every single time.  Beautiful, juicy love… it never goes out of style!

Happy Birthday, Sister.  You've come a long way, Jane!

Few authors have a body of work as dependable as Jane Austen.  If I ever suggest reading Austen’s novels, I usually recommend working through the books in the order they were published.  Try these links to see which one grabs you:

·         Sense and Sensibility (1811)
·         Pride and Prejudice (1813)
·         Mansfield Park (1814)
·         Emma (1815)
·         Northanger Abbey (1818, posthumous)
·         Persuasion (1818, posthumous)


Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Thank you to for the pic...  but it's here now!


In Mexico today people will get up, go to work and make a living.  Some will get married, others will pray.  There will be feasting and rejoicing and celebration; there will be movements of repentance, tears and sorrow.  In fact the day will be so much like it is here you will never know that the Olmec’s (native inhabitants of the land) calendar ended on this very day.

December 12, 2012.

Some people say it was the Maya (the Maya kept incredible records, similar to the ancient Egyptians) but the more I read the more I see that the pattern for the calendar came from the OLMECS (the great artists and sculptors of Middle America).   I don’t particularly enjoy reading academic literature but just read an academic paper called “Archaology and Religion: A Comparison of the Zapotech and Maya” – which illuminates the thinking of the ancient middle American people groups.  I am grateful for Joyce Marcus (who is still alive and teaching) for writing this.  It shows how different societies thought before Christ – long before colonization.

The more you dig into Maya, Toltec and Olmec history the more you see that God was always searched for.  These were a spiritual people who became known for the terrible politics of the day and their version of religion.  It reminds me that what man forms and calls religion is never as good as what God is.  He is true and pure. 

Even the Bible promises that where man has failed as far as religion goes, He will be faithful to rescue:

“ Save me, LORD! We can no longer trust anyone! All the good, loyal people are gone. People lie to their neighbors. They say whatever they think people want to hear. The LORD should cut off their lying lips and cut out their bragging tongues. Those people think they can win any argument. They say, "We are so good with words, no one will be our master." They took advantage of the poor and stole what little they had. But the LORD knows what they did, and he says, "I will rescue those who are poor and helpless, and I will punish those who hurt them." The LORD'S words are true and pure, like silver purified by fire, like silver melted seven times to make it perfectly pure. LORD, take care of the helpless. Protect them forever from the wicked people in this world. The wicked are all around us, and everyone thinks evil is something to be praised!"

Yeah...that’s Psalm 12. 

Since Jesus told us to read the signs of the times, it’s good to pay attention to know what’s going on today.

  • ·         Number 12 on Billboard’s Hot 100 is - Scream & Shout  (featuring Britney Spears) – a danceable, albeit narcissistic number. 
  • Brave enough to watch it? Click here.
  •         If you google 12-12-12 you will get a picture of a scientific calendar, with the answer being -12
  •         mashable reports the odd happening worldwide today here
  •        time and date (also a dot com) shows the unique and rare occurance in our calendar here
     Today I woke up and read a friend's oddly encouraging facebook post, encouraging me to put my hand on my heart and remember that God has a purpose for my life.  


Recycling became mandatory in the city I raised my children when they were small.  By the time my kids were teens I’d have a hemmorage if I even thought of throwing away an aluminum can.  

We moved to South Africa six years ago, where recycling is relatively  a new concept and optional. Little more that a noble idea, it is also very  inconvenient.  One would have to be wearing a cape, standing on a mountain top to champion the cause.  The nearest recycle center is 3 kilometers away from our house and the road that leads me there is not paved. 

I read my online newspaper today, thinking that when I lived in America I took recycling for granted.  Now there seems to be, in my homeland, a push to go paperless – a paperless society that thinks twice before wiping out a forest of trees.  Besides toilet paper, paper is becoming the new enemy of environmentally responsible folk back home.  I think I can go paperless if I wasn’t expected to include books as paper. I will never, never, never say goodbye to books whose luscious pages I turn with my fingers or whose gorgeous covers beckon me from my bedside table.  I love my kindle, but not like that.  I have a friend-love for my kindle; I have a passionate romance with my books.

I made an appointment today (before we leave for our holiday) to meet with a tutoring company so that I could officially tutor English for a teen daughter of a friend.  I have been tutoring English here for years without getting paid, so to be paid for something I already do sounds good.   I no longer need a map to find the place- I just program it into my GPS.  Even directions now favor paperless habits.

I wrote the address of the tutoring company on a small yellow square of paper that I have grown up calling a post-it.  It is a generic sticky-note, but it is elevated to the brand Post-it for lingual purposes.  Working for years as a teacher, I implemented a system of organization and fluidity of thought given to me by the brilliant Franklin Covey, Inc.  They told us that post-its were a thing of the past – a tool for the weak minded non Jedi’s that couldn't plan properly.  So behind everyone’s backs I would remind myself to “Franklin” something with that valiant piece of paper stationery held to its destination with a re-adherable strip of adhesive.  I’d stick a reminder to myself right on the page and damn it all to hell, it helped me remember something.

Although today they’re  available in a wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes, my favorite is still the 3 inch square canary yellow one that says: “HEY!!  Don’t forget me!” as soon as I see it.  It basically has become the most identifiable symbol in my life, similar to a stop sign. 

I think the secret of the Post-it’s popularity is that unique low-tack adhesive that allows me to take the address of the tutoring company from the corner of my computer screen and stick it on my car’s dashboard as I program it in to my GPS.  Once I’ve done it, I can toss the paper with little or no guilt – after all, it’s a stinkin three inch square! 

I know, as I drive off that there is no sticky residue left on my computer screen – there is no sticky residue left on my dashboard.  It is virtually the best adhesive ever invented for its purpose. 

And that’s where my heart is exposed: I love post-it’s because they are convenient, easy to see and can be attached and removed without leaving marks that make me look bad.   


I guess I can live with that.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Her name was Rosanna.
Her hair was always perfect and shiny and she was the first person I ever knew with an electric pencil sharpener.   
In the seventh grade she typed all of her reports and showed them to me before she handed them in.  She ran the 110 yard dash in about 10 seconds and she was beautiful, thin and Italian.
 Her birthday is today.
 Because my birthday is on the 28th of this month, Rosanna and I were placed (as with California law) in the class below where we should have been placed.  We were both smart, so we excelled in class, even more so because we were older. 
 She and I played the clarinet, but  she was first chair and I was about fourth chair.  
Her beauty was second to her stunning personality.  In all of the terrible, horrible childhood stages from middle school to high school - she was never mean to me.  She had a decency in her that lived deep inside her heart.  One that was rare then, one that belonged in angel.
Still, I have spent my life chasing the Rosanna's of the world.  Just a little bit prettier; just a smidgen smarter; just a tad faster than me.  
It has been my grief and a bit of my motivation.
Happy Birthday, Rosanna.   

Sunday, December 2, 2012


I am Janet.  A beloved daughter, a good wife, a mother who loves her kids, a grandmother who enjoys my role...and I am a brand.
That last part sits on my head like a rubber-chicken hat.  I look silly, but no one will tell me - no one but a good friend.  
Last month I got my seventh rejection letter from an agent.  I never thought I'd be rejected by any literary agents.  After all, these are MY PEOPLE - deep in the literary movement...providing literature to the masses. Agents, as I understood them, made it possible for people like me to enter the sanctuary of the (*gasp*) publishing houses without getting kicked out because I don't have a degree or know the secret handshake.
Now these beloved agents (all of whom I'm sure have evil laughs and talk about authors behind their backs) say the same thing: you write well, but it's not for us.  Continue to seek out the right representation and ...have you branded yourself as an author?  
I check my behind for the burned-in "A" for author, and's not there.  
To understand branding,  for a girl like me (who winces at the word "business") it is important to understand why they are important to what I love to do. 
A brand is the idea or image of a something that consumers connect with.  Let me give you an example - an apple with a bite taken out of (which side?) signifies Apple Inc., Steve Jobs' business venture he stared in the 1980's.  The BITE is on the left hand side.  I bet you got it right.  Want an easier one?  What is the brand of McDonald's?  The "golden arches" is what we were taught to call it as children - by McDonalds.  I was an adult before I thought their hamburgers weren't all that good - but I had already been programmed to enjoy their convenience, their same condiments, their drive-thru, etc. 
Branding is when that idea or image is marketed so that it is recognizable by people, and identified with what that brand represents.  Branding is THE MOST  important part of Internet commerce.  
When working on branding, coordinating domain names and brand names are an important part of finding and keeping visitors and clients, as well as branding a new company. Coordination of a domain name lends identification to me as an author, which in turn "establishes me as a brand".  I lease the domain "Brazen Princess" - renewable once a year.  Want to see how it works?  Google "Brazen Princess" and I am the first four hits - at least. 
I also have to encourage a following, which is why so many of you have heard from me.  God help me as I try to get my book published, I thought it would be as easy as them opening the manuscript, taking one look at it and falling in love.
I mean, really... That's kind of how my life has gone until now.
*winking over my glasses*