Category Archives: Richard Daniel

Forever 39

My best friend, Connie, died a few months before her 40th birthday.  Today would have been her 47th birthday.

I think she would have disliked getting older, and eventually old.

She would have loved seeing her oldest son becoming homecoming king at his college, and having even more fun in college than she did.  She would have loved seeing her oldest daughter get married, and loved having a son-in-law.  She would have loved seeing her youngest son working along side her dad making and fixing stuff.  And she would have loved seeing her youngest daughter become the quintessential young lady.  She would have loved hearing her kids laugh together as nearly grown ups.  She would have loved looking forward to grandchildren.  She would have loved being able to celebrate all the wedding anniversaries she has missed.  I and her husband (my brother) have toasted to her with a bottle of Dom on their anniversary every year since she left.  She would have loved all that great champagne that I got drink instead.

But she would have hated having to wear reading glasses just to be able to read her watch.  She would have been frustrated with her hands losing strength and her fingers getting crooked and stiff.  She would have hated that sometimes hopping out of bed would be more like groaning and rolling out.  She would NOT have been on board with the whole “the spirit is willing, but the body is weak” thing that happens with age.  She would have not liked anything about aging that would have slowed her down.

She’s missed all that good stuff and will miss a lot more…but she has missed the bad stuff, too, including the creaky parts of aging.  I know that she is likely laughing at me wearing readers and pushing ever closer to 50 every time her birthday rolls around and she still gets to be 39…forever 39.


The List of Fifty – White Water Rafting

“Go white water rafting” has been on The List of Fifty since its inception.  And finally this past week, I was able to check it off!  Woo Hoooo!  And it was a Woo Hoo adventure!  My brother Phil is in town with his kids and we decided to take the two oldest up to Buena Vista for a little WW Rafting on the Arkansas.

We went with an outfit called “Noah’s Ark” and it was GREAT!  Having never gone before I really had no idea what to expect.  We chose to go on the kind of raft where the guide does the lion’s share of the rowing and steering and to do a half day trip on a class II and III stretch of the river.

Once an item on “The List” has been checked off, a new item needs to be added to keep the list at fifty.  After this little adventure, I’m putting “go white water rafting” BACK on the list, only this time it will be to go on a trip that includes class IV rapids.  AND next time I want to do more of the rowing and maybe make it an all day sort of trip.  Good times.  If you are keeping your own “list”, and it doesn’t have “go white water rafting” on it, may I recommend that you add it????

Here we are, going through the “Seven Steps” rapids!  (I’m in the far back where you can’t really see me!)

Time Does Not Heal All Wounds

Eighteen years ago today I was at work.  I called to check on my best friend/sister-in-law who was ready to give birth to her first child any day.  She was doing great but was experiencing an uncontrollable urge to, well, to put it as delicately as possible, have a bowel movement.  “DON’T PUSH, and get to the hospital!!” I told her.  Not long after that Richard arrived.  WHAT a cutie.  He was named in honor of his two grandfathers, Richard and Daniel.  A first grandchild and grandson for the both of them.  I was a very excited and proud first-time auntie.

Four years ago today I was working my last, and for the most part, rather uneventful shift in the ER.  I had turned in my resignation and was planning my move from Los Angeles to Colorado which was to take place in just a month.  I was excited about the new life which awaited me and all the adventures I was to have.  And I was thinking of my oldest nephew, Richard, who was on vacation with friends but was turning 14.

Just a couple of hours before my last shift was to end I got the phone call that didn’t change any of that, but changed absolutely everything.

Instead of long and tearful good-byes with my co-workers, I started the longest and most tearful good-bye of my life.  One that, as of today, has lasted four years.

I no longer count the time Connie has been gone in minutes, or hours, or days, or weeks, or even in months, but in years.  It’s still surreal to me.  I miss her every minute.

Congratulations on your 18th birthday Dicky Dan.  Your mother would have loved to see you and the man you have become.

I love you both, to the ends of the earth and to the highest heaven.

Trail Canyon Trail

A redunant name for a beautiful hiking trail in the foothills of Los Angeles.  “A place so beautiful, they named it twice”.  I went back “home” to the L.A. area for the Easter weekend.  Phil and the kids and I headed out on Monday morning to find the trailhead.  The trail we were seeking leads to a waterfall, as all of the hikes I go on with them do.  This waterfall was along the Gold Creek.

The book we were using as our guide was published in the 80’s, so sometimes the directions are hit or miss.  This one was a HIT!  The only “glitch” was that the sign we were looking for which would lead to the trailhead was missing on the way.  When we turned around to look from the other direction, there it was, and once we found it the directions were spot on.

We hiked in about 2 1/2 miles up (and 2 1/2 miles back, which is good, it’s always good to hike out as far as you’ve hiked in!) on a well maintained trail which completely lacked any evidence of human presence…no trash, no graffiti, no dog poop….barely even shoeprints in the softer areas.

We forded the stream a number of the times on the way there, but didn’t even get our feet wet.  I was a bit worried to be hiking since I jacked my right knee up back in December, but it held up nicely.  I was very careful about foot placement and avoiding any pivoting on it.  I tell you this just to show that the hike, though not totally easy, was doable even for the gimp in the group.  (So you could do it, too!)  The hike took us through lush green woods along paths liberally decorated with itty bitty wildflowers.  This purple beauty measured less than an inch across.  Didn’t even see the teensy weensy red bugs crawling around until I uploaded my pictures!

Purple Flower, Red Bugs by you.

And it took us through more poison oak than any of us had ever seen in our lives!  Phil and at least a couple of his kids are really prone to getting horrific rashes from it and warnings rang out frequently about avoiding touching it!  (And upon arriving home, all clothes were stripped and washed, and showers were taken, it was that bad!)  I haven’t heard if any of them broke out or not, but Richard was already sporting some nasty rashes from his LAST excursion into the wilderness.

Back to the hike.  We came around one bend and found ourselves in a manzanita forest.  Manzanita is a bush that is found in the chaparrel biome.  Manzanita is spanish for “little apple”, I guess because the seeds look alot like little apples.  The trunk and branches are a deep rosey red, and they are smooooooooth and satiny.  Any way, these were huge TREES!  Never seen anything like it.  Phil shows how tall the bushes usually are.  The trunks were so thick you couldn’t get your arms around them.

Phil and the Manzanitas by you.

The trail led us to something I can only describe as a CLIFF.  Rocks jutting out high over a small canyon.  Richard loves to rock climb.  I am afraid of heights.  He decided to pick his way down to the canyon.  I wanted to take a picture of him doing it, but couldn’t get close enough to the edge to do that, so I took a picture of him disappearing through a crack in the CLIFF.  Bye Richard.  I hope I see you again!

Richard Gives Me the Heebies By Rock Climbing... by you.

He took the short way down, we took the long way down, and we met back up at the bottom.

The last bit of the hike was a little steep and the dirt a bit loose, but when when we rounded the last corner before the waterfall, we entered a little bitty paradise!  The cataract measured about 50 feet tall and tumbled into a small, clear pool.

The Gold Creek Falls (Real name?  Dunno!) by you.

There was a large sycamore tree at the edge of the pool which had a high green and lacy canopy.  The canopy provided shade and showed off a brilliant blue sky above it.  Off came shoes and socks!  The bottom of the pool was firm and sandy/pebbly.  But boy oh, the water was cold!  Of course I orchestrated one of my famous foot pictures, but I couldn’t stand being in the water for more than a minute or so.

Foot Picture in the Basin Pool by you.

My feet are wimpy because they have spent all winter in shoes (and I just got a pedicure further removing any protective toughened skin!).  But Jonathan’s feet suffered no such wimpiness.  This kid was swimming in that cold water!

Jonathan Braves the Cold Water and Gets Soaked Through! by you.

Head to toe wet.  Brrrrr.

Alaska and Avie Get Cold by you.

We played and laughed for a time and decided this would be a great place for a picnic.  Plenty of large flat rocks to serve as a picnic table. I don’t know if we got lucky that day having the place to ourselves, or if it is a little visited place.  I wonder if we went back in the summer for that picnic if there would be a horde of people vying for the best seats on the rocks!

Time to put our shoes back on and go.

Playing in the Basin by you.

A hidden place which seemed to have been created, at least for that day, just for us!

For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills…Deuteronomy 8:7 (NIV)

Some of the best times of my life are spent exploring God’s creation with my big brother and his kids.

Certain Things Just Make You Feel Old

I feel old when I walk down the stairs and I can HEAR my left knee cap grinding.  (And that’s my GOOD knee!)

I feel old when I realize that I have been a nurse for TWENTY YEARS.

I feel old knowing that my 30th high school reunion is in only four years…if we have one, that is.

I feel old when clerks at stores and waitresses and such call me m’am, and they’ve never been in the military.

But the thing that is making me feel old (but very excited and proud!) today, is that my oldest nephew will be going off to college in August.  I just heard that he got into Hillsdale College in Michigan.   Way to go Richie!!!!  Well done. 

Yeah, I’ll be up to see you, you know it!  🙂

This One is For Karine

Okay, so my nephew e-mailed me today and asked me a favor.  He apparently recently ran into a woman named Karine (spelling is in question…afterall it IS my nephew we’re talking about) who wanted the information on the Los Angeles regional robotics competition.  Richard asked me to send the info to Karine as he didn’t have her info BUT she reads my blog.  I can’t find a Karine as ever having left a comment (thus providing me with an e-mail address) SO I am posting that information here, in a post, for Karine, and anyone else who would like to go and support the Beach Bot/Team 330.  (I have added a permanent link to my nephew’s blog in my blogroll).

The competition is March 13th and 14th at the Long Beach Convention Center.

Gee, I wish I could go…

“Re: Essay and other such rubbish” – Part III

Since I’m gone I thought I’d have my nephew, Richard, in again as a guest blogger!  Here’s another offering from my nephew’s collection of essays.  That’s my nephew!  Putting the positive slant on yet another “negative” personality trait!

This one is on Sarcasm..

Sarcasm as a Second Language


“Sarcasm: the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.”

                        -Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, 19th century Russian fictional writer.


Did you know that I am multi-lingual? Not only do I speak English, pig-Latin, and New Zealandish, I also speak sarcasm. This wonderful language serves as a happy medium between the polite refutation and outright condemnation we are forced to shovel upon the idiocy that envelops us. Through sarcasm, we are able to eviscerate our moronic contemporaries, as opposed to politely and gently correcting their blatant and unforgivable lack of intelligence, without crossing over the boundary of downright meanness. We save our mean comments about the person for our close friends and family. The beauty of sarcasm lies in the fact that the people subject to your wit generally are too dense and slow to understand your true feelings.

            Another facet of the language of sarcasm is its use between two or more native speakers. Those fluent in this tongue can often carry on entire conversations with each other about their peers without these unwashed masses of idiots realizing what is going on around them. The difficulty in this resides in the fact that one must sift through the maddening crowd of morons to find one truly intelligent person who shares this gift, no easy task, for, as I have come to conclude, only one out of every thirty people or so qualifies. That is why the best alternative for we intellectuals is solitary, urban hermitage.

            There are several dialects of sarcasm. The first, traditional sarcasm, is most prevalent in the middle-aged, and tends to tread between the boundaries of politeness and meanness fairly evenly, reflecting neither too much softness nor too much open harshness. The second, reactionary sarcasm, is spoken almost exclusively by the old, and generally borderlines on razor sharp meanness. This dialect tends to focus more on teaching its subject didactic elements and improving its subject’s behavior as opposed to just openly mocking him. The final dialect, post modern ridicule, resounds both loudly and irritatingly from the youngest sect of the species. This dialect does not even try to mask itself, crossing over the line of nastiness in almost every instance, and rarely, if ever, reflects either intellect in presentation, or discretion in subject. It is because of this final dialect that we who speak sarcasm are looked upon as disrespectful little cretins, when in reality, we simply use sarcasm as a tool to prevent use from slapping senseless the halfwits around us.

(Posted in absentia)

The Beach Bot Update

My nephew Richard’s robotics team took second in their division, and 8th overall in the FIRST nationals in last week’s competition in Atlanta.  Not bad for a little team of homeschooled kids from the beach cities of Los Angeles!

Congrats team 330!  Well done!

“Re: Essay and other such rubbish” – PART II

Here is the second installment from my 16 year old nephew Richard’s ‘Essays on the benefits and Wonders of what Society Deems as “Negative Traits”‘.  (Click HERE to read the first).  Enjoy! 

Part 1: The Joy of Pessimism

PESSIMISM, n. A philosophy forced upon the convictions of the observer by the disheartening prevalence of the optimist

with his scarecrow hope and his unsightly smile.

Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
US author & satirist (1842 – 1914)

            The average member of a society, when hearing the word “Pessimism”, conjures up images of sour-faced, ill tempered individuals who darken those around them with their morose countenance. This is but an atypical example.

            True Pessimists, myself included, have simply experienced enough of life’s trials and difficulties to conclude that things rarely, if ever, go as planned, and, more often than not, drown in the slough of inadequacy and disappointment. A true pessimist realizes that any hope in the things of this world will eventual succumb, suffocated by the festering miasma of time, dissatisfaction, and extraneous, albeit not unpredicted, circumstances.

            There is a certain joy, however, reserved only for we true pessimists. Our mindset tends for us to set low expectations of life around us. The truth of the matter is, however, that in our civilized life, with our inexhaustible supply of resources, pursuits, and possibilities, things never fall too far into disarray. We pessimists, by keeping our expectations low, often see them fulfilled, despite the fact that all does not go to plan. Moreover, should everything go as planned, our expectations are fulfilled above and beyond what we had hoped for. This constant fulfilling, as a result, makes us happier individuals, for our lives progress far better than we expect. In this, optimism seems to the observing pessimist not only absurd, but oxymoronic. An optimist always has high expectations and hopes, which are rarely if ever fulfilled, yet they remain happy. A Calvin and Hobbes comic strip emphasizes the credo of we true pessimists best:

Calvin and Hobbes are walking in the woods. Calvin turns to Hobbes and asks, “If  you could have one wish, what would it be?” Hobbes ponders this for while and replies, “A sandwich”. Calvin proceeds to condemn Hobbes as a fool for using his wish as such, listing all the things he could have wished for. At the end of their walk, Hobbes goes to the kitchen, makes himself a sandwich, and says, “I got my wish”.

            In the end, true pessimists see their low expectations fulfilled all the time, and we are happier as a result, whereas optimists rarely see their high expectations fulfilled, but are still happy because they are optimists, always looking forward to the future.

If “40 is the new 30”, and “pink is the new black”, then it appears that “pessimism is the new optimism”!  🙂

What do you suppose his NEXT essay will be about???


“Re: Essay and other such rubbish” – PART I

That was the subject line of an e-mail I received from my nephew Richard.  I had called his house moments before and my little sister Whitney was cracking up about this new bit of writing that Richard was reading to her.  He said he was going to send it to me to read.  I asked him if it was okay if I put it on my blog if I liked it.  He’s been the subject of many of my posts already, so I’m pretty sure that he knew that this was more than a distinct possibility.  BUT, I like to get permission to “publish”, if you will, the creative works of another.  Permission was granted.  This tome of his is a work in progress.  I hope to be receiving more of the essays that make up the ESSAY in the days to come.   Here is the first installment of:

Essays on the benefits and Wonders of what

Society Deems as “Negative Traits”


            My intent for these essays is that they be used to show the lighter side of what many deem as negative traits, and how they are beneficial to those blessed with them, if used properly. I started writing these essays on a whim: I was in study hall, and, having successfully completely all of my math work, I decided to pass the rest of study hall writing an essay on pessimism, extolling a thesis I had contrived regarding pessimism some months earlier, and then seen mirrored in a fellow classmate of mine. This one essay snowballed into a series of essays dealing with related subjects. So, here they are:

Okay, well, that ought to whet your whistle!  You’ll have to wait for the next installment!  It’ll be worth the wait though.  It’s called “The Joy of Pessimism”.

Tit For Tat – Photo Friday

Here’s my next entry in Lady Luck’s (of the blog “A Curious State of Affairs”) Photo Friday, and on Friday, actually, this time!  🙂  This Friday’s topic is “Tit for Tat”.

 Whenever I hear the word “tat”, I think of my nephew, Mitchell.  For years he couldn’t make the hard-C (or K, for that matter) sound.  So, kids were “tids”, and cats were “tats”.  He called his cousins “my tids”.  So cute.  He doesn’t do it anymore, but you know how it is, when little kids say funny things, those things often become part of the family vernacular.  And so it is with tids, and tats.  One of these days when he grows up I’m sure he’ll ask “why do you call my cousins “tids”, and why do you call cats “tats”?  We’ll tell him it’s because of him, and he’ll laugh because he won’t remember that he ever did.  My nephew Richard just shakes his head when we speak of “yogs” and “who did this to mes?”.  Thanks to my sister Whitney, the Pacific Ocean is “the oceanbath”.  I am the proud contributor of “girt” and “lellyaphont” for skirt and elephant, but thankfully only my mother uses THOSE anymore!

I tell you this so that I can share that I had to get beyond my instinctual response to the word “tat” so that I could participate in this meme in a way that had nothing to do with my own “tat”!

Which brings me to the actual subject matter of “Tit for Tat”…I know…FINALLY, you say!  🙂

These are coasters crocheted for me by Brenda, a family friend.

My grandmomther (my mother’s mother) was an amazing crocheter (among other talents).  She crocheted using very small guage string.  To watch her, you would think she was tattting lace (Aha, the connection to today’s topic!).  She made amazing creations out of balls of inconsequential looking string.  She even crocheted KING SIZED bed coverings!  On a few of Brenda’s visits to “the ranch” where my grandmother lived, she had my grandmother teach her how to crochet.  I don’t know that my grandmomther passed along her talent to anyone else.  I’d already failed my attempts at knitting and counted cross-stitching, so I didn’t think crocheting would be something I’d excel at.  But Brenda sure did. 

As my siblings and cousins would marry, my grandmother would crochet them gifts.  At one point she realized she probably wouldn’t be around for all of our weddings so she made up gifts for those grandkids in advance.  When she died, those of us who had not yet wed received these boxes.  Mine is still packed away.  I was thinking about that box as I was contemplating my subject matter.  It’s been a long time since my grandmother passed away.  I wonder if she’d mind if I opened her gift and used it without waiting to get married! 

These little coasters from Brenda are the first gift of her crocheting I recieved from her.  She has continued to be a prolific crocheter, probably rivaling my grandmother’s talent.  She too, uses the fine guage string and turns it into gorgeous creations.  And it looks like she is tatting, too!  I chose these coasters to photograph as they were the most accesible of all of Brenda’s and my grandma’s creations at the moment. 

Click HERE to link to the “home” entry for Photo Friday.  Check out the other entries.  And don’t forget, you too can play!  🙂

Next week’s topic is “Siesta”.

Emerald Pool

I made an unexpected trip to So Cal this past week as I wanted to attend the funeral of a friend.  It was a sad reason for a visit.  But the service was a lovely tribute to a wonderful man.  Lots of tears.  Lots of laughter.  I’m so glad I was able to be there.

As usual, I stayed at my big brother’s house.  We did some fun things while I was there.  One of those things was this!

Phil, his kids and I, went on a hike.  We went to the Santa Paula Creek area of Ojai in search of a waterfall.  My brother has this book of California waterfalls.  It’s most cool.  It lists the waterfalls and gives directions on how to get to them.  This was one his family had not yet gone to.  The book promised a 3 miles in/3 miles out hike with the holy grail being a series of “punch bowl” pools connected by small waterfalls leading to a 30 foot waterfall at the end.  The hiking instructions would have lead us to a campsite overlooking the pool which fed the larger cataract.

Somewhere along the way we got off the trail and ended up hiking the river’s path.  I came across this lovely little creature in a dry part of the river bed.  It measured about a half an inch across!


While this diversion provided what promised to be a “direct hit” on our target, it also entailed multiple rock crossings of the river, some ankle twistings and one occasion where we had to work our way along a rock wall using toe and foot holds which nearly had me at my tolerance for the heights and falling “thing” I have!  But with the patient help of my brother, and the occasional hand holding by my nephew, Richard, I persevered.

I like this picture soooo much.  I call it “Album Cover – No Band”.

We hiked and hiked and hiked.  It was getting late.  We found what we believed to be the punch bowls, but no big fall.  We thought we’d probably passed it when we ended up off the trail.  We took a moment to rest and drink water before starting back out of the canyon.  But Richard (who LOVES to rock climb) ventured farther up and in and came back with the news that he’d found the fall.  “Is it too scary, or can Aunt Lou make it?”  The answer was “Yes, she can.”.  So, me included, we decided to continue to climb our way in.  Very worth it!  The directions would have had us over looking the fall, but since we came up by way of the river, we were instead at the bottom where it filled a large deep pool.  We were so glad that we’d ended up off the path.  The algae on the rocks at the bottom of this crystal clear twenty foot deep pool lent the most gorgeous emerald color to the water.

The pool was surrounded by rock walls and a small rocky “beach”.  Evidence abounded that many had gone before us.  There was the sad bit of trash, a towel that looked like it hadn’t been there long, a few charcoally spots where fires had been built, and of course, graffiti.  And you know what?  I wasn’t much bothered by the graffiti.

Today’s graffiti are tomorrow’s “prehistoric” cave drawings…

A good time and place for one of my “foot pictures”!

It took us about a third of the time to hike back out.  Why is that?  Just wondering.

All in all, a wonderful smallish adventure.  We were all tired and sore at the end (and for the whole next day!).  Especially Avie.  We’d barely started the hike and she was complaining that “it’s a terrible time to be a kid”.  She’s growing, and her legs are sore.  But she stuck it out.  Barely.  Had that hike been a tenth of a mile longer, one of us would have been carrying her!

Two days later we got to see Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh.  But that’s another post!

Darn Cute

My nephew Mitchell loves to play on the computer.  He’s only five, but he has very good fine motor skills and knows all about how to navigate through simple game and learning programs.  I don’t think anybody taught him much.  I mean, I showed him how to use the glide pad on one of my earlier visits, but that’s about it.  I think kids these days absorb computer and electronics ability through the air or something.  I load up a CD for him, and he’s off and running, typing his name in, right clicking, left clicking, entering, etc.  Anyway, I think he likes my visits because I bring my laptop when I come.  His cousins (Richard and Alaska) won’t let him play with their laptops (and if I were them, I wouldn’t either), but I let him play with mine.  And he will play on it for hours.  One day while using my computer (during my visit last month), he got up and went to the living room where it was quieter.  I peeked out into the living room a few moments later and this is what I saw…

Big couch.  Big boy.  Little boy.

Darn cute.

The day I left I asked Mitchell when he was going to come and visit me.  His answer?

“Wellllll.  Actually.  I’m going to come and LIVE to you!”

The Cash Equivalent

Some of you in reading the title of this post already know what I’m going to write about.  Most of you don’t.  Those of you who do know are probably chuckling just a little bit to yourselves…

Richard.  My nephew.  Since he was young I have had fascinating discussions with him about finances, and investments, etc.  I remember one day when he was just about five we were talking about risk versus rewards when it came to what to do with money.  He wanted to know about his options for investing.  At five years old his little mind was doing an assessment of what level of risk he was comfortable with.  He decided that when he came into any money, like on his birthday, or whatever, that he would put half of it aside to invest and possibly spend the other half on something he wanted.  We discussed straight savings accounts, CDs, stocks, and real estate.  His first goal was to save enough in his savings account to be able to invest in a CD.  A few years ago he told me his goal was to be able to buy a house.  I think he was 12 or 13 at the time.  I don’t know how close he is to that goal, but I do know that he continues to save his money avidly.  How do I know this?  Well, he’d much rather have the cash equivalent than get presents or gifts along the way.  Not your “usual” child, for years the only thing on his “wish list” for Christmas has been “money”.  This has expanded somewhat beyond Christmas and birthdays.  I heard that this past summer while vacationing with his family, when they’d stop to buy souvenir sweatshirts or souvenir whatevers, he’d ask for the cash equivalent instead, and then he’d write down that amount and keep a running tab of what his Dad (my brother) would be giving him when the cash equivalency was finally paid out to him!  🙂  I wonder what the final total was!

Apparently this “may I have the cash equivalent instead” approach to receiving gifts has extended beyond the family.  Two weeks ago I went up to visit him in northern Colorado where he was visiting his best friend and his best friend’s family.  I heard from the best friend’s sister that Richard was given an iPod Nano for his birthday.  She laughed as she told me what her mother had had engraved on the back of it for him!  Here you go….but you probably already guessed it…

It appears that the answer this time was an engraved “no”!  🙂

One Year Ago Today…Two Years Ago Today

This is a big thank you to all my ZFWers who, last year at this time, were so kind and understanding to me as I faced the one-year anniversary of Connie’s death.  I had no idea what to expect from myself emotionally, and neither did they.  But they were all so supportive of me.  And it wasn’t bad and it wasn’t scary.  I didn’t have any sort of emotional breakdown, or anything like that.  It was another day in my life.  Just a little bit sadder than most.  And I was in Lufwanyama, Zambia.  Away from my family.  I worried about them, but what could I do?  I was a million miles away.

Some weeks later I received a notification from the post office in Ndola that there was a package for me.  The package was from Phil and it instructed me to open it only on July 29th.  However, July 29th had long ago come and gone.  So I opened it anyway.  I found a nice quiet place and began to look through all the wonderful pictures that Phil had sent me.  He had also sent me a small tape player with headphones and a tape.  (These types of things are against TMIs rules.  But I popped the tape in and listened anyway.)  The tape was of him talking.  And of music.  I smiled as I wept.  I never thought I’d make it through a year.  But I had.  And so had Phil.  And so had his kids.  And so had we all.  And what a wonderful thing for Phil to do for me…to have planned that far ahead to do something in memorial for my best friend and his wife.  I think he’s the only person who really understands how much that girl meant to me.

And, unbelievably, now it has been two years.

Soooooo, in memory of Connie, here’s an e-mail of hers that she might have turned into a blog posting had she ever become a blogger!  (I am posting it exactly as written and without any editing…)

Sent:            Monday, September 13, 1999  11:47 PM

Subject:      The Store

I should know better than to go grocery shoppping with four children under the age of eight but after we had consumed everything edible in the house except for a jar of sweet pickles and a frozen tamale it is something that just had to be done.  Before we even got into the parking lot Richard and Alaska have all but gouged one another’s eyes out over the radio.  Richard jumped at the chance to stay in the car so he could listen without any disruptions while I braved the store.  As I was extricating Avalon from the car Mr. three year old I-CAN-DO-IT-MYSELF decided he would get a cart.   Not just any cart will do.  We have to use the limo cart that has additional seating added on the back to make it extra specially hard to start, stop and maneuver corners.  As Alaska was busy getting in her parting punches at Richard I see Jon way over by the cart rack tugging with all his might on the line of carts.  Now I must digress here for a moment and ask why do they design the fronts of grocery stores with a sloping entrance?  Of course the incline is heading down away from the store and towards the parking lot.  I guess this is for the people who have $500 to spend on groceries and only shop once a month so they are able to push their grossly overladen cart out to their car.  However if you are like me, $100 worth of groceries barely covers the bottom of the cart and sometimes I can even get them all in the house in one trip.  So here I am past the point of no return in having Avalon out of the car when Jon manages with a  fnal mighty heave to get the cart out of line.  Of course all that momentum carries the cart into the gravity zone.  The next thing I know he is being dragged by the cart out into the lot and headed straight for the nearest parked cars.  By this time the cart has developed a mind of its own and even if I was Carl Lewis and unencumbered of the 30 pound babyseat I would not be able to stop this lumbering metal behemoth.  Now this cart had a choice between a banged up old 70’s sedan and a brand new foreign luxury car.  It makes straight for the alarm infested auto.  My life at this point goes into slow motion.  As Jon is struggling valiantly to hang on and his little feet dragging and twisting all around he managed to impede the determined dent inflicter long enough for me to intercede in the nick of time.  I took a deep breath, loaded up the cart with my children, and pushed my way uphill toward the door.  All of the sudden the cart is no longer an ordinary means of conveyance but an airplane with my children’s arms serving as wings.  Actually I believe it turned into a hummingbird–at least airplain wings remain fixed.  At the end of the first aisle as I am attempting my first big turn Jon makes a full body lunge for the promotional 5′ high cardboard display of crackers.  The display goes over in it’s entirety carrying with it dozens of boxes of Waverly’s and Cheese Nips.  It must have been some big sale because there were at least four of those stupid plastic price signs that they use product to hold to the shelf and if you happen to grab the wrong box go clattering noisily to the floor.  At this exact moment in time I think every customer in the store must have converged at this strategic corner because all of the sudden it was like being on the 405 freeway at 5PM.  The butcher came over and assisted the reconstruction of the cracker tower.  I continued onward taking care to remain in the exact center of each aisle.  We actually managed to finish the shopping without further incident and headed for the checkout.  Alaska started to unload the basket while I checked one aisle over to grab a pack of batteries.  I am finally starting to relax and the basket is beginning to get to the point where Alaska can no longer reach over and get things when the checker asks the lady in front of us if the baby food was hers.  Neither the lady ahead nor us had been paying much attention and we had neglected to put one of those little divider thingies down between our myriad’s of stuff.  Half of our groceries were being loaded up by the bagger into her cart.  After the checker voided at least a dozen items and everything was backed up on the couunter about 2 feet high she decided it would be best to void the whole order and have someone take her over to another register.  The only good thing about all this was that the lady in front of us was not the least big upset by the whole thing and checker calmed down after she realized that no one was going to explode.  I figured the lady must have kids of her own because a lot of the items she bought were similar to ours — right down to the Wonder Bread.  I’m sure this must account for her not realizing sooner the mix up and also for her understanding.  Maybe it had happened to her before and it is also the reason she was grocery shopping by herself.  Connie

(posted in absentia) 

Sweet Sixteen…

Is it still a Sweet Sixteen if the 16-year old is not a girl? 

Richard is the oldest of all my nieces and nephews.  And he’s turning 16 today.  Quite a milestone.  How can he be that old already?  How can I be old enough to have a nephew that old? 

This is a day of celebration.  And a day of sorrow, too.  The day that Richard was born was such a happy day.  My parents welcomed their first grandchild.  And I welcomed my first nephew…the son of my big brother and my best friend.  What an amazing gift.  And what a sweet baby he was.  And what a sweet young man he has remained.  But the celebration of the day of his birth is now inextricably linked to the saddest day.  Two years ago today, on Richard’s birthday, his mother passed away.  Today I celebrate the life of a most wonderful child, and I remember the life his most wonderful mother.

There is a part of me that wants to try to keep Richard’s birthday separate from Connie’s death.  But how?  How do you separate the two?  It happened.  And for whatever reason, God chose to link the two events. 

I love you, Richard.  Happy 16th Birthday.  Wish I was there to celebrate with you.  Last summer I was in Zambia on this day.  By this time this summer I’ll be back from Sicily and in Florida.  Perhaps they will let me sneak away to call you.

And, Connie, I miss you.  I can’t believe it’s been two years already.  God has been so merciful to me in your absence. 

A “Richard Quote” to close out this post…

The last time I visited Los Angeles, we did some geocaching.  Because I don’t have a GPS device, I am sort of limited in the types of caches I can go for.  They tend to be more urban in nature so that the satellite maps can guide me.  Geocaching my way was a bit of a letdown for Richard who was used to doing wilderness caches with his Mom.  He informed me of this:

“It’s not Geocaching unless there’s a chance of getting lost or of being attacked by a puma.”

Richard, 03/12/07

You crack me right up!  I’ll be home in a couple of days, so I’ll be talking to you soon.

(posted in absentia)

Team 330

Team 330 is my nephew Richard’s robotics team number at the national FIRST robotic finals.  I woke up bright and early this morning and downloaded a nice fresh version of Real Player so that I could watch the webcast from Atlanta today.  At 11:00 Atlanta time the Beach Bot and Team 330 is announced.  They play three teams against three teams (the three teams work together and are an “alliance”) and Team 330 was on the Red Alliance.  I watch the whole match, and then, just as they are to announce the final score….my finger on the screen capture button and ready to capture the results so I could post a picture here…the feed freezes up!  Sheesh.  Am I the only one who has no end of trouble with technology?  Does technology regularly fail other people like it fails me???  Any how, here it is, thirty minutes later, and the feed still doesn’t work.  There are four fields that are being webcasted.  My nephew’s team is scheduled in the Curie field.  ALLLLLL the other fields’ webcast feeds are FINE.  But the Curie field feed isn’t working!  Just my luck, I’m tellinya.

BUT!  The Red Alliance (along with Team 330) won their match.  I just checked the standings.  There are two teams which are undefeated in the Curie field, and Team 330 is one of them!  They are ranked 2nd right now in their division!!!!

This is all terribly exciting…  🙂

More later today, I’m sure!

UPDATE:  The winners from each division have now picked their alliances for the quarterfinals.  Team 330 picked two teams that were fairly low in the rankings.  That must mean that whatever they do WELL is something that the BEACH BOT maybe doesn’t do so well.  There is a break in the action in Atlanta.  Must be lunch time.  I found a pdf file that explains all the rules of play for this year’s competition.  It’s called “Rack ‘n’ Roll”.  Here’s a link, just in case you are interested. 

“Rack ‘n’ Roll” Rules

ANOTHER UPDATE:  The Beach Bots and their alliance teams just won their quarterfinals and are on to the semis.  In their last match they scored HUGE!  They scored nearly 286 points while holding the other alliance to less than 18.  I think that 286 might be close to the highest score so far in this competition.  Again, this is all terribly exciting!  🙂

Ah!  YET ANOTHER UPDATE!:  The Beach Bots and their alliance have won the finals of the Curie division and are on to the FINAL Finals!  There were awards handed out to the three teams on the winning alliance.  Some of these teams have more than 50 kids on them!  The Beach Bots have ten.  Yup.  Ten kids.  Pretty cool to be on a team of ten and be winning like this.

My last, at least I THINK so, UPDATE:  The Beach Bots won a design award, but sadly, were eliminated in the semi-finals of the Final Round.  They were in the final four, but I don’t know what place that means they came in.  I guess that means there is one more update yet to come!  Besides, I need to post a video of one of their games, now don’t I?  🙂

Don Imus, Storm Watch, and Robotics

So, I find myself putting two more cents in on this whole Don Imus thing.  CBS has now fired him at what sounds like the behest of Sharpton and his crew.  CBS can fire whomever “they” would like and for no reason at all as far as I’m concerned.  But they should do so because “they” want to, not because Al Sharpton tells them to.  Like I said before, I don’t listen to Don Imus so I won’t miss him on the airways.  Don is probably a rich man and doesn’t really need the work, so he probably won’t miss working either.  IMHO, Don should just aplogize to those he truly offended, the basketball players, and that should pretty much be the end of it. 

But guess what?  This little stunt by Sharpton et al now sets the standard for how someone who is in the public eye is to be treated for saying something that is offensive to another person.  And people will be listening, Al.  People will be listening, Jesse.  People will be listening and you will eventually be held to the same standard.  This time I think maybe the pot has been stirred a little too vigorously and I think it’ll come back to haunt!

And, nope, last weekend WAS NOT winter’s last hurrah!  It has been snowing steadily since about 10:00 this morning.  I really don’t know how I ever LIVED not being where it snowed.  Gosh, it’s just so pretty.  A storm watch is to go into effect here in about half an hour and is to last for 24 hours.  We could get quite a bit of accumulation with this one.  And I hear that there might be more weather again during the next week!  It’s the middle of April!  I could wake up to being snowed in tomorrow!  I won’t complain!

AND finally, my nephew is down in Atlanta for the national robotics competition which started today.  Here is a link if you are interested in watching any of the webcast.  I don’t know what the schedule is, but maybe you’ll get lucky and catch my nephew, Richard, and his team, Hope Chapel Academy’s “Beach Bots”. 

Try to catch the coverage HERE!

Click HERE for the NASA TV schedule.

So, why won’t I complain if I get snowed in tomorrow?  Primarily because I’m scheduled to work, and I’d like to hang out by my computer with the NASA webcast queued up! 


Happy Day!

The Night That The Lights Went Out in Georgia

I am so proud of my nephew!  Richard and the rest the “Beach Bot” robotics team are going to nationals!  How totally cool is THAT?  Nobody in our family, on either side, has ever done anything like this.  His team is from Hope Chapel Academy in Hermosa Beach (a home schooling academy).  The team has won regional championships four times and was the national champion in 2005 and their current robot sounds like it’s a stiff competitor. 

Here’s a JPL News Release you can read for more information….Click HERE for that.

Nationals take place in Atlanta, Georgia in less than two weeks.  How exciting!

Way to go B!

Richard’s Energy Plan

I’m still laughing at it.  A number of nights ago, while sitting on the couch at my brother’s house yakking with some of my siblings and mother, the subject of the cost of gas came up. 

My nephew Richard was doing homework on his laptop, but was listening in on the conversation (he is a GREAT multitasker).  He put his two cents’ in:

“I’d get a hybrid car just for the gas mileage.  I don’t care about the environment.  If they made a car that got 500 miles to the gallon running on manatees, I’d get it.”

He’s 15.  Manatees COULD BE considered a renewable energy source!  In fact, if they were made commercially viable, their future would probably be secure!  🙂  Perhaps he’s on to something.  🙂 

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