3 years later

Here are some pictures of Guadalupe, Ica, Peru from June 22, 2010.  The earthquake occurred August 15, 2007.  The white USAid tents and the ruins in these pictures are where people are still living almost three years after the earthquake destroyed their homes.  I should have been shocked at the lack of progress in rebuilding the town but honestly it wasn’t a big surprise.  The tents are far from the ideal home to live in.  Temperatures go down to 50 degrees at night and in addition to the cold, the wind blowing the thick plastic (which is supported by a wooden frame) around would keep even a deep sleeper awake.

Book Blurb and Poll

Tamara goes back to her family’s hometown one year after a deadly earthquake to find that on the surface, not much has changed. After a young anti-corruption activist is murdered and Tamara’s best friend disappears, she is caught between two social classes that clash as the police try to find the killer. Did someone in her rich landowner family’s circle kill the boy, or was his death a result of the dark secrets he had been hiding?

Set in the desert off the coast of Perú, Tremor in the Hills is a young adult mystery that deals with the struggles of earthquake relief, corruption and the mental trauma that major natural disasters cause.


To Complain or Not to Complain… that’s hardly the question

Because I’m a survivor (see previous posts) I try hard not to complain about things. It is a struggle since I’m a natural pessimist, but I know that I need to be grateful for where I live and all of the things that I have. I remind myself that there are still people living in tents because of a natural – or man made – disaster; innocent people caught up in conflicts; many other awful things happening.

So I post this not just for myself and my friend, two mothers who United Airlines involuntarily bumped from their flight on Christmas Day, thereby separating them from their families and stranding us in Houston – but for the many people whose experiences have been much worse.

I think, for example, of the case that the taxi driver in Houston told us after we complained to him of our circumstance. Two women in their eighties arrive in Texas knowing little English. They are bumped from their flight. Unable to defend themselves, they are left with absolutely no compensation – certainly not the amount that they should get, and not even with a basic hotel room voucher. The taxi driver felt so sorry for them that he drove them to his hotel and put them up for the night at his own expense.

Yes, there is humanity left in this world. It doesn’t seem to be found in the upper management or boards of airline companies though.

So if you also have had any issue, make sure you visit flyersrights.org and sign their petition so that Congress passes the Airline Passengers Bill of Rights that has been stalled for over a decade.


Going on the Radio: Brilliant. Help!

Tomorrow, Sunday December 13th I’ll be going on the radio for the first time, thanks to my childhood friend. I’ll be talking about Never Shaken:Tales of Survival, a book I self published a few years ago. The book was a large undertaking – small, perhaps, in comparison to the world of traditionally published non-fiction out there – but the heart and soul of thirteen earthquake survivors are to be found in the true stories collected, transcribed, edited and sometimes translated by me.

It’s a book about sharing; about community healing through writing, and a pay-it-forward if I can to organizations that help with the aftermath of natural disasters. I’d love your support – tune in tomorrow:



And click below – your support means a lot!

QR code Never Shaken

Getting Out

I love Amazon – the ability to search for anything and find almost everything, click and it’s on its way is awesome – but it is also wonderful to find these independent bookstores where the people are friendly and can give personal recommendations. I was here today for a Mystery Writers of America meeting; fun stuff listening to a retired FBI agent!



For the month of being thankful, I am grateful for good friends, of which I have many – but a special shout out to my friends Zubaida and Veronique who are helping renew and increase interest in my collection of true stories from earthquake survivors!



Fifty Two Hundred Teeth – a short story

It looks like she didn’t make it. But I am not sure. She is on the stretcher now, her olive green Burberry jacket on the ground, discarded by the men who tried to administer CPR. I think I see a faint movement in her chest before the paramedics cover my view, stuff her in the ambulance and take her away. I feel a small pang of hope.

I hover there, reliving the moment I happened upon the woman in the pond; her face just under the surface of the water, her curly blonde hair splayed out and floating like bleached seaweed, her green eyes open, expressionless. Bubbles coming out of her nose and mouth. I had just stood over her, frozen, wondering if she was a figment of my imagination.

Her skin was very white. That’s how I saw her. I had been at this oasis before. It is a dark place for a dark mood, surrounded by trees whose leaves only let in the barest amount of light. There is a stream of water trickling into the pond in the middle of the grassy area. It looks like it was meant to be a waterfall but it never reached its full potential. The waterfall is my favorite thing here. I can relate to it.

No one I know has any idea that I have these dark moments where I feel the need to come here. Even my family thinks it is simple anger that will pass quickly. And usually it does. It has to. Not because it goes away, but because I repress it – force it down. In order to live the life I am expected to live. I forge on.

“You are so cheerful,” someone once told me when I reached out to share my feelings. I wanted to respond that if she cut me open she would see my heart in all its corroded, damaged glory, worn out with the increasingly difficult struggle to be normal.

A therapist once tells me that I don’t have enough dopamine. And now it is too late. I narrow my eyes at her and think, “Isn’t it a therapist’s job to help make you feel better?” She is right though. I do not know happiness. Oh, sure, I have laughed. I have enjoyed things. But there is always the fog. Most of the time it is just behind me, nudging me forward. Once in a while it decides it needs to come give me a hug. So now I am at the oasis.

Except instead of sitting in silence contemplating my mood, I find myself in the middle of an even bigger tragedy. My body is numb, but my soul floats above it all. I think about the woman in the pond. I look down at the jacket. An expensive but temporary fix in the search for contentment, now separated from its owner.

A few days later I am at the funeral. How can I not be? She haunts me. She died on the ride to the hospital. Was she in a better place now? Would she find peace? Time will tell I suppose.

I look around at the people there. There are so many of them. It surprises me. Where were they before life drained out of her, gently floating away through pockets of air from her lips and nostrils, making their way to the surface of the algae infested water? Or was that unfair? They were there. They had to have been. But did she feel them? Did she know that they would always be there? Or did she feel, as I sometimes do, that any wrong move on her part and they would dissolve into thin air, leaving her alone?

I focus on the grieving crowd. What is grief really? I watch and listen. She had a daughter. I sidle up close and feel anger radiating out of the young girl’s body. Well, that should be no surprise, for a young girl without the guidance of her mother is a lost soul. And the girl knows it. It breaks my heart. I turn away.

The girl’s father is standing by her – the widower. His face is sad, but I sense some relief in his demeanor. Relief that she is no longer suffering? Or relief that she is gone? That question is answered practically as I think it. He lifts his head and winks. I think it is for me at first and what is left of my heart leaps to my throat. But he is looking right through me. I turn. Behind me is a petite, attractive woman with locks and locks of curly hair. She approaches and he whispers some term of endearment to her as he kisses her cheek.

Is there any sadness in anyone’s grief? I move around. Most of the females that look like they could have been her friends have an aura of shock surrounding them, a barrier against my scrutiny. I could always read other people’s feelings pretty clearly. But it is not working anymore. My “gift”, my heightened sense of insight is gone. I try in vain to find one person who feels only sadness.

I overhear the word selfish. The shrew that says the word is deathly white, her lips pressed together so tightly that you can barely see them. Selfish. It is indeed a word people use in these cases. What the woman in the pond did. If we wrap it up and put it in a box, can we label it “selfish”? Sure. But can’t we do the same for many of the behaviors these people will exhibit as they, the living, go out through that heavy, dark, wooden double doorway of the church? We gnaw harshly on the labels of other people’s actions but, do the teeth marks we leave behind change our own behavior?

I float out the door. There is nothing more for me here.

I wake up sweating. It has been upon me for two days now. I cannot shake it like I have been able to in the past. I look over at my sleeping husband. A good man, but completely unable to comprehend my needs. I get up. It is cold. I go out the door and down the hallway. I open the door to my daughter’s room. She has been the most precious thing I have ever been blessed with. But she is about to fly away. Soon I will lose her. It is good for her. It is a disaster for me.

I try. I really do. I cannot shake the fog. I fight valiantly. It is no good. It closes in, squeezing me too tightly. I scream out in my head, but no one comes running. They cannot. There is nothing they could do anyway.

I go into the bathroom. My face is white. Large green eyes stare back at me. I swipe at my curly blonde hair, but it bounces back to where it wants to be. The fog is tighter than it has ever been. It lifts me and carries me down the stairs. I put on my olive green Burberry jacket and float out the door.

Somehow I make it to my favorite place. The oasis is dark. Of course it is. It is nighttime. The very fact that I have thoughts like that make me feel worthless, stupid. The fog agrees. I kneel down beside the pond. I stare into the darkness for what might have been hours. I am alone. Me and the trickle of water. Somehow, this comforts me. There is life here.

The fog nudges me. It is time. I nudge back. But I obey. I cannot fight anymore. I get in the water.

THERE ARE ALWAYS OPTIONS! STAY SAFE: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/