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Wednesday, January 29, 2014


I have managed to get myself into the uncomfortable position of having to explain my belief in a supreme being—God. Given that all but a small minority of Christians, despite the press releases, are not forthcoming on the subject. As verbose as I am perceived, I tend to be fairly quiet about God. Choosing to speak at length of the failings of Congress or the problem with highway patrolmen who text and drive, instead of any real discussion of something substantial like what I truly believe. 
My past includes stints as a bible-thumping-door-to-door witnessing Baptist, a confused agnostic, an angry atheist, a momentary Buddhist, and finally growing into maturity as so-so Lutheran. I have been college educated as a dollar-chasing capitalist in several fine colleges. No formal training in theology or philosophy or the human condition ever presented itself. I have read the Bible from cover to cover a few times—King James, New International Version, English Standard Version, and God’s Word.  One should keep up with the times.  My Grandfather Heck would have been ashamed of my appalling lack of knowledge of  the Scriptures.
Having set down two paragraphs of disclaimers, here is my belief in God.
1.      HONEY. Honey does not spoil. It is everywhere. Bees make it. Humans eat it. Aristotle recorded in 322 A.D. the antiseptic and antibacterial properties of the golden liquid. It heals wounds and settles baby’s tummy. If the honey crystallizes over time, setting it in the sun will return it to its natural state. The cast-off of honey is beeswax. A beeswax candle burns smoke-free and naturally bright light of the same light spectrum as the sun. A single candlelight can be seen by a human a mile away. The wax and honey are biodegradable, renewable, and environmentally friendly.  Honey was here on earth for us to find, to keep us healthy, fed, and safe. Follow the bears. Let there be light.
2.      MILK. Yes, I know all mammals have milk, even the platypus duck. However, the clever humans made leather skeins filled them with milk to transport and discovered…not spoiled milk…okay sometimes…but curds, whey, butter, soft cheese. Food created without effort. A gift that stores for months.
3.      OLIVES and ACORNS. Olives and acorns have something in common. The fruits/nuts need to be brined or leeched before eating. Both foods require extensive preparation. Olives have been cultivated for 5,000 to 6,000 years. Acorns were processed by the first Americans—the Indians. At what point did the human decide to start this process and ensured the survival of several continents of beings? I understand walking out of a cave after a forest fire and smelling an elk burning a few feet in front of me and saying, “Hmm barbeque good. Me want barbeque. Me cook barbeque.” And it’s not the same as wine either. Grape juice in a jug left too long equals happy juice. No processing olives and acorns required divine intervention—a whisper as to the recipe.
4.       BABY’S GIGGLE. I hear over and over the miracle of birth, the blessing of a child, and God’s gift. Okay. I know you are happy that you successfully procreated.  Hurrah! In case you did not notice, so does every other species on the planet. Some do it by just splitting apart with no real fanfare. I saw that miracle through a microscope.  You can cut earthworms in half. They regenerate and thrive. That is pretty exciting. No it is not the birth of a human child that is miraculous—noteworthy but not miraculous. It is a baby’s giggle. Have you heard it? Have you seen the child light from within and explode in happiness? There is nothing else like it on this planet. It is unique, special, and as close to God I can get without a burning bush.

5.      GOD. This is the part where you can stop reading, ignore the mad woman, or… God speaks to each of us, all the time, everywhere, and each day. So many times, I have waited for the clap of thunder, parting of the seas, or the vision to show me the next step in my life. But what I have found is that God speaks to me. Most of the time, I am talking, shouting, crying, bitching, and not listening. Once in a great while, when my mouth is shut I hear inside of me a voice that cannot be described as a wave of sound but a light as bright as the beeswax candle that helps me for a moment in my life. How can a sound be light and God? I know it is. It is my faith and what I believe.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Harvesting Oranges

            Another gorgeous day in drought-ridden Sacramento.  I started my annual collection of oranges from the mammoth tree in my yard. The crop suffered from a long period of freezes, critter munching, and lack of water. I have picked around two hundred pounds of oranges off this tree each year. Half that amount seems doable this time.
            The frost killed some of the fruit and scarred some. The scarring has attracted some nocturnal creature who wanders through nightly to eat the centers out of the oranges. In the past critters do not mess with the citrus crop—not even the birds. Only if a rotten spot appears on the fruit left too long on the tree does anything attack it. Seems we are the only animals who like —at least in Northern California—orange peels.
Now at two in the morning, my dog, Poindexter, makes a dash outside to try and kill the creature munching an early morning breakfast. I tromped out there one time with a flashlight in hopes of seeing what had moved into the yard. If it was there, I couldn’t find it but Dex madly jumped up and down on the trunk trying to reach whatever it was. Possum? Raccoon?  As one-fourth of the crop is frost damaged the fur bearer has plenty to eat this winter.
I expected to find blossoms all about the tree but the lack of water has delay the blooms. Citrus can be picked all at once like I do or can be picked a little at a time. An orange tree can have buds, blossoms, green fruit, yellow fruit, and ripe fruit all at the same time. I’m not the kind of girl to tend to the garden all the time. I’m a lazy lady farmer.
I have a drip system on my fruit trees that are less than six-years young. The orange tree is not. It’s about twenty plus years old and over fifteen feet high. The fence in the background is ten foot.  As it is a mature tree, I leave it to God, the master gardener, to take care of things. I trim branches away from the fence once a year and pick the fruit over a period of two weeks. Done.
Weed whacking, lawn mowing, leaf raking, and harvesting, cover my yard duties.  I have California native drought tolerant plants in the front yard and in the back, fruit trees, nut trees, and lovely herbs like lavender, rosemary, and thyme. None of those require any work.
I picked thirty pounds of smallish oranges and thanked God for them. Most I will give away. Some I will juice. The rest will be in my marmalade. If you missed the recipes a couple years ago, here they are again. 
Almost Raw Organic Orange Marmalade ala Pam
Into pan on the stove
• 2 cups of fresh squeezed orange juice
• Zest of 3 oranges sliced in thin ribbons
• Zest of ½ organic Meyer lemon
• 2 Tblsp Candied ginger if desired
Cook on low heat until the rind is soft and yummy. Shut of the burner and set the pan on trivet to cool.
While warm add
• 1 jar about one pound of organic honey
• Pulp of 10 organic large orange sections – no white parts. Double the amount of oranges if they are small
• Pulp of 1 Meyer lemon—no white parts
Mix thoroughly
Cool to room temperature
Mix in 1 package No Cook Pectin.
Stir for 3 minutes
Ladle into 3 small Ball brand plastic freezer jars or containers you already have
Refrigerate for 1 hour before eating—freeze or give away the rest.

Organic Orange Marmalade ala Pam

Into a clean crock pot
  • 2 cups of fresh squeezed orange juice
  • Zest of 3 oranges sliced in thin ribbons. Okay I was having so much fun with the zester that makes the thin ribbons that I put the zest of 10 oranges in it and it was too bitter so I had to pull out much of the zest. So don’t make the same mistake. If you don’t have a zester then you need to scrape all the white out of the orange peel and finely slice the rind. Good luck.
  • Pulp of 10 organic orange sections – no white parts. I used 20 oranges because my crop was small this year. If you buy oranges they will be larger so you will need less.
  • Zest of ½ organic Meyer lemon
  • Pulp of 1 Meyer lemon—no white parts
  • 1 jar about one pound of organic honey
  • I had some leftover candied ginger from Christmas and threw that in the crock pot

Heat on low heat until the rind is soft and yummy
Cool to room temperature
3 Minutes Mix in 1 package No Cook Pectin (I got that Wal-Mart)

Ladle into 3 small Ball brand plastic freezer jars or containers you already have
Refrigerate for 1 hour before eating—freeze or give away the rest.

Friday, January 24, 2014


 Thank you to the new readers of my post in Russia, Germany and Poland! I appreciate your interest as I do my American friends.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


            Yesterday, my brother sent me his medal that he received during Operation Desert Storm—a Bronze Star with Valor. He carefully painted the star and the V for valor pink, stuck it in an envelope, and wrote the following. 
I figured with all you have been through, you deserve this more than I. They pinned this on me post Desert Storm (less the pink of course).
Love ya
Little Bro
I thought at first that all Bronze Stars come in pink—part of the “don’t ask don’t tell” program—then erased the thought. I wondered what the medal could be for as I had done nothing remarkable in an awfully long time. Finally, I made the assumption that it was for the long five year battle to keep my husband alive. Still the medal was over the top of my deeds but I was thrilled to have my brother’s honor symbolically in my hand. After a search of the places to display the gift, I hung it in my office next to the computer and then called Steve.
            “So do all Bronze Medals come in nipple pink?”
            “No, you knucklehead. I painted it pink.”
            “I thought of wearing it to work but it might be a bit much don’t you think?”
            “Wear it on the right breast.”
            “The one that had cancer.”
            “Oh, pink for breast cancer.”
            “You are a little slow.”
            “Then I should hang it off of the left breast.”
            Now I felt more unworthy. I don’t consider self preservation brave—not in an adult anyway. A child going through a battle with cancer is courageous as they do not understand what is in front of them or the possible outcomes.
I did. I had two real choices: 1. Move forward with the treatments or 2. Die. Before I told a soul about my diagnosis, I did think about it for a couple weeks before I made the decision. Once done, the pain and misery of the treatments were accepted for what they were—means to an end. My brother thought my cancer worthy of an award. Bless him for thinking me brave and not pragmatic.
Bravery to me is the sacrifice of one’s life and liberty for the betterment or safety of someone else. My brother saved his platoon. The roadway in front of his patrol was covered with landmines. Flat discs decorated the sandy path. It was certain death for all if their vehicle drove over the devices. My insane brother hopped out of the truck, ran in front of the vehicle and picked up the landmine. He then tossed the thing like a Frisbee away from his men and watched it explode a safe distance away. Steve ran to the next while under enemy fire and continued tossing bombs until the road was clear and his people were safe. That was an act of courageousness.
Those who dedicate themselves as a caretaker to improve the quality of life for another can also be an act of bravery. I know because it takes a conscious decision every day to put aside your own wants and needs then dedicate that time to another person. It’s a slow march instead of a mad run to save another.
Statistically, the caretakers have a high probability of their own bodies deteriorating under the stress. Most caretakers do these things with no compensation and often little emotional support. The majority fall ill after the loss of their charge.
Neither cancer or caretaking manifest the same bravery as the Frisbee flinging Green Bret, Steve G. Pimental. Honored by his gift, I thanked my brother for saving others, loving me, and painting the Bronze Star pink. To quote a great philosopher of the Twentieth Century, “I am not worthy. I am not worthy.”

Thanks Little Bro 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

OMG Oh My Google!

            My business associate received a new computer from Santa. He has been over-the-moon happy with updating all his personal correspondence, work related material, and social networking. About the time he had everything filled in and loaded, he was asked to update Explorer to version 11.1. So he clicked the button. Dum dum Dum!
            He called me hysterical. “I’m not a geek but I know about computers… He said to log in. I did. Hacked. I was hacked.”
            “Who’s he?”
            After a circular conversation of about five minutes my friend explained. He loaded the new Explorer but when he went to print his Brother Printer did not respond. A window flashed that requested the user contact Brother. He went to Google and typed in Brother Printer Support. He clicked on the first button he could see and called the number. 866.235.7733. The support person asked him to log into LOGMEIN123. He did. Once the support person was in, he asked for $199 to complete the fix of the printer.
            My friend said no.
            That’s when the fun started. Computer files were deleted in front of his eyes. Programs deleted. And as the last insult, the screen said, “YOU’VE BEEN HACKED.” Not knowing what to do, he recorded the action with his phone. I saw it. There were more than a few cuss words in the background.
            He said he called the alternate numbers 704.266.3966 and  877.836.8352 but no answer or help. My friend had to reset his computer to factory settings and start over with customizing his computer.

WARNING: 1. Just say NO! Do not let any company access your computer unless you already have a contract with them to do so. (Like Geek Squad or Corporate Tech Support) 2. If you are being, hacked unplug the computer from the internet. 3. If you don’t know how to do that unplug the computer. 4. Be wary of any one that is not directly associated with the company in which you do business. (Like a Brother Printer should be handled by Brother.) 5. And pray.

            OMB Oh My Bing!
            Before you Bing lovers start dishing on Google Chrome, I will let you know I had a near miss about a month ago.  My Google Tool bar was covered with Bing and pop up ads. Trend Micro was not stopping the problem. (For you novice computer users, understand my computer had viruses.)
I contacted my tech support, Vlad Zilla. He directed me to a couple sites that had articles about Yahoo! and Google being Malware-ed. The instructions sent the user to Microsoft website. Interesting because the issue came from Bing, a Microsoft product, but I digress.
The instructions included cleaning up Google Chrome then installing the recommended anti-virus software on the Microsoft site. I first uninstalled Trend Micro. Then purchased and downloaded Win Zip Malware. From purchase to key code to install to scan took less than two minutes. Pleased, I went to my internet bar and found all but one of the issues gone.
So I attempted to install the second recommended product on Microsoft’s list. TECHHELP. Unlike the previous product, I spent twenty minutes trying to get the product downloaded and to receive a key code. I ended up in a phone conversation similar to the one my friend had. The tech on the other line said he would be happy to help me but first he needed to log into my computer. 
“No. That is not going to happen. I need the key code. I paid for the product. A key code should have been sent.”
“I can take care of that for you. I just need to log into your…”
“I already told you that is not going to happen. You either send me the key code or I want a full refund.”
“Okay. The key code has been sent.”
“Thank you.” I hung up and waited. After an hour, I uninstalled the program, rebooted my computer and went to work.  I received four separate phone calls from techs asking to log into my computer. Each one said he would email the key code. No one did.
At the end of the day, I called back. A different tech answered. I demanded to speak to a supervisor. “Yes sir. I have tried to get a key code for your program that I purchased this morning. I did not receive it. I did receive harassing phone calls from your company but no promised key code was emailed. I have now uninstalled the program. I request my money back in full.”
“We do not give refunds. You have downloaded the program and installed the key code.”
“I did not get a key code. You can check.”
“I can give you a key code. First we need to log into your computer.”
“That is not going to happen. I installed Win Zip Malware in two minutes. Eight hours I have put up with your company and you still cannot provide the needed code. I want a full refund now.”
“I will contact my bank, Microsoft who recommended your company, and Google Chrome. And I will tell the world about your TECHHELP for $29.95. Please do not contact me again.” I have kept my word. My bank would not process a refund. Instead I filed a complaint with the credit card company. 
Stay safe my friends. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014


    My neighbor stood on the front porch. The obligatory cigarette dangling from her lips as she sprayed her front lawn with a water hose. On my way to the mailbox, she said, “Good afternoon, Pam.”
            “Good afternoon, Sarah. Did you know it rained for about 30 seconds a few hours ago?”
            She took the cigarette from her lips and looked around the cul-de-sac. “Can’t tell.”
            “Yeah. No one can.”
            I put up my Christmas lights after Thanksgiving. It sprinkled tiny drops on me then. Yesterday, I took down my lights—six weeks in between and not a drop of rain. Today, moisture came down so light it wasn’t measurable.
Meanwhile, the Eastern States flood and freeze.
            I lived in the Bay Area during the worse and longest droughts—1986 through 1991. Hot, dry, and miserable, the Bay-ites put bricks in the tanks and didn’t flush for number one not even in restaurants. We skipped showers, watched our yards turn to dust, and drove cars that all looked earth-toned. Hot. Dry. Miserable.
            The bonus round for the lack of water was Santa Ana winds, forest fires, and then the Quake of ’89. “Memories may be beautiful but yet…”
Finally, the rains came—hard and fast. On vacation, Paul and I walked hand in hand as the banks of Napa River overflowed into the streets and soaked our feet on the sidewalk. Redwoods fell over in Sausalito, the roots no longer secure as years of drought separated them from the soil. Earthquake shaken dirt turned to mud and erased banks in South San Francisco, Big Sur and SoCal.
Postcards for the tourist trade depicted the four seasons of California: drought, fire, flood, and mud slides.

Well, “Tighten your seat belts. We are in for a bumpy ride.” I am so glad I have chosen this moment in time to live a place whose summers are on average twenty degrees warmer than where I lived in 1987 through 1991. Sarcasm? Oh yay.

Saturday, January 4, 2014


Matthew’s Barber Beauty and Nails cut my hair today. Specifically, James of Matthew’s cut my hair. I walked into the shop. Some lady with mounds of curly black hair underwent a trim by James’ deft hands. He looked up. “Can I help you?”
            By sign language I indicated a cut. He nodded and said something about a few minutes wait. I sat down and picked up a magazine with countless celebs plastered on the front, flipped a few pages, and slapped it back down on the coffee table.
The shop was long and narrow. On one side, two barber chairs lined with a wall of photos and mirrors. A rather large mirror, opposite James and his client, poised at an angle separated two areas—the barber on the left and to the right, two Asian women sat in the service area of a nail shop. It appeared that past the nail stations were one or two foot spas. Not interested in the shop, I looked back at the Barber brushing hair off of the lady’s shoulders. She thanked him then stepped around the giant mirror to a seat in front of a manicurist.
James smiled and motioned me over to his chair. I started talking before I got up in my usual nervous rapid fire manner and pulled the wig off my head. “I’m a cancer patient. My hair grew back some then since October seems to be retreating again. The wig wiggles when the hair is long.” I pointed to the back and sides. “It drives me nuts and the wig clips dig holes in the side of my head. Hairdressers don’t get it that is why I am here in a barber shop. I need a boy cut. You are a barber? Your name is Matthew? You own this place?” I plopped my fanny into the chair removed my glasses, stuffed the wig and the glasses into my open purse.
“Here let me take those for you. Can I set them here?” He pointed at the counter. I nodded. “I’m sorry the hairdressers don’t get it. I have shaved a few cancer patients.”  He flipped a polyester wrap around my neck and body. “I’m James. Matthew retired six years ago. He opened the place in ’78 so I kept the name. Sometimes people call me Matthew, I don’t mind.”
“Well, James. I need the back shaved close. Longer towards the top. Ears cleared but sideburns for the wig clips. The front layered if possible. I wear wigs all the time now…but at home. Well, I like to relax. A little boy’s cut was what I had in mind.”
James ran a comb through my hair. He was in his late forties early fifties I would guess—although, I am terrible at guessing the ages of men over thirty.  Heavy set about five-ten and bald—male-patterned bald—hair on the sides and a smooth race track on top with just a few hairs. He parted my hair in the center then look front toward the mirror.
 I caught a glimpse of his view of me then I saw the large mirror in back. It was angled in such a way that as I look forward I could also see the back of my head and the top—a site I had not seen in decades. Though I had tons of hair on the sides and back, almost all was gone from top of my skull. I sported a similar race track as the barber.
He must have seen my shocked expression because he moved in front of me to block the mirror and started clipping the sides then pulled out the trimmer for the back.  “Your hair is really curly back here. Is that natural?”
“Yes.” Not really. I had some curl to my hair all my life. When the re-growth started after chemo it was straight then one morning a few months later, I got up and it was curly. I thought it looked good enough to go to Ireland without wigs. A decision I regretted after I viewed my photos.
James slipped a handheld mirror into my hand. “Is this okay?”
The cut was smart, exactly as requested. A boy cut with some wispy sides to look feminine. The baldness not so pronounced with the sides and back cut short. My hairs matched.
After giving back the mirror, I grabbed the wig, shook it, and stuck it back on my head.  Artificial hair stuck out in all directions. I used the wig brush to beat the cap into submission.
James chuckled.  “I didn’t think you could get a style out of that.”
I smiled into the mirror back at him.
“That is a lot more hair.”
“There are people in my life who have never seen me without this wig. What do I owe you?”

“Thank you. I will be back.”

Friday, January 3, 2014


            My sister-in-law and her husband sent me a Trader Joe’s gift card for Christmas. I picked up a replenishment of spices emptied during the holiday food orgy, some veggies, and a quart box of super-ripe blackberries. Each berry was iridescent black and size of my thumb—well almost.
            “Wow those are black,” said the TJ clerk.
            “I was surprised to see them. Aren’t they supposed to be out of season?” I looked over the cover and saw the marking. “Oh, Mexico. That explains it,” speaking to myself more than the young man.
            The cashier scanned my items. I had winced a bit on the $3.99 price for the blackberries. I know I shouldn’t have. That’s a terrific in-store price.
My mind wandered instead to the American River. My brother, Steve—Gary he was called back then, and I picked sun-baked berries off the thorny vines that grew in huge mounds around the edges of the rocky beach.  We fished or threw rocks or dragged in crawdads that hung like grapes off a piece of bacon stolen from Mom’s kitchen. We drank the river water and munched on wild fruit—our fingers and nails stained purple. We forgot to fight like siblings and soaked up the summer.
            I eat blackberries year round. There are ones from Washington, Oregon, California and then Mexico. Soon we will see Chilean and Australian then where ever—Asia I guess. The availability is staggering.  One pint sells for $6.99 in the off season. The two-fer bargains happen when the Californian crop is bursting. Mexico, reliable Mexico, steps up in winter to offer my one quart for $3.99 or free if you have a TJ gift card from your in-laws. 
            It’s the flavor that I miss.  The intense sweetness could never be recaptured with an adult tongue—spoiled by drink, hot spices, and ludicrous mixtures of flavors at every meal. Yet, I remember the experience of finding a sweet blackberry after tasting a few sour not-quite-ripe ones.
            Twenty years ago, my dear friend Suzanne invited me to visit her at a cabin above Los Gatos. Her family had rented the location for a week. It was their good-bye to Suzanne who was moving with her husband to Carroll, Iowa. After spending a bit of time with her folks, she and I walked arm in arm along Saratoga Springs. The day seemed hot for the Bay Area. I sported a cowboy hat and sunglasses. I thought I looked cool in the ninety degree weather.  We crossed a bend in the creek. The bank was tangled with blackberry brambles.
            I started munching off the vines and then found myself explaining to a California native what I was eating. Suzanne, a decade my junior, had never picked blackberries. Sad but true. We gathered my hat full of berries. She wisely suggested that we wash the fruit before eating. I had to wait until we got back to the cabin and rinse the bounty before I could see her face light up when the hot syrupy goodness hit her taste buds. It was worth it. No one’s face can light up like Suzanne’s.
            I am eating my Trader Joe’s blackberry now. The taste will never be quite as good as the memories it evokes.
Thanks, Ann and Phil for the gift card.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My 2014 Resolutions

10.  Move my butt in some kind of exercise everyday. 
9.  Throw the frisbee more often for Dex. 
8.  Smile more bitch less.
7.  Enjoy what I do and do it the best that I can.
6.  Read something new daily but follow up with books I love. 
5.  Stop watching the bent gossip that has become the "News."
4.  Accept that my hair is not coming back. Wear my wigs like I'm Susan Hayward in "Valley of the Dolls."
3.  Eat food that will improve my health. 
2.  Finish my book, "Steps" before 2015. 
1.  Thank God everyday for those I love and those who love me.