Six Incredible Women

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter –  April 10, 2020
Six Incredible Women

by Tom P Blake

Part 1 – Off the top of my head

What the heck do bloggers write about during a pandemic, besides strictly pandemic news? After 26 years and 4,000 articles, columns and eNewsletters, I never thought I’d be tongue-tied.

But, I am, sort of. Do you really need to be reminded to appreciate your mate and your friends? Do you need to be reminded to beware of romance scams? (Well, one more COVID-19 related scam. See Part 2 below). Do you need to hear my suggestions about senior first date behavior?

No, because while we are all mainly staying home, I doubt if any face-to-face first dates are taking place across our Champ nation.

Persevere Champs. This pandemic will make us wiser and tougher. You men and women are an incredible group. I have vast admiration and respect for you.

There are people out there who need you, your guidance, support and friendship. They are friends, family and strangers.

We must persevere.

Part 2 – More on bank and credit card scams during these difficult times

Champ Loretta, who works for a bank, added to last week’s eNewsletter scam-warning by Citi Bank of fake bank and credit card email scams:

Loretta wrote: “Please note that one should always check the site name in your browser. That is the line that should start https:/

“If the site is not https:/ don’t click. It’s that simple. Many scams are not secure sites. Start there. Then check spelling.

“Go to your bank website and send them an email to their secure site. Whatever you do, don’t provide personal details from an unsolicited text or “Official” seeming email.

“I work for a bank; Internally, as a test, the cyber security department will send us fake emails seeking for people to click. This testing is done to reduce potential phishing and enabling scammers access to bank systems. If we click inappropriately, then we must take a refresher test. Takes 45 minutes to an hour. We have learned: Don’t click if you are rushing. Don’t click or respond if you haven’t reached out to your bank in another manner like their web site with https:/”

Part 3 – “In loving arms”

This is a newspaper column I wrote about an experience I encountered three weeks ago in Dana Point, California, my home city. I felt it would be a nice diversion from the 24/7 bombardment of bad news we’ve all been receiving surrounding the virus. It’s called:

                                           Six amazing women

Saturday, March 21, 2020, was a beautiful day in Dana Point. After being quarantined inside their homes for most of the week, people had a nice opportunity to get some sunshine, exercise and fresh air, while maintaining a six-foot distance from others. At that time, it was permissible to be outside, while avoiding close contact with people.

That morning, my Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) buddy, Russell Kerr, and I decided to paddle from Baby Beach in Dana Point Harbor to Doheny Beach in the Pacific Ocean, and back, about a mile and a half in each direction. Not bad for an 80-year-old dude, and a 72-year-old Kiwi (New Zealander).

Stand Up Paddle Boarding Tom and Russell Kerr in Dana Point Harbor 

Near the harbor mouth, we saw what we thought was a two-foot log bobbing in the water.

(As many paddle boarders and kayakers do, we pick up trash and debris that floats in our waters. Normally, one of us would slide the log on to our paddle board, and, bring it ashore. A log like that, if struck by a boat, could damage the propeller or punch a hole in the boat. We often arrive back to the beach with lots of retrieved plastic garbage on our boards, which we discard in the trash bins.)

Upon closer inspection of the object, we saw that it wasn’t a log—it was a baby sea lion. And it was struggling to get breaths and stay afloat.

We hoped it could make it to a rock on the nearby jetty, 20 yards away. Plus, we saw three adult sea lions about 50 yards away, thinking one might be its mother.

Both of us being age 72-plus, we thought it not a good idea to try to rescue it by hand. Sea lions have razor-sharp teeth, and a bite could have compromised our immune systems during the COVID-19 outbreak.

We looked for help; there were no boats around. We felt there was nothing we could do. Leaving that pup behind broke my heart, and Russell was troubled as well.

Back at Baby Beach, after paddling, we saw a Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) rescue truck pull up.

Two PMMC women, Krysta and Wendy, scurried to the shoreline carrying a blanket.

The sea lion was laying on the paddle board of Candice Appleby, San Clemente, a nearby city. Quickly, Krysta and Wendy put the pup in a blanket and whisked the pup away to the PMMC truck to take it to the rescue center in Laguna Beach, five miles up Pacific Coast Highway

Candice Appleby with baby sea lion on her paddle board

 Photo courtesy of Val Ells

From a distance, I introduced myself to the woman who rescued the sea lion, and told her I was a columnist for three newspapers and asked what had happened out there on the water.

She said her name was Candice Appleby, a resident of San Clemente. She explained that she is a SUP coach and had been out in the ocean instructing a client. She said, “When we came back inside the harbor mouth, I saw three women kneeling on their paddle boards.

“One was my friend Val Ells, Dana Point, (who happens to volunteer at PMMC), and another was Lisa Hazelton, San Clemente. I don’t know who the third woman was.

“Val yelled to me that there was a sick seal pup there and they were trying to get it on a board.

“I paddled over and was able to get it on the back of my board. Val had her cell phone with her, so she called ahead to the PMMC, and was told a rescue truck was being dispatched to Baby Beach.

“When I got back to Baby Beach, the rescue workers were distressed that it was such ‘a baby.’ They rushed off with her.”

I was impressed with the humanitarian act of those six women—four on the water plus the two from the PMMC.

Another woman, standing a few feet away, commented, “Candice is a world-champion paddle boarder.”

“Is that true?” I asked Candice. She humbly admitted she had won The Dana Point Battle of the Paddle/Pacific Paddle Games nine times (a very big accomplishment among paddle boarders, the world over). I asked for her website address:

I was amazed to discover, when checking out her website, that Candice is probably the greatest woman paddle boarder in the world.

In the midst of the COVID-19 dark news, where hundreds of thousands of people across the country and around the world are risking their lives to try to save the sick, these six women were a bright light with their heart-warming act of kindness, in trying to save this precious little sea lion.

And, as we are learning during COVID-19, lots of people can’t be saved. Candice forwarded to me this news from Wendy and Kathy at the PMMC later that afternoon:

“Sad News: I am very sorry to report but sadly she passed. Our team worked on her for three hours straight. She was very emaciated and hypothermic. Her lungs sounded terrible.

But we wanted to let you know she died in warm loving arms.

I admit, my eyes watered. Sad news indeed, but on the positive side, six incredible Orange County women had tried to save this little sea lion.

The PMMC is a charity. They exist on donations. I sent one; they appreciated it.

We’ll get through COVID-19—because of people like these six women and all the workers, women and men, who are involved in the virus battle: Dedicated, willing to give of themselves and risking their own health to save others.

However, there won’t be paddle boarding for a while—the beaches and beach parking lots in Southern California are closed.

As I was finishing today’s eNewsletter, I glanced at my desk-top calendar, which has a photo of animals next to each month, to check today’s date, and noticed, under the month of April, that featured two baby rabbits, a quote by Anatole France:

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”  Wow, so true.

Part 4 –  Free Ebook coupon

Almost 30 of you downloaded the free copy of my ebook, “Italy 23 Days by Train,” on The offer is valid for another week. It’s simple to do, well, a couple of you had some difficultly, but overall, it went pretty smoothly. Go to the Smashwords website, search on Tom Blake, you will see my books, click on the “Italy 23 Days by Train” cover. Where it says, Purchase, click on that but enter the coupon code: LP83M. You will not be charged and can download it or read it online.  Enjoy

See you next week.

Senior scam alert. And free ebook. And beloved ship sinks

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – April 3 2020

Senior scam alert. And free ebook. And beloved ship sinks

by Columnist Tom Blake

You’d think with the extra time we have on our hands during this stay-at-home restriction we are all under, that writing an eNewsletter would be easy. But, it’s not.

Dating and seeking a potential mate isn’t a top priority for older singles at the moment. Evidence of that? Normally, I receive several comments and questions from Champs about dating and relationships, but those have slowed to a trickle.

I did receive many positive comments responding to last week’s “Beware of scams” article. I appreciate that

Two new scams came to my attention this week. The first was chilling, downright scary.

Scam one – I read about this on a KVVU-TV, Las Vegas, online press release, written by Ashley Cooper. A Las Vegas couple in their mid-20s posted an ad on a dating site. Details weren’t available regarding what site or what the ad said. It might have been an ad for a Menage a trois (a threesome).

A Las Vegas man (age not disclosed) took the bait. He went to the couple’s house where they robbed and killed him.

According to Ms. Cooper’s article, a friend of the woman tipped off police. The couple was seen leaving her home and arrested. These admittedly are skimpy details, but still, how careless, not to mention getting close to strangers during this COVID-19 crisis.

We all know to never meet a stranger face-to-face without doing a background check, and, be sure your friends know where you are meeting and with whom. But, to go to someone’s home, having never met the person, is asking for trouble, which is what the victim got.

Scam two: Even Citi Bank is posting scam alerts on their website for Visa cards. Here is a message on their website:

“We recently discovered a new text message scam and wanted to make sure you’re armed with everything you need to know to avoid falling victim to it. This scam involves sending text messages alerting you that your account has been blocked, along with a link to log into your Citi account. This link takes you to a fraudulent website, and when you log in, your Citi online user ID and password will be compromised.

“Awareness and education are your best defenses against scams

“Text communications from Citi typically do not show a complete phone number as the sender of the text. Shorter codes of 5 or 6 digits are usually used by Citi and could be displayed with or without dashes (for instance, 410-98 or 248487) If you see a full phone number as the sender of the text, this may be a scam. Please confirm the message is legitimate before taking any action.

“In addition, when we send a text with a link to log in to your account directly from the text, the link will always include or Be aware of other variations, like additional punctuation or abbreviations.”

Part 2, So, what have I been doing?

I can’t go Stand Up Paddle Boarding. Baby Beach and the adjacent parking lot and other beaches in Southern California are closed. Previously, when I’ve paddled, one of the sites I enjoy seeing is Dana Point’s tall ship “Pilgrim.” It’s been docked at Baby Beach for years, sort of the symbol of Dana Point. Can’t even do that anymore. Here’s why:


Photo courtesy of Ron Cohan

Hopefully, she will be salvaged and float again.

One project I’m working on is updating my ebooks on the website. Smashwords is the world’s largest ebook-bookstore. Anybody can post their books there and market them at almost no cost. I have eight ebooks available on Smashwords. Two of those eight needed editing so that’s what I’ve been working on.

One is “Widower dating. Gold Mine or Mine Field?” It’s one of my most popular ebooks as widows, widowers and women dating widowers have downloaded it. I spent a few hours reworking that book and lowered the price is $2.99.

The other book that needed updating was: “Italy 23 Days by Train.” This book features a trip to Italy that Greta and I took in 2008. It has 98 photos (that’s pretty staggering by itself). It was fun reliving that trip, which included Northern Italy (Milan, Genoa and Cinque Terre), Southern Italy (Rome, Capri, Sorrento, Amalfi, Naples) and Tuscany. (Florence, Siena, Assisi).

While working on that book, this thought crossed my mind: how different Italy is today under the CORONA-19 crisis: empty streets, restaurants and tourist sites closed, people sick, dying and people quarantined. What a tragedy.

Then I thought, “Why not–during this time when we are self-quarantined at home–invite our Champs to view what Italy was like at its finest in 2008? Why not let them download the ebook, Italy 23 days by Train for no cost for a couple of weeks? So, that’s what I am doing. Here’s what you do.

-Go to and search on Tom Blake. That will take you to my ebook page. Click on “Italy 23 Days by Train.”


Italy 23 days by train cover

Click on the purchase button and then insert this free coupon number: LP83M

You can download that fun book with its 98 pictures and enjoy it. For Kindle readers, download it in the Mobi format. Others might have to download in epub format. You can also send it to your email address, and open it from there.

The free coupon will be valid from today, April 3, until April 17.

If you have trouble downloading it, on the Smashwords page, you can click on “Online Reader” and read online without downloading it.

If you have questions or issues with the download, email me at

If any of you are thinking of publishing a book, is an incredible website for publishing ebooks. Take a look on how detailed and informative their style guide is. Ebooks outsell printed books now, in this day of electronic communications.

And then, when the world gets rid of this deadly virus, perhaps you’ll want to go visit the incredible Italy that Greta and I were blessed to see and experience.

Part 2 Why Greta and I are thankful

During this virus, it’s hard to find a silver lining. Let me tell you one of the reasons we are thankful.

We had planned to take a 10-day Amtrak train trip to Seattle and back to visit Greta’s niece and my cousin, who both live in the Seattle area. Tickets were paid for, hotel reservations made. We were leaving March 7. About a week before, the virus was cropping up in Seattle. We had the common sense to cancel our trip—or at least postpone it—until the virus goes away. We are so thankful that we didn’t go.

Stay well, be positive, help people in need, but keep your distance. Remember, there are lots of lonely seniors out there. Give them a call or send them a text or email.

And speaking of reaching out to old friends, on Tuesday, I telephoned astronaut Joe Allen, a former fraternity brother of mine I’ve known for 63 years, who is living in Indiana.

Joe’s a former astronaut, who went into space twice, in 1982 and 1984. In an EVA (extravehicular activity), also known as a spacewalk, conducted outside of the spacecraft, Joe retrieved a satellite. And held it, as the spacecraft traversed the earth. Pretty courageous stuff.

We talked for over an hour. It gave us both a big lift.

Joe Allen and crew 51-A

Picture of Joe Allen (upper right) and crew members – Space Shuttle 51-A

Photo courtesy of NASA

So that’s it for this week. The world will get through this enormous challenge.