The White Elephant Gift Exchange

At our family White Elephant Gift Exchange this holiday season, I ended up with an actual white elephant. Excuse me, an albino pachyderm to be more politically correct. I was a little distraught to say the least when my name was drawn last and the only gift still under the menorah tree was a two-ton elephant calf. Who knew someone could actually buy a “white elephant” for a White Elephant gift exchange? That gift, that was apparently ordered through Amazon, came by way of my out of work, over tattooed, legalize pot voting niece.  I thought we had a $50.00 limit? Now, in addition to a costly wellness visit to Blackhawk Veterinary, I should probably be expecting a hefty HOA fine next quarter for housing a pet the size of a recreational vehicle in my home.

African elephant with santa's cap delivering christmas gifts.The folks at Wikipedia tell me the term “white elephant” refers to an extravagant but burdensome gift that cannot be easily disposed of, based on the legend of the King of Siam gifting rare albino elephants to courtiers who had displeased him, that they might be ruined by the animals’ upkeep costs. Last year, my White Elephant present was a gift card to Fuddruckers. I love Fuddruckers! What are the chances I can re-gift my elephant between now and Christmas? I do have an office party coming up.

Our family transitioned to a White Elephant gift exchange format after years of going into debt buying presents for every niece/nephew, brother/sister, aunt/ uncle, grandparent, grandchild, step child and second cousin twice removed by a divorce or annulment. I was buying gifts for relatives I never knew I had, assuming they were actually my relatives. I once bought a tie for a guy who was either my half brother-in-law or the young man who delivers our Contra Costa Times paper in the morning. Why do we do this? I don’t see a lot of these family members except during the holidays and I certainly don’t feel overly close to most of them. To be totally honest, I’m more emotionally connected to Hazel in the Costco photo-mat, Rob, a teller at Wells Fargo, and Donna, my favorite checker at Draeger’s, than I am to my sister’s third boyfriend (following her legal separation) and his five children.  Granted, it’s the spirit of the season and it’s better to give then to receive, but do we need to “give”ourselves into the poorhouse? 

I don’t want to come off as a more handsome and athletic version of Ebenezer Scrooge, however, it seems to me that families should place more emphasis on connecting throughout the year and not stress so much about what to get each other on this one specific day. I truly don’t need any of my friends or relatives spending their hard earned money on another gift basket from Cost Plus World Market, complete with an inexpensive red wine, assorted international cheeses and chocolate covered expresso beans simply out of obligation. It’s bad enough that every gift our privileged kids want today is a real life adaptation of the popular Dr. Suess novel, The Grinch that Stole My Holiday Paycheck.  There’s no such thing as an inexpensive i-anything. Even elephant toys are grossly overpriced.

Getting back to my pachyderm predicament, here are some of my concerns when it comes to raising an elephant in my suburban enclave;

Apparently elephants love to cuddle. My Lazy-Boy recliner isn’t that big or that sturdy.

Apparently elephants have bad eye site, but a keen sense of smell.  Great, I can hide the peanut butter cookies, but he’ll probably sniff them out.

Apparently elephants can live to be 70 years old. That’s 70 people years. I’ll be lucky if I live to be 70 given that I have an elephant to take care of now.

Apparently elephants laugh, cry, play and have incredible memories. So do my neighbor’s kids, less the includible memories.

Apparently elephants love to swim and use their trunks like a snorkel in deep water. What’s the leash policy at Oak Hill Park in Danville?

Apparently elephants are herbivores, spending 16 hours a day collecting plant food. Their diet is at least 50% grasses, supplemented with leaves, bamboo, twigs, bark, roots, and small amounts of fruits, seeds and flowers. Great, there goes my newly landscaped backyard. If only she just liked an occasional sandwich, our neighborhood has enough wild turkeys and gophers to last her a few years.

Apparently elephants are one of the few four legged animals who can’t run or jump. That must explain the weight issue. Scratch the Frisbee idea.

Apparently an elephant’s trunk has more than 40,000 muscles in it and no bones, which give it the flexibility. However, the trunk can get very heavy at times. So, the elephants are seen to rest it on nearby objects. I better not catch her resting that big old thing on our horribly expensive BBQ Island or she can spell home, S-P-C-A.

If any of my loyal readers thought I actually got a real live elephant at a White Elephant holiday gift exchange then we’ll have to ask your attendants to take away your paste and crayons for the day. You know how I like to tease. The annual White Elephant family, friends, neighbors, office, club or cellmates gift exchange is a delightful holiday tradition. Sadly, now that I’m finally out of Alive and Chillin’ books, I may actually have to go out and buy something this year. Maybe I can find a white elephant carved out of actual ivory? Something about that idea doesn’t sound ethical, but it’s a start. Happy holidays.









Someone to Watch Over Me

When my nephew, Alex, was five, I wanted to give him comfort and guidance in the aftermath of his parents’ divorce. I live several states away and visits were infrequent. I wanted not only to express my love for him in a tangible way, but also to offer him resources he could call upon in a variety of situations he might experience day to day, such as difficulties with expressing his feelings or thoughts, challenges with friendships and any sense of isolation. Someone to Watch Over Me was my way to be there for Alex, heart to heart, even when I couldn’t be there in person.case8.500x11.000.indd

Since that time, Someone to Watch Over Me has broadened in scope and intention.  Introducing spirituality into a child’s life today is often problematic for parents. Some don’t have a specific faith or spiritual practice, and struggle with where to start; others perceive a gap between spirituality and religion, and don’t know how to bridge it respectfully. 

A connection to Spirit can provide security, meaning and strength in navigating an increasingly complex and demanding world—essential resources at any age, but particularly helpful in childhood. Children can benefit so much from knowing that there are many heavenly beings always available to them for guidance, reassurance and help of all kinds. At the same time, they need to see themselves as capable, creative and strong. A child with a deep spiritual connection, coupled with such inner resources, shines brightly in the world. 

An Answer for Parents and Children

I wrote the published version of Someone to Watch Over Me as an answer for conscious adults and a fun, interactive resource for children. Optimally, adult and child experience the book together, but it is accessible for older readers to enjoy on their own.  From Aa to Zz, each letter of the alphabet is presented in the Vimala Font, followed by a Declaration for that letter, the “Guardian Protector” of that letter, and a question for thought or conversation. A specific invitation and space are included for the child to use his/her non-dominant hand to draw a picture of the Guardian Protector of each letter.

Ancient Wisdom

Someone to Watch Over Me is also a celebration of The Vimala Alphabet and System of Handwriting, developed by Dr. Vimala Rodgers, an alphabetician of world renown. On an everyday, practical level The Vimala Alphabet and System of Handwriting capitalize on handwriting as an important mind-body connection, an all-too-often ignored avenue for optimal brain and character development.  On a higher level, Dr. Rodgers’ lifework revitalizes ancient traditions of the alphabet as a spiritual path. What a thrill to share the richness of this material with children and adults everywhere!

You can contact Lucy Grace Yaldezian, at or by phone at 925-699-6296

Someone to Watch Over Me was published by ALIVE Book Publishing, and is available at and

For information on publishing YOUR book, visit ALIVEBOOKPUBLISHING.COM or call 925-837-7303,


Book Review: Love’s Orphan

I just finished reading the compelling and true story of Ildiko Scott, a Hungarian immigrant who’s book, Love’s Orphan: My Journey of Hope and Faith is as hard to believe as it is to put down.Adobe Photoshop PDF

Ildiko Scott was born in 1947 to a family decimated by the Holocaust. Her father, a nationally renowned cellist, lost his arm in an escape attempt from a concentration camp and shortly after, married a much-younger woman who, it turns out, was not all that interested in being a mother. After her parents divorced, Ildiko was abandoned by her mother and spent most of her childhood in a Jewish orphanage in Budapest, where she witnessed the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and the brutal Soviet occupation that followed. At the age of nine, Ildiko and her father attempted to flee Hungary, only to be captured three miles from the Austrian border. Ildiko’s father did eventually escape, and after several failed attempts herself, Ildiko, at the age of 16, was finally able to immigrate to the U.S. to join her father and his new family in Southern California. Two days after arriving, Ildiko was enrolled as a junior in the local high school without knowing a word of English. She showed up that first day, wearing the only clothing she had, the drab school uniform she’d worn in Hungary. Before long, Ildiko quickly rose to the top of her class and after graduation, attended UC Santa Barbara. She has since enjoyed a wonderful career in fashion, a 46-year (and counting) marriage to attorney-turned-judge, Jud Scott, and her greatest pride, her two wonderful, accomplished children whom she obviously raised well, even without the benefit of proper mothering herself.

Ildiko speaks of the great love she has for this country as she continues her service as a Blue Star Mom and is as astonished as anyone to think she was raised in a Hungarian orphanage with no hope to speak of and is now visiting her son in Pensacola, Florida as he trains for his position as the newest member of the US Navy’s elite Blue Angels Team. I sat down with Ildiko to find out how it is a person can endure such hardship and still remain so positive and had to wipe tears a couple of times as she shared her unique gratitude for “the blessings this nation continues to be for millions of immigrants who come here in search of a better life.”

ALIVE Magazine:  It took you a long time to write your story; what prompted you to finally do it?

Ildiko Scott: Ever since I came to America, people have asked me how I got here. Every time I would talk about my story, invariably they would say, “You need to write a book about this.” I never really took the idea very seriously but when my family, especially my children, sat me down and basically told me that it is my “obligation” to tell my story because it is their story too, I did promise that I would indeed write a book one day that they could pass on to their children. So finally about five years ago I started writing mostly during vacations because I was working full time and involved in a lot of community activities aimed at supporting our troops.

AM: What were the backgrounds of your mother and father?

IS: To make a long story short, they were a totally mismatched couple with a 16-year age difference between them. My father came from a very affluent orthodox Jewish family, where music and higher education were the primary focus. They were all very successful until the Holocaust. Dad was a well-known concert cellist before the persecution of the Jewish people began. By the time my parents met, my father’s family had perished in Auschwitz and he had lost his right arm while escaping from a Labor Camp.

My mother, on the other hand, came from a much more modest background and was raised in the Roman Catholic faith. She was the third of six children, and as far as I know, she never went beyond 8th grade. She was beautiful, innocent and intellectually always very curious. I think her beauty and innocence must have captured my father’s imagination after the horrors of the war. 

AM: You had a very difficult childhood including growing up in an orphanage, yet both your parents were alive at the time. Tell us about these unusual circumstances.

IS: Well, the marriage was pretty much in trouble by the time I was two years old, and they divorced two years later. Everything that was left from my father’s family fortune was taken away by the communist regime and the inevitable divorce was just another loss. Mom was busy discovering her own independence and beauty and there were plenty of men around to feed her ego especially after the divorce. My father, who was still dealing with the shattered dream of never being able to play his beloved cello again, started teaching cello while going beck to school to earn his master’s degree in music. He worked long hours but he took me with himeverywhere when it was his turn to watch me. I was in kindergarten from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm, and I spent many evenings in classrooms while dad was teaching often until 10 o’clock at night. Unfortunately, Mom often forgot to get me from my school, so I was on the street a lot waiting for her or looking for her.

My father knew that I needed stability, a safe place to stay and to get a solid education. That is when he made arrangements with the one and only Jewish orphanage in Budapest to take me in. I was six years old at the time. Little did I know that this place would be my home for nearly the next tenyears.

AM: You lived thru the Hungarian Revolution against the Soviets who occupied Hungary after World War II ended. What are your memories of that event as a nine-year-old girl?

IS: I could almost write another book just about this part of Hungary’s history. But as a nine-year-old girl, October 23, 1956 was just another ordinary school day. When we were walking back toward the orphanage after school around 3:00 in the afternoon we noticed several trucks with young people waving Hungarian flags yelling, “Russkie go home!” It was very confusing for many of us because we were told the Soviet Union “liberated” us and we were in debt to them. 

When we got back to the orphanage all the supervisors were glued to the radio and by nightfall we heard shots being fired. They asked all of us if we had a place to go, as we were allowed to leave in case we had to go in to hiding. Anti-Semitism was alive and well in Hungary, and there was a great deal of fear that we were in danger again. I knew that my grandparents were living with my mother at the time to help her to recover from an illness, so I headed home to them because my dad lived a lot further, and all transportation had come to a complete halt.

By that evening the fighting began in earnest and I was pretty scared running all the way home often hiding inside of buildings when the shots sounded close by. It took me a couple of hours to get home.

AM: You and your father tried to escape Hungary during the revolution but were captured – please tell us about that experience.

IS: One day when the curfew was lifted, Dad came to get me so I could be with him and practice my cello. When we got to his place safely, he told me that we would go down to the countryside very early the next morning to bring back some meat and other food supplies. I was pretty excited because we didn’t have much to eat and we hadn’t had any meat in weeks. It’s kind of funny now to think back how I never questioned why we had to leave the next morning at 4:00 am with 30 other people on a truck; why were we sleeping in a country school class room the next day; why were we not allowed to turn any lights on; why were we always changing trucks and drivers as we went from one town to the next with no food in sight? Then one day we were walking through really rough terrain from 4:30 am until dusk and everyone was whispering. 

Not until we were captured did I realize that my father and all these people were trying to escape from Hungary because they had enough of the Soviet occupation. They wanted to all come to America in search of freedom and a better life.I was pretty confused and I didn’t want to leave my mother behind and especially my grandparents or at least I wanted to be able to say good-bye.

But we were captured pretty close to the border and fortunately, by Hungarian soldiers so we were not killed or raped which is what happened to many people captured by the Soviets.It is an experience I will never forget.

AM:How did you learn your father tried again and had successfully escaped from Hungary?

IS: I received my first letter from my father on April 24th, 1957 exactly on my 10th birthday. He was in New Jersey with some distant cousins who were very happy to welcome him to America. My understanding is that he left a week after he dropped me off at my mother’s and went by himself. He did not want to put me in danger again. In his letter he promised to take care of me and eventually to bring me to America to be with him again. I believed him because my father always kept his promises to me.

AM:  You were eventually able to join your father in America. How were you able to get permission?

IS: It took seven long years! I applied and it was refused. I appealed than had to wait six months and start the process all over again. In 1962 when President Jack Kennedy met with Nikita Khrushchev at the Austrian Summit, things began to change. You could almost feel it in the air. And one night I woke up around 2:00 in the morning and I just knew that I had to write a letter to our Premier, Janos Kadar and ask him to allow me to join my father in America. I hardly remember what I said but I knew it was good and I put my letter in the mail the very next morning. I did say a prayer and hoped for the best. I heard from the Ministry a couple of weeks later and the rest is history.

AM:What was it like for you to suddenly come to America at the age of 16 and enroll in high school without knowing a word of English?

IS: Talk about a culture shock! I landed in Los Angeles on Friday, September 13 and started my junior year in high school on Monday, September 16. It was probably one of the loneliest times in my life. It felt like I had this thick wall between me and everyone else and I had nothing in common with anyone here.

I had never worn any make up, tight clothes or pants. Everyone looked so much older than me. My father said I must learn the language so I could be at the university at age 18 along with everybody else. High school was just a stepping-stone to learn the language and according to my father, at the university I would meet the kind of people that I would have a lot in common with.

Academically, I was way ahead of my classmates. All I had to do was to master the English language. I am still working on that!

The sixties were a very tumultuous time in America: Vietnam War, the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, assassination of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King. I wasn’t really sure if I wanted stay in America at the time. Thank God, I did!

AM: You went to college at UC Santa Barbara, and after graduating, married the big man on campus, had two beautiful children and enjoyed a successful career in fashion. Did you ever think that would be your life when you were a child in Hungary?

IS: Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that my life would turn out this way! I promised myself early on that some day I would be successful at something and I would NEVER depend on a man like my mother did! I was going to call the shots. Marriage was definitely not on my agenda. I did such a god job at it that I simply shut my feelings off when it came to men in general. I dated and had fun but felt nothing—that is until I met Jud! 

It was the strangest thing. He was not my type. He was too young and he just looked like a typical California beach boy. Yet, what I felt for him soon after we were introduced was so powerful that I couldn’t shut it off. So I did the next best thing and broke up with him but after five years of on and off courtship, he wore me down!

Our children are truly the greatest testimony of our love and deep respect for each other. And when it came to my career,Jud was my biggest fan as I am of his.Actually, it was my husband who insisted that I join the Nordstrom company where I had a wonderful almost 30 year career and the time of my life.

AM: You survived and triumphed over a lot of adversity that might have tripped other people. What do you think you learned during your life that helped you to grow and succeed, and what has shaped your life to become who you are today?

IS: The most important person who truly shaped my character was definitely my father! I feel as if I spent my entire life trying to do things in a way so he’d be proud of me. His losses in life would have broken most people. Just imagine, growing up in a loving family and working so hard to become a great cellist and one day your entire family is gone and killed in the most horrible way; then losing a dream of becoming a great cellist when he lost his right arm; then losing his entire family fortune simply taken away by the communist regime; then losing his marriage while dealing with learning to do everything with one arm; then coming to America in his mid-forties and starting over! Wow! He never gave up! Eventually Dad met his second wife and had two wonderful boys, opened a music school and brought the joy of music into the lives of so many children and families! He also loved America with all his heart and was very grateful for the opportunities this country had given him. For him the cup was always half full!

I might add that my grandmother’s nurturing love helped me get through some difficult times. Also, the gift of having the love of my husband and our children helped me to feel completely vindicated and gave me the confidence to succeed in other areas in my life. And just like my father; I am grateful to be able to live in this very unique country—the United States of America.

Ildiko Scott currently resides in Northern California with her husband of over 45 years, Jud. When not writing, Ildiko loves to spend time with her children and grandchildren, going on long hikes with friends, volunteering with Blue Star Moms, serving our active military or watching every sunrise in her favorite place, Hawaii. Ildiko loves to read, especially historical novels, and is so grateful that through this book, her and her father’s story can finally be told. She hopes it will inspire others to overcome adversity and to not allow their past to determine their future.

Love’s Orphan, published by ALIVE Publishing, is available in both hard cover and paperback on and For information about publishing your story, visit, or call 925.837.7303.

Reality & Happy Holidays

Whether we like it or not, on Friday, January 20, 2017, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States of America, the richest, most powerful, and, in my opinion, the greatest nation on the face of the earth now or in the history of the human race. 

Saint-petersburg, Russia, candidate to president USA 2016, concept editorial illustrationI freely admit that I did not support Mr. Trump’s candidacy, I voted for Hillary Clinton, and I blanched at the thought of his becoming POTUS. The citizens of the U. S. have spoken with ballots and, for better or for worse, I, and everyone else on this little blue ball in space, must accept the fact that Mr. Trump will become our Leader, regardless of our fears and trepidations.  For whatever it is worth I welcome him, wish him well, and hope and pray that his Presidency will be fruitful, well-intentioned, successful, and peaceful.  He will be my President, as well as yours, and I pledge my support to him.  (“Support” does not necessarily mean agreement.)

The analysis of Mr. Trump’s election victory we must leave in the hands of the pundits, historians, and those who feel that if we insert enough information in a bank of computers, the result will be WISDOM.  It is not.  (I seem to remember that in the early days of the electronic revolution there was an expression GIGO:  Garbage In; Garbage Out.)  The geniuses and political analysts on radio, television, and other media stumbled all over themselves trying to understand how Mr. Trump won. The real issue is not how, but the acceptance of the fact and the need for all Americans to give a sincere pledge of support.

All of us, regardless of ethnicity, party affiliation, or depth of interest can probably and should agree on one factor: the process of electing people to major office has become divisive, rancorous, mean-spirited, and just plain old ugly. It seems like the opponent of any elected official from the most modest to the President has been characterized as un-American, subversive, child molester, or terrorist.

Why anyone would even want the job puzzles me.  (Does the word egomaniac” come to mind?)  The path any candidate faces is indeed a daunting one.  Our first President, George Washington had to deal with just thirteen states.  He had a budget smaller than most major cities today.  His only major international challenger was George III of England.  Today, the Prez must deal with fifty states and whole mess of territories.  Does anyone really know how much the national budget is today?  How much is a trillion of anything?  Moreover, he has to deal with umpteen nations run by fellow egomaniacs that have ascended to power by birth, by election, or by killing a few hundred thousand of their fellow countrymen, women, and children. Some groups even exist outside of traditional national boundaries and controls. Any President must know business and finance inside out, be a psychologist, be a diplomat, be an expert on everything there is know about military life in the 21st Century, and must be willing to put his/her finger on the button that will in moments exterminate the human race as well as a few other species that do not deserve annihilation.  Those of us more modest in our ambitions must just hope for the best and wish our leaders well.

Regardless of political affiliation, almost everyone I have spoken with agrees that our election process must be shortened and that the disgusting, immoral amount of money spent must be reduced.  (The exception to those who wish these changes lies with, of course, the media.)  Perhaps the country can establish a procedure whereby the entire election process must occur within six months, June to November.  All candidates can say what they have to say at least three hundred times in that period of time—before it gets too repetitive and obscene.

Perhaps a list of twenty-five acceptable charities could be provided to all candidates. For every dollar the candidates spend, they must contribute a dollar to one of the charities.

To be sure, shortening the season and controlling spending would be contingent on Congress acting on these proposals.  Djdfikekdjdfuerksklj  (Excuse me, but the thought of Congress acting on anything got me so excited that I could not control my fingers on the keyboard.)

This timeless prose was written November 9, the day after the election.  You, of course, are reading it in December.  I would like to make a prediction relative to political happenings between November 9 and now. I predict the following will have announced their candidacy for 2020:

FIVE Members of Congress who have never accomplished anything;

FOUR White supremacists;

THREE Defrocked college professors who are Holocaust deniers;

TWO 72 year old men dressed in tattered jeans, tie-dyed tee shirts, with gray hair in long pony-tails, and carrying signs that read “VEGAN LIVERS MUTTER;”

ONE 61 year old woman from Genoa, Italy, to whom Cristofo Columbo appeared in a vision, touched her inappropriately, and told her she was born in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, and is, therefore, eligible to be POTUS;



Oops, I forgot Carly and Bernie