Playful

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The Stage Is Set

I ended my sunny Saturday by meeting Megan and Lu in the Village for dinner and a play.

Megan and Lu were already at the table by the time I arrived. We had a simple, salad-y dinner while we caught up on each other’s news. Lu was just back from a wonderful trip to Alaska, full of its breathtaking beauty and wildness.

After dinner, we stopped by the oceanfront bookstore, where we were greeted by this beautiful sunset:

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Inside the bookstore, we were greeted by the Great Catsby, strolling majestically through his empire and making sure that all was as it should be and that no mice had somehow sneaked in on his watch.

After the bookstore, we headed to the theater, where the mixologist’s special cocktail for that night’s performance was a delicious libation called a Purple Finch:

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It was a winning combination of vodka, Chambord, triple sec, and lemon. As we exclaimed over its deliciousness, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was my dear friend Erin, stunning in a red dress and heels. Her handsome husband Jaime had surprised her with dinner and a play for their 12th wedding anniversary that evening. They both looked gorgeous and happy. It was so nice to run into them!

The play was called “The Dining Room. As you might guess, it is set in a room of the same name, and re-enacts scenes that had taken place in the room over the years, in the past and the present, and sometimes at the same time. A grandmother at Thanksgiving doesn’t recognize her own children seated at the table with her; a father details his funeral plans to his shocked son; a daughter asks to come home after her marriage broke up; a great-aunt proudly displays her family china, crystal and silver to be photographed at the table until she learns that the article is about obscure eating habits of the past. It was moving and funny and we all enjoyed it.

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Now & Then

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Saturday Morning

Alert the media, y’all! I slept in until it was sunny out on Saturday morning!

It is amazing how a good night’s sleep can improve a girl’s outlook. I slept badly during the recent audit ordeals, despite logging long hours under a lot of pressure, and I think it all finally caught up with me. Hopefully I am now back to new, or new-ish. There’s still a lot of clean-up to do in the wake of the audits, but there’s more time, too.

It was a successful morning of drinking coffee, cuddling with Clyde, and doing a little on line Christmas stocking shopping, because it’s never too early for that. Eventually, I faced the inevitable and did some cooking and laundry to prepare for the week that now looms ahead, but it was nice to enjoy cats, caffeine, and the sun in the garden.

Enquiring minds may wonder why I was not doing my modest preparations for the jobette, which do not include putting on make-up or dressy clothes. The answer is that I lost the jobette recently in an overthrow change of leadership.

The CEO who hired me years ago moved on to greener pastures, and a New Guy was recently hired. In his infinite wisdom, the New Guy has decided to close the office on Saturdays, which is when visitors are here and need information, and stop participating in First Friday, when shops are open late, art is displayed, and wine and nibbles are enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. He also wants to eliminate selling souvenirs of any kind.

Both of the people hired since I left have also left, including one who quit with no notice on the day a new person was supposed to start. The golden days of the jobette are definitely over, when I used to feel like I was being paid to hang out with my friends and share my love of this beautiful corner of the world with the visitors.

My only regret is the money, which I currently have no way of replacing.

I see that a year ago, I thought that I was truly finished working at the jobette, though it turned out I was wrong about that, as I am about so many things. The person who was supposed to work Tuesday to Saturday never did, so I ended up filling in again this year. I wonder why I am the only person who doesn’t find working on Saturdays to be unconscionable?

It will be nice to have a little more time, even if it means less money.

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Fair Thee Well

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At the Fair

If it’s the middle of September, it’s time for the County Fair!

It was a Magical Microclimate Tour as Megan and I drove from the chilly, foggy Coast through the redwood forests to the golden Valley, where it was about a million degrees and achingly sunny. Megan’s parking karma held true as she parked about a block from the the Fair – in the shade! – and as we stepped out of her little red car, she asked me if I was wearing sunscreen. I was, but only on my face, so she gave me some for my hands and suddenly exposed arms. I thanked her later.

The first thing we did upon admittance was buy a hat for me:

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It is so pink and so Suzy, while also actually being useful, a rare combination indeed. Then we looked unsuccessfully for the slushie vendor. It seems that my blue raspberry slushie dreams are as doomed to unfulfillment as my dreams of being Idle Rich. We settled for frozen lemonade and went in search of Erica.

Unsurprisingly, we found her in the Fiber building. Surprisingly, she had not entered a single thing this year. I imagine there was much rejoicing in the Valley over that one, since her absence would allow someone else to win a prize or two for a change.

Erica said that Jessica was hanging out with her friends on the Midway, and suggested that we go and surprise her there, adding that Jessica now has her own phone and giving us the number*. Erica stayed in the Fiber building to covet spindles and wool and we went to find Jessica.

She greeted us with hugging and excitement despite the presence of her friends, and I felt a spark of hope that her auntourage would not become entirely obsolete. I took this stealth photo of her so as not to embarrass her in front of her crew:

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That’s her equally precocious BFF Bella at her side.

We watched the kids ride the rides – I was pleased that Jessica waved at us from the giddy heights – and went to reclaim Erica and meander through the rest of the Fair.

The theme in the Garden building was “Fairy Tales”, and my favorite was this Cinderella themed exhibit:

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I also loved this glamorous use of twigs and mirrors:

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The goat who loved me! He kept bumping his head against me and kissing my nose:

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I love this beautiful bunny’s attitude. It’s like he’s saying, “You lookin’ at me?”

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Mu favorite quilt was this one, showing fog through the redwoods, a sight I love:

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I also liked this kind of op art piece. So unusual:

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And this one, which looks like washing on a line:

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When it was time to go, we hugged our girls goodbye with a promise to get together soon. I am still plotting a sleepover where we will share movies and giggles. Stay tuned!

*I thought that was a horrifying sign of Jessica’s hurtling into adulthood until I learned that she has friends with driver’s licenses. How did this happen?

A YEAR AGO: Hello, darkness, my old enemy.

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Birthday, Barfing, and Bureaucracy

First things first: it’s Rob’s birthday! As soon as it’s a reasonable hour by Rob standards, I will wish him happy birthday and remind him of how happy I am he was born. His Rob-ness never ceases to delight me, from his view that the dump is a two way street to his wry sense of humor to the way he puts his head to one side when he’s listening to you. And he really listens.

Not to mention that my entire house is Brought to Me by Rob(TM) and that he makes all our lives better and happier. I love you, little big brother!

As for me, the full moon is blasting like a spotlight outside and I am attempting to improve my own outside after a grueling week. I have GlamGlow applied to my eyes and Fresh Vitamin Nectar mask on the rest of my face. Radiance, y’all! Clyde, however, has other ideas and has chosen to barf on the carpet, ruining the relaxing mood. Why do cats always throw up on the carpet instead of the wood floor?

It’s all in keeping with this week, though, which featured the second of back to back audits. Like most sequels, Part 2 was worse than Part 1.

The first one was the audit which is done every year. I thought that was a hassle until the Feds descended on us in all their glory. I had prepared (I thought) for this by creating a nearly 1,000 page binder and putting it on a flash drive for their inquisition convenience. Like the great Iggy Pop, however, they needed more, so I was running around collecting the required documents every day this week.

Perhaps this is a special skill honed by the Feds, but they also had an unerring ability to request supposedly random files that were incomplete, including the file of a doctor who works for the clinic as a contractor. Repeated phone calls and emails to him of increasing desperation were unreturned, so our new Operations Director went to beard him in his lair. They must have just missed each other, because a few minutes after she departed on her mission, he arrived, slouching Spicoli-like into my office in sweats, clutching a Starbucks cup, wearing shades, and saying, “What the fuck, dude?”

I explained that the fuck in this particular case was that his contract expired last year and the Feds looked askance at his treating our patients with no contract. He signed a new one while grumbling that he needed a raise, and headed off to catch a wave. I clearly harshed his buzz.

This was a joy compared to the complexities of providing lunch. At first they asked for sandwiches, so I got Deli A to fax me a menu. Then they wanted salads, and very customized ones at that. I called the deli and was told that it was prêt-à-porter or nothing, since two people had called in sick that day, making bespoke salads impossible. Back to the drawing board. I got the menu from Deli B, printed it, and presented it for consideration. They wanted to know what the soup du jour was, so I called and asked (the winning answer: vegetable beef). Needless to say, none of them got the soup.

Also, for fear of bribery with soup and salads, they paid for their own lunches, meaning three separate checks and lot of change. Why not?

The Feds judge every health center in America on 19 elements. They told us that the average across the country is 5-7 “not met”, or fails. They further clarified that they do not round up, and 98% is still “not met”, aka a fail. Our report card was 6 “not mets”, making us entirely average, while yet feeling that we had been called to the principal’s office and/or were getting detention.

When they finally left on Thursday afternoon, my boss sent me home, a welcome gesture since the shortest day I have logged in the past two weeks was 11 hours and the longest 14. I was just settling down to read Kate Summerscale’s “The Wicked Boy”, a relaxing read about a 19th century boy murderer, when my 21st century phone buzzed with a text from my boss. There had been some attempted fraudulent use of her company credit card, so the bank canceled it, and now all of the travel booked on it has to be re-done with the new card. By me. My estimate is something like 20 reservations. You know what I’ll be doing this week. At least the federal government isn’t involved.

A YEAR AGO: At the fabulous Fair with my fabulous sister and our equally fabulous friend.

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Goodbye, and Good Luck

I woke up early on Sunday and crept downstairs to make coffee (and more importantly, let Her Majesty outside). It made my heart smile to see Ben sleeping peacefully under Nana’s quilt. I really grew to love that kid in the short time he spent here.

After we had coffee together, he packed up his few belongings, to which I added jars of peach preserves with lemon thyme; blackberry jam made from the wild berries my siblings picked; salsa verde; and relish, so he will have a little taste of Hooterville when he is back home.

We headed back to the property so my brother could give Ben’s car a quick once over before he started home. You may remember that my brother installed a nice cement mechanic’s pit in the carport which houses the washer, dryer, and body size freezer. Definitely a step up from groveling under cars in muddy ditches. He topped up the fluids and opined that the car needs an oil change. Also that whatever is going on with the engine (beyond my limited ability to understand) may cause the head gasket to blow. I do know that blown head gasket = having to buy another car. I’d say Ben has gotten his $500 out of this car, though. He put more than 6,000 miles on it on this trip alone.

One of Rio’s children lives in Portland, so she drives there fairly often. She pulled out some maps and showed Ben the best route to take and warned of a tricky intersection.

After our unpaid mechanic finished working on his car, Ben picked a few apples to take with him. Then, with hugs all around, he drove off as we waved and watched him out of sight, our family tradition. I have to say, his visit was a real joy, all the more for being unexpected, and I will treasure those memories as I do those of his brother’s Bar Mitzvah.

Ben has been texting me from the road, which has been fun. He made it to Portland in about 12 hours and was glad for Rio’s advice, especially at that tricky intersection. His route took him through the magical Lost Coast, then to Portland, then Seattle. After that, it was Vancouver, then Calgary, and then Saskatoon, where he took a break from his 12-14 hour days to rest up before the final push to Manitoba. So far the car is holding up, but Ben thinks that Jonathan is right and its days may be numbered.

He is already talking about coming back next year with his girlfriend, a fellow engineer who has wanted to visit San Francisco her whole life. Here’s to Ben’s safe return home, and his return to Hooterville!

A YEAR AGO: The absurdity of dental insurance. You can’t make this up!

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BBQ Party

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The Orchard

After the delights of the circus, we headed over to show Ben the delights of the family estate.

As an engineer, he was fascinated with the solar arrays, batteries to store the power, and all the other intricacies of the system as well as the fact that the entire place is powered only by solar, entirely off the grid. My brother is exempt from the power outages that plague his sisters.

Megan gave Ben a tour of the garden and the orchard. The garden is beginning to wind down for the season, but there is a plot afoot to plant a winter garden of garlic and other hardy crops. There is also a plan to make hard cider this year. I think this plan is likely to become a reality, because they already have the cider press and have staked out space in the studio for it to ferment. It might even be ready to drink at Christmas!

There were chips and two different kinds of salsa made from garden produce: salsa verde made from tomatillos, and regular tomato salsa:

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We had a simple, but delicious dinner of burgers made from beef for red meat eaters and turkey for the rest of us, topped with pepper jack cheese. Even though it was my brother’s birthday, he still manned the grill as always, noting that he never finds cooking to be a chore.

I reminded him that he was promoted to being my big brother last year, when he turned 50. Megan asked if she would ever be my big sister (she is nine years and nine days younger than I am), and I said, yes, when she turns 50. It might be hard for me to pass myself off as her younger sister when I am 60, but hope springs eternal. Maybe I need to consider botox.

We toasted my big brother’s birthday and Ben’s epic journey with fizzy local-ish wine (from neighboring Sonoma County). His road trip from the wilds of Manitoba included New Mexico, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills of South Dakota, Death Valley (where he pulled over with an overheating engine to find the coolant bubbling in the 112 F degree heat), and Las Vegas. It was the trip of a lifetime.

As we ate tarts my brother made from raspberries he picked that day, we sat by the fire and watched the stars come out. The Milky Way was so intense that it blurred over some of the other stars in the clear, black sky. It was such a joy to be there with people I love.

A YEAR AGO: My big brother’s 50th birthday.

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Circus, Circus

I am pleased to announce that Ben was able to stay!

We met up after I finished work on Saturday and headed for the inimitable Flynn Creek Circus, its distinctive red and white tent flapping in the evening breeze.

Inside, we perched on ornate, wrought iron benches and watched the antics of a very determined gopher, who was completely unperturbed by the humans in his territory. He kept popping out of his hole, shoveling more and more dirt as more and more people watched him. Once the show started, I forgot about the industrious little rodent, and I’m sure everyone else did, too.

As always, the show was filled with breathtaking aerial acts:

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and astonishing acrobatics, including a lovely young lady who was able to spin six hula hoops on her svelte figure, including her neck, arms, and legs, and a man who was able to do amazing things in a giant hula hoop, spinning around inside it, jumping, and otherwise defying gravity and the evidence of our own eyes.

The hula hoop girl was also able to spin objects with her feet:

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and she could even juggle five or six aqua basketballs with her hands and feet. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it. Add in a knife-throwing act, and you have yourself a circus:

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Ben was equally entranced, and it was so nice to share this experience with him.

A YEAR AGO: Cars, past and present. I see I still haven’t removed Wednesday’s tinting. Let’s guess I never will!

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A Visitor

You guys, there is a young man sleeping in my house!

Two, if you count Clyde, cuddled up next to me on this foggy morning.

Ben, the first one, is sleeping peacefully on the couch under Nana’s restored quilt. I have to say that quilt has been getting a lot of use since Erica and Megan restored it.

Long time readers may remember an incredibly beautiful and moving Bar Mitzvah I attended several years ago. Ben is the older brother of the boy from that Bar Mitzvah. I hadn’t seen him since then, so in my head – always an odd place – he remained the same age. Time being the inexorable thing it is, though, he grew up in that time and is now an engineer for an oil company in the wilds of Manitoba (and I do mean wilds – it’s an eight hour drive from Winnipeg). He is quite a delightful grown-up.

Ben has been on an epic road trip in a car he bought for $500. The main event of the journey was to attend the wedding of a college friend in New Mexico. The groom is of Afghani heritage and the bride’s family is from India, so it was a wonderful, days-long extravaganza. Ben said it was a very beautiful ceremony and he loved being part of it.

On his way out of town, his car broke down, which is only to be expected on an epic road trip. It was fixed well enough to get him to Las Vegas, where the car needed a little more attention. By Thursday night, he was in Oakland, and I confidently expected him to be here before I got home from work on Friday.

However, I got a text late in the afternoon saying he was in Jenner, which is on the Sonoma coast, which meant he somehow took legendary Highway One instead of 101. I later learned that the traffic on 101 near Petaluma was so horrible that he bailed out and headed for One. It took longer, but it is a spectacular drive, so he got here via the magical South Coast.

I hit traffic of my own coming home late after an eleven hour day, waiting for six cars to turn off the highway onto the Ridge. I have never experienced that before. It’s a traffic jam, Hooterville style!

Passing the farm across from the Gro, I saw a car pulled over, and a closer look showed Manitoba plates. I pulled over myself and sure enough, it was Ben, consulting my directions on his phone. After we finished hugging and being excited, we convoyed home, where we made Dad’s paella for dinner and caught up on the last few years. It was a great evening.

He may have to hit the road again today in order to get home in time. I hope not, since today is my brother’s birthday and there is a BBQ planned at the family estate after work. And I would like to spend more time with Ben and introduce him to my family.

A YEAR AGO: A dinner and a play with Megan and Lu. I notice in the post that I refer to Lu’s then boyfriend Rik, who became her husband at their beautiful and moving wedding this summer, another memory I will always treasure.

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Danger, Will Robinson!

I dropped by my brother’s place on my way home on Friday night. I found the path from the parking area to his place littered with spent shell casings, not a usual occurrence. I picked up about half a dozen of them.

I was greeted by Rio, who was making dinner, and my brother, who was sitting with his hands resting on our grandfather’s cane, much as Hoho used to do. The cane has a brass plate from his American Legion. It was nice to see it and know that Jonathan could use it, but not so nice to know that he had messed up his knee trying to shoot a particularly obnoxious mountain lion.

Apparently this lion has been making a nuisance of himself lately. He makes a peculiar screaming noise, and is completely unconcerned by light and human habitation. Jonathan shone the flashlight right in his eyes and the beast didn’t flinch. My brother fired a couple of rounds over the lion’s head, and he didn’t retreat.

This was the scariest part to me. This creature was deliberately hanging around human habitation instead of avoiding it, and not fleeing from bright lights or loud noises. Rio thinks there might be something wrong with this particular intruder. Jonathan finally shot right at the animal, which is always a last resort, but it’s hard to shoot with any accuracy in the dark, since you need both hands for the rifle and don’t have an extra one for the flashlight.

Eventually the monster retreated into the bushes, but I am horrified by the fact that he is skulking around and also that Clayton and Rio’s daughter Paloma camped out in the garden lately with the monster loitering with intent.

Jonathan did something to his knee pivoting the wrong way in his haste to chase the mountain lion, so he is still crutching around, cursing the mountain lion. Jonathan and Rio were planning to go for a hike on his birthday, which is this Saturday, but unless he has a miraculous recovery, it looks like he will still be caning and crutching around for now.

I contacted a dear friend who is wise in the ways of the wilderness, and he shared some tips for ridding your property of unwanted wildlife, which I passed on to my appreciative brother. Jonathan has contacted Fish and Game to see if they would be willing to do some mountain lion removal, but we don’t know what their criteria are to do this, or how long it will take them to respond.

In the meantime, we are being cautious. I guess this is the side of country life that you don’t read about in Martha Stewart.

A YEAR AGO: A run in (though fortunately not a run over) with a deer.

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Back in Black

And it’s back…darkness, my old friend.

Yesterday, I noticed that there were high beams conditions as I left for work at 6 am. Unfortunately for Me, it was also the foggiest it had been in some time, so using the high beams merely threw the glare back at me mockingly. Back to the anemic puddle of light, my friends. And driving slowly, hoping for a deer-free ride.

Human nature – or at least Suzy nature – being what it is, I was once more surprised by how speeds that seem decorous to the point of annoyance in the daylight seem alarmingly fast in the dark. Also how the familiar Ridge, which I drive nearly every day, can sudden seem a completely foreign and scary place.

Speaking of darkness, I was very disappointed to come home last Friday to a power outage. I am convinced that we have had more out of season power outages than we did all winter. It appeared that someone had misjudged the curve at my friend Jim’s road and plowed into a power pole, plunging us all into darkness.

My modest plans to watch “Feed the Beast” with a glass of wine after tossing in a load of laundry were foiled. I still had the glass of wine, but while reading Gay Talese’s creepily compulsive “The Voyeur’s Motel”, about a man who ran a motel in Colorado for 30 years, during which he “observed” his guests, unbeknownst to them. And while reading about his dirty laundry, I was unable to do anything about my own.

The power was still out when I went to bed, so of course when it came back on, it woke me up. All in all, not a great Friday.

On the other hand, our dear friend Clayton came up from the city, staying in palatial accommodations on the family estate:

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He was there partly to visit us and partly to get his van theft-proofed with my brother’s help. Clayton is a painter of houses and buildings, and thieves in his neighborhood have enjoyed helping themselves to his tools in the van and sometimes the van itself. So the boys outfitted it with an epic series of locks, which will hopefully deter the would-be criminals.

Lichen joined us for dinner, with his sweet dog Keeper, and some of Jonathan’s ham radio buddies came too, so it was a busy and happy get together. We grilled up chicken and veggies and made them into fajitas, served with rice, black beans, salsa, cheese, and tortillas grilled by Megan. Ever since she started making grill bread, she has been the griller of all things bread, or bread-ish.

Jonathan’s girlfriend Rio made a gorgeous apple pie with apples from the property. It was almost too pretty to cut into:

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But I’m glad we did, because it was magically delicious. And it was a great evening.

A YEAR AGO: Of Dentists, dogs, and James Dean.

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Updates

Hi! Here’s what’s been happening the past few days.

Work has been getting in the way of writing, and I expect this to continue for about another month. I am still working six days a week, leaving only one day to get ready for the next six and to accomplish miscellaneous Cinderella chores around the house as well as squeezing in a little time for R&R. And we are up against two audits at work, one the annual financial one and one from our friends at the Feds, who provide a lot of funding. As always, stakes are high when the Feds come to town, and so is the stress.

I must have been showing the pressure, because Megan turned up one day with a beautiful surprise for me:

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She said it was to give me something beautiful, and to remind me that she is always there for me. She really is the best sister ever. And it’s like having a little sunset in my office. When things get crazy, I can look at it and think how beautiful it is and how lucky I am to have such an amazing sister.

I met Monica after work one day at a new restaurant in the harbor:

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I wish there was an “unglare” feature in iPhoto, to deal with those overly sunny California days. Such a terrible problem.

The restaurant has a big, rustic wooden deck overlooking the harbor, where we watched the fishermen come in with that day’s catch on their boats as the sun began to set. We had a great time and promised each other to meet up more often. Monica is always so inspiring.

On a less delightful note, my Mac fell ill with a virus or TEN. I started getting pop up ads all over and new tabs resulted in something unpleasant called Chumsearch with Bing. Bing! I tried disk utility and restarting to no avail. I emailed a former co-worker at the jobette, who is a genius, and he recommended software with a free trial. It took almost four hours, but it found and ate nearly a dozen viruses and things are back to normal. I hope.

You expect this kind of thing with PCs, but not with Macs. I still have no idea how I got it, but as always, I am thankful for my family and my family of friends.

A YEAR AGO: It was a busy time of year in the garden.

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Fifteen

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Dad’s Flowers

Every year, we plant sweetpeas in honor of our father. They were his favorite flowers.

We had a little bouquet of them at his memorial service, along with a photo of Dad and his beloved dog, Jesse. Our wonderful stepmother Margaret later scattered Dad’s ashes with Jesse’s on the Common where they loved to walk together. It comforts me to know that a boy and his dog are together always.

And it comforted me that our beloved Lu chose to carry some of Dad’s sweetpeas in her bouquet and her lovely hair when she married her best friend Rik this summer. It made me feel like Dad was there, and I was glad to think of him and his special flowers on a happy occasion.

No matter how long I am without him, I will always miss him. And I will forever cherish the treasure of his love and friendship.

A YEAR AGO: Brian Wilson said it best.

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Family Dinner

After work last Saturday, I stopped by the family estate for a small, impromptu BBQ with my siblings.

Summer is not only high season for tourists, it’s also high season for friends to brave the drive, isolation and lack of cell phone service to visit us. So most summer get togethers have guest stars, and it was nice for it to just be me, Megan, Jonathan, and Rio.

Summer is of course high season for the garden, too, and my siblings are firmly in the canning and preserving part of the year. They had also picked 24 pounds of wild blackberries the day before, some of which can be seen here with my brother:

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and some of which ended up as jam:

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The part that didn’t end up as jam ended up as cobbler, which ended up in our stomachs, along with chicken burgers which were seasoned with basil grown on the property and grilled by our brother, the expert grillmaster:

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and garnished with relish made from cucumbers grown on the property and made that very day.

It was relaxing to sit under the tent with my feet up on a cooler of hard cider to rest my aching back (it is slowly getting better, but still hated me on that day) and catch up with my family. Even little Scout made an appearance. She does seem to have gotten more friendly lately. We made a concerted effort to get her inside at night for a few days after Jonathan saw a very pushy mountain lion strolling around. My brother kept his rifle loaded and ready, but the monster seems to have moved on and Scout is unharmed. I know she is a survivor, but it was hard not to worry about that little cat who has such a big place in our lives.

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Jack

Are there time-released bad omens? If so, I think that Steller’s Jay was one…

It’s been another crazy week, and it’s far from over. It seems that no matter how hard I work, it’s not enough. I am fighting serious headwinds of feeling both overwhelmed and inadequate, which is a spectacularly unenjoyable combo platter, especially when garnished with a preview of (possibly inaccurate) old age and infirmity.

What I thought was a mere spat between my back and me has devolved into a lover’s quarrel at best and a complete breakdown in our formerly friendly relationship at the worst. Despite applications of ibuprofen, the heating pad, and unnecessarily long, hot, and drought-defying showers, it remains adamantly angry and is not afraid to express its annoyance, usually at the most annoying times. I don’t know whether to be proud or sad that no one at work seems to have noticed that I have been walking around in pain for a week.

In the midst of decrepitude and despair, I woke up to an email from my ex John, telling me that the last cat we had together, the irrepressible Jack, had died in his arms. She was almost 17.

August being the Official Month of Death, she died on the same day we lost Schatzi (three years ago! How is that possible?). And it was also three years ago that my divorce from John became final. Somehow, losing the last cat we had together makes the divorce seem more final.

Much like Jack came into our lives with a bang as the World’s Naughtiest Kitten, she shook it up when she left with a 5.1 earthquake.

Goodbye, little Jack. You will always be in my heart, where loved ones live and naughty kittens play.

A YEAR AGO: A hole in my head instead of my heart.

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Bad Omen

There hasn’t been much time for anything but work this week.

I have been leaving the house at 6:00 am in a mostly vain attempt to get everything done in time, blasting down the Ridge with Weezer to wake me up. I was amused to pull up to the clinic one day as they were singing Do You Wanna Get High?, a cheery little tune about the joys of opiate addiction.

I should have known that it was going to be a crazy week. The weekend that preceded it foretold doom to come, at least in my ever-superstitious opinion.

A Steller’s Jay got in the house and flew up to the skylight. All of the doors were open, so I hoped that my feathered visitor would escape unscathed, but unfortunately it thought that the highest window in the house was the way to go and made for it at full speed. It smashed into the glass with a horrifying thud and fell to the floor. I ran downstairs, but it was clearly an ex Jay.

Oddly, the cats were totally uninterested. Maybe if it doesn’t move, it’s not fun. I told a friend about the Incident of the Jay in the House:

Me: I think it’s a bad omen.
Him: Maybe if you live in a teepee.
Me, looking at the pointy ceiling: I kind of do.

I was less than thrilled to come home from work and discover that a friend of mine had stopped by my house with another friend. The house was not in my opinion visitor ready. Admittedly it rarely is now that I am out of it (in more ways than one) for 12 hours a day, but I would have appreciated the opportunity to pretend to be more civilized than I really am. And of course, the friend in question has made a pile of money in real estate in the Bay Area*.

I later learned that they claimed to love the house and thought it was really cool. As Erica observed, the house is basically a man cave, so maybe they did. And it was all over before I could do anything about it anyway.

The bad omen really kicked in a couple of days later, when my back went out on strike, making getting dressed and in and out of the car more of an adventure than I’d like. Ever since, I have been unwilling to risk the stairs so I have been sleeping on the couch with my grandmother’s restored quilt over me and Clyde beside me.

A YEAR AGO: My fairy godmother stopped by. One of these days, I should try being home when I have company. Though maybe it’s better this way.

*The few people I still know from long-ago high school days are all annoyingly successful. Richard and his pile of real estate money; my ex boyfriend Andrew, who is a vice president at NBC-Universal in London; and my dear friend Alice, who got a PhD in pure math in her 4th language after she finished her modeling career. She is now a vice president at Barclay’s Capital in London. Call me underachieving…

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Local Notes

Since you all enjoyed the peek at our local message board a few months ago, I thought you might like another one. As you can see, we’ve been keeping Hooterville weird, and that’s the way we like it.

1. Of bears and garbage:

If you’re about 5 miles out X Rd & the bear hauled off a large bag of your garbage it’s in the middle of the road. The garbage that is, imagine the bear has moved on for the week.

2. Tinder and OK Cupid aren’t just for humans, you know. All bipeds can use a little help in the dating department:

We have one lonely but healthy male quail named Charlie who is about 8 weeks old. We hatched him in an incubator along with his siblings. The siblings ran off but Charlie stayed in the coop. He needs to find his people. Is there anyone out there who could use another quail?

3. We believe in the separation of church and state. Well, some of us do:

Two women put up a rack of religious tracts on the entrance to the North Headlands Trail. I requested that they remove them and respect our separation of church and state, since it is a public space. They refused, and when I asked again on my way out, they asked me to respect their freedom of speech. I complained to City Hall (yes they are violating a city ordinance); if you’re heading to the Trail this morning, please request that they remove the rack and literature, and please call City Hall.

I wonder who won that battle?

4. You will be relieved to know that a cushion lost at the Music Festival and its rightful owner were reunited at last:

Just now the cushion was returned to me by a cellist who said the cushion “appeared” on her chair some time ago (today? yesterday? last week?) and she came by and handed it to me.

5. Wondering what the extra stripe was on the highway:

I saw that it originated at X road, based on the arc of material from said road to the Southbound lane of 1. Another respondent reported seeing a substance draining from ‘an old wooden tank.’Another respondent noted seeing the material in the road up past middle ridge (hence past the transfer station, likely ruling out a dump run).

So a reasonable, harmless?, although not definitive conclusion; a salvaged wood tank made a trip from somewhere on Andiron Lodge road to somewhere out the ridge, giving up the last of its contents along the way.No harms or fouls, just a bit of spilled muddy water.

A YEAR AGO: it was a fiery summer.

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Annual Ordeal

I got up so early on Hell Day – I mean Staff Day – that Clyde just stayed in bed, like a sane person. Audrey of course bustled out to take on the world and show it who’s boss while I drank coffee and tried to mentally prepare for the day ahead.

I was saddened to note that I was already getting up in the dark again. Hello, darkness, my old enemy…

Picking up the bagels for breakfast, I found that instead of getting the 60 bagels I had ordered, I got a paltry 3 dozen. I had ordered them the week before and called the day before to confirm. This kind of set the tone for the whole day, as I would soon discover.

Arriving at the clinic, I saw that the ever-elusive Facilities Guy had failed to open the wall between the two conference rooms and to set it up, as we had discussed numerous times. The set up includes taking all the tables out and putting in as many rows of chairs as possible. Chairs from both reception areas are pressed into service, so after dropping off my inadequate bagel supply in the kitchen, I headed over to Medical to start dragging chairs to the conference room.

I texted Facilities Guy, and he said he’d be there in a few minutes. It took more minutes than there were bagels, giving me time to do most of the chair hauling. I was washing and displaying the breakfast fruit beside the bagel boxes and cream cheese by the time he arrived.

Other duties included meeting the caterer – we had yellow “caution” tape strung across the driveway to stop people from driving/meandering in – and helping her to set up the quite splendid salad bar, which included mixed greens, grilled chicken, sliced hard-boiled eggs, cheese, sliced cucumbers, shredded carrots, bacon, croutons, and five different kinds of dressing, along with focaccia rolls. There was water infused with watermelon and mint, lemonade, iced tea and iced green tea. All this was topped off with bite-sized cream puffs and lemon bars, including a small tray of gluten free versions.

You’d think they’d be happy with this, but you’d be wrong. There were complaints that the tea was sweetened, and worse than that, we ran out of ranch dressing. You probably already heard about this on CNN. “Horror in a small town!” Even though there were four other kinds of dressing, I was sent to the store to buy more ranch*. When I came back, I had barely gotten out of the car and triumphantly brought the ranch dressing to the masses before I was informed that we had run out of salad greens. Way to kill the buzz, peeps.

I called the caterer and she arrived on her mission of mercy, bearing additional salad greens. Needless to say, I never got to eat any of the lunch, though I did get to clean it up. The festivities concluded at about 3:30. Most people took off, but I left around 5:00 after – you guessed it – cleaning up after more than 100 people.

I went home hating the Whos and applied wine as an attitude adjustor. Now all I have to worry about is the new boss starting on Monday and the Open House on August 13.

Where’s that corkscrew?

*What the hell IS it, anyway?

A YEAR AGO: Ah, future dishes! You are still in my present.

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Date Day

Thursday was date day! I met my friend Randy for lunch and after work, I had Friday eve drinks with my friend Jim.

Randy used to own a lovely antique store in the Village. He still handles some consignments, but is mostly retired. He has had a very interesting life so far, having worked at Princeton University and the American embassy in Moscow, among other places. I never get tired of hearing his stories. He happens to be a neighbor of my friend Richard, another of my frequent date companions (though I hasten to add that they have both been happily married for many years to their lovely wives). Richard recently bought the house he has been renting for some time, so they are officially neighbors now.

It was great to take a break from the madness of work and spend it with civilized conversation and good food. I hope we can meet up again soon.

Needless to say, I was running late leaving work to meet Jim at our usual spot. I tried to text him, but it wouldn’t go, so I emailed him in desperation to let him know I’d be fashionably late. I had doubts that he’d be checking his email, but as it happened, his phone binged with the email as he was passing his neighbor’s house (it seems this neighbor has an open wife connection, probably thinking no one would be using it way out here in the boonies), so he did know I’d be late.

When I arrived, Jim was comfortably ensconced at the bar, which has a stunning view of the ocean:

ledford

I ordered a glass of local sparkling wine and settled in to catch up with my friend. Jim was delighted to hear about the couple using Joel’s memorial bench at the Gardens, as I knew he would be. He said that was exactly what he hoped for. I still think we picked the best location, a secluded area overlooking a rushing stream.

While we were talking, my phone binged with a text. It was Megan, asking where I was. When I told her, she responded “I’m on my way!”

While we waited for Megan to join us, I asked the bartender what drink she was mixing. It didn’t have a name (suggestions, anyone?), but she muddled cucumber and lime, added ice, Collins mix, Hawaiian white ginger gin, and elderflower cordial and shook it up, topping it with a spritz of cold soda water. She gave me a small glass to taste, and as soon as Megan tasted it, she ordered one of these nameless, delicious concoctions:

drink

We had a great time catching up with each other, and Megan and Jim are planning to walk their dogs together soon. As we headed back to our cars, we promised each other we would do this again soon. I love my family and friends!

A YEAR AGO: A camping party!

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Garden Girls

dogsgarden
Enjoying the View

Saturday was a postcard day, one to gladden the hearts of tourists from anywhere – and they are from anywhere and everywhere. On my way to work that day, I saw plates from Alaska, Utah, Texas, Maine and Wisconsin, as well as the usual Oregon, Washington, and Nevada. There was even a lumbering RV from Ontario, which, my (un)usually polite Canadian friends, I’m sorry to tell you failed to pull over.

Megan picked me up from the jobette, and together we locked up the shop and then jumped into her little red car, where I was instantly swarmed by Star and Stella. Stella never gets too excited about anything, except food, glorious food, but she has seen Star go crazy over me so many times that she has decided that she should, too. There must be a reason for it if Star does it*. Just like if Star smells something carefully, Stella must also investigate it. And since no one is ever as happy to see me as Star is, there was a lot of wagging and petting and trying to climb into the front seat before we could set off to the beautiful Botanical Gardens.

I happened to have two free tickets, so we went right in and headed for the café, where they very kindly give canine visitors a spoonful of locally made ice cream. This policy was greeted with an enthusiastic two paws up from both dogs. When they had finished their ice cream – it’s always treats first in my world – we started down the path, admiring the dahlias:

dahlia

And the gate that Rob would love:

gate

We crossed a little stream:

stream

which wends past my late friend Joel’s memorial bench. Among his many talents, Joel was a Master Gardener and spent a lot of time in these Gardens. I helped his widower Jim choose the site for the bench after Joel’s sudden death, and I intended to take a picture of it, but we found that an older couple was resting on it with their dog at their feet, so I didn’t. But this is exactly what Jim and I hoped would happen, and I am looking forward to telling him about it when I see him next.

We meandered through the woods:

woods

and arrived at the ocean, which was looking its best that day:

ocean

At the jobette, I was always told that our Gardens were one of two in the entire country that had ocean access. I don’t know what the other one is, but I am glad this one is here. One of the nice things about the jobette is that the visitors remind me of what a beautiful and magical place I live in. Why, it even has a dragon:

There's even a dragon.

Though you aren’t allowed to sit on the dragon, you can pet him:

sign

As we made our way back to the car, we promised each other that we would visit again soon. The dogs agreed.

A YEAR AGO: Sigh.

*I was charmed to see that at one point when Stella was sniffing something, she lifted her right paw daintily and held it there, just like Schatzi used to. Star copied Schatzi and Stella copied her, and it’s nice to see that Schatzi still lives on in that way, at least.

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Predicta-ment

One morning, I heard a text while I was getting ready for work. Usually, texts at 6:00 am are from my sister, who is still at work after her long night shift. So early morning texts do not scare me the way late night phone calls still do*.

I went to see what was up, and it turned out to be my boss, letting me know that the power was out at the clinic. A flurry of texts ensued from other staff members with updates as I applied mascara and lip gloss and headed out the door. Since the power had gone out at about 3:00 am, I figured it would be up and running by the time I got to work around 7:00.

This prediction was correct, but although there were lights and power, the servers were still down, rendering our computers useless plastic boxes, at least temporarily.

While the IT guys worked away at the computer issues, I caught up on my filing and other things that did not require computers. It was a good feeling to get that stuff done. I always wonder why I don’t keep up with it on an ongoing basis. I have the same thoughts after cleaning the house, but with the same (lack of) results.

Speaking of electricity, Jonathan and Rio acquired a fantastic vintage TV set (delightfully) called a Predicta:

predicta

Like the computers at work, the Predicta is temporarily non-operational, but I have faith that my brother can get it back in working order. If he could make a temporarily non-working very vintage telescope into a NASA-worthy contraption, he can do the same for the Predicta.

While he scouts for parts, we are amusing ourselves by thinking of appropriately retro TV shows to watch on it, like The Munsters and Peter Gunn and Perry Mason. And we are always going to refer to it as The Predicta.

A YEAR AGO: Dinner and a movie.

* I still think “Mom” when the phone rings, even though she has been gone for so long. And I always think it will be bad news.

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