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She is an accomplished actress, teacher, wife and mother—a woman who makes a difference in the community.

Jane Fessier, 68, was born and raised in San Rafael in Northern California.

“I’m a perfect combination of my parents,” she says. “My mother was witty and an observer of life. She was the one person I could go to, always so loving and patient.”

Fessier’s father was the ultimate salesman—a real estate broker and storyteller with an aggressive nature.

“He could always fill up a room; everybody wanted to be around him,” Fessier says. “But he was somewhat impatient. I work on that constantly.”

Her parents moved to the Coachella Valley when her father got involved in the mobile-home business—and he encouraged her to follow.

“I was in my mid-20s and had been doing shows in the San Francisco area, but I wasn’t making much money,” Fessier says. “I had worked with my dad before, and he said, ‘You have to come down here. The market is upscale, and there’s lots of money to be made.’ I lived with them in a mobile home. I remember the highlight of my day was coming home and seeing what my mom had made for dinner! I wanted to make enough money working with my father so I could go back to the Bay Area.”

Fessier was often named the most-humorous student by her classmates.

“I could be goofy and silly,” she laughs.

After learning to play the cello, her mother encouraged her to study theater. While attending community college, Fessier was exposed to Stanislavski’s “method” style of acting—a way of getting into the motivation of a character to develop a realistic portrayal, employed by actors like Marlon Brando, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro and many others.

“I remember once I was told to think about something that I felt bad about, so I thought about how I had once hurt somebody, and I started crying,” Fessier says. “I realized you have to really feel it.”

Once in the desert, Fessier tried out for some local theater roles. During the 1980s, she worked in Palm Springs productions of Death of a Salesman, Oliver and Man of La Mancha, appearing opposite veteran actor Nehemiah Persoff.

“When I was doing Man of La Mancha, the director told me I had done fine in rehearsals, but that each time, I had done the same performance,” Fessier says. “Persoff was waiting for me onstage, and I was to sing the song about what was happening after my character had been raped. The director told me to close my eyes—and then he slapped me, literally knocking me against the wall. Then he told me to go out there and sing it. And it worked. I was totally in the moment.” While the move worked, Fessier says she was outraged the director resorted to violence to motivate her—and that at that time, she did not feel empowered enough to object.

Fessier’s plans to return to the Bay Area fell by the wayside when she met the man who would become her husband—Bruce Fessier, who recently retired as the arts and entertainment writer for the The Desert Sun.

“In 1983, the director of Man of La Mancha ushered me into a room where Bruce interviewed me,” she says. He later reviewed the show. “I hoped I’d be good—I never wanted to be an actress who wasn’t good. Well, when the review came out, it was a rave! Then Bruce called and asked me out to a party with Kirk and Michael Douglas. I said, ‘I’ll let you know.’ My mom said, ‘Are you crazy?!’ Six weeks later, we were sharing an apartment.”

After 35 years of marriage, Jane acknowledges that Bruce is the local star.

“Being married to Bruce, I find I’m standing next to him when he’s the one people want to interact with, so I can either be very shy—or the life of the party, without feeling any pressure,” she says. “I joke about how my father married me off, and then he and my mother went back north.”

After their two sons came along—Clay, now 31, and Parker, 29—Fessier began teaching youngsters.

“I had done some shows in the Bay Area with kids, and I enjoyed it,” she says. “Bruce is a great writer, and I directed and starred in one of his musical revues before the kids were even in kindergarten.”

Fessier taught children’s theater at St. Margaret’s School in Palm Desert.

“I remember when a parent told me her child wasn’t so shy any more. I love that I can make a difference in kids’ lives based on acting and performing,” she says. “It can help them to be happier and more well-rounded. My goal is to make it fun. I’ve worked with children with social anxiety, handicaps and learning disabilities, and it’s very rewarding to bring them out of themselves. As a teacher, I think about how to be the person I might have needed when I was a child. I teach children the Stanislavski method, helping them find ways to get into the emotion they want to portray.”

Fessier worked with the CVRep Conservatory for six years, training classes of 25 to 40 young students.

“I built an incredible program, and I’m so proud of it,” she says. “Unfortunately, I was somewhat shocked, even insulted, when they decided to shake up their pay structure, but the truth is that I had outgrown the program by then. I’m so excited about starting to work now with the Musical Theatre University at Rancho Mirage High School, where I’ll be working with third- to eighth-graders through the Palm Springs Unified School District. The MTU students are being prepared to pursue a career in musical theater, and some of them will go straight to Broadway. The program is that good!

“When David Green (the founder and executive/artistic director of MTU) called me and asked if I would consider becoming part of their family, I didn’t have to hesitate for a moment before saying yes,” Fessier says, adding that she will also continue working privately with adult actors.

Fessier projects a calm, warm, open personality. She and her husband are clearly in love and have built a family anyone could envy.

“We both know we’re very lucky,” she says, “and we don’t take anything for granted. We respect each other. We’re very close with our sons as well. Parker is an entrepreneur in San Diego, a real math whiz. Clay is a successful animator in Los Angeles. He has a girlfriend of five years.”

Fessier laughs. “I honestly wish they’d get married so I can be a grandparent. I want a grandchild while I can still hold one! I have to say, this is the best time of my life—right now.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Meeting Sandy Skinner was like getting together with an old friend: She is warm, open, candid, personable and vivacious.

Skinner, 65, has been in Palm Desert for about three years.

“When I retired,” she says, “I realized San Diego was unaffordable. I had a lot of friends here in the desert, and it’s a really nice place to live. I believe everything works out for a reason.”

Skinner’s mother was a stay-at-home mom who later worked for the Lutheran Church. “She was very spiritual, but also fun-loving,” remembers Skinner. “She always made time for me. Unfortunately, we lost her last year to Alzheimer’s.

“My dad owned a construction company dealing in heavy equipment. My younger sister, Paula, and I learned how to take out spark plugs and change tires. Dad would have parts laid out when we got home from school so we could learn how to do everything. He thought those skills were good for his daughters to know. My dad also loved sports. He played tennis and was ranked No. 9 in the senior league. He used to hit balls to us on the court as if we were playing dodge ball. I really learned about the work ethic from him. Unfortunately, we lost him young.”

Born in Inglewood, Skinner graduated from West High School in Torrance. “I regret not going on to higher education, but I’ve had a great career,” Skinner says. “I thought about going back to become a court reporter; then I got married the first time. I always thought when I got older I might go for classes in history, because I’ve always liked reading about it—although, I must admit, in high school, I hated it!”

Skinner’s career began in 1975 in a hospital lab. “My job was to pick up blood samples, things like that,” she says. “Then I started to study phlebotomy, learning how to draw blood. But I got a great job at GTE (a phone company) and stayed there for almost 25 years. I started in telephone repair, moved on to dispatch, then assignments, and then maintenance. I did have a very brief second marriage—a big mistake. My third husband, Gary, and I both worked at GTE.

“At one point, Gary had been reassigned to Hawaii, and I took a leave of absence for six months to see how (Hawaii) would work out. Our girls, Ashley and Brittany, were little then. I remember it seemed like it was all beach all the time; we lived near Waikiki. After six months, I realized I could only take being at the beach for so long.

“We lost our jobs within six months of each other when the downturn hit telephone companies. We moved on to Las Vegas, where I worked as an executive sales rep for Sprint Cellular. There was a lot of money to be made in that industry.

“Gary and I were married for 18 years (before divorcing), and I’ve always been glad I had my children with him.” Skinner’s eyes twinkle with humor: “Our relationship now is probably better than it ever had been.

“I now have seven grandchildren, and the hardest thing is to not see them very often. Getting together for holidays is especially hard,” she laughs, “since I’m spoiled and don’t want to go to Canada in the wintertime.”

Skinner elaborates: “Brittany had a great career at Bally’s in Las Vegas, and she always wanted to see part of the country, so she lived in Kentucky for a while, and is now in Indiana with her family. Ashley was working at a spa in Vegas. The man who is now her husband walked in one day, took one look at her—and that was it. She and her family live in Alberta, Canada.”

Skinner suddenly becomes quiet and somber. “Sadly, Ashley and her husband, Eric, lost a child, my second grandson, to brain cancer when he was only 2 years old. It hit us like a ton of bricks. I guess God wanted him for a reason. Now they have a little girl and another boy. Once again, everything works out for a reason, although we don’t always know it at the time.”

Are there things Skinner thinks people would be surprised to learn about her? She laughs. “I can do oil changes on heavy equipment, and I was a runway model for the Sears catalog, My mom sent me to charm school, and since I was 5 foot 9, it just worked out.”

Skinner loves to travel. She fondly remembers a trip with Ashley after the death of her grandson. “We went to Vancouver, British Columbia, for a couple of weeks, and it was good for my daughter to get away for a while. I love to travel. My sister, who works in San Diego, and I go up to Big Bear, and I’ve been all over Canada. I like to cruise; I’d love to go to Europe and see Italy and Greece. My sister just got back from Italy and Berlin, and I’m just waiting for her to retire so we can travel together. Although people are always saying it’s fine to go alone, I haven’t done that … yet.”

If money weren’t an issue, what would Skinner want to do? She answers immediately: “I’d move my whole family into one cul-de-sac where we could all live together. I’d have my grandchildren around me, and we could spend holidays together. That would be heaven.”

Skinner and I have so many things in common—a brief second-marriage mistake, a love of travel, working in telecommunications, and hating being far away from grandchildren. When Skinner confessed that she sometimes doesn’t remember things well, I shared my new mantra: “Aging sucks!”

I really relate to Skinner’s bottom line about life: “Everything works out for a reason.” After chatting with Sandy, I really came away feeling like I had spent time with an old friend.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

In medieval times, it was presumed a son would learn the trade of his father and carry on the family tradition—as a shoemaker, carpenter, fisherman or woodworker. Even in modern culture, children are often pushed to follow in their parents’ footsteps.

Mario Ricardo “Rick” Gonzalez, 42, a Palm Desert resident for the past 15 years, was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and raised in Indio. He’s the fourth of five children, with two older sisters, an older brother and a younger brother. His father, George, was born in Texas but left for Mexico at 13, where he eventually met Gonzalez’s mother.

“My parents met because of the jewelry industry,” says Gonzalez. “They all did silversmithing in Mexico. My dad is a traditional man who commands respect. He made his own life, with the odds against him, but he always came through. He grew up without his dad, so he didn’t really know how to be a dad. I understand. He’s very old school—machismo. I respect that to this day; he lives his life the way he wants to.”

Gonzalez describes his mother, Teresa, as very patient, quiet and a good listener, a woman who values loyalty to her family above all else. “From her I got an understanding of unconditional love,” he says.

After graduating from Indio High School, Gonzalez went to Cerritos College then into the Army Reserve. He worked for a time in the hotel and hospital industries. “When I worked at the local hospital, I learned how to talk to people, and to listen, and the importance of customer service,” he says.

Gonzalez then went to work with his dad at Jewels by George for a year before heading to the Gemological Institute of America at their main campus in Carlsbad.

“It’s the Harvard of jewelry,” he says.

After four years working for a jeweler in Carlsbad, he then returned to the desert in 2003 to once again work with his dad.

“I had more ideas and experience then,” he says, “and it was easier and more rewarding. I listen to what people say they want, and I look at someone’s finger and can see how a ring should fit. I know what a stone can do and can’t do. When it comes to gold, I can manipulate it. I couldn’t change a sink for the life of me, but I can see what a design would look like on someone’s hand.

“I stick to what I know and what I’ve learned from my dad. He likes challenges, and I do, too. It’s about how to get from nothing to a design that will work. My dad taught me that nothing’s impossible.

“When people come in for jewelry repairs, there’s always a story. It really matters to me when a piece of jewelry means something to somebody. When it comes to repairs, my job is to make it look like nothing ever happened, that they not see any change. It’s important that they know I’m going to take good care of their piece. We also take some special pieces on consignment.

“Jewelry is sentimental. I even cry sometimes when I give it back and see their reaction. I can’t remember names, but I can remember the story of that ring or pendant. People tell their stories through their jewelry.”

The shop is truly a family affair. It was originally established in 1984. He describes his mother as “the finisher. She has patience when it comes to intricate jewelry. I do everything—design, marketing, soldering chains. And people like to talk to me.”

What’s the most challenging work he’s done? “Repairing filigree,” he says. “It’s hours of work, and sometimes so fine and intricate.” He showed me a lacy filigree pendant; it was impossible to see where repairs had been made or how anyone could have manipulated the finely detailed work.

Gonzalez had mentors—but he bitterly recalls working for jewelers who took credit for work he had done.

Gonzalez was married for 10 years and has two daughters, now 13 and 16. “They have some artistic talent,” he says proudly, adding with a laugh, “and they don’t complain when they’re here at the shop.”

Gonzalez takes great pride in showing off the Incogem pendants the shop carries, with acrylic-encased diamond initials floating inside gold pendants. They were originally designed in 1978 by Charles Weinstein, a Belgian separated from his family during World War II (later reunited when the war ended); he eventually located in the Coachella Valley until his death in 2013.

Gonzalez is a soft-spoken young man who clearly takes his job seriously. How does he handle working with his traditional father? He smiles as he says, “He will sometimes say to me, ‘Good job, boy.’ He probably never got that himself in his life.”

Going into the family business is not always easy, but Rick Gonzalez is clear: “When I came to work with my dad, one day, everything just made sense.”

When you see his commitment and the quality of his work, you know Gonzalez made the right choice.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

I first met someone with “sleeves” in 2001. He was a fellow law school student, and we were chatting on a balcony.

“Nice shirt,” I said, not knowing I was describing his tattoos. Once I realized it was body art, I was astonished. “Didn’t that hurt?” I asked.

“I guess so,” he said, “but it wasn’t all that bad.” To this day, I’m skeptical.

Robert DelSol Williamson runs Flagship Tattoo in Palm Desert. He is described by a neighboring merchant as “a real artist.”

Along with his wife, Amanda Marr, Williamson has been running Flagship Tattoo for four years, taking it over when the former owner decided to move on. The name Flagship came from the original founder’s father.

“I wanted to change the name,” says Williamson, “but left it because it was a known name in this location.”

Williamson got his first tattoo at age 17 along with his best friend, also named Robert.

“It’s kind of a funny story,” he recalls. “The age of consent was 16 at that time, so we walked into a shop holding hands and said we had just met on the Internet and knew we were in love. We wanted to get each other’s names. We drew up each other’s tattoos—mine a cactus with a sombrero as the “O” in the name, on my left ankle, and his as a wiener dog peeing into a Santa Claus hat with the pee spelling out ‘Robert’ on his shin. It hurt—no tattoo exactly feels good. We were young.”

Williamson, 30, was born in Tucson, Ariz., and raised in Silver City, N.M. He graduated with a master’s degree in art from Western New Mexico University, after attending the University of Arizona and San Diego State.

“I was always obsessed with drawing,” he says. “When I was young, I used to draw the flags of all the different countries in the world.”

Williamson is the youngest of five children. “I was raised by my mom, a hospice nurse and a real survivor. She taught me how to make the best out of life, because it’s over quicker than you expect.”

He describes his dad as “cool,” although they were estranged and had little contact until about two years ago. “I learned from my dad that actions affect people,” he says.

Marr, also 30, the eldest of two, was raised in the Palm Springs area. Her dad was a plumber, and her mom was involved in the horse industry and made sculptures. Marr and Williamson met in a photography class at College of the Desert, where she is working to complete an associate’s degree.

“I took a photography class at COD,” says Williamson, “mainly so I could use the darkroom. I love taking pictures. After we met,” he laughs, “I started really going to class.” Marr runs the administrative side of the business.

Williamson began his tattoo career while still in school, working “here and there on impulse. Then, one day, I decided I wanted more and got involved in the industry. I started asking lots of questions. The experienced tattoo artist I was working with found out I was studying art, and after I finished school, I served an apprenticeship for two years with him.”

Williamson has never done ink on Marr. “She has two tattoos that she gave herself, one on each leg. I won’t do a tattoo on her. What if we didn’t stay together,” he laughs, “and I knew she was walking around with pictures I had done? Or worse, it’s too easy to criticize my own work, and I’d have to be looking at it every day. Besides, she’s more artistic than I am. She has a geometric pink tattoo on one thigh, and she’s very into Japanese culture, so she has a ginkgo leaf on the other.”

When a client comes in for a tattoo, Williamson makes a drawing based on what the customer describes. “I work on the picture with them, and then draw something up to make a pattern. I have a Thermofax machine that puts out the pattern on paper. Then I put it on the customer and press it on so the lines transfer to their skin when I remove the pattern. It takes about 30 minutes to do a small tattoo. There are times when someone has to come back because of how long it will take. If they change their mind, they’re stuck with half a tattoo.”

Williamson, who has family connections to Norway, has recently established residency there, and his goal is to open a shop in Europe.

“I wanted to pick a place in Europe that would allow me to open a shop, perhaps in Belgium or Germany, and Norway was a good choice to establish residency,” Williamson said. “Amanda would have preferred Japan, but everything there is super-structured, and the lifestyle is so different. We plan to keep both locations going once we’re established in Europe.”

Williamson’s current passion is photography. “I take pictures of things I find attractive to the eye,” he says, “mostly people. I also do site-specific installation art that’s meant to change the feel of a space for a period of time.”

What’s the most challenging tattoo Williamson has ever done?

“I did a koi (fish) sleeve,” he says. “Doing Japanese tattoos involves lots of structural rules, so it’s difficult to get it right.

“Maybe the one I’m most proud of is the one on my neck, with the founding year of the Socialist Workers Party that I wanted to memorialize. I once thought about changing the name of the shop to something like The Red Star, but,” he laughs, “Amanda said it might not be right for Palm Desert. She was right, of course.

“I think the most difficult one I’ve done is the magical Japanese Daruma doll (a magic symbol of revival and never giving up, which is believed to bring good luck) on my leg. It’s so intricate.”

I always thought I wanted a tattoo, perhaps a small heart on my hip. I’m still skeptical, but if I ever decide to cross that off my bucket list, I’ll definitely seek out Robert DelSol Williamson. After all, as his neighbor says, he’s a true artist.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Some people drop names to impress you. Others can't help it.

Jane Summer, 73, unconsciously drops names like Clint Eastwood and Janeane Garofalo. When you grow up in a company town, and the “company” is the film and television industry, you can’t help it.

Summer started her career, after only six months of college, at Creative Management Associates, working with producers like Barry Diller and Leonard Goldberg. She went on to read scripts for well-known agent Mike Medavoy, who had become vice president of motion pictures for CMA, and she subsequently met film greats like director/writer Michelangelo Antonioni, and stars like Donald Sutherland and Rosie Grier.

Born in Providence, R.I., Summer was raised in Beverly Hills from the age of 2, along with her older sister.

“We moved to Doheny Drive,” she says, “right around the corner from Chasen’s,” then a famous Beverly Hills restaurant. “My dad used to play cards with Dave Chasen. I remember back in those days, we could buy a pickle for 5 cents at the deli on Beverly Drive, and ride our bikes to school. The milkman and the vegetable man would come around, and of course there was the Helms Bakery bread truck.

“It was a different time and a charming place to grow up. You saw stars and others on the streets and in the restaurants. When you grow up there, you know people in the industry. It wasn’t a big deal, just part of the hometown experience

“My mom was very beautiful and talented. She was an actor and ballerina whose father ran a carnival. My dad was from an upper-class wealthy family that didn’t approve. My dad had a furniture store, and then he bought a Cadillac car lot. I remember when he got a 1954 turquoise El Dorado with a leather top and seats! We belonged to the Sand and Sea Club in Santa Monica, the only beach club which would accept Jews at that time.

“My family fell apart when I was 8, but throughout all the drama and trauma, he never walked away. My dad had a great sense of humor. I learned about perseverance from him.”

From the ages of 11 to 16, Summer lived at Vista Del Mar, a Jewish agency that provides residential care and education, along with other services. “I had good influences there,” says Summer. “I may not have been privileged, but I grew up in a privileged environment, which saved me and sent me on my way. It was definitely an interesting part of my life.”

Summer moved back in with her father from ages 16 to 18—and then was on her own. She left the talent agency when it merged with another company and became ICM.

“I had a great friend who worked for (agent and producer) Freddie Fields. She then went to work for the Cousteau family, and I ended up taking her job as Philippe Cousteau’s assistant—setting up productions, helping the crew get equipment, and things like housesitting. When they moved their headquarters, since I had been doing writing, I had a friend who introduced me to Los Angeles Magazine, and from there, I went to Playboy Magazine, where I worked as an assistant story editor. The story editor then was Mimi Roth, whose son, Eric, wrote (the screenplay for) Forrest Gump.

“When Playboy closed its Los Angeles offices, I met someone who worked for the Smothers Brothers. I just had beginner’s luck. After 10 years of doing public relations, I went out on my own, because it turned out I was good at creating a story and selling it for media coverage. I worked with restaurants—and the irony is I don’t cook at all.

“I’d had a short marriage earlier that I left at 40 with a dog and a bed. Around that same time, I met my husband, Bruce, who was a restaurant reviewer. His wife had died, and I asked him, ‘Is there anything I can do?’ He said, ‘Yes, you can come out to Malibu and walk my dog. He’s very lonely.’ I drove out on a Sunday, and it turned out we knew so many people in common. Bruce and I were married for 12 years. He died in 2006.”

By 2011, Summer’s business had diminished as a result of social media.

“I’m basically very introverted. I had to be extroverted in my business, but I didn’t want to be constantly ‘out there’ anymore,” she says. “I started working when I was 13, after school, and I’ve always worked, no matter what was going on in my life. It’s just that I began to realize I wanted to change my life.”

In 2014, Summer relocated to Palm Springs for two years before settling in Palm Desert.

“My friend was going to school (here in the valley) and told me I could possibly get a scholarship,” she says. “I’ve been attending College of the Desert part-time working toward a liberal-arts degree, focusing on things like creative writing, theater arts, the history of jazz and art classes. This semester, I may take some time off. I don’t necessarily want to stay in school and complete a degree, but I know it’s good for me, and it’s always bothered me that I never finished school.

“Sometimes, I think maybe it’s time to go back to work. I do take care of dogs for people; I call my place Casa Dog Mom. And, of course, there’s my (dog) Lancelot. I’d like to get more involved in politics, with everything that’s going on. I just know I’m not finished yet.”

Summer has traveled to London, Paris, Canada and Mexico, and all around the United States. If money wasn’t an issue, she says, she would want to go everywhere.

“I speak some French, and would love to live in Paris,” she says. “I want to see Spain and Italy, and it would be great to be able to take an around-the-world cruise. I really regret that based on how I grew up, I’ve always been somewhat fearful.”

What is something people would be surprised to know about her?

“I love to sing,” Summer says, with her face lighting up. “I’m really good at it. I took voice classes, and this is what I should have done my whole life—be a chanteuse. One day, maybe I’ll muster up the courage.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

When many people hear the words “science, engineering and technology,” their eyes fog over.

Debra Vogler is working to change that.

“I’m so frustrated with the lay people who don’t want information on science and technology,” Vogler says. “We have to do a better job of communicating about what those fields are doing and the impact it will have. I’m doing what I can within my own little sphere of influence.”

Vogler, 66, has been a Palm Desert resident since 2012. Her husband, John, is the maintenance manager at The Living Desert.

“We moved in on Thanksgiving Day,” she says with a laugh. “Believe it or not, we both love the heat. We would come here for vacations and really loved it. We always said that someday, when we were ready, we’d move here. Then the right opportunity presented itself, and we said, ‘This is the time.’”

Vogler was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wis., along with her younger sister, now a lawyer. She attended Catholic schools.

“My mom, a bookkeeper and secretary, was a big influence, teaching me about perseverance and being the best you can be,” she says. “It was expected that I would always do the best I could. My father, a truck mechanic, was stricter than my mom, but I got the same message from him. It was the time of the rise of the women’s movement, and although he couldn’t quite fathom it, he was clear that he didn’t want his daughters to be under anyone’s thumb. He’d say, ‘When you start something, you master it. You’ll be able to write your own ticket. You’re not here to be a decoration or an ornament.’

“My father had me take piano lessons, and I actually thought I might become a concert pianist. But at about 9 or 10, I thought that if someone hadn’t discovered me by then, I wasn’t destined for Carnegie Hall.”

Instead, she began to develop an interest in science.

“My grandmother had a tiny TV set,” Vogler says. “I always watched Mr. Wizard, and thought that I wanted to be on TV. I remember reading about Einstein and learning about the universe. I also remember when John F. Kennedy announced we were going to the moon—I wanted to be an astronaut. I wanted to investigate and do as many things as I could. I always thought I would do it all. I loved science, and I felt you could help mankind by unlocking the secrets of the universe.”

After completing college and earning a master’s degree at Marquette University, Vogler left Wisconsin in 1977 and headed to Sunnyvale, Calif., for a career in Silicon Valley.

“I had majored in physics and minored in math,” she says. “I started working as an engineer in the defense industry. It wasn’t physics, but it turned out that I was very good at project management. I could assemble a team to get things done. I became one of the youngest project engineers in my field at that company. I also met my first husband there.

“After my husband died (in 1984), I took a break from engineering. I had always loved jewelry, and although I’m not the arts-and-crafts type, I had design ideas and could handle the marketing aspect. I took off for a couple of years and went to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco. I had fun, but I couldn’t really see myself doing that for too long, so I went back to engineering as a consultant. I moved into the semiconductor equipment-manufacturing industry.

“Around the mid ’90s, I realized that video was coming to computers, and I wanted to see how I could do that in a thoughtful manner, so I started volunteering to do training videos. I got experience with story boards, doing voice-over—and realized I really loved it.”

By 1998, Vogler had become disillusioned, upset that her engineering career wasn’t moving as fast as she had hoped.

“Promotions for women seemed to take forever,” she says. “I wasn’t that happy. I wanted to do other things. So many people don’t understand science, and the media doesn’t do a good job of explaining it. I had been interviewed for a report we were doing and found I was a natural in front of the camera. I decided I wanted to explore that pathway for myself.”

Vogler started her own media production company, Instant Insight Inc.

“I had come up with the idea of a children’s science show, Curious Duck, and executive-produced a pilot episode. The day we shot the pilot, I was really in my element. I thought it would be possible eventually, but rather than trying to build my own company at that time, I joined PennWell publications in 2001 as a senior technical editor. I’ve written hundreds of tech-news stories and produced and hosted several hundred video and audio interviews with semiconductor and photovoltaics industry executives and technologists.

“Unfortunately, my mother had suffered a stroke in 1998, and I had to manage her health care until she died in 2007. Finally, in 2011, I started working on my own company again, and I’ve also been a senior technical editor for one client and assisted with the planning and organization of technical sessions for another. Getting into journalism eventually led me to doing video production and on-camera work. It was melding what I had done professionally with what I had wanted to do as a little girl—to be on TV. I’m now re-editing the original pilot of Curious Duck, hoping to break it into several mini-episodes, bringing a different dimension to what people think they already know.”

Vogler and I had a fascinating discussion about the difference between pure research and applied research—and a lot of it went way over my head, I must admit.

“Research affects the knowledge to produce something useful,” she says. “Real things happen out of theories. We’re at a point in history where we can’t just say, ‘I’m not a scientist.’ We need to figure out how science and technology apply to real life. I like to think of myself as being a bridge, because we’re getting to the point where what we used to do to make a living is vanishing. We’re not prepared for that. More and more people will start to feel that what they can contribute is no longer needed. It affects everything we do, including decisions we make as voters and how we prepare for the future.

“Scientists and engineers are advancing our knowledge about the universe and how it works. They’re finding ways to solve the problems of humanity. We owe the world more than just being here.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

What is it about the desert that encourages many people who come here to retire to instead rediscover their passion?

Joseph Gole (www.JosephGole.com), 72, is the cantor at Har-El Congregation, a Reform Jewish synagogue in Palm Desert. His career, in a way, began at age 9, when the teacher at his Hebrew school began to give him solos, and then at age 11 included Gole in Friday night services.

“I was actually the catalyst for my family becoming more religious,” he says.

“My mother wanted me to take math and science, but I knew I wanted to pursue music, because I knew that was where my strengths were. I did my first High Holidays service at 14, and while at Hebrew High school, when I was 15, my teacher brought me into another temple to do services. In high school, there was an arts direction you could take. At 16, I was singing with The Young Americans. I remember that while in high school, the choir teacher got another job and left; we had a madrigal group that I ended up conducting.”

Gole and his brother, an attorney, were born and raised in Los Angeles. Their mother, now 96, had emigrated from Poland at age 14. “She dabbled in real estate and could be very giving and charitable,” he says, “but … she had lost most of her family, and the trauma of those experiences never fully left her.”

Gole’s father, who died in 1999, was the youngest of nine children, born in America to Russian parents. “His mother was born blind,” Gole recalls, “and he was raised by his siblings. He worked as a contract administrator for the government. He was a very constant man, somewhat rigid, but he was also a frustrated musician and singer—that’s why he started me at 5 on the accordion. He was always very supportive of the direction I chose.”

Gole attended Los Angeles Valley College and then graduated from the music department at the University of Southern California.

“At 14, I had a band, hired the musicians, and played the accordion and sang. I put myself through school playing music at events like weddings and bar mitzvahs,” Gole says.

Gole’s first job as a cantor came at age 18 at Temple Emanu El in Burbank.

“It was part-time, a small synagogue, and I had a limited role,” he says. “I’d show up at services, conducted the choir, and assumed some responsibility.”

Gole later became cantor of Sinai Temple in Westwood, a Conservative Jewish synagogue, at age 25 and served there for 10 years. He moved on to other temples before returning for a second stint 18 years later.

In the Jewish religion, there are different strains of worship: Orthodox, the strictest in observances; Conservative, which relaxes some of the rules of the Orthodox—for example, allowing congregants to drive to services on the Sabbath; and Reform, which emphasizes Jewish ethical tradition over the obligations of Jewish law. The Reform movement, to which the majority of American Jews belong, has sought to adapt to modern sensibilities, and sees itself as politically progressive and social-justice oriented while emphasizing personal choice in matters of ritual observance.

A cantor is a clergy member who may lead worship, officiate at life-cycle events, teach adults and children, run synagogue music programs, and offer pastoral care.

Gole’s self-description as a cantor: “I’m not stuck in my ways. I like mixing it up. I like doing things differently. Until World War II, cantors were all European-trained and came from a very traditional environment. After the war, immigrants weren’t coming here so much anymore, and the schooling of cantors broke into different organizations.

In 2016, Gole—divorced after 28 years of marriage with two children, a son (now 26) and a daughter (31; “She gave me a beautiful grandson!”)—was renting in West Los Angeles when he realized what a value it was to relocate to the Coachella Valley.

“Although I wasn’t really ready for retirement,” he says, “I wanted to get away.”

Now working with Har-El, Gole is coaching a young man preparing for his bar mitzvah; and a young man singing for the holidays at the temple. He has gone on cruises as a pastoral presence for Hanukkah and Passover services on board.

One of his current joys is working with a group of older women who wanted to prepare for bat mitzvah, which was not necessarily available to them when they were young. Bar mitzvah has always been a rite of passage for young Jewish men at age 13, including the privilege of reading from the Torah in front of the congregation. In Conservative and Reform Judaism, bat mitzvah is now also available as a rite of passage for young women, generally performed by giving a lecture on a Jewish topic or reading from the Book of Esther in the Old Testament.

“The women I’m working with have developed a real sense of community,” Gole says. “The experience of studying together for bat mitzvah became very meaningful for them. To be able to have this interaction is what makes it all so meaningful for me.

“I realize now that at 25, I was scared. At 35, I was still in touch with people from my old temple associations. I hadn’t comprehended the impact I’d had on people—I hadn’t really appreciated (it) in the moment. That realization was very powerful for me, that I could touch people in such a profound way. It’s been an important part of my life ever since—the interaction with people at critical points in their life, whether happy or unhappy. The fact that I get to share in those moments offers a powerful opportunity.

“I’ve realized that my journey has been to explore and understand my inner self—a truly liberating experience. … My message is to follow your passion. Find mentors who will encourage you. Don’t be afraid. We’re all afraid. Just follow your heart.”

Cantor Joseph Gole has done just that, and rediscovered his passion here in the desert. Isn’t there a story in scripture about that?

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

How do you tell the story of someone who describes herself as a “diva/goddess”—especially when one of the first things she says is, “I can’t imagine anybody would be interested in my life,” in an apparent contradiction?

Let’s start the story of Cardriner (Car-dree-ner) Bowden in 1963, three years after the famous sit-in at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., an attempt to integrate public spaces. Bowden was a freshman at a historically black college, North Carolina A&T State University, where Jesse Jackson was also a student.

“One day I was told, ‘We’re going to integrate the theater today,’” she recalls. “I didn’t have anything to do that day, so I went. We stood at the back of the line, thinking if they started arresting people, we wouldn’t get arrested, and would have time to get out of there. They reversed the line, so we got arrested first. I was in jail for 11 days. It was actually a lot of fun. We were singing and dancing. Those not arrested were outside the fence. It didn’t really feel like jail.

“Of course, whenever I applied for a job, I had to list that I had been arrested. They look at you really funny. But then they’d ask about it, and once I explained, it became OK. It wasn’t held against me.”

Born and raised in Goldsboro, N.C., Bowden was an only child whose father died when she was just 6 weeks old. She was raised partially by her grandmother, but also lived for a time with an aunt in Washington, D.C.

“The school there was the biggest I’d ever seen,” Bowden says. “I’d come from a place where I used to know everybody. The family my mom worked for (in Goldsboro) was white, and they were very nice, but Goldsboro wasn’t the kind of place I wanted to be in. I remember there was a billboard on the highway that said, ‘The Grand Dragon of the KKK welcomes you to Wayne Country, North Carolina.’ … The black women were teachers or nurses or worked in the homes of white people. I couldn’t see graduating from college to go back there to live.”

After spending summers working in Washington, D.C., Bowden left North Carolina to move there after graduating from college with a degree in education in 1966.

“I didn’t really want to teach, so I became a secretary at the Veterans Administration,” Bowden says. “But I knew I really didn’t belong there. I decided to teach, and got a job in Clinton, Md., teaching typing, shorthand and business machines at the high school level. I was one of the only two African Americans they’d ever hired, but I was young and knew I could deal with what I would encounter in a white school. I remember that a child of the pilot of Air Force One attended that school!

“I actually had to rent a car to go to the interview, and before I could even get back to the sorority house, where I was staying, the principal had called to tell me he was hiring me. I told him I didn’t even have a car or the money to buy one, and he called me back to say he had talked to the teacher’s credit union and told them to approve a loan for me.”

Bowden pointed out that Clinton was the place where John Wilkes Booth went after shooting Abraham Lincoln. “It’s where Mary Surratt was hanged as Booth’s accomplice. The principal of the high school, during my first year teaching there, wouldn’t make me come to night meetings, because the Klan might be looking for me.”

After teaching for six years in Maryland, Bowden made her way to California in 1972 to get married.

“He was a guy from my hometown who had been in the military. After he was discharged, he wanted to stay in L.A., and I agreed to relocate,” he says. “I came out during Christmas break and took the exam administered by the Los Angeles Unified School District. I had already taken and scored high on the National Teacher Examination. When L.A. hired me, the first year, I started as a substitute teacher at a school in Watts. The other teachers were so impressed that at the end of that first year, they had a vacancy, and I was hired.

“They saw potential in me, and said I should go into administration. I never had any discipline problems in my classrooms, so I became dean of student counselors at Locke High School, but I needed a master’s degree to go into administration, so I enrolled at Loyola Marymount University. I’ve always learned that when you do good work, they reward you.”

Bowden went on to become an assistant principal; a coordinator for Angel Gate Academy working with at-risk middle school students; an operations administrator handling everything from complaining parents to difficult events like school shootings; and assistant director of violence prevention and intervention at the Board of Education offices.

Bowden, then divorced, decided to retire in 2007.

“I’d always loved the Palm Springs area,” she says. “When I was working, I’d come down in the summertime when hotel rates were cheap. I wanted to be in an active-adult community, and decided that Del Webb’s Sun City in Palm Desert fit the bill. It’s ironic that all the work I do here is actually away from Sun City.”

Bowden volunteered in the Eisenhower Medical Center boutique for six years; was a volunteer usher at McCallum Theater from 2008-2017, and serves on the board of the theater’s Muses and Patroness Circle; volunteers at Well in the Desert and is on the nonprofit’s board; advises Thermal high school students with their annual choreography festival; is vice-chair of the public safety commission at Sun City, helping residents by working with local police and fire departments to provide safety programs; and for six years was women’s fellowship chair at Friendship Church, organizing luncheons and obtaining speakers. Oh, and every year, she is Mrs. Santa Claus when Well in the Desert presents their Christmas meal with toys for the children.

“I see people who are homeless and struggling, and realize that could have been me,” Bowden says. “My mom instilled in me that I needed a solid education so I could always take care of myself. Everybody who comes through the shelter has lost a job, or been in a bad relationship, or someone died, and they become homeless. If I can say something to change how they feel about themselves, or help them see there can be a better future for them … listen, I worked hard and was fortunate. It’s not too late for anyone. You should never give up.”

I ask: How did she get such an unusual name? Bowden laughs. “I was the first grandchild on my mother’s side, and my mother told my grandma she could name me. Grandma then told one of her friends she could name me. I have no idea where the name came from or what it means, but I’ve certainly never met anyone else with that name.”

I’ve never met anyone else with the grit, charm, wit and dedication of Cardriner Bowden. She says she’s crazy, and laughs about her “mouth” and how it can get her into trouble—but she makes a difference, never shies away from confronting a wrong, and is fierce while always being kind and loving.

If that doesn’t describe a diva/goddess, what does?

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays from 9 to 10 a.m. on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

According to Psychology Today, the common understanding about the brain—that the left side controls logical and analytical thinking, while the right is intuitive and creative—is a myth. Regardless, lifelong artist Judy Nemer Sklar has made ample use of both sides during her journey through life.

Born and raised in St. Paul, Minn., Sklar remembers starting to draw when she was about 5 or 6 years old.

“It was really cold in Minnesota, and everybody had one of those old furnaces,” she recalls. “My early memory is coming down the stairs with my papers and pencils, getting under the table with my feet on the furnace, and drawing the women from the fashion pictures I had seen in the newspapers. My parents saw my interest and sent me to an art school before I even got into regular school. They always encouraged me.”

Sklar’s father had a chain of jewelry stores, and her mother worked with him. She also has an older sister, a teacher; and a younger brother, an engineer. She remembers her late father as being loving, tender and quiet. Her mother is alive.

“My mom is still very current, and a very happy person. She lives in assisted living, and everybody there loves her,” Sklar says with a smile. “They wanted to give her a kind of ‘make a wish’ gift. She said she wanted to meet (former Minnesota senator and Saturday Night Live alumnus) Al Franken. He actually came and spent a whole day with her. It was wonderful!”

In her early 20s, Sklar relocated to California. While looking for a part-time job, she met Jerry Sklar, an accountant who worked in Century City.

“He had a practice working for entertainment clients and was looking for a secretary who could relate to his clients and be a problem-solver,” Judy says. “He saw my chatty side, and the truth is I loved (solving) all their problems. When we ultimately married, we still worked together, and although he didn’t see my art as a serious profession, he told me to ‘go enjoy yourself.’ For our years together, I was definitely using both sides of my brain!”

Years after completing a year of college in Minnesota, Sklar completed her degree at Chapman University in Orange, in 2010, and ultimately earned her master’s degree in humanities at California State University-Dominguez Hills in 2016.

Sklar and her husband for years had a home at The Lakes in Palm Desert and visited the desert often. After Jerry was diagnosed with cancer, Judy became much more involved with their business endeavors. When their Los Angeles home was damaged by the 1994 Northridge earthquake, they made the decision to settle in the desert.

“Our home had been almost destroyed by the earthquake, but we were still able to live in it until the rains came,” she said. “We had about five minutes to get out (when the rains came); it was destroyed.

“Jerry could still work, and in addition to his L.A. clients, we had developed some clientele here in the desert. Plus, I saw that there was a niche market in business management for seniors here. Although I had to get more and more involved in the business (while also) caring for Jerry, I never dropped out of art; I just had to compartmentalize it.”

It was during her husband’s illness that Judy went back to school to earn her master’s degree. “That is what saved me and brought me fully back to art,” she says.

Jerry died six years ago, after they had been married for 29 years.

While still working with her business clients and producing her own art, Sklar is also sharing her passion for self-expression by teaching classes and holding workshops.

“Although through my work with my husband, I became much more verbal, you need silence to be able to think about what you want to do artistically,” Sklar says. “My workshops are about embracing your creative life. My passion is for people who say, ‘I can’t even draw a straight line.’ I say, ‘Who cares?’ It’s about how to use your creativity to get in touch with who you are. It’s like planting a seed.

“For some of my students, it’s really transformative. They can find their true voice.”

Sklar’s art has been shown in galleries throughout California, and she has won juried regional and national art awards. Her work has been showcased in magazines, and is in selected private collections across the country. She is a past board member of the Artists Council of the Palm Springs Art Museum, was a juror at the La Quinta Arts Foundation, was a member of the docent council at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

“When I was a docent at LACMA, I would get in early through the workers’ door where all the art was coming in and the crates were being unwrapped. I saw so many things that inspired me,” Sklar says. “I work mostly with watercolor mixed with collage. Some things I can do in a day; others can take up to eight months. I have an unusual style of working. I rarely draw something out first. I’m always changing it as I go along.

“I’m beginning to show again; I have a group show coming up in Los Angeles. I guess I would describe my work as figurative but abstract. For me, color is everything, especially a rich palette of primary colors. I often sit and watch people for inspiration. I use music and snippets of conversation. I might see something on a T-shirt. I keep a drawing journal where I just jot something down that I will use later on.”

You can learn more about Sklar’s work at judynemersklar.com.

“I’ve been on a transformative journey in my life, and as a middle-years person, I believe whatever we’ve garnered in life is what we have to give,” she says. “It’s important to know what is in you and be willing to let it out without being worried what others will think. If I had a child asking whether they should pursue their passion, I’d say, ‘Just do it!’

“Your goal in life should be to find your own passion, and then your mission in life is to give it away.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays from 11 a.m. to noon on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

“When I first went to the radiologist,” says Phil Drucker, “he told me, ‘Other than the cancer, you’re a really healthy guy.’ I’ve been a vegetarian, haven’t smoked since I was 22, and hardly ever drink. I kept thinking, ‘This just isn’t possible.’”

Drucker, 60 and a La Quinta resident for the past eight years, was born and raised in the Los Angeles area. The eldest of three, his parents were children of immigrant parents.

“My mom’s biggest impression on me was not what she said, but rather what she did,” says Drucker. “When I was in elementary school, there was a teacher’s strike. Most people backed the teachers, but my mom didn’t. She put on her miniskirt and go-go boots, and wrote a sign: ‘I pay my taxes. Why aren’t my kids in school?’ She taught me that when you think you’re right, all you need is an army of one.

“My dad was very old-school European. He worked for the Department of Water and Power for 38 years, a union guy. He was a complex person, a deep thinker who kept to himself and didn’t talk much. The main thing I remember is that our house was full of books. He loved books—never threw one away.

“My parents hadn’t gone to college, so it’s kind of funny that when I got a scholarship to college, my dad said, ‘This college thing is really great, but did you ever consider going into the Air Force for 10 years and retiring with a pension and then going to college?’ I figured if I didn’t do (college) then, I never would.”

Drucker did take the scholarship and went to Cal State Northridge for a year. He later attended Santa Monica City College for a year before going to UCLA for a degree in fine arts.

“Music had been in my family,” Drucker says. “My sister played piano, and my brother took up the saxophone. I learned the clarinet in junior high school, because my parents didn’t want to pay for a new instrument, and my dad had an old one he had played.”

At age 16, Drucker took up the guitar and later played in various bands. “It was in the 1980s,” he recalls, “in the post-punk scene. Through my 20s, I got paid for playing, and got to tour to Europe twice along with all over the U.S. and Canada.

“When I stopped playing music, I knew I needed a ‘real job.’ I had worked in a letterpress company while I was in school, and went back into that world. I kept finding myself as the person who was the liaison to lawyers, handling things like contracts and copyrights. A lawyer I worked with once said to me, ‘Do you know the difference between what you do and what I do? About $150,000 a year!’”

At age 34, Drucker decided to go back to school. At that time, entry into law school at the University of La Verne required a personal interview in addition to taking the Law School Admissions Test. “When I met for the interview, the admissions director said he’d been doing his job for 20 years and had never had someone come in with a degree in fine arts. But he said he found me interesting, so I got admitted.

“Because of my undergrad degree, I knew about music, painting, graphics, copyrights—and it interested me how the law around those things had materialized over the years. I hadn’t thought about the fact that copyright and patents are covered in the Constitution, and that it’s actually a limitation on First Amendment rights.”

Drucker graduated law school at 36, and at 40, he passed the bar on his first try.

“It’s kind of funny,” he says, “that my brother also became a lawyer. He’s in PI (personal injury), and I’m in IP (intellectual property).” In addition to his practice, Drucker became an expert on constitutional law, including teaching and public speaking.

What should people know?

“First, if you’re ever stopped by the police, be nice. They have a gun, and you don’t,” he says. “Second, don’t mess with immigration agents at the airport. They can throw you into a dark room for up to 72 hours.

“The Constitution doesn’t really grant you rights; a piece of paper can’t give you rights. What makes us unique is we are the only nation conceived on the concept of ‘natural rights,’ born with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The piece of paper lays out what the government CAN’T do, and is only as good as those using it.”

After a life of eating healthy and working out regularly, Drucker last year was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer.

“I had never been in a hospital before. I even still have my tonsils,” he says. “I didn’t go to the doctor routinely, but my stomach was bothering me, so I went in and had a blood test. The doctor called me the next day and said I had to come back immediately. I had another blood test, and it turned out my hemoglobin level was way lower than it should have been. The doc said I shouldn’t even have driven myself over. He said by law, he couldn’t let me leave, and that if I walked out, he’d have to drag me back. I ended up in a wheelchair taken to the hospital, and they said I’d have to stay at least 48 hours. They’d have to give me blood to try to get my count to an acceptable level.

“It finally dawned on me to ask, ‘I don’t have cancer, do I?’” he says. “It turned out I did, but it hadn’t metastasized. The doctor said in six more months, that wouldn’t have been the case.

“I had surgery and they found five nodes infected, so I had to have chemotherapy—pills at first, and then infusions—and I had 28 radiation treatments. It feels like they take you to the brink of death’s doorstep, and then your body kicks in, and they encourage it to heal. It was really scary. I got depressed and felt so fatigued, but I kept up my teaching schedule through that semester.

“The infusions are done in a large room with lots of other people, and I realized one day, looking at everybody, all hooked up to the same machines, that it didn’t matter who we were—we all wanted the same thing: to get better. That’s what binds me to all other cancer survivors for the rest of my life. It confirmed what I’ve always believed: We are all one.

“Most people take their dog to the vet more than they routinely go to the doctor. It’s a mistake. The fact that I ate vegan and worked out was probably the only reason they were able to get the cancer in time. They tell you to think positively, but you think, ‘If this could happen to me, what else can happen?’ You experience vulnerability, helplessness, a sense of futility. I never thought about giving up, although there were very dark days.

“I’ve gotten into mindfulness, living in the moment. I know life isn’t about the past or the future; we can’t change them anyway. They tell you to decide if you want to share your experience, and I’m willing to help anybody going through what I did.

“Whatever is going on in life, you have to find the gems in the mud. That’s what keeps me going.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to noon on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

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