Saturday, December 24, 2011

A December to remember

Happy holidays!  Okay, right off the bat -- I hope the title of this post didn't mislead you into thinking that I'm going to give you an exorbitant luxury car with a big red bow on it.  No, it's just my way of summing up a month that... well, let's just say bring on 2012, okay? 

December started off uneventfully, but I woke up on Sunday, December 4th feeling really lousy -- zero appetite, totally exhausted, feeling like I was getting a cold.  After sleeping half the day away, I awoke the next day with the same symptoms but now with an added bonus -- an odd pain in the right side of my abdomen.  Uh-oh... is this what appendicitis feels like?  I dunno, I've never had it before!  But the pain didn't have me doubled over or anything, it was just... weird.  So I vowed that if I still felt bad the next day I'd make an appointment with my primary care doctor, which I did for the following afternoon (Wednesday).  My doc, who I love dearly, wasn't available, so I saw her nurse-practitioner -- a rather brusk Russian woman who, upon hearing my symptoms, was convinced that I had a case of salmonella!  That sure didn't seem right to me, so I started asking, "Could it be my appendix?"  She stuck to her salmonella guns and was about to write me a prescription for an antibiotic when I adamantly suggested that she really should be checking my appendix. Her response: " (sigh) Okay, lie back on the exam table." Her: Poke, poke, poke. Me: "Ow! Ow! Ow!"

Suddenly she sent me across the street to the hospital for a STAT CT scan, then it was right back across the street to my doc (who. thankfully, was now in the office) to get the results -- congratulations, it's appendicitis!  (Oh, and a kidney infection to boot.)  Once again across the street to the ER, where I was admitted pronto, and a few hours later I was sans appendix.  Quite the whirlwind! 

Fortunately I bounced back from the surgery really quickly, with a little help from Vicodin and a lot of support from Steve.  I have a negligible 1 1/2-inch scar thanks to the expert work of my surgeon, Dr. Maki.  Even my nurses were remarking how teeny the incision was!  Within a week I had my surgical follow-up, which I passed with flying colors.  I felt fabulous!  And I was jonesing to get off my butt after doing pretty much nothing for a week and a half, so Dr. Maki cleared me for light exercise (walking, jogging, light weights).  I immediately treated myself to a 30-minute walk on a gloriously sunny afternoon.  Life was great! 

Wouldn't you know it?  The very next day I awoke with a wicked cold, which turned into my annual bout of laryngitis, which meant missing more work on top of the four days I had already missed due to the surgery.  But it was more than work that I was missing -- I  was stuck sleeping through all of the holiday hustle and bustle that we often complain about every December but, deep down, would be bummed about not being a part of.  Regrets were sent for holiday party invitations, Christmas cards remained naked and unsent, our apartment treeless and devoid of its usual holiday decorations.  Bah humbug.

Well, I'm pleased to announce that I'm feeling much better, just fighting through the last stubborn vestiges of my cold and now finally, on Christmas Eve, I'm jumping into the holidays with gusto!  Before I left for work today I whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough and the yummy beginnings of what will become candy cane truffles!  Yep, my inner Martha has been pent up all this time and ain't nobody gonna keep her down!

So if you were expecting me at your yuletide party or you were wondering why you didn't get my annual Christmas card, I hope you understand.  A big thanks to all of my family and friends who weighed in with well wishes.  And while December has more or less sucked for me until now, there were some amazing bright spots earlier in 2011.  Among them were my long-overdue graduation from Penn State and my joy in witnessing Steve triumphantly take on a second career in the wine industry.  And my fingers are crossed that I just may have a major announcement after the new year!  Can't say any more now, but check in same blog time, same blog station.

I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Festivus, Happy New Year, Happy Holidays... am I missing anything?  Oh yeah, thanks for reading my blog. :-)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"May no act of ours bring shame..."

One of the many long-standing traditions at Penn State is a joke that centers around the singing of the university's alma mater, titled "For the Glory of Old State".  The song is played at every home football game, but the running gag is that nobody knows the lyrics.  So they sing the proper melody but they substitute the phrase, "We don't know the goddamn words".  Today at Beaver Stadium, prior to the start of the Nittany Lions' moving first game since news broke of the devastating child sex abuse scandal that has rocked the nation, everyone knew the words.

I have to admit that I didn't know the words either, that is until my commencement ceremony this past August -- the lyrics were printed in the program for our convenience.  Not long after I had walked to the stage and accepted my degree with a handshake from PSU president Graham Spanier (a thought that now makes my blood run cold), I stood in my cap and gown to sing the song.  One line that struck me was, "May no act of ours bring shame, To one heart that loves thy name".  I cannot begin to explain the deluge of emotions that Penn Staters have experienced over the past week, but shame is certainly one of them. 

Shame that supposedly responsible adults could exhibit such profoundly poor judgement as to place the reputation of a university and its football program above the safety of innocent children.  Shame that so-called men, all fathers and grandfathers, did nothing to stop crimes so heinous that I either become nauseous or cry (or both) every time I read about them.  Shame that a strapping 28-year-old 6' 4" former quarterback could somehow not muster the courage to bust into the shower, tear a young boy away from a 58-year-old monster and pull him to safety, then report the incident to the police.  Shame that a legendary coach who, both on the field and off, had done enough good for three universities will now go down in history as one who turned a blind eye to the evil in his midst.

Yes, Joe Paterno is/was beloved.  I've been a lifelong devoted fan of his.  But he did the legal bare minimum in reporting the 2002 assault to his "superior", athletic director Tim Curley -- he fell inconceivably short of meeting his moral obligation.  Um, by the way, anyone with a smidge of common sense knows that JoePa really ran the university, and wielded enough power that had he truly wanted to he could have pressured the right people to ensure that the incident was being investigated, or at the very least could have inquired about the welfare of a 10-year-old boy who was witnessed being brutalized in his locker room shower.  It was with very conflicted emotions that I realized that the university's Board of Trustees had to make the painful choice to fire Coach Paterno.  I realize that there are plenty of people who vehemently disagree with me.  Some of them were unable to set aside their hero worship long enough to formulate an objective opinion and vented their outrage by rioting on campus.  Of course, they're the ones who showed up on cable news coverage representing Penn State to the entire nation.  Gee, thanks morons.

There was far more airtime devoted an estimated 20-30 idiotic rioters than to the 10,000 peaceful students, faculty, and community members who crowded onto the lawn of Old Main for Friday night's candlelight vigil in honor of the victims.  That, sadly, is the nature of our sensationalistic 24-hour news cycle world.  And as the days, weeks, and months progress, those same news outlets will be filling their airwaves with any scrap of speculation and innuendo that they can get their ratings-hungry hands on.  I fear that the worst of this horrible scandal is yet to come.  Believe it or not, it's going to get even uglier.

So today, when the Nittany Lion football team took the field to play Nebraska, their first game since the unthinkable news shattered Happy Valley, outsiders slammed Penn Staters for continuing to glorify their football program.  I'm extraordinarily proud of our team for picking up the pieces and doing what they do with grace and dignity.  Why on earth should the players who've worked so hard to get where they are be penalized for the actions (or inactions) of others that they had nothing to do with?  How much do the critics want the university to suffer?  How can they justify using the misdeeds of a handful of men to judge some 95,000 current students and nearly a half-million alumni?  Oh, but they do.  And that hurts all of us who love Penn State.  But obviously those who suffer the deepest wounds are the victims and their families.  Eight boys that we know of were abused, but that number is already rising.   There are enough unanswered questions to fill a very sordid book.

I've been wanting to blog about my feelings around the scandal but every time I was about to start I would read someone else's writings that were so heartfelt, so eloquent, so poignant, that I felt my words couldn't do the issue justice.  But finally the time came for me to just spill -- I needed to get this stuff out of my system.  I want to thank my many friends who have checked to see if I'm okay in the wake of this mess.  It'll take time, but I'll be fine, as will Penn State.  Well, that may take lots of time.  But we should be the least of your worries.  We all must join together to make certain that no child suffers in silence again. 

May no act of ours bring shame.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


I remember my first time in New York City, in 1982.  It was a high school orchestra trip to Lincoln Center to hear a matinee performance of the New York Philharmonic.  As our tour bus crept through the jammed streets we slowly passed by two identical buildings, so massive that I nearly strained my neck trying in vain to look up to take in their full height.  I remember being amazed, and I vowed that one day I would return to view the expanse of the Big Apple from the towers' upper floors.

I remember waking up on the morning of September 11, 2001.  I had a hardcore gym habit then, so I normally got out of bed around 5:30 to workout before I headed in to do my midday show.  For some reason, on this Tuesday, I decided to skip my workout and sleep in a little longer.  I lay in bed for 15 minutes or so, but I couldn't get back to sleep, so I turned on CNN.  I remember smoke, flames, and not believing my eyes. 

I remember being riveted to the TV and watching in horror as the second plane hit.  Jolted by the realization that they probably needed all hands on deck at the station, I rushed to shower and dress so I could get to work early.  As I was getting ready Steve walked into the bedroom with a look of gloom and announced, "One of the towers just collapsed."  I would never have the opportunity to climb to the top of those towers after all, as I had vowed nearly 20 years earlier, but that was by far the least of my worries.  I remember my heart sinking.

I remember my Muni ride to work, the headphones on my tiny radio blocking out the noise around me.  Only there was no noise around me -- the other passengers on the bus were stunned silent.  I was glued to KCBS, the local news station, which was now simulcasting its sister station from New York, WINS.  Every minute or two the jarring music used to announce breaking news made my heart beat faster.  Bulletin after bulletin, each bit of information more excruciating to hear than the last.  The first reports came of people jumping from the upper floors of the Twin Towers to escape the flames.  I remember desperately fighting back tears.

I remember arriving at Z95.7 to complete chaos as everyone struggled to keep up with the deluge of information, trying to sort fact from fiction.  Gene & Julie, our morning team, were making a valiant effort to try to make sense of it all for our listeners -- while struggling to make sense of it themselves.  I walked into the on-air studio and Julie asked me, "Can you believe what's happening to our country?"  I remember being speechless.

I remember going on the air at 10am, my control board littered with whatever scraps of paper I could grab to jot down information that was now flooding into the studio.  The airports were closing.  The Golden Gate Bridge, a potential target for the terrorists, was also closing.  Government buildings were shutting down and sending employees home early.  Somehow I got through those five hours in one piece.  I remember feeling completely drained at the end.

I remember my Muni ride back across town to get home, once again glued to KCBS.  Downtown San Francisco was a ghost town because all of the offices had closed, as its Financial District was also feared to be a target.  For the entirety of my ride home, during what would normally be a busy rush hour, I was the sole passenger on my bus.  I remember feeling really unsettled by that.

I remember being on the air the next day, fielding phone calls from listeners.  They were confused, afraid, angry.  But I most remember one particular phone call from a college student who was being harassed on campus simply because she was a Muslim, her tormentors operating under the twisted logic that all Muslims were terrorists.  I remember the pain in her voice, and the anger I felt on her behalf.

I remember going home that day, turning on CNN -- unable to turn away from the horrific video that seemed as if it were on an endless loop.  I had USA Today spread out on the coffee table, reading about the lives of the victims that had been identified thus far.  I was on the couch sobbing inconsolably as Steve arrived home from work that evening.  I remember him closing the newspaper and turning off the TV.

I remember how, in the ensuing days, so many Americans came together to do what they could to help.  Local blood donation centers were so crowded that people had to be turned away.  A handful of us from "the Z" went to Oakland City Center to hand out small American flags, and the line stretched down the block.  I remember feeling a glimmer of hope amidst the tragedy, and that hope is what keeps us going ten years later.

Always hold onto that hope.  And always remember.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Milestones and memories: The final chapter

Our bellies egregiously full of grilled stickies a la mode, Steve & I piled in the car to leave Happy Valley and continue on my graduation trip through Pennsylvania.  Next stop: Lewisburg, a little over an hour away from State College, to reconnect with two couples with whom we've been longtime friends but hadn't seen in forever.

First we stopped at Mike & Cara's house. You know those friends who, although it's been eons since you've been together, you can pick up your easy conversation like you just saw each other yesterday?  That's the way it was with us -- so cool to hang with smart, funny, truly good people!  (And their two cats, which made us miss our kitties back home.) The four of us moved on to to a restaurant where Mark & Mary Anne joined the festivities.  M&M once owned the radio station where Mike, Steve & I worked in the early '90s, and we still have a business relationship with them today.  After a blast over drinks and some surprisingly good fish & chips -- and glaring looks from the restaurant staff who were annoyed that we had lingered so long -- we parted ways with M&C and set out into the countryside to spend the night at M&M's home -- a 1790 farmhouse that they've lovingly restored into a real showplace.

Imagine the coziest, homiest bed-and-breakfast you can, with plush, comfy furnishings, piles of pillows, and impeccably chosen antiques all around. A log home surrounded by serene woods made greener and lusher with the recent rainfall.  Paradise, right?  Yes, Mark & Mary Anne live in their own Pennsylvania paradise.  Oh, did I mention the tricked-out gourmet kitchen?  My Food Network fantasy come to life!  The four of us enjoyed some more beverages, reminisced, and engaged in some passionate but civilized political debate.  Yes, Steve & I do know that conservatives exist --  we just don't run into many in San Francisco!

It was back to Steve's parents' house near Philly the next day, taking the backroads rather than the busy turnpike.  There we bonded with our niece Carrie and her adorable 15-month-old daughter Maddy, who we were meeting for the first time. Gary & Cindy (Carrie's parents), who had been with us at commencement, brought pizzas and we sat out in the carport and chatted.  At one point Maddy (who I had been warned was clinging to Mommy and might not warm up to anyone else) reached out from Carrie's lap and came right over to me!  Just as I was turning her to face forward so Steve could get a picture, she reached back for Mommy.  So despite a lack of photographic evidence, I proved that I'm capable of handling a small child for a grand total of three seconds, which for me is quite the accomplishment.

On the road again the next morning for our final stop, just what the doctor ordered to conclude our whirlwind tour.  We drove to the Jersey Shore for some long-overdue beach time, thanks to Steve's sister Kathy's generous offer for us to crash at their rental house a block from the beach.  It's an annual trip for Kathy, her husband Mike, and their daughters Kelly & Katie (and now their husbands, Derek & Jake respectively), and since it coincided with my graduation they invited us to join them.  After a rain-shortened stay on the sand on Day One we returned to the house to eat, drink, catch up, eat some more, drink some more, drink some more... well, you get the idea.  Kelly & Derek are expecting a baby in January, and because she was still so early in her pregnancy they were jokingly referring to the baby as The Sea Monkey.  (We found out the following week that it's a boy Sea Monkey!)  That evening was spent sitting outside the house, chowing down on some fine Jersey Italian food and watching the Phillies game on the TV that had been turned to face out the window.  Considering how little actual summer weather we get in San Francisco, even the sunburn and mosquito bites felt good to me.  Steve & I had only half a day left before we had to head back to Philly Airport, but we made the most of it on a gloriously sunny day at the beach.  Water temperature: 68 degrees -- considerably warmer than the 50 degree Pacific waters a few blocks from where we live.

All too soon it was time to pack up for the flight back west.  This trip was a shining example of quality over quantity... we didn't get to stay in any one place nearly as long as we or our hosts would've liked, but we made every moment that we had count.  There are so many people who were so gracious, accommodating, generous, helpful, supportive, and just all-out amazing to me, not only during the trip but over the course of the last year-and-a-half that it took me to complete my degree.  I can't thank you enough for all that you've done for me.

Now?  Bring on the next milestone.. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Milestones and memories, part 2

Sorry for the wait, Blue Sky Blog-land! When last I left you in my Penn State graduation trip adventures I had just done my post-graduation newspaper interview and the family & I were off to our celebratory lunch at American Ale House in State College. Wow, did we have a great experience there, starting with the congratulatory toast with Veuve Clicquot. Rich, our waiter, started making small-talk about wine -- that is until Steve mentioned that he works in the wine industry. Then Rich, realizing he might be out of his league, moved on to another topic. But he couldn't have been more easygoing and attentive to our party of seven, and the food was phenomenal and super-affordable. The place also has a piano bar that unfortunately wasn't open when we were there, but man that would be fun! (Oh, and over the piano bar were painted lyrics to some classic songs, including "I Left My Heart in San Francisco". It's like they knew I was coming!) Who knows when we'll back to Happy Valley, but when it happens we'll definitely return to American Ale House. (And for the record: no, I'm not receiving any compensation for endorsing this restaurant.)

We wrapped up lunch and headed to our next stop, a must-do for any Penn State graduate: the traditional cap-and-gown photo op at the Nittany Lion shrine. By this time it was around 3pm (keeping in mind that the commencement ceremony had wrapped up at 11:30), but there was still about an hour wait to get to the Lion! No worries -- we had plenty to entertain us during our wait. The group in front of us in line included three best buddies who had graduated together. Their degrees were in golf course management, but their minor might as well have been stand-up comedy. They had the whole line in stitches, helping the time pass quickly. (Side note: these three guys also ended up in the newspaper article for which I was interviewed.) Then there was an adorable little girl, around 3 years old, dressed in a Penn State cheerleader outfit and chasing bubbles blown dutifully by her dad. Her family's turn at the Lion came and she was propped up on its back for the photo when someone said, "Okay, ready: one, two..." and before they could get to 3 the little girl screamed, "Cheeeeeeeese!!" The whole line cracked up. Then another picture: "One, two..." "Cheeeeeese!!" More laughter.

Finally it was my family's turn for photos, and it was all I could do to hold it together without tearing up. When I first decided to return to Penn State, one of the things that kept me going was knowing that one day I'd be standing there in that cap and gown with my arms around the Lion's neck, like so many thousands of others before me. Thankfully there was some more comic relief in store to help contain my tears. Our mascot for the trip was one Holly Heather Heifer, a stuffed white Fisher Price Puffalump cow (remember them from the 80s?) that Steve & I have had almost as long as we've been a couple (26 years!). So after the first round of photos of just me, then with family members, it was Holly's turn. Just like the little cheerleader girl before us, I propped up Holly (dressed in her own tiny Penn State t-shirt) on the Lion's back for her moment of glory. I wouldn't have considered making the trip back to PA without her.

Within the next 24 hours the family members dispersed to try to beat the heavy rain that had moved into the area. Steve & I took one more swing back to campus for our final non-negotiable trip down memory lane: a stop at The Diner on College Avenue (called Ye Olde College Diner when we were students the first time around) for grilled stickies a la mode. What is a grilled sticky, you ask? It is a Penn State delicacy and a thing of fat-and-calorie-laden beauty: a large cinnamon bun grilled on a flattop to get the glaze all caramelized and crackly, warmed to perfection so the gigantic scoop of vanilla ice cream on top melts slowly to perfection. It was another one of those memories that did not disappoint, as was Steve's entree of chili mac, which once served as late night sustenance on all of those long nights of... studying. Yeah, studying... let's go with that. Macaroni & cheese, topped with chili, topped with an inch-thick layer of more melted cheese. (I sincerely hope our doctor doesn't read this blog or we've got some 'splainin' to do!)

Geez, looks like this trip is going to require Blog part 3. So more to come... I'll try not to make it so long between installments next time. :-)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Milestones and memories

Have you ever tried to revisit a time or place that is a beloved part of your past, only to have the whole experience be a letdown? Well, my trip back to Penn State for my graduation (my first time there in about 10 years) was everything that I thought it would be and more.

We flew from San Francisco to Philadelphia on Thursday, August 11th and spent the evening catching up with Steve's parents, whom we hadn't seen since a holiday visit a couple of years ago. Both of them, but especially my father-in-law, have been among my most ardent cheerleaders in my belated return to school. So after breakfast Friday the four of us hit the Pennsylvania Turnpike westward, turned onto Route 322 (taking in some of the most stunning lush, green farmland I've ever seen) and headed right into the heart of Happy Valley. Our first stop was the Penn State Bookstore where I picked up my cap and gown and stocked up on some PSU gear. Credit card damage was limited to a zip-up hoodie, t-shirt, ballcap, license plate frame and fridge magnet -- I could've done much worse! Then it was off to the Berkey Creamery, which didn't exist when I went to Penn State the first time around (it was in a much smaller building elsewhere on campus)... but the ice cream hasn't changed a bit! (Bear in mind that when Ben & Jerry wanted to learn how to make ice cream, they took a course at Penn State. I kid you not.) I had no choice but to indulge in a huge cone of Peachy Paterno, one of the Creamery's best-sellers. You have *never* had peach ice cream like this -- so decadently creamy with gigantic frozen peach slices throughout, like it was studded with little peach popsicles! My memories sure didn't let me down on that score.

Not long after that I had a waaay overdue reunion with my sister Jean, who drove up from the Baltimore area. Hard to believe that six years had passed since we'd last seen each other! But the coolest thing was when the five of us went to dinner at a nearby pub where she and I proceeded to crack each other up with our mutual stupid sense of humor, like it had only been six hours since we had last hung out together.

Then came the big event -- Saturday morning's commencement ceremony at Bryce Jordan Center (the arena is also new since my last trip to campus). There were about 400 of us on hand out of a class of 1200 to receive our degrees. As we awaited the start of the ceremony Steve's brother Gary and his wife Cindy, who had driven in that morning from near Allentown, joined the crew. Now as someone who has a habit of crying at Hallmark commercials, I thought for sure I would dissolve into a puddle of tears at some point in the ceremony, but I toughed it out -- that is until one of the speakers on stage asked the family and friends of the graduates to stand up and be acknowledged for their crucial roles in our road to graduation. I looked up at my gathered family and I was toast... I lost it. (Funny thing about that gown I had on -- no pocket for tissues.) Luckily I managed to spare enough of my makeup to not look too scary for the post-ceremony photo ops.

We had some time to kill before we headed to the American Ale House, where we had reservations for our celebratory lunch, so we were just standing around talking when I was approached by a reporter from the Centre Daily Times, State College's local newspaper, and asked if I would mind discussing my experience as a new graduate. Although as a member of the media I've been featured in the paper quite often over the years, it was still kind of cool for the family (especially thrilling for my mother-in-law). Somewhere between the reporter's notepad and the publication of the story the final "A" was dropped from my last name, but that's the story of my married life!

Watch this space for "Milestones and memories, part 2". This post is getting ridiculously long and it's almost dinnertime. Yep, I got priorities, baby! :-)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Doctor, Doctor, it hurts when I do this...

Well, it sure was an eventful weekend, but I wouldn't wish most of it on my worst enemy. The great part of it: I had a blast yesterday doing the live broadcast at Alice's annual Summerthing concert. It was a beautiful day in Golden Gate Park with 20,000 of my closest friends out to see our free show with OneRepublic, Matt Nathanson, Michelle Branch, Parachute, and Andrew Allen. And I have to say that I work with some of the nicest, coolest people on the planet, which was in no greater evidence than yesterday...

Just showing up for the broadcast was quite challenging for me after I had a medical emergency on Saturday. Around noon I was puttering around the kitchen before work when I was suddenly hit with this sharp pain in the back of my neck. Having been a veteran of the "I slept in a weird position" scenario, I hoped that was all that it was. It eventually subsided after about two hours. But then around 3:00, while I was on the air, I got another blinding pain but this one was in the back of my head. Worst headache of my life, accompanied by nausea. I kept hoping it would go away but, after 6 hours of misery I realized that something was definitely not right. So I called 911 and got an ambulance ride to the ER. Steve left work and met me there.

After two CT scans (the second with a contrast dye to better show the blood vessels in my head) and some morphine, the inconclusive diagnosis is that I may have had a cerebral aneurysm. They released me from the ER at 3:15 yesterday morning with a prescription for Vicodin and orders to follow up with a neurologist and my primary care physician (because my blood pressure was very high, possibly a combination of the decongestant I was taking for my cold and my freaking out from the whole situation). But they told me that if I felt like working the next day, then go ahead and work. So after 4 hours of sleep I headed out for the concert, and it was just what I needed. Sunshine and blue sky are always good medicine for me (hence the name of my blog). And not one person I told about the crisis failed to say, "Do whatever you need to do, your health comes first. If you need to leave, then leave and we'll work things out." After a half-hour I was starting to feel awake and relatively pain-free, so I stayed for 3 1/2 of my scheduled 4-hour shift. And I had a really great time doing what I love to do, which is being on the air.

So to the San Francisco paramedics from the ambulance; the ER staff at St. Mary's Medical Center (including Moyra, my spirited Irish nurse); the amazing crew at Alice@97.3 (especially Michael Martin and Jayn!), Steve's boss Dennis who, without hesitation, told him to get out of work and join me; and of course Steve (my rock without whom I could have never gotten through all of this), a million thanks. Now time to rest up and get this thing figured out.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Fathers Day... what's that like?

So we've arrived at another Fathers Day, a holiday that is for the most part foreign to me. As most of my close friends know, my father died when I was only 3. He was just 42 when his third heart attack took his life.

I'm envious of my friends whose parents are still around. My sister Jean was 9 when we lost Dad, and I know it was tough on her because she had had long enough to establish memories of their time together. I, on the other hand, have just a couple of fleeting memories of him. One was of me at my most mischievously adorable... I went through this phase where I would get into the cupboard, find the open box of laundry detergent and dump it all over the kitchen floor. I remember Dad catching me in the act once and trying to be all stern and mad, but he couldn't pull it off and just started laughing.

The other memory I have of my dad is not a pleasant one. It's of him lying on our living room couch having one of his heart attacks. I don't remember if it was the first, second or last one. I only remember standing there looking up at him like, "What's wrong with Daddy?" Then I remember being picked up and taken out of the room.

Because I grew up without a father, I've subscribed to the "you can't miss what you never really had" school of thought. But now, as I get older, I see many of my friends having kids. I see that precious bond and I wonder about all of the things I missed out on after I lost Dad. But then the "everything happens for a reason" side of my brain takes over, and I realize that my life would have turned out far differently had my dad lived longer. And I've got a lot of really good people and things in my life to be thankful for.

So if your dad is still with you, please let him know how much he means to you while you still can. And to my father-in-law Tom, who has been one of my biggest cheerleaders in my belated return to college, Happy Fathers Day. See you at my graduation in August. :-)

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Accidental Reuben

Disclaimer: the following post may offend you if you're a food purist. Culinary discretion is advised.

Steve & I had hot dogs for dinner one recent night, and as a result we had most of a jar of leftover sauerkraut. Come lunchtime today, I had a brainstorm: I'll make myself a Reuben! It's one of my guiltiest of food pleasures. Despite its reputation as a heart attack on a plate, I must have one when I see it on a menu, no matter how healthy I'm trying to eat.

There were only a few small things standing in my way. First, we had no pastrami, but we did have turkey breast. That's all right... a Reuben can indeed be made with turkey breast (although then it's called a Rachel instead of a Reuben). We didn't have any rye bread, either, but we did have some good rustic whole wheat bread. Oops, the traditional Swiss cheese was also MIA, but we did have cheddar. Okay, I can make that swap. Oh, and we had no Thousand Island dressing, but we did have some roasted eggplant and garlic dip that was kind of the same color as the dressing. Well, that could've been the deal-breaker, but I decided to suck it up and roll with it. Keep in mind that we live three blocks from a Safeway store that stocks all of the things my fridge lacked. No problem: I was up for the challenge of creating something edible with only the ingredients I had on hand.... kind of my own version of Food Network's "Chopped".

I fired up the grill pan, spread a little butter on the bread, assembled my mismatched ingredients, and hoped for the best. I'm not gonna lie: I was concerned that I'd take one bite of the sandwich and chuck the whole thing because it was so objectionable. But I've gotta admit that it turned out pretty well!

Lesson learned: a little experimentation can be a good thing. I need to come up with a better name for my creation than "The Accidental Reuben", but I think the sandwich just might be a keeper. We still have lots of sauerkraut to use up, though... maybe I'll let Steve be the mad scientist next time.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Now I've gone and done it...

...I'm no longer a Twitter virgin. But I still ask that you please be gentle with me.

It all started because I set up a phone meeting with a Penn State career counselor for next week. Up until now, Facebook was my only foray into social media, but Penn State is big on having their students on Linked In for job networking purposes. So I took the plunge and joined Linked In because I knew the counselor would ask me about it.

There I needed to include a summary bio of myself, so I wrote this: "I'm fluent in media -- radio, TV, voiceover, production, social media, blogging, event hosting. I love words and I love to make them sing. (Oh yeah, I sing too!)" But then I started thinking, "Am I being truthful by saying I'm fluent in social media if I've never joined Twitter?" Oh, I'd surfed around it before, mostly at work looking for things to blog about on the station's website, but fluent? Hardly. It was at that point that I decided to make an honest woman of myself, so I did what I never thought I'd do. I joined Twitter. And now here I am blogging about it. (See how I'm embracing this whole techie-communication thingy?)

For now I'm still in Twitter 101 mode, so don't expect too much from me right off the bat. But you'll find me there under the username @MBbluesky. I just tweeted for the first time a few minutes ago... even used a hashtag. And ooh, it felt so good.

Friday, March 11, 2011

An emotional tsunami

It's been a strange 24 hours, that's for sure. I was working on the air last night when news broke of the massive earthquake and devastating tsunami that hit northeastern Japan. As much as I love San Francisco in spite of its quake-prone reputation, when I hear about a big shaker I always get a bit paranoid. I start to think, "Man, we really need to make sure that disaster kit gets stocked." Maintaining our recommended stash of bottled water, non-perishable food and extra cat supplies is one of those tasks that we keep putting off in the hopes that we'll never need to tap into it. Of course, in the worst cases, such denial can be fatal. I'm so thankful that Japan takes its earthquake preparedness seriously, or else the sure-to-climb death toll would be of absolutely unimaginable proportions.

I got home from work at 12:20am to find Steve glued to the TV waiting to hear if the West Coast would be placed under a tsunami warning (a watch had been issued by the time I left the station). Sure enough, within minutes, we got the warning. We live in a tsunami evacuation zone, just four blocks from the Pacific. Following the horrific Indonesian tsunami in 2004, the city installed several warning sirens to give us the heads-up if we need to evacuate. No sirens sounded, but that didn't stop me from being awake and concerned for half the night.

Not long after 8am, the first waves hit near us at Ocean Beach. Fortunately, due to the topography of San Francisco Bay and the fact that it was low tide, the surge didn't amount to much more than a few feet. After keeping an anxious eye on the news for a couple of hours, it became obvious that our neighborhood had escaped the tsunami's wrath. Sadly that wasn't the case about 80 miles to our south, where the waves wrecked dozens of boats at the Santa Cruz marina to the tune of $10 million. The waves also did a number on Crescent City up near the California-Oregon border, where some dumbass ignored officials' instructions to stay away from the coast and went sightseeing... for the last time. He got caught in a wave and was swept out to sea. Sorry, but I find it hard to feel sympathy for that guy.

It always strikes me as sad that it takes witnessing a tragedy of this magnitude for us to realize how fragile life is. That no matter what burdens we may carry in our lives, they're mere annoyances compared to seeing lives and property swept away in seconds. That you never know which moment is going to be your last. It reminds me, for the umpteenth time, that we need to embrace life and live it to its fullest. We must never waste one precious moment that we are given. And we need to remind those around us how much we care. If you're reading this, I'll assume that you care. Thanks to our family and friends around the country who expressed their concern for our safety. It turned out to be a non-event for us, but we had no idea what to expect until those waves hit the shoreline.

I'm headed back in to work soon. Please God, let it be an uneventful night.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Hello, faithful readers... and new ones too! I thought I'd share this short piece that I wrote today for my non-fiction writing class. Our assignment was to interview a stranger and do a brief characterization of that person. I hit the jackpot with the interview subject I found; he was just the sweetest man. I hope that I've done him justice.


On a bench along the bay behind San Francisco's Ferry Building, Mustafa relaxes in the sunshine enjoying his cigarette. "You smoke?" he asks. When the answer is no, he politely inquires, "I hope is okay for me to smoke?" His bicycle is chained to the fence in front of him; he is wearing his bike helmet, khaki pants, and a crisp blue and white striped shirt. When asked his age, Mustafa laughs and says, "Ah, too old. Sixty-six." One would never know from looking at him; he is fit and trim, and easily appears to be ten years younger. He smiles serenely, seeming incapable of not doing so.

Mustafa arrived in the United States from Damascus, Syria eleven years ago. "I like life here," he says. What do you like about it? "Everything! I have good job here. I am a good tailor. I am designer. I do custom. I make shirts, I make pants." This explains the high quality of the shirt that he is wearing. He and his partner run their business out of a shop in San Francisco's Union Square, but right now he is on a break. What do you like to do when you're not working? "My bike, that's healthy thing." On especially nice days, Mustafa takes his bike on board the ferry across the bay to Sausalito and rides around there. He also has a membership at a gym, where he uses the steam room, Jacuzzi, and "I run on the machine there. To be healthy guy." But you also smoke. Do you see any contradiction there? "I'm not a smoker. Sometime I smoke, like, every day once. Sometimes no smoke."

As he lights his third cigarette, Mustafa says that he has been waiting for his green card for nine years. The process is dragging on because of "what happened on September 11th" and concerns that he may have terrorist ties. Do you have family here in the States? The smile remains on his face, but his eyes grow sad. "My wife still in Syria. I have four sons, two daughters. I have eleven grandchildren", ranging in age from 17 to 3. “They don't know me. I miss everybody." There's no way you can go visit them? "If I go there, I can't come back. Every day I call them and they are okay. Yesterday my grandkids, they say, 'When you coming back?' I say I don't know. And I like to live here, but see my situation? Very, very hard."

The conversation ends, and Mustafa suggests, “You make good money with my story?” He is reminded that the story is not being written for money, but rather for a college course. "But is good story, no?" His smile grows broader and he extends his hand for a farewell shake. His break about over, he prepares to ride his bike up over the hilly streets back to his tailor shop, to continue working. And waiting.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Now we're talkin'...

...or writing, as the case may be. As usual, it's been a while since I've done a new blog post... blah, blah, blah... stop me if you've heard this before. But the main reason that I created this blog was to give myself an outlet for my relatively new interest in writing. This semester, I have an English class about non-fiction writing... and I lo-o-o-o-ve it! In fact, dare I say it, my limited blogging experience has groomed me to do well in the class (and yes, so far I am). I'm cruising through this semester (a nice change from the last very challenging one), I've scheduled my summer classes already (my last semester before graduation in August... yay!), and I'm digging into the homestretch.

And now, to completely disregard any thoughts of a coherently written piece that I may have learned in my class, I give you some random thoughts that I've had over the last several weeks. For each one, I considered doing a blog post but never quite got there, so each one now gets its own mini-blog.

--Do you know how incredibly easy it is to make your own ricotta? Well, I haven't done it yet... but "Barefoot Contessa" Ina Garten made it look incredibly easy on Food Network this past week. And given my quest to remove as much processed food as I can from my diet these days, I think I'll give it a try soon. I've developed a taste for this quasi-cheesecakey dessert with ricotta, lemon zest, honey and blueberries. I bet it'll be incredible with homemade ricotta... I'll give you a full report if I make some.

--My Steelers lost the Super Bowl this past weekend. Congrats to the Packers... they played a great game. The Steelers? Not so much, but at least they made it interesting at the end. Over the course of the season, I never really expected them to make it to the "Big Game", so the fact that they did was a bonus. I was not at all impressed with the Black Eyed Peas' halftime show, and to be perfectly honest, I didn't even realize that Christina Aguilera messed up the words to the National Anthem until all the media hoopla afterward. And a final note to Ben Roethlisberger: please, please, please behave yourself off the field from here on out. Now... bring on baseball season, baby!

--I have rediscovered yoga, and I love it! I've been trying to do it at least a couple of times a week, moreso lately now that my hip problems from a few years ago have reared their ugly head again, and yoga helps me give that area a really good stretch. (I'm doing everything I can to not have to go back to physical therapy for my hip, but I will if I have to.) If you've got stress in your life (and who doesn't these days?) and you've never done yoga before, I suggest that you give it a try. It takes some getting used to at first, but once you get the hang of it, it feels great! Like some other things in life which shall remain nameless. ;-)

Okay, enough of this mini-blog chit-chat... back to the books for me. Thanks for reading!