Ten

Today marks a decade since I moved to Hooterville! Can you believe it? So much has happened since the day my brothers drove the truck full of my things and stuff up the highway and the curving roads while I followed with a howling and indignant Audrey. It was a long drive.

It was a big adjustment, going from city life to country life, and it was hard at first. But now I wouldn’t move back to San Francisco, even if I were the zillionaire such a move would require. I love living in the woods, with the loudest sound the wind in the trees and bird songs. And the San Francisco I knew and loved is gone.

A lot has changed in the past ten years. I lost no fewer than three beloved cats: the exquisite June (Audrey’s sister); ancient, scrappy little Henry Etta, who I brought with me from Oakhampton; and the irreplaceable Roscoe (Clyde’s brother). It’s no coincidence that my current feline line up of Audrey, Clyde, and Dodge are not allowed outside. That’s where the monsters are, and I am avoiding them like the plague they are.

During the time I have been here, my sister lost her beloved Schatzi, our last link to our mother, and her sweet cat Ramona. She still has Ramona’s sister, the beautiful Harriet, going strong at 18 years old. Along the way, we trekked to Colusa to rescue her dog Star, whom Megan ending up adopting, who was later joined by the inimitable Stella. Star is always so happy to see me that I am secretly convinced that she remembers I was there with Megan on the day she was saved and her perfect life began.

My sister moved away from the property we both lived on to the one where our brother lives. Things were never quite the same. My former landlord moved away without letting me know, and I moved a few months later. I love my new, beautiful, and let’s face it, improved house, but I will always have a soft spot in my heart for my quirky old place, despite all its eccentricities, even though I am much happier at the new place. It still seems like a dream after five months of living there.

My brother adopted his adorable and fierce mini cat, Scout, and fell in love with his lovely girlfriend Rio. He is happier with her than I have ever seen him. And she makes up for our lack of reproducing by having four adult kids and three small grandchildren.

Wells were dug at the family estate, and an epic garden and orchard, now an acre in size, were built and fenced (and then electrified to bear proof it) on the inhospitable pygmy soil. It is now a thing of beauty and a wonder to behold.

Erica and Jessica moved away following a family tragedy, and I miss them every day. The good news is that they are in the process of moving a little closer, to Portland, so I’m hoping to see them at least once a year. I miss them.

I finally got divorced after a long separation. I believe that now John and I have been apart longer than we were married. But he still means a great deal to me and I will always love him. We are in touch nearly every day. I am trying to support him as best I can through cancer treatments for one of his beloved cats. And if he called me at 2 am and needed bail, help burying a body, or a ride somewhere I’d grab my keys and be out the door. I don’t consider our relationship to be a failure.

I got a new (to me) car, which carries me to the Big Town nearly every day. I estimate I drive 250 miles a week, just to work and back. I also have a less new job, of nearly five years’ standing, which I acquired when the business my partner and I built and poured all our time, dedication, and money into disappeared, taking my livelihood and career with it. It was hard to recover from that devastation, and in some ways I am still working on it, but I am grateful I found this job when I needed it. Before the job, I had the jobette, which is sadly long gone now, but the friendships I made there remain.

I wonder what the next ten years will bring? Whatever it is, it will be unexpected. Some of it will be great, some of it will be horrible, and through it all, I will have my family and my friends.

A YEAR AGO: A sleepover with Jessica.

FIVE YEARS AGO: My fifth anniversary in beautiful Hooterville.

TEN YEARS AGO: I think you know.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Getting a call from the dry cleaner. Now I live where there is no dry cleaner.

Cushion

It might surprise you that a girl who is as much of a sparkly princess as I am doesn’t live in a Jayne Mansfield style glory of pink and glitter. My décor is actually quite neutral. I mentioned to my long-time friend A, whose hobbies include interior design and restaurant reviewing, that the cats* were taking their toll on the beige linen upholstery on the living room chair, and she suggested that I switch out both the couch and the chair for blush velvet ones. She says blush velvet can read as neutral with the right accessories and would provide a welcome note of luxe in my country abode. Also that cats do not enjoy clawing velvet.

A did a lot of research on couches and chairs, and we narrowed down her selection to the dream couch and chair, but they will have to remain a dream for the moment, since I recently made a major investment in car repairs and have no budget for furniture or other frivolities at the moment.

So while I wait for my ever-tenuous finances to recover – if they do – I have been adding new cushions to the couch, which will be compatible with pink velvet if it ever occurs. A gave me the beautiful vintage hand-made suzani which is draped over the back of the couch, and also the hand-embroidered turquoise cushion on the left. I added the white, purple and pink embroidered cushion on the right. Allergy sufferers, beware: all the pillows in my house are feather.

My plan was to replace the dark, beaded pillows on the ends. I still like them, but they don’t work so well with the new color scheme. I’m planning to see if Megan wants them, since she has no couch cushions and a nice, dark leather couch.

I consulted with A and we chose a pretty cushion on line, thinking that if I liked it enough, I’d get another one to match it. I ordered it two weeks ago and it has yet to arrive. The tracking number said it had arrived last Monday. I checked my post office box on Tuesday on my way to work. I picked up a box, which upon opening, revealed itself to be full of little bottles**, which I had not ordered. A look at the mailing label revealed that it was addressed to my brother, who has a PO box he shares with our sister. Megan checked their PO box in case my package was delivered there instead. Nope.

I checked with the shipper, who told me to wait a couple of days in case it turned up. I did and it didn’t. I contacted them again and they traced the package. Apparently, it was delivered to my old street address. Note that this does not mean it went to my old house. Deliveries to the old address went to a sort of decaying shed at the front of the property. Sometimes, they went to the front door of the rarely occupied front house. I am guessing this is what happened on this occasion. Fed Ex told me that the driver went to see what happened to the package and whoever is currently living in the front house kept screaming at him that she was not me and he should get out of there, which he eventually did. I’m guessing the screamer kept the cushion.

Fed Ex said it was their fault for not verifying my address. I pointed out that the shipper should not have allowed me to enter a PO box address if they were planning to ship by Fed Ex. Fed Ex also said that I might be surprised by the amount of fraud that goes on around missing packages. She gave an example of someone who said she never received her treadmill. When Fed Ex said they would have to send the sheriff around to investigate, she “found” it in her garage.

Anyway, it’s been a lot of fuss for a $20 cushion and I hope I love it if/when it ever gets here.

*To be fair, none of them goes outside anymore. But even when they did, they tended to claw indoor items or the house itself rather than the giant outdoor scratching posts, which you and I refer to as “trees” or “the woods”.

[Update: It never arrived. I got a refund and have officially given up on ordering from those people ever again.]

**For home-made hot sauce, made from the peppers they grew this summer.

A YEAR AGO: A wonderful sleepover with the wonderful Jessica!

FIVE YEARS AGO: A delightful evening with Megan and Lu.

TEN YEARS AGO: Getting ready to leave Oakhampton. And not a moment too soon.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A few updates.

Gas

Spraying the garbage cans with ammonia and water seems to have deterred Mr. (or Ms.) Bear, at least so far. Either I am no longer on the regular buffet route, or he or she has started hibernating, if in fact they do hibernate here. I have no idea if they do or what causes it if so, since we don’t get snow* and don’t even get a dramatic enough temperature change to change the leaves in most cases. Maybe it is daylight (or lack of it), though. I have had a few days where it’s been dark when I went to work and dark when I went home. Winter’s here!

I am pleased to report that I managed to avoid being “de-energized”, as our frenemies at PG&E call it. The lights stayed on at work and at home, and the threat of being powerless made me revisit my power outage capabilities at home, making sure I have water and lanterns. I was concerned that I would not be able to use my stove, since it uses electricity to ignite, but a friend told me that I could use a match. He suggested a long one, I will try it out before it becomes a total necessity. At least, that’s my intention. Hopefully the threat of not being able to have coffee or cook will motivate me to actually do it.

It also made me fill up my car sooner than my designated day of Friday, even though the gas tank was close to half full. It was soon overflowing. I usually set the pump to fill and then go and put my wallet away in the car, and this time, when I turned around, gas was spurting out of the side of my car at an alarming rate. I hastily yanked out the spout and replaced it, trying to avoid dousing myself and walking in the spilled gas any more than was strictly necessary.

I went and told the gas station cashier and she put a red “out of order” sleeve on the spout and said she’d clean up the spilled gas. I washed off the side of the car and the bottoms of my shoes with the windshield wiper squeegee thoughtfully provided, but I was sure my car smelled like gas and wondered if I had gotten it on my clothes, too. I’m pretty sure some of the $41 I spent on gas was for spillage, not Wednesday.

After work, I went to pick up many barbecued pork dinners at the high school. It was a fundraiser for the school’s agriculture program, and young men don’t cook dinner for me as often as I’d like. I picked up dinner for myself, my sister, and my boss and her husband, retracing my steps to deliver the dinners to the ER to await my sister’s arrival and to my boss to take home if/when she ever left work that evening. On the way home, I wondered if my car smelled more like barbecue or gasoline.

*What, never? No, never! What, Never? Hardly ever!

A YEAR AGO: Pearls and cocktails. What could be Suzier than that?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sick and tired.

TEN YEARS AGO: Polished.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Eeek! A mouse!

Speech

I’m still not exactly sure how I became the President of the library board. It’s strange for an impostor like me to run meetings and sign official documents, even though I sign all the checks at work. When Megan was living with me* while she was in high school, I went to all her parent-teacher interviews as her “parent”, and every time I went, I half expected them to tell me that I had to go back to high school since I wasn’t a real grown-up**.

There are more events than I expected when I joined the library board, and it can be hard to fit them into my long and busy work days, but as President, I feel I have to go. Recently, a thank you dinner for library volunteers was held at the beautiful Guest House Museum in the heart of the Big Town. I love it that this lovely home, built in 1892, is still the tallest building in town:

I was less than delighted to learn that I was expected to make a speech at the volunteer thank you dinner. Other than speaking at my father’s funeral nearly 20 years ago, I don’t remember having to speak in public. I could happily have gone another twenty years to forever without doing so. Here’s what I said:

It’s been an eventful year for the Friends of the Fort Bragg Library. We have started to make some real progress in dismantling the Whipple Street house, a meaningful step toward the future of expanding our library. Thank you to Daniel Z— for providing invaluable technical advice and support as we move forward with this project.

We lost three beloved Board members over the course of this year: Carol L—, Jennifer W—, and Jane V—, all long-serving and dedicated Friends who are dearly missed and will never be forgotten. If you seek their memorial, look around you. We are fortunate to have some new Board members who bring fresh ideas and expertise with them, and who have already made some very valuable contributions to the Board.

Thanks to Sandra F—’s wonderful “Thousand Dollar Club” idea and advocacy, funds continue to roll in towards making the dream of a bigger and better library come true. Fundraising events have been very successful this year, thanks to our dedicated volunteers, some new and some of many years’ standing. Thank you to all of you who contribute your time, your ideas, your perspiration, and your inspiration to helping your local library and community. We couldn’t do it without you. Here’s to you!

It went pretty well, though, judging by the applause. I don’t think public speaking is going to become a favorite hobby or anything. But I am proud of the work we are doing at the library and how much it means to our little community.

*I never really thought about how weird this situation was until a couple of years ago. Looking back, I can’t believe that a 23 year old was expected to parent a 14 year old. It all worked out in the end, though.

**Someone recently pointed out to me that actual grown ups do not refer to themselves or others of their ilk as “grown ups”. They use the term “adult”. Apparently, my use of the term “grown up” is just one of the many signs that I am not one.

A YEAR AGO: Some things were better. And some weren’t.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A trip to the south coast. And an unexpected cow.

TEN YEARS AGO: An impending job interview. Bonus: Baby Jessica!! Oh, the cuteosity!

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Eeek! A mouse!

Bearly

My siblings have had a trying summer with wildlife invaders in the garden. First, there was a fox who ate all the strawberries – and there are a LOT of strawberries, so he was an overachiever in this area – and who successfully eluded the Hav-A-Hart trap for some time before eventually being caught. He expressed his disapproval of this entrapment by hissing and snarling in the trap. Rob found a nice new neighborhood for him, several miles away, with both food and water nearby.

However, as so often happens with wildlife, whether they are in your house or outside it, there was Not Just One. My siblings soon became experts at trapping and relocating foxes, as a total of four went into the Fox Relocation Program with their assistance.

As if that weren’t enough, a bear somehow got in. I don’t know if you have ever had a bear in your garden, but they tend to be messy and destructive. When I lived at the old house, my then neighbor across the Ridge had a bear sit in her apple tree and eat all the fruit while merrily breaking the branches of her century old tree. Once they know there’s food somewhere, they tend to make more repeat appearances than Barbra Streisand on a farewell tour.

It was decided that the fence enclosing the garden should be electrified, like the fence around the beehives. But the beehive fence is much more modest than the garden fence, which encircles an entire acre. Not for the first time, my siblings must have wondered why they made the garden so damn big. I know the thought has crossed my lazy mind. It seems to me like they are either watering and weeding or canning and preserving on an epic scale. I guess they just think bigger than I do.

Electrifying the fence was further complicated by the fact that all the brush and bushes anywhere near the fence had to be removed to minimize fire risk. So the boys were pretty busy for a while, removing vegetation and bear proofing the fence. When it is turned on at night, it ticks and apparently you get a quite shocking shock if you are silly enough to touch it. You will not be surprised to hear that the bear has been pretty scarce ever since.

He may have moved over to my house, though this is probably unlikely since I now live about 11 miles away (though still in Hooterville) instead of a quarter mile away. Yet a bear has definitely been visiting Chez Suzy.

I first became aware of his visits when I discovered that one of the garbage cans was knocked over and had deep and alarming claw and bite marks around the rim of the can and the lid. Also there was garbage everywhere. On later visits, he seemed to drag the entire bag into the meadow/orchard area next to the house to go through it at his leisure. There wasn’t really any food in it. Vegetable and fruit trimmings go into the compost pit, and I am pretty sure they are removed by the foxes and ravens. Also the bear seems to be ignoring my apple trees as far as I can see.

Apparently, you are supposed to keep your garbage cans in your shed or garage. Unfortunately, I have neither – I don’t even have a shed to store motor oil and things of that nature. I realize that while putting up with the endless barking at my old house was annoying, it also kept the wildlife at bay. I never had bear problems there.

I have to admit that I am rather nervous getting to the car in the morning, especially since it’s now totally dark when I leave in the mornings, and although I have the porch light on and use my phone’s flashlight to get to the car, I am always worried that there is a monster in the darkness. One of my coworkers told me that bears can open doors, so I have actually started locking them, even though I can’t imagine a bear actually strolling into my living room. Or can I?

Consulting with those better versed in the ways of wildlife than I am, I learned that bears have a very sensitive sense of smell, and spraying the garbage cans and even the bags with ammonia or Windex should deter them. I have tried that, and so far, Mr. Bear has not been back to visit. Yet. Stay tuned.

A YEAR AGO: The beginning of the end. Though I didn’t know it at the time.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The actual end.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Feeling the sloth. And the cold.