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Friday, April 10, 2015

Saying Goodbye to My Sister ~ Novato Community Hospital, Feb. 2015

I lost my little sister in an accident in February 2015. Shortly after, I wrote a review of Novato Community Hospital. I'm still coping with the tremendous sense of loss I feel, but writing about how I feel, and even writing to Dana, has helped me get through some of the more difficult moments.

"You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.
—Jim Rohn (1930-2009) ~ American Entrepreneur, Author And Motivational Speaker

3/1/15 - Novato Community Hospital, Novato, CA

My sister was taken to Novato Community ER just over a week ago. When I arrived with my husband an hour later, my parents and her husband were already there. It's still really hard to think about, but I remember how kind the staff attending to her was. They touched our arms, hugged us, moved silently around our teary faces to help her, and honestly explained what we were facing. A doctor came in and they quietly placed chairs behind us - that's never a good sign - and the news was not good. 

I spent the next couple of days next to her side, holding her hand and saying my goodbyes to a beautiful 31 year woman, daughter, sister, wife, and best friend.

The staff was so helpful. Our family was provided with a private room nearby with a couple of couches and a fridge, and they happily buzzed us through the security door to ICU at all hours. They kept the coffee full, put cookies out, and cleaned up the room when we weren't in there.  I believe someone brought hot breakfast to my mom the first morning.

The hospital chaplain was very nice and prayed with us. Security helped us find places we needed to go. The organ donation representative was extremely kind and informative. My little sister would be able to help save so many lives with her donations since she was so young and healthy. The woman was really wonderful and made us see something positive about the horribly tragic accident.

I sobbed, wept, and wailed for days straight - they never asked me to step out or regain control of my emotions. They allowed me to grieve, even though I was probably terrifying all the other ER patients. Staff was so incredibly wonderful. 

I said my last goodbye on Thursday and braided her pretty blonde hair. I cut off a braid and her husband asked me for it - so I wanted to turn her head and braid a piece on the other side for myself.  I asked a woman outside the room if it was okay to move her head without disrupting the life support. She coldly said she could "get a nurse" to help me with that. Maybe she was a doctor? Her tone was pretty condescending. My husband also asked a question about getting coffee refilled. This had been the hardest day for me yet - I had not eaten in two days and the coffee was the only thing keeping me awake on my feet. She curtly said "Hair. Coffee. Anything else you're going to need?!" Oh, I'm sorry - am I being too needy? Are you having a bad day? I gave my sister a final kiss goodbye and we went home. Without coffee.

The ladies at the information desk downstairs and the woman in the gift shop were all really sweet too. My Aunt bought three angels in the shop. One for my mother, one for me, and one that Dana was buried with, holding it between her hands. Thank you for being so kind to us at the most difficult time of our lives. Almost all of the people who we dealt with seemed more like angels themselves. What a hard job it must be at times. Thanks for being the loving hands that do your difficult job and help heal others every day. Your smiles and positive attitudes go further than you could ever know.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lobster Tales

February 2015

For the NFL Super Bowl this year my husband and I went to Costco and bought 5 lobster tails for $35 and BBQ'd at home.  The next day I received an email from Casey - he wrote me a lobster story!!

Feb. 2, 2015
Lobster Tale's by Casey Palmer
As we all know the end is near, but the tale of how we got there is the best part.
My name is Casey and I am your usual family friendly crustacean that you might pass along the sea floor if you ever get down here, and believe you me its the place to put on your bucket list.  Its got everything you could ever want from the scary to the hairy to the biters to the slimers, its got it all.  Now I live to tell a good story and that's what this email is all about today.
It all started three days ago when I took my wife out on quick walking trip around the bed.  When I say quick you do know I have ten walking legs, right?!  I can kick some serious ass if you get close enough. My beautiful wife and I were walking along doing our good deed of the day by picking up trash and we stumbled upon some free fish.  What a find! It was like someone set up a dinner table for us on the bottom of sea floor.  We could smell the "fresh" ok maybe not so fresh Mackerel just sitting in this nice box waiting for us to eat it.  We went to town and we ate until we were full.  I finished first and I thought it would be a good time to take a nap so I turned on my back and BAM! I was asleep.  
When I woke up, fear had struck every bone in my body.  Not only was I not on the sea floor anymore but I could actually see the light.  I tried to find my wife but it wasn't just the two of us in there anymore. It was a party and the party was full.  I'm screaming out her name "Amy"  "Amy"  and then I hear it: a small voice coming from the back of the box yelling my name.  I knew I had to make it to her and there was only one way it was going to happen.  I had to eat my way through my fellow crustaceans.  Since I had just eaten all that mackerel I knew it was going to be a tough gaunt but I put by best pincher face on and went to town.  Now this wouldn't be very hard it I was stuck in a box with some stupid fish but these are my own people and they aren't stupid.  Besides all getting lured by the delicious smell of rotting mackerel and having no escape plan.  These are some damn smart lobsters, so smart some of my best friends went to L.I.T.  For all you laymen, that's Lobsters Institute of Technology.  But I didn't see any of them in the box with me.  Back to the predicament at hand.  I had to be sneaky and strong.  I took a look around and there was at least six lobs that I had to get through.  The one thing I had going for me was surprise.
Now us lobs are known for dabbling in the cannibalism category every once and a while that's why our numbers are a little low.  Can you really blame us, who hasn't wanted to eat that relative that you really don't like or that classmate that really pisses you off. If you knew you could get away with it and no one was going to look at you different, you cant say you wouldn't sample someone.  Or at least a quick nibble.  With surprise on my side i had to choose correctly.  One wrong choice and they would be on me like a rabbit and a fake cat purse. Biggest to smallest was the way to go and I saw my biggest foe.  Funny thing I actually knew him from around the bed.  His name was Mike and he was big son of a bitch.  I quickly walked up onto his back and took my pincher's and grabbed his big ole claws. I held him down and chomped at his head.  It was quick and boy do i have to say he tasted good. He was dead and the best thing about it was it looked like he was sleeping.  
I could still hear Amy calling out my name and if I was going to make it I was going to have to act fast.  Don't forget this whole time we were being lifted up through the water.  The next two lobs that I needed to get through were just as easy as the first.  I walked up on both of them, held their claws down, and chomped into their heads.  Not only was I getting full but I was getting close as Amy's Screams were growing exponentially in my ears.  I could see her, she was so close just one more lobster to get through and I didn't want Amy to see what I had to do to save here so I politely asked the last lob in my way to move over.  Wow, that was easy; he just got right out of my way.  I made it.  I finally made it. 
As I went to give Amy a big kiss she asked me what was hanging off my face then I realized why the other lobster had gotten out of my way so fast.  I had a half eaten antennae stuck to my lobstery face.  I told her as I embraced her for the rest of the ride up through the water and we had a good laugh.  As our embrace came to a halt I fell onto my back and the next thing I saw was this big sign that said OCTSOC.  I would go to my watery grave never knowing what that meant.  DO YOU?
Love,   Your Husband 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Everything Amy (Walker) Says

Amy Walker: Inside Out Tour
February 2, 2015

The City of Martinez proclaimed January 22nd as Amy Walker day. So today my blog will be retitled: “Everything Amy *Walker* Says”.  Amy Walker has a lot to say, and her words are as bright as her wide smile.
The world tour of her one-woman show kicked off last month at the Campbell Theater in Martinez, CA.  Amy was full of enthusiasm for her many characters, each presented with quite unique personalities. On stage she engaged herself in performing different roles in a variety of ways, gender bending as needed. Poetry, literature, song and improvisation blended together to entertain the crowd in front of her.

Amy Walker emerged as an Internet star - if you aren't familiar with her youtube videos she's worth checking out. It seems she is just as comfortable in front of a live audience as she is her camera.
Singing "Beautiful Mess"
While her show was meant to be fun, Ms. Walker also used the time as an opportunity to remind people to be "courageously compassionate". (her words!) She reminded us to love one another, accept each other, embrace our differences, and be happy with ourselves. (my words!) That is what I took away from the evening's performance - a simple yet effective reminder that uniqueness should she celebrated, and that when life gets messy, we should see ourselves as a "Beautiful Mess".

Jamie Jobb of Traveling Light Studio
Martinez, CA

Monday, November 17, 2014

Homemade Prik Nam Pla (Thai hot sauce)

Thai chilis
A handful of years ago while attending the paralegal program at Cal State University, East Bay campus, my classmate and friend Emily brought me some steamed rice and a sealed container of homemade Prik (Thai chili) Nam Pla (fish sauce).  I LOVE hot sauce and I'd never had anything similar to this; throughout our semesters together, from time to time, she'd surprise me with this Thai treat. Her Thai neighbor made the recipe from memory, but I have found a few online that are all very simple and achieve a similar result.

I loosely followed a recipe I found, changing it slightly to fit my personal taste.

Red onion and garlic
Original recipe:
3 Tablespoons fish sauce
3 cloves garlic
4 Thai chili
3 pieces of lime
3 Tablespoons sugar
Red onion (no amount specified)

I made the recipe as directed but only used almost 2 Tb of sugar (we ran out). The result was a slightly salty hot sauce, that wasn't hot enough for me (I can handle "very spicy") so I added:

Tiparos brand fish sauce - $2

3 more Tb fish sauce
2 cloves garlic
7 Thai chili
Lime juice (I gave the bottle a good squeeze!)
Red onion (chopped very fine)
2 Tb rice vinegar
Sesame oil - just a splash

Rice vinegar, sesame oil, & lime juice
 Prik Nam Pla is generally used as a condiment but is also a good dip.  The hot sauce is still a little bit salty for me. Fish sauce is made from sardine extract so I'm trying to think of something that will help balance the strong salt taste. This is probably why it's so good over rice. Perhaps a little extra parsley in my next batch will help a little. 

I purchased my fish sauce at a local Asian (Korean) market for $2.  The rest of the items I already had. I buy Thai chili peppers at the local produce market, along with my parsley, red onions, and peeled garlic. All of the ingredients are inexpensive and the recipe is fast and simple.

 Don't let the idea of liquid fish in a bottle scare you - my husband said "fish sauce" makes his skin crawl.  It's full of flavor and a staple of most Southeast Asian countries. Fresh, homemade hot sauce is a wonderful and healthy way to spice up your cooking and is especially delicious on fresh vegetables and other side dishes.

Final product - Prik Nam Pla


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mt. Diablo Legal Professional's Association, Contra Costa County


If you are currently working as a legal professional in Contra Costa County, becoming a member of the MDLPA is a very valuable (and fun) way to invest in yourself.  I have been a member of MDLPA for several years and enjoy making friends and hearing speakers at the monthly membership meetings.  These regular meetings are held the second Monday of every month and potential members and guests are welcome to attend. In attendance they often have paralegals, legal secretaries, document solution companies, staffing agencies, and reporting service companies.  It is a wonderful opportunity to network with other legal professionals over dinner.

Emails are sent out between meetings updating us on important changes to local and federal laws, court schedules and other relevant matters. We also receive notices of employment opportunities, and from time to time a member will submit a question in hopes that someone with more experience in that area can help answer it.

We currently have over 50 members. General membership dues are only $50 annually. Student memberships are offered at a discounted rate. The monthly dinner is less than $25 for members and often includes MCLE credits, a big bonus for paralegals like myself who are required to complete several hours a year. Many law firms are happy to pay these fees for their staff - I'm lucky to work for a firm that will pay for any employee to join and attend. Speaker topics vary month to month and our speakers are often local attorneys, judges, court staff, and other legal professionals.

Fundraisers are held throughout the year, as well as interclub events with other local associations.  Crab feeds, dinner and theater nights, horse racing, and bowling are all examples of FUNdraising activities. Some of the funds contribute to our scholarship fund which is awarded annually to a local college student.

MDLPA is one of the 58 associations of Legal Secretaries, Inc. (  LSI Quarterly conferences take place through the year and are hosted by different associations. I attended my first conference in Sacramento this summer. LSI offers the California Certified Legal Secretary (CCLS) examination.  It is a comprehensive exam and you must maintain your certification once you have passed with continuing education. MDLPA offers a study group to help you prepare to take the exam, which is offered twice a year.

The best way to learn more about this association is to attend a meeting. Dinners are held at Buttercup Grill in Walnut Creek and you must RSVP in advance.  More information about dinners, events, speakers, and the association can be found on their webpage.

Monday, July 28, 2014

I'm So Egg-Cited!

Saturday, July 26, 2014 - A serious egg-craving comes out of nowhere!

So there I am on Saturday night sitting at home with my husband, when all of a sudden we both start craving eggs. We had finished off our cage-free eggs from Costco earlier in the week and Trader Joe's across the street was already closed for the night. So naturally, instead of finding something else for our late-night snack, Casey got in his car and drove a few miles to Safeway. He came home with a loaf of bread and 18 fresh, cage-free eggs.

(Any kind-hearted person should spend the
extra $1-2 & buy cage-free;
or better yet, purchase eggs from your
local farmer's market.)
Our amazing ceramic cookware
My grandmother used to cook me eggs a lot when I was little.  Actually, ever time I go visit my grandparents to this day, she cooks me eggs. One of my favorite ways for her to make my egg breakfast was her "snake eyes". I now get to enjoy cooking eggs for my husband this way - it adds a little fun to your plate. Start by heating butter to coat the bottom of your cooking pan.  Choose a pan big enough for two pieces of bread.  Cut an "X" into each piece of bread.

Place your bread into the pan and carefully break an egg into the middle of each slice of bread.  Cook to your liking and then flip the bread.  Casey likes his eggs over easy so they only cook on each side a minute or so.  I cook mine longer.

After both sides of the toast and eggs have cooked, remove from the pan and serve by themselves or with jelly.

It takes a little imagination now, but as a child, it was easy to see the "snake eyes" on my plate - and it is still a delicious and fun way to cook and serve eggs!

After cooking Casey's eggs I added more butter to the pan and placed two thick onion ring slices on the heated pan.  I used the middle of the onion in order to get the biggest rings.

Two large onion rings for the eggs,
smaller onion rings for snacking

Next, I cracked an egg inside the onion ring. When I went to crack my second egg, I placed one hand accidentally on the hot stove and burned it, causing me to drop the egg on the floor.  I scooped part of it up, but didn't put it inside the second onion circle because of my hurry to toss it into the pan and get some flour for my burn.
(Hint: putting flour on a burn takes the pain away!)
Just as I had done with the bread, I flipped my egg/onion over after a couple of minutes.  This is a great way to cook an egg perfectly sized for a sandwich, but it's also just a tasty, fun way to serve eggs. Especially if you like grilled onion! (I threw in a couple extra pieces of onion for eating because I love it hot and grilled.)  So next time you're cooking eggs, there are a couple of ways to make it more egg-citing!
And if youre NOT an egg-eater (for all my vegan friends),
below is a link to the latest egg-replacement news from a local (San Fran) company
using plants to replace chicken eggs. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

In Music News....What Does The Fox Say?

May 28, 2014
We spent last weekend in Bend, Oregon with our friends Cameron and Ruston. We drove up on Thursday (5/22) and took our time during the drive in order to stop often and explore.  We arrived late that night after 12 hours on the road, but slept great (in Ruston's bed; with Ruston's doggie!) and woke up refreshed and ready for adventure on Friday. There is a lot of beer in Bend, OR.  Needless to say, we consumed a lot of it! We hopped around and stopped at lots of microbreweries, then picked up some beers for the house.  Late into the evening on Friday night, we had music playing on the TV as we all talked and laughed. 
Have you seen the "People Are Awesome" videos? You should.  Because: People. Are. Awesome. We mostly had those playing in the background. Until a couple song requests came up....
Cameron played a song titled "The Big Bad Wolf" by Duck Sauce. I'm going to attach a link to a video but I'd like to first say that this is one of the weirdest things you (and 8 million others) will ever view. Nightmares.
Ruston is known by me for his great music choices.  He provides the soundtrack for all the fun weekends we've spent together: at our home in Concord, the cabin in Lake Tahoe, and now in Oregon!  This weekend he played a song titled "What Does the Fox Say" by Ylvis.  I had actually recently just watched a comic (non-music) video by the same duo about an "Intelevator". It was really funny, so I'm not surprised that their music video is also every bit as funny and entertaining.  What did surprise me, is that with more than 414 million views, it's only #27 on a list of Youtube's most viewed videos.
Note: "Gangnam Style" by Psy is #1 on that list, with almost 2 BILLION views. 
I attempted to attach the music video for "What Does the Fox Say?" below - if that doesn't work, definitely check it out on youtube.  (I'd like to see it move up from position #27!! ) It's a really high-quality video, and I think it's a pretty awesome song! Perhaps you'll agree. Or perhaps you're opinion of my music recommendations will take a big dive.  (Though I'm pretty sure that already happened if you braved "The Big Bad Wolf".)
Since I'm in a generous mood, I'll share one more video. One final video we watched that I came home wanting to hear more of was Lindsey Sterling's "Shadows". It's beautiful violin with a pretty face and energetic dance feet. Amazing!