Eularee Smith
Writer & Educator

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Snow in AugustWatchersRising SunThe Andromeda StrainThe ShiningThe Hunt for Red October

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Park At Your Own Risk

It never ceases to amaze me that people just do not read, or refuse to believe that what they read applies to them. As if they have immunity from the rules, people will do as they please and be shocked that they are then held accountable.

On Wednesday, January 21st, the Today show aired a segment about tow truck drivers targeting shoppers, snatching their cars within minutes of the owners leaving their vehicle. In one instance, the owner was parked in front of the sign that clearly stated No Parking. Do not walk away from your vehicle. Your car will be towed.

The owner was outraged when he came out to find the tow truck driver hitching up the vehicle. "If you had told me, I would have moved it," he said. The driver's reply, "that's not the job, sir; the job is to tow the vehicles that park illegally." 

An investigative team from the Today Show, went to the parking lot and also parked in front of the sign, went into a store that was not part of the legal parking area and when towed questioned the tow driver. His response, "People need to stop victimizing themselves. If you get towed, you need to learn how to accept it and you need to just read the signs properly."

Amen! This is clearly a situation that has no need for sympathy for a person who feels the rules are there for everybody else but them. I applaud the tow truck driver for making the owner accountable, as is he to his employer who hired him to do the job - tow the cars that are illegally parked. Enough said.

What words would you use to get people to understand that no parking means NO PARKING!



Airbnb - a good supplement income?

We would all like a little extra cash but at what price? I needed to do a few repairs to the house and after receiving several recommendations, including my daughter, about posting my house on Airbnb, I decided to give it a try. I was leaving for Florida with my mother for a couple of weeks and posted the house before I left, never thinking it would result in having to make immediate decisions before we landed.

I had three requests within a couple of hours of posting the house. Airbnb sends you the request and the potential rentor has a profile you can view prior to accepting. This was better than not knowing who was coming but, are they really going to tell you they are burglars or ax murders on their profile? What you see is a smiling face, usually with a dog or a family and a few particulars, where they live, some contact information. 

I took a leap of faith and while I was thousands of miles away on the east coast, someone was sleeping in my bed on the west coast. As it turned out, the first experience was not too bad. The second request said he never found the place and wanted his money back. Airbnb takes care of all of the money handling, which is a good thing. The money arrives in your bank account as the person walks through your door. 

The third request was a nice family from India, who politely told me that water beds were not good for sleeping. Since I have trouble sleeping on conventional mattresses, I have to disagree. The note they left told me how my things spoke to a life well lived. Hmmm, I think that may have been a way to say your house is cluttered, and somewhat lost in translation. 

After a few more visits, I decided this was not exactly the best way to stash a little extra cash for retirement. Once I factored in the cleaning, changing the sheets, hiring someone to come feed my animals and find a place to rest my weary head for the night (I started sleeping at the office), the few bucks and having stranger in my house was becoming less attractive. The holidays were quickly approaching, so I turned declined the next few requests and hunkered down for a long winters nap.

Then a request came in last week from a woman in Washington. She was from the area and often came back to her stomping grounds. This time it was to care for her brother and sister-in-law who were going through cancer treatment. She wanted to host them at my house and take care of them in royal style for the weekend. Since I am a cancer survivor of 23 years, I was immediately drawn to this request for making my home a refuge for this family.

Airbnb does a good job of handling the financial transactions. I have never had a problem with the money being in the bank on time. If you can choose who is coming and plan it around your schedule, it is a good way to pay the unexpected bills, or save for a vacation. There is some work involved, but you can negotiate the price to reflect your extra costs. My daughter added a cleaning fee and hired a cleaning service. Some of my friends only rent a room, which means they don't have to leave. Some offer a breakfast and others don't. There is enough flexibility that you can tailor the situation to meet your needs. The IRS does ask for the income to be reported on your taxes, so be aware. Airbnb sends you this information in January, so you don't need to keep track. Discuss any expenses required to rent your house with your tax consultant.

Is it worth a try? Yes, but go in eyes wide open, on your terms and know that there is no committment. Once I realized I didn't have to say yes to everybody, I felt much better about those I welcomed into my home.



The State of The World

Every January, I have to give a State of the Crow address to the Board members of Upstart Crow Studios. We are a non-profit youth performing arts company, with over 300 students that grace our doors for an opportunity to work in the performing arts. Our annual report shows how many children we have served, how we served them and how we will improve services in the coming year. We are in the business of transforming lives one child at a time.

Every year, our mayor gives her State of the City address and soon the Governer will also stand at the podium and tell us about the State of Oregon. All the way to the White House, this month officials are telling us where we are, how we got there and how we can better the state we are in. 

Someday, I would like to hear The State of the World address. Perhaps this would come from some objective, hopefully benevolent, alien super power, who's sole role would be to give us a heads up on what is happening on our fragile planet.

The news media reports bits and pieces that would make any diplomat run for cover. With so much bad in the world, it is a wonder God hasn't called for an end to it all. From terrorist attacks to mass shootings, from the ebola crisis to missing airliners in an endless ocean, it seems the world is tilting on its axis and spinning out of control.

Living through Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, Civil Rights Movement, Women's rights, two recessions and a housing decline, I think it should be getting better. Instead, there always seems to be a new disaster on the horizon. History repeating itself doesn't appear to be working as lessons to be learned but rather an experience in survival.

Maybe that is the lesson - to survive. Better yet to survive and remain hopeful that history can change for the better. A bit vague, perhaps, and certainly wouldn't fly with my Board, but a meaningful goal nonetheless. The bottom line is the State of the World is not in the hands of the benevolent alien super power. It remains in the hands and hearts of the people. We have the ability to change one life - ours. We have the obligation to change the world around us, one life at a time. So we start there. In a small non-profit, small towns, our state, our country and with any luck our world. 

So the State of the World address? Here it is. Learn from yesterday, live for today and hope for tomorrow. 

Flickr image by zoereubens


Purging in the New Year

A bit of a cliche to say that I am ringing out the old and ringing in the new. In truth, most everything is old, these days. A year of struggling to manage the pieces of my life into some sort of organized chaos, I finally feel the need to push forward.

Spent the precious few down days from work over the holidays to purge my studio. What was supposed to be a few hours, turned into a long day of indecision, fond memories and disbelief at how much one accumulates over their career. 

No, this is not my retirement swan song, but rather a time to reflect on what is past and most likely never to return. As a music teacher, and during a time of little if any computer resources, I compiled binders filled with lesson plans, file folders of lab assignments, and theory games. I re-purposed old games, creating new cards or boards with theory modules. There they were, up in the closet, covered in dust and waiting for me to re-discover.

I laughed at the hours I spent brainstorming new ways to engage children in the wonderful world of music. With my focus in new directions, the question became what to do with all of this work. Does it become recycled or re-purposed? Does it go into the thrift store box or back on the shelf only to gather more dust?

Mind you, this is only one closet of three, that I must wade through. Relics of teaching past come to haunt me. Like me, dusty, old and worn. Oh yes, here it comes. Time to reflect on all that has come before, the mistakes, the wrong decisions and paths not traveled. Isn't that what purging is for? Please don't tell me I spent an entire day, one closet and a long walk down memory lane only to find myself in the same place.

The new year begins, with a less cluttered closet. More importantly, it begins with a clear vision of the path I would like to travel. Not that I have not been writing this past year. I have written, composed music and directed two children's plays. I have worked with my mother on compiling and editing two decades of my father's columns for publication. My writing has not stopped, just been diverted.

I still teach music, although not to the extent the binders would demand. That's ok. They have a home, despite their yellowed aging contents. What is old, may not become new, but it certainly is worth revamping.   


Delicious high calorie foods that keep you healthy

Delicious and high calorie rarely find their way into a healthy diet. If it tastes good, it can't be good for you. But here are a few foods that are easy to incorporate into your weekly menu that can give you a boost and put a smile on your face. 

Peanut butter - yes, this childhood lunch box favorite is full of good healthy fat and protein. The secret is it is low in cholesterol. This yummy spread improves fat burning, muscle mass buildup and even cardiovascular health. Use sparingly on toast at a 100 calories per tablespoon. I also put a tablespoon in teriyaki dishes for a wonderful peanut sauce.

Banana - could there be a more simple and versatile fruit? This yellow wonder is rich in vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folic acid, fiber and potassium. Whether a cereal topping, in a smoothie or a quick snack on the way out the door, the banana has almost double the calories of other fruits, filling the tummy nicely. One large banana has 120 calories and the benefits of yellow make for high caloric content worth eating.

Nuts - you can go nutty for these quick and easy snack bites. Raw or toasted, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios and peanuts help to control blood glucose and lipids. Reach for these crunchy rich in fiber and protein snacks instead of the chips. Each ounce has between 160 and 190 calories so nibble with measured caution.

Mango - I remember these as such a treat from my aunt's backyard in Miami. Doesn't matter how you slice them, breakfast, lunch or dinner, the mango brings high fiber and vitamins A, B6 and C to the table. This beautiful fruit helps regulate blood glucose and digestion, supports good vision and healthy skin. Rich in copper, potassium and magnesium, minerals that promote cardiovascular health, it is a delicious way to keep you fit as a fiddle. Use in smoothies for a midafternoon pick up. A medium mango has 130 nutritious calories.

Avocado - Avocados, fruit or vegie? Does it matter when it is deliciously rich in lutein, fiber, vitamins B6, C and E, potassium, magnesium and folic acid. Any monounsaturated fats that helps reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and prevents heart disease is a winner as a healthy food stuff. So many ways to enjoy this green goodie. Holy guacamole! Use as a spread instead of mayo or wrap it up in soft taco or pita. A medium avocado has approximately 276 healthy fat calories.

Olive Oil - Nothing better than to saute a little garlic, onion and tomato together. Add fresh basil or spinach and you have the perfect (and simple) sauce for pasta. Olive oil's anti-inflammatory properties help ease arthritis and are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. It offers protection from certain types of cancer, like colon and breast and is good for your bones. With slightly fewer calories than canola or vegetable oil this is an easy and delicious way to beef up your immune system. One tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil has 120 calories.

Hard to feel deprived with these high calorie choices that fill the tummy with healthy options to delcious eating habits.

Image: Flickr image by froglish