Posted in Grindstone

Sometimes I Don’t Feel Like Writing

A writer keeps writing even when she doesn’t feel like it. I don’t feel like it right now. Not one bitty iota. What is there to say?

How about some notes from the neighborhood—Fig trees are bearing fruit right now. They have a tendency to ripen all at once so if you have a healthy tree (like my neighbor does) you end up giving them away. Sharing is nice, isn’t it? (Kelly, cut the sarcasm. Keep writing.)

There are feral cats on my block. Continue reading “Sometimes I Don’t Feel Like Writing”

Posted in Grindstone

The Joys of Home Ownership 2

I paid the plumber even though he showed up wearing a USC sweatshirt. Apparently the pipe from the house to the main sewer line is made of clay, and the roots of the bushes out front think clay is nifty. So the roots move into the clay pipe, which impairs our movements from moving anywhere. The plumber says we should pour pool acid down the toilet to teach the roots a lesson. This sounds like an environmental no-no to me, but the alternative is to keep paying the plumber. Or rip out the old clay pipe and put in a plastic one.

My plumber is quite a guy. Seriously, does your plumber tell you fecal matter stories from his other jobs? I’ll never be able to look into the eyes of any Team Chevrolet employee without wondering which one of them shat the big one.

Posted in Grindstone, Let's Get Visual, Pasadena

Northwest Life

Today I got home from work, and The Scout had prepared dinner (an olive oil stir-fry thing in keeping with his new anti-cholesterol regimen—or regime, as I like to call it) along with a glass of Irony pinot noir. As I was sitting, noshing, and watching Cleveland get five-count-’em-five runs in the 5th inning in Game 1 of the ALDS against the (boo-hiss) Yankees, I heard a grocery cart coming down the street.

Friday is trash pick-up day, and our bins were out on the street ready to be emptied. It’s typical on a Thursday night to hear the sounds of glass and aluminum clanging as someone digs through your recycling bin, along with sounds of laden grocery carts (more jangling) being pushed down the street.

The city frowns on it, but it happens all the time: People come along and take the glass and aluminum out of recycling bins. I don’t particularly mind, though noise in the middle of the night is a bit of a bother. My bin gets picked over multiple times. Once in a while, a bottle will roll down the street, making a sound similar to the sound a rolling bottle makes at the Hollywood Bowl.

I’m not sure exactly how the woman pictured below was planning to get the goods out of my bin, since she’s pretty short and there were lots of newspapers covering up this week’s diet root beer and wine bottle collection. I went out and helped her, digging way down to the bottom. Then I ran back in the house and poured the last glass of Irony so I could give her that bottle too. I asked her to pose with the bottle for me, and she did.


Ten minutes later, a mom pushing a kid in a stroller came along and looked in my bin. When she saw me, she quickly moved on.


Two women—one old, one young—digging through my recycling for their survival. This, too, is Pasadena.

Posted in Grindstone, Self Care

Jury Duty: ‘The Secret’ is Out

Jury duty is emotionally exhausting. Wait a minute, I wasn’t impaneled. Voir dire is emotionally exhausting for potential juror #15 (that’s moi in voir dire). The case involved two defendants, both on drug charges. One of the defendants is homeless and admits that he is an addict. He sported an ivory-colored rosary to make his relationship with recovery clear.

The judge asked us to talk about family or friends who have substance abuse problems or who have been to rehab. I have stepdaughters who’ve battled methamphetamine addiction, so I had to recount this for the other 64 potential jurors, all the court personnel, the defendants and their counsel, and even the family/friends of the defendants who were there to witness the proceedings. Ouch. So ouch that I didn’t even want to write this post.

The judge was very compassionate, and acknowledged the difficulty of the situation. The behavior of these family members has had a huge impact on me, and that impact rolled right on into a new situation, this jury selection process.

The Secret would have me believe that I attracted this situation, that my negative thoughts led me to be part of a family with negativity. Among the myriad results of that negativity, at the bottom of the pile is that I was not chosen for the jury as I hoped I would be.

The best lies have a little truth in them, and The Secret fits the bill. Yes, positive thinking often yields a positive attitude, which may yield positive results in the 3-D world. But not always.

Here’s an example: I have written proposals to help non-profit organizations raise money. You do your best and you hope real hard that the funder likes what you’ve said. Sometimes they do, sometime they don’t. Can a mess o’ my positive thoughts change what the funder thinks? If I don’t think positive thoughts, am I to blame if the funder responds negatively?

The Secret wants us to believe that we have negative thoughts, conscious and unconscious, and those thoughts control our situations. The idea that the victims of September 11 and Hurricane Katrina had thoughts that attracted them “to being in the wrong place at the wrong time” is simply horrendous.

It’s easy to see how this quickly becomes “blame the victim” mentality. It creates a “them” and an “us” which is antithetical to community building. I think we all lost something on September 11, 2001, whether we were personally acquainted with any of the victims or not. Any of us could have been on those planes or in those buildings. We all lost something when our government botched the rescue of, and assistance for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The funny part is that I was introduced to The Secret by a friend who had a bootleg copy of the film. So did author Rhonda Byrne think a negative thought that resulted in the unauthorized copying and distribution of her film? Or has she “attracted” so much money at this point that it doesn’t matter?

More on The Secret here and its history here.

Posted in Grindstone

Jury Duty Update

I was dismissed.  The judge told me not to take it personally, which I don’t.  I just wish I didn’t have the personal history with substance abusers and law enforcement that I have.

Posted in Cool Stuff, Grindstone

Jury Duty!

Call me a hopeless romantic, but tomorrow I have jury duty and I’m looking forward to it. For years, I have had to say “no” to jury duty because I was “responsible for the care of minors under the age of 18 between 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.” Since that is no longer the case, I received my summons as if it were an invitation to a grand ball, complete with a coupon to buy a great dress for the occasion.

I think it’s my love of courtroom drama. Twelve Angry Men, Judgment at Nuremburg, To Kill a Mockingbird–even My Cousin Vinnie. I saw a fabulous play, The Caine Mutiny Court Marshal, on stage in Hollywood some years ago with Charleton Heston (politics aside, the man was a great actor). Let’s not forget Perry Mason, who was probably the progenitor of it all.

My older son was called in for jury duty earlier this year. He was surprised how many people were dismissed from duty because their English language skills were lacking. Actually, he was frustrated because he felt those people were wasting his time. After two days, my son was dismissed too. It was a trial involving a suspected gang member, and my son’s pants were a little too baggy for the prosecution’s comfort.

My fantasy is that it will be a murder case with the prosecution seeking the death penalty, and I’ll make an eloquent extemporaneous speech opposing the death penalty, bringing the courtroom to tears. I’ll be dismissed as a juror, but will go out in style.

Posted in Current Events, Grindstone

Wilma Allen: An Appreciation

Wilma Allen died last Wednesday (6 June). I worked for Wilma at the Pasadena Public Health Department in the late 90’s, and she was a founding board member at CHAP (Community Health Alliance of Pasadena)–I’ve been a consultant there since 2001. I also helped write the big proposal that garnered federal funding for the Pasadena Healthcare Link.

It wasn’t always easy to work with Wilma, but it was rewarding because the work was (and is) important. Connecting people who have limited resources to health care, involving the community in providing those services (them is us, by the way), and trying to get service providers to coordinate efforts…these are some of the mountains we tried to climb on a regular basis. Trying to do these things within the city’s bureaucracy is challenging, but Wilma was adept and tenacious.

At the top of the list entitled “Life Is Not Fair” is Good People With Horrible Diseases. Wilma suffered terribly from a debilitating disease, scleroderma. She was in pain a lot, and she endured countless efforts (including chemotherapy) to keep her condition under control. She soldiered on at work when she probably felt like being at home in bed. I would have been at home in bed, but Wilma was a fighter. She didn’t stay home, she didn’t curl up and die when doctors told her she had two years to live (that was about 12 years ago). Her vision to get people connected to the health care they need kept her up and at work. This vision kept her alive, and she fought to make it keep her alive.

Last week and over the weekend, I kept waiting for the Pasadena Star News to note Wilma’s passing. When they didn’t, I e-mailed Larry Wilson (the editor). So many others were closer to Wilma than I have been in the last few years, so I feel a little self-concious about being quoted in today’s article. At the same time, I think that the CHAP clinic is a central feature of Wilma’s legacy here in Pasadena, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to share that.

Oh Ms. Wilma, how we will miss you!

Posted in Cool Stuff, Grindstone, Uncategorized

In Which Susan’s Birthday Collides With The Finals Week of Life

Today is my friend Susan’s birthday. I met Susan at Westmont College (lack of link intentional) in the fall of 1980, and we were roommates in Santa Barbara the following year. Even then, Santa Barbara was an expensive place to live, and we shared a one-bedroom apartment. I was working full time, and half of my income paid my half of the rent ($400). I was making $4.32 per hour. But I loved living in Santa Barbara…it was an easy bike ride to the beach, and at night we would hear the seals barking at the Santa Barbara Zoo.

Susan has been working on Family Oral History Using Digital Tools, and right now she is preparing for a Genealogical Society event this weekend. That’s right, kiddos, when you are self-employed, you work on your birthday. It’s called “the finals week of life.” You have a hard and fast deadline, so don’t sleep much, you drink gallons of coffee, and you eat a lot of crap comfort food (this time, M&Ms).

Go here to see the very cool and most appropros gift that Susan received for her birthday.

Happy birthday, Susan! We’ll crack open a bottle of red once you’re through this crunch time, yet another installment in that ongoing series: The Finals Week of Life.