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Know Your Neighbors

09 Oct 2013
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Embarrassing confession: I’m writing a book. I’ve been working on it for years. After bothering neighbors who have successfully been published, I’ve now discovered that there are two sides to the story (no pun intended): the writing side—inspiration, ability, dedication, discipline; and the business side—publishers, distribution, reviews, press. First, the business side. With self-publishing, one generally pays a fee up front and gets limited assistance; as orders come in, books are printed to fill those purchases. The writer gets a percentage of total sales, but can also purchase books at a reduced cost and sell them on his or her own at book-signings or via websites. The publishing companies may perform other services for additional fees. Self-publishing—including eBooks—is now so prevalent that it is no longer considered “lesser” in a world where big publishers no longer control the game. For Dessa Reed, a Palm Springs poet, getting published put her…
25 Sep 2013
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We like to group things: a covey of quail, a flock of ducks, a flight of swans, a pack of wolves. I spent last week attending two very different events where neighbors come in groups. First, I had lunch with the Democratic Women of the Desert (DWD) to hear a discussion about the current and future state of Medicare. The program, on Sunday, Sept. 15, featured our local congressman, Dr. Raul Ruiz, an emergency room physician who has been instrumental in providing health-clinic services in places ranging from Haiti to our own local poor communities; and Dr. Jeffrey E. Kaufman, an Orange County urologist who also teaches at the University of California at Irvine and has participated on the California Medicare Carrier Advisory Committee since 1997. A streak of tigers. Later in the week, on Thursday, Sept. 19, I attended an evening meeting of the Palm Springs chapter of Republican…
11 Sep 2013
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I’m having a bad hair life. Not just a bad hair day … a whole lifetime! I was born with stringy, straight, thin (and ever-thinning), blonde (well, at least I got something right!) hair. To perm or not to perm? Short or long? Cut or grow? Color, highlight or go natural? Wig or no wig? Thank God for good hairdressers! And when you go to a salon, doesn’t the hair of the person doing your hair make a difference? My new role model in life is Cindy Melchor, 53, of La Quinta. Cindy received a high school equivalency degree at 16. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I just knew I didn’t want to go to school. I had been a model once for a neighbor who was in beauty school, and I thought, ‘Why not?’ It looked like something that would get me out of school.” She…
28 Aug 2013
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Government workers! Political appointees! Those people—and we love to trash them. Elected officials, whether at the local, county or state level, need professional staff to help them represent us, the people who elected them. Political staff are literally public-service employees: They represent an elected official by serving the public. Recent studies indicate that public-employee salaries, with benefits included, may lag a bit behind the salaries of private-sector workers. The average annual salary for a political staff job is $59,000, near the mean that defines “middle class.” When economic times are tough, and politicians want to score points, we hear lots of calls for “those people” to lose their jobs—implying that we don’t need them. But who are “those people,” and what exactly do they do? Pat Cooper, born in Blythe and currently living in Indio, did not grow up in a political household. She became issue-oriented when she joined the…
14 Aug 2013
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The Coachella Valley has always had a love affair with the performing arts, reflected in street names like Sinatra, Shore, and Hope. Admit it: We’re star struck! With the new Performing Arts Center at Rancho Mirage High School, and the emphasis by the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership on developing a thriving local arts community as an economic driver, the goal is to attract and keep talented people here. We have neighbors whose names you might not know, but they’ve been blessed with outstanding training, experience and vision. Daniela Ryan, 47, of Palm Desert, is one such example. Married, with two children, 9 and 11, she recently stepped back from her leadership position at Dezart Performs, the company she started seven years ago, to focus on raising her children. “I actually put an ad on Craigslist three years after coming to the Coachella Valley when my husband got a job here,…
31 Jul 2013
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There are some things we don’t readily share with friends and neighbors—like having paid one’s way through college by dancing around a pole. Or that romance with the golf pro. Or the nip/tuck during a “vacation” last summer. Or that my grandmother once performed an abortion on herself using knitting needles. With restrictions increasing on the rights granted by Roe v. Wade, women are being encouraged to talk about their experiences so that young women know what it was like—and what it could be like again. It wasn’t until 1960 that “the pill” was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for contraceptive use. In 1965, Griswold v. Connecticut struck down a state law that prohibited the use of contraceptives, because the law violated the “right to marital privacy.” Prior to that, even married women could not get doctors to prescribe contraception. And if you were single? Forget about it.…
17 Jul 2013
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What do you do with all the “stuff” that’s left after someone you love has died? As someone currently mired in combing through my late husband’s disorganized-pack-rat accumulation three years after his death, I’m plagued by the question. So I decided to talk to some of the women I know who have been through it. Esther Crayton, who will turn 79 on July 27 and lives in Palm Desert, is one of the many Coachella Valley widows who has faced that issue. First married at 17 just before high school graduation, Esther had the first of two sons about a year later, and remained in that first marriage for “about seven or eight years—it’s hard now to remember the exact dates.” Why the divorce? “He said we had to move to Mexico, and I decided I’d rather end the marriage.” Subsequent to that divorce, her children’s father “took the kids…
03 Jul 2013
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Retirement here in the Coachella Valley is generally a time when you expect to kick back and just enjoy life. But when my husband died about three years ago, I couldn’t retire. I needed to go back to work. In spite of a J.D. law degree, several years of experience teaching seminar classes, and having set up and run a training department within a corporation, I did not meet the standards to teach in California. Whatever you may think about our education system, California’s teacher-qualification rules are strict and specific. It was purely by chance that I saw a small notice announcing a meeting for a program that allows individuals to capitalize on their previous experience to qualify to stand in front of a classroom. It was being offered by the California State University at San Bernardino, at their Palm Desert campus. It was at that meeting that I met…

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