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Adventures within The Crust!


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Not a Flat Adventure – Part 2

Robin, the park ranger’s daughter of this story moved to Florida a couple of weeks ago…and is now in the path of Hurrican Irma. Not a flat adventure!

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The storm warning over the Bay Area wasn’t going away. John had been checking the weather on his smart phone several times a day. “Are you sure you want to do this?” he asked me more than once.  To be honest, I was a little nervous about backpacking in the wilderness under the threat of severe storm warnings. But I wasn’t going to be the first woman to throw in the towel.

Emily, Robin, Kathy and I had been planning this hike for several months. Robin is a teacher, so Easter break was the perfect time for us to go. Up until now we had been pretty secure in the fact that the weather had been unusually warm and dry this year.

So far…

Now the forecast began to look more and more ominous. We kept sending  texts and facebook messages to each other. “Are we still on for this?” “Rain…

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The Golden Years

Brian suitI’m happy to introduce to you a guest writer who is one of my favorite people in the world! My little brother, Brian, has been a sheriff for almost my whole adult life. I have always been so proud of him, and knew him to be a kind and fair peace officer, but I didn’t know what an engaging and gifted speaker he is until I had the opportunity to hear him speak a couple of weeks ago. The following post is the text of an article he wrote and distributed on June 15, when he spoke at an event for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.  (I will put Brian’s professional bio, and e-mail information at the end of this post so that you can contact him if you’d like him to speak to your group.)

The Golden Years – By William Brian Morris

I think it is most appropriate to begin this article with a disclaimer: The information contained here are my opinions, based on nearly 34 years of law enforcement experience, and not necessarily the opinions of any law enforcement agency.  For the last 12 years of my career, I worked as a major fraud detective sergeant, with a particular focus on the financial abuse of elders and vulnerable adults.  The abuse of vulnerable adults comes in many forms including physical, sexual, mental, neglect, isolation, abandonment, and financial.  Through the years, I investigated most of these kinds of abuse, but only as peripheral issues within fraud cases.  My primary investigative experience is with financial abuse, and that will be the focus of this article.

Untitled01Over the years, I have repeatedly heard the mission of American law enforcement as focusing on three main categories: the protection of life, the preservation of property, and the apprehension of criminals.  Based on this mission, I have come to the conclusion that the primary role of American law enforcement is crime prevention.  If we can prevent crime, we automatically accomplish two of the three missions: protection of life and preservation of property.

Oddly enough I have never read anywhere that a primary mission of law enforcement is the recovery of stolen property.  That being said, of course the police always try to recover stolen property.  In fact, it was always an overarching goal of mine to make the victims in my cases whole, through the recovery of their property or through restitution by the perpetrator as part of the court proceedings.  Nonetheless, it is not law enforcement’s primary mission.  For this reason, it is up to each of us to protect ourselves to the extent possible though safe measures, and knowledge of possible scams and frauds.Untitled06

We are taught, or inherently know, to protect ourselves and our possessions through safe measures that are ingrained in our minds and daily lives.  We lock our houses when we leave.  We don’t walk down dark alleys at night in “bad” areas of town. However, protecting ourselves from fraud can be much more tricky to recognize and avoid, as the goal of the “fraudster” is to get you to willingly GIVE your money to them with a smile on your face.

Untitled07It is widely accepted that elders own 70% of the wealth in America, primarily through family real estate holdings, personal savings, and investment accounts.  This makes older Americans huge targets for theft.  Please keep in mind that you don’t have to be “rich” to be victimized.   We all have some level of wealth that can be viewed by some criminal as worth stealing.  Generally, our wealth has been acquired over many years or even decades, which should be a clue that true “get rich quick” opportunities seldom present themselves and recognizing them at the time is even more difficult.

In order to avoid the world of scams and fraud, it is important to remember that scams are always changing.  Today’s scam is gone tomorrow and something new has taken its place.  However, there are usually common threads that remain consistent:  The deal won’t last.  Everyone is doing this.  This is an emergency.  Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when assessing opportunities and events as being potential scams and frauds:Untitled05

 

  • Contrary to generational upbringing, it is wise to be less trusting of strangers, whether it is someone knocking on your door needing a drink of water, or someone with an orange vest presenting themselves as a representative of a utility company.  You do not need to invite them into your home. For those individuals helping a vulnerable adult family member, be cautious and watchful when choosing and including outside individuals into family affairs.
  • Be wary of phone solicitation.
  • Be very cautious of strangers telling you their sad stories that can be minimized through your generosity.
  • Be cautious when someone wants information regarding your credit, personal wealth, or credit card information.
  • Utilize the internet!  It is a wonderful resource that allows you to research people, products, investments, and companies to determine their legitimacy.
  • The government, in any form, will never call to tell you that you own them money.  The government sends official letters.
  • Legitimate businesses, the government, and investment opportunities do not accept payment by Western Union or cash cards.
  • Law enforcement will never telephone you to collect fines under the threat of arrest warrant issuance.
  • Winning lottery tickets are not sold for cash in the grocery store parking lot.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Untitled03The world of scams, fraud, and deception is ever growing.  Many of us can not even imagine the extent some criminals will go to in order to separate us from our money.  The days of armed criminals engaging in robberies are diminishing because it is a very dangerous way for criminals to get something that is not theirs.  It is much safer to convince someone to happily give away their money.

Finally, make sure to have a support system in place to discuss your financial decisions. The world of financial abuse of vulnerable adults is constantly changing and is as colorful as the minds of the criminals engaging in it.  Live well! Be happy! We have all worked very hard to have the comforts and lifestyles we do. As you get older, don’t let someone take the gold out of your “Golden Years.”

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006 MorrisBrian Morris was a sworn member of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for nearly 34 years and a sergeant for 21 years.  His assignments included Custody Division, Patrol Division, Administrative Division, and Detective Division.  From 2004, until his retirement in 2016, Mr. Morris was a Detective Sergeant assigned to the department’s Fraud & Cyber Crimes Bureau, which is tasked with investigating a myriad of financial crimes.  For more than 12 years, Mr. Morris supervised a team of detectives dedicated to investigating the financial abuse of elders and vulnerable adults.  In addition to overseeing the investigations of others, Sergeant Morris conducts investigations himself.

Mr. Morris was an active member of several multidisciplinary teams, including the Los Angeles County Financial Abuse Specialist Team (F.A.S.T.) and the Los Angeles County Elder Death Review Team.  Sergeant Morris was a founding member of the Los Angeles County Elder Abuse Forensic Center, which is an affiliate entity of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.

Sergeant Morris has served as a consultant to the California Department of Justice – Commission on Peace Officer’s Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.) and regularly provided training for law enforcement and other government and private entities who seek greater understanding of his narrowly focused and highly specialized area of criminal investigation.

For information or booking Brian can be reached at brianinhb@yahoo.com

 

 

 


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BIRGing and CORFing with the Giants

As good today as then. Hopefully with the same results as 2012!

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BIRGing and CORFing are acronyms coined by social psychologists.

I first heard the terms a couple of years ago in our Beth Moore Bible Study in the book of Esther. She was warning of the danger of putting people on a pedestal.

BIRGing means “Basking In Reflected Glory”

CORFing means “Cutting Off Reflected Failure”

I noticed a lot of BIRGing back in 2010 when the Giants won the World Series. Giants’ fans came out of the woodwork. It cracked me up. Everybody was on the bandwagon. People who had never mentioned the word “baseball” were suddenly wearing Giants’ jerseys and hats, talking about how “OUR boys are doing good!”

The same thing happened a couple of weeks ago when OUR team clinched the National League West.  I kept hearing that WE are going to the World Series again.

To be honest – I, myself, kept saying, “WE are going…

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Dice and Cards and Count to Ten

Now the fun really begins! My grandkids move into the stage of learning to read, and count, and recognize numbers. They’re beginning to understand how to reason and strategize. Babies are sweet and cute, but this is the golden age of Grandeehood!

Candyland has given way to tic-tac-toe and checkers, and lately we’ve been having the most fun with some dice and a couple of decks of cards…

Dice and cards! Is Grandee teaching the kiddos to gamble? Not at all. It’s more like a GAMBOL. They love it! The first thing they say when they burst through the door is, “Can we play with cards?” They run to get them from the shelf, and the fun is on!

The first game I taught them was “Dice and Cards”.

Here’s how you play:

Remove all the cards out of the deck except A-6. These 24 cards are the ones you will play with.

Deal 6 cards to each player. The player will place them FACE UP on the table.

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Take turns rolling a die and when you roll a number that is showing on one of your cards you get to turn that card upside down.

The first person to turn over all of their cards is the winner.IMG_4125

I have a jar of brightly colored dice so everyone chooses their favorite color. The kids quickly learned to recognize number patterns on the dice, and this game helps reinforce what the numerals look like. I did have to explain that we’re using an ace for number one. Even 3-year-old Caleb can play this game with very little help.

The other game is “Count to Ten”.  Our older kids learned it pretty quickly, but it’s challenging enough that adults can enjoy it too. I used to play for hours with my mom and her friends at her senior living place.

Here’s how to play.

Deal out 10 cards to each player. FACE DOWN. Do not look at the cards. Place the cards in two rows. The top row will be for cards from 1-5 and the lower row will be 6-10.

IMG_4134After we have placed our cards in two rows we usually count to 10, touching each card as we go, starting at the top row left and finishing at the bottom right.

The remaining cards are put in a stack in the middle of the table with a “discard” facing up.

The object of the game is to have 10 cards placed in numerical order from 1 to 10. The player who counts to 10 with his cards first is the winner.IMG_4171

The game begins with the player to the left of the dealer drawing a card from the center pile or from the discard stack. If it is a number card, he can put it in the corresponding number place in front of him, replacing the upside down card.IMG_3964

Then he looks at the card which had been upside down, which he just replaced. If it is a number card, he can put it in its proper place in his rows. His turn continues until he picks up a card he can’t use. He then discards it and the next player draws.

Queens and Jacks have no value. Kings are “wild” when adults play, but I have not yet introduced the “wild” concept to the kids.

So you can imagine how aggravating it is to draw a face card, or a card that has already been turned over in your hand. And how really aggravating it is when you are forced to discard the exact card the next player needs.

The person who has all of his cards turned face up, counting to 10 is the winner.

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David is on his second hand with only 9 cards in front of him.

That is as far as I’ve gone with our grandkids – one game at a time. But when we play with adults it gets a little more complicated. The game I have described would only be the first hand. In the second hand, that winner is dealt only 9 cards. And if he wins, he would only get 8 cards in the next hand. And so on.  Each time a person “goes out” or turns all of his cards over he is dealt one fewer in the next hand. Until one person is only dealt 1 card and is able to turn it over to be an ace or a 1. Recently the kids played it with their parents and played the longer version with the diminishing number of cards.

It has taken me much longer to describe these games than it would have taken to play them. I’m looking forward to hours of card games this summer. It’s good on so many levels – sharpening math skills and thinking skills and especially the practice of good sportsmanship.


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Rejoicing and Mourning

Today, March 4th, is my husband’s birthday; and today my mom passed away. She was 91 and “ready to go” but I will miss her. Today while celebrate my wonderful husband and thank God for the blessed life we have together, I mourn for the loss of my mom. Rejoicing and mourning. Today we “MARCH FORTH” in the knowledge of God’s great love and his perfect timing

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                      The woman is covering her eyes with her hand, and her head is bowed. She stands, wrapped in a blanket, slumped in the midst of destruction. My toes curl and I shift my weight as I stare at the image on my computer screen.   My toe curling and weight shifting is an uneasy reaction – not a purposeful action.  It is a mixture of pity and horror and almost something like guilt.  For the last twelve hours I have been walking around my house curling my toes and squishing my feet into our new carpet.  I’ve been lying on the floor basking in the soft new luxury while this woman has probably been lying on the hard concrete floor of a disaster shelter. I’ve been joking that my house is upside down because we‘ve been moving furniture from room to room, and stacking it so we could carpet the whole house…

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Ice Cream Cone Tacos

putting-olives-on-your-fingers-1024x819Like most kids, my grandkids love all things olive. They have olive-tipped fingers every time they get the opportunity. They even love my olive tapenade, which has strong Kalamata olives and stuffed green olives. And that’s how this idea was born.

deliciousLast week they wanted some tapenade with lunch and I didn’t have any chips or crackers to go with it. The only crunchy thing I could find in the cabinet was a half-empty box of stale ice cream cones. Well, why not? I coated the insides of a couple of cones with tapenade and the kids were thrilled. They finished the rest of the box.

As I watched them chow down, I was thinking of how strange it was to put something that savory into an ice cream cone. Then it struck me – how fun it would be to fill ice cream cones with taco fixings!

The plan for the following week’s Famiglia Paladini Dinner was in place! The kiddos come over every Wednesday to hang out in Grandeeland, and their parents join us for family dinner.

So when they came over yesterday morning we discussed what we needed for our ice cream tacos, and we all made grocery lists. (How I love these early years of learning to write! Cute crooked little letters, formed with such solemn care.)

img_3184Our list included ice cream cones, and I was informed that we needed to get a lot of them. Olives, taco meat, refried beans, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, sour cream, and salsa.

Caleb directed operations from the grocery cart as we walked around the store. Audrey carried the shopping bag, and Nathan painstakingly weighed and baggedimg_3206 the tomatoes.

And we all weighed in on which kind of olives to get. Audrey said “Let’s get the red ones.” She picked up two red cans. Nathan said, “Those are BLACK.” Audrey looked at her brother like he had lost his mind. “They’re RED.” It was funny – Audrey was choosing the label color and Nathan was  looking at the picture on the label.  Perception and communication.

Back at Grandeeland I cooked the taco meat while the kids cut up all the vegetables with dull butter knives. There was lots of tasting along the way.

It took about two hours and we made a huge mess; but we also made wonderful memories!

img_3192Audrey said, “Mommy is going to be sad that she has to go to a meeting tonight and she won’t get any ice cream tacos. But Daddy is going to love them.”img_3201

And he did! In fact, we all did.

It’s a good thing we got that box of 112 ice cream cones.

 


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My 2016 Bookshelf – January to April

book-journalSomeone gave me this cute little book journal in January, 2006. I really like the picture on the cover, although I prefer my own big cuddly reading chair, and the cluttered oak table beside it. I usually have a mug of coffee on the table so I’m pretty sure I’d knock that orchid over every time I reached for my cup. Still, I love this little journal. It sets on the cluttered table by my reading chair and every so often I pick it up and slide myself into that roomful of books. I look at all those overflowing shelves, try to read the titles, and imagine titles for those I can’t read. It’s really lovely. And when I open the journal, it gets even lovelier because I have kept a list of all the books I’ve read since that January 11 years ago. It’s like my little private bookshelf in a book.

Looking back at my 2016 bookshelf, I started the year with MERE CHRISTIANITY by C.S Lewis. I’ve read it a couple of times before, but somehow this time it came together as it never has in the past. It’s a clear, orderly, step-by-step description of Christianity and the path to belief. I was stunned at how current a seventy-five year old book could be and what a visionary C.S. Lewis was.

lake-houseSo as I was reading Mere Christianity for my morning “devotional” reading, I was reading Kate Morton’s THE LAKE HOUSE for pure enjoyment. Also because it was the January book for my book group. I love Kate Morton books. They are a little hard to get into because she throws out a bunch of threads and it’s hard to keep them sorted out, but the mystery grows and the sub-plots all come together, and they never disappoint! One thing I especially love about her books is the way she flows from generation to generation.

JABER CROW by Wendell Berry came next. I picked it up because I read Berry’s HANNAH COULTER in 2015 and loved it. I really liked the intertwining of the characters’ lives and the Ohio feeling it brought back to me. But Jaber Crow didn’t measure up to Hannah Coulter.

And I don’t know if there is any connection, but Jaber Crow made me think of LAKEWOBEGONE DAYS, which I have always kind of wanted to read, just because I have heard about it my whole life.  Well… sorry, Garrison Keillor, I couldn’t take more than three chapters.

A fellow booklover once told me you should give every book at least three chapters before you decide you don’t like it. I’ve found it to be a good rule of thumb. Especially, as I said, with books like Kate Morton’s. But I was Wobegone to get through those three chapters of the Lake.

My final January book was LILITH by George MacDonald. I have read bits and pieces of this magical book before, but this was my first time to read straight through it. George MacDonald is a master of story-telling and amazing imagery! Pictures from Lileth and Phantastes (which I read in July of 2015) will be happily stuck in my mind forever!

summerMy friend Sandy and I are both book lovers, but we have vastly different taste in books. For example I can’t be bothered with the Amish generational novels that are some of her favorites and she shudders when I talk about Hind’s Feet on High Places or other allegories.  But her enthusiasm for SUMMER OF LIGHT by Dale Cramer got my attention and it was totally uplifting and enjoyable! Although I don’t really remember many details  about it now, ten months later.

My second book of February was recommended by a different Sandy – someone I don’t know at all. I was at a “Friends of the Library” book sale in Livermore and struck up a conversation with the woman who was running the sale. It was obvious that this Sandy and I were miles apart philosophically and politically, but kindred spirits in our love for reading. oliveI asked her who are some of her favourite authors. She said she loves anything by Jodi Picoult, but her favourite book in the world is OLIVE KITTERIDGE by Elizabeth Strout. She said she likes these books because they deal with “women’s issues” – which I was not sure what she meant, but I thought they might be in the same category as Anita Shreve, who I like very much. So I picked up a copy of Olive Kitteridge, intending to chat with her about it the next time I see her at a book sale. I have to say Elizabeth Strout is a good writer and she definitely knows about women’s issues. She nails a lot of the feelings and problems and situations we face, and I’d swear she had been reading some of my deepest darkest thoughts.  I’m glad I read it. Details from that book will be stuck in my mind forever, and I find myself pondering what I would have done in such and such a situation. Well written –  but no hope. No peace or joy. No answers.

John and I enjoy audio books on our long drives, but our first audio book of the year was THE POET by Michael Connelly, and it was just an average police procedural book. No big deal. Completely forgettable.

fryIn March our Lalas Book Group read THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY by Rachel Joyce. It was recommended by my cousin Debbi, as we were engaged in one of our hundreds of on-line Scrabble games. What a good book! Average, boring, middle aged Harold Fry, set out to mail a letter and that walk to the mailbox turned into a pilgrimage that changed his life and the lives of many people who knew him and who met him on the way. A book reviewer might say it is “A triumph of the human spirit!”

By this time I had finished Mere Christianity in my morning devotional reading, and was scanning the shelves for a nice uplifting biography. Considering the vitriol and underhandedness that was part of the politics of the election cycle, it seemed like a logical choice to read BORN AGAIN by Chuck Colson. Colson was heavily involved with President Nixon and the Watergate scandal, and all of that brought him to a deep, rich personal relationship with God. It was worth reading for the edification and also for the history!

Our book club book for March was A SEVERE MERCY by Sheldon Vanauken. Not our typical book group choice, but I was glad to reread it after reading it some 15 years ago. It’s a biographical and true love story about a couple who became acquainted with C.S Lewis, and partially because of his influence gave their life and love to the Lord. Heartbreakingly beautiful and profound.

And since March hailed the first call of baseball season I read SET-UP MAN by T.T. Monday. I heard the author interviewed on sports talk radio. The “set-up man” is the pitcher who comes in near the end of a baseball game, and sets things up for the closing pitcher. The hero of this book moonlighted as a private detective, and was not very heroic – too much sex and violence. But I enjoyed the baseball chatter, and it was interesting to read behind the scenes of major league baseball.

I tried a second book by T.T Monday in April. DOUBLE SWITCH. But the good baseball stuff didn’t outweigh the trash, so I quit after the obligatory three chapters.

toughI read TOUGH AS THEY COME by Travis Mills, a true American hero who survived quadruple amputee injuries during his third tour of duty in Afghanistan, and has gone on to live a satisfying, productive life.

April also brought a new wrinkle to my brain in the form of THE BOG PEOPLE . It was written by P.V. Glob  and translated by  R.B. Mitford.  This book, not surprisingly, was recommended by my sister, Monica, who is a docent at a big museum in Houston. It was a collection of amazing stories about the discovery of whole human beings preserved like mummies in peat bogs. Bog people! This was something I had never even heard of in my whole life.

windAfter I left the bog, I read THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS by Kenneth Grahame. I told my son, David that I was reading it for the first time, and he reminded me that we read it as a family. I argued with him, and assured him that I had never read it. I said all I knew about it was a bad Community Theater production I took them to when they were little, and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. He started quoting parts to me and reminding me of things that happened in the book, so I looked back at our family book list and sure enough, there it was.  I had decided to read it because they talked about it in A Severe Mercy, and even though it’s is probably technically a children’s book, I was thrilled at how many breathtakingly beautiful passages there are.  Still not a fan of Mr. Toad.

brideFinally, at the end of my April shelf is THE PRINCESS BRIDE: S. MORGENSTERN’S CLASSIC TALE OF TRUE LOVE AND HIGH ADVENTURE by William Goldman. Very much like the movie we all love, but even more so. Inconceivable!

gardenSo that’s the end of the first four shelves of my 2016 reading. I’ll come back next week and talk about May to August. But right now I have to go read! It’s kind of an emergency. There’s a bunch of mysterious threads pulling on me, and tangling my thoughts, and calling me to get back to this haunting story about a Forgotten Garden…

book-journal