Sunday, December 31, 2006

Year in Passing...

So hard to believe today is the last day of Year 2006. It flew by seemingly faster than its predecessors. And with it, took along a few friends.

It's funny how celebrities affect us. For the most part, we don't know them, and yet when they pass away, the news of their deaths affects us as if they were our next-door neighbors. For me, those included Dana Reeve, Ed Bradley, and former President Ford.

Then there's the group of people you don't know, never met, and yet will never have a chance to. You read about them in the paper. Horror stories of how they were killed instantly in a car crash, suffered a stroke or heart attack, or a young child who lost their valiant fight with a disease no child should have to know about.

This year also marked the passing of more than few personal friends and associates. A gal I've known for years--an exercise enthusiast who thought she'd pulled a muscle in her back, but was gone from spinal cancer in a matter of months. A wonderful guy I used to work with who could (and would) always make you laugh--just 56 years old. A pilot friend of my family's who loved life to the max--started every morning out with a flight in his airplane (weather permitting, naturally), but one morning inexplicably had engine failure and crashed. Another family friend, also a pilot--we called him and his family "the All American family" because of the traditional way they celebrated all the holidays--lost his battle to cancer. And just yesterday, I learned about the passing of the father of a friend of a friend. I'd met this gentleman several times and loved talking with him. A professional chef, he loved my cupcakes--he rarely had high praise for food, but sincerely thought my contribution to the party fare was awesome. I'd been looking forward to seeing him again for the next Super Bowl Party...

As the years go by, we lose more and more people who have touched us, who are important to us, who leave gapping holes in our hearts when they leave. My "losses" this year were insignificant to the sadness endured by these peoples' families, and that fact is not lost on me. It is also not lost on me that life is very precarious, very short, and that because sadness is inevitable, time must not be spent needlessly on little grievances or petty problems. Sometimes easier said than done, but always worth reinforcing.

So, in closing, I wish you a fond, yet bittersweet, farewell Year 2006. You, and those that left with you, will never be forgotten.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Tap! Tap! I'm IT!...

So...the other day I am enjoying myself reading Blogger John's...well...Blog! And imagine my surprise when I see my name! (

It seems I've been "tagged"! So here goes! Try to stay awake...

Four jobs I’ve had:
Savings and Loan teller/Operations Supervisor
Assistant Escrow Officer
MRP Manager

Four Places I’ve lived:
Seattle, Washington
Palo Alto, California
Dublin, Ireland
Southern California

Four favorite foods:
Hmm..this one is hard!
Almost anything Greek...
All the "true" comfort foods like: mac and cheese, meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, pasta, bacon! Bacon! yum! Pizza!
All the great junk foods like: chips, nuts, cheetos!...yum! Cheetos! Pretzels! Popcorn... are we getting hungry yet??!!! Yeah!!!
And believe it or not...healthy stuff like salads, vegetables and fruits and milk and yogurt (Hey Santa! You bringin' me that yogurt maker I asked for??? Please?? Pretty please???) and homemade bread! Even better with homemade butter!!! (Gee, John! and Gail!! (who doesn't read this, I don't think...--you guys have made me really hungry now!)

Four movies I could watch over and over:
Okay. Another hard one cuz I go in phases with movies. I'll watch a ton in a row, and then won't go to the movies for a year or more. At this point, I can't remember the last time I went to the theater--it's probably been over a year now! goes:

The Cutting Edge... saw it about six times. "Toe Pick"...
Pretty Woman... there is just something so humorous and so touching about this flick...
The Natural... Robert Redford and an inspirational, true story about baseball...what more is there to say??
For Love of the Game... okay...there was a bit more to say...another baseball movie, another inspirational, true story. Guess I love all movies like this... anyone remember Chariots of Fire?

Four TV shows I enjoy:
I am not a huge TV watcher...but this season, two shows have caught my attention:
Men in Trees (Thank you, Tammy!!!)
Studio 60 (I think this show is very clever...)
Most everything on The Food Network...especially Barefoot Contessa and Alton Brown's Good Eats (Hey Santa...did you get the memo about that totally cool measuring cup like AB's??)
Some of the oldies that are no longer on (except in syndication), but I really enjoyed them the first time around like Friends, Cosby, Sex in the City, Mary Tyler Moore, Andy Griffith, Matlock, Newhart... It's interesting how these shows that were so contemporary in their time, are so timeless many years later...

Four places I’ve traveled:
France (my first venture was almost a spur-of-the-moment decision to tag along with my sister...and a trip I'll always remember...)
Ireland (it is just as beautiful as the pictures... the air smells so fresh and clean... even in the cities)
Washington (I love Washington...there is just something about it...)
Yellowstone (oh my gosh...just the most amazing much to amazingly awesome)

Four places I’d like to visit:
All 50 states (been to about half of them now...)
England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland
British Columbia and Nova Scotia (I keep threatening...someday soon I am gonna make it!)
Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Norway...(face it...a lot more of Europe)...and definitely Greece!

Four websites I go to (almost) daily:
Ah, man. I am so pathetic... ... gotta check those traffic flows...
Assorted Blogs
Assorted Email sites and Group Links
Assorted News sites (since I don't get a local paper anymore and the local TV news is just plain old annoying...there is this one weather gal who wears the SAME pants everyday...and they are like two sizes too small...I can't believe management doesn't get her some new ones!)

To pass this on (if anyone even shows up here):
Well, you all are safe! I am not taggin' no one this time around! Mainly...cuz I tagged ya all last time!!!! But hey...if you wanna tag me again...I'm game! Us Borin' Folk just love a chance to prove the point we are boring!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Can't Fight City Hall...

But you can fight the Post Office!

Last Saturday was a bad, bad mail day. Went to collect it, and there was the regular invoice from Toyota for the ol' Highlander. And there was also my November payment. Stamped: Addressee Unknown--Unable to Forward.

Addressee Unknown? Unable to Forward????

Surely Toyota Financial Services had not moved and had not bothered to correct their billing stubs. And why had it taken the Postal Service almost six weeks to return this to me? And...and...and... why were there black pencil marks through the coding on the bottom of the envelope... Closer inspection showed that my envelope clearly addressed to City of Industry, California had been traveling around Carol Springs, Illinois! Hope it had a nice tour!

Upon opening the current billing, there was no big surprise there: two months were now up or else!

So, Monday morning had me phoning Toyota, and speaking with a very nice customer service rep. She waived the late charges, but told me that unless they had the two payments in five days, there would be a bad mark on my credit report...and that while obviously it could be removed, it was a time-consuming procedure. So she recommended I overnight the payment to them.

Hmmm...a $14.40 Postal cover their error... Brooke was not a happy camper...

So...I trek off to the post office...never a fun thing to do on one's lunch hour...never a smart thing to do during the Christmas rush!

And stand in line forever...and finally get up to the front. I show the very nice clerk my envelope and he looks at it and says that's pretty weird. I tell him that since this was not my fault and that it took six weeks to return what was obviously a payment to me, and that since I now needed to send it overnight to City of Industry, that USPS should pick up the charge. Mr. Nice Postal-Guy grins and says he agrees, but he doubts they will. He offers to go and talk with a supervisor. You do that, I think...but wisely say: Thank you very much.

A couple minutes later (at least it seemed that long!), he returns and says that said super is gonna be out in a minute. So I wait...and wait...and wait... and then Mr. Supervisor arrives.

Things start out pleasantly enough. I state my case again. Show him the envelope. He peers at it. And announces that the envelope is not the proper configuration for postal standards to allow them to code it properly. That's why it was returned. And no. They will not pick up the $14.40 Express Mail charge.

What?? Excuse me?? What??? Not the proper configuration? Okay...give me a break here...

I have been using the exact same envelope now for almost four years...hundreds of thousands of people send payments to Toyota Financial Services using the same envelope. So I ask: You are telling me that everyone who made a payment to Toyota for November is getting their checks back six weeks later...and that from now...every payment sent to Toyota is gonna come I wave my December payment in front of him...

Yes, he says...

I am astonished at his reply. So I ask him: why did it go to Carol Springs, Illinois? Why didn't it just come back to me? And so 100,000 plus envelopes are going back to customers? I truly doubt this, I say.

He then asks me where I mailed the payment.

At his post office.

Oh. Not daunted...he says but your return address is in another city.

Like duh... I sorta patiently say: Yes...I live in that in this city (24/7 or so it seems...but I didn't go there...pat me on the back for my restraint!). And so yes...I send mail here...

Oh. He sighs. Just a second he says, and picks up the envelope and goes to the back.

A minute later he returns...and announces the obvious... Somebody miscoded the envelope not just once...not even twice...but three times. A truly mishandled piece of mail. He actually apologizes. And says that yes...they will be happy to waive the $14.40 Express Mail charge for me.

Woo Hoo! I fought the Post Office and won! And guess what! My Express Envelope actually arrived at its proper destination the next day...and Toyota posted the payment immediately... and Mr. Highlander is safe from nasty tow truck drives who moonlight as repo-dudes. can't fight City Hall, but sometimes you can fight the Post Office...Mr. Nice-Postal Guy was pretty impressed with my success! And so was I!

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Awww....the sweet sound of those slot machines ching-ing away...adding up dollar after happy dollar. The lights..sparkling and bright as bonus after bonus pops up on the screen... Awww, yes... Such was my experience last Sunday!

We had our annual Christmas party this year at one of the local Indian gaming casinos (although "local" is rather a relative term here since it is 55 minutes from my house on a very narrow, very curvy two lane (uh...would be one lane each direction...) highway during Santa Ana Winds of 30 mph with gusts higher...but hey! it was a party!). I was smart--I decided when the party was announced that I would stay overnight at the casino hotel. Now, where to begin this tale...

The hotel was amazing! Huge! Twenty-one floors overlooking the mountains. The room was luxurious with a huge bathtub, separate shower, very nice bed! (you know my obsession with hotel beds...), a couch and a chair... you get the picture: great accommodations! Could've stayed there a week...

My co-worker and I agreed to meet for lunch, get our rooms as soon as we could, and scope out the party area. Which we did. Lunch was yummy! The room for our party was nice and big and still in the process of being set up, and there were lots and lots of nickel-machines (my personal favorite!). I resisted the temptation to stuff a hard-earned bill down the throats of any of them. Instead I opted to spend some time in my awesome room.

The party started promptly at 5PM, and we arrived in all our holiday finery. Open bar! WaHoo! Long Island Iced Teas--the house specialty. Double Wa-Hoo! Dinner was delicious...a bountiful buffet.

Next was the Gambling Contest. Each employee received a $20 seed, and using only that seed money, could go out on the floor and gamble it away. The one who made the most money in 45 minutes would receive a nice prize. Off I went to search out the one nickel-machine "that spoke to me". It was quite a task, but I settled down at a Cheetah game. Plunked in my seed money. And began to watch it wither. Then it sprouted. And grew. And withered. And grew...and grew...and grew... Soon I had $125!!! Naturally this was when my department-mates arrived on the scene. "Cash out! Cash out!" they implored me. "You have just a couple minutes to turn in your total." Yeah, yeah, yeah, the gambler in me cringes. But I obey. And off we go, my ticket in hand (they don't use real cash these's all so modern...) in search of my boss. And sure enough...I am in the lead...but we had more than two minutes! So the runner-up trots her litte behind out to the floor...places a couple of bets...and voila! She's up to $134. And there is still two minutes left... (Longest two minutes I'd ever seen. Why can't two minutes be this long in the morning when I am running late... or this long when I wanna sleep in for just another couple minutes?)

Sadly..."my" machine was occupied...and so my total went the wrong way and dropped to $100. Ho hum. Time for another Long Island Iced Tea to wash away the discouragement of being second...

After the party, I ventured back to see if "my" machine was free...and it was!!! Stuffed my ticket back in... down to $75...down to $50...down to $20...Big tears are threatening... down to $10... suddenly...I hit 50 free spins! Now this has to be a good thing! And it was. The total began building. Ten more free spins... and building.... five more free spins...and building...and building...up to $225!!! "Cash out! Cash out!" my responsible department-mates yell. "Cash out, now!" So I do...

But then...they turn their backs on me... and lure is too great... I plunk back down in front of Cheetah (who'd doled out another $45 buck to someone in my absence...) and feed him another $20... Ten minutes later: $100!!!!

Woo Hoo! Now this is why I LOVE nickel-slots. And why I am very, very glad the casinos are 55 minutes from my home...up a very narrow, very curvy winding two-lane highway...

Saturday, December 02, 2006

You're Fired!...

That's right...after more than four years of membership in my first crit group, yesterday I was shown the door. The reason: lack of performance. Every month, each member must complete a critique of another member's work or be tossed out on her ear. I did not do a crit in November. Thus, December 1st, my butt felt the boot.

So yes, technically, I was justifiably axed. But there are always two sides to each story. There was nothing new to crit until the last day of the month. Oh yes, there had been one new chapter up for about four days the beginning of the month... the two times of the month I am never home before 8 or 9PM from the job that really pays me.

And therein lies the crux of the matter. Why is a volunteer crit group run like the coldest corporation around? That is notifies a member of long standing that she's out via a "form" email... No personal email asking if there was something going on in my life that rendered me quiet for the month. No waiting until December 2nd or 3rd to see if the weekend allowed time for critique of the new chapter that arrived mid-day on November 30th. Just a swift "you're outta there, baby!"

Of course, I am not so naive as to not realize that I was "dismissed" not because I didn't do a crit but rather because the owner of the loop no longer wanted me there. If it was solely because I missed adhering to one of the "rules and regulations", the group would be a lot smaller than it is today.

Actually, I don't really care that I was unceremoniously unsubscribed from the group. It long ago stopped being beneficial to me or my writing goals. What saddens me is that the callousness of being dumped without a "personal touch" is so indicative of how our society is becoming in general. No longer do we care about the other person's feelings or situations; no longer do we take the time to lend a helping hand whether it's actually jumping in and getting dirty ourselves or with moral support... unless it helps our own cause.

Sound cynical? Perhaps. Is it reality? At the moment, it sure feels like it. But I am also enough of an optimist to hope it's just a passing phase.

Bottom line here: Usually when one is shown the door, it is the best thing that could happen to their career. I'd been hanging around mainly for sentimental's hard to leave one of your first groups. But it was way past time for me to make that move. Now it's one less personal email I have to compose and write. And more time for me to write...and clean...and play computer games...and sleep... and cause mischief in general!