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On Being A Surrogate Mom

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Amanda and Xavier

Surrogate mom Amanda and Xavier- Olivia’s dad

Amanda

I’ve known this bubbly, fun and vivacious woman for a few years through one of my networking organizations I attend.  When she attended one of my recent comedy shows I was amazed, when, in passing conversation she mentioned “when I was a surrogate…….”  A surrogate mom? Yep, a surrogate mom!

I will admit, I was intrigued.  All we tend to hear about surrogate moms, and the surrogate situation typically are the “horror stories” that make the news. A mom goes to court to retrieve her child, months or years after a family has lovingly raised the child as their own.  The story of a couple who refuses a baby they have had a surrogate carry, because it wasn’t “perfect.”  Any number of tragic stories have made headlines over the years, and we have all seen them played out, often with a tragic ending for a number of the people involved.

I always wondered who would choose to be a surrogate.  And why.

So, when Amanda mentioned she had been a surrogate I was intrigued!  I asked if she would consider an interview for my blog. And…… of course, she readily agreed!

Tell Me Your Story…

I asked. She answered. And now I know just about every damned thing there is to know about being a surrogate. (Or at least more than a darned lot of people know!)  Or maybe not, because I’m really not smart enough to have thought of all the questions I should have asked.  That being said……… I’m happy to tell you what I WAS smart enough to ask, and if you think up 2,569 other questions, pose them to me, and I’ll bet, sure as shit, Amanda will be happy to answer them for all of us! ‘Cause that’s just the kind of person she is!

The first burning question I had for Amanda was, “What in the world made you decided to become a surrogate?”  She explained that she had done quite a bit of volunteer and charity work throughout her life, and while a lot of it was great, the impact that was made felt very temporary.  You feed someone a meal, and in a few hours they are hungry again.  You give a homeless person a blanket, they are a bit warmer, but their homelessness isn’t necessarily solved.

But, she explained, “I wanted to change someone’s life, and nothing changes your life more than having and raising a child.” How flippin’ profound is that? (Don’t let anyone say that Amanda is just another pretty face!  Hell no, she is PROFOUND!)

Since I knew that Amanda has a husband and 3 children of her own- I of course wondered how the decision to become a surrogate affected her family. She said that her husband felt that the decision was totally hers, and he was very supportive of it. Her twin boys were almost 3 at the time- and really didn’t even seem to notice.  Her daughter, Kylie, however was 5 and felt that most the people they came in contact with should know, loud and clear, that her mommy was having a baby, but it wasn’t theirs!  THAT got a lot of different reactions, as you can well imagine!

Surrogate mom Amanda with Olivia

Surrogate mom Amanda with Olivia

Traditional Surrogacy vs. Gestational Surrogacy

Talking about the details of how being a surrogate works would make your head spin! Details you would have NO IDEA about, would take a novel to spell out.  The first decision is whether to be a “traditional” surrogate, meaning your own eggs are used, or being a “gestational” surrogate.  In this case, an egg “donor” supplies the egg, and you carry the baby to term.  Gestational surrogacy is the type that Amanda chose, because, as she said, she “just couldn’t imagine her own child walking around out there, without any involvement or communication.” She described herself as kind of “being the oven” until things were finished out!

Typically, surrogates go through an agency, and the agency makes sure that all the legalities are being followed and everyone is doing what needs to be done in the proper manner. There are a number of “rules” you must follow to become a surrogate.  One that REALLY surprised me is that you must have already given birth. I had no idea that was a rule! I pictured a perfect surrogate being a young, single woman! But nope!  And, if you are married, the husband must be willing to support you being a surrogate. That one makes sense to me! It’s hard to show up at the company Christmas party with a VERY expectant wife, and tell everyone from the office the child isn’t yours— if you aren’t FULLY on board with the whole concept!

So, once you get past all of the complicated laws, rules, procedures and paperwork, it’s time to move forward and start the process.

Andrew, Amanda and Xavier. You can see the bond between them in this picture!

Andrew, Amanda and Xavier. You can see the bond between them in this picture!

Who Makes the Choice?

Amanda told me that as a surrogate, you can be as specific as you want as to what parents you choose to work with.  You could decide to only accept a “traditional” married couple. Or a single mom. A single dad.  A specific race. If you only wanted to work with a family that had certain religious beliefs, you could choose specifically by that criteria. As the surrogate mother, you can completely decide what criteria is important to YOU.  Whatever YOUR criteria is, that is the only IP (Intended Parents) the agency would match you up with. And the same goes to the Intended Parents and their choice of a surrogate.

Amanda said she didn’t care about most of the criteria I mentioned above.  Her biggest concern was that the adopting parent or parents be someone who was open to maintaining communication throughout the pregnancy and after the birth. She wanted the Intended Parents to be involved.  One of the first people the agency suggested to her was a single IP in Hong Kong.  Amanda knew that it would be realistically impossible for him to be at any regular Dr. appointments, possibly miss the birth of the baby and the time difference would make communication difficult overall, so she turned down the match.  When the agency contacted her and let her know they had a gay couple in Manhattan who wanted to be involved with the surrogate throughout the pregnancy, and were open to keeping in contact after the birth, Amanda knew she had found the perfect match.

The proud dads-to-be with Amanda during her pregnancy.

The proud dads-to-be with Amanda during her pregnancy.

A “Match Made in Heaven!”

Amanda said that the intended parents, Xavier and Andrew flew all the way out from New York for their “in person Match Meeting” and everyone immediately felt like they had know each other forever.  They all hit it off immediately, and became instant friends.

Her “matching” family had already chosen an egg donor.  Amanda explained to me that getting two women and their “cycles” matched up is really complicated. There are drugs involved for the both the surrogate and the donor which really mess with your hormones, and can give you symptoms of PMS to the EXTREME! Something I didn’t know was the IVF drugs don’t stop once the egg is implanted.  You must continue using them through the first trimester of the pregnancy. Needless to say, ladies, if you had extreme PMS type symptoms for months on end, your husband would have to be a SAINT to be supportive of the decision!

Once the two women involved (in a gestational surrogacy) have their cycles lined up, they must rendezvous in the same location, so that the egg can be implanted into the surrogate. Amanda explained to me that the implanting of the egg isn’t exactly the most delightful procedure.

In Amanda’s case, there were 16 eggs extracted from the egg donor and fertilized, 5 of which progressed into healthy embryos. When it was time for transfer, 2 of the embryos were implanted and the remaining 3 were frozen for future possibilities.

Baby on Board!

Although Xavier and Andrew were not in California for the transfer, they all kept in constant contact throughout the pregnancy. They flew out for both the “confirmation of pregnancy” (an ultrasound to verify implantation and growth) and the 20 week anatomy ultrasound, where they confirmed the baby’s gender with 3d images! At 37 weeks and 6 days, Amanda went into labor and Xavier and Andrew hopped on a plane! Because labor was a bit of an early surprise, Xavier and Andrew missed the birth, but got to party on the plane with Amanda and Neil’s delivery room updates, and they arrived at the hospital just a few hours later!

The lovely little girl that Amanda helped to bring into this world is named Olivia and she is nearly 5 years old. Amanda, Olivia and her parents are all amazingly close.  Amanda’s whole family went to New York to celebrate Olivia’s first birthday.  Most of the family were there for her 3rd birthday, and last year Amanda and one of her twin boys went for her 4th birthday.

From front row to back: Maximus, Amanda, Kylie, 2nd; Michael, Olivia and Andrew, Back: Xavier

From front row to back: Maximus, Amanda, Kylie,
2nd; Michael, Olivia and Andrew, Back: Xavier

Not Your Typical “Surrogacy”

Amanda explained to me that she has a VERY atypical relationship with the family she was a surrogate for.  Olivia actually calls her “surro-mom.”  Amanda’s kids are referred to as “surro-siblings.” The titles along with this close of a relationship is not the norm for a surrogate and Intended Parents, but it works for all involved in this particular situation.  The interesting thing is that Amanda showed me a picture taken in June of her son and Olivia.  Although they share no actual DNA, you would SWEAR that those two children are siblings! They have the same heart shaped faces, and even the same shape to their feet!  Crazy, when you consider that Amanda didn’t donate her eggs!

When Olivia was 2, her parents asked Amanda to be a surrogate for a sibling for Olivia. The whole family flew here to California to be present for Amanda’s 3rd ultrasound, and it was there they all found out that baby Ava had stopped growing and no longer had a heartbeat. Needless to say, everyone involved was devastated at the news.

There are risks in every pregnancy, and obviously surrogacy pregnancies are no different. Amanda told me of one friend who had had her own child, then was a surrogate.  Something happened, which resulted in her needing a hysterectomy after the surrogacy.  She had wanted more children of her own, but that plan was changed.

Amanda, Olivia and Maximus

Amanda, Olivia and Maximus

Another friend of hers has 4 children of her own, and has been a surrogate 4 times, resulting in 5 children!  She loves it, and it is fulfilling to her. (Honestly, I can’t in my wildest dreams imagine being pregnant that many times!  Ouch!)

The question outsiders always discuss, wonder about and have questions about is the financial aspect of being a surrogate.  Amanda mentioned to me that often, people’s first response is, “You make BANK on being a surrogate, right?”  Ummmmmmmmmmmm…. no, not really.  Amanda shared with me that each independent agreement and each agency varies in their packages, but typically an amount is agreed upon for carrying the baby.  In addition, there are amounts laid out for the “transfer fee” (relating to implanting the fertilized egg), travel expenses, medical bills, a “missed work fee” and other things. Other agencies offer an “all-inclusive” type of contract that should cover all of the fore-mentioned occurrences.  And while it may sound like a lot to some, as Amanda said to me, “If you’re looking to be a surrogate for the money, you are in the wrong business.”

Personally, I can’t imagine WHAT amount of money would make it worthwhile to me! I know what pregnancy did to my body in the past, and believe me, it wasn’t pretty! Then there is the weight gain, the discomfort of pregnancy, tiredness, nausea………. on, and on, and on, and on. OK- I’m not gonna lie here. Give me 5 million dollars and I’ll be your surrogate.  See, we all have our price!  For that amount I can disappear for a while, have the baby, get my body rebuilt, and reappear, looking trimmer and better than ever!

While surrogacy is not something I could ever imagine doing, (not to mention, I’m about 5,000 years too old to consider it at this point) I’m glad that people who can’t have children can have the option. And women who consider it a true gift to others can decide to become a surrogate.

Hopefully, this article helps you to understand surrogacy a bit more, from the standpoint of a woman who has been through it, and that you can see the positive that can come from it! My eyes were sure opened as to the details of making surrogacy work!  I’m sure that Xavier and Andrew are happy to have Amanda as a part of their family’s story!

Dads Xavier and Andrew with Olivia

Dads Xavier and Andrew with Olivia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Comedy Queen is Performing Soon!

Adventures With Attitude!, Cocktail Time, Comedy, Entertaining, Every Day is an Adventure, Fabulous After 50, Girls Night Out, Living a Royal Life, Out and About, Sensational after 70!, Sexy After 60!, You Can't Make This Shit Up!

The Comedy Queen has a show in the works, and you will want to be a part of it!  Get your reservation in while there is space available! This event is being held in a new venue, the lovely Koi Zen Cellars in the Poway area!  Go to their website to make your reservation, or contact Patti personally!  And remember, a reservation PAID, is a reservation MADE………… until then, it’s just wishful thinking on your part!

Go to KoiZen’s website to make your reservation!

Faster Than A Jet On Takeoff……

Adventures With Attitude!, Everyday Magic!, Health = Happiness!, Living a Royal Life, My Humble Opinion, Royal Ramblings!, Serious Shit, Travel and Adventure, You Can't Make This Shit Up!
Photo credit, Matt Ben Stone Photography

Denise Mueller-Korenek                                                                                                     Photo credit, Matt Ben Stone Photography

Faster Than a Jet on Takeoff!

I recently joined my local Soroptimist Club. Before joining, I knew a handful of the women in the club, and they were all women I admired and thought highly of.  When I attended my first meeting, was I impressed to learn that one of the members had set a world record for speed on a bicycle.

Just the weekend before I met Denise Mueller-Korenek, Don and I had rented electric bikes and took a ride around Mission Bay in San Diego for a few hours.  I had managed to take a spill on the bike, when I was stopping to talk to Don, and had basically scraped the crap out of my body.  After my fall, going about  12 miles per hour on the bikes had me scared spitless! All I could think of was the damage that could be done to my body if I fell while going “full speed!”  It had me as nervous as a mouse in a cathouse!

So….. imagine what I thought when I heard that Denise had broken “land speed records” on a bike!  I figured she had gone maybe as fast as 40 miles and hour or something!  No. She hadn’t gone 40 miles an hour.  Not even 50 miles an hour.  She had gone 183.9 miles per hour.  On a bike. WHAT??????

In my wildest imagination, I can’t even begin to think what it would be like to go that speed on a bicycle!  183 MPH is faster than the takeoff speed of a JET!  And all she had to protect her beautiful limbs and head during the process were a leather riding suit and a helmet!

An Awe-Inspiring Woman!

The first thing I thought when I met Denise is that I need to get to know this woman better, and I have to do an interview with her for my blog!  Talk about “Leading a Royal Life!”  This is a woman who isn’t sitting back waiting for life to give her an adventure!  She has taken adventure by the balls, and given them a big SQUEEZE!

Denise agreed to sit down with me and explain HOW it is that a woman goes God-danged near the speed of light, on a bicycle!

When Denise broke the world speed record for a bike on September 16, 2018 it was far from the first impressive goal she had set for herself, or- for that matter, the first world record she had broken! Not by any means!  Denise started competing and earning titles in racing bikes when she was 14 years old.  The minute she tried downhill mountain bike racing she was hooked and went on to earn the Silver medal in the Junior World Championships in 1991. When she hit 19 she stopped competing, and basically didn’t even get on a bike again throughout the years that she married and raised her 3 boys.

The Sign at Bonnevile Flats Photo credit Matt Ben Stone Photography

The Sign at Bonnevile Salt Flats                                                                                                                  Photo credit Matt Ben Stone Photography

The Competitive Bug Bites Again

When Denise was raising her boys, she realized the only way she could consistently get a workout in was when she went to a 5 AM class.  It was at that class that she met 3 women who were training to compete in the San Diego Rock & Roll marathon.  Denise and some others decided to go and support their friends, and that’s when the ” competitive bug” hit Denise once again. She decided that she would compete in the 2010 marathon with her middle son.

I guess the saying “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” has more truth to it than you might imagine, because her son Michael Boever decided he wanted to run 19 1/2 marathons that year at the age of 16. Setting, and achieving goals obviously runs in the blood with this family!

That followed up with Denise running 1/2 marathons with all 3 of her sons within 3 years.

In 2012 Denise ran into her old cycling coach, John Howard, and he told her he’d love to see her participate in a charity event.  Denise hadn’t been on a bike in nearly 20 years, but agreed to do it.

The athlete on her bike. Photo credit Jinna Albright Photography

The athlete on her bike.                                                                                                                                   Photo credit: Jinna Albright Photography

That’s when the “bug” hit her again. Denise planned to break a record in 2016 when she was being towed behind a Range Rover at the Bonneville flats. Unfortunately, after training intensively for 2 years, the last day she was to compete it rained.  At this point, although she had already achieved a  1st ever Women’s record at 147.7 mph, she knew she could do even better! Instinctively, she immediately announced, “We are coming back next year to do this.” (Just as this 2018 record , a distinction needs to be made between being towed to start pedaling vs being towed the whole way.  Some people think she was towed the whole way, which is not true.  She needs to be towed only to be able to turn the large gear over herself,  then she continues increasing speed unattached, but “surfing” the draft of air.)

That wasn’t to be, however, because her sponsor let her know that they couldn’t provide the Range Rover again in 2017, so she had to come up with “Plan B.”  Plan B was to beat the world speed record set by Fred Rompelberg in 1995, which had stood for 23 years.  His speed had been 166.9 MPH. And she would do it behind the same vehicle that Fred had used.  The vehicle required extensive rehabilitation, having not been used for a long time. Denise and her team worked to get her, and the vehicle “up to speed” (no pun intended) so she could compete at Bonneville in September 2018.  With her specially equipped bike, her coach John Howard and race car driver Shea Holbrook they were ready to go for the record breaking ride of a lifetime.

Shea Holbrook, who drove the race car, poses with Denise. Photo credit, Jinna Albright Photography

Shea Holbrook, who drove the race car, poses with Denise.                                                                  Photo credit, Jinna Albright Photography

Denise explained the way it worked. She had to be pulled behind the special vehicle until they got up to a speed of 110 MPH, then she unhooked from the car and rode in the airstream, pedaling until she hit the 183.9 average speed.  Denise’s son was driving the vehicle that followed to pick her up after the ride. Her husband, Chris followed in another sponsor vehicle from Optec to pick up the race car at the end.

Mueller-Korenek told me what it was like when her son came up beside her, doing a facebook live and told her that they had determined her speed at over 183 MPH. All they planned to do was 170 MPH to beat the record previously set by Rompelberg.  Denise said she screamed “WHAT?” when she was told the speed she had hit.

The breaking of a world speed record... Photo credit, Matt Ben Stone Photography

The breaking of a world speed record…                                                                                                   Photo credit: Matt Ben Stone Photography

As she explained it to me, she was going the  average of 1 football field per second, behind the “cup” of the vehicle in front of her.  All she was concentrating on was staying upright and pedaling her fastest. There was no way she could take even a moment to look at her speedometer.

Think about that speed. Think for a moment what would happen if you lost your balance, while going over sand at that momentum.  Personally, although I am pretty much of a daredevil, I can’t even begin to think of the consequences of one slight misjudgment in timing.

There is no “practice” for this type of endeavor.  It’s a one shot event.  Denise prepped physically. She prepped mentally.  But she didn’t get to go to the Bonneville Salt Flats and give it a test run.  Unimaginable!

When I asked Denise what her family thought about her doing this, she said she had their support, because the whole family was used to setting goals and meeting them. She had done it numerous times, her sons had done it with their marathons and other goals, and it just didn’t occur to any of them she wouldn’t achieve the goal.

Denise at the Bonneville flats! She believed she could do it, and she did!

Denise at the Bonneville Salt Flats! She believed she could do it, and she did!                                Photo Credit: Matt Ben Stone Photography

What an inspiring story!  A 45 year old woman breaking a world speed record!  This isn’t a 20 something athlete, this is a mom of people in their 20’s!

What’s Next?

What happens now?  I’d think that if you accomplished what Denise has accomplished that would be enough. But I was  wrong in that assumption. After taking a few months off, Denise is now training to break a record on a special type of bike.  A “Faring Pod.”  This is a recumbent bike, completely encased within a “pod.” The one that Denise will compete in doesn’t even have a window.  You look at a video screen to see where you are going.  The current women’s record is set at 75.6.  Somehow, I don’t think that record will stand on the books for very long!  There is only one place where they run this race in the country.  On a special “road” in Nevada.  Denise plans to go there to break the record this September.  I don’t doubt for a minute that it will happen, do you?

When we give excuses about why we can’t accomplish one of our goals, we need to look at what this awe inspiring woman has accomplished.  She has overcome many of the excuses we constantly tell ourselves.  I’m too old.  It can’t be done.  I’m not as good a another person.  I don’t have the time.  I don’t have the resources. We all use these excuses day in and day out.  Yet Denise didn’t listen to those excuses.  She just decided she would, she could and she did.

What unachievable goal can you set for yourself?

Photo credit: David Kamatoy

An amazing goal is achieved!                                                                                                                                            Photo credit: David Kamatoy

Bodacious Blooms & Bountiful Butterflies

Adventures With Attitude!, Date-Daytion Ideas, Every Day is an Adventure, Everyday Magic!, Fabulous After 50, Living a Royal Life, Travel and Adventure, You Can't Make This Shit Up!

Spring Has SPRUNG in Southern California!

The California Poppies at Lake Elsinore stretched as far as the eye could see!

The California Poppies at Lake Elsinore stretched as far as the eye could see!

When you live in Southern California, you become spoiled by the weather.  I’m not kidding when I tell you, if the temperature gets below 70 degrees, or above 79 degrees, most of us will be complaining, one way or the other!  It’s been a much needed rainy winter.  We need the rain, but still….many of us complain.  You know the old saying, April showers bring May flowers?  Kind of true, with a little “tweaking.”  Spring comes a bit earlier here in Southern California than it does in other parts of the country. By the time May gets here, spring will be finished and we will be experiencing “May Gray.”

This shows that the mix of flowers, which from a distance look like a solid mass of orange poppies, are actually a mix of poppies, mustard, popcorn flowers, California bluebells and lupines! What a beautiful bouquet they make!

This shows that the mix of flowers, which from a distance look like a solid mass of orange poppies, are actually a mix of poppies, mustard, popcorn flowers, California bluebells and lupines! What a beautiful bouquet they make!

This spring has been like no other I have seen in Southern California in my 40+ years of living here!  The super-blooms are everywhere and the migration of the butterflies has been amazing! People attribute it to our rainy winter, but I’m telling you folks, I’ve lived here through some rainy Southern California winters.  I’ve lived here through our “El Ninos.”  I’ve never seen either of these phenomenons like I’ve seen them this year.

Sitting among the flowers! (No flowers were trampled in taking this photo! I am on a pathway, although you can't see it!)

Sitting among the flowers! (No flowers were trampled in taking this photo! I am on a pathway, although you can’t see it!)

We who live in San Diego county are probably the luckiest people on earth!  Within 90 minutes driving time,  I can currently see the poppy super-bloom in Lake Elsinore, go skiing in Big Bear, enjoy the fragrance of the Lilacs in Julian,  savor the desert flowers in the Anza-Borrego Desert or relax with a book at our lovely sandy beaches, before the tourist fill them up for the summer.  It is incredible how many visual delights we are able to experience within such a short distance!

The Poppy Apocalypse!

The hillsides in Southern California are a kaleidoscope of colors right now!

The hillsides in Southern California are a kaleidoscope of colors right now!

This past Wednesday, Don and I had one of our “Date-Daytions” where we take the day off and go play.  (If you don’t know what a Date-Daytion is, I suggest you check out my previous article, What the Heck is a Date-Daytion? which explains them!)

Don and Me, taking time to "smell the flowers" on one of our Date-Daytions!

Don and Me, taking time to “smell the flowers” on one of our Date-Daytions!

We decided to head toward Lake Elsinore to see the “super-bloom of the California Poppies, because we had heard so many people oohing and aahing over it! They weren’t exaggerating!  The brilliance of the poppies on the hillsides are unbelievable!  From a distance, all you see are bright orange hillsides, but when you get in close proximity, you realize that they aren’t just made up of the brilliant California Poppies, but there are also Lupines, California Bluebells, Popcorn Flowers and Wild Mustard.

Although the picture didn't really pick it up, the reason I took this picture is that when you looked at this hillside there were patches of lime green, mint green, seafoam, thaos blue and other blues! The colors in nature were unbelievable!

Although the picture didn’t really pick it up, the reason I took this picture is that when you looked at this hillside there were patches of lime green, mint green, sea-foam, thaos blue and other blues! The colors in nature were unbelievable! The pictures of this super-bloom just doesn’t do it justice!  When you see it in person it is absolutely breath taking!

I was glad we went on Wednesday, because the traffic around the area was a bit crazy mid-week.  I can’t even imagine what it would be like on the weekend!  There were actually articles referring to this weekend’s viewing as The Poppy Apocalypse!  

Weeding through the traffic and hoards of people proved to be well worth it, however!  When we got near Walker Canyon, we were left almost breathless from the endless beauty!  We were also pleasantly surprised to see bridal couples having photos done, engagement and family photos being taken, and artists set up catching the beauty with their paintbrushes!  I does my heart good to see so many people taking the time to enjoy the natural assets Southern California has to offer! Our society has become so busy, and our noses are often so planted in our cellphones!  It’s wonderful to know people are taking the time to “smell the flowers!”

The poppies are so delicate looking when you see them up close!

The poppies are so delicate looking when you see them up close!

This couple was having photos taken on one of the hillsides. Don't ask me how she got up there in that dress, but what beautiful photos she will end up with! I couldn't help but wonder if the wedding had already taken place, or was set for a future date, as I doubt it was actually their wedding day on a Wednesday afternoon!

This couple was having photos taken on one of the hillsides. Don’t ask me how she got up there in that dress, but what beautiful photos she will end up with! I couldn’t help but wonder if the wedding had already taken place, or was set for a future date, as I doubt it was actually their wedding day on a Wednesday afternoon!

Butterflies “On a Mission!”

One of the other phenomenons that we have experienced this past week was a migration of Painted Lady butterflies.  (When I told my daughter they were called Painted Ladies, she said it sounded like the name of a strip club!  Kinda’ does, right? “Hey honey, the guys and I are off to The Painted Lady for  few drinks”……. )

Painted Ladies, for those of you who aren’t familiar with them, look like tiny Monarch Butterflies. The coloring is very similar.  This week they were migrating up from Mexico, and our skies were filled with them.  Don’t picture a sky full of meandering butterflies landing on your flowers, floating about your yard.  This isn’t what it was like at all!   Picture instead, “butterflies on a mission!” Each and every butterfly you saw was flying north at top speed!  Zip, zip, zip- they were moving like they were in the race of a lifetime! It was just crazy! I guess that when you only live a few weeks, you have to move fast to accomplish your migration!  No stopping to smell the roses for these ladies! They would come, en mass across my street, up my driveway and right over my house at the speed of lightning it seemed! Every intersection and freeway had them darting across by the hundreds, right in the middle of traffic! So many of my friends were posting how sad they were that they felt they had killed dozens of butterflies when they were driving!  It was the craziest thing you have ever seen!  Unfortunately, getting a good picture of them, where you could really get a feel for the number of butterflies was difficult.  They just didn’t really show up well. The attached article explains about the Painted Ladies, and also has a lovely video of the Poppy superbloom! It’s worth checking out!

The Desert is in Bloom!

The Borrego desert is in bloom! It is amazing the many different flowers you can see there!

The Borrego desert is in bloom! It is amazing the many different flowers you can see there!

We haven’t gotten out to the Borrego Desert yet this season, but last year we made a day trip of it and enjoyed the beauty of the desert flowers.  My friend, Adam Snider went out there just a few days ago, and shared some of his pictures with me. He is an avid hiker, and said that due to this year’s rainfall there are plants blooming that haven’t bloomed in many years! Every time you go, you are sure to see something different!

My friend Adam shared a few of his photos from his trip to Borrego this weekend. There are plants blooming this year that haven't bloomed in years!

My friend Adam shared a few of his photos from his trip to Borrego this weekend. There are plants blooming this year that haven’t bloomed in years!

If you haven’t ever taken the time to do so, it’s well worth it. When we went,  I was amazed how you could see one type of flower in one area, go 1 or 2 miles up the road and experience a whole different type of cactus’, flora and fauna!  This is not something you can enjoy from the car.  You MUST get out to see the many types of tiny little flowers you can’t even see with the naked eye while you are driving by!

Close up of a desert Lily

Close up of a desert Lily

Julian’s Lovely Lilacs

Nearby Julian has its own beauty to enjoy! People often think of going to Julian in the fall when the apples are ripe.  It’s too darn crowded there then for me.  I prefer spring in Julian!  Being a “mid-west” girl, one of the things I love, and miss dearly are spring Lilacs, daffodils and crocus’. Julian is just the place to get your “lilac” fix.  You can usually see the lilacs starting about the 3rd week in March, through the first week or so of April. Unfortunately, the past few years I have seen a lot less lilacs in Julian, because there has become such a demand for people to sell their lilacs to the flower stands in the San Diego area.  (If you try really hard you can imagine my sad little face about this detail!)  I remember that I used to drive up to Julian and you could find large bushes of lilacs, full of blooms just outside of town.  No longer!  Now if you want to bring some lilacs home, you are most likely going to be buying them. Lilacs are expensive, and only last 2 or 3 days once they are cut!  Even so, it’s a great day, driving to Julian, seeing (and smelling) the lilacs, enjoying a bit of their apple pie, seeing the coastal live oaks and driving home. Another “bonus” is that Julian is close enough to the Borrego desert that you can go and see both in the same day if you choose to make a day of it!

Yes, we spend a lot to live here, but I don’t know too many places in the country where they can find the diversity of beauty that we have at our finger tips!  If you live in Southern California, take some time to enjoy the beauty that is ours for the taking- just minutes away!

It’s a Scam…….. Ma’am!

Comedy, My Humble Opinion, You Can't Make This Shit Up!
There is a new scam out there every day! BEWARE!

There is a new scam out there every day! BEWARE!

There is a Sucker Born Every Minute!

Somewhere, somehow, I am at the top of a list titled “Try her. She’ll believe anything.”  I swear I am. If you have had a scam tried on you, so have I. 27 times.  AND, the other 1,327 scams you’ve never heard about?  I’ve gotten THOSE too.  Each one at LEAST 27 times.  Not sure how or why, but somewhere, some time, some place, I clicked on something that put me at the top of the list.

I have had more Nigerians wanting to share their millions with me than I care to name. I have had Microsoft wanting to “fix my computer” more times than Steve Jobs ever said “Apple.”  I have more people wanting to get me out of my timeshare than you could take vacations in your lifetime. You scam it, I’ve had it!

Funny thing is, many of the scams that come my way, my friends have never even HEARD OF!  How in the world can this be?

When I get the phone calls, I just wish that I knew they were coming so I could record them and have some fun with them.

For some reason, probably “by association” with me, Don gets his fair share too.  A few months ago, his phone and mine were both blowing up with a few “IRS Scam” calls each and every day.

The Computer Fix

Just before Christmas we were visiting family in Illinois for our family Christmas party. (BTW- Sorry if the mention of Christmas “offends” you.  That’s what we happen to celebrate. Christmas. Just the facts, folks. do with this what you may…..) Back to the story…… so Don gets a phone call, while we are staying at my niece Kelly’s house.  From “Microsoft.”  The man with the Indian accent tells Don that he needs to help Don with his computer because he has downloaded a virus.  Don walks into the bedroom we are staying in, with a grin on his face and the man on speaker phone. And Don decides to have some fun with this scammer!

Don says in a very angry voice, “Woman, I have Microsoft on the phone and they say something has been downloaded on my computer causing a virus!  Have you been on my computer again?”  So I play along and say meekly, “Only once or twice. I was downloading a recipe for dinner.”  Then Don smacks his hands together as if he’s hitting me, and I scream saying, “Don’t hit me, ouch!  Stop, please stop.” Don says, “he thinks he’s handled the problem so it doesn’t happen again”, and guess what the scammer’s response is?

“Ma’am, you need to just calm down!  You are making too much noise and need to be quiet!” I said to him, indignantly, “I need to be quiet?  He is hitting me and I need to be quiet?”  “Yes, you need to be quiet” is his response again.  We play this back and forth for a bit, meanwhile my niece Kelly has long appeared from her bedroom, making sure that there wasn’t some awful  part of our relationship she didn’t know about, realizes what is transpiring,……… and the conversation goes on for a bit.

We aren’t sure when the scammer realized that HE was also being scammed, but the phone call ended by him saying, “Sir, I know what you need to do now.  You need to let me put my penis in her vagina.” I asked him to repeat what he just said, then he hung up on us.  SMH!

The Nigerian Scam

SCAM, no matte how you spell it, it's never good!

SCAM, no matte how you spell it, it’s never good!

At least once or twice a week, I get some form of the Nigerian “We have money to get out of the country and you are the only person we can trust.  (See, and some of you probably thought I wasn’t trustworthy!  There is the proof!  People want to entrust me with 4, 8, 10, even 50 million dollars, sure I’ll give them a small share of it!)

Here is one of my recent “Nigerian Scams,” which seems SO legit, because a lot of people have ATM Funds (????) with 10.5 million dollars in them.  Right?

—–Original Message—–

From: Barrister.Angel Nasky [mailto:www.@mild.ocn.ne.jp]

Sent: Wednesday, December 5, 2018 3:06 PM

Subject: GOOD NEWS FROM UNITED NATION ATM CARD CENTER OFFICE,

GOOD NEWS FROM UNITED NATION ATM CARD CENTER OFFICE,

How are you today? hope all is right with you; Please I advised that you should read this email message very carefully and urgently get back to me immediately to avoid wrong delivery of your overdue inheritance unpaid ATM CARD fund worth of $10.5 Million USD presently at our custody United Nation.

Based on the meeting held yesterday with the United Nations Official, US Embassy Official  and IMF officials In collaboration with Office of the Presidency Republic of Benin and Federal Ministry of Finance F.M.F Republic of Benin regarding all overdue inheritance payment File of which your name and email ID was listed among the unpaid beneficiary, I writing to inform you that your files appeared on our desk to pay you a partial payment of

$10.5 million US Dollars of your funds for this First quarter of the year.

But we are having misunderstanding because a Man by name:Mr.Steven Brown, from United States of America called our Office on Friday stating that He is your new next of kin that you have given him the power of attorney to claim your unpaid ATM CARD Fund worth of $10.5 Million USD, He clearly informed our Office that he will pay the delivery charges and he said that you have instructed him to receive the funds on your favor that you are greatly Will which makes it impossible for you to ask all our calls and email to you so far that you cannot work or answer any calls due your presently health condition.

Executive Board of Director Federal Ministry of Finance World are currently and so confuse about him claim that is why the authority instructed me to contact you for us to know if he is telling us the truth or not to avoid wrong delivering of your unpaid fund worth of $10.5 Million USD to unexpected person as we have no clue about this person Mr.Steven Brown

he also forwarded below information DETAILS to us for the delivery of your unpaid inheritance Payment worth the total sum of $10.5 Million USD.FULL NAME== Mr.Steven Brown COUNTRY===USA ADDRESS====3500 OLD DETON RD APT 208; CARROLLTON, TEXAS  75007 PHONE NUMBER== (+1 203-989-2535 ) Kindly check this information and name if we can go ahead and deliver the funds to his info.

After he provided this info to us, he instructed us not to bother or disturbed ourselves by contacting you because you cannot access your email presently due to your present health condition that we should delivered the fund  the funds to him provided information directly because he is now acting on your behalf. If you still interested of this ATM CARD fund kindly reconfirm your directly information to us urgent to avoid wrong delivery such as okay. Contact me to My Email- unitednationheadoffice1998@gmail.com

Or call / text message to this number  Tel: +22960577221

  1. Your Full Name:=======
  2. Your Telephone No:====
  3. Your Country:=========
  4. Your Home Address:====
  5. Your Nearest airport:==

6.Your Age”

We wait to hear from you soon Don’t keep us waiting for your own good.

Your Sincerely

Barrister.Angel Nasky

Tel:+1 (409) 241-7593

Seems TOTALLY legit, right?  I know you may be surprised, but I didn’t follow up on this, so it looks like Mr. Stephen Brown of Carrollton, Texas might be a rich man now, as he is probably in possession of my 10.5 Million ATM Fund.  Ladies, looking for a rich husband?  This could be your big chance!

The Social Security  & IRS Scams

One of the other more recent ones is “The Social Security” office calls you.  They believe there is fraud against your social security number and they want you to call them, otherwise you may not get future payments due to you from your social security account.  I find it strange that the return number is for a number outside the country!  Who would THINK that the government would outsource our Social Security office like that?

The one that it seems almost everyone has gotten is the IRS phone call, stating that you owe for back taxes. The choice of wording on this one is my favorite!  They tell you that you have “Five serious allegations PRESSED UP against you”, and they will be sending “the local cops” to come and get you.  Thank God they are giving the “local cops” a little something to do to keep busy!

At least 5 times per week, I have someone calling to help me, in some way with my timeshare.  To upgrade it, help me get out of payments, WHATEVER. Strange thing is, I don’t OWN a timeshare, and never have.  Other than that, it seems pretty legitimate.

The “Porn Site” Scam

Scammer at work!

Scammer at work!

The very best one, however, is the most recent, and one I know a lot of people are receiving.  The scary thing about this one, is the email notification DOES come in with one of your legitimate passwords (scary enough in itself) so I’m sure, some people, with something to hide, do fall for this one!

This is the email where the hacker says they have hacked your computer, and they have footage of you watching porn and masturbating to it, and they are going to send it to all of your contacts if you don’t send them bit coin of a specified amount.  Haven’t seen this one?  Below is an example of just one of the 4 I have received in the past week alone.

The line on the email notification is: Hi Perv, I have recorded you masturbating

ATTN: patti@thequeenofdamnneareverything.com

THIS IS NOT A JOKE – I AM DEAD SERIOUS!

Hi perv,

The last time you visited a pornographic website with teens, you downloaded and installed software I developed.

My program has turned on your camera and recorded the process of your masturbation.

My software has also downloaded all your email contact lists and a list of your friends on Facebook.

I have both the ‘Patti.mp4′ with your masturbation as well as a file with all your contacts on my hard drive.

You are very perverted!

If you want me to delete both the files and keep the secret, you must send me Bitcoin payment. I give you 72 hours for payment.

If you don’t know how to send Bitcoins, visit Google.

Send 2.000 USD to this Bitcoin address immediately:

3ArUiCT318zX5H8Xc2SPxoXmWba7r2Pj5w

(copy and paste)

1 BTC = 3,580 USD right now, so send exactly 0.564062 BTC to the address provided above.

Do not try to cheat me!

As soon as you open this Email I will know you opened it.

This Bitcoin address is linked to you only, so I will know if you sent the correct amount.

When you pay in full, I will remove the files and deactivate my program. I guаrantеe yоu that I will nоt disturb уou аgain аftеr payment, as уou аre not mу single viсtim. This is а hасkеr сode оf honor.

Don’t bе mаd at mе, еvеrуone hаs thеir own work. exactly what shоuld yоu dо?

If you don’t send the payment, I will send your masturbation video to ALL YOUR FRIENDS AND ASSOCIATES from your contact list I hacked.

Here are the payment details again:

Send 0.564062 BTC to this Bitcoin address:

—————————————-

3ArUiCT318zX5H8Xc2SPxoXmWba7r2Pj5w

—————————————-

You cаn visit police but nobody will help you. I know what I am doing.

I don’t live in your country and I know how to stay anonymous.

Don’t try to deceive me – I will know it immediately – my spy ware is recording all the websites you visit and all keys you press.

If you do – I will send this ugly recording to everyone you know, including your family.

Don’t cheat me! Don’t forget the shame and if you ignore this message your life will be ruined.

I am waiting for your Bitcoin payment.

If you need more time to buy and send 0.564062 BTC, open your notepad and write ’48h plz’.

I will consider giving you another 48 hours before I release the vid.

Anonymous Hacker

Now this particular “hacker” is one of my favorites, because he lives with a “Hacker’s code of honor.”  If I am going to randomly send off money to a hacker, THIS is my hacker of choice!   None of the others promised that they live with a hacker’s code of honor, so how am I to know I can, indeed, trust them?

Not only that, but this guy is willing to give me a bit more time to scrounge up the funds, should I need it.  How thoughtful and kind is THAT?

I have never been to a porn site, and wouldn’t really know where to go for one, because it’s just really not my thing. But, imagine the one that comes in with one of your REAL passwords, and you are someone who HAS been participating in this activity, without the wifey knowing?  Might give you a bit of a scare, don’t you think?

As P.T. Barnum is quoted saying, “There is a sucker born everyday.” Obviously, some measure of these scams work, or they wouldn’t pursue them as frequently as they do.

I just wish I knew where to have my name deleted from the “Try her. She’ll believe anything” list!

 

 

Let’s Cancel Christmas!

Adventures With Attitude!, Comedy, Every Day is an Adventure, Living a Royal Life, My Humble Opinion, Royal Ramblings!, Serious Shit, You Can't Make This Shit Up!
Santa & Mrs. Claus still have that spark!

Santa & Mrs. Claus still have that spark!

I owe all of you a HUGE apology.  A lot of the controversy currently surrounding Christmas, some of the traditions and old time Christmas carols falls solely on my shoulders.  Last year I wrote an article for this blog entitled “Creepy Christmas Carols.” In this article I talked about the song “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and referred to it as the date rape song.  I mentioned “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer” and how it exemplified bullying at it’s best.  Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer and We Wish You a Merry Christmas were all discussed for their questionable  content.  (You may want to refresh your memory by rereading said article, because, as with all of my writing, it’s brilliant.  And OBVIOUSLY, cutting edge.)

I Didn’t Know My Own Power…..

In bringing up all of the aforementioned songs, I was joking.  It was meant to be sarcastic.  BUT……….. alas…… being the HUGE SOCIAL INFLUENCER  that I am, it’s now obvious to me that people took me seriously, and started the campaign against these well loved and old time Christmas Carols!  My article obviously had not gone viral last year to the point that we needed to pull the songs from the radio in the 2017 Holiday season, but at the very onset of this Christmas season all of America was in an uproar over the contents of these songs! Radio stations have banned playing the songs. Baby It’s Cold Outside is now the song associated with date rape throughout the country.  Rudolph’s name will be forever linked with all of those who have been bullied in life!

It’s my fault! The “serious minded” in the country obviously didn’t understand my sarcastic sense of humor!

But let’s not let this trend stop here! There are still FAR more holiday songs and traditions that need to be removed from the season ASAP!  People still have a LOT to be offended about!

Just last week we had our home holiday party. Don dressed as Santa, and I dressed as Mrs. Claus.  Throughout the day, Don would look at me and say “HO HO HO!”  Did he not realize how offensive it was for him to call me that, especially in front of our friends?  Not to mention, I no longer fit the title of Ho, because since we have been together I have been walking the straight and narrow and have given up my “Ho-ey” ways…..

Don had 2 "Mrs. Claus'" to Ho, Ho, Ho to!

Don had 2 “Mrs. Claus'” to Ho, Ho, Ho to!

Most Christmas Songs Are Offensive…..

Then, before you know it, White Christmas comes on!  How offensive is this song to our black brothers, our Asian friends, many other cultures?  Is Christmas only for the privileged white people?  Offensive!  Completely offensive!

Sisters, sisters, never were there such devoted sisters!

“Sisters, sisters, never were there such devoted sisters!”  Straight from the offensive Christmas Song, White Christmas!

 

We Three Kings ……… SO sexist!  Are there only Kings?  No reigning Queens to go visit the Christ Child?  And is it just men who are wise? What are we women?  A bunch of dumb blondes?  They should definitely ban this one from the airwaves too! The sexism is blatant!  Not to mention, is it socially correct to call it “the orient” any longer?

And what about Frosty the Snowman?  He is obviously promoting smoking to vulnerable young children. Many of the Christian denominations don’t believe in dancing, and magic is a definite no-no, yet there is Frosty, wearing a magic hat and dancing around, offending the Baptist at every turn of his heel!

Silver Bells delights in Christmastime in the city.  But what about those who live in the country? Are they left  completely out of the holiday festivities?  There seems to be a definite prejudice here, another inequality that just can’t be tolerated. If you aren’t a city dweller this song makes it obvious that you have no worth, you have no reason to celebrate the holiday.  I am offended for all the farmers, all the country folks, all the small town families.  The song definitely needs to be banned from the season.

Last year I mentioned the  gold digger in Santa Baby, who is obviously using her womanly whiles to get Santa to leave her more than her fair share of holiday gifts!  In light of the “me too” movement, just think how much MORE offensive this song is!  It is promoting sexual harassment at its best!

It’s pretty clear to all that the song Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer is a clear case of elder abuse.  You can’t just go around running over senior citizens all willy-nilly and then sing about it as though nothing is wrong here! Christmas morning is going to be a bit dismal when Grandma is lying dead due to a renegade reindeer! This song also promotes drinking to excess and walking home. What are we teaching our children here? You’d think that Grandma could have learned drinking in moderation by her age, and imagine the whole family sitting by while off she staggers into the snow on her own!  Had no one heard of Uber or Lift?  Grandma could have gotten a WWI with this situation!  (Walking While Intoxicated.)  Not to mention Santa, with the hit and run manslaughter charges. Does he even own up to what he has done?  (Rudolph may not have been leading the charge on this particular Christmas, otherwise the red nose would have probably lit up grandma before the deadly deed occurred!)

Speaking of reindeer, and back to the Rudolph song, we don’t just have a problem here with bullying, there is a very definite strain of prejudice, once again playing out there.  EVERY SINGLE ONE of the animals pulling Santa’s sleigh are Reindeer!  No other species is represented in the song!  What’s wrong with zebras, horses, jackasses, unicorns or mules?  Aren’t they good enough for the fat ol’ guy? Prejudice at it’s best!

God Rest Ye’ Merry Gentlemen…… again, with the sexism!  Sure, the merry gentlemen get to rest during the holiday season, feet up, beer in hand, watching a football game, while we gals are cooking, baking Christmas cookies, cleaning, shopping for the gifts, whipping up the Christmas cheer, handling the kids with their sugar highs and multi-tasking like a whirling dervish.  Are WE allowed to rest?  No, just the merry gentlemen are getting the comfort and joy in this jolly tune!

All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth might offend a meth addict who has lost their teeth.  How would you like to be poked fun at if you had a serious addiction?  We need to be far more tolerant of others’ problems, addictions and loss of teeth!

Then there is the old standard, Oh Come All Ye Faithful…. This one leaves out people who aren’t believers of Jesus as the Christ child.  How about including everyone?

The Twelve Days of Christmas is a strange one all the way around. Her true love is sending a REALLY strange set of gifts, the strangest being whole groups of HUMANS. First it starts out with all sorts of birds being sent, which I’m sure is offensive to animal rights activists. Then, groups of people are being sent. Eleven pipers piping? Ten lords a leaping?  Eight maids a milking? Who wants to be responsible for eight lactating women, large groups of men, dancers all over the house. Who would be responsible for feeding and housing this cast of dozens of strangers? Let’s just stick to tried and true Christmas gifts like jewelry, clothing and other trinkets, thank you very much.

The prejudice, scandal, sexism and offensive points just go on and on! Once you look closely you will realize that there is hardly a holiday song you can think of that is “offense free!”  This has got to stop! ALL CHRISTMAS MUSIC SHOULD BE BANNED IMMEDIATELY!

If you are familiar with the hysterical JP Sears, you’ll love his recent video about Baby It’s Cold Outside.

Offensive Christmas Songs: It’s More Than Just The Music!

But it’s not just the SONGS involved with the holiday season that are so offensive! Heck no!  It goes MUCH further than that! The fact that some of us still refer to them as Christmas songs is a BIG no-no right there!  They should be “Holiday Songs.”

The decorations, the traditions, the festivities……… ALL build layer upon layer of offensive-ness to the lives of Americans!

My sister lives in a condominium building in Arizona.  In their lobby is a Christmas tree AND a menorah, trying to represent both sides of the “holiday fence.” Alas, to go a step further, a few menorah decorations were put on the tree.  One of the Christians in the building had a complete melt-down that menorah decorations would be on the tree!  I’m guessing that there was also some Jewish grandmother who couldn’t BELIEVE they would put a menorah on a Christian Christmas tree.  (Thank goodness this was equally offensive to both sides of the “holiday fence.”) Of course, those that celebrate Kwanza were offended that no Kwanza decorations were put up in the lobby to represent them……..

People are offended that Santa is considered a male, and isn’t “gender neutral!” Well, too bad that he is derived from a MALE Saint in the first place!  For the love of God, let’s just forget that and give his sexuality a make-over and make him gender neutral! After all, we are moving right into 2019 and both women AND men have a right to see Santa in their public bathrooms!  Check out what people in The Big Apple have to say about a gender neutral Santa… 

Mrs. Claus sexually harrassing Don

I guess Mrs. Claus is sexually harassing this poor guy! Maybe they will want me in next year’s Macy’s parade as the first “gender neutral” Santa!

Then there is the old movie A Christmas Story.  People don’t want that played any longer because it also promotes bullying!  Yep! There is a fight in the movie, and we all know that fights just don’t happen in real life, every incidence of fights between kids is a definite result of bullying!  But people have missed some of the other GLARING problems with the movie! If you remember the main point of the movie, little Ralphie wants, more than anything, a Red Rider BB Gun!  HOW OFFENSIVE to give this small boy a GUN!  The movie should be banned just on that offensive point alone!  Then, to add insult to injury, the boy receives a bunny costume for a gift!  I find it offensive that he should be dressed as yet another character that has SO many concepts that could be offensive to people!  (Let’s not even get started on Easter.  It has it’s own whole level of offensiveness!) Then, adding further to the many offensive things in this movie, the family ends up having to eat Christmas dinner in a Chinese restaurant. The blatant mispronunciation of  English is offensive to all Asians who have trouble pronouncing their “R’s”…..“Deck the Halls with bows of Whorey“…..

Gift giving and gift buying is another part of the holiday that is offensive to people.  Your budget might be tighter than my budget. Let’s think about this.  How unfair is this?  If little Tommy gets more gifts than little Mary (who may have started out life as little Timmy, but doesn’t sexually identify with being Timmy, so she is now Mary), how do you think Mary is going to feel?  In a society where EVERYONE gets a trophy, is it FAIR that someone gets to have something more than another?  It is clear that gift giving needs to be stopped so that no one is left out of the equation.

What if I Didn’t Think My Sweater Was Ugly?

This is an "oldie but goodie"- and a great example of an "ugly sweater" I thought was beautiful! Excuse the orbs in the picture. Obviously, the Ghost of Christmas past making an appearance.....) I thought this was a beautiful sweater. Now that Ive had it for about 15 years, it has attended more ugly sweater parties than you can imagine!

This is an “oldie but goodie”- and a great example of an “ugly sweater” I thought was beautiful! Excuse the orbs in the picture. Obviously, the Ghost of Christmas past making an appearance…..) I thought this was a beautiful sweater. Now that I’ve had it for about 15 years, it has attended more ugly sweater parties than you can imagine!

You may not realize that some of the holiday sweaters women of my age group have are sweaters we once purchased because we found them lovely.  NOW they are considered UGLY SWEATERS, and complete parties rotate around these sweaters! Does anyone care about OUR feelings? How do you think we feel when our kids go into our stash of holiday clothing to wear something to the holiday office ugly sweater party?  We are crushed, at the deepest level of our core.  Psychological devastation is occurring again and again.  But we try to buck up and work through it!  When we walk into the local Goodwill and see whole racks of sweaters with a sign saying “UGLY SWEATERS” and we note that 5 of them are exact duplicates of sweaters we have owned over the years, do the Millennials give our tender feelings one moment of consideration?

The “White” Elephant in the Room

Most of us have participated in White Elephant gift exchanges. What is the hidden meaning behind the name of this game?  A white elephant is less desirable than the average gray elephant?  Only gray elephants should be accepted? Another sort of prejudice that is being propagated through the traditions of Christmas!  And what does the game itself represent?  You open a gift you might like, but someone can come along, and it they like it, they can just steal it away from you, without any consideration of whether or not you might want to keep your new little treasure?  Promoting stealing, lack of consideration and respect for one another could just be about the top of the offensive ladder!

Our friend Joanna won the ultimate "white elephant" at our White Elephant party this year! Did anyone think about the white elephants feelings?

Our friend Joanna won the ultimate “white elephant” at our White Elephant party this year! Did anyone think about the white elephants feelings?

Just today on one of my local Facebook “garage sale” sites, a woman posted a “hipster nativity set” she was trying to sell. I immediately chuckled when I saw it, then I glanced at the comments.  Offensive!  Poor taste!  Should be removed! On and on! Where are people’s sense of humor??????? Get over yourselves people- you are taking life WAY too seriously!  Not to mention, you being constantly offended is offending ME!

I thought this was really funny, but, alas, should I have been surpised at the number of people who were IMMEDIATELY offended?

I thought this was really funny, but, alas, should I have been surprised at the number of people who were IMMEDIATELY offended?

Strangers Among Us!

Christmas Caroling- another in a long line of offensive holiday practices.  Just last week, on my Nextdoor app. We had someone complaining about carolers who came around their house. They called the local police, complaining that these strangers were ruining their right to peace and quiet in their home!  Imagine the lack of consideration of those people, walking up and down neighborhood streets, singing holiday songs (all of which were probably offensive)!  No wonder this gentleman felt the need to call the local police!  Things like this have to be stopped! You can’t have “strangers” caroling uninvited around your homes! Who knows what evil could lurk in the hearts of carolers?

Carolers we had table-side when we dined at the Mission Inn in Riverside a few weeks ago. Their repertoire will probably be VERY limited once all the offensive Christmas Carols are banned!

Carolers we had table-side when we dined at the Mission Inn in Riverside a few weeks ago. Their repertoire will probably be VERY limited once all the offensive Christmas songs are banned!

The conclusion that I have come to is that we need to just completely cancel Christmas and all that is attached to it. Festivities of all kinds need to stop, because there is just far too much of it that is offensive.  In fact, try and come up with a part of the equation that ISN’T offensive!  You will be hard pressed.

Since this whole thing got started by my article last year, I am just throwing the solution out there.  Cancel the whole thing. Then there will be nothing left to be offended by……. Or to bitch about…….. Or will there?

 

 

Can You Say “Oh Wow” to Death?

Adventures With Attitude!, Every Day is an Adventure, Everyday Magic!, Health = Happiness!, Living a Royal Life, My Humble Opinion, Royal Ramblings!, You Can't Make This Shit Up!
I saw this down at Liberty Station in San Diego. Love the saying, and feel that it is so true!

I saw this down at Liberty Station in San Diego. Love the saying, and feel that it is so true!

A Wise Quote

I was out for dinner with my good friend Stella a while back, and saw a quote (in a bathroom of all places) which was attributed to being Steve Jobs “last words” before he died.  It was a very poignant quote, and I thought it would make a good discussion for a blog post……

But, alas, just like the internet, not everything you read on the bathroom wall is true.  GO FIGURE!  When I searched for said quote, Steve Jobs last words were not this great quote I thought I’d comment on……

“I reached the pinnacle of success in the business world. In others’ eyes, my life is an epitome of success. However, aside from work, I have little joy. In the end, wealth is only a fact of life that I am accustomed to. At this moment, lying on the sick bed and recalling my whole life, I realize that all the recognition and wealth that I took so much pride in, have paled and become meaningless in the face of impending death. In the darkness, I look at the green lights from the life supporting machines and hear the humming mechanical sounds, I can feel the breath of the god of death drawing closer.

…Now I know, when we have accumulated sufficient wealth to last our lifetime, we should pursue other matters that are unrelated to wealth. It should be something that is more important: Perhaps relationships, perhaps art, perhaps a dream from younger days. Non-stop pursuing of wealth will only turn a person into a twisted being, just like me. God gave us the senses to let us feel the love in everyone’s heart, not the illusions brought about by wealth. The wealth I have won in my life I cannot bring with me. What I can bring is only the memories precipitated by love. That’s the true riches which will follow you, accompany you, giving you strength and light to go on. Love can travel a thousand miles. Life has no limit. Go where you want to go. Reach the height you want to reach. It is all in your heart and in your hands.

What is the most expensive bed in the world? The Sick bed … You can employ someone to drive the car for you, make money for you but you cannot have someone to bear the sickness for you. Material things lost can be found. But there is one thing that can never be found when it is lost — Life. When a person goes into the operating room, he will realize that there is one book that he has yet to finish reading — Book of Healthy Life.

Whichever stage in life we are at right now, with time, we will face the day when the curtain comes down. Treasure Love for your family, love for your spouse, love for your friends. Treat yourself well. Cherish others.”

There was a lot in that quote that makes you stop and think. Think about the importance of your life, and how you are living it. The quote I read (in the bathroom) was shorter, and a bit differently worded.  However, many of the thoughts were similar.

Steve Jobs had an interesting perspective on death after it knocked on his door the first time around.

Steve Jobs had an interesting perspective on death after it knocked on his door the first time around.

Oh Wow, Oh Wow, Oh Wow!

As previously mentioned though…… This is NOT what Steve Jobs said on his deathbed at all. What was actually said, and confirmed by those present was, Oh Wow, Oh Wow, Oh Wow! I guess that those words could be interpreted a number of different ways, depending on your beliefs.  But needless to say, they are not as deeply profound as the quote I read, or the one above.

Who said those things?  We don’t know. They came out a few years after Mr. Jobs died.

In trying to find the quote I had seen which impressed me, I came across a fantastic talk that Mr. Jobs gave at the commencement ceremony for Stanford in 2005, just 6 years before he died. Entitled “How to Live Before You Die”  , it’s worth the 15 minutes it takes to watch it. Jobs tells 3 small stories about his life, but the last is about living YOUR best life.  He tells about facing pancreatic cancer, thinking he only had a few months to live, and then finding out it was operable.  He shares how your life changes — immediately and profoundly, when you think it is about to be over.  I love SO many of his thoughts he shared during his talk.  Many of his words exemplify what I am trying to share with so many on this blog and in my talks. He doesn’t use the title “Living a Royal Life” as I do, but what he says is similar to what I say, feel and try to share. He says he asked himself every day, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”………. and that if the answer was “NO” too many days in a row, he knew he needed to change something.

Are you doing today what you would want to be doing if it were the last day of your life?  If not, how do you get to the place where you can say a resounding YES?

Well said, and so true! Life is a one time offer, use it well!

Well said, and so true! Life is a one time offer, use it well!

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

Another quote of his I love in this video is this- “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”  YES, YES, YES, YES!  So many of us are trying to please others, do what others think we should do. We copy what someone else’s idea of “success” is.  Many live their lives trying to please their family- only to find out they could never please their family no matter WHAT they do.  Be you. Do YOU.  No one else will do you as well as you.  You won’t do anyone else as well as they do either……..

If I could have one wish for those I know, love and cherish, it would be that they find the passion in their lives to live the life that pleases them. That they could have a “royal life.” That they could stop doing what they think they “should” and live THEIR best life.  Not my best life.  Not someone else’s best life- but the life that is THEIR best life.

Then…. upon our deathbeds, whatever age that might be, we would all go out with few regrets, and be able to say exactly what Steve Jobs said to his loved ones. “Oh wow, oh wow, oh WOW!

Do You See What I See?

Adventures With Attitude!, Every Day is an Adventure, Everyday Magic!, Living a Royal Life, My Humble Opinion, Out and About, Royal Ramblings!, Travel and Adventure, You Can't Make This Shit Up!
Am I the only person who sees not only a well defined crotch, but a waistline at the bottom of this tree?

Am I the only person who sees not only a well defined crotch, but a waistline at the bottom of this tree?

A Cabo Getaway

A few months ago, Don and I went down to Cabo for a little getaway.  We had really scored on an amazing condo through a fundraiser auction.  The place we were staying was part of the Pueblo Bonita Sunset Beach Resort, which includes three hotels, some private homes,  time shares and condos.  It’s a great place, because you can sign to your room or condo no matter what amenities or restaurants you are visiting.  It makes it so convenient! And between all the restaurants, pools, food court, shops and lounges, you won’t get bored!

Again, I see the sensual pose of a womans bent legs.

This tree had “2 sets” of people.  On the bottom portion I see the sensual pose of a womans bent legs. Then at the top left it also made me think of a torso with legs.  This is a “two-fer” tree!

Tree People

Funny thing is, as we were driving from our condo to the hotel, I noticed the trees that lined a lot of the streets.  All I could see when I looked at the trees, for some reason was what looked like people, turned upside down!  I know, I’m a strange and sick individual.  I will be the first to admit it.  But once I pointed it out, Don could see it too.  Some of our “vision” didn’t translate well in photos, but I think we got enough of them for you to get the gist of what we saw.

This tree looked to me like a set of legs on the left, facing one way, then the waist, crotch and legs of another person facing the other way.....

The “Menage-a-trois Tree” This tree looked to me like a set of legs on the left, facing one way, then the waist, crotch and legs of another person facing the other way and the spread legs of a third person on the right.  What can I say?  Kinky mind I guess!

 

This one looked to me like a torso, with the stomach, then butt, then bend of the knees......

This one looked to me like a torso, with the stomach, then butt, then bend of the knees……Like a woman in a long straight skirt.

Sad thing is, just like the “small world” song that sticks in your head for the next week after you hear it, now when you go down to Cabo and see these trees, YOU TOO will be picturing people standing on their heads, when you see these trees…… Honestly, I guarantee you will!

 

This tree makes me think of a basketball player from the back... you can see the shape of the back of the knees, the butt and the waistline...

This tree makes me think of a basketball player from the back… you can see the shape of the back of the knees, the butt and the waistline…and LONG, LONG legs!

Can you see this soccer player, leg up in the air after his kick- with the arm straight out?

Can you see this soccer player, leg up in the air after his kick- with the arm straight out?

 

This tree, once again reminded me of a womans torso, with her hands upstretched, her breast- with even the nipple showing, waist butt and legs.....

This tree, once again reminded me of a womans torso, with her hands upstretched, her breast- with even the nipple showing, waist butt and legs…..

 

 

Doesnt this one look like someone carved a stomach and belly button into this tree?

Doesn’t this one look like someone carved a stomach and belly button into this tree?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This made me think of uplifted arms holding torches....

This made me think of uplifted arms holding torches…. or laser sabers!

 

 

 

Finding interesting things in the everyday is kind of fun!  Take a look around, and you might be surprised at what you find! If you get down to Cabo and find some of these trees, let me know what interesting shapes you find!

 

 

 

 

No Plain Jane………

Adventures With Attitude!, Family Time, Health = Happiness!, My Humble Opinion, Serious Shit, You Can't Make This Shit Up!
Close up of mom at her Open House Reception. I still keep this picture up to this day- almost 40 years later. Who would think it would be the last time she would sit on that chaise lounge?

Close up of mom at her Open House Reception. I still keep this picture in my home to this day- almost 40 years later. Who would think it would be the last time she would sit on that chaise lounge? My mom really understood that life is short, and made each day count!

Life…Is…Short!

I had intended to write this article and publish it for Mother’s Day this year…….. But alas, we were wrapped up in travel plans, then travel for most of April, and the thought, the time, and the writing never took place…….

I could wait until next Mother’s Day, and release it then… but if you know me, you know my saying… “You never know when they are going to call in your chips.”  Hell, we don’t know what tomorrow brings, so you’ve got to do things today. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.

You may think that is a morbid way to live, but it’s just the opposite.  I do more, accomplish more, enjoy more and live more than many people combined. Why?  Perhaps it’s because I know how short life can be.  I have now outlived my own mother by 3 years. LIFE…IS…SHORT!  I never want to look back and say “I should have.” “I could have.” Or “I wish I had.”

I believe FULLY in taking life by the tail and getting the most out of it EVERY SINGLE DAY.  I often have people look at my schedule and ask me if I ever sleep.  Often, when I have exciting things to do, a lot on my plate and a busy schedule, honestly—— I don’t sleep much.  I can go weeks on end with 3 or 4 hours sleep.  I figure that at some point I’m going to have an extremely long time to sleep… as in eternity…. so I’ll catch up on it then!  For me, typically, every day is a busy day.  That’s how I love to live my life. After all—-as I said previously—- you never know when they are going to call in your chips!

A few months ago, in sorting through some things after our move, I came across a photo album I keep with mementos about my mom. Jane Clark. Her birth name had actually been Jane Hatheway, until she married my father at the ripe old age of 18. To say my parents had a tumultuous relationship would be putting it kindly! YIKES- those two fought like I’ve never seen anyone fight……. (But that’s another story for another day.  Getting married at 18 probably isn’t the #1 best idea in life either….)

My mom died when I was 22, after fighting cancer for about 8 1/2 years.  I remember when she came home one afternoon, while I was in Jr. High and told me the doctors had told her she had cancer, and only had a few months to live.  Of course, my first thought was “what happens to me?”  (Thank you teen age years for putting myself before everyone else!)

A Long and Difficult Battle….

That is when the fight began. Mom began a long, difficult and painful fight with cancer. The cancer she started out with wasn’t the cancer that ultimately killed her.  She was originally diagnosed with Lymphoma, but she picked up a second cancer, Leukemia, along the way, and that was the eventual ending battle of  her life.

Throughout those last years though, my mom helped SO many others in their last stages of life.  38 years ago, hospice wasn’t allowed into hospitals. Dying was treated differently.  We had to “buck up” and take care of one another.  No matter how sick she was herself, my mom was right there, making certain that WHATEVER her friends needed in their last days, they got it!

For one friend, it was important that she had some nice lingerie and a sexy nightie.  Jane provided those things. Some may have thought that at that stage of the game lingerie and nighties weren’t important.  She didn’t question it.  It was her friends’ desire, and that was all Jane needed to know. For another friend, it might be a specific dish they wanted to eat before they died. She made sure they got it, even if she had to sneak it into the hospital.  There comes a time when needs are far more than “medical.” Those needs are often more important than the medicines, the treatments or the “rules.”

The “Dress Rehearsal”

This was my mom at her Open House Reception. She went into the hospital the next day for the last time.

This was my mom at her Open House Reception. She went into the hospital the next day for the last time.

My mom had been in and out of the hospital so many times in the 8 plus years that I couldn’t even begin to count them.  In October 1979 I went on a last minute 1 week trip to Hawaii. While I was gone my sisters told me that they were giving an open house for my mom the day after I returned from the trip.  I wondered why they couldn’t just wait a week, so that I could help more with it. My mom insisted that it happen THAT Sunday. She went in the hospital the day after the party and never came back out.  SHE KNEW it had to happen then, or it never would.

When the end was near for our mom, we wanted to make sure someone was with her all the time so she didn’t die alone.  One of us always spent the night at the hospital for the last few months she was there.

My mom longed to see a local hospice in the area – which could help people like her in their last days.  I remember attending talks by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross with my mom, learning about the 5 stages of death, and what other countries were doing for their dying. Kubler-Ross was a pioneer in the hospice movement in the United States back in the ’70’s.  Our country was, and still is so far behind how other countries deal with death and dying.

“It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth – and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, we will then begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had. “ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Because of my mom’s frustration with the lack of hospice care, she started the ball rolling to get a local hospice formed.  After my mom’s death, my two sisters and I helped to bring to fruition a hospice to the Fox Valley. That hospice served my dad a number of years later when he died.

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree…

 It’s often said by people that knew my mom that I’m a lot like her. Jane was a talker………. (sound familiar?)  Oh, she could talk!  And you always knew where you stood with my mom. She didn’t beat around the bush………… and this app;e didn’t fall far from THAT tree!  My mom would do anything for anyone, but cross her, and watch out! She would do WHATEVER it took to make things right!  If there was YELP in her day, Jane would have had 2,000 reviews on it, I’m sure! I’m my mom’s daughter there!  I’ll help the underdog any way I can, and when things aren’t right, I’ll let WHOEVER needs to know, until things are made right.

In the album of mementos I have poems and stories written about her.  Reading them, I thought how great it would be to write an article about her. And of course, Mother’s Day would have been a fabulous time to publish it.  Or perhaps her birthday, which is September 16th…. or perhaps, just whenever I get around to getting the damn thing done… Yes. That’s probably EXACTLY when I’ll get it out.  Whenever it is finished. Because THAT is the kind of organized I am.

No Plain Jane

In the memento book is a poem. I have no idea who wrote it, or if it was, indeed, written expressly about my mom. In trying to find it on Google, I can’t, so I assume someone wrote it about my mom. Sorry I can’t attribute it to the right person! Here goes:

No Plain Jane

I know a Jane,

Who isn’t plain

As any heart should see…

She’s more fair than a rose

That in Springtime grows

Yes, she’s beautiful to me.

For Beauty is in the face of love

And lovely is beauty’s name….

And ti’s love that lights the smile

That shines in the face of Jane.

Call other Jane’s plain— if you insist

But please don’t include our Jane.

For many a lovely thing is she

And one thing she isn’t is “plain.”

 

During the years my mom was ill, we were very involved in an organization called Make Today Count.  It had been started by a man named Orville Kelly, who had Lymphoma. He formed a support group so that people could find support among others who had long-term or life threatening illnesses.  Family members were also encouraged to attend.  I don’t know how I would have gotten through my mother’s illness and subsequent death, if we hadn’t had this resource at the time.  (At the time of my mother’s illness there were at least 140 chapters across the United States.  I believe that a handful are still active, one of them being here in San Diego.)

In our Make Today Count chapter, there was a woman I befriended named Kay Catlin. Kay’s journey was just a few months ahead of mine.  Her mother, also a cancer victim, died about 6 months before my mother did. I would often talk to Kay to see if my feelings, my emotions and my journey were unusual—- typically to be told that she had experienced exactly the same reactions to her mother’s illness.

Kay became a writer, and wrote a story about my mother, which was published in the Chicago Tribune on May 7, 1980. Kay wrote the story and gave it to our family at my mother’s memorial service, just a week after my mother’s death, which was December 21, 1979.  We felt so honored to have this wonderful story about my mother published in a major newspaper.

Having lost contact with Kay many years ago, when I found the article I contacted Kay and asked if I could publish it here in this blog, and she graciously gave me permission. Ties that are made in a situation like we were in many, many years ago still hold, as was demonstrated when I contacted Kay.

This is the front cover of the scrapbook I keep that has articles about my mom, marriage cert, birth cert, death cert, etc.

This is the front cover of the scrapbook I keep that has photos, articles about my mom, marriage cert, birth cert, death cert, etc. There was a store that made these scrapbooks many years ago, with your details on the front cover. I really liked them!

Following is the story as Kay originally wrote it and gave it to us.  It was edited some, and the tenses changed for the Chicago Tribune final article.

The Dying of Jane by Kay Catlin

The screen door ricocheted shut one final time. The party was over: the last guest had left. But before the weary hostess could call it a night, there was one more thing to do.

Jane draped her tiny frame across the painted rattan chaise and slipped her hand int the “everything” basket lying next to her on the floor. As she pulled out the tattered list of name and numbers, the freshly signed guest register was brought to her.

Methodically, Jane compared the “invited” names to the “attended” ones. By the time she was finished, it was clear triumph was in her corner.

“Look at that, would ya’, just look at that,” she said turning to her youngest daughter. (That would be me, by the way, just sayin’!) Look, only eight didn’t show. That’s pretty good…. real good.”  Jane was satisfied.

But in spite of her social coup, Jane’s, thought turned quickly back to the eight no-shows. One by one she recited their reasons for being elsewhere. The first had to work.  The next two had previously scheduled meetings, and besides the family of four who lived too far away, the only other people who couldn’t make it had car trouble. That settled it then. Everyone was accounted for.

Things like that matter to Jane. She is the original party person. Even mere acquaintances know she’ll be at any function someone bothers to call a party.  It doesn’t matter what the reason or where it’s held. If there’s a party, Jane will be there even if she’s dying.

And this time she was.  Dying, that is.

Dying is nothing new to Jane. Her doctors say she has been doing that ever since she was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer seven years ago at age fifty.  As a matter of fact, Jane was handed a less-than-a-month-to-go death sentence in 1973 only moments before she was advised not to take a scheduled Florida vacation to visit her parents. The doctor said she’d come back in a box.  Jane went anyway, and looking back, glad she’s glad she did. It was the last time  she saw her mother, who, at the same time was dying from cancer.

Jane didn’t come back in a box, and the doctor who told her not to go has since died himself from cancer.  Instead, Jane enjoyed her trip and, upon returning, decided the one thing she had to do was learn how to live with her disease so if one of her five children ever got cancer, “they’d know how to handle it.”

That was a mighty big order for someone recently divorced who had to keep on working in spite of pain, exhaustion, radiation treatments and chemotherapy. But she says she was too busy living to be bothered with dying. Besides, she had some pretty fail-safe logic going for her.  she figured it was a lot harder to die standing up.  As long as she could stay off the couch and on her feet, she had the odds beat. No one was going to catch her lying down long enough to die.

And they didn’t.

Between her once a month trips to Mayo’s from her suburban West Chicago home and her accounting job, Jane was terribly busy. She’d fly up to Rochester, Minnesota, on a Thursday night and check into the clinic Friday morning.  Saturday afternoons she’d fly back, and by Monday morning it was business as usual. Jane would make up time lost at her job by working Saturdays and week nights. Then, when she got caught up, the whole cycle would begin again. But she never missed a day’s work, and that’s something she’s still quite proud of.

The way Jane tells it, the whole first year was more like a piece of cake than the parcel of hell it really was. Pressed, she will relate stories of the many nights she and her only still-home child would stay up trying to temper the excruciating pan of muscle spasms. She will talk about the days she would pray for the phone not to ring, so she wouldn’t have to reach for it. But those aren’t the things she likes to concentrate on now. Jane would much rather tell someone about all the things she did do, the good times, than dwell on the horror of  it all. Even under pressure, she is an artful dodger of gloom. Any further questions about the endless nights and uncertain, painful days, she brushes off with, “I didn’t worry about any of it.  I’d just call my sister-in-law and tell her to start praying. Then I’d turn the rest over to the doctors and let them do their thing.  It worked every time.” And somehow, it did work…….. every time.

No, it hasn’t ever been Jane’s style to worry about herself. In the face of hardship, she is more likely to light up one in an endless chain of Newports, lean back, and give vent to another positive thought. She even has a pat answer for all those cigarettes.  “Well, they can’t tell me I’m going to get cancer anymore, can they?” So, I figure if I’m going to die, I might as well not be nervous about it.”  Good ol’ Jane!

In-spite of her logic, Jane was doing well until 1975 when her boss quit. A new comptroller took over who was bent on getting rid of everyone.  Not a person to be trifled with, Jane saw what was coming and got rid of herself.  “I couldn’t take that ass one more day, so I blew” is how she puts it.  (BTW- side-note, I can STILL remember my mother venting about the new boss and what an unreasonable and horrible jerk he was! That was my senior year of high-school!)

As she told of quitting her job, Jane suddenly looked down and then slowly turned her gaze upwards again. Pointing her finger to punctuate yet another point, she said, “THAT hurt me more than anything.”

She couldn’t get another job.  It didn’t matter that she was well qualified or willing to work, or desperately needed insurance. What mattered was that Jane had cancer. As far as the job market was concerned, Jane was already dead.

In spite of the fact that she faced rejection almost constantly, Jane continued to look for a job, any job.  She needed reason to stay standing up. Once, she even came close to getting employed. The owner of a marketing firm didn’t so much as blink an eye when she told him, as she told everyone, that she had cancer. She  would be employed and insured anyway.  No questions asked.  But the man died  before the deal went through. It was cancer that got him.

Jane didn’t work again until March of 1977. She had heard about a CETA job and, when she found two bosses who were willing to look away from her illness and toward her qualifications, she was hired. The job instantly became like new life blood to her.  She still feels if she hadn’t landed that job, any job, she would have lain down right then and died.

She worked well and steadily until July. Then she became inexplicably weak, unable to wash or dress herself. She went back to Mayo’s for a check-up and two days of transfusions, but came home having received even more.  A new diagnosis: Chronic Leukemia.

That’s not to say Jane had been undergoing treatments for the wrong disease all along. She just had them both lymphoma and leukemia. Snake eyes.

Jane went back to work almost immediately and tried to keep up. She had to. The doctors’ bills alone were breaking her financially even when the paychecks were steady. But there were intermittent hospitalizations, days off here and there. By March of 1978 the word had filtered down.  Any more days off and she would be out.

A few weeks later, Jane was in too much pain to report for work. She had reached too suddenly for something; that’s all. Two ribs, brittle from years of cancer therapy, snapped, and with them went everything. (I can’t tell you how many times my mom broke a bone by simply riding in the car and hitting a bump, standing up from a chair, or other simple things we do on a daily basis.  It was awful!)

Or so she thought.

With her body literally hunched in pain, Jane had someone drive her to and from job interviews when she wasn’t in the hospital. She knew she needed to get out of bed or she would die.  All she wanted was “to push a pencil somewhere.”  Her mind didn’t have cancer, after all.

On February 15, 1979 she landed her last job.  Each day, one of her children would take her to work and pick her up again in the evening.  It was tough going, but she was needed again. There was a reason to get off that couch.

That lasted until April 6th.  Jane went back into the hospital then and wasn’t released until July 6th.  Two days later, she was back at work.  For a few weeks, she pushed her pencil until on Friday afternoon when she found herself breathless from pain.  It was all over.

During the past months, Jane has only been out of the hospital for a few days at a time.  Each reprieve from doctors’ whites and intravenous drip coincided with one thing and one thing only—- a party.  She made them all. (Again, I told you this apple didn’t fall from the “Jane tree!” My mom never missed a party and neither do I!)

But her party days are dwindling and she knows it. When her leukemia turned from chronic to acute over Labor Day and her disability and Medicare benefits were cut off in October because she had worked three days too many the year before, she was beaten. Forced to apply for Public Aid, this fiercely independent woman was given two choices one afternoon by her doctors. She could either die outright or go through a painful bone marrow transplant, isolation and Chemotherapy program and probably die anyway.  What to do….

Jane decided she was going to go out trying and endorsed the treatments  Then she went home to make her funeral plans.

Already having donated her body to science when she was first diagnosed, Jane worked calmly and methodically on all the other arrangements. She secured the church, talked to the ministers, and had someone come over with sheet music.  Together they looked for “A King is Coming” and “He Touched Me.”  Because she wants those two songs sung by everyone at her memorial service, copies had to be made ahead of time.  Jane knew where she could get it done cheap.

She then named a charity for donations and instructed everyone she met not to send flowers.  “That’s like getting buried,” she said.  “Never could see throwing money away on being put in the ground and having a bunch of flowers around.”  I want the kids to take what I give them and blow it.  I want people to have a good time with what they got.”  And no one argued.

Jane then called her family together and worked out the nitty-gritty plans for the party afterwards,  They were to feed everyone and then go back to the house and have a family party like they always did.  “I want them to play poker, do some charades, and laugh a lot. If they have to sit around reminiscing, I want them to remember the crazy things, the fun things.” Then a devilish grin spread over her emaciated face as she added, “And they all know—- I’ve told them ever since I knew I was dying— that I’ll come back and haunt them if they don’t do what I say.”

With the family still around, Jane parceled out her promised possessions. She took pictures off the wall, rings off her fingers, and held a drawing for her remaining treasures. She sorted out photos and mementos, and gave each adult child his own picture laden history book. She signed over her stocks, gave away her car, and then took out the insurance policies. Each had been carefully studied, filled out, and stamped.

Then Jane sat back in relief ready to reminisce. Since she had sold her home to one of the children a while back, all she had to do was die.  Everything else was done.

That’s when the idea set in.

Jane’s eldest daughter thought as long as everything was taken care of ahead of time, they might as well have a party now, the kind of party people usually have after the funeral, but this one would be before while her mother could enjoy it.  After all, Jane wouldn’t want to miss a good party for anything. Why should she have to die for one last reason to celebrate?

So, while she was home for a brief, uncertain stay waiting for her body to become strong enough to give her at least a fighting chance to survive the treatments, her children called together 80 or 90 of Jane’s closest friends.  People came steadily from late afternoon on to pay their respects, say their goodbyes and share a laugh with the still living.  Jane was clearly on a mental high through the tiring, day-long affair.  She was having the time of her life playing the queen once more.  (Interesting, isn’t it that this was nearly 40 years ago, and my mother was referred to as “the queen.”  Now, here I am- The Queen of Damn Near Everything!”)

A week later, she herself would call the party a dress rehearsal for the memorial service and casually remark that only eight people didn’t show.

Now Jane waits to return to the hospital, knowing she probably won’t come out alive. She exhibits fear only when she refers to the painful, “worst ever” treatments she has to face.  It is not difficult to believe her when she says, “Some things are worse than dying, you know.”

(Jane Clark of West Chicago, Illinois, died December 21 1979, without having undergone the bone marrow transplant. The rest of the details are unimportant. She just died with the same dignity she had known in life.  That’s all.  End

There were a few things very interesting about my mother’s last weeks (about 9 of them), while she was in the hospital.  My mother was a feisty little ball of fire, and you ALWAYS knew where things stood with her. She wasn’t technically “in a coma”- but there were weeks where she basically laid and slept, not really talking to anyone.

We told her sister, my Aunt Pat, that if she wanted to see mom again, she’d better get here for a visit.  I never thought of my Aunt Pat as weak, but my mom must have understood her in a way we couldn’t. When my Aunt Pat came into the hospital room for her visit, upon arrival, my mom sat up, had a conversation with her, then laid back down.  The next morning Aunt Pat came back in, mom had another lovely conversation with her, and my Aunt left for home, saying “She doesn’t look too bad to me.”

We were all mystified at how amazing my mom looked and sounded while Aunt Pat was there.  Later we understood that mom knew that my Aunt couldn’t have taken seeing her sister in an almost “vegetative” state, and did what was needed to help Aunt Pat get through it.

From L-R: My niece Kelly, Sister Sharon, Mom, My niece Michelle and my Sister Dianne. Not long before my moms death. Who knows where the hell I was for this? It looks like Kelly was dressed up for a school dance, corsage and all!

From L-R: My niece Kelly, Sister Sharon, Mom, My niece Michelle and my Sister Dianne. Not long before my moms death. Who knows where the hell I was for this? It looks like Kelly was dressed up for a school dance, corsage and all!

There were also a few times that my mom sat up, called out “Mom” and reached for someone unseen, with such a peaceful look on her face

Then the story that some people think is “just horrible”- but was my mom’s and my personality to a T…… Mom hadn’t spoken for weeks—- probably since Aunt Pat’s visit, and I went to the hosipital after work, just days before her death.  I was wearing Tabu perfume, a heavy scent popular in the 80’s.  As I leaned down to kiss her, out of the blue mom mumbled, “What’s that perfume?”  I told her and she responded, “Don’t ever wear that again, you smell like a French whore.” That’s the last thing my mom ever said to me!  I laugh about it, and let me tell you…… when I get into an elevator with someone wearing that perfume….. to this day, do you know how hard it is not to repeat that line to them????? Often, when I share that story, people are absolutely AGHAST that this would be our last conversation. Not me though!

The other great story about “The Dying of Jane” was that it was UBER IMPORTANT to my mom that she not be buried. She wanted to donate any organ possible, then donate her body to science so that others might learn from her body and prevent others in the future from enduring cancer such as hers. (Once you’ve gone through all the cancer treatments my mom went through, not too many organs are viable, unfortunately. We had learned that the only organ which could be donated at that point were mom’s eyes.) My mom had always been ADAMENT that not one cent should go toward a burial. Back then, not too many people got cremated.

Well, the end was obviously VERY close, and we happened to call the family friend who owned the funeral home, and was going to help us with my mom’s details.  When we spoke to him, he told us that if my mom didn’t die that afternoon by about 4:30, she’d either have to hold out until the next Wednesday, or her body and organs wouldn’t be able to be donated, due to the weekend and holiday.  (Can you believe it?  Back then, organ donation was more of a 9-5 Monday through Friday kind of business.)  I think it was about 3:15 when we got this news, so we leaned over my mom and said, “Hey mom, we’ve got some bad news we just found out. Bruce told us that if you don’t die today by about 4:30, you have to hold out through Christmas, and wait until the day after, or they won’t take your body and eyes. You will need to be buried.” My mom died at 4:30 PM that day.

When Jane had a plan NO ONE was going to screw it up if she had anything to do with it!

Again, when I’ve told that story to some people, they can’t believe we would tell our mom she needed to either die or hold out.  Let me tell you, you didn’t want to cross Jane Clark, and had she not been told once we knew the details, she probably WOULD have come back to haunt us for not getting the body donated!

My mom lived a certain way, and she died the same way—- parties planned and attended and details acted on, down to the last detail!

When we had my mom’s memorial service my oldest sister Sharon read a beautiful poem that pretty well summed up my mom, and the way she chose to die. I’ll share it:

“To Remember Me…”

The day will come when my body will lie upon a white sheet neatly tucked under four corners of a mattress located in a hospital busily occupied with the living and the dying. At a certain moment a doctor will determine that my brain has ceased to function and that, for all intents and purposes, my life has stopped.

When that happens, do not attempt to instill artificial life into my body by the use of a machine. And don’t call this my deathbed.  Let it be called the Bed of Life, and let my body be taken from it to help others lead fuller lives.

Give my sight to the man who has never seen a sunrise, a baby’s face or love in the eyes of a woman. Give my heart to a person whose own heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain. Give my blood to the teenager  who was pulled from the wreckage of his car, so that he might live to see his grandchildren play.  give my kidneys to one who depends on a machine to exist from week to week.  Take my bones, every muscle, every fiber and nerve in my body and find a way to make a crippled child walk.

Explore every corner of my brain. Take my cells, if necessary and let them grow so that, someday,a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against her window.

Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow.

If you must bury something, let it be my faults, my weaknesses and all my prejudice against my fellow man.

Give my sins to the devil.  Give my soul to God.

If, by chance, you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you. If you do all I have asked I will live forever.

—- Robert N. Test in Cincinnati Post

 

Would you like to leave a legacy after you are gone?  You need to plan ahead.  Here are a few interesting articles that might help you figure out what would work best for your desires.

For info on donating your organs, go to: https://www.organdonor.gov/about/process/deceased-donation.html

For info on donating your body to science check out this article:https://www.wikihow.com/Donate-Your-Body-to-Science

 

 

 

 

 

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Lions and Tigers and Pirates…….. Oh My!

My Humble Opinion, Raves & Rotten Reviews, Royal Ramblings!, Travel and Adventure, You Can't Make This Shit Up!

Cruising the West Coast of Africa

Silversea Silver Cloud

The Silversea Silver Cloud on our trip.

We went on a Silversea Silver Cloud cruise up the coast of  West Africa recently.   We went to 6 countries to be exact.  There are basically 3 questions people ask you when they hear you have been to “Africa.” Question # 1- Did you go on a Safari (or did you see any “big game” animals- as both are basically asking the same thing.)  Question #2- Why in the world did you choose to go there, of all places. Question # 3-Were you worried about Pirates.

No, we weren’t on a safari, nor did we see any big game animals. That takes place more in central or east Africa.  What we saw most of were goats, pigs, chickens and cats, because all of those animals roamed  freely- and abundantly – through every village and city we were in. We did see some good sized monkeys swinging through some trees one of the days while we were riding in the bus.

In Morocco we saw some camels at a Bedouin camp, and also just roaming around in the middle of the desert. In Marrakesh we saw few snakes, which were being “charmed”  for the sake of tourist. The snake charmers were scarier than the snakes.  You’ve got to watch out for those guys- they don’t want to let you go without getting the big bucks out of you!

Senegal Village Animals

This picture of animals in a Senegal Village shows about the biggest “game” that we saw on this trip. Camels, goats, cats, sheep, a few pigs and a boar were about the extent of our animal viewing!

Other than that little menagerie, no “big game” stuff. No lions, or tigers, elephants or giraffes.  Wrong neighborhood for them.

Why we chose to go to West Africa is another story.  My man had broken his foot last fall, right after we moved into our new house. (Great timing on his part, I have to say- thank you very much!) He was bored to death, and started looking into places he’d never traveled, and trips that would get him closer to his goal of 100 countries.  A “luxury cruise” up the west coast of Africa came up in his search, and next thing I knew, we were going to West Africa. So, question number is now answered.

Senegal Village

This Senegal Village was fairly typical of many of the villages. You’ll see a goat in the background. This village was one of the few that had any sort of “toilet” facilities. This outhouse had buckets in it to go on. Quite sophisticated compared to many!

Was West Africa on the top of my bucket list of travel?  Heaven’s no!  However, if you know me, you also know I’m always up for any adventure, and always up to try the unusual. So- when Don asked if I’d go on the trip, I gave a resounding yes…….

Captain Phillips, Here we Come!

As soon as we mentioned a boat, and Africa the question of safety and pirates came up constantly. After all, who hadn’t seen Captain Phillips, right? So, of course, we asked our cruise line, Silverseas, if pirates were a possibility or concern. The question was poo-pooed- and we were told that pirate activity is on the east side of Africa and we had nothing to worry about. WHEW!

Silly Americans! We don’t even know where the pirates hang out in Africa. Tsk, tsk, tsk…….

So, onward and upward we went with our plans for our trip.  We decided to tack on a trip to Amsterdam to see the tulips on our way to Akkra, Ghana.  Thank God, because if we hadn’t I wouldn’t have found that great shop with the fantastic 1940’s style dance dresses…….. (Good thing I brought that extra duffel, because it was filled up on day 3 of the 23 day trip!)

Patti in one of her 40's dresses!

This is one of the 40’s style dresses I got in Amsterdam! What a find THAT store was! (And BTW- this is my granddaughter Nell at her graduation from grade school a few weeks ago!)

My prior cruising experience has been on the uber-large cruise ships. Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland, Costa- and yes, I’ll even admit to Carnival- back in the day!  Don has only done small “expedition” type of ships.  This cruise, on the Silversea Silver Cloud was to have approximately 200 passengers.

The “luxury cruise” part of the trip had me from Hello.  Unfortunately, the “luxury” provided didn’t add up to the cost of the cruise in ever-so-many ways………..

But I digress…….

Ghana Port

This poster was on the wall going into the Ghana Port. You would not have BELIEVED the one asking them not to poop in the port! That one was really graphic- but unfortunately we weren’t able to pop a photo fast enough! Things run a little differently in Africa than some of us are used to!

As we pulled up to the port (after a rocky start and less than impressive trip to the ship), Don noticed that the back of the ship had large bars added across the back deck where the enormous water cannons were. Water cannons? Why would the ship need water cannons?  We thought that perhaps the ship goes to other areas where pirates might be a concern……..

So, blithely we boarded the ship.

And, as with all cruises, muster is the first order of business on all ships. A lovely letter awaited us when we entered our suite, telling us when muster was to take place, and how focused Silversea was on making our voyage special, personalized, pampering, blah, blah, blah….

Safety First!

Our welcome letter upon arrival on the Silver Cloud

Off to muster we went.  Then the ship left dock. After familiarizing ourselves with the ship, we went back to our suite, to find another letter………… informing us that we were in a “high risk area for piracy

 

If you are of my age group, you will remember Saturday Night Live, and church lady from years ago. Can’t you just hear Dana Carvey saying “How conveeeeenient!” ( Not to mention the following line- “Who made you do it, was it the Devil?”)

How conveeeeenient that the second letter was given to us JUST AFTER we left port!  And worse- it stated that the “enhanced measures” were in effect from April 8-14.  THREE DAYS BEFORE WE BOARDED THE SHIP!

These assholes knew for 3 days before we got on that Captain Kidd, Blackbeard and Henry Morgan were in the ‘hood, and didn’t bother to tell us?  Holy shit. Are you kidding me?

Then the letter went on in explicit detail telling us how to handle the possible boarding and takeover by pirates. My favorite line was, “in the rare event that pirates succeed to board the vessel, do not panic, and do as they say.”

Roger that.  I am going to stay as friggin’ as calm as a clam.  Yessiree! Ahoy there mateys- nothing to worry about.  I’ve seen Captain Phillips. These are reasonable people……….

Silversea- what in the name of all that is normal is wrong with you people?

Where is Johnny Depp When You Need Him?

The pirate with a parrot on the seashore

Not only are we dealing with totally unreasonable people with pirates in the African waters, none of them remotely begin to look like Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. There is just no upside to these pirates at all.  Just sayin’.

For the next 4 evenings we were told we had to keep our curtains to our decks drawn and not to open the sliding doors. This was mighty convenient, as the AC was also not working on the ship, and we were in near 100 degree heat………..

If THIS doesn’t all spell out “luxury cruise”- I don’t know what does!

In the public areas of the ship, every curtain was buttoned up as tightly as a nun’s va-j-j.  Where there weren’t draperies, the windows were covered with paper and duct tape. And the decks and outdoor restaurant were closed down.  No “romantic strolls” around the deck were taking place here folks! I felt like I was in London during the second world war blitz attacks.

Again, I know I am repeating myself here, but if THIS doesn’t all spell out “luxury cruise”- I don’t know what does!

Another great tip pointed out in the letter was that if the pirates were to approach the ship, and/or board, we were to go to the common areas of the ship and get down with our hands over our heads.  Fuck that shit- I’m hiding under my damned bed and hope they don’t check there for me. I figure that these pirates probably aren’t into doing a lot of work, or they’d have more upstanding jobs.  Maybe they aren’t going to look under all 100+ beds, right? But go hide out in the open- with my hands over my head?  Are you kidding me?  I’m going to come out and line up for the machine gun rally? Come on, I’m smarter than I look! (I’d have to be, or they wouldn’t let me out alone….. But again, I digress.)

(Our Silversea “Pirate Warning Letter”- delivered immediately after the ship left port. At this point it was bit too far for a swim back to shore,  I’m afraid!)

Every Day is an Adventure!

Now I realize that earlier I stated I am usually up for any adventure. I’ve jumped out of planes.  I’ve zip-lined. I’ve snorkeled and dived. I’ve bungee jumped. I’ve married a variety of men.  I’ve had children….. the list of adventures goes on and on.

However, in all those cases, these were experiences that I had preplanned for.  The adrenaline spike is because of the thrill of a “controlled” thrill.  One that most people live through. One that has safety parameters built into it.

Not friggin’ PIRATES! I never signed up for PIRATES!

So, for the first 4 evenings of our “luxury cruise”, while sweating like I was in an Indian Sweat lodge, with my drapes and balcony window buttoned up tightly, I wondered if I would live to see the good ol’ US of A!

There ain’t NOTHIN’ that spells luxury like that folks!

Captain Boczek’s last lines of his letter left me feeling calm, “special and highly personalized” (refer back to letter #1)… “Your safety is of paramount importance for us at Silversea…..”

Really?  Really? My safety is of such utmost importance to Silversea that they didn’t tell me about my tryout for a role in Pirates of the Caribbean before the ship set sail? THAT’S how paramount my safety was to Silversea!

That all being said, I guess we can add a few jackasses to the list of animals previously noted. But they were all on board our ship, wearing nautical costumes!

As you can probably decipher from this post, we did make it out of Africa alive.  No pirate boarding or takeovers.

Don & Patti in Marrakech

The last tour day we had lunch at a hotel which was once a palace. This little room looked like where you’d go to smoke your hookah!

You might have also figured out that I am not going to be the head cheerleader for Silversea!  Oh hell no!  I wish the pirate fiasco and the lack of AC was our only issues on this “luxury liner”, but no…… those were just the tip of the larger-than-hit-the-Titanic iceberg. I’m not even going to mention the numerous small items, like Don finding a shard of glass in his lunch one day. We’ll overlook those “little annoyances.”

Silversea asked for feedback on the cruise, which I provided. Over 6 weeks ago.  Then followed up 2 weeks later- to make sure they had received it. Then again 2 weeks ago again.  No response in any way. Not even a form “we received your letter and someone will get back to you” canned response! The last time around we even spoke to Ricardo who booked our cruise, made him aware of our letters, and resent the correspondence to him directly.  He promised he would “pass it on to his supervisors.” That was 2 weeks ago, with no follow up from anyone.

I’m sure I’m not being ignored.  I think I’ve figured out the problem.  PIRATES!  The pirates probably boarded a Silversea ship which had a company meeting going on with all of the customer service personnel, the head honchos and the marketing people, and they are being held hostage RIGHT NOW!

Someone contact the authorities, and send out a search and rescue team!

Meanwhile, I’ll stick to my “non luxury” cruise lines, and I can get 12 -15 cruises for the money one Silversea cruise cost!  (Not to mention, I’ll have AC in my cabin!)

_______________________________________________I had to add on a little “follow up” addendum to this story. While writing it, I sent a second email to our Silversea representative, Ricardo, telling him how disgusted I was with their company’s total lack of customer service.  I will admit, this particular email was not full of unicorns, flowers and glitter. No, I wasn’t really my most nice on this round.  I did mention in it that I now submitted a review on my experience to cruise critic and that I was now in the process of writing an article for my lifestyle blog regarding Silversea and their Silver Cloud ship.

Miracles DO happen folks! Yessiree! Amazingly enough within a few days I actually received communication from Silversea’s Guest Relations department. They apologized for the lack of response, stating that my original emails were “caught in their spam system.”  OK, hold on here Frank…….. may I call you Frank, Mr. Sansone?  You are going to tell me that Silversea- a large corporation, has a customer service email system, which you ask passengers to send their feedback to (feedback@silversea.com) and when they do, it goes into your spam folder?  Now THAT is a clever way to set things up! Very helpful to all involved……. Of course there was no explanation as to why my letter to Ricardo hadn’t been responded to for over 2 weeks at this point either…….. hmmmmmmm. Maybe their employees letters ALSO go to spam. Again, a clever and efficient way to run things.

So, that all being said, with his effusive apologies- well, kinda- sorta’- this following line of the letter threw me off a bit- “We appreciate your candor in evaluating your experience aboard Silver Cloud which we anticipate will stand out in a positive way in terms of service and product.”  Perhaps something was lost in the translation of my letters when Frank read them, because I would think it apparent to all involved that Silversea, indeed did NOT stand out in a positive way in terms of service and product….. Oh my. Consistant.  At least they are consistent…..

So, in the end, what Frank offered us was some credit on a future cruise, an amount which is basically equivalent to an upgrade from one class of cabin to the next level. SERIOUSLY Frank? Oh, and the other detail is that we must use that oh-so-generous credit for travel within the next two years.  I’m pretty certain that we will be getting our calendars right out and check which of the Silversea cruises are going to fit in our travel schedule. Or………..maybe not.

And last, but certainly not least- the following video has nothing to do with the idiots at Silversea, or even me- but after my rant I thought you deserved a bit of fun- so watch this great video of a young man who has been to every country in the world (how does he do that at this young age?).  He shares some cute little ditty about every one of the countries he’s been to- because…….. as I always say- Every Day is an Adventure!