Ten Things Not to do Shopping for the Holidays and a Reminder His Revenge is on Sale

Hideously accurate, my friend. I used to buy a truck load of Amaryllis bulbs and confuse the shop addicted. They had to add water and stare at a slow growing plant for 6 to 10 weeks. priceless

Fiction Favorites

The reminder first.

His Revenge front final

As a reminder beginning at 12:00 am PST (6:00 am GMT) on November 30th (Today) until 12:00 pm PST (6:00 pm GMT) on December 1stHis Revenge will be on sale for $0.99 in the US and £0.99 in the UK. This event is a thirty-six-hour sale for the US and UK markets and is in support of CYBER Monday. If you want to read His Revenge, for a limited time it is available for less than what you would pay for a hot dog at the gas station. (And better for you)


Ten Things Not to do While Shopping for the Holidays

The inspiration for this list is some years of watching the same kinds of mistakes made during this festive time.

10 While shopping for the holidays do not think other shoppers are out to get you. If you do, at best you…

View original post 674 more words


It Came upon a Midnight Clear

I travel the world and remember Christmas Eves where I   was all alone, family in the US, and still the opportunity of  loving kindness reigned.

Austria, Salzburg, Snow Storm, Dec. 24 1995

I got off a whacky tourist bus that had taken us to  somewhere on the ice where only the Austrians could sing  Silent Night holy Night. As I got off the bus, completely  alone, and lost, it was 8PM and the streets were dark. I  stopped an older woman and asked directions.  She gave  them to me and then started to cry.

I asked if I could help.  She told me that her family had not  invited her for Christmas.  I smiled, now tearing up myself.  I said, I left my family to be here and I am all alone as well.  We hugged and held that hug in the snow for a long time.  EVERY Christmas eve, I return to that snowstorm in Austria and she is there with me.


Nicaragua: Dec. 24, post Hurricane Mitch, 1997?

I was in country to document the aftermath of the Hurricane as well as bring toys and medicines that were NOT being  delivered officially.  My friend, Maria, had taken me to  where the refugees were staying.  In that moment, I  recognized the parents of kids, and they were the ones I had known in 1965 when I had actually worked in their village  below the volcano, Postulate..

They were humble and asked me to bring toys. I went back  and got all the toys that weren’t already given away.  When Maria and I returned to the compound, we noticed a young  woman sitting in dumb shock in a chair.  I asked what had  happened and Maria said, she was in the mud slide at  Poseltega and lost all 5 children, her parents and her brother. In that moment, I was left without words. I asked  Maria: Please translate for me; I do not want to say this  incorrectly. So I took the woman’s hands and said: There is no way I can possibly go to the depths of your grief, but I can promise you that I will pray for you and your family every  time I think of you.  She suddenly burst into sobs from  dumb grief.  Maria came around and we sandwiched this  gentle woman in our arms. A pilot friend had given me a  tickle me Elmo toy as I left. I handed her the toy and in 30  minutes, I came back to check on her. She was surrounded  by kids and smiling as she pushed the button on the paw of Elmo.

I often wonder how she is, and sense she has gone on with her life and hopefully has a new family. Practical as I am, I  would have brought her batteries for Elmo. In Spanish:  La Vida Continua. Not one Christmas eve since, have I not  taken her quietly in my arms.


Nicaragua:  Dec 24, post Hurricane Mitch, 1997?

I had gone to Nicaragua to do Operation Toy Box. I was  unceremoniously dumped off at a house in the hills.  As I  opened the door of the tiny house, no one was there at the moment, but the room was filled with glowing lights and  Silent Night Holy Night was playing in Spanish from some  speakers.

When the family returned, we sat to eat dinner. NO ONE  spoke English.  The host said:  in Spanish, Geri, please say  the grace.  I stumbled to try to conjugate my verbs correctly, and then when I finished he said, in Spanish:  Close your  eyes. I did. We bless your family. Now, open your eyes. This is YOUR family before you now.


Tanzania Dec 24 2010

I had done some documentary work in Uganda and flew to  Tanzania to be with a friend of the UN.

She is not known for her high practical skills so I was placed in charge of going to the market with her maid to buy things for dinner.  At 5PM, high officials of the UN Tribunal for  Rwanda were due to arrive.  The tree was not trimmed.   Presents weren’t wrapped and dogs were not put away.

Apparently the dogs had nipped the husband of the  Pakistani head of that org, and so we had to put them (the pups) in lock up. I jammed them quickly into the back  bedroom, barking merrily, as the car arrived with the  diplomats.

As we all decorated the tree together, I could not help but  wonder if that was a true path to world peace.  My friend  may not be highly practical but she is the Queen of mixing  cultures happily.

Tanzania Dec. 24 2010

A friend in Arusha got a call at midnight.  His and our close  friend John, the Leopard Man, had been found dead in his  room.   Lupo quickly dressed and drove to Leopard man’s  home.  He washed his dear friend and then carried him to  the land rover.  By 2AM, he was at the hospital parking lot.

He told me that with all the shenanigans on this particular  evening, a dead person was not exactly priority.

Lupo paused to light a cigarette and a car pulled up quickly  next to him.  A woman in full blown child birth was in the  back seat.  Again, not exactly a priority at this time.  He  helped deliver the baby and thought:  Heck, I just lost my  best friend in the world, and he’s here in the back of the  land rover. And then he smiled:  Leopard Man would love  the irony:  going out and making room for a new soul, this baby we had just delivered.

Wherever you are, Be blessed this Christmas, my friend.  Be blessed.


Anthem for a Divine Pussy Cat

For the first time in my writing life, I find I am speechless and in awe.  I struggle to form the words for how I truly feel.  I mean no humor or diminution in calling our beloved Cecil, a Pussy Cat.   He was a magnificent and royal lion.  He was also a poster being for all that I find painful in a world of audacity and arrogance.  In a heartbeat, a wild and wonderful creature can be erased from life as we know it by someone who needs a trophy on his wall   Do I forgive this entitled fool?  Heck, its the Christian thing to do, is it not?  Frankly, I must put this item, this elusive forgiveness, aside until later.  Right now, I’m in grief and find a huge lump in my heart for a creature who will no longer be reigning over his pride. As for laws and protection,  Cecil was SAFE.  It took law breaking, insane arrogance and money to lure this wonderful creature out of his place of sanctuary. .    Maybe silence is all I can muster or, perhaps, a silent roar.  I’ll look up and do so, but for now I can only bow my head and weep.

More than a moment of pause

I have written several op eds on gun control and bigotry.  This morning,
I rose before the sun to pray and then watch CBS Sunday Morning.
I have been traveling and so not in touch with immediate news.
I was shocked to see the news from South Carolina.   There are no words for this author, save “We Shall Overcome”.   In the silence of a Sunday morning even that tried and true, powerful and poignant prime directive leaves me wondering.  WHEN, HOW, WHY?
My heart hurts for us all.  As a friend told me and I quote:  History doesn’t repeat itself, People do……
Later this morning, I will write yet another op ed.  Gun control?  Civil Rights?  Bigotry?  All seem to be mixed in a dismal soup.
I happen to be at home in the Sierras for a brief few days.  I witnessed bigotry yesterday morning from the minister who is judgmental about women, gays, and the glory of war and bring it on, yeah!  Armageddon.  This little white girl didn’t stand still.  I wrote a somewhat strong email to said pastor about it all and his elegant shaming techniques and tricky politicing in this wee village.
We are in a world of strife, mirrored with joy and father’s day and all the media related see saws.  Staying balanced through profound grief is the challenge.
My heart hurts for yet another act of bigotry and gun violence and loss.
I stand in a silent anthem:  Let Peace Begin with Me.  The eery reminder of the 4 little girls so long ago echoes in Charleston.
May God bless all the folks at Emmanuel AME Church.   and may God bless those who will stand and speak for Change.


Another Anthem of Sorts

On this the morn of this elusive holiday: Memorial Day,
I sit in silence and honor those who have gone beyond.
Those who valiantly fought wars in the name of?
In the name of protecting a society and a nation and our children.
They, too, were children. May we remember.

Wars have been fought from the beginning of eternity.
When can we stop, and truly take time to remember…
When there were no wars, there were no misunderstandings of nations.
But the beat goes on, and always will…..apparently,
Until heart touches heart, and people simply say NO.
No more war, War no more, and yes, send the children to Canada.
Hide them all under beds emersed in down comforters.
Hide them from the God Almighty audacity that we must invade once again. Once again falls on now deafened ears.

Today, I thank you for the part you and you precious famlies played and it was enormous.

We Remember Lest We Forget

45 years and 15 minutes ago, a tragedy occurred in the midst of an ugly war.  It was a time when history was hardly on stun mode.   Viet Nam  was raging on and increasing numbers of young people were being sent off to die, be wounded, or be returned with a lifetime of lingering PTSD.  Some burned their draft cards.  Others fled to Canada.  Ah the sweet trappings of  war.

In 1970, President Nixon broke a promise and expanded into Cambodia.  Those of us who remember when have varying thoughts of who and how such a hideous thing could have been endured.  It wasn’t.  College students and youth everywhere started protest movements.  They gathered, demonstrated, shouted protests and marched with signs.  Some of it was peaceful.  Some of it was angry.  Some of it was volatile

On May 4, 1970, things escalated on the campus of  Kent State University in Ohio.  It wasn’t the only protest but it was one that left its own own bloody aftermath.  The National Guard was called in.  Kids had  gathered and radically demonstrated over the weekend and were now forming a protest at the Commons. Other kids were innocently walking past on their way to class.  Some kids were warned away. Oh, and need I remind us? Some of those kids were members of the National Guard.  Those on the common at noon witnessed the dying of a dream.  America the land of the free.   The flag of the First Amendment was flying half mast.

In thirteen seconds, there were 67 gun shots, 4 students died and many were wounded.  To quote someone who was there at the time:  “It was frightened kids shooting at other frightened kids”.

Others just might remember it differently.  Hate letters emerged calling the demonstrators “communist hippy radicals”.  .War supporters were inflamed at the messy protests of the younger reckless generation.  After all, we were in a war and needed to support our country.

Four were dying on the ground.  Others lay wounded.  An entire country watched on the nightly news in horror.

Generation gaps aside, I agree with Alan Confora who survived that day.  “When the young people of this country move, things change.”   Will they or will we stop remembering?

An aging hippie radical who I am proud to know, said to me:  “History doesn’t repeat itself. People repeat history.”


And so I bow my head and remember:

Alison Krause, Sandra Scheuer, William Schroeder and Jeffry Miller.  Sandra and William were on their way to class.  Alison and Jeffry were demonstrating.   They were the poster children caught in the crossfire  of an insane and unjustified act of violence.  

Watch the You Tube:  67 Shots that Pierce a Nation:”  YOU HAVE THE TIME.

We remember lest we forget.


I’m sitting in a fabulous place in Berkeley.  In fact, I’m house and pet sitting and enjoying the spring weather.  My heart and soul, however, have flown to the Himalayas.  I have had the joy and sacred experience of walking the hills and villages of Nepal as well as the villages on the Indian side of the great peaks..  It is my favorite place in the entire world.  It is my touchstone.

Hearing the news of the earthquake and decimation, I find I can’t shake the sadness and loss I feel so personally.  Mountain climbers and trekkers are in enormous strife, but a nation, a country and her people are in mourning.  I am in mourning.  May the miracle of prayers and loving kindness heal my beloved home of the heart  and her wonderful people.  There just aren’t any words….except maybe this:  Life changes in a heartbeat.  There just aren’t any words……

The Tooth Fairy Expedition

Five stalwart companions mounted their steed well before dawn (4AM to be exact).  The steed was a gas guzzling SUV but hey, it saved taking two cars, and allowed for naps, comradery and Starbuck and gas station breaks.  We took no prisioners.  There was no dalliance or detours to view wild flowers.. We were on a mission:  the tooth fairy awaited in a place called San Luis, a border town near Yuma.

Having received numerous and wonderfully shocking estimates on the need of this and that, I was staring at a  minimum of: $4K to max: the sky is the limit.  The other members of the tooth posse had a bit less dramatic work to do, but had also been delivered the option:  sell your first born ….to get this done.

Dental work is daunting at the best of times.  I admit I am a total wuss.  I require gas to even have my teeth cleaned.  I entered the “Valley of the Dolls” by taking a valium before I even walked into the dental office.  What we found was a highly dignified and experienced dentist who fixed us all,  My $4K shrank to $700.    I had one extraction, two crowns and a fixed bridge.  One crown alone in the US exceeds $1K.    what are we thinking?  Designer dentistry is BIG BUSINESS.  Don’t get me wrong:  I highly value my stateside dentist(s) but I simply cannot afford the prices that are now placed on it all.  Across the border dentistry may be a risk but my risk is even worse: leave it all and don’t get it done.  My recommendation is to get a couple of references from yanks who have had the work done personally.

Alcadonas is a simple walk across the border from Yuma, Arizona.  San Luis is a smaller town a few miles further.  Tijuana is closest to San Diego.  Clinics vary from highly sophisticated one stop shops including implants, to keep it simple dentists who do simple work.  Oh and did I add a taco and corona await the hungry and thirsty across the road?   Snow birds aside:  all ages were seen waiting for their work to be done.  Is this perchance a dental revolution?

I’ve researched Viet Nam, Costa Rica, Thailand, India:  they all do medical tourism.  Again, fine work, but best to have references.   If you have the frequent flyers to cash in, these countries  are set up for dental and medical tourism, including WONDERFUL places to stay during the adventure.

SO:  We came, we saw, we conquered.   My advice? if you can go off season of snow bird immigration, the chances of waits are much less.  Off season gets hot, but hey, suck it up, the price is brilliant and so is the work.

Our noble steed returned us to the Sierra hinterlands in four days. Crowns, cleaning, extractions, bridges, you name it: the tooth fairy delivered.


The Eleventh Hour Tax Evader

I am just completing a joyous vacation without pay, a euphemism of the State of California for end of quart break of a part-time teacher.  I had neatly set aside this period for the organization, accumulation or bottom line hysteria known as tax preparation.

Last year, I was so paranoid I made an appointment in January.  There was, indeed, a method to my madness.  My CPA gets the brittle frizzies in April and I cannot stand to see a man in the throes of hysteria.  Unfortunately, this year I chose to slide in midst weeping and gnashing of teeth to meet the deadline…..just barely.  I’m booked for April 12.

But back to my enforced vacation, nee organization period.  The first two days were spent in court arguing with an ex-husband over cost of living, starving children and tattered clothing.  That altercation left me far too upset to address the IRS.

The next four days were spent in dignified preparation for St. Patrick’s Day.  I cannot be held accountable for the fact that an old friend named Flynn had a birthday, the Hybernia Society had a formal banquet or that an Irish pub opened up within a stone’s throw of my home.  I was rendered disabled with Charley horses in both calves from jigging.  Surely, with a low pain threshold like mine, I did not dare approach my W2.

Next came the first day of spring and the infinite possibility that tiny little wild flowers might be blossoming SOMEWHERE.  Despite the warning of the AAA that no reports had yet been received from the hinterlands, I packed a lunch of feta cheese, Greek olives, french bread and wine and allowed myself to be kidnapped in a sports car heading north.  No wild flowers, no tax preparation, but we had a helluva fine picnic.

All is not lost, however.  I have 48 hours left before I face the crazed accountant in my life.  I have locked myself in my office/spare room.  (If the IRS ever questions that this room is used for business, they need only to put a federal periscope through the window.  No self respecting slob would habitate this den of chaos.  I am surrounded by piles of paper:  One for babysitting, one for telephone, another for gas and electric.  Let’s see, business expenses, educational fees, ah bank statements (why didn’t I balance my account monthly all year?)  I’ll do it next year,what’s left of it.

I also have copies of “How to Get Organized”, “How to be a Financially Secure Woman” and “Pulling Your Own Strings.”

Since I have not broken out in a rash or a crying jag, I must not be serious yet.  Just in case, the refrigerator is stocked with a modest amount of wine for medicinal purposes only.

Well, maybe I’ll just dive in, organize, stack, file and finish; but…….the grout in the bathroom looks moldy, the patio needs sweeping, and it just happens to be a perfect morning for sitting on a rock and photographing squirrels.  I guess I don’t need to get too uptight.  As Scarlet O’Hara said, “Tomorrow is another day.”


I found this attached to my tax file.  Nothing changes, nothing remains the same.  I am still Scarlet O’Hara at tax time.

Car Keys and Hair Conditioner

An exerpt from Chronicles from the Swing, by Madam Truefire

We sat in a swing: two women of two genres: One a diva in her early 50s, the other an aging dame in her first year of 70.

They sat in an ancient swing and drank good Shiraz after having walked a mile or so for aerobics.

The younger babe was in a crisis of sorts: living with an abusive man who called her various unattractive words in the alphabet beginning with C and or F. She flipped an F back in true Italian style. I call it the game of alphabetic jousting.

I said: “OK. Let’s find a solution.”
“Should I smother him?”
“No, for Gods sake. You would go to prison.
You can’t sustain bras without pushups and drab cotton prison garb. Plus you look hideous in orange.
MOST important, it’s your hair.”
“What do you mean?” She asked.
“You wouldn’t be able to sustain incarceration with roots and no hair conditioner.
“No you can’t off him,.This is the deal. It’s about car keys.”
“Car Keys. You hold them in your hand or as an ancient Sufi master counseled me,
Get a chain or something, but have them in your Levis or around your neck. You never know when you have to take a sudden road trip.”

“I’m not following you.” she said. Divas can be dense at times.

“Listen up. I nearly bought the cancer thing with my left breast three years ago. A medical intuitive reminded me that I had a certain life style that had to be ended. It was “doormat”. So now I keep my keys in my hand and ready myself for escape. I don’t need to say a thing, except, I DON”T need to put up with mental or verbal abuse. The first time I tried this method, it was a roaring success. My darling first born was loudly and offensively accusing me of some error in my behavior. I quietly picked up the keys and walked out and equally quietly closed the door behind myself. She called me on the cell in less than five minutes. “Where in hell are you?” She queried somewhat shrilly. I peacefully answered, “I’m taking a drive. I don’t need to continue with that particular conversation. Have a good evening.” I went to a friend’s house and then came back much later. The air had cleared. I don’t want to say that shrill sessions don’t arise any more. They do, but I just walk or drive away. It’s a choice,I can assure you.

.Trust me. When he calls you names, he doesn’t get to do that any more unless you allow it. DRIVE AWAY, and don’t tell him where you are going. When you return, politely explain that you will do it again if he ever calls you ANY names AND MEAN IT.

I’m 70, girlfriend, I wish I had learned this at 50.”

We sat and swang, is that the proper verb, swang? Swinged, oh who in heck cares, but we were sisters in solution mode. She had been raised by poodles; I had been born of wolves. Who Knew?
When she left, I called out: “Remember, your roots. They won’t look good in prison garb.”’