A Perfect Rose

A Perfect Rose

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

The Video of the 173rd Basic Academy of the Oakland ( CA ) Police Department - February 3, 2016

My middle son, Alex Vukasinovic, graduated from six months of training at the Oakland Police Department on January 8, 2016.  I've never seen him more dedicated to completing anything.  It was especially difficult because Oakland is eighty miles from his West Sacramento home.  He had to go from being a very hands on father to studying for hours, commuting, often staying overnight at his older brother's home, when there were late night commitments.

He did it, though, and we were so thrilled on graduation day.
I saw this video at graduation but, in the excitement of the occasion, with family around, laughter and glee, it didn't impact me as it did just now, watching it alone.  I have to admit, I shed a few tears.
Congratulations to all you young men and women who made it through, even the experience of being tasered and tear gassed.  I pray you absorbed all you needed to make you the best officers possible.  Even more so, I ask God or the gods, depending on your beliefs, to always have your backs, your
fronts and each other.

Again, Alex, I can't tell you how proud I am of you - as I am of Shawn and Jeremy, too.

Well, I tried to embed the video on my blog ( Oakland PD allows it ) but, somehow, I couldn't figure it out.  I guess I should have consulted my brilliant Indian IT professional,
Shiju Sugunan.

At any rate, I'll just post the link and you can see it that way.  It's on the Oakland PD Facebook site, on the left side of the page as you view it, under video.  I see Alex several times in the film...with his "Vukasinovic" sprawled across his back on this sweat shirt or work out gear.

If you watch it, say a little prayer for these young officers, that they make it to retirement, without mishap, and put a lot of bad guys away.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Viognier, San Mateo, California

While I was definitely feeling gratitude this year on Thanksgiving ( six days after my right total shoulder replacement and not feeling that terrible arthritic pain anymore ), I didn't feel like a two hour drive to Sacramento for a family gathering.  My arm was still in a sling ( for another five weeks ).  

My dear friend, Kris Bleything, who had welcomed me back from India and offered her home to me, agreed we should dine somewhere locally in the San Mateo area.  She left the choice of restaurants up to me so I spent an hour or so reading reviews and finally picked Viognier.  I liked the menu and their wine list was excellent.  I figured I might have to drink dinner since my right hand was pretty ineffective at cutting meat!

We opted to go early which was good.  Draeger's, the gourmet market that houses Viognier, was not open, so we were given instructions to park in the garage and to phone up for someone who would bring the elevator down to us.  

The restaurant was bright and airy, with light woods and huge flower arrangements of blue hydrangeas.  

It wasn't crowded at that time and we were seated by the crackling fireplace and had an energetic, cheerful server who made excellent suggestions.

I hadn't thought to consider that Viognier might be serving a set menu for Thanksgiving.  I had already looked at their regular online menu and chosen my meal for the evening.  Not so.  Kris was happy to have turkey and dressing but I opted for a meal and an appetizer of pork!

My very good Sazerac cocktail!

A champagne cocktail - lovely but I can't recall its ingredients

We had a long leisurely lunch, enjoying the fire, our meal and an excellent bottle of California pinot noir, recommended by our server.

Turkey and dressing - with a turkey sausage, for good measure

My pork appetizer

Pork, again

I really should have ordered something different.  The pork was delicious but appetizer and entree were so much alike, I found myself craving fish at the end!

Our fine pinot noir

Bread pudding - out of this world

There was a second dessert but I can't seem to find a picture of it - a heavenly pumpkin pie cheesecake.  We must have consumed it so quickly, I forgot to snap a picture...or my phone battery protested.  

It was a nice lunch/dinner but very expensive ( $250 ) and I think both Kris and I missed being with family - though she is like a sister to me.  I was longing to hear little Harper, calling out "Nana."

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Presenting Officer Alexander Vukasinovic, Oakland Police Department, January 9, 2016

Alexander Vukasinovic, my middle son, was born August
27, 1982.  He was a hefty brute, weighing in at 8'6", if I remember correctly.  I do remember that I didn't have my epidural, not arriving at the delivery unit in time.  I had gone across the street at Mt. Zion to visit with my buddies, former professional colleagues, in the operating room.  When I realized that my contractions were only four minutes apart, we raced across the street.  I barely managed to get up on the delivery table before his head was crowning.  

The face that was to terrify future football opponents

Alex and his younger brother, Jeremy, were only two years apart and kept each other entertained.  Poor Shawn, older than Alex by fourteen years, often was a substitute father, rather than just a big brother.  He was a great role model, though and played a great deal in making Alex the man that he is.

Alex, like my two other boys, was a wonderful son, seldom giving me any grief.  His great love was football, though my focus was on their academics.  I didn't involve them in sports at all, single mother that I was.  I know this didn't give them a well rounded upbringing.  

Since I had been the Southeastern Women's Judo Champion
when I was 17, I did let them take judo!

As both Alex and his younger brother, Jeremy, started high school, they informed me, though, they WERE going to play football.  Alex promised to maintain his good grade point average and he did.  He dreamed of a career with the major leagues and left home, at eighteen, for UC Davis.  Sadly, no sports were allowed his first year and he wasn't happy there.  He transferred to American River College, took over his life, played football for two years and was very happy.  

He hoped to continue on toward a football career but it wasn't to be.  He was recruited by out of state schools who offered partial scholarships but wouldn't allow him to work.  Reluctantly, he gave up his dream, focusing elsewhere.

Alex accumulated several different AS degrees - among them fire technology.  He began paramedic training, found it "boring" and didn't complete the last two months.  He had worked at Safeway right out of college and, ultimately, managed the dairy department.  At long last, he proposed to Laura Winterhalter, the lovely girl he had dated for several years and the most beautiful wedding I had ever attended took place.

Alex began pursuing other career paths, changing his college
major several times - chemistry, math, economics.  In the midst of these studies, the most wonderful thing happened.  My testosterone laden family welcomed the arrival of the sweetest little girl on the face of the earth.  Harper Ann Vukasinovic made her debut on April 13, 2013.

Now, Alex said he needed to pursue a career to provide for his family.  He began to talk about law enforcement.  He applied to local departments in the Sacramento area but, also, to San Francisco, Fremont, and Oakland.  Oh, no, I thought, having been a forensic nurse for San Francisco for 21 years, it's pretty dangerous in San Francisco and Oakland.  

Well, of course, he didn't get the call from Sacramento PD, a few miles from his home but Oakland wanted him and, for six months, he made the long commute, nearly 100 miles each way, to undergo the rigorous training an officer must endure to keep him safe on the job. Thankfully, his brother, Shawn, who lives about halfway in between, was there with a place to sleep on nights when the commute was just too much.

Playing police

With the love and support of his wife, Laura, and snuggles from little Harper who queried, "Are you a police officer, yet, Daddy?" the months slowly passed.  The class numbers dwindled but Alex endured.  He survived being tasered and being pepper sprayed and, FINALLY, he admitted he thought he might make it - whereas up until almost the last week, he had said, "something could still happen."

Interior of the Scottish Rite Center

Midst cries of "Daddy...mommy," the men and women in blue filed out in precision.  It was a beautiful ceremony, with an inspection first, then badges were pinned on, diplomas presented, speeches followed and we were shown a movie of some of the moments in the life of our officers during their academy time.  These young men and women earned their badges, that's for sure and the Oakland Police Department is lucky to have them among its ranks.

A very proud mother with her three sons

Shawn Smith, Carmen Henesy, Officer Alexander Vukasinovic,
Jeremy Vukasinovic and Harper Vukasinovic

Shawn Smith, Officer Alexander Vukasinovic and Jeremy Vukasinovic in the back
The ladies:  Edith Vukasinovic, Carmen Henesy, Elmira Lopez, Harper & Laura Vukasinovic

Following graduation, we went to Manivanh Thai Restaurant in San Francisco, where we had celebrated most of the milestones in the Vukasinovic family.  Sam and Nang Douangpanya and their family had made us part of theirs and knew my boys since they were munchkins.  We feasted with Laura's parents, the Calhouns, and grandmothers and other family members in honor of this special occasion.  It was a most joyous celebration.  The grand finale was this cake.

Harper was very happy that, at last, she could say that her daddy was, indeed, a police officer!!


As Alex and his comrades begin their careers with the Oakland Police Department, I ask that all my family and friends pray for their safety and well being in this very difficult job.  

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

At the Dawn of 2016

I'm pensive at this New Year's dawn,
I wish my heart felt light,
It's hard to celebrate and cheer,
When world peace seems out of sight.

I am seventy-one this year,
I'd hoped that I might see,
A new year when I'd really feel,
A sense of revelry!

What joy if only hatred ceased,
And terror stopped its spread,
And each new year brought hope,
And a bright outlook ahead!!

Much of the world is suffering,
Each day, worse than the last,
I wish our resolutions could,
Make all this in the past.

I pray that in this year to come,
Our hearts will overflow,
In love and true compassion,
Towards those who need it so.

May all of us slow down a bit,
In the chaos and the strife,
And stop to breathe and cherish,
The treasures in this life.

Let's start at year's beginning,
To find some joy in every day,
To be a bit more loving,
In our own special way.

Best wishes to all for blessings
and peace in the new year.

Carmen Henesy

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Happy 45th Birthday to My Firstborn, Shawn Edward Smith - December 17, 2015

Very early in the morning of December 17th, 45 years ago, I awoke to find my Concord, Massachusetts world snowy white and the early twinges of labor beginning.

As I headed for the shower, my husband, Ed, was encouraging me to hurry - as the 30 mile drive from our home to Chelsea Naval Hospital was about an hour, even in optimal weather conditions.  Finally, we were on our way and, for some bizarre reason, we brought our collie, Snoopy, with us!

Near the hospital, our car stalled and refused to budge...thankfully, in front of a gas station.  The owner, hearing our tale of woe, loaded us ( minus Snoopy who remained in our car which had been pushed into the gas station lot ) and, with his snow plow at work, drove as fast as he could to the Chelsea ER.  From my arrival onward, everything slowed down.  I was given an epidural - which Shawn seemed to enjoy - because he took his sweet time, arriving late in the evening.  

Shawn, a week old, slept through most of his first Christmas.  He amazed us by sleeping about six hours a night when he was only two months old - so I went back to work night shift as a psych nurse at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass.

When he was a toddler, we moved to Tampa, Florida and, after two years there, we headed to Ed's next Air Force assignment in southern California.  Shawn got his wanderlust early in life!

After two years in Fullerton, I moved to San Francisco. Shawn flew down frequently to visit his father, having no qualms at all when I would lament about his flying alone.  At six, he looked at me and commented, "What do you mean, Mom?  The plane is full of people!"

Thankfully, Shawn's dad met Lois who became Shawn's
 "other mother." They celebrated their 25th anniversary several years ago.  I couldn't have asked for a better 
person to be in my son's life.  I remind Ed that I did him a great favor by moving to San Francisco!!!

Ed and Lois when they came for Shawn's high school graduation

Shawn decided to join the Air Force Reserves after finishing a couple of years of junior college.  He looks so young and skinny in this picture.

With his GI Bill money, he returned and got his BS in Electrical Engineering from San Jose State University.  He has continued in the Air Force Reserves, achieving, to date, the rank of Master Sergeant, having been deployed on several occasions, and filling in for months at a time at his home base, Travis, in northern California.  

I am immensely proud of my son ( as I am of my other two sons as well ) but I am most proud of Shawn's being there for his two younger brothers.  They had an absent father from the time they were three and five-years-old and Shawn stepped up to the bar, helping in every way.  At one point, I went through disabling back surgery and he was my lifesaver, shouldering so much responsibility as a junior high school student.  There is no way I can ever repay him or thank him enough.  So much of the men Alex and Jeremy have become is because of their big brother, Shawn.

Shawn is still single but he would make some lady a terrific partner.  He is a fabulous cook, a great dancer, wonderful
with his little niece, Harper, a meticulous housekeeper, astute with money and a great travel planner ( something I like to think I helped inspire ).  

Of course, I admit to a little bias but I like to think he's not a bad looking fellow.  The ladies nowadays say he resembles George Clooney.

With his beautiful sister-in-law, Laura Vukasinovic

Shawn on the left, Alex in the middle, Jeremy on the right - in the birthing room 
shortly before Harper's debut

It doesn't seem possible that nearly a half century has passed since Shawn's arrival in this world.  Thank you, son, for adding so much to my life and for being the fine man you are.  I love you and am so proud to be your mother.

There is an awful lot of white at the temples and in your beard!!!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Aloha, Beloved Merle - December 10, 2015

At this time of joy and festivity, my heart is filled with such sadness.  I just learned of the death of someone I loved deeply and held in much esteem.  I feel like I knew Merle Endo all of my life but we met only about fifteen or so years 
ago because of forensic nursing as I met so many dear friends.  Our encounters were infrequent - at conferences here and there, once for a day when my cruise ship was docked in Hilo, Hawaii and Merle spent a whole day with Sherry Arndt and myself, and, finally, a wonderful day when we were together in San Francisco for hours, playing tourist, taking dozens of photographs - not nearly enough of each other but, primarily of flowers and bugs, laughing and giggling about whether they could have "forensic value."

From our first meeting, Merle and I formed a close and loving bond.  The internet was our form of communication, especially in later years, with retirement, as we both traveled hither and yon.  

Merle touched the lives of so many people  She was an emergency room nurse at the Hilo Medical Center, then worked for the sexual assault response team of the Hilo Police Department.  She was one of the most caring and compassionate women I ever met.  She had the utmost respect of our colleagues of the International Association of Forensic Nursing.

I was in India from May until October this year, in a household with very poor internet connectability.  I managed only sporadic contact with this dynamic lady who constantly encouraged me to visit Hawaii, luring me with the promise of homemade lilikoi pie.  

When I read condolences on Facebook several days ago, I
was in complete disbelief.  I immediately went to Merle's FB page and scrolled down until I saw her last post to me, dated September 7:

September 7
Upping pain meds. Pain is unbearable, making me scream. Wish we had good permanent orthos on BI. To guard rt hip, now left is almost just as bad. Don't know how my friend Carmen dealt with all her bone problems and still traveled halfway around the world. Love you, Miss Carmen.

I love you, too, sweet angel of a friend.  I hate that you were suffering such terrible pain since the summer.  Your daughter tells me you were only diagnosed about three weeks ago and were to undergo chemo.  I guess the Lord chose not to have you suffer any longer.  

For me, you were the epitome of the aloha spirit.  I will never forget you and I pray that your friends and family will have courage to get through the days ahead.  I am so blessed to have known you.

Bing images

Bing images

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Pre-op Bits and Pieces and a Cruise in April!!!! - November 17, 2015

A beautiful day in San Mateo as I went about my tasks -
nothing like Mumbai traffic and madness!

It's been a busy week for me.  I finished up my preparation for tomorrow's right total shoulder replacement. I saw Dr. Yan, my primary care provider, the middle of last week for my preop physical and EKG - good to go in that department, then went yesterday for a chest x-ray and type  and crossmatch - though I don't anticipate needing any blood.  I expect all will go as smoothly as it did when I had my left shoulder done two years ago.  I am so ready for this operation since I have been in so much pain for the past year.  I know recovery will be a little more difficult since I won't be able to use my dominant hand for awhile ...Thanksgiving is out for me since I'll only be a week postop and I won't be up for a drive to Sacramento and hanging out all day with everyone.  I'll relax at home, maybe have a turkey TV dinner, a vodka martini, and a long snooze!

Did a few last minute tasks today, filled the car with gas, got a manicure and pedicure, prepared my advanced directive for health care, finished filling out hospital forms, went out for spicy Chinese food and did laundry.

I am really excited about one thing!  For the first time in over five years, I will be going on a cruise.  My good friend, Kris Bleything and I will be doing the fourteen day transatlantic crossing April 16th from Tampa to Barcelona on Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas.  After a week in Barcelona, she will come with me to India for a month.  Of course, I am planning to stay a few months but I am so excited to have a friend along with me for a little while - the first time I'll be able to show off "the country of my heart" to one of my American friends.  

Even nicer is that we'll spend a couple of days with my friend, Charlene, in Tampa, to start off our journey.

Well, enough chatter ... time to do my last minute check list and try to get a good night's sleep before my surgical adventure tomorrow.  At least Doctor Dreamy aka John Belzer, MD, is my orthopedist!

The sunset sky above my friend's condo with just a sliver of a moon.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Sundays in My City - Bits and Pieces - February 1, 2015 o

On the 3rd of February, it will be two months since my return from India!  My days seem so full, I can't catch up on all my projects and I still didn't complete Harper's stocking in time for her second Christmas.  I am determined to finish it before I return to India on May 5th.  I made the excuse that she is still too young to really find fault with her Nana's procrastination!

When Alex or Laura are working, I look after my granddaughter who will be two-years-old on April 13th.  She constantly amazes me.  Harper is so intelligent and is
learning Spanish as well as English.  Alex speaks fluent 
Spanish and reads her bilingual stories and identifies colors,
animals, etc, in both languages.  She is full of energy and
doesn't realize that Nana, at 70, can't quite keep up the pace 
that she does.  The other day, as we walked to the park, she
kept telling me, "Run, Nana, run," as I tried to match her little rapid footsteps!

My granddogs, Taffy and Bucky, are just wonderful with her,
tolerating having their tails and ears pulled - though we admonish her not to do so.  She constantly uses Bucky for a seat and MUST have Taffy, her doggie mother present whenever she goes in for her nap or bedtime.  If they go into
their kennels for a brief respite, she wants to go in with them!!

Watching Sesame Street with Taffy

I really miss San Francisco.  I've only been down once, for three doctor's appointments.  It's a hundred miles from Sacramento - thankfully, the gas prices have dropped to about $2.60/gallon - but, with my baby sitting responsibilities, I just can't get down there.  

I was able to see my orthopedist, Dr. John Belzer for cortisone injections in my right shoulder and left knee.  Probably, next time I'm home from India, I will have to get a total right shoulder replacement.  The procedure done on my left shoulder was such a success, I won't continue to suffer much longer with this pain. 

Thankfully, for the time being anyway, one of my really dear friends, Kris Bleything, has moved to Sacramento.  It is so nice to be able to have a pal to try out some of the area's restaurants and with whom to enjoy movies and to catch up on the latest gossip.  Last night, we watched a really nice Helen Mirren movie, "The Hundred Foot Journey."

I've managed to gain eight pounds since my return home, thanks to the ability to find so many good, reasonably priced wines and to access all sorts of decent restaurants near me.  
Alex and Laura are only about fifty miles from California's famed Napa Valley and there are several nice wineries within twenty miles of their home.  One of them, Bogle Vineyards, is in Clarksburg, only fifteen miles away.  I've always liked their wines, reasonably priced, and with many varietals from which to choose.  This past year, I attended a wine event at the Sacramento Convention Center and tasted their "Essential Red" for the first time.  It is a a blend of Old Vine Zinfandel,
Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Sirah.  

Bogle 2012 Essential Red, received a rating of 91 points in Wine Enthusiast as well as a "Best Buy" designation.  In many stores in my area, it is available for under $12/bottle.  
Rich and complex, with flavors of boysenberries and sweet cherries, it is a wine that is sure to please, in my opinion.  Costco, this past week, had it for $8/bottle.

I've eaten at some good restaurants, especially Japanese places for sashimi and sushi - since I won't do raw fish in India.  The Bay area abounds in these, often within a block or so of each other.  Most of the time, these are a bit hard on the budget but worth the indulgence!

My computer is on its last legs so I have been trying to read the latest info in hopes of getting a new one before I return to India. I do have a tablet but it just doesn't seem adequate to me for blogging, research, etc.  Anyone have suggestions for me?  

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