Beating the Sheltering at Home Doldrums

Would the Lion King Shelter at Home?

tabby cat on cement patio
Nutter Butter/Nutter B/Nutters

Nutter Butter, our two-year-old cat recently started balking at the enforcement of the governor’s stay at home orders. He has a cat cage that is the envy of all the cats in the neighborhood. But he has tired of sheltering at home in his well-equipped, if multi-purpose, cat cage.

Nutter Butter’s cat cage

Typically the cats come and go into their cage all day long. At night they are locked in. 

Nutter Butter says, “I’m done with that.”

Twp feral black cats
Feral cat friends envy his abundant supply of food.

As the weather gets warmer and the rains have stopped, Nutter Butter has been venturing out for hours. He’s the pied piper of the feral cat community in our neighborhood. Herds of cats follow him like he is their cat god. 

Cottonwood Creek through a thicket of oak trees and weeds
Cottonwood Creek through a thicket of weeds and oak trees

They head through the back fence toward Cottonwood Creek, which is flowing about an inch deep and four feet wide behind our back yard.

two cats resting in their cage
Nutters watches as Moji plays with her pet lizard.

Usually, Nutter Butter comes home for a snack and nap around eleven in the morning with mud on his paws and burs in his fur. His cat friends take turns sneaking into the cage behind the other cats’ backs for a bite to eat as well.

two black cats on chairs
Moji prefers eating and preening to adventures. Moji and Scardy stay at home and practice social distancing.

Nutter Butter hunts.

All day.

Yesterday he brought home a field mouse, tossed it in the air on our front lawn so that we could watch him play with it during our dinner. The other cats crouched in a circle around him anxious to pounce when their moment came.

They discovered that mice were not as tasty as the gopher served the night before.

Normally, Nutter B. comes home about 5:00 looking for dinner. It’s still light, so we don’t feed him now until 7:00 or 7:30. Our mistake!

Tonight he did not come back at dusk for food. We clanged bowls and called his name. Usually, he sits across the field and perks up his head when he hears his name. Eventually, he meets us half-way across the field and we pick him up and carry him back to his cage to speed up the process.

Tonight when the yellow plastic bowls clapped together in a third attempt to entice Nutter Butter to come home, we thought he was gone for good.

At about 8:00 we found two neighbor or feral cats lounging under the oak trees in the vacant lot, their reflective colloids glowing in the flashlight.

But Nutter Butter was not in the field with them.

He wasn’t on the garden walk where he likes to preen.

tabby cat on a wooden path
Nutters in the back yard waits for his adoring cat followers.

No perking. No Nutter B. anywhere.

Finally about an hour after dark, Nutter Butter ambled across the street into our yard. But he wasn’t interested in us. He headed for the empty lot next door where the families of gophers live. He stood like the Lion King awaiting his followers. 

No one came out to follow him. His cat buddies had already bedded down for the night in the field. They sensed that he was in trouble. 

They watched from a distance as I picked him up and carried him into the house, picking burs out of his tummy fur as I went. 

“Sheltering at home is safer for you Nutters. Mama knows best.”

Instead of hanging limply like he usually does when we carry him, he twisted and tried to go back to his evening adventure. 

“No, you are going to stay home.”

Nutter B. did not agree with my edict and narrowed his green eyes at me. 

I generously took him inside the house to feed him so that his roomies would not eat his food. I overestimated the appeal of food. He refused to eat more than a couple of cursory licks of canned cat food sauce and then went to sulk by the back door.

“I’m not hungry. I want to go back outside,” Nutter Butter said.

I tired of his whining. What did he know about how dangerous life could be without sheltering at home? He had never suffered near-death catfights on the roof above our bedroom or had to run away from coyotes or large dogs out roaming at night. He’d never been bitten by a rattlesnake. 

“You are going to bed and that’s that.”

Cat and pet mouse sleeping
And that was that.

Who knows where he will go tomorrow. Maybe to the beach. He’s a rebel.

Bellavista Gardens Resort Combating Coronavirus

Walking benefits your heart, lungs, eyes and mood. Vince and I hiked around our home resort which we’ve named Bellavista.

California poppies with contrasting ground cover.

It wasn’t long until the man with the photographic eye took over my phone. Don’t you love this piece? For years Vince had drooled over our friend’s stove lying half buried in her field. When he asked if he could dig it out of its burial place at her house, she gave it up. It works perfectly now.

The snapdragons never died our from a planting two or three years ago.

The hike continued to the columbines I planted last year and thought they were duds. Vince thinks they look like aliens.


From there we headed south through the cat sanctuary to the winter gardens which I planted last fall.

Lazy snapdragons, lush mini-pansies, hollyhocks that haven’t ever bloomed set in aromatic cilantro

The cats from all around think this is their oasis, complete with a climbing pole. We moved through the garden quickly to avoid seeing any chores.

Can you see the giant ant that devoured the spinach in one area?

Taking one last look at the garden, we walked west into the true front of our resort lawn.

The onions are resting. Gophers don’t bother them in this bed.

Two weeks ago I bought an azalea to remind me of the beautiful Northwest where I spent my teen years. Vince ignored and focused on our cat, Moji’s favorite hiding place.

Her toady therapist is always ready with advice.
Toad’s office enter at your own risk

From there we hiked across the flatland through the iron gates to the east garden. Vince started designing it last year, but water was a problem. I gave him an ultimatum- no water and I would give him the garden back. We had water back there before the week ended. The good news is that now it is our joint garden.

Mostly strawberries. Yum!

I took out my compost piles and he built some steps down to the next level as you look toward Cottonwood Creek. “It’s hardscape, Marsha.”

That is Vincespeak for a new seating area to look out on the creek, which is running right now.

Cottonwood Creek

In a few years the weeds will be replaced by a path down to the creek and probably more hardscape. For now it’s amazing to have the garden ready to grow tomatoes and other summer plants.

It’s our work in progress.

So now you know how we are fighting the Coronavirus. What have you been doing? Stay safe and healthy.

Bellavista Headquarters

How to Recognize a Scammer When You Meet Him or Her in 2017

A Scammer Scans for the Vulnerable

A scammer found my elderly sister-in-law one night when she checked her email. Up popped up a warning that said her computer had multiple viruses and she needed IMMEDIATE help.

She believed that she did. The problem seemed more urgent than waiting to make a call to Geek Squad, a service she already had. She did not call them. She didn’t call her family. She did not tell anyone – just like the scammer said.

Alone with your computer? Frustrated? You might be vulnerable to a scammer.

She didn’t know why she trusted him.

I say elderly sister-in-law, but she a bit younger than I am, she could be your age. She lives alone, doesn’t earn very much, and saves every penny she can. She clicked a pop-up window on her computer, and somehow she began a relationship with an abusive scammer. He emailed her that could fix her computer for $300.

She loves her computer. It opens the world of distant friends and relatives on Facebook.

She decided to fix the computer.

She watched the cursor move. The scammer had control. But wait, he could help her establish online banking, too. So she trusted him. She did not have credit – anywhere. He began calling her, giving her instructions. The phone would ring at night when she was tired after working all day. She responded like it was another chore on her growing list of things that she had to do.

The scammer began calling her, giving her instructions.

“No, I don’t have credit.”

“You need to go to the nearest store and get a gift card from iTunes to pay for this.”

So she did.

“OK, now just email me the code. OH NO! It was blocked. You’ll have to do it again.”

So she did.

“Don’t go to that store, it did not work. Get it from this store instead. Here I’m going to help you. I’ll put $1,500 into your account. You can pay me back later with the card you’re going to get from this other store.”

So she did – again. The bank called her and asked if she authorized the charge at the store. She told them that she did. She owed money for the work on the computer.

“It’s still not working. Go to Walmart this time. No, that’s ok, I’m checking your account online. The payment does not seem to be going through. No, you don’t talk to the bank. I’ll take care of this. Trust me or you won’t ever get your computer back.”

So she did not.

“Do you know much about computers? Wouldn’t you love to have online banking? Then you don’t have to go into the bank to check on your account. I’m going to set you up with online banking. I’ll send you the password. Here I can take a selfie of you. Get your driver’s license. Hold it next to your face. Perfect. Now just the driver’s license.”

But he did not send the password. In fact, he started yelling at my sister-in-law when he called her late at night.

Why is he yelling at me? He doesn’t have the right to yell at me, she thought. Yelling makes me mad.

“You took my money,” my sister-in-law accused him.

“No worries, it did not go through.”

Even after she accused him, the scammer left voice messages on her phone and sent her emails.

She went to the bank. The bank told her that all her charges processed. Since she charged the items, she was liable. She immediately went to the police station. She called Experian.

She has a lot of work to do to get out of this. Thursday she has an appointment with DMV. Most likely she will have to get a new driver’s license.

More Important Than Money

“This is more than about the money. I feel so dumb. I didn’t want to tell anyone. I finally trusted a counselor and she sent me right to the bank.The bank sent me right to the police station. I feel like I’ve been trapped.”

ScammerWe Hear About Scammers and Think We Won’t Be Touched

Years ago I trusted a superintendent in California. I knew him. I just didn’t know he wasn’t himself on Facebook. A scammer got me. Fortunately, I lived with someone who wasn’t in the grips of the scammer at the moment. I didn’t want to tell my husband. I’m smart, well-educated and an independent. Here was a man to whom I looked up and respected, a superintendent telling me that he thought he saw my name on a list, and I was going to win $200,000 just like he did. I questioned the scammer a lot, I almost believed him!

However, I did tell my husband and asked him what he thought.

“Are you sure it’s him?” Vince asked.

“Of course, we talked about all kinds of things first.”

“Just call him.”

“Why? I’m chatting with him.”

“Check to see if he is online.”

I was embarrassed to call the superintendent. Of course, he was online. We were chatting. But I listened to my husband. I called the administrator and asked if he was online.

“No,” he replied.

“You’ve been hacked, then,” I told him.

I reported the scammer, and never heard back from him.

A Scammer Keeps Calling Until the Victim Takes Action or Has Nothing Left

This scammer man called my sister-in-law several times over a month’s time. He asked her to do things, and she did it unquestioningly thinking the problem would go away. The scammer became verbally abusive and continued to raise havoc with her credit score. She finally got mad at him, told someone else.  She took action to protect herself even though it was humiliating.

What Can We Do?

We don’t have to sit back and be victims or let someone we love be a victim.

Check up on family and friends frequently if they have had a loss or trauma in their lives. Maybe they are fragile. My mother-in-law paid someone to mow her grass one time. He came back four times and collected a total of $1,200. His line:

“You forgot to pay me. It’s $300.”

My husband’s aunt was there the last time he came. She threatened him and said she was calling the police. We knew my husband’s mom was a little forgetful, but being out of state and visiting only a few times a year, we did not realize that she had worsening dementia until an aunt called us and told us what happened.

We had to take legal action on her behalf. The bank limited her ability to write checks over $100. She wouldn’t leave her home, but we kept tabs on her after that through the aunt and an attorney. We gave the aunt the right to make decisions on her behalf so she could stay in her home for a while longer.

Don’t be afraid to ask loved ones if they have had suspicious email or online requests from strangers. It’s hard to admit that we could fall for a scammer. My husband thought, “How could my sister do that?” His sister wondered the same thing about herself. It’s like being in an alternate reality. If I hadn’t almost fallen for something similar, I would have felt the same thing. But it can happen to anyone, especially at a vulnerable time.

Be rude. If you practice the kind of etiquette our grandparents taught us as children, a scammer will use it against us. It goes against the grain to be rude. Scammers count on our politeness.

Instead, hang up on calls you suspect might be spammers or scammers. I wait for a second after I answer the phone and say hello. If no one responds immediately, I hang up. If they try to sell me something I tell them no thank you and hang up without waiting for a reply.

Vince’s sister said “I always try to be nice to people. I am nice to people, but he made me mad! I told him he took my money. He admitted that he did.”

Communicate with others to protect yourself.

We have to take responsibility for ourselves and for others around us who are not able to care for themselves.

  1. Cover the cam recorder on your computer until you want to use it. My camera now has a Post-it on top of it. A scammer can hack in and see what you are doing. You don’t want to pose for selfie’ as my sister-in-law did. The scammer knows her address and date of birth.
  2. Individually we need to communicate with loved ones, people proven to care about us. We cannot live isolated from others. We must have people who care about us in real time, on location. A scammer looks for individuals who are lonely and seem not to have someone else who cares about them.
  3. We must not be embarrassed or too proud to admit we might get scammed. If we think it can’t happen to us, we are pridefully wrong. Senior adults do forget and get confused more often than middle-aged adults.  So retirement-aged adults need to be aware of scams.
  4. There is legislation in place to protect consumers from scammers, but the law is not enough to stop evil and greedy people from trying to steal from us. A scammer works at scamming. They think of it as their jobs. In fact, some of them may be working a 9-5 job scamming for a salary or commission. If you are strong and convinced they are scamming you, urge them to walk away from the job of scamming. Help them to feel guilty about what they are doing. Remind them of how it would feel if someone did what they are doing to their wife, child or mother.
  5. Be aware of exorbitant prices for services. Do not pay more than an items costs new to repair it. My sister-in-law paid more than six times what her computer cost. Even the original charge was nearly the cost of a new computer.
  6. NEVER take orders from a scammer over the internet! You do not have to go to the bank to withdraw money. You do not have to buy iTunes gift cards. You do not have to give them the code for the gift card, or your bank account. It’s ok to hang up and not do what they order you to do!
  7. NEVER make instant decisions on the internet.
  8. Tell your friends if you notice a new friend request from an old friend on Facebook. Hackers or scammers send friend requests. If you are always friends with someone, don’t friend them again. Check if you don’t remember. Report the fraud to the friend and Facebook.
  9. Don’t open suspicious emails or emails from strangers.

How Do We Combat a Scammer AFTER We a Scammer Swindles Us?

After the fact, we must act quickly and take steps to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

  1. Report the fraud to our bank.
  2. Report the crime to the police.
  3. Report the fraud to one of the Credit Reporting Companies Equifax 1‑800‑525‑6285 Experian 1‑888‑397‑3742 TransUnion 1‑800‑680‑7289

The most helpful and complete set of steps I found to follow up on identity theft is from the Federal Trade Commission. The booklet tells how to fix the problem.

Can We Eliminate Scammers Through the Legal System?

Communicate often with others to protect yourself from scammers.

Nothing I found suggests that we can eliminate the scammer problem.

We must report all fraud and scams to the FTC. The Commission can bring the kinds of cases that shut down the scammers. However, scamming is an international problem, not only a national one. There’s another place to report international scams: “The site is run by the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) and is a partnership of 34 consumer protection agencies around the world. Starting today, an updated version of the site is available – it’s mobile-friendly, has a user-friendly complaint form, and you can get consumer information and file claims in English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Spanish, and Turkish.”


The internet brings us instant information, freedom of doing something from home that used to take hours or was even impossible. Remember needing to get to the bank before it closed at 3:00 pm if you needed some cash for your weekend trip? We can’t go back to the sixties and before, and don’t want to. Legislation helps protect us as consumers, but it is not the only answer. The laws didn’t stop bank robbers from robbing a bank. Instead, changes in technology made it harder to physically rob banks.

As a society in 2017, we are at risk from people who know how to hack into our banking systems, our government, our way of life using the internet. But we can take steps to keep from becoming victims. And we have recourses to take if we a scammer tries to ruin our lives. We might not get our money back, but we can get our lives back.

Respond Please

Maybe you have more ideas. Feel free to share them in the comment box.

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How Cruz-TA-Welding Kept Us Law Abiding in 2017

Thanks, Cruz-TA-Welding!

Early on April 29th, Vince opened the gate to mow the back yard. A routine event for a Saturday morning, but the hinge on the 100-pound rebar iron gate broke. The gate crashed to the ground. BAM!

Luckily neither the cats nor Puppy Girl was going through the posts of the gate at that time. Vince stepped back in time, too.

Well, not literally in time. It was still 2017.

Now We’re Breaking the Law!

The weather in California has been up and down this spring. One day it’s 100 degrees and two days later it’s 65 degrees. Nonetheless, kids had already texted us to come swimming. Our gate is locked because that’s the law, and besides, we don’t want kids swimming unsupervised.

The back yard 1Vince panicked. Who would come to fix it? He remembered a sign for a business down the street. Cruz-Ta-Welding, so he drove down to the shop. Juan Cruz greeted him, and Vince shared his sad story.

Juan said, “Sit down. I’ll finish my breakfast, and follow you back to your house.”

Within 15 minutes they arrived.

Minutes later he and another welder drove up, and within 1/2 hour they finished. Amazing service, wouldn’t you say?

Juan Cruz, owner

Juan Cruz loves the United States. He came to California from Mexico thirty years ago. He’s been in business in Woodlake for sixteen years and has six employees.


“I love it here,” he told us. “I love the system. If you work hard, you will grow. I don’t believe people can’t find a job. I’ve worked hard. Picking pears is the hardest. They are so heavy. Picking grapes is hard too.”

Cruz-TA-WeldingWhat’s the hardest job he’s ever had as a welder?

“We moved an entire factory from Visalia to Iowa. We had to dismantle all the equipment and put it back together in Iowa.”

Cruz-TA-Welding did a great job for us, and he serves the community as well. We opened the Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum a year ago. Cruz-TA-Welding donated all the labor to fence the building.

Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum, opened February 2016

Thanks for all you do for Woodlake, California, Cruz-TA-Welding.

If you live in this area and need a welder, we recommend him, and so does the Woodlake Chamber of Commerce.

Woodlake Related Posts

What’s So Great About Woodlake, CA?

Woodlake, located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, only 40 minutes from the Sequoia National Park, takes pride in its little town. Founded in 1912, today it is the smallest incorporated town in Tulare County. Residents primarily work in agriculture where the average annual income is $32,559, half of California’s median. Even so, a few years ago Woodlake High School Foundation was recognized as giving out more in scholarships than any community its size in the United States.

More data on Woodlake.

You Can Help Woodlake Thrive

  1. Support the Woodlake High School Foundation with the purchase of Images of America Woodlake. You can buy it directly from the high school and 50% of the purchase price go to the Foundation (100% of the profits).
    Click to order. 
  2. You can support the business community and join the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce.
  3. Support this website, Traveling and Blogging Near and Far and Always Write. I have started a Blogging and Virtual Assistant Training Program at the High School. At the end of the 20 hours, I either need to hire the students or let them go. So far my blogs have not produced any income. But with the help of my student assistants, I’m hoping we will. I’m going to use 100% of the income to invest in their future.
  4. Enter the Traveling and Blogging Near and Far sweepstakes to get a free book.

How Do You Say,”Thank You So Much” to a Whole Town?

Winning an Award Is Not All About The Winners

Woodlake Awards Banquet
2017 Woodlake Awards Banquet BTW, that was my expression when Tony told me I had to get off the stage or be carried off!


Award ceremonies honor the organization or community that gives them. If newspapers come to cover the event the organization or city gets some free publicity. People come to celebrate. They meet and greet make new friends and hug old ones. Excitement fills the room and spills outside as guests enter and leave. Normally I take pictures of it. This year I did not.

The Awards Ceremony elevates the award giver.

Suppose for a second that no one gave awards. Do you think the movie industry would be so noticed if it did not honor its own? People would go to movies – maybe. But they might not choose La La Land. Now they might! 🙂 Awards matter to the organizations that give them.

It thrilled me to see local papers cover the Woodlake Award’s Ceremony. One of the reporters said that it was the best ceremony in the area. Why? There’s a real family feeling in the community.

Go Woodlake! Go Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, Lady Lions, Chamber, Homegrown, Woodlake Schools, Woodlake Businesses!

A community that pulls an awards event together elevates everyone, the City of Woodlake and all the community organizations that work so hard together to make it a great place to live and work.

The awardees walk a narrow line.

Woodlake honored me. Wow! I am humbled. Honorees walk a thin line between confidence and humility. Shy awardees suffer embarrassment from the attention. Even confident winners may have moments of awkwardness. (when they talk too long) For those who will be honored in the future, remember…

2017 Woodlake Awards Ceremony
Did I forget my Award? Where was my mom when I needed her, anyway?

Award ceremonies are not just for the awardees. Organizations that do not honor their own do themselves a disservice. To downplay the recognition of the award dishonors the community that honors them Receiving an award validates the winner for a period of hard work and sacrifice. Someone noticed.

Of course, this brings up another issue!

What if there wasn’t anyone to award?

I wouldn’t want to live there, would you? Or what if the community was too lazy to find someone who worked hard among them. What if no one appreciated anyone who worked hard?

What if no organization would take on all the work of gathering all the certificates from commissioners, mayors, senators, assembly members, ordering the awards, raising money for the food, preparing the food and decorating for the event? Much more goes into event planning that the larger community realizes.

Next Year It Could Be You!

This is what happens to the awardees so you can be prepared next year when the nominating committee calls you.

When Sally Pace called me to tell me I was chosen as the Woodlake 2016 Woman of the Year, my first thought, was, “How in the world am I going to fill the tables?”

“Also, I need 24 pictures and you need to fill out all this information about yourself.”

There is an expectation that the awardees will fill the room with guests. Everyone brings his or her family to celebrate. My family consists of my husband Vince and his sister in our area. Vince’s son Jason lives five hours away, and my brother lives in Portland, OR, about 15 hours away.

I put out a call for help on Facebook! Come be my family! I bought tickets to fill two tables. Then a third. I worried that they might go vacant. I told all my close friends out of town, even called my brother. He couldn’t come.

The night came, the tables filled. My rock star friend, Elane Geller, a child Holocaust Survivor came from Los Angeles and our close friend, Andria Jacobs came from Las Vegas, NV to make sure I treated Elane well. (I’m kidding, Andria!) The whispers started among the guests, “Is that Elane Geller?”

2017 Woodlake Awards Banquet
Marsha and Elane Geller (I’m on the left with my name tag on so I don’t forget who I am.)

They rushed over to greet her. They wanted pictures of her and themselves. Some of them included me, too. Tony Casares recognized her from the platform before the ceremony started. She received an ovation. Don’t ask me if they stood, I think my head had fuzzed shut by that time, but not from drinking. It just does that on me when I know I have to get in front of people.

My dear friend, Margaret Morris came from the coast. My step-son came. People came from TCOE where I worked for years including a former boss, Olga Cortez, a close colleague, Connie Smith, and two former support staff, (my pretend kids) Ivette Lopez and Paula Terrill, all of whom I love dearly.

My neighbors came. People who helped me with the Woodlake book came so I could talk about them in front of their faces instead of behind their backs. I worried about how to seat people. I didn’t need to.

No one edited my paperwork, I’m sure. They read the WHOLE thing! When will I ever learn? When I’m home alone with my computer, I think it’s a diary. Before I even reached the stage, I’d already been going on too long.

I wanted to tell the story about Robert Edmiston dusting me off after I fell out of the car when he showed me around Elderwood. The emcee, Tony Casares chased me off the stage before I could.

I wanted to thank my husband for supporting me so much while I’ve been busy doing all the stuff I love to do. He got up and left the room before I spoke. I forgot! Then I saw him standing in the back. Tony kept swooshing his hands to get me off the stage.

“No! Go! Go!”

Vince got an apology look across a crowded room. I think he understood.

Someone told Linda LaFleur, Kiwanis President, that the only bad thing about the ceremony was that some of the awardees spoke too long. Anyone know where there’s a good hole?

After the Event

2017 Woodlake Awards Banquet
More publicity! Thanks, Reggie!

Did you think it would end that night? Not at all. A couple of reporters called me. One gave me homework. One took a great picture of me and put it on the front page of his newspaper. I finally changed my three-year-old Facebook profile picture.

My former boss, Jim Vidak sent me a letter of congratulations with lots of personal marks on it. Go TCOE! My friend, Monica Pizura collected papers for me and brought me cute gifts. Connie brought me wine, and Connie doesn’t drink wine.

Last year’s awardee donated all the meat for this year’s banquet. She’s shy and I don’t think she wanted that information told. Yes, shy people get awards!

Get prepared, Woodlake Chamber Member, General Food Store, I’m going to need to buy a lot of meat next year. And the rest of you be thinking of who to nominate next year! 🙂

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