Monday, June 30, 2014


From Charles Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities"

One of the funnest times I've had writing was at the beginning of 2014 when I asked friends to give me 5 words and I would write a fast short story.  The five words came from all over the world, from different personality types and from people who all love to be told a story – one that they took part in.

I've developed some of these stories into “real” short stories, some of them I have grown attached to like children.  That’s kind of what stories are to writers: children made of words.

In each story is a bridge: a bridge between me and the reader.  Even as you read this, you are somewhere on your computer or on your phone; I am sitting in my office typing away on my beloved keyboard…  We are somehow joined.  I love that about writing.  It brings story-teller and reader together.

It’s time for a new challenge:  the JUST WRITE challenge.  This will take place during the month of July, where every day we will share a writing prompt that draws upon the right side of the brain as well as the left.  People who are analytically inclined will write different from those fantasy writers who sail across rivers on fairy wings, but we will all use the same writing prompts during JULY!

If you are on facebook, these prompts will be listed daily on A Cache of Words Writers page.  Copy the prompt and write!  It can be a little paragraph, a whole story or a book.  You can write when you want to, take a break when you want. 

I have a confession to make.  I have been reading “On Writing” by Stephen King ( a writer I have loved to hate publically).  I adore the book and I actually have learned to love his style.  He says at one point: “To be a good writer you have to do two things – read a lot and write a lot.” 

I agree completely.

Let’s begin – and on July 31 I will have 31 posts on Brazen Princess. 

IF YOU WANT TO GIVE A PROMPT FOR US:    post it on A Cache of Words Writers page and we will consider it!!

Saturday, June 28, 2014


Egypt 2009

Sleeping late is underrated. 

In developing countries, responsible people see this as a habit of those who are given to drunkenness and laziness.  In the first world, sleeping late has been seen as a habit of highly ineffective people.  The American Medical Association says that “among sleepers”  (a group of people who agreed to have their sleep and waking activity measured by a wrist sensor during a study), “normal sleepers” lived fitter, more productive lives.

I love sleeping late.

There, I said it.

Now I will also admit to being less industrious than many of my friends; the young mothers I marvel at, hardly believing that I was once so sleep deprived. The one driven by career or schedules that dominate their time, waking or sleeping.  Most of my friends know that, despite my morning slothfulness, I am a contributing member of society.

With all of this said, I must tell you that I have lived a life of a “normal sleeper” for the last month.  Why?  Because I was forced to because of a month-long of visiting and family activity.

Mid- May I went with Mario and my parents (Jack and Jennie) to Boston.  There we celebrated Dad’s 80th birthday in true-Bostonian style, making day trips on the Freedom trail, local restaurants and museums, and plenty of public transport (Dad and Mario had three baseball games at Fenway Park).  We returned to Sacramento, where I did my laundry and then packed up again to visit New Mexico, where Rikki and Vince were, expecting their first baby.  On Friday, May 30, Scarlett Star was born.  She was such a delight that none of minded being awake for the forty-plus hours we vigilantly awaited her.

I stayed to “help” Vince and Rikki – but Vince cooks and Rikki cleans, so I don’t know how much help I was.  Mainly, I was there with the family, admiring the baby.  Scarlett was so good and content; I didn’t have much opportunity to dispense motherly advice.

I came home on June 11th, where I saw Mario for the first time in fifteen days.  We embraced, did laundry and left the following day for Chico to see Alicia and Brian – Harmony and Alannah.  I hadn’t seen them in a month and lapped up the visit. 

I came home again, only to vacuum and get the house ready for a visit from David and Lennae and their three girls.  They stayed with us for a bit over a week .  It was a treat to see them all again, since they live in Kansas City we don’t see each other as often as we’d like.  The girls longed for a pool in the Sacramento record heat , but we were satisfied with day trips to parks and shopping centers.  We took family pictures on the day Mario turned 60;  Alicia and Brian brought the girls and we did a partial family shot.  The grandchildren that were there lapped up the visit and we all were delighted to be together; even with our strong personalities…we all were delighted. 

The Rodriguez family left us three days ago and I wept a bit before driving up to Chico to see Harmony and Alannah again. 

This morning I slept late. 

It occurred to me that I was exhausted.  I was poured out, but so thankful for all of the time we had together as a family.  It was a wonderful time together, but I’m ready to be home. 

I wanted to create a special momentum of the past month.  I’ve tried, but there may be a little bit lost in translation.  It’s one thing to say the family time was rich; it’s quite another to be a grandmother and see the face of your grandchild looking back at you.  At these moments, my heart swells and I smile back, wondering if there could ever be words large enough to capture the moment.  The moment of sweltering and undeserved honor floods my heart and I see the eyes of promise, of new life and hopes and dreams.  The honor of love that comes naturally from a grandchild to a grandmother; it can’t be contained in my heart.  It can’t possibly be put into words.  

Maybe the pictures will do what I hope they are supposed to do: say a thousand words.

I am, among women, most richly blessed.  I deserve a sleeping in day, don’t I?

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Mario with Dux, his Police dog (1987) not long after I first met him.

Most people who know Mario say that he’s a man you can count on.  So predictable that you can set your watch by him; so dependable that you know something’s wrong if he doesn’t show up.  He’s a master-class teacher in police defensive tactics and a subject matter expert in several areas of skill training.  He also is a father to many and a son to one.

I know him as the best guy I’ve ever met in my entire life.  A tough guy to others, but  one of the most peaceful men I have ever met, able to diffuse chaos just by his unusual authority mixed with humility.  There are few things he boasts about; one is the cross of Jesus Christ. He loves with his whole heart; knows how to shoot the arrows of all five love languages with precision and somehow (by some strange and undeserved miracle) I ended up in his cross-hairs.   He loves me.

I am deeply smitten still. I admire him and stand behind him when the giants come calling. 

Today he turns 60.

 It’s impossible; he can still take on most police academy students  swinging a side-handled baton.  He can think on his feet, remember the most random statistics and give and give and give until he goes to sleep.  How can he be 60??

Every day I thank God that there are men alive like him; I am grateful that I am the object of his affection. 

Happy Birthday, Babe. 

You’re not perfect, God knows that, but you’re beautiful.  I mean truly, truly, beautiful.

Mario - Lake Malawi 2009


One of the first nights I had dinner at my boss' house.
David and Joe at the computer (1986)

The first time I met him he was wearing a green-striped shirt and following David, his elder brother, into his Dad’s office.  He looked over the counter and smiled at me.

“Boys,” their father said in a voice reserved for children.  “This is our new Park Aid, Janet.  She’s brand new so don’t bother her.  She’s still trying to learn how to type.”

My boss was their father, a man who was funny, but many times his jokes were directed at me.  I ended up marrying him eighteen months later, though at the time I was clueless of my true feelings for him.  Instead of “not bothering me” the boys gravitated to my desk as I hoped they would, wide-eyed and full of discoveries and questions.  David told me that they had come on a plane together to California, all the way from Kansas City.

“That’s where our Mom lives,” Joe said, dreamily.  He was a blonde, blue-eyed boy who had just turned six.  David was brown haired, brown eyed and a tanned seven,  but he was quick to tell me that he would soon be eight. 

They were beautiful.  They were filled with observations and questions.  They wanted to use my new electric typewriter.  They told me they had just ridden a horse the day before and Joe actually fell off.

“But I got up and got back on,” he said.  It wasn’t hard to tell he was proud of himself for getting back on the horse; what was harder to see was that Joe would one day become quite an accomplished horse rider.  A cowboy, if you will.  Both boys would learn to break and care for horses with such skill that they could make a living. They would also learn how to ride bulls - get bucked off of those monsters - and get back on. 

I went to my boss’ house for dinner that night, more at the invitation of the boys than of him.  I got the feeling that they all liked me there, a woman in the shadow of all these guys.  I was also delighted to watch them together.  David was bold; Joe was thoughtful. 

At some point, I picked up a book and started reading to them.  It was beautiful; magic.  I read four or five books that evening before I excused myself and went home.

“Why are you leaving?” Joe asked me as I packed up my purse. 

“I have a baby,” I answered above their father.  (Mario was laughing, saying: “Because she doesn’t live here!”)

“A girl baby or a boy baby?” Joe asked.

“A boy.  His name is Vince.”

“Can you go get him and bring him back here?”

I looked up at Mario who was smiling. 

“No, honey,” I said.  “I’m going to go home and spend some time with him.  Usually I give him a bath and put him to bed.”

I left that night, strangely intoxicated by the boys.  They were friendly and wonderful; they bore the marks of being well loved. 

When they visited the office from then on, they would wind up by my desk and we would draw together while their father hammered out whatever problem he was called in for.  I think I felt more attached to the boys than I did their father in those early days.

Soon, that changed.  I fell in love with Mario hard and fast and realized slowly that he had great integrity and deep, passionate feelings.  He was a stunning man, one that knocked the wind out of me; and before long I knew all of his hopes and dreams.  

I also learned of his chief regret.

“I feel like I failed my boys,” he told me one night as we were getting to know one another. 

“How?  They love you, and they seem really happy…”

“By divorce.  Divorcing their mom, leaving all of them.  I failed.”

I didn’t know what to say.  After all, we were dating by then.  I didn’t want to hear about how my “boyfriend” regretted divorcing his ex-wife.  This confession began the interesting dichotomy that I was emotionally catapulted into: the peace and tension of sharing custody of children.  There was a beautiful and strange respect that Mario and Cathy had for one another and I felt as if I were observing some kind of strange science experiment, rather than participating (or not participating) in something that threatened my happiness. 

David was the leader; Joe was the careful one.  David accepted me right away; Joe held back for awhile.  David agreed to hold my hand when we took a trip to New York City and strolled the streets;  Joe permitted me to hold his wrist.   David shared his heart and mind with me while Joe watched to see how I would react.

Eventually, Joe accepted me and I became to him what he was to me: a treasured part of a new life.  Thank God there was that acceptance; thank God his heart was so like his father’s: steady, beautiful, tender.

Today is his birthday.  Over the years, I have amassed thousands of memories and thousands of words to describe him, but none come as close as this: he is just like Mario.  He’s kind and funny and tender and strong.  He thinks before he acts, works well in a team, and takes a long time to make decisions – but when he does, they’re wonderful.

Recently, he met a woman of great value to him.  She lights up his world and has a beautiful smile and an appreciation of who he is.  Want to know the beautiful thing?  She’s a single mother of a young son.   God has an amazing, beautiful sense of continuum. 

I love you, Joe.  Happy Birthday.

July 2013

Sunday, June 1, 2014


The day Rikki went into labor we took Bruno for a walk on the river trail.  Vince was working and we decided to stick close to home (Farmington) instead of visiting her family in Shiprock, like we planned.  Bruno is their overactive Boxer/Pug and I held him as he pulled against his leash as Rikki told me all about her childhood adventures on the river.

“When we were kids we used to ride the river from the top all the way down,” she pointed at the bridge and followed it all the way down to where we originated, the power plant.  I examined the river, running so fast that even Bruno was frightened of the current.

“Weren’t you scared?”  I thought of myself as a child, an excellent swimmer but taught to steer clear of rivers.

“No, it was fun.”Rikki seemed nonchalant about the adventure, even though she admitted her legs got pretty banged up when the water ran fast. 

Twelve hours later, Rikki was on another wild ride, one that an old mother like me could never prepare a young mother like her for: a 36 hour labor.

Scarlett Star was the name they chose for their baby girl, and I was convinced that Psalm 29 was a good one to sing over her on the 29th of May.  It turned out that the baby was a little bigger than the doctors estimated and Rikki labored long and hard before she delivered our beloved Scarlett – nine pounds five ounces and twenty two inches long.  The doctors had told her one week before that the baby weighed six and a half pounds, so after we got over the shock of her size, we got on to the business of admiring her. 

We basked in the glow of her.  We gathered around and stared, drinking her in.  I hugged Vince, now a father.  Rikki was happy but exhausted... I thought of my other granddaughters and wished for my own family to be around us, but text messages and instagram had to do.

“She’s beautiful,” I cooed, over and over again.  I saw both Vince and Rikki in her, things only a mother remembers about a grown man as a baby...

Tonight, I left them all to sleep.  Rikki hadn’t slept more than two hours in three days.  She was aching and sore and exhausted and ready for her own bed, but since Scarlett is a bit jaundiced and had an issue of low blood sugar, she needed to stay another day.

Vince is my most camera-shy child.  Before she was born, I knew Scarlett would be well-photographed and warned Vince that he would have to buck up and endure the camera.  He agreed, and what I put together on photobucket I have password protected so that only my blog readers can see.  Here is the link – the password is Scarlett.

A picture says a thousand words, so I’ll stop and let them do the talking. But I'll just say that Psalm 30 (a prayer to dedicate the temple) is perfect for her.

Psalm 30
A psalm. A song. For the dedication of the temple. Of David.
1I will exalt you, Lord,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
2Lord my God, I called to you for help,
and you healed me.
3You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
you spared me from going down to the pit.
4Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
praise his holy name.
5For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
6When I felt secure, I said,
“I will never be shaken.”
7Lord, when you favored me,
you made my royal mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
I was dismayed.
8To you, Lord, I called;
to the Lord I cried for mercy:
9“What is gained if I am silenced,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
10Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me;
Lord, be my help.”
11You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever.