Meeting the Neighbors

We moved onto this street almost 15 years ago and, despite speaking to everyone on our street, there was one set of neighbors I had never met. It wasn’t that I was scared. On the contrary, they are the most peaceful neighbors I could hope to have!

So, 2 1/2 weeks post gallbladder surgery, I waited until my husband left for work (so he couldn’t say no or worry about my safety too much), donned my urban camouflage (I did so good-looking like a tweaker bum that when I got back my neighbor said he’d almost grabbed his gun when I walked by his house), and headed out.  It turns out that between 7 am and 8 am is a great time to walk our neighborhood! The hookers have already gone home and the tweakers haven’t emerged yet!

Welcome to my neighbors’ house: San Joaquin Catholic Cemetery!

Saint Joachim, greeting visitors to the San Joaquin Catholic Cemetery


Is this a saint?
Capt Charles M. Weber, Founder of Stockton, CA
St. Joseph





I have no idea who this is.
St. Isidore the Farmer?


Saint Lorenzo Ruiz


That was yesterday. Today, I walked for 2 1/2 hours and headed to the San Joaquin Rural Cemetery, since they are almost my neighbors (North of this one). I have always been creeped out by the Rural cemetery, even when I went there for the funeral of a friend in high school. I wanted to fight that fear and did but I wasn’t triumphant. That cemetery (the oldest in Stockton) feels sad. I may have to put off any more walking for a bit.


“The Soldiers Friend, Ruel C. Gridley, Born January 23, 1829, Died November 24, 1870” This made my day! “Erected by Rawlin’s Post No. 23, Grand Army of the Republic and the Citizens of Stockton, Sept. 19, 1887, in gratitude for services rendered, Union Soldiers during the War of Rebellion, in collecting 275,000 dollars for the Sanitary Commission by selling and reselling a sack of flour.




The inscription above the name reads, “Green be the turf above thee, Companion of my happier days, None knew thee, but to love thee, None named thee but to praise.”





Loma Prieta Earthquake – 28 years later

I hadn’t realized yesterday marked the 28th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake (that big one that hit San Francisco hard). What most of those outside California may not realize is the epicenter was not in San Francisco but 60 miles south-southeast. You would never know it by the damage it caused.

I have experienced earthquakes all my life, since I have pretty much lived in Central California since my birth. The first earthquake I remember was when I was in the third grade. My desk was jolted and I turned around and yelled at the boy behind me, telling him to stop kicking my desk. Right about then, the teacher told us it was an earthquake (if I remember right, the earthquake drills were the same as the atomic bomb drills … Duck and Cover).

From then until 1989 (and since), the earthquakes are typically different. Have you ever stood up too fast (or turned around too fast) and got a little dizzy? That’s what they usually feel like. My husband knows if I stop what I am doing and stare at the ceiling fan (to see if it is swaying), I got dizzy and am checking for an earthquake.

I was nowhere near the epicenter of the Loma Prieta earthquake. I lived about 120 miles northeast. My 11 month old was napping and I had just sat down to watch the evening news when I was violently jolted from side to side. It was violent enough that if I had been sitting on a stool, it would have knocked me over. Then, a minute or so later (and 60 miles north of us) I see the news studio start shaking. It was surreal.

Once the details started trickling in and I watched with horror the continual coverage of the death and destruction caused by that earthquake, the “what-if” questions began rolling through my head: “What if the ceiling had fallen on us?” “What if the stairs were blocked and we couldn’t get out?” “Where would we go if we had to evacuate?” “How could we have survived with the amount of food in the house?”

Today I realized that was the day this prepper was born. I saw everything differently. I realized just how close I was to an operating nuclear power plant (and thought about how stupid it was that I had been there, swimming and fishing in the warm water … shudder). I realized just how close I was to the various military installations and weapons depots and national labratories and … I am sure you get the picture. Just imagine how much worse it would have been if I had been on the internet at the time!

My paranoia has ebbed and flowed over the years but believe it or not, the one thing I have not worried about is earthquakes. Where I live (a block from the mainline for the railroads) my house is jolted more when a train slams into a train car to hook it up than any earthquake since Loma Prieta. If a major earthquake were to hit, the possible damage here would be due to flooding (not the actual earthquake). That is, unless there is some hidden fault line no one knows about (which is always possible).

Now, my worries are not about North Korea, China, or Russia. My worries are about more mundane issues like: our health and happiness, my husband’s job security, my ability (or inability) to grow anything edible, crackheads, fires in our small community (old wooden houses built close together), reliability of the internet when asshats shoot their guns in the air and tag a junction box … you know, normal “living in a city” issues.

So, my trigger (to want to change my life in a big way) was Loma Prieta. What was yours?

Good Post Surgery Monday!


Well, I had my gallbladder removed on Thursday and not only is today hubby’s first day back to work but this is my first morning without feeling the need to take any pain pills! I am pretty sure I was a bit paranoid I wouldn’t wake up with the alarm, since I was bright eyed 2 hours before the alarm went off! I am thinking a nap may be in order later today, since I am not sure how “occupied” I can be if I cannot lift more than 5 pounds.

I have spent the past month or so preparing for this surgery. With fall threatening to become a reality, I wanted to get as much physical labor finished as I could so I wasn’t fighting weather once I was healed. So, would you like a rundown? I am very happy!

We have been living in this house for almost 6 years and it’s amazing how long upgrades/improvements/plans can take when a person keeps changing their mind (cough). The front yard is at the most 20 feet from the house to the sidewalk and raised. I knew before we moved in that I did not want lawn out there. So, after clearing as much of the lawn and weeds as possible, I was given a few small agave plants. So, I decided those would become my neighbor/crackhead deterrent. I planted some along the neighbor’s driveway and the rest along the front of the house. Then, I left them alone. This was a huge mistake!

April 2015

I did not realize just how big these plants get, nor what their growing habits were. They multiply prolifically, not only in the soil but within the plant themselves. Agave also likes to move whatever is in its way (not excluding house siding). So, when I decided I wanted to remove the concrete shingles, I didn’t realize the size of the job ahead of me.

June 2017

This is just over a year after that first picture and these plants aren’t just sharp, they are like hypodermic needles that (at least on me) tend to cause immediate infection. So, I had to don a face shield (the kind used to protect your face when using a grinder), thick clothes (that I still got poked through) and a machete to cut the leaves back so I could get close enough to dig out the plants.

Just one root ball, on a smaller plant.

Between me chopping away, digging, then having to take a break to recuperate, then finally asking my husband for help (here he is with his mad machete skills):

He can actually hit the same cut multiple times! He’s a god!

Completed a week before my surgery, we now have an almost naked front yard (I will not remove the agave next to the neighbor’s driveway until my husband has a section of fencing ready to go).

Almost naked yard!

Once I recover, then it’s time to work on removing the cement shingles. I could replace the lost/broken ones but I really hate them. Every time we turn around, one of them is breaking. When we first bought this house, we both agreed that the bulk of any “money” we would sink into the house was in sweat equity (there is no way putting in granite counter tops in this neighborhood would pay off). I want the original siding back. I love wood and so far, there doesn’t seem to be too much damage to the siding underneath the shingles (and there aren’t 50 coats of paint on it).

In the mean time, I have two books I am actively working on. One is basically an expanded version of the FAQs for “My Atkins Journey.” The second one is for my father-in-law. He has been writing down stories from his childhood, either about incidents that happened or stories he was told. He initially just wanted me to type them up for him but I thought compiling them into an actual book would be fun. I even have him hunting for pictures to include (he’s thrilled and so am I).

I am a new member if Instagram, so if you want to follow along, check me out here!


“You are pregnant.”

Those three words send a wave of overwhelming emotions (from sheer terror to exhilaration, along with every emotion in between) that can knock you over, whether you were hoping to hear them or they were a total surprise. If you carry the baby to term, things just get worse. That is when the actual worry begins (and never ends).

If you had wonderful parents, you worry you will not be as good as they were. If you did not, you worry you will not give your child (children) better parents. For new parents, no matter how much you read or babysit, nothing compares to the realities of having a newborn baby. This is when the continual worry about doing things correctly begins.

Then, that worry turns into reality as the days, weeks, months, and years pass and it’s difficult to know whether you did a good job or scarred your children for life. Now that my children are technically adults (my youngest is in their first year of adulthood), it looks like I did the latter and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it.

You know it’s bad when your oldest friend defends you to your child by saying, “She’s doing the best she can.” You see, she is a good mother and the kind of mother my children wanted. How do I define “good mother”? A “good mother” is one who puts their children above everything else (including themselves and their spouses). I was not (and never will be) a good mother. I was a “suck it up” mother (I describe myself as more of a distant father). One child just told me, “I understand what neglected means.” I thought loving them and making sure they didn’t kill themselves (or anyone else) counted for something. It was actually counted as a bad thing that the “only time” we spent any time together was while we played video games (I learned so we could do something together they liked).

I have jokingly said I should have had dogs instead of children and, during especially emotionally trying times, I see more truth in that joke:

  • dogs do not scream they hate you when you tell them no (or correct them), then refuse to speak to you for years;
  • dogs do not question whether they were ever wanted when you are trying to teach them a hard lesson;
  • typically, no law enforcement is ever involved with a dog;
  • dogs forgive your mistakes;
  • dogs care whether YOU are happy or not;
  • you always know what makes your dog happy.

I had always seen it as my role to prepare my children for life away from me. I wanted them to understand that life can be wonderful or it could suck horribly but how you dealt with it would determine if you were happy or not. Today, it feels like I have failed miserably. I do not know if it will get any better once my children are in steady relationships with (possibly) children of their own or not. All I know is I am tired (physically, emotionally, and spiritually).

Equifax Data Breach Info

Great piece (30 minutes) about the breach and what to do:

And you basically go here, click “Potential Impact,” follow the steps, sign up for their credit monitoring (only a year), then wait for the Class Action Lawsuit to commence. I want credit monitoring for life!

I like this lawyer’s take on what should be awarded:

Equifax can’t sustain trial over data breach, lead lawyer says

And here’s his website, just in case his lawsuit is granted class action status:

Merging Pains, Twitter, and Autoresponders

When I decided to merge two (of my three) identities into one, I thought I knew what a chore it would be. I was wrong: it’s much worse. Well, not quite. It’s not like the “old days” when I had to cut and paste code or go through each individual page to change a name or attribute. The issue is, I forgot the other WordPress blog had different pages, links, menus, etc. At least this was a much easier transition than when I first arrived on the WordPress scene and transferred all of my Blogspot posts here … that was a nightmare. SO, if there is anything here that is broken, please let me know.

As for YouTube, that WAS a lot of cut and paste. I finally decided that if I forgot to transfer it, I don’t care.

But Twitter was awful! I love the way WordPress and YouTube deal with multiple pages (blogs or channels). You can just switch between them (if you are unlike me, and actually remember to switch). Twitter, if you are old and still using a computer, does not allow that. You have to log off, then log back in to the different account. I use a different password and login for just about everything I do and it would have taken much too long for me to figure out which was which. So, this is what I did.

I announced on my two other Twitter accounts that they would no longer be updated and asked them to follow my “Real Me” account (@brendanolen3). Then, I went through all those I was following on those two accounts and followed with my new account. Well, thanks to all the “Twitter for Business” advice out there, I have been receiving not only autoresponder private messages for the past three hours (from each and every person) BUT some who want me to verify I am a “real” person and click a link (immediate unfollow with those). I even unfollowed someone who was trying to sell their stuff by tagging every single one of their followers, individually posting on that person’s wall (feed … whatever it’s called) to challenge them to “review” their product (maybe I just ignored them before).

If Twitter was my go-to social media platform for business, I would not have the time (nor patience) to read (let alone respond to) all the autoresponder messages I am getting. I understand that I tend to be an “old fart” when it comes to some of the technology out there (heck, I just joined Instagram (brenda_nolen … if you hurry you can see my first and only photo on there) a few days ago and still don’t know what I am doing) but I have a request to all those doing business of any kind on Twitter:

Would you please either arrange for your autorespond messages to be sent at a later time (say, a day after someone follows you) or stop using them? 

I am so irritated, I almost want to turn off all notifications on my phone. All I want to do is learn and possibly share what I learn (and who I learned it from … as in send business your way). Please keep this in mind when you immediately spam someone who follows you (I can’t be the only one who feels this way). If I receive any “reminders” or “follow-ups” from anyone, I will unfollow them. I have also gotten into the habit of unfollowing people who autopost.

I hope this will all calm down, since I just finished “the merge” about an hour ago.

Doctor Day! My Results Are In!

Here are the results of my latest doctor’s visit. I am thrilled!

My Atkins Keto Journey

After 10 years, I am still med free and can officially say I no longer have type 2 diabetes!

A few months back, I went into the doctor weighing 207 with an A1C of 6.9 (normal is 5.6 and below). Keep in mind, I hadn’t been to the doctor in over 5 years and had been eating just about anything I wanted. His instructions were to lose 20 pounds and fix my diet.

So, I pretty much gave up all carbs during the day and ate whatever I wanted for dinner (but stopped eating almost all sweets of any kind, including sugar-free). The first thing I noticed was my desire for food began to lessen. I am now at the point where I may eat a meal and a half to two meals per day. I am just not hungry during the day but I eat something so I don’t…

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Learning To Say No, Even To Myself

Learning to say no to others was painful. I had always been a “people pleaser.” The needs of everyone else came before my needs. I viewed it as my calling to not only help however I could but anticipate the needs of others and do whatever I could to fulfill them. It was exhausting and I probably annoyed more people than I actually helped. I did this until my body couldn’t take it any more. I wasn’t taking care of myself: I never ate properly and would go through bouts of virtually no sleep to sleeping 16 hours at a time. So, I learned to say no to others.

That was all well and good but I turned that need to help others into an obsession to constantly “do” something productive. If I wasn’t physically doing something I had was planning what (and how) to do something. The majority of my time online was spent in the research/planning phase of some glorious project. Suffice it to say, I ended up the same as before: I never ate properly and would go through bouts of virtually no sleep to sleeping 16 hours at a time. Seriously. I have slowly (since officially getting sick in 2010) learning what was worth my time and energy and what wasn’t.

Now, saying no to myself is a very difficult thing for me to do. Once I decide on a course of action, that is all I think about, dream about, and do. I have always been this way. I am like a dog with a bone. That is the way I have handled the challenge that I began April 1st. While the individual tasks aren’t really taxing, they have forced me to change my timing throughout my day. My days can no longer be dictated by “I feel like doing THIS now instead of that.” I have to actually plan and, as this passed week has shown, allow myself time off from everything.

I had to say no. Drinking my water was fine and meditating but I could barely walk from one side of my house to the other (it’s only 800 square feet total) or think clearly. I had to rest by body and my mind. I had to let my body heal (from the root canal and allergy attack the week before, the effects of the antibiotics on my body and the “M” word: menopause). It all came crashing down on Thursday but I fought it. I probably wouldn’t have crashed so hard if I had recognized the trauma my body had been through and taken it a bit easier on her (I do forget that my chronological age is not even close to my mental age).

I am feeling much better today. I have finally slept all night (in bed, not on the couch). I worked in the yard for a bit, did all my other tasks for the day and have not nodded off on the couch. Who knows? I might be completely recovered just in time for my next round of dental work (which is in 2 days). 🙂

OH! One quick note: I broke down and bought a Kindle Fire tablet (reading my Kindle books on my computer put me to sleep and reading them on my phone was too straining). I just bought the cheapest one and I love it! I haven’t used it yet but I had no idea there was an Android app for WordPress! Yes, I can tear apart my computer and put it back together but am just now venturing into the world of apps. lol

Freedom Of Speech – Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. This actually poured out of my mouth a couple of days ago, while watching “Star Wars: Rogue One.” I have not liked how Disney keeps throwing things into these new Star Wars movies that are unnecessary and only there, so they can say, “See? It IS a real Star Wars movie” but that isn’t what I am referring to now. It’s their unnecessary (and, in my eyes, disrespectful) use of CGI.

Is the image on the left from Rogue One or a video game? It’s from the movie.

Anyone with half a brain knows that Peter Cushing (the actor who played Tarkin) has passed away. They should also know Carrie Fisher has passed away. Yet, Disney decided they needed to show off their computer skills to superimpose a computer generated image of both actors into this movie. To me, the actor (above right) could have just worn makeup (his facial structure is very similar) and Princess Leia did not need to face the camera. There, problem solved for much less cost and no cartoon actors. See? Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should.

While I was preparing to begin this post, I received this lovely notification on Facebook:


I am highly irritated. I never post nudity (not mine or anyone else). I do not even post those funny pictures of peaches that look like someone’s rear end. Why? Well, I have finally gotten to a point in my life where I don’t have a need to offend (unless I am really angry with you or it is just too funny not to share).

I wasn’t always this way. I posted, said, typed, or wrote whatever I wanted because “my rights.” I was going to embrace my first amendment right to free speech, no matter how much of an ass I made of myself. It did not matter how many I offended with my use of foul language (which is, technically, my native language) or the manner in which I expressed my opinion. I was going to say whatever I wanted.

Eventually (gradually) things changed. My audience grew wider (and closer to home). I began connecting with actual family members, friends I cared about, and new friends from all over the globe, thanks to Facebook. Now, these people I do care about. Yes, they know I use foul language but do I need to use it so much? I may dislike these politicians but does this post about that entire political party apply to those I care about? Again, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

There were a few “friends” I had that became rabid dogs during this last Presidential election cycle. Despite my restraint during prior elections, they viewed it as their civic and moral duty to denounce and degrade anyone who was not supporting their chosen goddess … I mean candidate. If they would have kept these views on their wall, it would not have been an issue for me but they chose to turn non-partisan posts I made into war zones. Another chose to denounce the 2nd amendment (the right to keep and bear arms), all the while freely accepting meat from the firearm-using hunters they allowed onto their property every year. All of these “friends,” most I had known for almost 20 years, are no longer within my sphere of influence.

I walk a fine line now on social media. I have done my best to be as inclusive as possible since there can be such joy and knowledge shared by all. I have friends and family from all over the globe. They embrace a variety of religions, and have wide-ranging social (and even culinary) views. It probably would not take much to accidentally offend someone BUT, so far, I have chosen my friends wisely. Those who truly embrace the “share our similarities and accept our differences” attitude have remained my friends. I feel blessed.


Jury Duty and Allergies

I have always loathed getting my jury duty notification. Why? In my eyes, it was one more thing the government was forcing me to do. I am forced to pay property taxes if I want to keep my home. I am forced to pay registration fees if I want to drive my car off my property. I am forced to pay sales tax if I want to purchase just about anything. So, when I received my jury duty notice last week I was angry.

This was the first time I have received one since all the kids moved out of the house (damn, can’t claim an exemption for that). I have severe allergies to various chemicals but the ones that get me when I am in public are perfumes or cologne (oh, look. I need a doctor’s note … like I can get that in a week). So, none of the exemptions applied so I began chanting a mantra: “Jury Duty Free.”

It didn’t work. Well, no, it did (sort of). Two nights ago, we checked and there it was: I was to report for jury duty the next day. Oh, I was stomping around the house like a moody teenager. I had to get ready for “battle.” I cleaned out my purse, surprised to find only two knives in there. 🙂 I filled my bag with a physical book, my Kindle (the physical book in case I couldn’t use my Kindle because it’s new and I have not tested it away from home), my inhaler, my epi-pen, my masks, my coffee and something to snack on. By the time I left the house, I was ready.

So, I showed up, made it through security without setting anything off, descended to the basement (which wasn’t as dark and dank as I had envisioned) and settled in. Things were going good (I was amazed I hadn’t run into a wall of perfume). That’s when the rest of the people started filing in. My tranquil mood lasted for about 5 minutes, when I had to get up and go out into the hall. Then more women came out of the elevator and that’s when I realized my mask was no help at all.

So, I hit my inhaler, tried to find the least populated spot, and did my best to slow down my breathing. That is what I continued to do for the next hour, until I was called into the court room. I have only been inside a court room twice before (and neither of those times was for jury duty) so I had no idea what to expect.

There was roll call, then the judge came in. Then, I actually started paying attention. There was the District Attorney, the other woman was obviously the defense attorney, and there was the defendant. I’m not sure why I didn’t think they would all be sitting there. They gave us a piece of paper with the defendant’s name and the possible dates (and times) of the trial, then the judge began speaking.

Since I was clutching my purse way too hard, focusing on slowing my breathing, I pretty much heard, “Blah, blah, blah, Our county has the highest rate of jury duty summons responses in the entire state, blah, blah, blah …” Then, he said something that made me wish I could actually serve: “Jury duty allows us, the people, to actually participate in a branch of the government.”

He finished this up, then went row by row, asking if people needed to be excused or have their jury duty service postponed. I was shocked at how many businesses do not pay anything for jury duty, since it is required by law. When he finally got to my row, I raised my hand, then stood, swaying a bit, and explained my allergies. I sat back down and started to cry. I didn’t know what I would do if he didn’t excuse me. The trial we were there for was slated for almost three weeks!

After everyone pleaded their case, he began reading off the names of those who would be excused or postponed. He read my name and I began to sob. I have never felt so helpless and vulnerable. By the time I made it out of the courthouse, my hands and feet were tingling, due to lack of oxygen. It has now been three days and I am still not 100%. This is also the allergic reaction I have to cats. Too many cat people think I will be alright if they lock their cat in the room or vacuum really good. Whether or not that would work, I can’t take that chance.

Monday I will finally make my appointment with a new doctor.