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Adventures within The Crust!

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A Mark, a Yen, a Buck or a Pound

I came across this post that I wrote almost exactly six years ago. The economy seems to be much better than it was back in 2012, but it was still fun to reread about these financial gymnastics. Enjoy!

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I don’t know where it originated, but my my cousin in Scotland sent me this economics analysis.  I must have laughed for 20 minutes…then I started to cry.  Now all I can do is pray.

Her story is based in Greece but maybe we can all relate.

It is a slow day in a little Greek village. The rain is beating down and the streets are deserted. Times are tough; everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit.

On this particular day a rich German tourist is driving through the village, stops at the local hotel and lays a £100 note on the desk, telling the hotel owner he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night.

The owner gives him some keys and, as soon as the visitor has walked upstairs, the hotelier grabs the £100 note and runs next door to pay his debt…

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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.”


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




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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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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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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…


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Jello Rainbows

Why do I keep a box of food coloring in our bathroom medicine cabinet? My grandkids, (and their parents before them) love it when I plop a couple of drops into their bathtub and they get to swirl the colors around.

The simple pleasures!

img_0814So a few months ago my grandkids and I took this water coloring a step further. I got three glasses of water and let them drop colors in, and stir. img_0820We made a glass of red, a glass of blue and a glass of yellow. Then I let them pour certain colors together into other glasses to make green, purple and orange.

They seriously thought it was magic!

14670806_1450516938297813_1984779776334946488_nAnd then last week we made a “rainbow” on a plate. We placed Skittles all around the edge of a flat white plate and poured enough water to just touch the candy – then we watched the colors mingle and cover the plate. Again they were delighted!

So just thinking of how much fun we’ve been having with colors I thought about making a jello rainbow. It took several hours, but it was fun for all of us.5

This is how we did it:

3 three-ounce boxes of Jello. Red, yellow and blue.

3 ziplock bags

3 clear containers, straight-sided to make and serve the rainbow in.

3 big measuring cups to mix the Jello.

7 glasses to mix the rainbow colors of liquid jello.


I put the Jello powder into ziplock bags so I could cut off the corner and the kids could pour slowly and carefully, with less mess.

Caleb, our youngest grandson, is two. I jokingly call him “Me Too” because that is his current favourite phrase. He wants to be in on everything his big brother and sister are doing.  2It was a little nerve-racking to have a two-year-old stirring jello into boiling water. That’s why I chose a four-cup measuring cup for the one cup of hot water. Less chance of splashing.

1Caleb poured yellow Jello from the cut corner of his ziplock bag, and stirred it with a plastic chop stick. Nathan chose red and Audrey chose blue.

So we had three big measuring cups, each with one cup of liquid jello.

After the jello was dissolved they each added a cup of cold water.

So we ended up with 6 cups of liquid Jello in three containers. Primary colors – red, yellow and blue.

I reminded them of how we had mixed the colored water a couple of weeks ago to make new colors. And then we looked at a book about rainbows to see how many colors there are, and what order they are in.

The seven are, of course, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

3We got seven drinking glasses and mixed and stirred, and stirred and mixed a quarter cup at a time. We had quite a discussion about the difference between indigo and violet. Purple was easy: blue mixed with red. Finally we decided that indigo is bluish purple and violet is reddish purple. Not very scientific, but it worked for the under-six crowd. And it worked for Grandee.

I had found three heavy glass containers at the dollar store. (Don’t you love the dollar store!?) I think they are actually candle holders, but they worked great for our purpose. They hold about 2 cups each, and are heavy enough that they probably wouldn’t break if little hands dropped them. What I liked best is that the sides are straight up, so the colors would be evenly distributed.

First came red. I used the quarter cup measure and let each of the kids pour it into the bottom of their glass container. Then we put them into the fridge for half an hour to set. We left the remaining six glasses of liquid jello on the counter so they would stay liquid.

2I set a timer and we went about our day. Each time the timer rang, we came into the kitchen to add the next color to the rainbows. We added about ¼ cup of new color each time, in rainbow order.

At room temperature the added jello didn’t melt the jello that had already set in the dishes. It just made a nice flat layer. As the day went on the refrigerated jello set up more quickly, so the progress went faster. By the time we got to the purples, the new layer was setting in 15 minutes.

3The kids were so excited to show their parents, and then to take them home for dessert.

Golden memories at the end of the rainbow!4