The Dalai Lama Drives a Mini-Van

"Toma! We miss you!" "T! Update your blog!" "Toma...why haven't you blogged?"

Seriously, I don't need the pressure. That's the trouble with mass-commo. You're invariably turned into a journalist with deadlines. I was talking to my friend, Tamar, last week, about how I ALWAYS send birthday cards. ALWAYS. Those that have known me for a lot of years know that it's my M.O. If nothing, twice a year, you hear from Toma. On your birthday and on Christmas. Well, the big flaw in that plan is that you leave out a year, and everyone's let down.

2006 has not been my hear for birthdays. Sorry everyone.

And "Happy Birthday!" There ya go!!!

I just hate disappointment...but I'm starting to live with it. All of a sudden I'm back in 6th grad P.E. class with Miss Fanin and I can't climb the big wall to pass my test. It's just me.

So let me skip all the "I've been busy", and "I'm so snowed" and get to it....sorry I've been under the radar. You can, pretty much, count on once a month from me. Really, do you all know me as someone who can commit? How many times have I moved since 1995? Five. Yes, that's five. Average of once every two years. Do the math.

So - let's take it back about a month - I was heading down to Orange County to spend the weekend with Kayla Marie. She was turning 5. Mom was flying in from South Florida, and we were all going to take the pretty pretty princess to Sea World in San Diego.

The drive from Monterey to Irvine is about 6 hours. The big stop I always make, when I make that drive, is just before I get on Interstate 5, which takes me straight to Sebby's house. There's a HUGE rest stop there, with a gas station, restaurant, convenience store, all in one super-mega-center.

As I pull up to this mega-center, I notice there's a Honda mini-van parked right next to me. As I get out of my car, so does the driver. To my surprise, it was a Buddhist man; dressed in the traditional Buddhist clothing, shaved head, little round glasses, the whole works. I spent several years in Asia, been around many Buddhists, but this was, actually, the very first time I've seen one in the U.S., in the traditional clothing. I thought to myself, "How lovely - I honestly had no idea that Buddhists were so liberated that they could drive minivans!" I know, maybe I'm behind the times and uninformed, but it made me smile. Don't ask, it just did.

Anyway, as we both enter the service plaza, it was imminent that we both were there for one reason, and one reason only - to use the toilet. As I followed the man to the back corner of the store, I was still just amazed at how a little man was so hip and happening and drove such a cute new minivan.

Until he walked into the ladies room.

Again, uninformed. I need to read up on my Buddhism and realize that even though they all have the same haircut, there are two sexes in this world - be a little more considerate, Toma! The Dalai Lama-ETTE drives a mini-van.

The weekend was fantastic in Irvine. Kayla is now 5 years old and ready to take on the world. I could take up the rest of this post telling you just how funny this kid is - I mean, honestly, she's quick with the comebacks and she can work a room like nobody's business.

It's very mysterious that I'm related to this person....

One story from the weekend - on Sunday, we ate lunch at some random chain restaurant. Time became short, and Sebastian wanted to get home to see the Lakers play. We left the restaurant and because the game was about to start (My family means BUSINESS when it comes to sports), Sebastian was driving a'faster' than usual, in order to get home to catch tip-off. As he was driving a little too fast for our liking, my mother simply said, "Sebastian, can you just slow down?"

Then, Kayla, without missing a beat...

"He's only driving fast 'cause he wants a BEER."

I thought he was going to wreck the car.

As we recovered from the gut-busting laughter, and wiped the tears from our eyes, Kayla said, "Tante? Why are you always laughing at me? Are you making fun of me?"

"No Kayla - it's're so say such funny things and it makes me laugh."

"Yeah, I got jokes."

Again, with the near-car-wreck-silent-heart-attack-laughter.

Here's a few shots from the weekend....Sebastian made a HUGE deal about sitting in the splash zone at the Shamu show. Notice, we absolutely INSISTED upon it (Duh! You're at SEA WORLD!!!), but Sebastian DEMANDED WE buy him a $7 poncho. Notice that he didn't let go of the beer and also notice we are completely dry.

Sea World is now laughing all the way to the bank.

Moving on....

The first weekend in May brought sunshine and a visit from one of my best girlfriends, Donna Janca. Donna lives and works in Garmisch, Germany - where we met, and I lived for four years, working at the
Edelweiss Lodge & Resort. Donna was home to visit her family in Texas, but, lucky for me...she stopped in Monterey for the weekend. Ohh, it was just so lovely. Donna & I cooked dinner together every night - she caught up on back episodes of Sex and the City - and we just had such an incredible time. You know, there's just something about old friends - that NEVER gets old. The recurring theme of the weekend is "I really don't want to go out." You see, I've become a bit of a homebody - not even a little bit - but I actually PREFER being home alone to being out and social. Some say it's not healthy - however, consider my occupation and what I do for a living. I'm around/with/deal with people EVERY DAY...when I come home, I embrace the quiet. It is my sanctuary.

The Friday night that Donna was here was
Cinco de Mayo. Living in a state that has a very large Mexican population, Cinco de Mayo's a very big holiday here - lots of partying. It's almost 'expected' that you go out and join the fun. And I have the fun. But I just would rather have the fun...IN MY HOUSE. It's not that I'm old and crotchety and set in my ways...but...

Yes it is.

I just don't dig on going out any more. It's so much effort. The wardrobe, the makeup, the lighting....oy. Again, the pressure. Plus, why do most people go out? To hook up. I dunno...maybe it's just me. Will I meet the man of my dreams at the Mucky Duck? Seriously, over the bar scene. Isn't my husband going to just walk up to my door and ring the bell?

We visited Big Sur, Pacific Grove, Lover's Point - all the hotspots -without going out and getting competely smashed. I can tell you right now, as sure as I'm sitting here, that I had an even more fantastic time with Donna, one-on-one, for that entire 5 days, than I'd ever have boozing it up at Jose's Cantina on Cannery Row. 'Nuff said.

Next up was Rosalie & Co. to Chez Toma. Rosalie will be moving to Nashville very soon - and she wanted to take the opportunity to show her daughter the ocean before she left. She packed up and came down on Friday night and spent the weekend. Again, another fantastic girlfriend who just enjoys the chill out that Casa de Toma offers. We sat around and watched Kenny Chesney (2nd year in a row, ACM's Entertainer of the Year - but I don't like to brag), and squealed like girls...ahhhh, bliss.

Yes, since I only blog once a month...this is what you get...a novel.

I have one more visitor this month (If anyone's keeping count - weekends in the month of May: 4...weekends in the month of May that Toma has/had company: 3) and it's Captain Jessica Donckers. Don't get me started on this one. She's on my list of heroes, and Jessica is a woman I admire deeply. Jessy & I met in Korea - when she was fresh out of West Point. Since we met Jessica has served in Korea, then deployed as part of the 101st Airborne Division - not once...but TWICE. She served in Iraq for a year, then she was home for a few months, then served in Afghanistan for a year. While on deployment, Jessica was awarded not one, BUT TWO Bronze Stars. Hero doesn't even begin to cover it. It's been four years since we were together, and I can't hardly wait to see her again! After she leaves Monterey, she'll finish up the Military Police Captain's Career Course, then she's off to Ft. Bragg, for her next assignment. AIRBORNE!!!

Side bar to this story: as most of you know, I work AND live on an Army installation, the Presidio of Monterey/Defense Language Institute. On any Army installation, anywhere in the world, there are three times a day when the installation stands still; 0700 (Reveille), 1700 (Retreat) and 2200 (Taps). Each day, at the 1700 retreat (When the flag is lowered), if you are driving in your car on the installation, you must stop your car (I think this happens at 0700, too, but I'm never up that early). Anyway, If you're military, you must get out of a car, and draw a salute. Now then - if you're a civilian, TECHNICALLY, you don't have to get out of your car (and most of them don't, quite honestly) reverence and respect to our country, I always do.


Because of Captain Jessica Donckers.

Because of Captain Daniel Gade. Because of Captain KC Hughes, Captain Patrick Disney, Captain Joel "Eggs" Benefiel, Staff Sergeant Dean Bush, Captain Eddie "Vegas" Cuevas, Captain Matthew "Deeds" Dawson, Major Joseph Todd Breasseale, Captain Marcus Ferrarra. Because of all the great men and women who died, stood watch, sacrificed, were wounded, left their families for the desert.....the list goes on and on for what these people do for me every single day.

The least I can do is get out of my car.

God bless our troops! Pray for a soldier every day!!!!

Blessings and love,

Toma's Favorite Song Today: "American Soldier" by Toby Keith