Thursday, December 30, 2004

How to donate to Asian disaster relief

I’ve been quiet the past few days, thinking about the tragedy in Asia. 114,000 dead, death toll sure to rise. Trying to avoid the news and getting depressed, and at the same time, I can’t. In a situation like this, I feel as helpless and yet I want to do something to help.

So I’ve decided to devote this blog entry to encourage anyone reading it to donate and how to donate carefully and wisely. Working for a large international relief organization for 11 years, I know a little about giving. My organization doesn’t help Asia, but many worthy charities do. So how do you pick one to donate to?

I recommend visiting this web site to check out charities:

Charity Navigator investigates non-profits and their finances and rates them. The highest rating, which my charity has, is four stars. Here’s some tips on giving from Charity Navigator:

1) Give to an established charity.
2) Designate your gift to go towards the cause you want to help (i.e. mark on the check and the envelope – Asian tsunami relief)
3) Avoid telemarketers.
4) Research the charity.

My own advice? I like to give to organizations that can quickly mobilize and have resources in place to help the most urgent needs. The most urgent needs are medical assistance, food, water, blankets, tents for housing, vaccinations against diseases like cholera and hepatitis (which I should get and never did after 11 years of traveling the Third World), and medical supplies. Doctors without Borders is a wonderful organization that sends medicine and trained medical personnel to disaster areas.

The Red Cross is good, BUT be SURE to mark your gift (Asian Tsunami relief!) Otherwise it could go into the general fund and help here in America. Or you can give to the INTERNATIONAL Red Cross, a separate organization. Here’s their web site:

I personally like Oxfam,
although their charity navigator rating is only a 3 out of 4 stars. I like them because I’ve seen their teams on the ground in disasters, such as the Gonaives flooding in Haiti. (And their driver had the sense NOT to fall off the road and tip the vehicle, lol) And UNICEF is wonderful. The United Nations Children’s Fund is a fantastic organization.

Another favorite of mine is World Vision.
They’re a Christian charity that help everywhere, regardless of denominations. Wonderful programs that teach job skills to indigent mothers, etc. A friend worked for them for a year in Afghanistan and our organization worked with them in Jamaica after the flooding there. We helped them store supplies and worked with them to get bottled water, food, etc. to the hurricane victims. In a crisis like this, charities all pitch in together.

So no matter who you chose to send your gift to, it counts. You may think whatever you can give won’t be more than a drop in the bucket compared to the need of 5 million survivors, but consider that your drop, combined with other drops, creates an ocean. Every dollar counts. You’d be amazed at how charities can get the most bang for your buck. My organization can feed a starving family of four for more than two months with a gift of only $20. Other charities are equally resourceful.

Think of it this way: if your gift could help save just one life of someone who survived the horror of this tragedy, wouldn’t that make a difference to you?

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Why I live in Florida

I think I've finally got the Christmas spirits.... I mean, spirit...

Christmas day was balmy, sticky, 76 degrees with me wishing for cooler temps, although sympathizing with those in the Midwest. Had a peaceful, good day with family.

Today? 58 degrees and I indulged. The hot tub was a blissful 103, the skies clear, the wind blowing 25 mph and I sat in the hot tub soaking for a wonderful, tension free 30 minutes, parboiling myself whilst sipping a cocktail. Admiring the way the palms are growing along the private back fence, relishing my greenery, the blue skies, and living in a state where I can slip into my hot tub and wriggle my toes above the water and know once I get out, my body will not turn into a giant popsicle. Each time I felt a little warm, I sat above the water line, chilled, and then sank beneath the warm water again. Ummmmm... Now it's time to try to write a little with my new Christmas gift, the wireless mouse Dh bought me.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Ho ho ho

Feeling more perky and cheerful. Last night DH took me to see a holiday festival of lights display and it put me more into the Christmas mood. Just a little last minute grocery shopping and I'm done, but for wrapping. My best Christmas gift? DH cleaned most of the house and did the laundry. woo hoo!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Christmas blues

Been fighting it all week, the usual Christmas melancholy that I get. Seems like many of the tragedies in my life occurred around the holidays. So I'm opening the Christmas cards and see the one from my cousin. I read the letter.

She has cancer.

She sounds very upbeat, which is wonderful, but the news kinda socked me. She's only two years older than me. And then I realized how long it's been since I've seen my dad's side of the family. Too long. Next year. I promise, next year I'm going to take a trip and visit.

It's not that we were particularly close, like sisters, but hell, I loved visiting with my hip, sassy NY cousins. They were funny, witty and made me crack up. They grew up in the small house in Queens where my dad was born. My uncle still lives in it today.

Sigh... I wish I could get into the Christmas spirit, the cheerfulness and the general feeling of good will. I want to. But not this year. Maybe next...

Haiti airport warning today

Rum balls went over quite well yesterday at work.

News reports today say security at Haiti’s airport is lax. The Department of Homeland Security is telling airlines that fly into Haiti to warn travelers Haiti’s airport does not meet international security standards. One official called the PAP airport a “lawless outpost."

Hmmm. I’m wondering what prompted this. Having just flown back and forth to Haiti, in one day last week, I am analyzing the security now. At MIA, went through xray machines (once) before we hit the gates. I left my Alpha Smart in my backpack, which I usually take out (since it’s like a laptop). I just wanted to see if anyone noticed. No one noticed at MIA. Took my shoes off, as usual. Got through just fine.

Flying from Haiti back to MIA? You go through TWO xray machines. First when you enter the departure area, and have to screen all your bags, including your luggage. Again, left my Alpha Smart in the backpack. No one said anything. Took off my shoes. Then, after immigration, before you head to the (ONE) gate, you go through another xray screening process.

So what DID the Department of Homeland Security find? Or did they find anything at all to prompt this ominous warning? Maybe it isn’t the security passengers go through, but the access to the tarmac?

Having traveled to Haiti for 10 years, I know how much the airport itself has improved. That government official who called it a “lawless outpost” should have traveled there five years ago. Oy! What a zoo! You would disembark and head into this crowded, airless room for immigration, where paint flaked off the walls. The bathroom right after immigration was this ghastly nightmare with a bucket for flushing. Then the fun really started when you tried to get your bags. Porters would be swarming like bees over the sagging, broken luggage belt, grabbing your suitcase off before you could. It was mass chaos. I got used to it.

Last week? Quiet, organized and efficient. The room where you wait to be cleared by immigration is air conditioned, gleaming with new tile and colorful Haitian murals. The bathrooms are spotless and modern. They’ve cleared out all the madmen trying to grab your bags and only official porters are allowed now.

So, what did they find? I’m focused on this sentence, “One knowledgeable source described the problem as lax screening of passengers and bags and generally poor security around the airport perimeter.”

There you go. “around the airport perimeter.” I have a hunch the problem with security isn’t screening passengers. It’s the airport perimeter. A row of shacks ring the perimeter. There's a slum near the airport that the poor simply call "airport" when you ask them where they live. Last week as we were flying out, there was this guy on a tractor mowing the fields adjacent to the runway. I was idly watching him, wondering if he were hired by the government for groundskeeping. Or if he just happened to be there, tooling along on his tractor. I don’t know.

But it makes you wonder.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Bonnie's balls

turn on kitchen overhead lights. Dress in comfy baking clothing. Crank up stereo with tape of "The Messiah" to get self into Christmas baking mode.

Pound vanilla wafers with fist. Feels good to get out frustrations, keep doing it. Mix with crushed nuts and then realize need cocoa mix. Have none. Melt Ghirardelli chocolate chips instead. First shut off all appliances and overhead lights so ancient microwave doesn't trip circuit breaker...AGAIN. Watch chips melt by flashlight. Dog is confused. Take gooey mess of chips, say "Uk" and add a bit of milk to get them to melt better. Nuke again. Turn back all appliances. Take mess and dump into bowl. Add 1/3 cup Barbancourt rum. Add 1/3 cup corn syrup. Stir. Sip bit of Barbancourt. Add more rum to mix. Stire fastuh. Realize gooey mess will not sthick together. Add powdahed sugah. Add more rhume. Stire more, draink more.

Realize mess will not roll into little balls. Think about the idea of serving little ballz to male coworkers. Laugh. Ha ha! Put mess of rum stuffz in freezea to get to sthick. Drink morea baranb...barn...barban? aw hell, rhum. Eat store bought Christmas cookie with drink. Good. Dog shakes head.


Yipee! Small victory. Made my goal of getting to 200 pages on Rashid's story. Just pounded away last night on the laptop. Wrote 8 pages. They flowed. The more I write, the more I like his character and Jillian's. Figured out a scene where they begin to bond emotionally and her innver strength comes out. She steps in and helps him at a critical time. I love how he encourages her to be the person she's meant to be. Jillian thinks she's weak and she's been invisible most of her life, but he pushes her into stepping out of the shadows.

Decided to make chocolate rum balls tonight to celebrate. Oh dear. Bonnie baking. But since it doesn't involve turning on the oven, I think the household is safe. No blown circuit breakers, no fire extinguisher needed on stand-by. Using Barbancourt Five Star. Whoa boy. Merry, HIC, Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2004

Rude bird

It's cold today in sunny Florida. Only 55! The poor doggies are shivering. Had to bring the parrot inside to keep him warm. He's in a temporary cage in the kitchen. His food is over the floor. It's my lunch hour and I'm cleaning up parrot food. I told him, "You're a slob." He replied, "Yeah. F*** you."

Sigh... I feel like Rodney Dangerfield. Can't get no respect.


Note to self: Consume less Bailey's at Christmas parties. Buy more Advil.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

My mom

Nine years ago today, my mom died of colon cancer. Oddly enough, today I found an essay I wrote 5 years ago about finding the grace of acceptance amid loss. I'm posting it here. It's a tearjerker.

Finding grace in loss
copyright 2000 by Bonnie Vanak

“What is it you can’t live without?” My friend’s question forced the forkful of scrambled eggs to stop halfway to my lips. Such a deep, probing question for Sunday morning. I didn’t know how to answer.

She continued talking, not noticing my silence. I never did respond. But the question dogged my thoughts like a determined bloodhound. No easy answers exist, for every day I process loss of control and find within myself an ability to give up everything I thought I could never live without. My list includes motherhood, climbing to the top of the corporate ladder, family members, even the innocent love of my first marriage. These precious items I once held so tightly in my fists in fear that they would slip through the cracks of my fingers - I now unclench my fist and let them spill out like golden grains of sand. I let them go back to the Earth, back to God.

Slowly, oh how slowly, I have learned that even without what I consider life’s most precious items, the ultimate reality is that my being, my soul survives no matter what the loss. I survive, I thrive, I learn and grow. With loss comes the grace of acceptance.

The journey toward grace hasn’t been easy, but it began with someone I thought I could never live without - my mother. Dear Lord, how I still miss her! Five years after her death I can see her face with its mischeavous smile and her green eyes dancing with amusement. I hear her laughter echoing through the valleys of my mind like wind chimes in a gentle breeze. I was so blessed to have her even for one day of my life, but God granted her to me for 35 precious years.

No one ever thought she was ill, even the day of my wedding when she walked proudly down the aisle on my brother’s arm, beaming as if she herself were the bride. If she leaned on him a little hard, as if for strength, no one noticed. We, her family, believed her statement, “It’s the flu. I’m just a little tired,” when she excused herself to retire early from the pre-wedding fesitivities. The giant tumor crunching away her insides and causing so much agony was as hidden as her bravery.
I knew she would die even before I knew she had cancer. While honeymooning in Maine, I heard a song that I’ve always associated with death. As my husband and I dug into our prime rib and chattered about whale watching, instinct warned me that hundreds of miles away my mother’s soul was preparing her - and me - for flight.

I didn’t tell my friend that Sunday morning that there are many things I can now live without. For I know about loss of control, that helpless, frustrating pain of watching someone you love dearly slip through your fingers like delicate grains of sand. I know about how deep a mother’s love runs, an endless pure stream of water that never stops flowing. My mother’s love for me gave her strength to hide her pain so that I would be blissfully unware of her impending death as I exchanged vows with my husband.

Letting go gave me a grace to accept my own powerlessness and an odd sense of power within that loss of control. When you lose what means most to you in life, and find yourself still standing on two feet, walking and talking, you realize your soul will survive. There is strength that comes from loss, from letting go of things you once held so tightly clenched in your fists.

I discovered this as I sat besides my mother one week before Christmas, only eight weeks after she had walked down the aisle with such dignity. She lay in a semi-coma, her breathing strained despite the oxygen canula forcing her to live. I stroked her claw-like hand and pressed my lips to the shriveled flesh. That hand had diapered and bathed me, wiped away tears when my first marriage failed and proudly arranged my headpiece for my second wedding. As I looked at the skeletal body that had labored to give me life, I whispered to her, “It’s okay Mom. I can let you go now. I don’t want you to suffer anymore. Go back to God. Grandma and Pops are waiting for you.”

Then I gave her frail body a final hug and let her go gentle into that good night. For love is the greatest force of all and when you give it the freedom it desperately needs to soar higher and higher until it flies directly into the waiting arms of a loving Creator, it never truly leaves you. The spirit of my mother lives on. I know this to be true. My mother is besides me every step I take and on those days of darkness when it seems like the clouds will never lift, I hear her laugh - gentle and cheerful as wind chimes in a summer breeze. I smile, because I know I can go on.

This is the true secret to the things you think you can never live without. Life’s most important gifts, such as the neverending love of a mother, are with us but for a few precious heartbeats of time. When we are forced to let them go, they return back to us in the grace and strength to carry on.

As long as we carry their love in our hearts, we can and will survive.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Welcome to Haiti, now go home

Yesterday we arrived in Haiti. Disembarked the airplane, walked on the tarmac as the little trio of musicians played welcoming Haitian music, flanked by two grim-faced sentries. The airport was calm and clean, organized.

Got outside, the typical crowd was there. Taxi drivers accosted us in their usual friendly manner. "Hey, you need ride?" UN vehicles, their glass windows shrouded in wire mesh screens to protect them from flying rocks, lined the street. Then we saw C & P in the Montero, coming to pick us up. We climbed in and they said, "Welcome to Haiti! Now go home."

P drove 50 yards to the departure area. They were putting us on the next flight out.

It was too dangerous to stay and they didn't want us to get stuck there. Rumors and facts peppered the air like bullets. Fact: UN troops exchanged gunfire with armed gunmen yesterday in Cite Soleil in a door-to-door search for weapons. Gunfire was exchanged. The gunmen spread the violence out of the slum to downtown PAP. Four
people were killed, many more wounded by stray bullets. Rumor or fact: A huge demonstration (including lots of burning tires, gunfire, etc.) is planned for Friday in the area where we were scheduled to work. Rumor: The US embassy is closing?

Fact: It's too dangerous, too hot, too violent right now, we can't protect you. Go home.

I hurriedly gave C & P their Christmas gifts, and romance novels for them to give my friend. C told me she was driving to the grocery right after we left to stockpile on food. She sounded like a soldier mobilizing for a siege. I felt horrible watching them drive off. I was leaving friends behind in a war zone.

The violence isn't confined to the hellish life in the slums, like Dante's inferno containing the damned. It oozes out onto the streets, escaping into the mountains where the wealthy live, into the hotels where the foreigners stay, spilling out onto the streets. There was shooting in a section of Delmas we always drive through. How many times have I passed that area, idly looking out the window at the paintings hanging on the chain link fence, the broken glass sprinkled atop the high concrete walls protecting the homes there?

Putting it into perspective, imagine if it happened in the USA. Total anarchy but for a few thousand UN troops trying to control a few million people. Where do you go? The wealthy enclaves that were always safe? No longer. Take Petionville, Haiti. If Petionville had a sister city, it would be Boca Raton. Home to the rich and the richer. P said yesterday they found a severed hand in Petitionville. Wealthy merchants are kidnapped in their own offices. UN tanks roll through Petionville, shouldering aside the Mercedes and the BMW's.

Imagine Boca with its parade of very wealthy people, little sidewalk cafes where one can sip exotic teas and fragrant coffees, and an armored UN tank grumbling its way through Mizner Park. Imagine living in Boca, walking your Bichon Frisé with its jeweled collar on the scrubbed sidewalks, and seeing a severed hand in the gutter.

That is Haiti today.

What will it take for Haiti to turn from a state of anarchy into one where we can go about freely into the slums and do our jobs? I don't know. Maybe Sister Mary Bazooka is the answer. But the armed rebels have 50 caliber machine guns capable of blowing holes in overhead aircraft. So what do we give our fearless, feisty Irish nun who just wants to help the poor? Maybe an armored tank. I can see her now, rolling through the muddy streets, tossing out bags of rice to the hungry, her rosary dangling from the gun turret as she steers through the slum, warbling "Danny Boy."

An armored tank won't help her cross Rt. 9 in Cite Soleil, where gangs battle each other. There's a ditch across the roadway leading to one section, where armed gang members stand guard. Upon their leader's orders, a makeshift wood bridge is brought across, allowing a vehicle's entry. You have to call the leader by cell phone and get permission. There are many such checkpoints throughout the city controlled by armed rebels.

News reports say a bright, talented grad student at Notre Dame didn't get permission. Jean Joseph Dorvil is presumed dead after being shot Saturday when he failed to stop at one of these notorious checkpoints. He was administering a program to research and eradicate lymphatic filariasis, a disease that causes elephantiasis. Like many diseases of the past, LF is more common in Haiti than the U.S.

Jean Joseph was only 29. There are countless others who are nameless in the media, children, women, teenagers, men, all mourned only by their families. There is no functioning hospital in Cite Soleil. No aid agencies working. Only bullets and barricades. And still, the poverty goes on. The hunger continues. Imagine walking through the slum, trying to find food for your kids, dodging bullets and then one hits. Your life ends on a blood-soaked mattress in a cramped, airless hovel, your only crime being you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. And you were born a poor Haitian.

I can't imagine what it must be like for my friends in Haiti, living in constant fear. Always wondering if your drive through the city will turn into a minefield, with gunmen firing randomly, rocks being thrown or the famous Haitian roadblocks of burning tires. I can't imagine being C, running to the grocery store for food because she worries she'll be barricaded inside her home.

I remember what this hurricane season was like, four hurricanes marching in a conga line to Florida. Being so weary and fraught with tension from living in a state of constant uncertainty. Stockpiling water, food, batteries. And not knowing if my house, my neighborhood, my work place, will survive or the landscape of everything familiar to me will drastically change or be destroyed.

I remember the tension, the awful stress that gripped me, and the relief as hurricane season finally ended.

In Haiti, the hurricane season is not ending. Not when there are UN armored tanks patrolling the streets of wealthy neighborhoods. Not when armed gunmen rampage through downtown. Not when we arrive in the city to do our work, and are forced to turn around for our own safety.

In Haiti, hurricane season will be with them for a long, long time.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Velcro heroes

I'm determined to finish 25 pages by year's end, reaching my goal on Rashid's story. I need to do it for me. I feel like a wounded runner hobbling along to finish a race. No rewards, no recognition, nothing but a quiet feeling of satisfaction. Rashid's story deserves to be told. There's something about his character that grips me. He's Velcro. He will not, as much as I plead him to, let go. He grabs onto me with his sticky Velcro fingers and pleads, "Please, please, write my story."

Yesterday morning I employed an old, but true tactic for me. I came up with an idea and jotted it down. Just kept writing and writing. Did four pages in about 20 minutes. Not too bad. The scene? At the book's end. Wrote out of sequence. But I didn't want to lose the idea, so I wrote. It's not the best way to write. I'd love to be a writer who can write in sequence, but it doesn't always work that way.

So soon it's good-bye US, hello Haiti. I keep thinking of that old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times." Hopefully this week won't prove too interesting.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Haiti back on

Guess I'd better learn to run very fast...

Leaving Tuesday. Maybe between all the Christmas stuff this weekend I'll practice dodging bullets. Hey, maybe I can mimic that scene in "Dodgeball" where Rip Torn tosses wrenches at the team. He says, "If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball."

Rip Torn, where are you when I need you? "If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a bullet." Sigh...

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

How fast can you dodge a bullet?

Not going to Haiti next week. Why? More violence, bloodshed, death and gunshots. Had to change our plans, but flights directly to where we are headed aren’t available. We are scheduled to go early January instead.

Plus we were advised, “Hey, if something happens while you’re there, you can always run.”

Translation: You can always outrun a bullet.

What am I, Superman? No it’s SUPERMISSIONARY! Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than an angry mob. Able to leap tall shacks in a single bound. Look, jumping up in the air! It’s a bird! It’s a plane. NO, it’s SUPERMISSIONARY!

Yes, it’s SUPERMISSIONARY, strange visitor from the United States, who came to Haiti with powers and abilities beyond that of mortal aid workers. SUPERMISSIONARY! Who can change the course of absolutely nothing, write notes with her bare hands! And who, disguised as Bonnie Vanak, mild-mannered and confused writer for a major international charity, fights the neverending battle against tyranny, injustice and the ever present dysentery!

Whoa boy…

Friday, December 03, 2004

Polishing the mailbox

Some very good news…woman who was kidnapped is free! Bad news is the ransom amount required. Very scary.

Ok, so I’m driving back to work after a frantic lunch hour of trying to accomplish a few measly things on my list and what do I see? My neighborhood, which is very pretty and polished and already boasts many decorated houses… and a neighbor is outside…

POLISHING the mailbox!

I nearly drove off the road.

Can you imagine what the inside of her house looks like? This woman probably scrubs her toaster until it gleams. My toaster, forget it. It looks like a survivor of 10 garage sales. My house resembles something a hurricane swept through. I STILL have the Emergency Carton of NECESSARY papers in a waterproof plastic bin sitting in the living room. My superstitious Irish soul refused to put it away until hurricane season ended. Ok, well, hurricane season officially did end last month, but hey you never know.

My list of Things to Do before I leave for Haiti in 9 short days is growing exponentially. Christmas cards to send out…and suddenly I realize people moved. I have to update my address list. Add that to the list. Shopping? Ha ha! Put up decorations. Hmmm, let’s see. Make separate list for that. If we managed to do it this weekend…

1) Go to garage and shuffle through maze of stuff to get to ladder
2) Get rickety wood ladder, position beneath attic crawl space
3) Watch DH climb ladder
4) Release small scream as he announces “Hey there’s a dead rat up here.”
5) Shoot him Very Annoyed Look as he looks down and says, “Just kidding.”
6) Think about tickling back of DH’s knee in revenge. Change mind when I realize I’ll have to take him to the hospital when he falls and breaks leg.
7) Start grabbing the myriad of boxes we stuffed up there only in February when we had enough energy to put away Christmas decorations
8) Assemble boxes in a semi-hazardous stack. Start to comb through them.
9) Realize I can’t put on the Christmas tablecloth on the dining room table because the trains he is fixing clutters that table
10) Realize I can’t put up the Christmas tree because the living room needs to be cleaned
11) Realize half the outside lights have dead bulbs
12) Mail arrives. Rush to mailbox and see Christmas card arrived from relatives haven’t heard from. Sit down and read through cards.
13) Get back to trying to decorate. First must stop Tiger from sniffing contents of boxes and Tia from chewing on faded Santa she thinks is her toy.
14) Realize half the Nativity set is gone. Must be in box still in attic. I’m missing Jesus
15) Hunt through the rest of the boxes for Jesus. Mary and Joseph also MIA. May have run off with the three Wise Men.
16) Abandon search for Jesus, decide to put poinsettias in vases and realize I need to find space to store flowers that were in vases.
17) Jesus is in the box with the melted Santa candle. Sound like a revival meeting as I scream out loud, “I found Jesus!”
18) Look at clock and realize I still have 10 billion Christmas cards to mail out.
19) Sit down to try to write ONE Christmas card
20) DH announces he’s hungry and it’s time to grab dinner
21) After dinner, look at pile of cartons, think of how tired I am, and decide our Christmas decorations this year will consist of baby Jesus and a lone red poinsettia stuck into a jelly jar on the kitchen counter, the only space I have managed to clear of clutter.
22) Think about going outside to polish mailbox. Inside of house is a wreck, but hey, at least my mailbox will look clean.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Me, the Wal-Mart greeter?

There is hope on the horizon for writing Rashid's story. Finally took a hard look at it and realized what was wrong. Switched some scenes, added some tension and voila! Also changed the breakfast scene with Jillian and her father. Showed his cruelty very overtly. The first three chapters stand crisp and sorta polished. End with a high tension hook. Need to add more emotional internal conflict. Rashid doesn't think he deserves love. He's afraid to love after all he's suffered. He's a haunted, tormented man.

Posted a love scene from COBRA on my web site today. It's the part where Kenneth feeds Badra a date and then ties her up naked between two pillars and starts kissing her. He does this because her greatest fear is being tied up and being helpless. So he replaces the memory of pain with intense pleasure.

My greatest fear? Lately it's finances. I looked at my retirement plan and cringed, realizing I'll probably be working in a full time job until I'm 90 years old. Of course at age 90 I won't have any teeth, let alone the physical energy to do the travel for the day job I do now, climb mountains, take long hikes in steamy tropical climates, stand in funky floodwaters when our vehicle gets trapped. A plan must be shaped for the future. I don't believe I have a real "career" in romance writing. I'm not good enough. Maybe that's the old neurosis talking. Or maybe not.

So I think I'll aspire to be the octogenarian Wal-Mart greeter while leaning on my walker. But I want to be a feisty octogenarian. Maybe I'll pinch young, studly men's butts as they pass, grinning madly at them as they whip around in startled confusion. Then I chortle, "Boxers or briefs? I think boxers. Men's wear on your right." Then laugh in silent amusement as they scurry away like frightened baby rabbits. Hmmm. Definitely something to look forward to in my golden years.