Monthly Archives: November 2013

Watering eyes not only from cutting onions

Never would I have thought that cutting up onions would be so rewarding. But it was yesterday at Dorothy’s Place.

I was part of “President Ochoa’s Investiture Day of Service and Learning”.

I didn’t feel like attending yet one more thing this week, but felt an obligation to go on behalf of AmeriCorps’ expectation that I would participate.

And I’m happy I did. It was the most perfectly planned day that I have ever experienced. Every detail was taken care of from a great breakfast for over 200 participants, to the lunch when we all returned from our various chosen posts.

CSUMB is known as a university that has a vibrant Service Learning Component and has even won awards for the good work it does in the community. President Ochoa requested a day like yesterday to bring awareness to service, but to also welcome him in as CSUMB’s third president.

This is what he asked for, and it didn’t disappoint him, as he told us in his lunchtime reflection-over-the day speech.

I chose Dorothy’s Place, which if you don’t know, is a place in Salinas’ tenderloin where two meals are served everyday for the homeless population.

Student leader Heather and six others, including CSUMB staff members and students and myself boarded a city bus that took us close to Dorothy’s Place where, as we walked there, we saw many homeless people huddled in blankets, sitting, lying down, walking around, waiting for lunch. Heather was a wonderful guide, with knowledge about Dorothy’s from her work as a liaison between students and the homeless population.

When we got inside the lunchroom it appeared that the cooks (all volunteers) didn’t expect us, as the regular cook wasn’t there. But we explained our mission and were put to work immediately.

I was surprised to see the head chef walk out from the kitchen to greet us. She is a friend: Nic Bianchi.

She has been recruited to fill in for a while and that began in August. Let me tell you about Nic. I know her as a fabulous cook and caterer. The folks eating from her table are lucky indeed. Nic could take a greasy rag and make a gourmet meal out of it.

So my job began by dicing parsley. Nic showed us how to do that. Now I can say I know how to do that from a professional. After parsley, I agreed to cut up onions, and it was necessary to go outside where the wind took care of our watering eyes. I peeled and cut onions along side a family. The mother told me they were there to teach their two children to appreciate what they have and to give to others. The two children did exactly as they were told and were delightful youngsters. Wonderful, teaching parents!!!

There were so many heartfelt comments about the experience, and as we completed our tasks and walked outside, we were greeted and told goodbye by some of the folks waiting for lunch.  Some shook our hands, some waved goodbye and many yelled, “thank you”.

It was a good day.








Did you ever feel like running away?

I was eight years old and mad as heck. The reason for that escapes me now, but back then, it was imperative in my young mind that I had to leave my home and take care of myself, by myself.

“Mother, I’m going to leave and will never come back.” I said with tears streaming down my cheeks.

“Okay, I’ll pack a lunch for you,” my Mother said.

I took the lunch pail, my dog Fluffy and walked down the alley to the street. I sat down on the curb and ate green grapes.

I talked to Fluffy, who sat by, faithful as always.

My lunch pail was empty.

I walked back home.

I didn’t exchange words with my mother.

That’s the end of the story.

Technology is like a spook hiding behind a door waiting to jump out at me

It scares me; learning something new in technology. So far I’ve learned to do everything I need to do for my jobs, my writing and posting photos. But when I have to learn something new I feel like hiding under the bed.

But if you have to work there is no getting around the tech requirements. I’d rather be walking down a dark street in some foreign country late at night with the moon out full, and foot steps behind me than to have to learn something more in technology. In that situation, I can rely on my intuition, my creativity and my belief that the person behind me is a good soul.

So when the new technology assignment  has to be learned,  I crawl out and face the executioner like a brave, brave soul. And then, I’m facing it and it takes me longer to learn than the normal person; I begin to doubt my intelligence, my ability to learn and I keep asking myself, is there something wrong with me? Did I fall on my head as a youngster? Well, yes I did. A few times, but those dents have been long smoothed over, so nothing I tell myself stops me and I just keep on going until I get it.

People try to help, and those poor folks are so patient, but they tend to explain things like you should already know it and then they walk away and let you stumble.

So this is where I am right now. I have a report due, only through the internet and I’m stumped.  Guess I’ll crawl under the bed.





My brother-in-law, Walter died two days ago, and one day after he enjoyed his 95th birthday with his family.

Walter was a German officer during WWII when he was stationed in Holland. He met the love of his wife, Poppy while there. That was not only scandalous, but dangerous. Love survived and they were reunited after the war and lived for many decades in Germany.

Poppy preceded him in death a few years ago.

Poppy and Walter raised three daughters and had many grandchildren and great grand children.

Walter was a religious and upstanding man; true to his words and a faithful husband, father and business man.

While my Germany was non-existent, and my Dutch fairly passable, whenever I visited with him, I knew he was a good hearted man and I felt blessed in his presence. RIP Walter.

My book, “Too Close to the Sun: a Dutch boy becomes a man” has the story of he and Poppy’s love. Poppy was Will, my late husband’s sister. Wim, Poppy and Walter are featured in the book that is available on Amazon in a re-printed version.


Marrakech revisited

It’s fun with Netflix. I have seen many classic movies and biographies galore. The one I watched this evening was all about the French dress designer YvesYves-garden-225x300 Saint Laurent and his long time companion.

I became nostalgic when the talk turned to Yves Saint Laurent’s garden in Marrakech, Morocco and the familiar scenes of Egyptian blue doors, pillars and window trim, drooping  green tree leaves, tiled pools and walkways winding through the garden.

I remember taking a bus and getting lost on my way to the garden, but finding it just a bit before it closed. It was one place I’d like to see again, but there it was in front of me this evening, so I feel satisfied.

I’m posting a photo of part of the garden when I was there.


Yves saint laurent marrakech garden

Art and science meet to save the oceans

Last night I went to the Monterey Plaza’s Museum of Monterey (MOM) to hear how the arts and sciences join together to save the oceans.

My artist friend, Kira Corser is known for her love of the ocean and her commitment to sea life and it is demonstrated through her artwork.

She hosted the event last night with a panel of artists and scientists.

Scientists spoke about  how the ocean is being destroyed through plastic and other wastes that are being sucked up into the ocean’s environment. They mentioned how the runoff of pesticides from farm lands also contributes to killing sea life.  They told us that life from every living thing creates the cycle and keeps it alive.

We learned there are ocean areas that are over fished and therefore is destroying the balance of sea life. The scientists are working with fisheries to manage the amount of fish and the type of fish needed to maintain the cycle.

I cannot say I understand the complicated issue, but I know this: I can do my part by taking cloth bags to the grocery store, instead of using plastic. There is much more than that, and I welcome all that I can learn to save our environment and the oceans.

Sitting in the opera with over 200 children was good

I was  lucky to be part of the Occhiata Foundation Day at the Opera today; live from the Metropolitan Opera house from New York City. It was a gift to over 200 Monterey County school children  from five different schools by the family of the late Maestro Theodore Garguilo, his wife Gloria and two children, Franca and Terrance.

The school children, a few teachers, and also some parents, were bused to the Century Theatre at the Del Monte Shopping Center in the morning to watch the opera Tosca.

After the opera, and which I didn’t attend, was a lunch served at the Elk’s Club. 

Before the countdown to the live program from New York, Terrence Gargiulo asked questions about the opera to test the children’s memories from an intro he gave to the students earlier at  their schools.

I was impressed with the students; they were a group of kids who chose to attend; they were all attentive and polite.

Three other volunteers from the Arts Council of Monterey County joined me:  Megan Heath, Sunny McCauley and Sam Kantornik. It was also fun to see old friend and Principal of Fairview School in Gonzales, Al Velasquez.

Today’s opera live from the Met is the fifth year the Occhiata Foundation has presented the program to children.






Opera and 200 kids

This morning, I’ll be going to the Tosca opera with 200 kids from six different schools. After that, we’ll all head over to the Elks Lodge for lunch.


I’ll let you know how it all went and if I survived…later.

Gifts for volunteers

How do you keep a volunteer motivated? Showing appreciation is on top of the list, but how do you demonstrate that?

I was on the agenda this morning for our weekly AmeriCorps meeting and the topic was high value volunteers, how to get them, how to keep them, and how to show appreciation.

I wrote to my friend Sumi Haru, who for many years promoted events for the city of Los Angeles. She sent me a list of ideas and my group took them all in and will use some of them for large events.

Then, I had some ‘silly’ ideas that also went over well. Those were little packages of candy and other items with an attached note. These are good for smaller events, such as gallery openings.

Examples: a package of Life Savers, with the note, “You’re a life saver…thanks”

A bag of animal crackers: “This place would be  a zoo without you.”

A pack of peanuts: “We’re nuts about you.”

A Mounds candy bar: “You make a mound of difference…thanks.”

A candle: “You light up our life.”

Do you have any ideas for large and small events? Or have we exhausted them?


Looking for people to do things for free

Volunteerism isn’t as popular as I thought in the U.S. Of course it depends on  the event, I suppose.

If it is a big popular event where tickets are expensive or at a premium,  people want to get involved. But for smaller events it’s like being a salesperson.

Salespeople call on a number of people to get one buyer, and that’s the way it is with lining up volunteers.

I was impressed with the folks I stayed with in Holland. Both were volunteers. One drove a bus to take older people to events, and the other picked up folks who were in the process of becoming  citizens of Holland. The latter one told me that Holland couldn’t make it without volunteers.

I remember my father, at age 85, in Colorado, driving his car to take meals to old people, some younger than he.

I have been impressed with the folks that I have lined up to volunteer. They have all taken the work seriously and are dependable. I cherish them.

Are you a volunteer?