Sunday, July 22, 2007

Eight Interesting Things About Myself

Joanne from "Write after dark" has tagged me into writing eight interesting things about myself. (AW Monday Memes) 

I am not sure just how interesting it may really be...

1. I didn't speak much when I was young. As it turned out, there was a good reason. I was tongue-tied. I was diagnosed with Ankyloglossia - my tongue was attached to the plate of my mouth. The tendon was slightly cut, making it easier for me to speak - but too late, I had already gone through much of my school life without speaking, labeled as shy. I was never just shy. I
was quiet. There is a difference. About five years ago, I had some oral surgery at UCLA Medical Center -- I quickly became a central focus as interns gathered around me to see my tongue. They suggested severing the rest of the tendon but there were some risks and I decided against it. I've gone this long and have done alright.

2. I grew up in a home that did not believe in going to the movies. But in 1970, my older sister took me to see Erich Segal's "Love Story" - I loved it. It was the first movie I ever saw at the theater. My parents never knew I went. It was on that day, I decided some day I would go to NYC and ice skate in Central Park.

3. I was a tomboy as a kid. I'd hang out with my brother, climb trees, jump fences and spend all day at the river. The river was my back-yard playground. I wouldn't change a thing if I could. 

4. I always wanted a Barbie as a child. I asked for one many times. I came from a large family and money was tight. Still, my little sister got one -- but I never did. I did however, become a Barbizon Model. How many people can say that? I didn't get a Barbie but I did look like one.

5. I loved school and rarely missed. Favorite subjects: English and U.S. History. Now I love writing and historical places.

6. In college I was a Barbizon Model, a cheerleader and ran track and cross country. I set ten school track records in college. I ran cross country and track. When I wasn't on the track, I was cheering at football or basketball games. I was a cheerleader and loved it.

7. In 1975 I wrote a letter to the editor (hometown paper) during my senior year in high school. When I saw it - with my name - I knew then that someday I'd like to write for the paper. That dream came true. I love writing and write for several newspapers and magazines - I can't believe it is my job. I love it.

8. Frank "Buck" Shaffer was the best thing that happened to me in high school. I was an Orange Blossom - a letter girl in the band. In 1976, Buck Shaffer took us on a
ten-day bicentennial tour with stops in Boston, NYC, Washington D.C., Gettysburg, Mt. Vernon, Amish country (Intercourse, Bird in Hand) and Philadelphia. I've never forgotten it and believe it changed my life forever. I was already patriotic, but even more so after that. I returned last year with the same Panther Band, now under direction of then classmate Jim Kusserow, for a similar trip. But I've actually made the trip numerous times. I love the east coast. My life is blessed.

Miscellaneous Update

Well, good news - my eyes are just a little strained - tired - need rest, etc. I've been driving a lot lately and the "reading a book for eight hours" thing didn't help.

A lot has been happening around my home. I've driven to Sacramento three times this week (family flying out to see sick loved one) - Today we had a death in the family. I will fly out Tuesday to meet up with family in Texas.

On AW - I recently entered the July contest and won "Best Short Story" for my story "Christmas 1942 - A Means to Mighty Ends." It was fun writing it.

Also - I was tagged today by Joanne - and I will return and do the tag game before I leave for Texas but I'm not sure I know eight people I can tag that have not already been tagged.
So, I will leave the tagging off this time.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Blurry Vision

I have always loved to read and am an avid reader - educational and entertainment values. There was a time when I used to read a book every weekend. But I hadn't done that in a long time.

Today, I literally spent all day reading - from the moment I woke up until one hour ago - stopping only long enough to make coffee and lunch. Never even made dinner. Luckily my kids can fend for themselves.

The book I read was "The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold. The story is told from the point of view of a murdered 14-year-old girl who was raped and killed. She tells the story herself - from heaven - or her version of heaven. I liked the setting of the story because I knew the places -- Fairfax, VA; Valley Forge, Philadelphia -- places recently visited. When they talked of the woods, I felt as if I had been there.

I was a bit disappointed in the ending. I kept reading because I wanted to see if they would ever catch the killer or find her missing body. I won't say if they did or not.

But one thing happened .... now I have to go see a doctor. I struggled to read - and my eyes got so tired. Now, everything is so blurry. I put the book down an hour ago and my sight is still blurry. I guess I will have to make an appointment to see an optometrist in the morning.

My father was blind. I can't imagine going through life without seeing. I keep telling myself I overdid it. I hope that is all it is.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Ralph "Sonny" Arbitelle

I love feature and human-interest stories. (story below)

I just spent a couple of hours with a very interesting man -- Ralph "Sonny" Arbitelle. I honestly could have stayed there talking with him all day. He was so interesting. He is not only a former (38 years) professional illusionist (has been on Johnny Carson show and numerous other shows) and a member of the Academy of Magical Arts but he is also an artist, a member of the clergy, a published poet and writer and -- he believes strongly that one man can make a BIG difference. He's ready to prove it too.

Today is his 75th birthday and I can't believe I had the honor of spending the morning with him - interviewing him. I feel as if I were the one treated to a great birthday present.

Mr. Arbitelle will be riding cross country -- motorcycle -- to raise awareness and funds for the Susan G. Kommen Breast Cancer Foundation. He had such a wonderful outlook on life - so positive. You couldn't help but get caught up in the excitement of how he looks at life.

He leaves next week and will ride to Connecticut, down to Florida, across the panhandle and across the southwestern states back to California -- 7,500 miles in all. His journey will be made into a Discovery Channel documentary and the motorcycle he is raffling off along the way may be featured in "Deal or No Deal" on television.

When we were done with our interview, he surprised me by autographing two of his books and giving them to me - "The Bingo Farm" and "The Letter." I was so honored.

I am always amazed as to how many interesting people live right where I live -- whether artists, writers, musicians or athletes.

I love my job! And after my story on this man prints, I can come in and share it. But in the meantime, be forewarned - if you happen to hear of this man stopping by your town - go out and support him. He's amazing.


Esther Avila / Special To The Bee
Ralph "Sonny" Arbitelle, 75, will travel about 7,500 miles to raise money and awareness for breast cancer. The "Pink Lady"motorcycle will be raffled off after the ride.

Visalia man takes cancer fight across the country on motorcycle
By Esther Avila / Special To The Bee
07/27/07 04:44:32

Editor's note: This is an occasional feature in the South Valley Bee in which we profile members of our various communities. We hope readers will provide suggestions for possible profiles, and while we are at it, a name for the feature. Please send those suggestions to or call (559) 622-2420 or fax to (559) 733-1825.

VISALIA -- Believing one man can make a difference, Ralph "Sonny" Arbitelle said he is ready to prove it.

"I used to think one person could not make much of a difference. But I was wrong," Arbitelle said. "You don't have to live a long time to do something and leave a legacy."

Arbitelle, who turned 75 on Saturday, will be making a 7,500-mile round-trip motorcycle journey from California to Connecticut. He plans to raise significant funds and awareness for the fight against breast cancer, while celebrating breast cancer survival and honoring those who have lost their battle to the disease.

Having lost his father, mother, sister, two aunts, an uncle and cousins, including one who was only 18 years old, to cancer, Arbitelle was still stunned when his daughter, Melanie Roth, developed breast cancer three years ago. After chemo and radiation, she was declared a survivor. But recently, Arbitelle said he learned her cancer had metastasized to her bones. Miraculously, it was ruled out. That is when Arbitelle said he remembered a promise he had made her.

"She was a fighter and I saw how tough it was for her," Arbitelle said. "I told her that one day I was going to get out there and do something."

Arbitelle said he intended on keeping his promise. After brainstorming ideas, he decided on a road trip. He purchased and donated a new 2007 Yamaha V Star 1300.

After dubbing the bike "Pink Lady" for its pink and white custom paint job by Darwin Ward, Arbitelle has been asking for a donation of $25 each per ticket, or five for $100. The bike, on display at D & E Yamaha, 1745 E. Mineral King in Visalia, will be raffled when he returns. And because of Arbitelle's professional connections, it may happen on television's "Deal or No Deal" reality show.

Arbitelle, a 38-year professional illusionist, author of numerous books, a poet and ordained minister, started planning his trip last March. He will leave Visalia on Tuesday and plans to return Aug. 31 or Sept. 1.

But that is just the beginning. Two cameras will be installed on Arbitelle's motorbike, and he has been collaborating with Brooks Wachtel, a writer and producer of the Discovery Channel, for a documentary on the road trip.

With the support of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, the journey will begin in Visalia, with stops scheduled for Reno, Nev.; Salt Lake City; Davenport, Iowa; Louisville, Ky.; Cleveland; Scranton, Penn.; and Hartford, Conn. -- where Arbitelle has scheduled a few days of rest.

On the return trip, he will stop in New Jersey, North and South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Las Vegas before returning to California.

"I will limit my riding to an average of 310 miles a day, six hours a day -- with four layovers built in," said Arbitelle, who recently broke a couple of ribs during a fall. "Everyone has been so supportive."

Along the way, several bikers from each region will join him for some portions with the motto: "We will not give up, be turned back, nor stop riding hard until breast cancer is history."

Still, Arbitelle is also asking for the public's support, locally and on the road. All proceeds from the ride, excluding meals, gasoline and occasional paid shelter, will benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation.


Esther Avila / Special To The Bee
The "Pink Lady" motorcycle, above, on display at D & E Yamaha in Visalia, will be raffled, with proceeds going to fight breast cancer.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Happy Fourth of July

I was looking through some old photos and found this one when my daughter Jennifer won Tulare County "Little Miss Fourth of July" - 1999
That was a very special day in her young life.

Jennifer had heard about the contest and kept asking me to take her to the mall to sign up. I did not want her to because I knew there would be many little girls trying for the title and I didn't want her disappointed when she did not win. One day, while at the mall, she got a little form and was filling it out herself. My heart broke. She really wanted to try so I decided to let her enter the contest but I kept reminding her that she may not win.
But she knew - she was confident. And she won!