Saturday, December 3, 2011

Do cats love us and do they know that we love them?

Some people will say that cats do not have emotions like humans. I say they do, maybe not as advanced or as sophisticated as human emotions, but I think they do.


But love? 

Love means having the ability to make sacrifices for the loved one. Do cats do this? If cats do love us, it would mean they are self-aware. Animals act on instinct, especially when it comes to self preservation, and they would have to rise above that instinct to really love as we understand the term. I know that dogs have done this. But cats? Maybe.


I do think cats love us in the sense that they can be loyal, affectionate, jealous, and sometimes even protective. I know of cats attacking burglars, waking their owners in the middle of the night when the house was on fire, moving their kittens out of harm’s way, etc. But I think this is the exception rather than the rule. 


Would my wonderful fur-babies rescue me? I don't know. They gently pat and touch my face in the early morning hours to wake me for their breakfast. Would they do that if the house was on fire? I'd like to think so. 


Cats do love us in their own limited way, I think they love their owners inasmuch as they are capable. I do believe that they know we love them. I'm pretty sure of that--to the extent that they understand it; i.e., trust, security, affection, food, warmth, and so on.


Still, the animal kingdom continually amazes me: The bird flying to his mate's side after being hit by a car, dogs and cats nursing fur-babies of another species, elephants recognizing each other after 20 years absence, Koko's devotion to her kitten, and the sadness and grief she exhibited after the kitten was tragically hit by a car. And how about whales and dolphins saving drowning victims? It makes one ponder what it means to love. 

So do our pets love us? Yes, I think they do--in their own way. Do they know we love them? Of course.

Of this I am certain: They know us better than we know ourselves. I know my Nellie, Littlebit, Tigger, Tootsie, and Lucy all love me. I know my wonderful mare, Beauty, loves me. I know because I love them and I would never, ever hurt them. They know that. They trust me. They come when I call them. I feed and provide a home for them. They seek me out for affection. 

Here's another thing I know for sure: If you want an animal to fear you, abuse it. If you want an animal to trust you, take care of it, love it and keep it safe. There is no greater satisfaction than loving an animal that loves you back

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Balance

A friend said that I needed to exercise more 'balance,' in my life, which is what this blog is about. I thought about it. I've made sure to include rest (check), fun activities (check), spiritual (check), balanced diet (check), friends/family quality time (check)...so what gives? Why do I feel so stressed out?

Let's just say that you can live a BALANCED life if all elements are equal. Let any ONE of those things get out of balance and guess what? Does life compensate for loss? Sometimes it does, but most of the time it does not. Loss is, well, loss. Gone. With the wind. Hubby lost his business in the recession and our income has not been the same, yet our outgo seems to remain as it was. WHO is going to balance that and/or HOW?

I understand the 'easy' fixes... the things people say to 'make it all better,' the platitudes repeated by well-meaning people who don't really have an answer or a solution to their own problems, let alone yours or mine. But platitudes and good tidings just don't work for some folks who are still struggling and have little to look forward to except maybe being able to BALANCE the bottom line at some point in the future.

I am beyond working a full time job. I have always been a very generous person (so has hubby), but we are both beyond being able to help out friends and family like we used to. I have to face it. I'm a senior citizen who is trying to BALANCE everything economically and still trying to enjoy life without being a burden on others.

I am, however, very thankful for many things. As I write this, everyone in the family is basically healthy (so far), we are still planning our camping trip, and we can meet most of our expenses. We have to juggle a bit, but we're still eating healthy. I just wish we could return to the 'old' days before the recession brought us to our knees.

So, maintaining some kind of BALANCE is a little dicey these days. I make sure the absolutes are covered, but hey, I've reached the age of eligibility for SSI, which will kick in soon.

They say life is hard and then you die. Geez. At this age I already know that life is hard...but it has also been fun, fulfilling, awesome, exciting, and then some. I just wish that the recession would go away. Better yet, that I could win the lottery. Now THAT would really balance the scales, wouldn't it?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Special Days

Greg and Russ (about 1979)

Yesterday was a special day--Mother's Day. It is the one day set aside every year to honor and remember our mothers. Everyone has a mother, but not everyone can be or is a mother. 

Giving birth does not grant a woman the right to be called 'Mother,' either. It is a biological process that is necessary to propagate the species. We all get here because of our parents. Birth is merely a vehicle.

That said, there is more to being a mother than just giving birth. The urge to nest is very strong in most women. Women are nurturers and homemakers. Their biological role is to ensure that children brought into the world will survive, and survival requires certain things. In ancient times, women sought stability--a supply of food and protection against the elements and invading enemies. Women cannot hunt and rear children at the same time (we're talking ancient times here), so they relied on the men to do the dangerous job of hunting while they sowed the corn and tended the fires and raised the children.

Until the mid-Sixties, women basically kept and managed the home, cooked, cleaned, and raised the children. But their day did not stop just because the clock struck 5 p.m. Never mind the fact that they had already put in a full day, they still had lots of work to do before being able to 'call it a day' and run off to their Calgon baths. Motherhood was a sun-up to sun-down job. Few husbands actually helped out around the house, either, because that was 'women's work.' Their jobs usually ended at 5 o'clock.

So women began to prepare themselves for jobs and careers. The timing was good, too, because in the early Seventies, we had rampant inflation, long lines at the gas stations, and high unemployment. Whether we women wanted to or not, many of us went to work--not just to have our own careers, but many of us had  to help out financially at home. Of course, this caused some major shifts in the family unit. Men felt emasculated because they were no longer the 'breadwinners,' and 'latchkey' children often came home from school to an empty house and no cookies and milk on the table. Carefully planned and prepared dinners morphed into take-out from McDonald's or came out of a box, like  Hamburger Helper. Believe me, I know. I was there.

As a young woman, I was very idealistic. I wanted the 'traditional' values of home and family, while at the same time I also wanted a career as a journalist or history teacher. The Women's Movement was touting we 'could have it and do it all' and I believed it. I wanted to go to school, but I got married thinking I would always have time to pursue a career. So I put college on hold in favor of starting a family. It was very soon after that when the proverbial sh*t hit the fan and the decision to go to work was made for me. I had to leave my child at home in the care of others. (There are some BAD memories here).

It tore me apart.

I was fortunate in one area, though. I was fairly well educated and a fast typist. I rose up the ranks of my clerical job. I had to. By that time, my husband was unemployed but attending junior college. Someone had to 'bring home the bacon,' so I thought, "Okay, as long as he is pursuing an education, then better times are ahead."

Wrong. My husband dropped out of school.

Through my uncle, who was an ironworker, my husband got a union job in San Leandro. We moved to the Bay Area and things were good for a while and hope for the future was restored. I had my second child. Soon after that (1972), the bottom fell out and my husband was laid off. We moved back to Sacramento. He was unemployed for a total of five years. I was still expected to bring in a paycheck to support the family, so I went back to work while also attending college (I inherited the G.I. Education Bill due to my father's death in Korea, which brought in a few more bucks).

Motherhood is not always what it's cracked up to be, whether it's by choice or not. Betty White recently said in her memoir "If You Ask Me" that she knew she couldn't be a mother and have a career too, so she opted out of motherhood in favor of her career. Bravo! Some of us didn't have that choice--we were forced to make decisions that forever changed us. For me, it was tough economic times and a lazy husband that launched me into the workforce. I guess I just made the wrong choice in husbands.

I never got to be a journalist or a history teacher. Although I went to college, I never finished. I had more important things to do, like work full time to keep a roof over our heads. There's a lot more to this story, but suffice it to say that my husband put us all in jeopardy by raising cannabis in the front yard of our home. We lived in a rural area with lots of vegetation and even I overlooked it. But this was only ONE of the bones of contention that tore our family apart. Although I could have picked a better spouse (I'm not very good in that department!), I couldn't have had two more beautiful sons--and they are worth every sacrifice I made to have them.

With that in mind, Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I miss you terribly. You always calmed my troubled waters, were always there to encourage and inspire me, and always gave great advice. I miss your stories, your smile, and your laugh, and I think about you every day.

There's still a lot of life in this ol' girl. I'm 62 today and thinking about the rest of my life. I still have a few options. School might be one of them. We'll see.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Focusing on the Positive



It’s been a long time since I posted—sorry ‘bout that. Suffice it to say that I’ve been busy, like everyone else, with the holidays and such. I just ‘crashed’ in January, trying to get my feet back under me. However, new health issues cropped up (nothing too serious) and all I can say is that it’s not fun getting old. Besides that, my ‘golden’ years have turned to tin, what with the economy and all, but I guess that’s true for just about everyone, my age or not.

I’m coping, though.

Putting on a smile and adopting a positive attitude helps. Helping others helps. Being a friend when things aren’t so rosy is much better than a ‘fair weather’ friend who only turns up when things are going great. In this day and age, it is important to be positive and to surround yourself with positive people—people who support you in whatever you do.

That’s why I love my writers’ group, the Writers Resource Center. It’s full of great, upbeat, positive folks who just love to write. We support each other, too, whatever the genre. We’ve got poets, non-fiction writers, fiction novelists, children’s book writers, people who write romances, memoirs, and inspirational books.

The WRC started in 2003. I am one of the charter members. I became the VP early on, assisting Janie Bess, our founder and president, in getting the organization going. Eight years later, I'm still on the Board (as Secretary) and we now have about a dozen published authors (including me)!

We meet on the 2nd Saturday of every month, except for July and December. We figure folks are pretty busy around those months with vacations and holidays and all.

Yesterday I was responsible for holding the monthly meeting. According to everyone's feedback, it was one of the best. The subject? Well, I called it Basic Training (a sort of writing ‘boot camp) and geared for beginning writers. I helped the participants identify their strengths as writers, covered a few of the big writing pitfalls, a little grammar (including active vs. passive writing and adverb abuse), and the difference between "telling" and "showing"—a biggee for writers of all genres and categories. Through a few well selected exercises, I helped them take their writing from flat and lifeless (telling) to better ("showing" using active verbs), to glorious (by learning how to use verbs with more impact). It was fun for me and, I think, fun for them, too.

Too bad we only had 12 or so people. But, hey, that’s okay. I plan on giving another class in the fall, maybe something a little more advanced.
Afterwards, we held another meeting on organizing a marketing cooperative. Marketing our books is expensive and time consuming. We talked about pooling our resources and our time and how we could make our marketing dollars go a LOT farther. Who came up with this idea? Me. Who do they want to run it? Me.

Geez. I’m already on the Board and committed to 2 meetings per month (regular and Board), but to chair the Marketing Committee, too? Mmmm. I don’t know. Maybe for a little while, but I’m already busier than a one-armed paper hanger!

The point I’m trying to make here is that everyone needs help these days.
Don’t ever think for a second that everyone is doing hunky-dory. We all need to hear the ‘kudos’ and ‘great job’ and ‘you’re gonna get there, just keep doing what you’re doing.’

Everyone needs a cheerleader.

I have friends who are losing their homes, losing their jobs, running out of their unemployment benefits, or are suffering through major health issues. The dollar continues to decline and is worth less than ever before. Fuel and food and utilities are gonna go up in price . . . some say 20% while others say much more. Yikes!

I could easily focus on all the bad stuff and get depressed, but why? Some famous (or infamous) new-age philosopher said it best: It is what it is.

Some things I have control over and some I don’t. So, for now, I choose to focus on the positive and count my blessings.

So I can’t complain. I’ll cope with whatever comes up, but in the meantime, I’m gonna try to enjoy my life as much as possible and concentrate on the things I can control.

Even though life throws a curve . . . even though it can, indeed, be shitty, be happy anyway. Smile anyway. Look for the silver lining. It doesn’t hurt. Even though a smile is a small thing, it is powerful--it helps uplift you and everyone around you. So, if you can help others in any way, do it! Don’t give in to commiseration, complaining, and nay-saying. Stay positive. Give others whatever emotional support you can, even if it’s just a smile and a kind word.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thanksgiving


Hi Everyone,

It has been a while since my last post because 1) not much has happened, and 2) I haven't been, as they say, 'feeling it' lately.

Let me explain: Like most everyone else, hubby and I have been affected by the great recession of 2008. Not only did hubby lose his business and better than half our income, we lost about 35-40% of our savings, which was in the form of mutual funds. And, also like a lot of folks, we are upside down in our mortgage.

We've been trying to get refinanced since November 2009 when President Obama created the Making Home Affordable Program to help homeowners (like us) who are 'under water' with our mortgages. Although our loan is through ABN AMRO, it is serviced by CitiMortgage. Suffice it to say that we did everything we could to satisfy Citi's requirements, yet we were denied six months later because we put our tax return (the first one in 20 years!) in our savings account.

Okay... so then they put us in their "Workable Solutions" program. Although we were miffed about being disqualified for the HAMP, we were okay with filing for the in-house program. However, Citi is, apparently, inundated with refinance requests and just as inundated with incompetent people who lose or misplace documents, jump to conclusions concerning our interest (because they could not reach us via phone? In the middle of July?), and give us wrong phone or fax numbers causing a lot of confusion and misplaced documents (they have done all these things). Also, it seemed as though they were using a script when they spoke with us. They would put us off, patronize us, and apologize to us--all while being very polite, of course, but very effective in delaying the process.

We hired the Krup Law Gruop out of Newport Beach to help us. It cost us some money, but hey, they are attorneys, right? Surely they could work some miracles, or at least get someone's ear and help to make us a deal, right?

Wrong.

We were denied for the HAMP for a second time (this, although the folks at Citi said we were eligible in November 2009). So we again started in the "Workable Solutions" program on September 28. We are still waiting for a negotiator to be assigned, and it is December 8, 2010 as I write this.

Now I worry if we're being scammed by our attorneys who advertise that they specialize in home loan remodifications. They've been in business for 37 years with zero complaints--at least that's what their website says. I checked it through the California Bar Association, and they're legit. But still I wonder...

I'm bummed. This whole thing has put a real damper on my holiday spirit. But I do have a backup plan. I am not moving. I am not giving up ONE thing. Nothing. Nada.

However, since Thanksgiving, I have been doing a lot of reflecting on things in general.

There are a lot of folks who have lost their jobs, their homes, and/or their health. Fortunately, I am not one of them. Hubby was 'ready' for retirement when he lost his business--we just weren't fully prepared for that event. We are still in our home and we will remain here. And lately, I had a couple of health scares, but tests showed that I was, indeed, healthy. So even though it seems as though we've been paddling upstream, things are basically okay. I can't really complain.

Hubby is finally healthy again, after getting all his medications sorted out. He was having some trouble earlier this year, but he is doing everything he used to do--golf, walking the dog, puttering around the house, etc. So I am very thankful that he is doing so well. After he lost the business, his health started to spiral downward. Now two years later, after several procedures, a pacemaker, and some new medications, he's like 'new' again!

One thing I am enormously thankful for is the fact that my friend and sister, Raymona, has been blessed with a great new job. It is the kind of job one would hope for, with career opportunities, upward mobility, and benefits. Thank goodness for friends, because it was through a friend who was able to extend the opportunity to Raymona. She will start working as a laboratory technician trainee at the end of the month! Yay! Congrats, Raymona, you deserve it!

Then there's my wonderful mare, Beauty. Her proclivity to crippling laminitis has been controlled through her diet. She is taking a few supplements (5,000 units of Vitamin E, a pro-biotic, an anti-inflammatory, and thyroid medication). She eats a half flake of soaked hay every night, otherwise her diet consists of about 12 pounds of LMF Complete (a nonstructural carbohydrate for horses who cannot handle the carbs). She's also lost about 120 pounds. She looks like a lean, mean, equine machine.

That is, until a few days ago.

Somehow, her exuberance in the round pen resulted in an injury to her right front heel--probably an overreach after slipping in the mud. Poor baby. She's having trouble walking, but at least I know it will heal eventually.

And there are my kitties. Littlebit had a severe cough for over 3 weeks when I decided to take her to the vet. He reminded me that she has some kind of asthma (I forgot because it only happens around this time of the year) and so gave her both an antibiotic and cortisone. She's all better now. All my 'babies' are just fine, too. I am very thankful for that.

Then there's Cricket, the barn cat. I don't know if she'll ever fill out completely, but there's a bulge now where there were only ribs before. Jan and I took her to the vet for a check-up and he said she was in pretty good shape, except for the herpes virus in her eyes (not contagious to humans). She has a skin allergy (probably fleas), so he gave her a cortisone shot, a worm pill to get rid of any tapeworms, and an application of Frontline to control fleas. We started Project Cricket on October 21 and it has only been within the last few days that she has been eating only one can of Friskies in the morning and one in the evening. For a while, she was putting away twice that amount, and sometimes more! Maybe she is starting to level out. In any case, she's doing very well. And I am very thankful for that.

However, there are a lot of things going on in our world that I am truly unhappy about, especially the animal abuse... the destruction of habitat, killing of our wildlife, many of which are endangered, the treatment of our farm animals, etc. I used to be able to give something to the various humane groups and organizations, but this year we are counting our pennies and trying to hang on to what we have. This makes me sad. But I am thankful that there are others out there who also hold dear other, non-human creatures.
This is my last post for the year. See y'all next January!
Have a very Merry Christmas and a safe, happy, and prosperous New Year!



Thursday, November 4, 2010

When I Grow Up . . .


Do you remember what you wanted to be when you grew up? Fireman? Spy? Nurse? Cowboy or Cowgirl? I’ll bet you wanted to be one or all of these things at one time or another. For some, it all depended on which TV program was most popular at the time. Maybe it was Ben Casey, Bonanza, The Man from UNCLE, or Emergency! you watched when you were younger. Me? I can’t remember what my favorite shows were. I was too busy reading.

There was a time when I wanted to know EVERYTHING. And to me, that included history, especially the early civilizations like Egypt, Greece, Rome, and the early formation of the European countries. I read everything. And I do mean everything—good and bad—even The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon (yes, I know it was inaccurate and fraught with bad info…but I read it back when it was accepted as the real thing). Charlemagne was one my all-important historical ‘heroes.’ So was Herodotus, Aeschylus, and Pericles (and many more). Each were different. Herodotus was the historian, Aeschylus a writer of plays, and Pericles, the builder of Athens. I had no real Roman ‘heroes’ except for Marcus Aurelius who was responsible for what is known as the golden age of Rome. I also studied the world religions. This was on my own, without urging from my teachers.

That explains why I wanted first to be a teacher of history.

Then I decided that I didn’t just want to be a historian, but a writer-historian, like Herodotus. Because my interests were history and writing, I turned to journalism, at my stepdad’s urging. He encouraged me to study French (the diplomatic language of the time) which I did. Together we laid out a plan for my life: After being a news journalist and foreign correspondent for a few years, I would then teach history. Yes! My future was ‘set.’ This was all decided in my Freshman year in high school—at the tender age of 15. I would major in history and minor in journalism. In my Junior year I began to research possible colleges. I considered Penn State, UCLA, and the University of the Pacific in Stockton. In my Senior year, however, I applied to the University of Beirut, Lebanon (because they spoke French and specialized in ancient civilizations) and was accepted. Unfortunately, my life took an unexpected turn.

I got married.

Pre-marriage, my life at home was pretty bad right around the time of my graduation from high school (but that’s a whole ‘nother story, however). Suffice it to say that my stepdad was in serious trouble with the law and my home life was chaotic, tenuous, and at times even hostile. That’s probably why I got married—as an escape—a mistake a lot of girls make when they could have changed their lives in other, better ways. It was a pretty stupid way of ditching my problems, but rationalization set in. It was 1967 and it was Israel’s Six-Day War. Not a good time to pursue one’s educational goals, albeit in the middle east! Other wars followed, so I put the whole educational thing on hold and took the 'easy' way out!

I could have been a veterinarian, too. I love animals—all kinds. Once it was suggest that I should be a vet. I kind of liked the idea. I always took in the strays—the weak, the sick, the starving. I always nursed them back to health and found them homes. I’m doing that now: Project Cricket—a skinny, worm infested, barn kitty. She also has the dreaded feline herpes virus clouding eyes that drain constantly. There is long-suffering in her background, which makes me want to help her more. So far, so good. She’s starting to put on a little weight, but she has a long way to go.

I thought about being a vet…I just couldn’t deal with euthanizing a perfectly good animal, which I would have to do from time to time. Euthanasia is appropriate and necessary under some circumstances, and I agree with it when an animal has no hope of living a normal life. I just don’t want to have to do it.

So what did I end up doing? Ha! I went to work to support my family, especially after the kids came along. Although I went to American River College in Sacramento, I never really got a 4-year degree. Instead, I went to work for the State of California. I was a data entry operator, a government analyst, a personnel specialist, an upward mobility counselor, EEO Analyst, a disaster medical specialist, and of late, a resume writer (a side job I have done for the last 30 years or so). I’ve been pretty good at all of those things, but they weren’t what I set out to do.

I wanted to write fiction.

Nowadays I do write. I published my first book last year (Desperado Moon) and am working on another (The Last Conquistador). I don’t know when it will be finished—probably not for a couple of years. In the meantime, I still read a lot of history and provide aid and comfort to the local kitty population, especially Cricket. I’m doing what I can for her. And you know what? That gives me absolute and total pleasure—to be able to help and rehabilitate her. I’ve done it many times before and it never ceases to amaze me, how resilient our animal friends can be, especially if one applies lots of love along with food and medicine. However, this little kitty is going to be a major challenge.

When asked what my most fulfilling role has been (other than as the mother of my two fantastic sons and grandmother to my equally fantastic and amazing granddaughter, Samantha) I have to say finishing my first book and providing aid and comfort to helpless animals. I love them all: dogs, cats, horses, goats, geese, birds…you name it. I’m just a sucker, I guess. But that’s me—a mother, grandmother, wife, writer, and an animal lover of the 1st degree.

So what is the point of this particular blog, you ask?

It’s all about making choices in life—choices that ultimately affect the future. It’s about making the right decisions that help to determine who you are… choices that help you to be true to yourself.

To the younger set reading this blog: If life throws you a curve, it doesn’t mean you have to duck, jump, or otherwise let go of your dreams. Stay strong. Stay on the path. Follow your dreams no matter what happens or what anybody says to deter you (it’s mostly jealousy, anyway). Your time is now (before you get married, start a family, etc.) Finish school. Be the best you that you can be. The future becons, but it can be lost with a snap of the fingers or a decision made in haste.
Look at it this way: Your life is a box. The contents (you) are fragile and should be handled with care.
When someone says “Don’t worry, you can always go back to school,” don’t fall for it. Stay in school, learn, and put the polish on your own apple. Love, marriage, and kids will follow when you are ready. There is plenty of time to settle down.

Then, when somebody asks you what you want to be when you grow up, you don’t have to spew a list of regrets and rationalizations, work in a field you didn't want, or never make the money you could have made had you finished school.

Think of these precautions when you are about to make a life changing choice:


“Contents fragile.”

“Handle with care.”

And above all, keep “This [your] end up” and finish what you start.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Super Brother


Yesterday I drove into Sacramento to have lunch with my younger brother, Alex. He’s ten years younger than me and plagued with bad health. I don’t know how much longer he’ll be around, and I love him. In a way, we are ‘soul mates,’ if one could say that about one’s sibling. (Photo: Alex on the left and his father on the right).

He had cancer in his mouth about five years ago, on his tongue. The surgeon removed it and advised chemotherapy. Alex opted for the laetrile treatments in Mexico. And natural foods. Our mother bought him one of those mega-fantastic sooper-dooper juicing machines, and he basically juiced himself back to health. He’s been cancer free ever since.

You see, Alex is a majorly self-educated person. He reads constantly. He is also somewhat of a layperson when it comes to cancer. Just ask him a question—any question—and he can answer it.

Then, about three years ago, he had a stroke. According to his doctor, it should have been fatal. He spent several days in the hospital. His speech was slurred and stumbling. His hands were shaky. He tired easily. We all wondered what would become of him, but several months later he was his old self again.

He’d dodged another bullet.

Throughout this whole ordeal, however, Alex was also dealing with another major health issue, heart disease. He’d been cursed with bad genes—we all knew that. Almost every one of the men in his father’s family died of heart attacks at early ages. His dad (my step-dad) had triple bypass surgery back in the mid ‘80s and died 14 years later of a massive coronary. He was 72, the longest living man in his family, thanks to modern medicine.

I didn’t count (and only my brother knows for sure) how many heart attacks he’s had. He has been in and out of hospitals for the last 10 years. One time, he was driving home from his job and felt pain in his chest—instead of turning left to go home, he detoured to the right and drove himself directly to the hospital.

A couple of years ago, he had another major incident. His cardiologist conferred with other doctors on the feasibility of performing bypass surgery on one so young. The doctor had once told Alex that he needed one, but warned that the procedure was best put off until the last possible moment. At that time, the plan was to wait a few years. Nevertheless, my brother's condition was so grave that they decided to go ahead, even at the tender age of 49. To date, he is the youngest person ever to have bypass surgery—and a quintuple bypass surgery, to boot.

My younger brother and I share a lot of the same interests. We love theater and often went to the Curran Theater in San Francisco to see broadway shows. Although we don't do that now, instead we talk about books, ideas, ideologies, psychology, history, religion, God, and more. He’s very esoteric, but also very well read and can talk on just about any subject. For instance, he read two books recently on the Ba’hai faith, maybe because my best friend and ‘li’l sister’ Raymona is Ba’hai. I don’t know.

Alex also plays the piano. He’s very good, but for some reason gave it up a few years ago. My granddaughter, Samantha, plays too. Maybe she’ll take it beyond high school. I hope so.

But for now, I am happy to have shared some time with my little brother. We went to the Cheesecake Factory. He had spaghetti and meatballs and I had a salad (I’m watching my cholesterol). Then afterwards, we blew all our good intentions on an old fashioned piece of cheesecake which we split between us. Fabulosity!

I hope he’s around for a good long time…although he said to me he didn’t want to grow old and feeble like some senior ladies he’d seen on the bus. He talked about 55 being a good age to ‘go.’ I hope he’s around for a lot longer than that. He’s only 51. I’m selfish. I want him to be around for a long, long time. I would miss my little brother, my ‘soul mate.’