Happy Annie-versary 3!

Annie meets Nikki

June 20, 2016: Mama and daughter become a family.

Three years ago my friend Nikki Cardoza adopted her daughter Annie in Changsha, China. I got to be a part of that once-in-a-lifetime experience to travel with Nikki and help bring Annie home.

It was a tremendous journey of love that took Nikki back to the country where she’d volunteered for years at orphanages and where she met Annie as a tiny baby at Butterfly Children’s Hospices. The marvelous staff there helped save Annie, and on that trip to China I got to visit Butterfly House and the other orphanage where Annie was cared for.

Now I look at this series of blog posts and photos from that trip, moved by Nikki’s determination and Annie’s strength that allowed her to survive her early years, which has moved them through the challenges and joys of the past three years as mother and daughter.

And I look at the photo of Annie in November 2018, hardly believing that this is the same child who met her mama on a hot summer day in a city far, far away, who bravely made the journey to her new forever home in a place called California.

I am ever richer for that experience and for their friendship and love.


Annie Nov. 2018

Annie, November 2018

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Departures and arrivals

SM SacMag cover+Krista

I am pleased to say that a story I wrote about Dick’s heart adventure has been published in the June issue of Sacramento Magazine. You can read “Departures and Arrivals” here.

It’s an odd enough sensation to be sitting in a hospital in Honolulu, watching your beloved sleep most of the time following the cardiac arrest that felled him and his literal jolt back to life. It gets a bit more odd when, after posting about said event on social media, you get an email from a longtime friend/magazine editrix. “Can you write a version of this story for me?” asked Krista Minard. Some people might be annoyed by such a request at a time like that. But give me a good writing assignment, one with a powerful narrative and interesting details (which this one certainly was), and I’m on it.

Not only did working on the bare bones of what became “Departures and Arrivals” occupy me in the freezing hospital as we waited to learn about further tests and eventual surgery for Dick, it also reminded me (former journalist that I am) that there’s nothing as good as taking notes as things happen… as opposed to trying to remember details later. So, with Dick’s permission to tell the story as it unfolded, I did.

SM SacMag page1

The illustration for the story by artist Lars Leetaru is impressively close to the actual scene.

I don’t know if Krista knew how much she was saving me at the time, giving me something else to occupy my mind, but that assignment focused me and produced posts for this website (click on “Dick’s Great Heart Adventure” on the home page, if you haven’t read those posts and would like to). It was a win-win for us both.

I love to tell the story about how I was the editor of Sacramento Magazine in the early 1990s (the last century!) when Krista Hendricks, as she was then, was hired as our receptionist—a job she didn’t particularly want and, she’ll tell you, she wasn’t particularly good at. She wanted to be a writer for the magazine, but we weren’t hiring writers and she was, frankly, at that point not ready for such a job. But she let me know she wanted to write, and offered to type up copy for me (in those days we took stories written on paper and typed them into our little Macintosh computers). On her own time she also typed  transcripts of interviews I did with journalists for my master’s thesis. And she proved to be a fine feature writer. I gave her as many assignments as she wanted, and Krista became a huge asset to Sac Mag, as we call it.

She left us to work for the Neighbors section of The Sacramento Bee for a time, but came back to do freelance writing for us at the magazine, and eventually she was hired as a writer/editor. And after I left the magazine—and another editor was named and she left the magazine—they wisely made Krista the editor, a job she’s held for more than 25 years.

Every now and then she asks me to write something for her, or I volunteer an essay, which has been a lovely thing for us and the magazine, too. The travel pieces I’ve done about Hawaii have included Dick’s photos, too. Krista’s a terrific copy editor, and I rely on her to edit some of my longer projects, including all three books published by River Rock Books, the tiny press I run with my good friend and colleague Katie McCleary. In fact, here’s Krista and her daughter Anna at our most recent River Rock Books debut of Ed Cole’s novel, “The Love Story of Pinky Wollerman.” (You can get an electronic version of the book here. There should be printed copies available soon on Amazon, too.)

Thanks, Krista, for once again putting Dick and me in print… and online!

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(from left) Anna and Krista Minard


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Stopped II

RDS LifeIsGood shirt from SueBear

Dick in one of the lovely Life Is Good shirts sent by our friend Sue-bear Butler.

I’m pleased that this poem I wrote about Dick has found a home in an online literary journal I’ve long admired—but you have to be 60 or older to submit. I am, and I did. And they accepted it!

Click here and scroll down to see my piece “Stopped” in the special “Life-Changing Moments” section of Persimmon Tree.


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Hello, Faddah

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Roger and Darlene Haag with daughters (from left) Donna and Janis, Orange, California, circa 1965 (photo by Grandpa James Keeley)

Dear Dad,
our father, Roger, who art in heaven:

The little girls in this photo couldn’t understand
why you moved them far from a town called Orange
to a lake called Folsom, pulling them away from

sidewalks begging for roller skates and bikes,
away from Disneyland, to a rural life of poison oak
and no sidewalks and taking the bus to school

and summer heat the likes of which we’d never felt.
But you and Mom taught us to waterski on that lake,
and we learned to avoid the poison oak, spending

hours walking in the state park across the road,
plopped on our bellies in spring grass, surrounded
by wildflowers—blue dicks, shooting stars and lofty

lupine, the artistic Indian paintbrush, and oh,
the poppies that bobbed their happy heads at us,
a different kind of orange, welcoming us home.

Thank you and love,

Jan and Donna
Father’s Day 2019

In memory of Roger E. Haag


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Swimming with ducks

ducks in pool

Under a half slice of lemon moon
on a still-warm summer night,
I slip quietly into the water next
to the ladder—not walking down
the steps as usual.

I often have the pool to myself
in the sultry dark, but tonight
I share the water with two
professional swimmers who don’t
seem to mind a human sculling
and breast stroking her way
down their chlorinated pond.

Male and female, these mallards,
hovering over the top step in the shallow
end, keeping an eye on me as I stop
a respectful distance away—
no flip turns tonight. I forgo
the freestyle and opt for gentler
strokes, watch them bob silently
on my small wake.

Finished, I hoist myself up the ladder,
fetch my towel and watch as first
he, then she, swims down the middle
lane, then hangs a sharp left
to the same ladder, flapping
themselves up on the deck.

They waddle to the wading pool
and hop in, circling, one after the other,
doing their laps in the aqua pond
where I hope they will remain
undisturbed for as long as they
wish to swim.

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Hawaii Jan rocks

Hawaii Jan migrated to California last week for some family milestones (graduations and the like) with her folks in El Dorado Hills. We hadn’t seen her since our unplanned stay on her island of Oahu in January. Among her many kindnesses to us, Jan found us a house to rent for a couple of weeks after Dick’s surgery. That house, though it was in chilly Pearl City, was a godsend—a pu’uhonua o honaunau (place of refuge) where Dick could rest and recover in the care of our dear friends Cora and Connie, who flew from in the mainland to perform that labor of love.

To distinguish us, Dick long ago dubbed us Hawaii Jan (though she, like me, was also born in California) and California Jan. Our fathers (born in the same summer of 1930 with pale blue eyes) both had jobs, houses and families in Long Beach when they took new jobs in the Sacramento area in the mid-’60s. Hawaii Jan’s dad, Skip Shuman, worked as a Sacramento Bee photographer with Dick.

It turned out on this visit that Hawaii Jan was on a tight schedule, and Dick and I were also a bit busy, so when our respective schedules didn’t mesh for a lunch date, we figured we’d see Jan another time. But Skip called Dick and said that it was pretty important that Dick see Jan this trip. I couldn’t join them, but Dick drove up to El Dorado Hills to meet them. And it turns out that Jan had something important to give Dick.


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This is a one-of-a-kind replica of the shirt that was cut off Dick when he collapsed in cardiac arrest Jan. 15. The shirt is no longer made, and a couple of our friends have been scouring websites looking for a replacement. But we figured, oh, well, we got Dick back—that’s most important. And more than one friend sent us other terrific Life Is Good shirts to help make up for the lost one.

But Hawaii Jan makes miracles happen. Not only did she find us a house to rent for two weeks on Oahu (very difficult to do on a week’s notice), but she also brought me, among many other comforts, a big pink sweatshirt blanket that warmed me up in our way-too-cold hospital room where I slept for 12 nights. And, while Dick was still in the hospital, Jan picked me up and took me to, of all places, a local bowling alley for some outstanding local diner food. And she drove me to see the rental house before we went there to help me figure out the area. She also came to Dick’s departure ceremony at the airport before he flew home in February where he was honored as an AED survivor.

In short, Jan Lake is a gem, which we already knew. And we also knew that she has connections in the T-shirt world (she worked for the Hawaii company Crazy Shirts for years, setting up their catalog shoots, and now works for a company buying products for gift shops in Hawaii). But what we didn’t know is that that one of her connections is, as she says, “a local boy, Michael Paz (aka Pazzy).” His company, Project Aloha (projectaloha.com), makes T-shirts, caps and other aloha wear. But, Jan told us, he also creates art for Life Is Good.

And because Jan can move mountains, she persuaded Pazzy to make a replica shirt for Dick, which she presented to him on her most recent trip to see her folks.

As you might imagine, there was much exclamation and not a few tears from the man who had his T-shirt and his custom-made camera vest cut off him Jan. 15. He had an extra vest at home, thank goodness, but the shirt, we figured, was irreplaceable.

Not if you know Hawaii Jan, it turns out.

Thank you, Jan Lake and Michael Paz, for this latest act of great kindness. We’ve been touched, once again, by the miracle of love that has surrounded us throughout Dick’s Great Adventure. And now Dick can walk in the world with his newly repaired heart wearing the T-shirt that spelled it out for us the day of his rebirth: Life Is Good.


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Hawaii Jan and California Jan, January 2019 (photo by Dick Schmidt while still in ICU)

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e-JLH RDS Pebble Beach-SML

(Photo by Sue Lester)

Us. Because life is good… especially at the seashore where we celebrated (quite belatedly) Dick’s 76th birthday, which was in February.

After I had to return to Sacramento Feb. 1, Dick celebrated (gently, quietly) as he recovered in a rented house in Honolulu from heart surgery with our two friends, Cora Johnson and Connie Raub, who literally flew to his side to care for him. This past weekend Dick and I happily celebrated together on the other side of the Pacific Ocean with our dear friend Sue Lester at The Sea Ranch on the north edge of Sonoma County.

And we walked the gorgeous bluff-top trail and, when the tide allowed, went down to rain-soaked sand because it was mostly a wet weekend, but then we scampered outside like happy marmots when the sun beamed, soaking it up before the next shower. Then we’d nestle inside (like marmots who prefer being dry) and talk and eat and read and nap.

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Sue is (other than my sister) my longest-tenured friend on the planet. We grew up next door to each other next to a lake called Folsom where I followed her through our patch of state park as best friends do. She was always a head taller and a year older (she still is), but now that we’re in our sixth decades, I’ve got lots more gray hair than Sue. We have been fortunate that we found work we love (Sue’s a veterinarian in Nevada City) in places we love. And while we have not raised children, we have cared for innumerable pets and loved ones and houses and plants.

Sue is important in my life because she has been a witness to so much of it. She has parts of the story no one else has, as I have parts of hers. She has also adored my two main men, the one who was born 67 years ago today (hey, Clifford, my dearest companion spirit!) and died in 2001, as well as the one who died and was returned to me in January (Dickie!). She has a master’s in zoology for which she toiled among ocean invertebrates in, among other places, Bermuda, a warm-ocean spot.

This past weekend Sue and Dick and I migrated to the cold ocean of the North Coast, accepting the weather that came at us and over us. Because it’s never too often to be grateful and happy for each day we get to breathe together on the planet.

e-SML peace-0465


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This is not an obituary

This is what I wrote for the final print edition of my students’ newspaper, which landed on newsstands May 9 at Sacramento City College. So proud of the editors and staffers who worked very hard to make the final 24 pages truly beautiful ones.

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You are holding in your hands the last printed Express newspaper at Sacramento City College.

As one of a couple dozen advisers of the paper since its beginnings as The Blotter in 1922, I have to say that this is a bittersweet moment. The paper itself is not ending; in fact, it’s thriving with new content every day of the academic year at saccityexpress.com. But it’s time to bring a close to its monthly existence on newsprint. Beginning in the fall semester the Express will be a completely online publication.

This reminds me of another important moment in the paper’s history, when Ginny McReynolds was hired in 1986 to replace longtime journalism instructor and adviser Jean (“Doc”) Stephens, who was retiring. The story has become part of our history: Jean made no secret of the fact that she didn’t want to have to deal with computers, which were very much becoming a part of newspapers. So it was Ginny who ushered in the first small Macintosh computers into the Express lab, and she and her students set about learning the new technology to put out the paper.

“When I came here in 1986, I was extremely grateful to have been chosen for the job and I was nervous,” recalls Ginny, who is currently associate vice president of instructional services at City College. “My whole first staff of editors had been Jean’s students, and it wasn’t an easy transition for any of us. But, before long, we formed our own team, and Jean was very helpful and supportive of my work.”

Ginny also notes that as the program transitioned to using computers, she had “enormous help from people who actually knew what they were doing. Over the years, all of that has changed a number of times, but it has always been a kind of ‘each one, teach one’ situation. Without very savvy tech-savvy colleagues and students, I would never have been able to facilitate that!”

My journalism colleague Dianne Heimer also oversaw a major technological shift when she advised the paper—creating an online version of the Express as with the new century in 2000. Dianne, who is retiring this month, brought the paper into the digital age.

Randy Ravenstorm in lab

Ravenstorm Labarcon, design adviser, works on the final print issue of the Express.

None of this would have been possible without thousands of dedicated students, who, since 1922, have made up the staffs of The Blotter, the Pony Express and the Express. We have included the names of as many of those former staffers as we could find in our staff box on these pages.

The goal of the journalism department has not changed since the days of the first newspapers on campus: to educate students in the skills and ethics of journalism so that they can continue their educations in the field, if they choose, or go to work as professional communicators. Many have done both. We are proud to point to Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Ron Edmonds, who was a photographer on the Express in 1968.

But we are equally proud of young journalists who did outstanding work while reporting and photographing for the Express.

When a student was shot and killed on campus Sept. 3, 2015, Express editor-in-chief Kris Hooks and news editor Vienna Montague immediately went to work. Most of the immediate coverage was put up instantly on the Express’ social media platforms and on our website. Local news outlets were following our reporting that day. Our Express editors put up stories first online and then decide which stories to include in the monthly print editions, from the coverage of the reaction to the death of former City College student Stephon Clark and decision this year not to prosecute the city police officers who shot and killed him.

As we’ve been looking at the end of the printed editions of the Express, I’ve struggled for ways to write about this. One of my former writing students, Dawn Orosco, put it this way in the final stanza of a poetic tribute to print newspapers:

But still, this is not an obituary —
newspapers will never die
They will always be held;
they will always be opened —
forever recycled
in my bank of memory.

old new expresses

Expresses 1981 and 2019 (Photo by Randy Allen)

It’s been a great run on newsprint, and we are grateful for the support of literally thousands of (before 1959) Sacramento Junior College and (after 1959) Sacramento City College students, faculty, staff and administrators who have read (and sometimes railed at) the Express. The paper has been an ongoing practice in democracy and the First Amendment—not without disagreement and challenges—but it has largely succeeded as the voice of students reporting on other students and their college experience.

Here’s to many more years as that student voice, in whatever form of delivery is appropriate to the changing times. In the meantime, the Express will still be going strong each academic year at www.saccityexpress. We hope you’ll continue the journey with us.

Jan Haag and Randy Allen
Express advisers, spring 2019

Randy editors deliver

Photo adviser Randy Allen commemorates the delivery May 9, 2019, of the final print edition of the Express newspaper at Sacramento City College by its staff (from left, Danielle McKinney, Rose Vega, Ravenstorm Labarcon and Luan Nguyen).

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Is a nurse ever really on vacation?


Claudio Alvarado (photo by Charlie Casey/UCD Health)

That’s the great headline on this UC Davis Health story about one of Dick’s saviors, Claudio Alvarado, who sank to his knees beside me on mine seconds after Dick’s collapse in Honolulu Jan. 15.

Claudio—as you may remember if you’ve been following this story—was in line behind us to board Hawaiian Airlines flight 20 bound for Sacramento that day with his partner, Camron Calloway.

“I’m a nurse,” Claudio said to me as I wondered if I should start CPR. I moved aside to let Claudio do what he does professionally as a nurse in the Emergency Department at the UCD Medical Center in Sacramento.

The rest, as they say, is history. (You can read an earlier post about Claudio and Camron here, if you like.)

We are grateful to Charlie Casey, senior public information officer at UCD Health, for interviewing both Dick and Claudio to write this story for the UCDMC community .

I’m also delighted by the fact that as of this summer I can call Claudio a colleague of mine at Sacramento City College where we are both professors. He’s been hired as a full-time nursing professor and starts working with SCC nursing students doing their clinical practice over the summer. In the fall, he’ll teach a full load of classes in addition to his job at UCDMC.

As Dick says of Claudio in this story, “That dude is a hero.”

He so is!

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Before my brain could begin
to process it—you, falling to the airport
floor, pulse fluttering in your neck
until someone rolled you onto your back,
and the fluttering stopped—
Loss opened the shuttered door
in my heart, walked through again,
stood next to me, put his arm
around me, and said, “There, there.”

We stood there, Loss and I,
watching as strangers knelt around
you, a perfect halo of helpers.
Grief showed up, lending his warmth
to our little huddle. “Hey, girl,”
said Grief, old friend that he is.
“Don’t watch—or maybe, do.
It’ll help later.”

Then Hope joined us, nudging me.
“Take a picture, honey,” she whispered.
“If he comes back, he’ll ask
if you got a picture.”

That made me smile; Hope knows
us so well. I extracted myself
from Grief’s gentle arms and said,
“Excuse me,” without explanation,
because Grief understands.

I stepped into the glory of humanity
around you, took out my phone and
snapped an image of you there,
a large man pumping your chest,
a smaller one holding your head,
checking your pulse, another arriving
with a machine, someone placing
pads with wires on your chest.

“You know,” Loss whispered, trying
to prepare me, “this doesn’t always work.”

But Hope grabbed my hand and,
though no one else did, sang out,
“Clear!” a second before one
of the helpers pushed the button.
And suddenly, there you were, pale
blue eyes open, eyelashes fluttering,
the throng around you able to breathe again,
you, back on our side.

“Bye-bye,” Loss said, releasing me.
“For now,” Grief said, already fading.
“There you go,” Hope whispered,
as my life restarted with one


(Also published here. Thanks to Persimmon Tree for including “Stopped” in their special section, “life-changing moments.”)

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