Recalling 9/11/01- The Day in My Life

One of the often asked questions of my parents generation was, “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?”  I remember hearing my parents talk about where they were when they heard the news that the president was shot while riding in a motorcade.  The question for this generation will probably be, “Where were you when the planes struck the Twin Towers?” It was such a tragic moment in U.S. history,  that it’s not hard to remember where one was when they heard the awful news.

I was at home, getting ready for work. I was a single mom of a 3 year-old. I woke up early,  and as usual, tried to keep quiet around the house as I took my shower, made breakfast and got dressed, while I let Nico sleep as long as he could.  When he finally woke up I turned on the TV so that he could stay occupied while I made him breakfast,  and got his clothes together.  Shortly after  7:00 am pacific time, my phone rang. It was Juan. We had just started dating a few months earlier, so it wasn’t that unusual for him to call me in the mornings and say hello.  He seemed frustrated and asked me where I had been and why I hadn’t answered the phone.  There was an urgency in his voice. He told me to turn on the TV. By this time the planes had struck both towers.  He told me he would be right over, that he was going to drop Erica  and Olivia off at their grandmother’s house. Olivia was in the 1st grade. It was her 6th birthday and she was supposed to have a pizza party at school that day, but Juan and Olivia’s mom decided not to send Olivia to school after all.

I hung up the phone and turned on the television, just after the South Tower collapsed.  Juan arrived at my house shortly after that. I wanted his company. I did not want to be alone. Nico was still watching television in the family room, while Juan and I watched the North Tower go down from a small television in my room.  We weren’t sure if we should report for work.  Our office has a command post to call for such emergencies. We called in and were told not to come into work because of the threat level.  Juan’s workplace was downtown, while mine was just outside the civic center.  We were riveted to the television, watching in disbelief what was happening. I had visited New York a couple of times and I loved the city.  I was a native Angeleno and I lived in Southern California all my life, however, at that moment, I was a New Yorker. I felt the horror that those in New York must have been experiencing.

NYC Skyline in 2000 - Twin Towers in the background.

On the ferry from LIberty Island in 2002. The Towers are no longer part of the skyline.

Juan and I sat there all morning, watching the television reports, reliving the horror of those planes crashing into the towers.  Around midday we realized that even though Olivia had not gone to school that day, her classmates were counting on their pizza party.  Juan decided to take the pizzas to Olivia’s school.  I went with him. It seemed surreal to be walking through a grocery store picking up a cake, plates and napkins and getting pizza, on a day that America was attacked.  We went to her school and had the party. Olivia and her classmates were totally unaware of what had happened. They were happy to have pizza and sing Happy Birthday to Olivia. Olivia, with her beaming smile, was happy to be the center of attention.  Juan quietly told me how sad it was that for the rest of her life her birthday would be shared with such a horrible event.

Olivia at her birthday pizza party on 9/11/01.

Olivia's 6th Birthday - 9/11/01

After her pizza party, Juan and I wanted to do something other than go home and watch more news reports.  But we didn’t know what to do.  We decided to to a local pub, to be around other people. The pub had some other customers, but it was eerily quiet. Of course, the television was on and we watched more news reports and replays of the planes colliding. At the end of the day we had to go about our routines, picking up kids from school and daycare, and getting ready for the next day at work.

New Yorkers were dealing with the aftermath.  The President came on TV and asked us to go about our business.  The next day I went to the office. I tried to get on with business as usual. My brother was getting married 4 days later.  The bride’s grandparents from Illinois couldn’t get a flight out to the wedding. Some of the wedding guests had to cancel or make other travel arrangements. The wedding went on anyway, but even during the ceremony the priest made reference to the week’s event.  Two days after the wedding Juan and I decided to take the kids to Disneyland. We thought those wedding guests from out-of-town would want to go too. It turned out that most guests wanted to return home. It seemed like everyone else stayed home too. Disneyland was almost empty.

Olivia and Erica get an autograph from Mary Poppins in an almost deserted Disneyland.

California Adventure nearly empty one week after 9/11/01

Ten years later I can still vividly recall the days events from September 11th.  It was a day that changed America, and a day which I will probably always remember. It’s a day we should never forget.

A cross where Twin Towers used to stand.

Where were you when you heard the news that a plane struck the Towers, the Pentagon, or crashed in a field in Shanksville?


50/50 Friday Weeks 4 and 5

It’s been a very busy and emotional two weeks, so I haven’t done much blogging or made much progress on my list of 50 Things to Do Before my 5oth Birthday. I did manage to knock off a couple of little things, and one big thing, though. Here are some of the little things:

Number 21 on my list–Visit to a local landmark/attraction once a month. This month I went to Dodger Stadium, for a game between the crosstown rivals, the LA Dodgers and Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim. I still don’t understand how a team could be have LA and Anaheim in one title, since they are entirely separate counties, but from what I understand, that’s what the Angels are calling themselves these days. Anyway, the cross-town rivalry doesn’t just exist in Southern California, it also exists is our house. Juan grew up in the OC and I grew up in LA and environs. So we went to the game looking like this.

And of course, like father like son.


Even though I have been to Dodger Stadium several times, this was a special trip for me because I have never been on the actual ball field. After the game, the Dodgers had a fireworks display that would rival all the fireworks going on between the McCourts in thier divorce litigation. Fans got to watch the fireworks from the field, something I was very happy to do.

#21 for the month of June? Check.

The next thing I am making progress on my list, is number 24, review my financial retirement plan. Juan and I have had three meetings with a financial planner in the last two months. Now, before you jump to any false conclusions that I actually have any finances to plan, I should tell you that our lack of financial planning, has caused me a great deal of anxiety. Juan and I have 4 kids between us. Kids are expensive. We have (I hope) four college educations to plan for, not to mention our own retirement. Getting re-married later in life, also caused us to get a late start on the planning. Prior to meeting with this financial planner, Juan and I have been saving whatever we could, hoping and praying that it would be enough to fund some kind of higher education for our kids, with enough leftover for us to be able to eat something besides cat food in our retirement years. And while our meetings did not dispel all of our financial anxiety, they did give us some direction to how to achieve some our goals. I am breathing a little easier now, and I am sure our kids will be happy  relieved okay knowing that they will be able to go to a college. Even though it may not that fancy, schmanzy, private East coast university, we should not have to go knocking at their doors, ready to move in with them when we retire. Now, whether or not the kids will come knocking on our door when they finish college, that’s another issue.

Number 24? Check.

The third thing I did these past two weeks was number 35, Camp on the Beach.  Well,  I call it “beach camping,” even if it was more car camping and the beach was across the Pacific Coast Highway from our tent site, but I think it qualifies. Actually, I really do like camping, but I have never camped near or on the beach, so it is something I have always wanted to do.  When my sister-in-law invited us to tag along with her and her family over 4th of July weekend I was thrilled. It was a last minute decision, but when you go camping with other people who already have the site, and most of the camp gear, a last minute camping decision is easy. We just had to pack a tent and some sleeping bags. It also helped that we were “camping” only an hour away in Orange County at a very beautiful beach, which happened to be down the street from a shopping center, and a take-out pizza place.  Oh, and the fact that the camp site was brand new with showers and flush toilets didn’t hurt either.  Now that is what I call “roughing it.”

Camping with experienced campers makes "roughing it" that much easier.

View of beach from our tent site.

Beautiful Crystal Cove.

Number 35? Check.

The last big thing on my list….

Molly. We got a new dog. I wrote about it here. I thought she was great until I discovered that she completely scratched the back of my leather loveseat. I threatened to send her back , but the kids love her. When we first brought her home, she was a bit timid, but now, she has warmed up to us and has made herself at home.

We had a little bit of trouble trying to reach a consensus on her name. Some contenders were: Jackie, Churro (Diego’s idea), Baby Monkey, Cow (Both Olivia’s ideas). We finally agreed on Molly. Or as I sometimes call her, Miss Molly. But,  Diego likes to call her “Cute-Cute,” because she is.

That’s it for now. 5 down, 45 to go.

My Blessing and My Curse

I have recently discovered a couple of beauty items that I just love. One is for my nails and the other is for my hair.

I have the good fortune, or good genes, to be blessed with strong, healthy fingernails and hair. My hair grows quickly and I have always had a lot of it. Even now,  when I am at an age that most women begin to experience some hair loss,  my hair has become, as my hair stylist says,  “normal.”   However,  even though the hair gods have been kind to me in some ways,  they have not smiled upon me when it comes to hair color.  You see, I am losing that too, that is –my color.  I started greying in my early 20’s and have been fighting it ever since.  (My 12 year-old son also has good hair genes and has a healthy head of hair, but I recently spied two grey hairs on his head!)  If you combine the premature greying of my hair and its fast growth rate, you can see I have a real problem trying to stay ahead of my greying shimmering roots. I have had to spend more and more time and money to achieve my “natural” look.  I have toyed with the idea of letting my hair go au natural, but I still feel too young and I am far too vain to allow myself to do that.  For now, I put up with frequent trips to the salon for my color, or enlist my husband’s help for the home color touch-ups. But I recently found a new weapon in my fight against silver roots.  It allows me to extend time between salon trips, and keep me from donning the plastic gloves and staining my bathroom and towels,  with hair color from home do-it-myself jobs.  This secret weapon looks a lot like a  crayon, but I consider it more to be a magic marker:

The other asset that good genes have bestowed on me are strong fingernails. They grow quickly and are quite strong.  I used to get a professional manicure, but, lately I have given up paying for them.  I think professional manicure is a waste of money on me, because I don’t have the time to wait for the polish to dry completely.  I ruin the manicure before I am out the salon door.  Inevitably, I will sit through the cuticle clipping, filing, shaping, buffing, painting, but the moment I get up from the salon chair, I smudge the polish reaching for car keys, credit card or the door handle!  Besides with all the housework, and keyboarding I do,  the manicure starts to chip away after one day.  Because I am cheap frugal, I save my money and don’t pay for a professional manicure unless it’s a special occasion, like the trip to NY I took three weeks ago. The morning I was leaving for my trip I went to get a manicure. As usual the manicurist tried to sell me extras:

  “Hot oil cuticle treatment?” No.

“Neck and shoulder massage?” No.

“Callous Remover?” Hmm?  No.

“Gel Polish?” What?

The manicurist pitched me the gel manicure. She told me it would last much longer than a regular manicure. It would cost slightly more, $13, and take a bit longer,  since they had to put my nails under a UV light between polish coats. I thought I was running short on time so I said no. Then, as it is my prerogative, I changed my mind and went for the big splurge. I am glad I did. That was three weeks ago, and here are my nails today:

My nails have grown out,  so it’s time for me to remove the gel polish, but the polish has not chipped.  Three weeks later and  it is going strong. I loved it!  I don’t know when I will get another manicure, since I don’t really have  a special event coming up, however,  when I do get my next manicure, I am going to pay the extra money and spend the extra time for a gel manicure.

Now if only they could come up with something that makes the color in my hair last as long the gel polish on my nails!

Walking in LA

Fall has decided to make a reappearance in the land of eternal sunshine. This past weekend, after several weeks of sunshine and temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s we finally had some rain. After the rain left, the temperatures cooled, the air was brisk , the skies were washed blue, and to the north, the lingering rain clouds hung over the San Gabriel mountains. It was a picture postcard kind of day. The kind of day which makes you want to walk in downtown LA,  something Juan and I did during our lunch hour.  Besides it gave Juan the perfect opportunity to take some photos with his NEW iPHONE 4!

Here’s a look at our lunchtime route:

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Doing the Laundry on a Sunday Evening

Most Sunday evenings I feel like it’s a race to the finish line, and before I can settle in for the evening I am usually faced with a mountain of laundry to summit. It seems like the laundry never ends around my house. This time of year the chores feel endless because in addition to my regular household tasks, the holidays add more to my “To Do” list.  The Thanksgiving holiday also reminds me  of the first poem I ever had to memorize, the classic “Stopping By Woods on A Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost. So, as I was doing yet another load of laundry on Sunday evening I was inspired to pen my own version of this classic.

Whose clothes these are I think I know,

They will not do their laundry though.

They let their clothes pile up so high,

I sort, pre-treat, wash, dry and fold.


My family, they must think it’s great,

To have clean clothes without a wait.

Though lots of colors, darks, and whites,

Their laundry’s done and almost never late.


They throw their dirties on the floor,

Not in the hamper or on a rack,

Soiled towels and clothes, hung on the door,

So many loads, one, or two, no less than four.


The clothes are soiled and must be cleaned,

So I have work to do,

And piles of laundry before I sleep.

And piles of laundry before I sleep.


Today is Election Day. Two years ago, on Election Day, I was in Las Vegas, Nevada with my long-time friend Julie. We had voted absentee and traveled from California to be  poll monitors in the swing state of Nevada. We spent the entire day, beginning at 6:00 a.m., outside a polling place to ensure that people were exercising their constitutional right to vote unimpaired. As the day progressed and the polls closed around the country, we used our smart phones to watch voting returns and eagerly waited with excitement for our candidate to be forecasted the winner. By the time the election was called for our candidate, Julie and I were too exhausted to celebrate with all the other poll monitors. It was a historic day and one I will not forget. I was so glad to be a part of it, supporting the election, participating in the process. Throughout the 2008 campaign, Juan, my news junkie, politico fanatic husband, was completely in his element. I learned a lot from him. Our kids did too. All my kids knew about the candidates and engaged in our political discussions.  Even Diego, who was 4 at the time, knew the candidates. When he saw a dollar bill, he said the picture on it was John McCain. On Election Day 2008, Diego’s pre-school teacher asked all the kids, “What is the president?” The teacher had a large paper taped to the classroom door, and wrote the kids’ responses to the question on the paper. Most kids said a president was what you get for your birthday, at Christmas, etc.  Next to Diego’s name, it showed his response:

“A lot of people vote for the president. Me and my sisters and brother and Mom and Dad are voting for Rockobama.”

No doubt, you know that this year’s election is just as important as the election in 2008. I wish I were as engaged as I was before. Still, it’s hard not to feel that we are living in a historic time right now. So, even though, I will not be monitoring polls this year, or Diego may not be able to say who is running for the Governor of California, I will vote today. Will you?

A Third Reason to love the Season

In previous posts I told you how October is one of my favorite months.  October,  is also a favorite for me because it is the unofficial start of the holiday season. In my house, holidays mean decorations. And Halloween is no exception.

There are several neighborhoods in our area which become graveyards, spider nests, and spooky houses in October. As I drive past these houses I dream of a day when my house can take on the total facade of a haunted manor.  When the kids were younger I used to decorate with a “harvest’ theme. But then the girls, who absolutely love all things scary, complained. So, I began mixing in a little spooky factor.  I ended up taming it down because some of the younger neighborhood kids didn’t want to come over. If I had a lot of extra money and time, I could go oveboard and create a full-on haunted house.  As it is, Juan doesn’t look forward to the “decorating season” because with each new holiday, I have to ask him to bring down one of the many crates of decorations I have stored in the attic.  Three crates are dedicated to Halloween. Thanksgiving has one. Christmas has… well let’s just say that I don’t have enough crates to contain Christmas.  My house was once affectionately called, “the Christmas cottage.”

Usually, I wait until the After-Halloween sales to pick up a few decorations. I have been buying a little bit every year for the past several years. Right now I have enough to decorate my front porch:

My living room:


My family room:

My kitchen:

My dining room:

And my guest bathroom.

When I got done putting most of the decorations out this year Erica complained  that the decorations were the same ones we use every year, and it wasn’t scary enough. Maybe I need to go out and the after Halloween clearance sales again this year, and work on a new theme for next year…spooky haunted house?