Sunday Funday Quiche Off

16 09 2013

I made it. All day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday without smoking a cigarette. Not gonna lie, there were times when I wanted to light one up, suck in the addictiveness and give in to my love-hate relationship with the tiny white stick. But I didn’t. I wake up each morning and my lungs say thank you for another 24 hours of clean air. It’s not easy but I’m noticing it is a lot about habit. It would be so easy for me to grab a cigarette from a pack and start puffing and regretting but when those urges come up, acknowledge them, embrace them, and try to figure out a substitute. Preferably one that won’t put the weight on because I can already see how substituting food or candy for cigarettes can be a bit of a crutch.

I just let out a long sigh but your couldn’t hear it because this is a text blog. That sigh was the release of another incredible day. A day filled with family and friends and games and conversation. Oh, and a Quiche Off between myself and my girlfriend, both of us virgin to quiche making. We shopped for our ingredients, prepped the food, and began creating our masterpiece quiches. We each made two with different ingredients and no one quiche was identical to the other. It was a nice, delicious variety from spinach, broccoli, bacon and cheese to asparagus, tomato and cheddar.

We invited family and friends to come over for brunch, complementing our quiches with mimosas and fresh fruit. The smell of sizzling bacon and baked egg and cheese permeated the air inside the house and teased the stomach. We decided we would pay attention to the responses and that would determine who’s quiche wins the Quiche Off. There were a variety of people with a variety of tastes and each of our creations were talked about. They loved them all. I watched everybody eat every last crumb off their plate, some even went for seconds. They were a hit. It was kind of hard to say who’s quiche was the best. I tried them all and each had a unique flavor I enjoyed. I walked inside to see what was left over and saw that there were 3 pieces left from each quiche. Nobody had anything left on their plate. I would say that this was a tie. It’s pretty cool too because it was something new for the both of us and we had an awesome Sunday brunch.

Quiche Off Part II….coming soon





I Quit Smoking Today

13 09 2013

Yes, I have officially declared out loud with my dog as my witness under the starry designs in the darkened sky, that I am going to no longer smoke cigarettes.

My aunt passed away this evening. She was my crazy aunt who I could always count on for honest, unedited advice; she was the one that would always make me laugh with her silly faces and her silly words; she understood things yet she still took chances and made changes and knew not to take life too seriously.

I was named after her. My middle name spelled just the same as her first name. Her daughter, only a few years older while her son a couple years younger spent summers and reunions together. I feel closer to them than I do my own brother, although there are days when I feel like he’s trying to maintain a sibling relationship.

I hate cancer. It killed my grandfather, it killed my grandmother just a month ago, it attacked my mom who is thankfully heading toward remission as I type this, and today it took my aunt away forever.

I know I’m going to research the hell out of cancer to see if I can get one up on it. I know there has been a lot of research done with this nasty disease so I shouldn’t have any problem finding information out about it. There needs to be some drastic changes for me. Starting with the cigarettes. Next, I’m going to be more conscious about my diet and I’m going to exercise twice as much as the minimal daily effort I normally put forth. I’m going to get in shape and beat this depression creeping up on me. There is too much that needs to be done.

When I went through my darker times with the person I no longer mention, I got to see firsthand what rock bottom really looked like. As I made what I hoped to be my final exit to that relationship (and later turned out that it was indeed the end) I fell in the arms of my parents of course, my biological mother, my aunt and my grandmother, all of whom took me in and got me back on my feet. I was stripped to the core and they mended me back together.

While I was staying with my grandmother, trying to find a job while saving some money from my unemployment checks, my aunt happened to be staying in town for a good chunk of time with my grandmother to do some mother-daughter bonding. They were taking a road trip for about a week and revisiting childhood places, old schools and neighborhoods along the way back home. I stayed by myself at my grandmother’s house, grieving over a failed abusive relationship, feeling completely vulnerable yet safe that I could sleep without worrying what was going to happen to me or what was going to set the bomb off today.

When they came back, we had several heart to heart talks about life and love and making the right decisions and having confidence in myself. There was this one particular day that my aunt and I spent the day running errands. She drove me around to get some errands run and then we made a few other stops during our outing.

We drove to the church that my grandmother attends and volunteers one day a week answering phones and doing office work. It’s the same church where my mom and my aunt were married at. It was in the afternoon in the middle of the week and nobody was in the sanctuary. They leave it open though for people to come inside to pray when they need to.

Inside the sanctuary, the sunlight shined through the stained glass windows that outlined the walls. The beautiful huge pipe organ that fills the air with music on Sundays. My aunt went up to the alter and began to pray. I remember this feeling I had while we were in there. It was like I was being hugged. I let my tears flow and got everything off my chest and out of my mind. At that time, my aunt had beat cancer and was on the road to healthiness and happiness. She knew how to prioritize and focus on the important elements of life. She had an awesome mission organization to help the orphaned children with HIV in Haiti. Together with her husband, they built hospitals, they taught, they nurtured, and they loved these kids as well as the many friends they encountered in Haiti.

When we were through saying everything we needed to say in the sanctuary, we then drove to the cemetery where my grandfather’s ashes were. My aunt lives on the west coast so it’s not like she gets to come visit every day. She loved and missed her father so much. She talked to his nameplate and told him about everything going on in her life with tears in her eyes. She talked about her grandchild and her kids and her daily endeavors. I thought that was so cool and it really touched my heart. We left some fresh flowers and headed back to my grandmother’s house.

My aunt told me how I looked better every new day. She told me that even though it was hard for me to get up out of bed in the mornings, and not because I was tired or hungover, but because I was depressed, still climbing up from rock bottom and I had a long way to go. But I was heading in the right direction. My aunt set some goals up with me and told me she was going to check in on me and see if I had made progress. We talked about me focusing on finding a job, my soccer coaching and my writing.

So, two months ago I watched my grandmother pass away on July 6th 2013, the day my grandfather was born and only a week shy from her 92nd birthday. My aunt was not able to come be by her mom’s side and with her brother and sisters due to her health. We Skyped with her so she could see her mom and tell her goodbye. There was about 15 minutes or so where it was just her in the room, on Skype, with the camera on the laptop facing my grandmother who’s breaths were already short with long intervals between them. We Skyped with her at the ash ceremony which she put together and carried out, the memorial service, and the reception that followed. We made sure she was there and as much a part of this celebration of her mother’s life as anybody else.

We just bought our first house and moved in the day before my grandmother’s service which was almost a month after she had passed. With siblings, family and friends coming from both the east coast and the west coast time was needed to make sure everyone could make it out. It was a beautiful celebration, just as my grandmother would want. We had so much family gathered in one place. We don’t get to see each other all together like that very often. So much has changed since the last reunion. My cousins all have children now for starters. It was a good time mixed in with the sadness.

Today is Thursday, September 12th, 2013. I was at work when I got the text from my mom that my aunt was in ICU going through her final stages. Having just watched my grandmother go through this I knew what that meant. At a little after 7pm eastern time, 4pm California time, my aunt passed away. She was surrounded by her daughter, her son, two of her sisters, one of which had just flown from Florida to spend her birthday with her, her devoted husband and his son from his previous marriage. His first wife died of cancer too. She was surrounded by love and for the ones like me that weren’t there physically, our thoughts were on her all day.

As I took a puff from my last cigarette before bed I knew that I needed to do something drastic. I’ve been in a funk lately and for good reason but I’ve got a lot of good going on in my life as well. I decided to quit smoking for my aunt. And my grandmother. And my mom, my dad, my girlfriend, my brother, my nephew, family, friends, people whose lives I’m going to touch in my lifetime, my dog, my bio-mom, and anybody who cares about me. It’s only dragging me down and I’ve been struggling with quitting. I’m ready to get out of my funk, start taking care of myself, finish editing my story which both my aunt and my grandmother loved, move toward my goals and just let myself be happy.

I declared this out loud. I made sure to get my dog’s attention and said it to her since she was the only one around. Today I quit smoking cigarettes.





Mother nature got a little rough with us today

24 03 2013

It’s crazy how powerful mother nature can be when she really wants to. After a busy Sunday morning, early afternoon thunderstorms passed through leaving behind a big mess. There were reports of tornadoes which have not yet been confirmed but after a walk in my neighborhood, it certainly looks like tornado aftermath damage.

What I found interesting was in my area, there were so many huge trees knocked down or uprooted and they all seemed to fall towards the road. I didn’t see much damage to homes other than a lot of fence damage. If these trees would have landed any in any other direction, there could have been so much more devastating damage.

This was a quick and sneaky storm.

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Lots of trees down.

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Smashed tractor.

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Lots of trees down, blocking streets and knocking down power lines.

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Huge trees knocked down.

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Tree blocking the road. This street actually continues down another half mile from where that green wall is.

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Uprooted.

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Saw a lot of this around the neighborhood.





The best way to make your dreams come true…

4 02 2013

Being creative until the wee hours in the morning.

Dream away.

Dream away.





Squirrels and the Dangers of Tightrope Walking Power Lines

11 01 2013

Have you ever been outside and witnessed a squirrel tightrope walking on a powerline? Almost every day I see squirrels doing these amazing stunts and often wonder how they do it. Their tiny little feet and claws gracefully scurrying across a thin, high voltage line, crossing over streets in what appears to be a very risky endeavor. I’ve seen a few slip but would quickly catch themselves and continue on. Most of the time they make it across to whatever destination they were pursuing.

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Picture © Paul Young 2008

The other day when I was walking my dogs in the morning before work like I always do, I experienced something pretty horrific and a little traumatizing. I can’t get it out of my head.

I have a routine with my dogs and that is they get a walk every morning before I go to work. It’s great exercise for me too and really wakes me up and I feel better knowing the kids got to enjoy some semi-fresh air and a little exercise before I leave them for a day of work.

Ever since the holidays it’s been harder for me to get up as early as I would like. Each morning they get walked at different times. Sometimes early, sometimes later. This particular morning I was struggling with getting up. So their walk was just slightly later than the average.

We made it around our 1.5 mile loop and were coming down that last long stretch that dumped us out on our street. Throughout the walk we encounter other dogs walking with their owners, lots of cats that either scurry away when we approach or tense up in a ball and stare us down with evil glares, several squirrels that like to race us along the top of the wooden fences, lizards, birds, etc.

As we were walking down the sidewalk, I was keeping my Boxer mix puppy under control as she was getting excited about a cat sitting in this neighbor’s driveway. All of the sudden I heard this noise. It sounded like a splatter, one I’m oh too familiar with. This sound reminded me of my childhood days when I used to skateboard and rollerblade. There was always that one stick or rock that would get under my wheel and cause my wheel to lock while my body continued with its forward momentum. Then I would slap my body onto the concrete sidewalk, face first, sometimes catching myself with my hands or knees. It wasn’t the greatest feeling in the world. Who am I kidding, that hurt like a bitch. I recall several accidents resulting in me falling and smacking myself hard onto the concrete.

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When I heard the sound I thought to myself, “Was that? No, it couldn’t be. But that sound.” I felt it was something more than an acorn or bird poop. It was more of a splat than a splatter. When I turned to check it out I was horrified. Only a few steps behind me on the sidewalk lay a squirrel, flat on its stomach and face. I watched for a second to see if it was alive and I saw some movement. My heart went out to this thing. It must have fallen from a powerline or tree or something. The crazy thing is if I was 10-15 seconds slower it would have landed right on top of me or one of the dogs. I kind of wish it did because it didn’t look like it was doing well on the sidewalk.

I thought maybe it broke its neck or seriously injured itself. It was barely moving until I started walking back towards it. I wanted to help it if I could, and yes, I was planning on scooping it up and taking it to a vet if it was still alive. When I took a step towards it, it started to crawl a little. Its hands looked a little funny, like they were broken and weren’t working properly. This squirrel still tried to crawl, dragging its body to the edge of a yard.

I didn’t want to scare it but I had my two big dogs with me, both very interested in the squirrel now. I couldn’t just leave it because I thought time was of the essence. As the three of us approached, that squirrel quickly recovered and skipped on through the chain-linked fence to the base of a nearby tree where it sat for a few moments. I imagine it was trying to recover and stay safe. I was still a little worried since that cat next door looked like he was ready to prowl. I walked up to the fence with the dogs and the squirrel scurried up the tree, holding on without any difficulties. It seemed as if the fall didn’t hurt it that much. It was lucky this time.

That sound still haunts me because it originally appeared that the squirrel was dead and that made me sad for a moment. Oh, well. Happy endings rock!





Driving to work on a Wednesday morning

19 09 2012

Today I managed to drive to work without getting pissed off at other drivers. I kept calm and cool. Very proud of myself because you see, I was running a little late already (fairly typical of me) and every morning when I leave my neighborhood I have a choice between turning left and taking the back roads to work or turning right and taking the highway (Not to be confused with the high way). Its arguable as to which way is quicker. Each morning I set out to time it and I only get so far before I get distracted and forget what time I started or just forget I was trying to time it all together.

This morning the forces were out to get me. They were out to test my patience and temperament. It started out as soon as I made my decision to take the highway, which I’ve only just started taking recently because I swear the other way was faster. So I get onto one of the roads before reaching the highway and its backed up and not moving. I’m finally able to inch up close to a side road which will get me through to the next road I need. After two or three stoplight changes I was able to turn onto that side road. I drove through the back roads and made it to the road I needed. That too was backed up. Now I’m stuck on the road I need to take to get to the highway and it’s completely stopped. Didn’t loose my cool. Kept telling myself that I’m not going to be too late for work and there wasn’t anything else I could do about it at this point.

This is how happy I was trying to be on my way to work.

After a few minutes I finally made it up to the stoplight and of course got the red light as soon as I approached. No problem. Still calm and collective. Kind of expected that actually with the way my stoplight karma is. I’ll explain that at another time. The light turned green and the cars were moving, pushing me closer to the highway. The flow was nice and I make my way onto the highway. There were a lot of cars but the flow was still nice. I sped past some cars to merge into the lane in the direction of work. The highway was a smooth ride. I approach my exit and was able to barely make it through the green light. Once I turn right onto the next road I have to almost immediately encounter another stoplight. I’m always hoping to get the green left turn arrow but it doesn’t happen too often. That light is also a curse to me, now, because I got busted running a red light from one of those intersections with the cameras. That intersection annoys me and makes me so paranoid.

So I turn onto the road and come up to the stoplight just in time to watch it turn from green to yellow to red. Of course I didn’t try to make the yellow-orangish light because of what happened to me last time I tried to catch it under the unspoken theory that if you cross over the line while the light is yellow and happens to turn red before you make it through the intersection all the way then you technically did not run a red light. That unspoken theory was wrong. $158 dollar lesson learned. Now i’m sitting at the light. Waiting. Still keeping my cool. Not letting stoplights, traffic, people cutting me off, people driving slower than me, nothing was going to steal my peace away this morning.

After that light there are three more lights I must pass through before turning into my work building. The first one I approach, red. Wait. I start driving behind slow people in the right lane because if I drive in the left lane it’s more of a pain for me to check traffic in the right lane which I will eventually have to switch into. Reason being, I still haven’t replaced my passenger side view mirror that’s I broke years ago. Yes, I procrastinate too. Next light is coming up and it’s just turning red. Still not bothered.

I continue through the light and approach a school bus picking up kids with its flashing stop signs stopping traffic. I stop and wait. I did almost have a thought of these kids moving slow and steady so it would take longer before the bus driver removed the flashing stop signs but I quickly jumped back to the fact that I’m almost at work and I was going to have a good, productive day.

Once the bus started moving again, we all did the same. I approached the last light before work and it was also red. But this light changes pretty quickly so I was still cool. I’m about to turn into work but noticed a man on his bicycle riding beside me, in the road of course and not on the sidewalk. Not that it would matter because he was exactly parallel with me. I slowed down and waited for him to pass before turning into work. Parking was a piece of cake and I made it in before final call. Now there’s a story with a happy ending.





To blink, or not to blink: Turn signal etiquette 101

18 09 2012

I’ve come up with this awesome idea that will save us money individually and as an economy. I can’t believe nobody else has come up with this idea. It all started when I began to notice something repeatedly happening whenever I was out driving. You see, my dad is a play-by-the-rules type of guy. I love and respect him for that. It’s a very admirable quality. When he was teaching me how to drive, he taught me the ins and outs, the dos and dont’s.  Hands at 10 and 2, eyes on the road and constantly check the mirrors, always be aware of who and what is around you. If you miss your turn, don’t slam on your brakes and make everybody pay for your mistake, even if you have to go a little out of your way, it’s the right thing to do. The respectful polite thing to do maybe. He taught me to use my blinker when turning or wanting to switch lanes. This is to let people know you want to switch lanes or that you’re turning a certain direction, out of respect and safety and because it’s the law.

What i’ve noticed is that very few people use their blinkers anymore. It’s a rarity when I see that flashing signal indicating someone actually flipped that mechanism on their steering wheel to let other people driving their 3,000+ pounds of heavy steel know that you plan on switching over into the lane they are approaching you in or that you may be turning soon and slowing down would be the safest thing for everyone.

Nope, blinkers aren’t something people take seriously. Now, it’s either we’re plain lazy and don’t want to exert the energy to turn the blinker on or we’re just inconsiderate, self centered and don’t have a care as to what is going on outside our own little world or maybe it’s because we hate people and enjoy pissing them off. I’m sure there’s more reasons other than what I listed but those are my primary ones.

Sometimes I am lazy and don’t want to signal. Usually, though, when I don’t use my signal it’s because nobody is around me or I’m paranoid that if I signal, everybody will then speed up and try to get past me pacing the distance between the car in front of them perfectly so I can never switch lanes and must wait and get at the end of the line. I guess it’s fairly normal to expect to have to go to the back of the line when you step out of the line you were  in.

Anyway, I’ve witnessed this many times. I notice somebody wants to get over because they actually used their blinkers. People come up from behind and speed up, closing in on the gap between the car in front of them. Other cars approach and the cars seems to be driving at the exact same speed, not creating any room for the person to get over. Now if this person were not to use their blinker and just wait for the gap and squeeze in, they would get in a lot quicker. I know there are some people that pay attention and courteously allow enough room for the person blinking ever so nicely to come into their lane. Kudos to you. I do this most of the times. I feel that if your nice enough to give me the heads up as to what you’d  like to do, and it won’t disturb my flow too much, then by all means, come into my lane. But don’t just push your way in without a signal or signal and expect me to let you in right away. If I can I will. But just because you turned your signal on, doesn’t mean you have the right of way.

Same goes for turning. It’s a freaking courtesy. Let the person behind you know that you are turning so they can either slow down or switch lanes and go around you. Not signaling for a turn is like falling and pulling somebody down with you. It’s so selfish and blatantly disregards other driver’s interest and well being. I personally would love for the person behind me to know to slow down and not hit me because I’m about to do an abrupt turn and I shouldn’t expect you to be able to read my mind and know what I’m about to do next.

And if you really want to get me going, while you’re driving down the center lane of a 3-lane highway, use your signal and let me see this blinking light proudly announce that you will be getting into the right lane. I will smile and sing your praises, overwhelmed with the respect and acknowledgment of somebody other than yourself. And then, as you approach that right turn area that you said you were heading, you instead turn left with the right blinker still flashing. I would rather you not blink at all. That is lazy and absent-minded and who wants to be on the road with an absent-minded person who at any given moment may be thinking about something other than driving down the road. Ever heard of road hypnosis. I’ve had it happen to me before. That can be for another blog topic.

If we aren’t going to blink properly or at all then why have blinkers. Why pay the extra money, when purchasing a car, for something you’ll never use? Wouldn’t rather have that money in your pocket or towards something else? The material that makes blinkers, the bulbs, the fuses, everything can just disappear. If we really need to signal there is always your arm and hand. Cars will be cheaper, road rage will decrease because now there no expecting courtesy from other drivers, just look out for yourself. It’s a win-win situation.

If you think I have some serious issues then you’re probably right. You see, I’m traumatized from cops giving me tickets for things everybody and their mom do on a daily basis. Like not using your turn signal. Yes I was pulled over for not using my turn signal when merging from the center median lane into the regular lanes. I signaled to get out to the middle of the road from the stop sign I sat at but my blinker turned off and I didn’t turn it back on to continue in the direction I wanted to go. It was after work and I was ready to go home and relax. I thought that was a petty ticket but it taught me to use my signal. It also created an issue for me I’m just beginning to realize.

Sigh.