Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It’s Bad Enough That You Smoke . . .

But do you have to throw your butts out the car window too? I realize the only “legal” place to smoke these days is in one’s car; however, aren’t these cars equipped with ashtrays? Do you have to litter our streets—or worse—cause you’re fiery, smoking butt to hit my car as it drives behind you?

I wonder, has all that smoke swirling inside your brain and your lungs caused you to forget your manners? Or were you taught any manners in the first place? If you’re dumb enough to smoke, perhaps you’re too dumb to learn how to behave in polite society.

(I can feel the flames of a hundred pissed-off smokers hurling butts and blowing smoke in my face for that comment. But come on! You ALL know the act of sucking on these cancer sticks is stupid, right?)

According to the anti-litter group Keep America Beautiful, smokers in the United States generate 4.5 trillion butts each year. And it’s obvious that a great many of them are not going into ashtrays.

We see butt-throwing nearly every time we get behind the wheel; however, the other day there was an incident that really caught my attention. As we drove along Tanque Verde Road (a main artery here in Tucson), we followed a fancy BMW. All of a sudden a smoldering butt flew out of the BMW driver’s window and it hit the grille of our Tahoe.

My husband’s angry reaction caused him to honk the horn and curse. But it was in vain. When the light turned green, we changed lanes and drove up beside the Beamer, just to get a look at someone who drove a classy car but, in our opinion, had no class.

The smoker/driver was a woman clad in big, Jackie-O sunglasses and a stylish cap, and she was too preoccupied with her phone conversation to even glance in the direction of the Tahoe next to her with four sets of eyes looking at her in judgment. I imagine that within another mile or so, once she clicked the OFF button on her cell phone, she lit up again, sucked in some more tar and nicotine, and then rolled down her darkened window and butt-tossed again.

Perhaps the next witness (or victim) took down the license plate number and state, the vehicle make and model, along with the date, time, address or cross-streets and city where the incident occurred, and reported her littering crime to the “Don’t Trash Arizona!” hotline:
1-877-354-8837 (1-877-3-LITTER).
Because guess what? Throwing cigarette butts out the window of your car is a misdemeanor VIOLATION, which can cost as much as $500 in the state of Arizona.

For more information about the litter hotline and efforts to keep Arizona clean, please visit the following websites:

Don’t Trash Arizona!:

Tucson Clean & Beautiful, Inc.:

And for pity’s sake, if you’re a smoker please USE YOUR ASHTRAY! Trust that I am not just blowing smoke about this problem. If I see you throw your butt—regardless of whether or not it hits my car—I’m going to report you.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

The Phenomenon that IS Facebook

Facebook Fairytales: Modern-Day Miracles to Inspire the Human SpiritFacebook Fairytales: Modern-Day Miracles to Inspire the Human Spirit by Emily Liebert

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Emily Liebert had a brilliant concept for a book, and Facebook Fairytales doesn't disappoint. As a fan of this phenomenal social networking website and because I have personal experience with both finding long-lost friends and also being found, I was eager to read her collection of "Modern Day Miracles to Inspire the Human Spirit."

From the first page, I couldn't put it down. It's well-researched, well-written, relatable and highly entertaining. The reader is guaranteed to meet individuals he or she will immediately want to "friend."

Liebert's collection includes some stories that might border on "miraculous," however, I felt they were actually more mundane--and more relatable to all of us who use the site. The stories do, however, range from the poignant tales of a son finding his biological father and a woman finding a kidney donor, to something as simple as one person finding a lost, six-toed cat named "Bob."

Reading the book definitely inspired me to use the site (even more) to locate other long-lost friends and acquaintances from my past. I should note I initially joined just to keep an eye on my kids . . . and yet, I've become hooked.

Very well done. A great read and I highly recommend this book. View all my reviews >>

Friday, March 26, 2010

Books on Tape? Michele Shrugged

I blame Ayn Rand; however, I credit Syliva Schick Young.

For anyone who loves to read and feels as though time doesn’t permit the luxury, recorded books are a viable and enjoyable answer. I, in fact, have become a bit of an addict. My book club pal, Sylvia, told me about a site called It’s a fantastic source—a reliable dealer—offering a low cost membership and monthly book credits.

The first book I ordered and subsequently downloaded from was Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, a 1200-page epic novel that I started reading in hardback version far too late to finish for our October meeting. Never mind that I’d had the book on my shelf for 15 years, before our club selected it. I couldn’t seem to find the time to devote to reading this tome. And then once I got into it, I realized I didn’t have the hours it would take to finish it by simply sitting in a chair and reading.

I, like EVERY modern woman, needed to multitask.

This is how books on tape or audible books became invaluable for me. One can listen in the car, listen while working out, or even listen the way I did, while designing a new jewelry line.

Atlas Shrugged, a story about American business tycoons involved with things like railroads and metals, depicted a distinct characterization between the producers and the consumers in a capitalist society. Allowing the flavor of the book to color my choices of silver and copper in my work (as I decided to absolutely be a PRODUCER), I felt good about myself, and my work.

This, by the way, was in spite of the fact that I ultimately detested the novel, and wanted to murder the narrator. Still, I’ll never forget the experience. Is it because I read it or listened to it? Or was it because I discussed it at Tucson’s most intellectual book club where Sylvia was the host?


I’m one of those avid readers who won’t go anywhere without a book. Now that I’m not writing a novel, I’m back to satisfying my voracious appetite for reading novels. Right now, I’m reading one and listening to another. I realize I’d come across as a complete nerd if I listed how many I’ve tackled since sending in my manuscript for editing during the last week of February. . . so, I won’t. But I will disclose the way it works:
I listen at home and I read on the road.

Because I don’t always know when I’ll be waiting in line—or waiting somewhere—I always keep a book handy. I know when I’ll be stuck in the waiting room of my kid’s orthodontist office, for example, so whipping out a book (provided I remember to bring my reading glasses) helps pass the time.

Right now I’m listening to Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos (outstanding) and reading The Sunday Wife by Cassandra King (wife of Pat Conroy, author of The Prince of Tides). I had the funny experience of meeting Cassandra King at the Tucson Festival of Books, which prompted my desire to buy her book. We met in a bathroom, where I had to rescue and escort her to her proper lecture venue. She, along with my actual charge, novelist Barbara Samuels Oneal, were both delightful. (I should mention that I enjoyed the one of seven novels published by B.S.O. that I read after meeting her). Meanwhile, King signed my copy of The Sunday Wife: “Thank you for seeking me out.”

It’s important to note that audible books owe a great deal to their recorded narrators. Sometimes authors read and it’s awful and detached. Other times, authors like Barbara Kingsolver read (High Tide in Tucson and The Lacuna) and it’s impossible not to marvel at their talents for both writing and performing. I listened to six of the seven Harry Potter books on CD (while cleaning my cabins at Sandy Point Resort), read by the amazing Jim Dale. This was a reader so gifted that I never had to wait for a “said Harry” or “said Hermione” to know which character was speaking.

But the actor or orator or whatever you want to call him that read Atlas Shrugged made me want to kill someone. The taped version of the book was some 54 hours long, and because of the way he impersonated the female lead, Dagny Taggert, I couldn’t’ help but visualize her has a transsexual rather than a strong, female lead.

Couple that experience with the positive hours spent with Dale and the Harry Potter series, and you realize that books are still all about the reader’s (or listener’s) ability to use her imagination and be entertained.

Check out when you want to read but need to multi-task. Tell ‘em Michele sent ya.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Big, Bad Bruise to the Buttocks

Poor kid. She insists on running hurdles because she says “it’s fun.” I’m sure it is. Her forte, however—even though she refuses to believe it—is distance. I know this to be true because I’ve run with her. Never fail, within the first five minutes of our run, she’s half a mile ahead of me. And quite frankly, I’m no slouch.

Also, the only days she doesn’t run distance are the days she has soccer practice. And if she goes for a few days without a long run, she misses it the way any addict misses her fix. I understand they call it a runner’s high. (I have yet to experience a runner’s high . . . I only have runner’s remorse when I go too long without this beneficial workout).

Unfortunately, my daughter’s enthusiasm to run the 100 hurdles in the afternoon track meet was thwarted in warm-up by an early jump and a crash. Her calf hit the hurdle and then she somehow landed a relatively bony butt cheek on top of it, which resulted in a substantial bruise. The injury rendered her ineligible for the hurdles, of course, and the high jump, an event in which she planned to compete for the first time.

We brought her home, iced her up, gave her Advil and cookies, and let her rest for two hours before soccer practice. Yes, soccer practice.

My daughter is setting her physical activity priorities. When it comes to sports, she’s a soccer girl. For those of you in other climates, you may not realize that down here in the desert, soccer season never ends. Club workouts and competition happen year-round, only breaking for three-months while the school season takes place during the winter.

In the fall she added the cross-country team to her schedule and truly enjoyed it. After a long school soccer season, she wasn’t as enthusiastic about spring track until she heard it was a coed team. We realize she doesn’t feel extremely competitive in her events and uses the opportunity as a track team member to stay in shape and have something to do after school other than homework and being with us.

She’s decent at the hurdles and, I feel, with a little training/coaching, could be an outstanding high-jumper. At five-foot nine with legs til next Tuesday, she’s certainly built for it.

This girl can do anything she wants and we’ll always support her decisions. But holding my breath through the potential injuries and icing the (so-far minor) injuries that do occur, make my hair go gray.

Ultimately I believe that for now, one more bruise to the butt doesn’t seem so bad. Ask any parent who has faced something like ACL surgery—an all too common injury for young female soccer players—it could be a lot worse.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

True and Not Too Political

Did you know I used to be a newspaper columnist? Shortly after I was married in 1989, the newspaper for which I worked as a graphic designer and occasional feature writer, offered me the opportunity to write a weekly column. The main reason, aside from earning a degree in journalism and working as a reporter, feature writer and the managing editor of other publications, was that my office was right next door to the newspaper’s managing editor.

It was another case of WHO you know being every bit as critical as WHAT you know.

At the time, we lived in northern California, and my husband worked at the Pacific Stock Exchange, which meant he had to be in downtown San Francisco by the opening bell. (The stock market operates on New York time). This gave us what we called an “oh-dark-thirty” wakeup call. I only had to put my car in DRIVE and coast down the hill to downtown Montclair Village to get to my office, and so I always got an early start.

My office was in a quaint, two-story building separate from the newsroom, and I shared the space with the managing editor. We had a lot in common. Aside from our chosen fields of study and our experience as editors, another thing we had in common was our love of getting to work early, before all the mayhem. Each morning, we drank tea and ate pumpkin muffins purchased from the village bakery below us, and had lively conversations about current headlines and neighborhood happenings.

One day, when I believe we were talking about the Milli Vanilli lip-syncing scandal, my officemate burst out laughing at something I said. (Wish I could remember what it was). “Michele,” she said after choking on her tea, “You should write a column.”

Per her instruction, the next day I placed two sample columns on her desk. One was funny (about baby showers) and one was serious (about my sister being called to serve [in the first] Gulf War). Apparently, they were just what she was looking for, and she gave me the job as a LIFESTYLE section columnist.

“There are two rules,” she said. “Number one is that your material has to be true. This isn’t a venue for publishing fiction. And number two is, don’t make it too political.”

I called the column “First Person Plural.” It wasn’t because I was schizophrenic. It was because of my new life with my new husband, when I went from being a “me” to being a “we.”

I/we followed the rules for a little over two years. Everything I wrote—stories about our life, our dog, our garden, coworkers, softball and volleyball teams, disc golf, the Grateful Dead (!), etc.—was true. Sometimes I couldn’t resist dipping into the political waters, especially during the great social debate about sexual harassment evoked by the Supreme Court selection of Clarence Thomas; however, I always added something personal—something indicative of my/our LIFESTYLE.

I developed a respectful readership. Most (but not all) of my mail was positive, and sometimes—because of the headshot above my columns—I was recognized on the streets of the East Bay in towns like Berkeley, Oakland and Piedmont, California.

I’m no longer a columnist. These days I write both blogs and books. (BTW: My second published book is a collection of my columns with updated commentary. It’s called The Things I Wish I’d Said). Because I’ve recently finished a book manuscript, my third novel, I have more time on my hands to blog. This is why you’re hearing from me more frequently.

Writing blogs to a blogger is like doing pushups to an athlete. It’s just a little literary workout. And being a blogger is a Twenty-first Century name for being a columnist. The ideas and leads come the same way (in the shower) and the process is the same (sitting at the computer and typing). The differences are there are no deadlines, I have no editor, and I have no rules.

Also, I don’t get paid.

I’m still writing about my life, hoping always to find a reader who might relate to a story or find a smile. Everything is true, although I admit sometimes I do stretch or alter certain facts for the sake of . . . for the sake of, well, I don’t know. Since I’ve become a fiction writer, I’m much more comfortable with making shit up.

But this is true: Starting in third grade, my teachers told me I was a “good writer.” I then came of age during the Watergate scandal, and after I saw All the President’s Men, I wanted to be an investigative journalist like Woodward or Bernstein. In my middle age, however, I’ve grown terribly weary of politics and think the current political climate in this country is a disgrace. It feels like a waste of time and energy to discuss political issues. People are so passionately attached to their opinions, there’s rarely room for intellectual conversation.

That notwithstanding, yesterday I took a chance and put in my two cents about the health care debate. The blog generated many, many hits and, as far as I can tell, lost me only one “fan.”

Meanwhile, I’m not sure what I’ll write about tomorrow or the day after that . . . but it will most likely be about my kids or my friend Beaver or my role as a soccer mom or novelist or resort owner or jewelry designer . . . whatever comes to me in the shower.

And for the most part, it’ll be true and not too political.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dream Life Designs Featuring Hill Tribe Silver

For designs featuring Karen Hill Tribe Silver, go to The Shop at Sandy Point Resort

If You’re Not for Health Care Reform You...

1. Haven’t been denied coverage
2. Haven’t paid your own premiums
3. Haven’t watched your premiums go up as much as 45% per year
4. Haven’t had a sick child
5. Haven’t experienced a serious injury
6. Haven’t gone bankrupt trying to payoff medical bills.

And, as demonstrated by the debate and subsequent vote in congress, if you’re not for health care reform—at least the current version of reform on the President’s desk—YOU are a Republican.

I’m neither a Republican nor a Democrat. In fact, I detest partisan politics. I won’t form my opinion on an issue because President Obama and Nancy Pelosi tell me how to think. Nor will I enter a debate using phrases I’ve heard from Rush Limbaugh or Newt Gingrich.

I am an American citizen who strongly believes our nation is in dire need of health care and health insurance reform. I realize it’s what our government is trying to accomplish. It’s been a messy—even UGLY—process, but the debate in itself, has demonstrated the true nature of a democracy.

I may not like every aspect of the bill President Obama has just signed into law; however, I believe it’s the first step in getting on the track to reform. Let’s stop fighting and name-calling and deal with it, shall we?

When it comes to why I feel we need health care reform, my opinion is based on the following:

I am a small business owner. It’s a sole-proprietorship, where we pay for our own medical insurance. We do not have a dental plan. This means each time we go for a cleaning or a crown, we pay full pop (Did you know crowns can cost as much as a thousand dollars apiece these days?) Fortunately, we are a healthy family. Most of our doctor visits are preventative in nature. We keep our appointments, issue our co-pays and go back to living healthy / lucky lives.

Two years ago, however, my child had an accident and broke her arm. It required surgery. At the time Blue Cross/Blue Shield—a reputable insurance company—covered us. As customers of BCBS, each October, the month I officially aged, I received a letter informing me our premium was going up. Then again in December, the month of my husband’s birthday, a second letter came announcing yet another increase. Since we weren’t getting any younger, there was no end or cap in sight.

After my daughter’s fourth cast came off for good and all the bills came in, in spite of our BCBS coverage, we still faced close to $4,000 in expenses not covered by our plan.

Now, this may not seem like a lot to people with a lot of money—those people who make $200,000 per year or who have homes valued at $700,000 (i.e. those facing taxes proposed by this bill/law)—but to people who work just as hard in less lucrative professions and who pay rent rather than own a home—or who’ve already paid out $6,000 in insurance premiums, which have only covered part of maybe four annual checkups . . . it’s a big financial burden.

We paid our bills and then shopped for new insurance. With the new company and the new underwriting, our premiums were cut in half; however, we soon learned that they paid for, well, nothing. Then when our birthdays rolled around, the premium went up 45%. So, we found yet another company and are currently keeping our fingers crossed that this one will be a good one . . . at least until the birthday letters come.

I was happy on Sunday night when I learned this health care reform bill passed in the House of Representatives. Again, it’s not because I agree with everything the bill proposes. It’s because I agree with what the bill represents. What it represents is the first step toward truly necessary reform.

It also represents the first time in a long time that Congress has actually accomplished SOMETHING other than just perpetuating ugly and unproductive partisan politics.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Doves on Our Doorstep

It happens every spring. Just outside our front door we have a talavera sconce that becomes a nesting shelf for a pair of love doves. They take turns sitting atop two white eggs, which rest on a thin collection of twigs and branches. The doves have grown so accustomed to our comings and goings, they stay put when we breeze past.

Male and female mourning doves look the same. Generally, the male takes the day shift and the female is on the nest at night. It’s a continuous incubation period that lasts 14-15 days. Both Mom and Dad are often in sight. When one is on the nest, the other is nearby, keeping watch from our courtyard wall.

They are monogamous birds, and in warm climates (like Tucson) are active breeders. They may raise up to six broods per season and will return to the same nest again and again.

Whether or not we’ve had repeat tenants on our doorstep is unknown. They all look alike to me. What I do know is that they’re definitely squatters and they don’t pay a dime in rent.

I’ll update when the hatchlings come to life and will have, according to my research on mourning doves, 11-15 days to snap a photo.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

In Search of an Empty Calendar Square

No one in this family can complain that life is boring. On the days where I don’t want to get up and face another day filled with calendar notations about places to be and things to do, I tell myself it’s just a phase. Because of our kids’ ages, and because they’re healthy and active, (and because neither has a driver’s license) we’re at a point in our life where we’re just too flippin’ busy.

And we’re almost at the point where we’re going in five different directions:

1. Dad’s going to work in his office.

2. Mom’s going to work in her office.

3. High Schooler is either going to a sporting activity or a group date.

4. Middle Schooler has a sporting activity and Facebook.

5. Little Dog (appropriately named #5 or “Cinco”) has the backyard. She’s out there yapping right now because a bird has had the nerve to perch on a tree in her territory.

Happily there are still things we do as a family. And on this beautiful Sunday morning on the first day of Spring, praise the Lord, the thing we’re all doing is SLEEPING IN. We’ll get to volleyball practice, homework and the exciting fieldtrip to CIMI (Catalina Island Marine Institute) by the end of the day.

And tomorrow we’ll face another calendar square filled with appointments and obligations. We’ll see it fly by and wonder where all the time went.

I wonder, does anyone know what phase it is in life when things slow down? Please free to comment. I would like to hear from you.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Glad I Didn’t Pay Someone To Do This

Xeriscape Landscaping. (Pronounced ZERO-SCAPE). It’s a term familiar to desert dwellers who recognize the need to conserve water. The word comes from the Greek xeros, which means “dry.”

We have a xeriscape design in our backyard, where we make use of not only cacti and succulents to beautify the overall look of our outdoor rooms, but also the plants that do require regular watering are grouped together. It’s generally a low maintenance yard, particularly during the winter.

Of course, it was especially low-maintenance for us. For the last decade we’ve had a landscaping company taking care of it. Unfortunately, it seems as though this company has gone out of business. Since January, our guys—Tommy and Jerry—simply haven’t shown up, and phone calls have not been returned.

Having a messy yard was something we could live with during most of the winter. It was a cold, rainy season and we spent a lot of time indoors, ignoring our outdoor rooms.

BTW: By messy I mean an abundance of mesquite tree scrap. We have several mature mesquites on property and they are among the messiest trees in existence. If they’re not shedding bean pods, they’re shedding leaf clusters and rice-sized leaves that dry out after the winter freezes and then fall to the ground like snowflakes.

Well, it’s Spring, and there’s a party about to happen. There’s nothing like a party to get you thinking about cleaning up your house. So, yesterday, a gorgeous, sunny day in the Sonoran Desert, we enlisted the help of our kids. All four of us spent the afternoon cleaning up the scrap, and by sundown, it looked good.

Unfortunately, there was one problem. Along with the spring temperatures have come the spring winds. And this week has been very, very windy. (It’s so windy, that my bff Beaver walked off the golf course on Tuesday in the middle of the club championship!) Damn if we didn’t wake up this morning only to find a fresh new deposit of mesquite scrap littering the formerly impeccable grounds.

We have one more day before the big bash and I think we’ll wait until the last minute to do another blow. Sure glad we didn’t pay Tommy and Jerry to do what they do.

On another note, when we checked the pool heater we found that over the winter all the wiring had been eaten away by a tribe of nasty packrats, rendering it useless. The maintenance guy who DID show up today told me it wouldn’t be worth it to replace the parts.

Bottom line on a new pool heater? Three grand. It’s being installed tomorrow, and I have only one word to say about that:


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Did You Hear About the Cozzens?

We haven’t been to the movies together since just before Christmas, when we saw The Blind Side. It was a toss-up between what turned out to be Sandra Bullock’s Oscar-winning performance and the Hugh Grant/Sarah Jessica Parker film, Did You Hear About the Morgans. We both enjoyed The Blind Side and felt it was the right choice.

This morning, a windy Tuesday in Tucson, turned out to be not a very good outdoor workout day. Indoor workout days point to the elliptical machine. We’ve found the best way to pass the time on the elliptical is to watch TV while tallying up the miles and burning off the calories.

Today, we felt like a movie. So, while Mike jumped on the machine first, I used the On Demand feature on our DirecTV system and ordered Did You Hear About The Morgans.

At least I thought I did.

The film started out very dark. There was man waking up early, who then woke up his little brother. He met a group of guys in a locker room—actors we recognized like Matt Dillon and Laurence Fishburne—and they put on uniforms and showed off their guns. I thought it was strange that Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker would be in a film with these dudes.

Pushing the MENU button on my remote, I checked to make sure I had ordered the right movie. It clearly read: “Did You Hear About the Morgans.” I didn’t know anything about the story, other than it was supposed to be a comedy. The synopsis said it was about a couple in the witness protection program.

Okay . . . so we continued with the guys in the locker room and watched them get into armored vehicles. We figured the crime was about to happen, and that at any moment the Morgans would appear and be the witnesses.

Mike was sweating away, breathing heavily, while I snuggled up with a blanket, waiting to see what Sarah Jessica might be wearing and for this crime to take place. The lulling back-and-forth of the elliptical and the darkness of the film were putting me to sleep. Meanwhile, the guys in the armored truck made their pick-up and delivery. And there was no crime. No witnesses.


I checked again. “Did You Hear About the Morgans” came up once more as the title of the film. We were thirty minutes into this thing and I was still trying to conjure up a way for the cute black guy, the rookie on the armored vehicle team, to get hooked up with Grant and Parker.

“You still think you’ve got the wrong movie, don’t you?” offered Mike, now about five-hundred calories lighter.

“I’d say I’m pretty certain.”

I explored the DirecTV menus and saw there was another On Demand film called Armored starring, of course, Matt Dillon and Laurence Fishburne.


Obviously DirecTV had a programming glitch. I confirmed this by calling and made sure I didn’t get charged $5.99 for the wrong movie. And when I finally got a supervisor on the phone (after an automated system nightmare and a woman who was on the first day of the job and simply couldn’t understand my problem), both Mike and I were into the action film and wanted to see the outcome.

In the meantime, the Cozzens comedy team came up with several different plot scenarios merging these two films. And frankly, I think our versions were more entertaining than what was erroneously broadcasting into our bedroom.

I’d share them, but I promised my husband I’d keep it all in the witness protection program.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Is Soccer Coach Innocent or Guilty?

A couple weeks ago a story ran on the front page of the Sunday paper, the Arizona Daily Star. It was about two local club soccer coaches who had lost their coaching privileges due to allegations of inappropriate conduct. I was quoted in this article.

The reporter on the story found me through an “Internet search,” because my daughter belonged to the club where the coaches were last employed in Tucson. She’s no longer in this club, but because I was a team manager last year, I was on some kind of list. Apparently so was our phone number.

Turns out I knew the coaches in question, however, I had no idea about the allegations and found the story shocking, disturbing and sad. These two men were very good coaches, and my daughter never had a problem with either one. The reporter asked if I thought the club owed it to the membership to share the information about the allegations, which were upheld by the AYSO (Arizona Youth Soccer Organization).

I really wasn’t sure. I didn’t know how I—or my daughter—would benefit by having this knowledge. If anything, I simply wanted to know the truth, and by answering the phone that day, this reporter made the truth of the story my business.

So, after I spoke with him, I asked a few questions of my own. (I used to be a reporter, too). I found out that the club administrators were not officially made aware of the AYSO decision against the two coaches because neither was employed by the club when the ban went into effect. And because of a lot of inter-club politics/competition/fighting, the club in question wasn’t willing to talk to the reporter, who—as it turns out—happened to be a coach for one of the competing clubs.

Suddenly, the story smelled a little bit like a conflict of interest. I confronted the reporter on this “allegation,” and he claimed to have no inside information about the case and no knowledge of the depth and drama between competing local soccer clubs. He also claimed his editor was fully aware of his personal involvement with local youth soccer.

Anyway, because representatives from the club that formerly employed the accused coaches wouldn’t talk to the reporter to provide a lot of pertinent details to the story/case—and it didn’t have the obligation or even the legal right to inform past and current club members about the allegations—this became the job of the newspaper. And it used a sensational front-page headline to do so.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe all the facts were presented.

Consequently, the article succeeded at tarnishing the names and reputations of the coaches (and the club) and follow-up articles further reported that one of the coaches (the one still coaching soccer in California) resigned from his university coaching job as a result of the story. Turns out that like me, his employer first heard of the allegations when this reporter phoned him looking for background/comments. The university reportedly completed a background check on the coach before hiring him, however, the allegations ultimately upheld by the AYSO weren’t filed until after he left Arizona.

I’m still not sure I’ve heard all the “truth” to this story. The main thing I did learn is that the general public does NOT understand the difference between “allegations” and “charges.” Yes, the AYSO claims to have found sufficient reason to uphold the allegations, but no formal or criminal charges have been filed. The coach had an attorney at the AYSO hearing; however, the attorney wasn’t allowed to speak. Further, I understand there were conflicting documents by the accuser, who essentially accused him of “flirting.” And because the paper used the phrase “sexual misconduct,” he’s been labeled as everything from a “scum bag” to a “sex offender.”

Meanwhile, the coach continues to deny the accusations and according to the newspaper (and my sources as well) is planning to appeal his case.

This newspaper has played a powerful role. The reported accusations—regardless of whether or not they’re true—have caused a good coach to go down in flames. (BTW: The ban on coaching youth soccer is effective nationwide). If the allegations are ultimately found to be without merit and no charges are filed, one can’t help but wonder if he’ll ever be able to regain his reputation as a successful and valuable coach. Either way, will there be another front-page story?

I also wonder if there’s ANYONE who truly believes in our criminal justice system’s concept that the accused are INNOCENT until proven guilty. How about you?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Death of a Saguaro

It’s a sad day in the Sonoran Desert. We don’t complain about abundant rain in the desert—ever. Unfortunately, however, when the ground gets very soft it’s possible that a shallow-rooted giant will be unearthed. Such was the case for the 35-foot mature saguaro cactus in our back yard.

Boom. It fell to pieces.

We didn’t hear it fall, only discovered it dead on the desert floor. Looking at it all twisted and gnarled—broken and sad, it feels like we should get out police tape and make an outline.

The saguaro is a slow grower and takes a decade to grow its first inch. After 75 years it will grow arms. It’s exclusive to the Sonoran Desert and is protected by the Arizona Native Plant Law.

Clearly, Mother Nature has no respect for this law.

We knew this saguaro—number two of three on our property to go down since we’ve lived here—wasn’t in the best of health, and noticed it leaning like the Tower of Pisa for several months. We suspect it suffered from “saguaro rot,” which is a bacterial infection.

Regardless of the cause of death, we’re all saddened by the loss.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"I Am Suck"

It’s a terrible phase.

I struggled with a manuscript, wrote in a vacuum and finally got to the words, THE END. I read it from start to finish and thought it was okay. I sent it off and didn’t look at it for almost two weeks. And then finally, I had the courage to read it again.

Oh no. It’s crap. It needs a lot of work. It doesn’t make sense. Who is going to get this? Why would anyone be interested? This is just far-fetched and unbelievable. The whole thing has just been one big waste of time.

It’s a terrible phase.

My friend, Robin, a wonderful and talented author/performer/recording artist, once told me it’s called the “I am suck” phase, and many artists/writers go through it. I went through it with the last two novels I wrote and each time, it led me to massive editing and rewriting. Back then I had it in me. Now? I’m not sure. For right now, it’s led me to a sleepless night.

It’s a terrible phase.

In her first book, Piano Girl, A Memoir, Robin illustrates this so-called phase as an ongoing voice in her head called “the voice of doom.” She overpowers the voice with hard work and determination. The fact that she’s extremely talented also gives her power over the voice, and she ultimately succeeds again and again. I wish I had that kind of resolve. But frankly, I’m tired.

It’s a terrible phase.

Perhaps when it comes back from the editor and a few chosen readers, there will be some helpful suggestions—at least some guidance to help get me into the phase of once again feeling good about the work. Because right now the mantra in my head is only telling me, “I am suck.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I, for one, didn’t give a single thought to actress/party-girl Lindsay Lohan when I first saw the E-Trade commercial that originally aired during the Super Bowl. And now, thanks to her $100 million lawsuit alleging E-Trade illegally used her name, she’s forever attached to this commercial.

Does anyone else smell a publicity hoax? It’s an absurd lawsuit that has succeeded at getting her name in the news and E-Trade’s commercial shown again and again on television. And this is just the kind of crap the media laps up. Lindsay has already been labeled as a lesbian, a lunatic and a lime-light-loving narcissist. Why should she be phased by being called a “milka-holic?” If anything, that’s the kindest thing she’s been called.

If she owns a copyright on the name “Lindsay,” or has any supplemental rights to its use, why isn’t she suing the hundreds of thousands of parents who’ve opted to give their children this name?

Two years ago I was in a copyright dispute over use of the word BUNCO (or BUNKO), which we wanted to use in the title of my second novel (ultimately called It’s Not Your Mother’s Bridge Club). Prior to publication, my publisher contacted the World Bunco Association, located in southern California, announcing the title (The Bunco Chronicles), which was a story about a group of women who play the popular dice game. He hoped to generate an association with this organization and promote book sales to this target audience. Instead the response he received was to “cease and desist” in the name of copyright infringement.

Leslie Crouch, association president, claimed to hold all rights to the use of this word for many things, including book titles. In spite of my publisher’s and his attorney’s rejection of this claim, we met with her and attempted to negotiate a deal. Turns out she wanted fifty percent of the royalties, which most would agree was almost as absurd as Lindsay Lohan’s price tag. Considering most copyright deals fall between three and ten percent, it all felt like a great big bunco operation.

We soon learned the World Bunco Association only had “supplemental” rights to the word and according to our research (which included conversations with ten different attorneys) Crouch wasn’t entitled to have exclusive use of the word. This doesn’t mean she didn’t have the right to sue if we did use it. And although we believed she wouldn’t win the case, we’d spend far too much in legal fees defending our right to use the word bunco (even if we spelled it with a K). No one but the lawyers would have made a dime off my little bunko novel.

It could have been a win-win situation for the book and the association but everything about the ordeal ended up feeling wrong. So, we changed the name of the book.

Reviews were good but sales were modest at best. My small publisher doesn’t have a big publicity department and I, unfortunately, am not as narcissistic and lime-light-loving as Lindsay Lohan. I haven’t pounded the publicity pavement as much as I should have if I wanted the novel to be a true success.

Damn! Why didn’t I give my alcoholic character (Tara) the name Lindsay? Maybe Lindsay Lohan would have sued me for $100 million (or fifty percent of the profits) and my book would have been all over the news.

Live and learn.