Happy Birthday to Me…At Posada La Poza

February…It is MY month! My birthday is February 21st. And I claim the entire month.

My friend Maria is a leap year baby so when February has 29 days in it, we celebrate big-time.
Otherwise she and I go to Hotel La Concha on the beach here in La Paz, and have a wonderful time.
We have massages. Then showers. Then a nap under a palapa. Then we have a margarita, a swim. Lunch with another margarita, then a swim, a nap, some coffee to wake us up for the drive home and then we go home. In 10 years we have missed only one or two of these days.

This year we may miss the actual day, but within a week we will have the full-on February birthday the way we like it.
The waiters know us, and when they see us coming they make sure that lounge chairs are under a palapa and the area around them has been raked.

Last year on my birthday, my home was invaded by a band of my friends . They came early on that Saturday morning with a plate of cupcakes each ablaze with a candle, golden balloons, Champaign and a wonderful l breakfast.
It was so much fun. I was totally surprised.

This year I turn 60. My kids and my sister got together and arranged the HoneyMoon suite at
Posada La Poza in Todos Santos for my beloved and me. The owners are our dear friends so it makes it even more special. And Roberto from Todos Santos and Melanie & Gunter from Rancho Nuevo will be joining us for dinner.

We’ll lounge around the painter- palette- shaped pool, and enjoy sunset drinks on the terrace with Roberto, Melanie & Guenter. And an exquisite diunner will be served including birthday cake. My daughter-in-law, Karri stuffed some candles in my Christmas stocking that say: ” It’s the Big 6-0 …Oh No”
They will travel down in my purse with us to adorn my cake.
In the morning, wrapped in my robe, I’ll saunter over to the table in the garden where “Early Riser” coffee, tea and cookies are ther to hold us over until breakfast!

Sunday we’ll take their row boat across the lagoon, and be on the ocean beach. We can watch whales from the shore and feel like we are swimming with them.

La Poza is a special place, I once wrote an article about it calling it a sanctuary, and it is. That the owners, Juerg and Libusche Wiesendanger are our special friends makes it more special. And we always go to La Poza for my birthday, sometime during MY MONTH. The gardens are lush, and diverse, and walking in them is calming, and truly takes you away from your cares. and yor eye is delighted by a special rock meticulously placed, or a scuplture, a colored bit of glass, a gazing ball. all subtle, but evident.

We have also been their guests when the hotel is closed, and have had time to talk and visit with them without interruption.

When we have guests from the US, we always bring them to La Poza for lunch, and they are al charmed , and hate to leave. We send our paying guests there for a day, and they return just as pleased.

Since I won’t be celebrating with my kids or sisters, being with all of these friends-our first friends in Baja- makes my day very special.
Oh, and it will be warm enough to swim…in February.

Planned Parenthood, Some Angry Grannies and the Superbowl

If you have been on Antarctica and somehow missed the controversy over the Focus on the Family anti-choice ad during the Super Bowl I will bring you up to date.

Some housekeeping first. To anti-choice and religious right folks:
I am not interested in what you has to say about this post, so save your breath. I will delete your comments. There is no debate about a woman’s right to a safe legal abortion: it is legal and it is HER choice, not yours.

CBS has the contract this year to air the SuperBowl. In the past when it was their turn to be the SuperBowl network, they refused ads by MoveOn that were critical of the first Bush “president”. They refused ads in the past and also this year about Gay and Lesbian dating. Their reason was that they do not run political or advocacy ads. That’s fine with me. As far as that statement goes.

However, this year they accepted an ad from the religious right from a group called Focus on Family and it is an anti-choice ad.

What was that CBS said about not accepting advocacy or political ads? Thou speakest with forked tongue, CBS.

And so some pissed off grannies made a funny, but truthful vidoe about CBS here it is. And below it is my letter to Cecile Richards , President of Planned Parenthood. They are running a soft (weak) ad that does nothing more than evade the issue, and seeminlgy support the Focus on Family.
So enjoy the video, and then keep reading.

Dear Ms. Richards,
PP has done it again. Taken a weak and middle of the road stand on an important issue.
There are three fundamental issues regarding CBS and this ad:

1. CBS has turned down ads from left leaning groups like MoveOn as well as ads about Gay and Lesbian life choices. They stated they do not run advocacy or political ads during the SuperBowl, yet they accepted the Focus on the Family anti-choice ad. This is censorship and manipulation of the message.
2. CBS has a history of being arch –conservative ( remember the Smother’s Brothers and other censorship?).
3. Access to abortion is the law of the land, and the majority of our population is Pro-Choice.

By failing to even use the word abortion, and by addressing MS Tebow as “MRS” you again weaken the message about women, abortion rights and the role of television in our lives. You had a chance to take a strong stand, you failed me, and all of the women and girls that depend on you and your voice.

The religious right has again co-opted the media, and PP has again gone along with them. The video by two seemingly Pro-Choice athletes is equally as weak. What are they saying? Are they saying that we must protect the reproductive rights of women and girls? Maybe I was able to ferret that out , but the masses will see two more athletes speaking in vague terms.
Will you soon have Sarah Palin as your spokesperson?

During the fight for the clinic door in the summer of 1992 in California, I was a media spokesperson, and activist with the BayAreaCoalition for Our Reproductive Rights. Time and again when faced with the opposition Planned Parenthood clinics knuckled under and closed for the day thereby aiding and abetting the bullies that had their goal of stopping women from access to safe legal abortions. And your m.o. has not changed.

I have sent money in the past to help keep the fights going, and to help keep abortion procedures as part of the Obama health care plan. I did this only to help the greater good.

But you, Planned Parenthood continue to let women down with your pandering to the religious right. You should be ashamed and I will not send you any more money.
Stand up and be a woman, Ms. Richards,
Susan A. Fogel

Video: How to Remove a Palm Tree with a Pick-up Truck, an Ax, a Friend and a Chain!

By Susan Fogel

El Comitan Real Estate

Early afternoon on a windy, sunny Saturday in La Paz…

 We were just sitting down to a gorgeous bowl of homemade chicken soup. “It looks like something from Martha Stewart Living.” I said to my beloved. “ The white chicken, the clear broth and the gorgeous green vegetables. I hope it tastes as good as it looks.” I was raising the spoon to my mouth when there was a knock at the door.

It was Juan, the  man that had cleaned the hula skirts from our nine venerable  palms. Hula skirts are the dead palms that hang down below the green swaying fronds. They drop off at inopportune times and hit people on the head. Our hula skirts were not  near the danger zone yet, and my lunch was calling. I said  “ No gracias, proximo vez,” Which means: “I want to eat my lunch, go away!” Well it really means: “No thanks,  next time please.”

Well the tenacious guy was not leaving if he thought he could make a few pesos and buy himself some beer.

 So he pointed to our recently decapitated double palm at the end of our row of nine stately palms. This double palm was 30 years old and close to 30 feet tall. But a disease struck many palms in our neighborhood, and this one fell ill and died. Just before hurricane season we had it cut. We feared that it would fall on the house during the storm. It made us sad to see it come down.

  The stumps were about five feet tall, and our dramatic landscape lights were still illuminating the sorry site. Our regular gardener and his two sons tried to dig out the palm, but it was too big and heavy for them. He told me  he would see if he could find someone with a backhoe willing to take on the task.

So the stump stood upright from its three foot deep hole, but no longer illuminated since the dramatic landscape light was now buried in the pile from the hole.

 So back to Saturday. “How can you do this by yourself?” I asked. And Juan replied that he would use the might of his Ford pick-up and a chain. He would be back shortly with the chain. Seeing a chance to get to my lunch while it was still fresh, I agreed to his price of $500 pesos ( about $40 US).

A few hours later Juan arrived with the chain and a friend, an ax and  their determination.

They chopped at the trees roots, dug around it, hitched up the truck and started to tug. Well gravel flew and wheels spun, and the tree pulled the truck smack into its wher e it bounced off the trunk and shattered a tail light. Juan smiled and said “No importa, senora.” ( it’s not important) “Honey”, said I, “Move our car please, I don’t like the way things are shaping up.”

And so he did, thankfully.

I could regale you with more details of this misbegotten afternoon activity, but I  a made a video instead. And yes , Juan is deliberately smashing the back end of his shiny red pick up into the tree trunk.

After he was all finished, Juan said he would be back on Monday to  shorten the stumps, clean out the root ball, and turn them into planter for me. And I did not even have to ask!  Dead palm trunks make wonderful planters, the root ball area is rich ansd fertile.

 The stump is turned upside down, the wide part is the planter. they are elgant, and an example of recycling at it’s best. More ont this tomorrow.

 So here is the video proof…don’t try this at home!

Happy 37th Birthday Roe V Wade !

And I am glad I can write those words.There were time when we thought Roe would die.

I have seen the law giving women the right to safe legal abortion on demand without apology hacked at and attacked and weakened year after year.

And I feared that the new health care plan would  have left abortion care out, and left  women standing on the side of the road with another empty promise .

Today is also the 5th annual Blog for Choice, and my first time writing for it.

I am  reprising a post I made about Dr. Tiller.

And I dedicate this to him, and all of the doctors and clinic workers that have been murdered by the anti- choice religious right.

And  I espcecially dedicate this to my sisters in the Bay Area Coalition for Our Reproductive Rights (BACORR). We trusted each other with our lives as we stood toe-to-toe with the bullies trying to violently shut down abortion clinics.

And I honor Senator Barbara Boxer for her intense and tenacious fight to keep abortion care in the healthcare bill.  We  put our trust in  President Obama, but he was waffling on this issue. We were smarter to trust a woman to do the job and that she did.

And  let us never forget the women that died at the hands of back alley butchers, or by their own hand trying to end an unwanted pregnancy.

For those of you that have always had reproductive freedom, do not take this right lightly, be ever vigilant, and never ever compromise. And trust women to fight for you and stand with you to protect your right to a safe , legal abortion on demand and without apology. Do not depend on the government, elected officials, nor the police to protect your right. Demand  that they uphold this law, and hold them accountable when they let you down.

And here are my words about Dr. Tiller:

As a pro choice activist, I say to Dr. and Ms. Tiller: you are both heroes. Dr. Tiller, you stood for what is right, and good about Roe v Wade. You stood up for women. And for girls. And if it is true that you performed abortions on 10, 13, and 14 year old girls*, you are a savior.  (*as stated in the Washington times, April 9, 2009).

And to the people that brought suit against Dr. Tiller, for saving the future for those young girls, have you arrested the men that impregnated these girls? Having sex with minors is rape, a criminal act. Dr. Tiller was performing, safe, legal medical procedures.  He was tried as a criminal, and what of those rapists?

As a pro-choice activist that has stood toe to toe with the anti-choice terrorists, I say this:”If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one. Go home, and pray in private where religion belongs, not in medical establishments.”  And I ask you this: ” If you are such lovers of God, and Jesus, and life, why are you killing people?”

And I remind  the public that in the 90’s when the greater San Francisco Bay area, and  San Jose particularly, was under siege by these bullies, one of their number, a southern minister said that killing abortion clinic workers, volunteers, patients and especially the doctors was  “justifiable homicide”. He called for his followers to do their duty and search us out and kill us. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Imagine  having made the decision to end a pregnancy, not one taken lightly by most women, arriving at the clinic and being accosted by some wild-eyed crazy, wrapped in the American flag, holding  posters of severed monkey heads, passing them off as fetuses and screaming, “Mother remember this is the death day of your baby.”

Imagine arriving at a clinic in the dark hours before dawn to join women and men to be a human barrier to protect a clinic.  Put yourself here: it is cold, it is dark, our infiltrators let us know that  the antis were going to hit one of several clinics in our area.  You are holding a wooden shield and are linked arm in arm with others holding shields. You and your shield   are part of a human  barrier, protecting the  clinic door. The air is tight with tension. Your mouth is dry, you are not a trained athlete, not a big person, just a committed pro-choice volunteer, you hope they don’t come. You don’t really know if you are up to the physical battle. And then:

Vans pull up and BIG, loud , screaming men, burst out and assault you, trying to push you back, push you down, trample you, kill you even, all in the name of Jesus Christ. It is terrifying.  Imagine seeing the police who are sworn to uphold the law standing by doing nothing. Did you also  get the point: “big, screaming M-E-N?” Most of the battle against abortion and the terrorist attacks are perpetrated by men.  This is not about saving babies, this is about control: control of women. Most of the clinicn defenders are women.

Dr. Tiller did not come to being an abortion provider lightly either. It was the women in his practice who came to him, and in their desperation, educated him about abortion. Dr. Tiller could have stopped his work. He had been shot before, his clinic had been fire-bombed. No one would have blamed him for stopping.  Instead, he chose to  continue to help women and girls take control of their bodies.

In those dark pre-dawn hours, and into the entire day of the battle for the clinic door, we chanted to keep our  spirits up:

Our bodies! Our Lives! Our right to decide!

We hoisted up banners proclaiming:

This clinic is OPEN!

Dr. Tiller, my heart is heavy. Ms. Tiller, my condolences, your loss is immeasurable.

Kansas and America  have lost a hero.

Flying Over Hollywood!



Ok so it is January 18th well past epiphany. In fact in the US it is Martin Luther King Day.

 Here the Christmas season is still going, and will end officially on February 2nd. So it’s ok that I am telling you a little about my Christmas.  And I was hacked remember, and my site was down for quite awhile. And I have a lot say!

We spent the week before Christmas in Los Angeles with our son, daughter-in-law and their two boys.

My son is a sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD); he was temporarily assigned to the air command. So he arranged for us to do a ride along on the LAPD helicopter.  I had to get over the rude questions about my weight (required to balance the load), after that all was well.

 My son took the extra precaution of buckling us in him, and settled the 150lb (it felt that heavy anyway) helmets on our heads. Off we went.

 Almost immediately there was a call for air support.

 We zoomed to the scene of the crime, did a sweep of the neighborhood, picked out the business whose silent alarm went off and saw…nothing! There was no perp, no action, and no guns, nothing like any episode of CSI!

The detailed info relayed from the tactical commander in the bird down to the officers on the ground was impressive. And it is clear that the bird’s eye view protects the lives of the officers, as well as aids in catching criminals.

We answered a few other calls and each time, the perp was apprehended. We were told that the curse of the ride along is that there is never any action.

 Then there was the call that the Bank of America silent alarm went off, and when the police and FBI tried to call the bank they were put on hold! Well what did they expect, it was the B of A, what do they know about customer service? Even when those phone calls could have been lifesaving, they put them on hold! Much to our disappointment, it turned out to be a teller error. But it was exciting for a moment; the pilot took us in a sharp turn and raced to the scene, police cars rolled in from every direction. No crime.

I told the pilot I felt guilty hoping for a crime…she laughed and said she sometimes felt that way on a long day with no action.

 We had a nice tour of Los Angeles from the sky. All I can say is: IMPRESSIVE! It is a huge city.

We flew out over the Santa Monica pier and over the Hollywood sign and the photo on top of the page is one I snapped.

It was an exciting and interesting ride. The work that the pilot and the tactical officer do are detailed, precise, and lifesaving…and fun.

We thoroughly enjoyed the ride, and being crime stoppers for the day.

News From Haiti From a UN Worker

 A first hand report from a young woman UN worker in Haiti:

Dear practically everyone,

First of all, thank you for all your heartfelt messages on Facebook and email. I read them all, and it really touches me. It reminds me that I do not live in a vacuum, and that the world is watching – apparently with dedicated interest, everything that is happening on this tiny, and now truly, god-forsaken island. It is hard for me to respond to you all, because I don’t have much time, and we have very limited computer access – and I am spending most of my time trying to get the material we are filming out to the world. But rest assured, I am fine. Tired of course, a bit undernourished, but I have enough water and a more or less stable place to sleep. I am right next to the airport, and if evacuations are necessary, then I am in a good place for that. I want to tell you a little of what has happened to me, and what I have seen – only because I am realizing that many of you are struggling to picture how life is for us – for me – and you want to know that I am ok. Essentially, the entire world here changed in a matter of about 45 seconds. I went to work on Tuesday morning with a strapless maternity dress on that my sister gave me, and little pumps and a red bead necklace. At 4:48 I was calmly sitting at my computer, thinking about going home soon. I had just been talking through the door that splits my office with my cameraman’s office, Blago, about leaving in the next 20 minutes. And I hear this noise that I thought was a really huge bumbly truck coming down the driveway by my office. So I stood up to see the truck – I mean, what kind of vehicle makes a noise like that really? And as I walked to the window, my brain computed that the building was vibrating, then swinging wildly from side to side. I wasn’t scared, I was just perplexed, and trying to remember what to do in a situation like that – is it “hide under the desk” or “run outside”. For some reason, I thought it was “stand in a door jam” so I was trying to get to the door of the building, which is 7 feet from my office. And I kept falling, and Blago was behind me, and I fell, and he laid on top of me to cover me – I guess he thought the answer was “lay on your colleague in an earthquake”. And our other colleagues were behind us, one of them, crazy Logan the camera man who runs boot camp classes in his free time, was bounding down the hall, bouncing off walls and screaming “GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!” He grabbed Blago by the neck and somehow I found myself falling down our front steps, landing on our car which had crashed into our building. and then we were all kneeling on the pavement, rubbing our eyes. The shaking stopped. Then started again. And someone said “where is our headquarters?” Because all we could see was dust. No sunlight, no buildings, no thing more than 4 feet in front. It took us more than 20 minutes to verify that our 6 story headquarters were no longer there. It’s the type of thing that just does not compute. New Yorkers will understand this after Sept 11 – the building is supposed to be there, and you look to see it, but your brain can’t figure out why it’s not there. In the shantytown outside our offices, the fates were the same. We sat huddled in the parking lot of our HQ, in the dark, listening to tens of thousands of people scream and cry and wail. Wail. I mean really, like a tide. And every time there were tremors and aftershocks, the hills moaned in panic and fear. I sat there for five hours, and wondered if my family knew what was happening. I know they listen to NPR while making dinner, and was picturing what they were doing when the news broke. And I was wondering how the news would break, because we had no power, no cell phones, no nothing. And people were wondering about the other islands. Was there a tsunami? What? At around 11pm, I found a person in the lot with a small transistor radio. He was listening to Radio France International, which was reporting a massive earthquake in Haiti, epicenter in Port-au-Prince. Good god, I thought, is God really trying to finish this little island – I mean, how much more can it take? It seemed to unfair that Haiti had to take this on. And it was surreal that we were sitting in the center of the mess, and couldn’t know what was going on – we had to listen to news reporting from Paris, that was getting their information from CBS in America. very bizarre. Me sitting there in my strapless maternity dress and heels, smudged with dirt and mud, sitting with my knees up and thinking of my family. And I really was regretting my choice of wardrobe in that moment. I spent the night watching the rescue operations. Which were very sparse. It’s hard to pull people out of hundreds of tons of concrete. Maybe they pulled 10 people out, and we struggled to see the faces. Is it anyone I know? Please be one of ours. I sat with a colleague whose husband was missing, and whose 1 year old boy was in her 4th story apartment in the hills above the city. She was stone-faced and silent, eyes wide watching the rubble. She was able to get home and rescue her child at 2am, her husband’s whereabouts are still unknown. We are just now beginning to understand who is not showing up, whose faces have been absent in the little recovery area we’ve set up in the logistics base by the airport. This is where I am now. It’s an awful experience. To know that the people that you meet for coffee, the ones you say hi to at parties and bars, the ones you have stupid arguments with over email about catty, dumb shit – that suddenly those very people could be dead. Or worse, trapped in a small space, without air, in pain. I think many of us get by right now on these things. First, the notion that “I survived”. I survived. I am still alive. That building came down, and by some miracle, I’m still here. So I better be happy about it and not waste it because many people are not so lucky. And second, “there is very important work to do”. There is – tons of it. Tons of rock to be moved, tons of people to be saved, tons of bodies to be picked up, tons of food to be handed out – and water. And for me, tons of TV to be sent out to the world. So we throw ourselves into these things, with gusto. It’s better than sitting around waiting, and feeling helpless. And last, “miracles do happen”. One of the security officers – a guy who would have been on the team that Eduardo was to join next week – was stuck under the rubble somewhere on what used to be the 4th floor. He could talk on his radio. He was awake, stuck in a hole. And the workers couldn’t get to him – there was 2 meters of concrete between him and them, constant tremors, and too many fears of dislodging the whole mountain of stuff to get to him. But finally, today, after nearly 48 hours without food and water, he walked free from the debris, unscathed. And promptly resigned from the UN – who can blame him? When we heard this, many of us cried. “Thank you god – and please let this happen again”. So a few more details, and then I go. I am sleeping on the floor in the logisitics base – outside actually, because nobody really feels that comfortable being indoors and asleep. We all have a reflex to stay near exits now. I have my yoga mat and a sheet. I’m ok. I work all day, feeding TV material to braodcasters. Our camera people go out in the field, I am the one who gets the tape, edits it, and sends it off via internet. We have rationed water, and one MRE (meal ready to eat) per day, and we scrounge around for other snacks. So far I am fine. And with the international crews coming in, I am sure we will get more food and help very soon. The city is… well. I don’t really know how to describe it. It’s sort of like everyone you know – EVERYONE – getting into a serious car accident on the same day, at the same time. Some come out without a scratch, and others – don’t. Many of my colleagues lost everything. Some lost children, others a husband or wife. Logan lost his entire apartment and everything inside it. Me – in the face of all that – I am doing pretty darn well! And very thankful that Eduardo was not here when this happened. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t find him. I thank you all again for your love and messages, I read them all, every one, and they give me a happy sort of feeling in this sad dark place. So keep us in your prayers. Donate money or – something – to a valid humanitarian organization. And keep in touch with me, I love hearing from you. I send all my love, I am sorry I can’t write more, please don’t worry, I am safe. Love,amelia

My Blog Was Hacked But Now I Am Back

My blog was Hacked!

I am back! For those of you, my loyal readers, and new ones too, it is true I disappeared. My blog was hacked and malware installed.

 No matter how many times we cleaned it, more malware was there.

  Finally we took the entire blog down and re-started it!

Hackers are criminals. They are malicious, nasty, selfish and immature. What they do is worse than vandalism, worse than trespassing. What they do is more like character assassination. Their actions make it look like their victim has done something wrong.

 My blog was banned from Twitter and I was sent a less than friendly message by the Twitter admin team. I did nothing wrong!

So I am back, do you like the new look of the blog?

 I do! My darling daughter did the work!

 I will be blogging about life in Mexico, and anything else in the world that catches my attention.

 Did you miss me?

 I missed you.

 So please let me know you are there, leave comments.

 I’ll answer them.

But I will not answer or approve those sent by black hat bloggers blogging for companies trying to get back links off my site.

 I am back, I hope you are too!