Friday, October 24, 2014

Catching you up

I keep meaning to write stuff here, and then I get busy, and then my computer time at home is way limited these days (as well as my TV-watching time, reading time, napping time, flute-playing time...), so more time passes between posts than I would like, but hey, that's life with a full time job, long, ugly commute, and adorable toddler. I get it.

Last Saturday, I took a self-defense class. My friend Marilyn notified me and my friends from flute choir that this thing was going on, thanks to her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta. I don't know much about her sorority except they like to wear purple, and that my cousin's husband's sister (?) is also a member. And, apparently they do a lot of great stuff for women and the community. Anyway, I've known Marilyn for a long time, this is the second time she's notified me of this type of event, and at the last minute Saturday morning, I decided to go.

(They were also collecting donations to Sojourn House, an organization for battered women.)

It was held at Kingi Kajukenbo Studio, a martial arts studio in Inglewood. There are details here that I just don't remember now, all of six days later (like, what type of martial arts they do, the names of the instructors we worked with...), but listen to me: I walked in that door totally nervous, unprepared for what was about to happen to me, and I loved everything I saw, heard, and did that day.

The session started out with a woman named Sa'ra (sorry if I got that wrong), who talked to us (it was a small group; me, Marilyn, and a few other women, mostly younger than me, I think) about domestic violence. She showed us some very short videos on her iPad that were touching, scary and heartbreaking. Can something be both touching and heartbreaking, or am I overstating it? Anyway, I had tears in my eyes. 

After that, we had to take off our shoes and get on the mat.

Okay, let's talk about this for a minute.

I was a band geek in High School, which means: I didn't take P.E. after the 8th grade. When I was in Middle School, most of my P.E. time was spent trying to get out of P.E. Any way possible. Poor Mses. Nestande and Tuggle probably thought I had the worst menstrual cycle of any teenage girl. Being in band meant I got to avoid that daily hell. I was not athletic, okay? I hate this stuff. My daily walking (my current goal is 11,000 steps a day, and I hit that... once in a while. My average is 9K) has been a little disrupted by some crazy back pain I've started having. So I was out of my element. Big time! But I took off my shoes and I stood there for a while and waited for stuff to get started. Totally freaking out. 

I said to Marilyn, who may not have understood the extent of my anxiety, "I am so nervous right now!" I positioned myself so that I was standing facing the portion of brick wall that wasn't covered with a mirror. I know I'm a dork, I don't need to see it.

Anyway, we started simply: how to handle someone who approaches and seemingly wants to mess with us: hands up, loudly say "Back off!" while backing away. We talked about how getting away from the situation is a really good first reaction. Then we practiced this. Marilyn was my partner, and pretended she was coming at me. I put my hands up, and said, "back off." 

You would not believe the effort it takes to raise your voice like that. At least, for me. Practicing this was really a great idea. We kept trying - and eventually I got it. "Back off!" Once I said "Back off, Marilyn!" which made us both laugh. If I'm ever attacked by somebody named "Marilyn," I'm all set. Or maybe I'll just say it to throw them off balance. Maybe "Marilyn" can be my power word.

Anyway, we worked on a lot of things, and all of them were shown to us in a fun way by the really kind and very talented (and, I have to say, extremely good looking) instructors. 

After all the training (among other things, I got to flip Marilyn off me - she did it to me, too - and that was really awesome) was over, we took pictures, and went home. 

The next couple of days I was very sore. Oddly, my back didn't hurt during the class. 

That's all for now. 

Friday, October 10, 2014


Allow me to apologize to poor, dear, dead Jeff Buckley, who has had to listen all week to me brutally butchering every song from his album "Grace" on my commute to and from work. I'm sure that Jeff, sitting up in heaven with my mom, enjoyed very much the story she told about the time she was left in my new house to clean the kitchen while my sister and I went to get lunch, and how the only CD I owned that interested her was his. The two of them probably laugh at my wild gesticulations and air drumming (but at least one of them must be proud when I hit almost every cymbal crash in "Lover You Should Have Come Over"), and cry over the fact that my voice will never ever match his. No one's voice will ever match his. Neither of them knew the beautifully sad and ultimately unknowable tall redhead who bought me that CD, or how when he kissed me on the beach in Malibu that one time (maybe it was two), we were both humming "Last Goodbye." My old boss once told me how she liked to listen to "Hallelujah" at top volume in her car, and I thought at the time that was a weird thing to have in common with her, but really, it isn't. His voice, his voice, his voice.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Things that happened today

I was working with my co-worker on the system we use for tracking FMLA. She's trained in FMLA, and I have slightly more experience with the computer system. We're a good team. Anyway, we were doing something, and the system, which doesn't always make your updates in real time, did something weird with the record she was working on. She made a comment, "Who designed this program?" that made me laugh.

She had said it in exactly the same way, when things weren't going her way during a Skip-Bo game, my mother would say, in mock irritation, "Who SHUFFLED these cards?" Most of the time it was me. But sometimes it was her. We always laughed about it. I told my co-worker this story. She loved it.

Later, another co-worker, sitting at her desk with headphones on, singing a bit tunelessly, also brought a story about my mom to mind.

When my mother first started chemotherapy, she didn't have Kaiser. At that time, she and my dad had some other health insurance that I've forgotten the name of. Maybe it was Health Net. Her oncologist's office was not very nice. I had a lot of complaints about this lady and her office. One of them was that I wasn't allowed to sit with my mom while she got her treatment. So I would take my mom to her appointment, and sit in the dirty waiting room. Sometimes there would be a movie on the TV - something horrible, and loud. Anyway, I'd sit out in the waiting room, try to read, and wait.

One day I was sitting there, waiting. The treatment room was behind a door and down a hall. It wasn't far. It was a small office. And I heard a sound. Someone was moaning. Crying? No. Someone - my mother - was singing. She'd taken her iPod into the room with her and was wearing her headphones, singing along with whatever Christian music she had programmed on that thing, but in a key that was all her own. That key maybe had four notes in it. All of them, terrible.

And she wasn't being quiet about it - mom was singing in full voice. I don't remember if there were other patients back there - I just remember cringing. My mom was hard of hearing, and couldn't hold a tune to save her life, but the woman loved music. She loved it. I hope I didn't give her too hard of a time about it later. I told my co-worker, the one who was singing a little better than my mom, how she had reminded me of my mother at that moment. I had to be careful - I didn't want her to think I was criticizing her singing. But man did it remind me of my mother. I sat down at my desk and cried a little, thinking about it. I smiled, too. God I miss her. I'd love to hear her awful singing voice one more time.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


I haven't posted much lately here, but I wanted you to know that on Sunday, July 20, 2014, my mother, Henrietta Casarez, passed away. She has been bravely fighting cancer since 2006, but in December of 2013, decided to stop all treatment and to rest with her family. She received the best hospice care from Kaiser, and even better care from (mainly) my incredible sister Angie, and my brothers. I'd also like to say that the services we received from Social Worker Emily Graham were excellent, incredibly personal, and very caring.

We are all still feeling the loss. It's a blessing to have each other, and our friends and family. Today, we received a very beautiful card from my mom's friend Kathleen. It touched us all. I'd like to share it with you. Kathleen hits all the notes my mother would appreciate, and I think her letter tells you a lot about Kathleen, and my mom.

Dear Bob, Danny, Andy, Angie and Irene,

My thoughts and prayers are with each of you individually and as a family! I truly will miss Henrietta, my dear and precious friend. Heaven will be our place of reunion with Jesus - Joy!

I know that Henrietta is in my eternal future and in yours too. Now, however, I cherish the wonderful memories I have of our of twenty-eight year friendship.

Since I have been in Arizona the past eighteen years, Henrietta and I have shared dozens and dozens of phone calls, letters, and cards, all of which have blessed me more than my words can express to each of you.

Talking by phone we would laugh over fun and silly things. We would reminisce and share sweet stories of how dear yet powerful God was in our lives in ways that were so awesome and amazing to us both. I would pray for what was on her heart and she would pray for what was on mine.

Even before her illness, she always shared with me how deeply she loved each of you, and, especially during her illness, how extremely grateful she was to have the loving devotion, care, and help from each of you.

When Henrietta would speak about her love for you all, and your love for her, it would overwhelm her to the point of happy tears! She loved you all with her heart, and with each prayer she prayed.

I often spoke to her about her courage, strength, and steadfast faith as did many others. She was a godly wife, mother, and Grandma! She was a spectacular friend to me!

Thank you so much for the timely communications through the gift of Caring Bridge.

I will miss Henrietta immeasurably and those loving phone conversations and special card exchanges. She is surely a one-of-a-kind treasure! I'm assured and comforted to know that she is with Jesus, and yes, she is in our future! I look forward to Heaven where I will enjoy her warm embrace, loving smile and wonderful conversation.

May you all be comforted in that promise as well.

Lovingly sent,

Monday, July 7, 2014


This morning, I was talking to my co-worker about some personal stuff. She's the woman training me in FMLA and she's a sweetheart - I hear her talking to employees on the phone all the time about their leaves, and she can be concerned and caring, as well as tough with these people. Some of our employees need the tough part more than the concern. Anyway, during our conversation, she made a comment to me about how I always seem so confident, and how "cute and professional you looked walking in here this morning." She knows I play the flute and she knows about my (meager) theater experience, but I think mostly she's basing this on a meeting we were in together, with our boss and the HR manager, when my job duties all changed. That day I was a little angry and concerned that I was being stepped on by upper management, and I was not in my usual meek little ol' me mode. I know her situation: she's incredibly knowledgeable about what we do, but this department has, for whatever reason, resisted updating her job title, which is significantly lower than mine. So here I am, the newbie, making way more, with way less knowledge and experience - it's an unfair situation. And I don't want to get stuck in the same predicament she has, when she eventually leaves. And she will, because she's great at her job and deserves more. Yet she's kind and helpful to me, and encouraging. Everyone seems to think (or at least hope) I have the chops to do this job, which every day sort of flummoxes me in new ways, and here I am, sort of bumbling along (in my head)... and then I find out that someone else (probably multiple someones) has a totally different view of me.

Anyway, I laughed, because recent situations in my personal life have made me realize that I have some work to do on the inside. I'm not going to outline this for you. I have sort of talked to a couple of people but talking about it now, here (and maybe, ever) would be too hard. So her comments, which seemed so off base and funny to me, either came at the exact right moment - whatever doubts I have about my abilities or my worth in this office (and anywhere else)... people don't always see that. The outside image, which hey, let's be honest, I'm not exactly relaxed about either, seems to translate into something else for them. This seems so obvious when I write it down, but I don't know: I guess I didn't realize.

I've been taking the time to read more. If you think this is off-topic, let me explain: I've been reading more, and really enjoying words again. Maybe I'm not very good at it, but great writing is out there, and when I find it, it's exciting. Some of my friends, even, write these amazing text messages or emails to me - I'm not just talking about literature or books. Obviously I feel a need to write things down, or this blog, as neglected as it's been lately, would not exist. I want to be better at it. I'm going to make that happen.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Actual Conversation

The other day, I was complaining to my boss and another co-worker about people who use their foot to flush the toilets in the ladies room at work. It grosses me out. Is the bathroom floor not the dirties place in the world? I think it is.

They recently installed low flow toilets and in addition, these fancy green handles. You pull up for no. 1, push down for no. 2 (it actually says that. There's a diagram and everything). Supposedly the handles are coated with some sort of antibacterial agent.

My boss was in agreement with me (that people should use their hand), but our co-worker said, "Listen. I'm going to be blunt. My foot doesn't have shit on it."

This seemed like some seriously flawed thinking. I said, "Did you walk through the parking lot this morning?"

She said, "Yes."

I said, "Hmm. I may have run over the remains of a dead animal on the road this morning. My tires were touching the ground. Perhaps you unwittingly walked through dead dog today? What else is on the ground?"

Your foot is way dirtier than my hand, lady. And those bathrooms are probably cleaner than her toilet at home. We have someone in there every hour, cleaning up... I don't really know what the point of this post is, I started it with something in mind but I seem to have lost my train of thought. I guess what I'm saying is, I think everyone should think like me, at least when it comes to flushing the toilet.

If you're gonna be a tiny dictator, this seems like a good place to start.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cutting a hole.

A few weeks ago, we checked out a book from the library called "The 108th Sheep." I chose it because I liked the artwork. I still had to do my read-through (after the incident when I checked out a really beautiful Caldecott winner - the illustrations were gorgeous - and it turned out that book was about killing bears) at the library, but I realized that it's just a sweet book about going to bed. Since that's when we do the majority of our reading, I thought this book would be perfect.

Here's the link to the book on Amazon.

The story is about a little girl who is having trouble falling asleep. After trying a few things, she decides to count sheep. She gets all the way to 107 sheep, but finds out that the 108th sheep can't jump over her bed. After working with the other sheep to help him, she finally decides to cut a hole in her very tall headboard. The 108th sheep makes it, and she (and all the other adorably drawn sheep) falls asleep.

This morning, Jules told Patrick that last night he "dreamed about cutting a hole."

Cutest thing I ever heard.