85


Mom and her father

Today would have been my mother’s 85th birthday.

Sometimes I am surprised by how much time has gone by since we were orphaned. In some ways, it seems like it just happened, and in others that it was so long ago. With the unpredictable elasticity of grief, some anniversaries of births or deaths make you feel almost as bereft as you did when it first happened, and on others, you remember more happy memories. And it’s pretty much impossible to say why or know how you’ll feel until it happens.

My mother has not figured in these pages as much as my father. We did not always have the easiest relationship, and it is only now that I have begun to understand her better. She had a difficult life, there is no doubt about it. She was abandoned on the steps of an orphanage as a baby, my father left her, she married a man half her age who spent all her money and left her on welfare to fight a valiant battle against cancer. Hers was a long and terrible death, which she fought bravely to the end.

But she was also loved. Her parents adopted her when she was about three, picking her out at the orphanage like a puppy at the pound. We do not know anything about her birth parents, though there were rumors that her father was a doctor and her mother a patient. My mother didn’t care, though. Her parents told her that they chose her out of all the children in all the world, and other parents just have to take what they get.

Dad met Mom at a wedding and was charmed with her looks and joie de vivre. He was finishing his PhD in England and she lived in New York State. While he finished his degree, and when he took his round the world tour afterwards, he wrote her constantly, and I still have the wonderful love letters in their blue airmail envelopes, with drawings and photos and descriptions of the many wonders he had seen and how he missed her.

They definitely loved each other, though they were very different. Dad was scientific, Mom was artistic. She loved music, he was tone deaf. She was utterly American, he was English to the core. In retrospect, it’s probably not surprising that the marriage didn’t last, though like mine, it did last a long time.

I just wish Mom had found the happy ending Dad did. And I wish I could tell her that I love her and miss her. When I think of her, I think of her sparkling green eyes, beautiful, thick, golden-brown hair (which Megan inherited), her pleasure in beautiful things, from music to jewelry, her laugh. I think about sitting in bed with her – she was a night owl – watching “Saturday Night Live” back in the 1970s together. She was delighted by Devo’s avant garde version of “Satisfaction” on that show. I think of how she welcomed Gilbert, Dad’s graduate student from Tanzania, into our family for a few years when his family couldn’t get money out of the country to him. I think of her driving fast with music on loud in the car, the way I do now, the bracelets I now wear jingling on her wrist, shining in the sun.

She was strong. She was brave. She was unique. I am glad she was my mother.

Sisters and Friends

The ballet season has ended, but the play season is just beginning.


The stage is set

Megan, our good friend Lu and I went to see a play at the local theater in the village on Saturday night. It was called “Morning’s at Seven”, and even knowing that the title comes from Robert Browning’s “Pippa Passes” doesn’t make the punctuation look any better to me. The play was written in the 1930s and is about four elderly sisters living in the mid west. This doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but we spent the whole production either laughing or gasping in shock. It was very entertaining indeed.

The theater has a little bar in the lobby, and the bartender makes a special drink for each production. This one was called the Four Sisters, and was made of Four Roses bourbon, ginger ale, a dash of bitters, and a twist of lemon:


I’m not much of a bourbon drinker, but it was quite refreshing. The bartender confided that the four ingredients in the drink were inspired by the four sisters in the play, and invited me to guess which sister inspired which ingredient at the intermission. I only got half of them right, but it was still fun to guess.

After the play, we made our way to our cars and stood there chatting for a few minutes under a glittering blanket of stars. It was a great evening, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.

A YEAR AGO: My brother to Wednesday’s rescue. This year, she needs new tires. Sadly, none of these are April Fool’s Day jokes.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A late season storm. And a new (to Megan) car!

The Arts

As winter (allegedly) comes to a close and (allegedly) makes way for spring*, so does the ballet season. Megan and I headed to the beautiful South Coast on a grey and overcast day. At least it wasn’t raining and none of the roads were closed or had closing potential, as they did the weekend we couldn’t get to see Sleeping Beauty, a regret that continues to haunt both of us.

As usual, our first stop was Anchor Bay Thai, where we were served by the charming owner. After the one disappointing dinner we had there, the owners have been especially solicitous when we come in, which is nice. I don’t know if I ever told you that the person who was responsible for the disappointing dinner was fired. I hasten to add that it wasn’t just because of my complaint. There has been several, and he also apparently had anger issues to the point that he fought with the owners about being fired. Ever since his departure, the food has been up to its exquisite standard, and I am pleased to report that this dinner was no exception.

With dinner stowed in the car, we headed to the Surf Market to pick up lunch. First things first. I always forget how to get into the market’s parking lot, and also how long it takes to get a sandwich there. This time, I noticed that you can text your order ahead, so assuming I can get service, I will try it next time.

After lunch, we went back to Point Arena, home of the historic Arena Theater which shows the ballets, and Franny’s Cup & Saucer, which is resolutely closed on Sundays, when the ballet is shown. We noticed that Franny produces a monthly brunch and dinner at the restaurant next door, so we will keep an eye open for those.

We were horrified to read in the program that the ballets are losing money and there may not be another season. Before the ballet started, a gentleman spoke to the audience and said they need help to keep the program going. The financial shortfall is a relatively modest $200-300, and they also need someone to choose the ballets! After I got home, I exchanged emails with the person in charge, offering to help. So Megan and I may be choosing the ballets later this year. Sleeping Beauty, here we come!

As for this last ballet of the season, it was too modern for our tastes. One of them was about insects and the other about the seasons, but I couldn’t tell what was going on or what they were supposed to be. We still enjoyed the artistry and strength of the dancers, though. It will be interesting to see what the next season brings – especially if it’s produced by us!

I still say March is the secret winter month no-one talks about. It may have the first day of spring in it, but it still looks (and feels) like winter, whatever coast you’re on.

A YEAR AGO: A day in town, featuring CPR, a bride, and a new (to Megan) stove. I see I have been at my “new” job for two years this week.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Screwing up in ways major and minor.

Serendipity

All in all, it was a pretty good day.

‘Memba the giant bottle of cheap red wine that appeared at Thanksgiving? I used some of it to make black bean soup, but that barely put a dent in the ocean of inferior oenological product. I decided to leave it at the Gro, where I imagine some of the habitués (the kind Star doesn’t like) would greet it with enthusiasm, like an Easter bunny for winos. My good deed was rewarded by a snack-size bottle of good sparkling wine appearing on my desk that same morning, a reward from my wonderful boss for doing what I thought was just my job but was apparently a little above and beyond.

Also bringing some sparkle to my day was taking a break to meet Monica at the coastal trail for a walk and chat. She was accompanied by Stella’s son Joey, who has the most expressive ears. The only thing Stella about him is his joie de vivre and his enthusiasm for greeting me. Otherwise he looks like a German Shepherd with really long legs and goofy ears. If I didn’t know for a fact that Stella was his mother, I would never believe it. He doesn’t look a thing like her.

While Joey bounded around and sniffed things on his leash, Monica and I talked about my writing a blog for her store and working on a website for it, which I think will be a fun project. She wants to pay me for it, which makes me feel a little weird, but she says my time is valuable. We’ll see how it goes. It will be fun to start something new.

On my way home, a car pulled out from the Main Street exit of the village. I was pretty sure it was Erica, and closer inspection (of her One Bad Apple bumper sticker) showed that it was. I waved, but she was too busy driving, so as we approached the steep descent to the state beach, I honked and waved. She pulled over in the capacious turnout which is sadly underutilized by visitors who happen to be in my way, and I parked behind her.

Erica and Jessica (wearing, I was pleased to note, the Totoro shirt we gave her for her birthday last year) jumped out of their car and much hugging and squee-ing ensued. They were on their way to visit the yarn store, which apparently now resides in the quaint, family-owned inn where I have been known to enjoy the view and an adult beverage. Who knew?

They had been to Glass Beach that day and were taken aback by the number of tourists there, especially mid week. It seems a little early for the annual influx. As Jessica wondered, “If it’s tourist season, why can’t I shoot them?” I have often thought the same thing while creeping along behind the dreaded out of state plate.

Jessica’s birthday* – every April 15, as you know – falls conveniently on a Saturday, so she requested to spend it over at the family estate. We are still trying to come up with a theme for this year’s Junapalooza. We have had a cocktail party and a high tea. Jessica suggested that we set up a group board in Pinterest to find awesome party ideas. If nothing else, it will be fun. I think Erica is hoping to sneak in some Jell-O somewhere, probably spiked. And we are also plotting for another girl movie night this summer. So there’s a lot to look forward to.

We parted with hugs and I smiled the rest of the way home. I passed Megan as I neared our driveway, and we exchanged waves, which always makes me happy. Reaching the driveway, I was delighted to find that Mark had applied a layer of gravel over the enormous potholes and gigantic mud swamp the driveway had become this winter. Jonathan, who has 25 years’ worth of experience with this particular driveway, said he has never seen it in worse shape. Driving it at literally 2 miles an hour, I was still tossed around my car. So I was thrilled to whiz along serenely at a speedy 5 miles an hour.

*Megan and I were equally horrified to realize that Jessica is turning 14 this year. How is this possible?

A YEAR AGO: Getting the old grandfather clock running again.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A look around the garden. I see I was tired of the rain then, too. March really is the secret winter month no one talks about.

86

Dad’s birthday dawned sunny and beautiful, but it was a sad one for me this year. Some years I am filled with how lucky I was to have such a wonderful father and friend, and other years it just makes me so sad he is gone. This was one of those years.

To make things worse, I ran over a dead deer on my way to work in the evil darkness that morning. I had no choice, since there was too much oncoming traffic for me to go around it by driving in the other lane of the two lane highway, and there was no shoulder of the road, either. I felt like a monster, since humans had already killed the poor creature and now I was desecrating its body.

I was relieved to notice that someone had removed the evidence of my callousness on my way home from work that day. I got changed and ready to go out again, since Megan and I had plans, but I was not feeling festive. I went out one door as she came in another, but we found each other and laughed. We jumped in her little red car and set off for the Village, passing the eternal Christmas tree where Dad’s bird ornament winked in the sun.

Unlike me, Megan was having a good Dad’s birthday. She had worked in the garden that day, honoring Dad’s legacy as an excellent gardener, restoring the sweetpeas we plant for him every year as well as fertilizing the fruit trees and caring for the lavender. And she was looking forward to our plans to celebrate Dad that evening.

The bookstore in the Village was having a sale, and that seemed like a perfect way to honor the man who read to us and gave us our love of reading. You can see the Great Catsby in his favorite spot:

Megan bought two instant pot cookbooks, even though she did not actually have an instant pot (she rectified this later by ordering one on her phone at my house, since she does not have internet at hers). I weirdly ended up getting deeply discounted but sparkly Christmas cards as well as some stocking stuffers. I got something for Erica’s stocking last month. I am unable to explain this extremely premature holiday shopping.

We then headed to the beautiful Ledford House, where the view was wonderful:

We toasted Dad with Red Queens, a divine concoction made of gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, and cranberry, garnished with a sugar rim with hibiscus and dark chocolate:

and swapped some of our favorite Dad stories over dinner. I think he would have liked that, and also approved of our choices, both of us ordering according to his rule of getting something you would not (or could not) make at home. Megan had incredibly light gnocchi with Gorgonzola and walnuts:

and I had petrale sole with passionfruit beurre blanc, served with mashed potatoes and asparagus with infused herb oil:

It was a good way to celebrate our father, and by the time we headed back home, I just felt glad we had him in our lives. He will always be in our hearts. We love you, Dad.

A YEAR AGO: Not a great start to the day.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A date with my family.

Random Notes

I avoid the news now like the plague it is, but I keep abreast of important matters on the local message boards. We have had an avian theme lately:

Predators have reduced our small flock to one lonely hen. Anyone in a similar situation? You take my 2 year old hen into your flock, or I’ll adopt one or two hens you no longer want to keep her company?

There was a great deal of concern over an injured owl:

The Great Horned Owl reported by X was picked up by Fish & Wildlife and arrived at Woodlands Wildlife. A quick assessment shows no obvious broken wings or legs. It is semi-alert if disturbed, but quickly sits down and lapses into unconsciousness. Probably a concussion–which can cause the brain to swell for up to 48 hours, so the next few days are critical. He is very thin, so he will be force fed.

Normally, I do not go out and get things. Almost 100% of the time when I have done that in the past, the animal or bird has already left the scene, or the directions are wrong. It’s actually where the expression “wild goose chase” came from (hunters chasing after an injured but not dead goose). I’m at an age where I don’t go romping through meadows or clambering down rocky hillsides chasing things.

I am pleased to report that the owl recovered and was released back to the wild in the area he was found, flying off “strongly” as the sun set.

A resident pigeon was in a piteous plight:

I have a rock dove (aka Pigeon) that needs a better home than I can currently provide. I found him as a little pink squab in a construction site, and raised him to maturity by hand. I care for him deeply however since moving here I have to work everyday for long hours. I feel it isn’t fair to keep him caged up for that long. Before we moved here he was able to free fly and we had a suitable outdoor roost that he began to live in when he became mature. I really want better for my little friend. If anyone has a flock, or experience with bird keeping, or knows anyone who does please contact me!!!!

You will be relieved to hear that even the lowly pigeon found a happier life:

Woodlands Wildlife can prepare your pigeon for freedom and life as a normal bird. We would put it in a large aviary so it could exercise and build up its flight muscles, teach it what its normal food in the wild should be, and release it near other pigeons.

There’s a risk that it might not be able to learn all that, in which case we have a local man who has a large (40 feet) aviary of various pigeon types, and we often place non-releasable birds with him for long term care. I’ll be in the office after 10 tomorrow if you want to call and we can discuss it.

A newcomer to our community experienced a disastrous loss:

I lost approx $550 cash (mostly $100 bills) after registering my car at DMV around 2:40pm today. It’s my social security money my son and I need to live on this month. If found, please call R at [telephone number]. Offering $50 reward, plus a free conscience, if the cash is returned.

The cash wasn’t returned, but our community sprang into action, contributing small amounts until we raised enough to cover the missing money. Here is the response from the guy who lost the money:

Aloha and Mahalo to the Coast community- You have made us whole….and so much more!
We share a love of the ‘aina which connects us all to each other. *E ho‘omaika‘i ana no ke aloha kekahi i kekahi* – E and I are grateful for the love the members of this community have for one another.

I love our town.

A YEAR AGO: Victorian ziplining. Who knew?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Wild weather. And wildlife.

Whether

“I’m the Whether Man, not the Weather Man, for after all it’s more important to know whether there will be weather than what the weather will be.” — The Whether Man, “The Phantom Tollbooth”

Well, our whether has varied widely over the past week.

Last weekend, it hailed up a storm – about half a dozen of them on the same day. Inside the house, the light had that eerie whiteness I associate with snowfalls back east, and I had the heater on all day (despite the horror of the $355 bill to fill the propane tank just days before). The cats were fascinated by the sound of it against the roof/walls, and I was fascinated by the look of it against the glass ceiling of the back “porch”:

dusting the scenic path to the compost pile:

and piled up in the potted plants by the side of the house:

It was almost as exciting as when it snowed a few years ago. When I went to bed that night, it was still piled up in the terra cotta pot.

Whereas this weekend, I have all the doors open in my little house and the sun is shining. The cats are scarce. I did a cursory inspection of the garden, and both the orchids and the tulips are budding, but not in bloom. Once again my tulip efforts can be rated a fail. I promise myself that I will plant them again in November to get flowers in February. Usually the orchids start blooming in February, so I have no idea why they are such slackers. Same goes for the camellias, which have steadfastly refused to bloom at all.

I will enjoy the sunshine and the break from the seemingly endless rain and try not to think about the horror of the time change. It was nice driving to work in the light while it lasted.

A YEAR AGO: A delightful bee-themed event at my friend Monica’s delightful shop.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A delightful visit from my friend and neighbor, Jim.

More Cats & Dogs

One of the side effects of the mystery ailment is a certain grumpiness and intolerance for nonsense, especially kitty-based nonsense. Unfortunately for me, Clyde’s interest in naughtiness remains unabated, and he has also decided that now is the perfect time for him to up his meowing game. I disagree with him strongly on this point, which he blithely disregards in the way all felines do. Silly humans!

In other cat related news, Jonathan’s mini cat Scout turns out to have Audrey’s intolerance for fleas. She also has Audrey’s intolerance for the vet, and then some.

Jonathan is convinced that if he ever takes Scout to the vet, it will destroy her trust in him forever. This is why it took a village to get her spayed, and why Megan went home after her third night shift and went over to scrobble Scout without sleeping or collecting $200.

Catching Scout and shoving her in a box is no easy feat, despite her diminutive size (less than 7 pounds!). There’s a reason she survived out there in the mean woods of Albion. Megan’s arms and hands were covered with battle scars as she carried her unwilling prey to Dr. Karen’s.

Interestingly, once she actually got there, Scout gave up and stopped fighting anything. It was like she was resigned to her inevitable doom. Dr. Karen agreed that an extended prescription was in order to prevent further Megan-filleting vet visits, and everyone went home. Jonathan reported that Scout was ultra suspicious, peering anxiously out of the windows and making sure her escape hatch had been restored to open mode before she settled down. She is recovering well from the trauma of the vet and the fleas, possibly in that order.

And speaking of pets, my landlord and neighbor Mark has a new puppy! Her name is Blue and she is cute as a button:

How’s that for a new neighbor?

A YEAR AGO: In keeping with our cat theme, Audrey gifted me with an extra-long Sunday. Thank you?

FIVE YEARS AGO: File under miscellaneous.

Marooned

I am coming to you from the couch, where I am ensconced with several feather pillows (did I ever mention my pillow addiction? I think the usual number residing on my bed is around eight. It’s less than half that on the couch, though they are beaded and/or velvet to make up for it), and my grandmother’s 80 year old quilt of love. Not only is it pink, but it is made of my mother’s baby clothes, my grandfather’s ties, and some of its creator’s aprons. Not to mention the fact that it was restored by Erica and Megan.

Keeping me company is a mug of chamomile tea (the mug with my initial was one of my favorite Christmas gifts), tiny bottles of Schweppes ginger ale, the creepy-poetic Lincoln in the Bardo, a cheery little read about the recently deceased young son of the great President, and some pills. The cats, as you may have noted, are conspicuous by their absence, when they should be keeping me company in my time of need. I’m pretty sure that’s in the contract. Audrey was busy creating a Dada work of art by removing the toilet paper from its roll. There have been several interested calls from New York and San Francisco galleries. Of course Audrey was just concerned that I had become bourgeois and complacent.

Clyde was up in his no girls allowed club house, aka the storage loft over the bathroom. His stealthy brother also enjoyed hanging out in that difficult to access location, but Audrey never goes up there and I usually enlist the services of a passing boy to get the Christmas decorations in and out of it.

So I am alone on the couch, listening to the rain on the roof/walls, which I no longer find soothing after 61 fun-filled inches of rain. I still enjoy the rain-induced frog song, though. I am marooned here because of an intestinal upset that makes trailing up and down the stairs from the sleeping loft to the bathroom an impracticality and annoyance in my (hopefully temporarily) weakened condition,

I am always shocked and annoyed when I’m ill, feeling that the system has let me down and should be more reliable. In this case, it is extra annoying since I was unable to accomplish any cooking or other house-related activities this weekend, and I was also unable to attend family dinner at Rio’s, where chicken enchiladas and Perry Mason* on the Predicta were on the menu. So I will have to face another week of work with no cooking done and no fun behind me.

Of course, Dr. Megan paid a house call, telling me that not eating for two days was “working against me”, despite the nausea, and prescribed toast, rice, apples, and whatever the pills are. What would I do without her?

*Some fun facts about the show are in this link.

A YEAR AGO: Stormy weather, inside and out. Can I stop worrying about the drought for now?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Rob was working around the house, while I was leaving the housework undone. Each according to his ability…

Chilly

I missed the Polar Plunge last year since I was in Monterey, being dazzled by the amazing Aquarium and delighting in the sandy beaches and farmstands. So I made sure to be there this year.

It was a cold and windy day as Megan and I pulled up behind the ambulance. Our good friend Lu was standing next to the ambulance with her work partner. I had never met him before, so I’m pretty sure the enthusiastic hug he gave me was mostly due to the fact that I had just gotten out of Megan’s toasty car.

Lu usually works on the beautiful South Coast, but she fills in on the ambulance in the Big Town from time to time, and this was one of those times. She was in good company with the whole emergency team:

including some in wetsuits with jet skis waiting in case something untoward happened. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. But it’s always good to know that EMS is on hand and ready. There were so many emergency workers at Lu and Rik’s wedding that they outnumbered the potential patients. I had to laugh when I arrived that summer day last year, seeing all the EMS stickers on the guests’ cars.

Every year, my brother’s team comes up with a concept and a song to sing before leaping into the frigid waters. One year it was the Soggy Bottom Boys from “Oh Brother, Where Are Thou?” and another year it was dressing as rubber duckies while singing the Rubber Duckie song from Sesame Street. This year, it was Yellow Submarine:

I am amazed to report that Rio drew the submarine freehand on three different pieces of cardboard before coloring it in. This is probably a talent that comes in useful when you have four children and a growing collection of grandchildren. I think it looks great. Their singing the song was a hoot. Jonathan was a ham as usual. I love my brother.

He was coming down with a cold, which made his jumping into the freezing water inadvisable, but Rio had no such qualms as she bravely dashed into the chilly river’s embrace:

She even ducked her head under and swam a little. She is my hero. I didn’t even want to take my coat off, let alone my clothes! I held her towel as is our Polar Plunge tradition, and Megan and I both hugged her to help her dry off and warm up when she was back on soggy land.

Lu had never been to a Polar Plunge before, but she had so much fun that she will join us next year, whether she is on the ambulance or not. It’s nice to know all the money raised is going to support Special Olympics, right here on the Coast.

A YEAR AGO: The eccentricities of the local message boards.

FIVE YEARS AGO: I was sick, the house was a mess, and Rob was fixing things. You know, the usual.

Ceremonial

I’m not known for my church-going. Having atheist parents will do that to you (and make you wish you had something to rebel against). I can’t remember the last time I was in a church, but it was likely a great cathedral in England with my father. For an atheist, he loved to visit cathedrals and churches in his native land, regarding them as part of his heritage and history. He also had an amazing ability to sing hymns without hymn books, since his school days started with hymns as mine did with the Pledge of Allegiance. Do kids still do that*?

I will, however, remember my most recent visit to a religious establishment.

One of the receptionists invited me to her baby’s baptism at St. Anthony’s in Mendocino. It is the oldest parish in the county, and the church is small, but charming:

I expected that the ceremony would be part of a Mass on Sunday, but unsurprisingly for one uneducated in the ways of organized religion, I was wrong about this. The baptism was held on a Saturday, in a stand-alone event.

I arrived a few minutes before the appointed hour, and was bemused to note that I seemed to be the only one there. I peeked into the church, and it was empty, as was the hall. I texted my boss, who was also invited, and she confirmed the place and time and added that she was on her way.

Eventually people started showing up, including the guest of honor in a long white dress and fetching bonnet. We took our places in the pews, where I admired the striking ocean mural behind the altar:

and the pretty stained glass windows:

The family of the baby to be baptized was also at the altar in all their finery, but the godparents were nowhere to be seen. The priest called out, “Where are the godparents?” When he got no response, he stormed down the aisle, robes flapping, fuming, “I’ll find them myself!”

He did, and the tone was set for the ceremony. He raced through it, not allowing anyone to answer presumably important questions like “Do you reject Satan?” before barreling on to the next rhetorical question. It was the same with the “pray for us” call and response with the audience. It was like the whole thing was choreographed by the Ramones.

At the end of the ceremony, he vanished out a side door, never to be seen again. I didn’t realize it was over at first.

I expected him to thank us for witnessing such a momentous occasion, and possibly shake our hands on the way out the door, but he was off to be grumpy somewhere else.

All in all, it was not the beautiful, spiritual event I had expected. But it was memorable.

A YEAR AGO: I was in beautiful Monterey, enjoying the Aquarium, the warmth, and the sandy beaches.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A ceremony of a different kind: a surprise wedding!

*My knowledge of kids and what they do is almost as extensive as my knowledge about churches and what people do in them. I realized recently that none of the people I still keep in touch with from high school have kids, and with delightful exceptions like Erica, most of my friends don’t, either. Hmmm…

Stormy Monday

Monday was a holiday, and while it was nice to have a long weekend, it was (of course) a stormy one. The wind howled around the house, and watching the trees toss their heads, I told myself to accept the fact that the power was going to go out.

As usual, I ignored my well-meant advice, and neglected to fill the pot with water to boil the noodles for the spicy stir fried noodles I was planning to make for dinner and to do the dishes that had accumulated from the prep for said dinner. The power went out at 6:00 pm as the sky darkened for the evening*, and I sadly went to get the flashlight and lantern from Rob’s magnificent cabinet (I now have a box inside it with power outage equipment, making it easy to find in the darkness).

Cooking by flashlight was as problematic as you’d expect, though the recipe was delicious. I skipped the eggs and salt (isn’t soy sauce basically salt?) and will increase the amount of sauce next time. I will probably scatter some chopped scallions on top along with the peanuts.

Also as usual, Mark fired up his generator a split second after the blackness descended. I was still on the phone reporting the outage to our friends at PG&E when I heard the racket start. Conventional wisdom holds that the shortest amount of time is between the light turning green and someone honking, but I’m pretty sure it’s between the power going out and Mark starting up his generator.

Much like snoring, where the noise is deeply annoying to those trying to sleep, hearing the noise of a generator next door making sure they have heat and light when you have neither of these things is also unenjoyable, especially since it deprives you of your much-needed beauty sleep on a school night.
I soon realized that I could not sleep upstairs, with just the balcony door between me and the Dreadful Rauw, even with earplugs and a pillow over my head. I tossed bedding over the balcony where I once tossed myself, and went grumpily downstairs to sleep on the couch. There I had the door to the studio closed as well as the studio and its outside door to shield me against the Awful Dynne.

It was hard to sleep, what with the grumpitude, curious cats, and the storm raging all around the house. I tried not to think about trees falling on the house. When the power came back on, the house blazed to life, waking me up just a couple of hours before it was time to get up for good. Or bad.

The rain is taking a break today, which means that it’s really cold with no clouds to insulate us. I could hardly yank my car door open this morning since it was frozen, and it took a while to warm up as a sliver of moon smiled down at us.

*This week, I noticed that it is no longer pitch dark when I drive to work, which means that the time change can’t be far away. As soon as there is a glimmer of light and hope in the morning, it is snatched away. It took me a while to realize that the entire point of the time change is to make sure it’s dark in the morning and that there are only two or three months of the year that I don’t get up in utter blackness. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

A YEAR AGO: Flea-O-Rama! Again!

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Audreyness of Audrey. Also? It was 65 degrees!

Cats and Dogs

It’s still raining them. And the forecast is discouraging:

I thought that Clyde’s increase in naughtiness was a fairly recent thing, but my blog archives tell me that it has been nearly three years since he started his early morning wake up campaign. This is why it’s so useful to keep a journal. You can see when things actually happened instead of relying on your ever less reliable memory.

He no longer asks to go out first thing in the morning. He has been significantly less interested in the Wide World* since we lost Roscoe. Some days, he doesn’t go outside at all. He still sits on my desk and watches the woods, even if the door is open. It’s hard not to think that he is looking for his brother or remembering him. Audrey too has decreased outdoor interest, perhaps since she will be 10 this year. She still has extra outside privileges, but she no longer stays out for hours.

Clyde has recently expanded his naughtiness to eating Audrey’s food. I realized that his evil plan is to eat all of hers while hoarding his. Oddly, Audrey, who has no problem bossing around humans and dogs, is apparently reluctant to boot her miscreant little roommate out of her dish.

Audrey, like her namesake Miss Hepburn, is already sufficiently sylph-like, so this is a problem. I have been putting her dish up on Rob’s masterpiece so she can eat in peace, but of course Clyde knows it’s there and jumps up as soon as Audrey leaves. If I were at home all day, I’d put her food away and bring it out every couple of hours, but since I’m gone around 12 hours a day, that’s not possible. I guess I will just have to let Clyde be naughty and fill up Audrey’s dish whenever it looks empty, no matter who ate it.

On this rainy morning, they are both curled up on the untidy bed as I write, looking cute as buttons and innocent of any domestic infractions whatsoever.

As for the “dogs” portion of this post, the one I attempted to murder with my car three months ago is finally home, looking none the worse for wear:

though his owner’s wallet will take some time to recover from the $8,000 vet bill. The dog was in rehab in the Bay Area and staying with his owner’s mother while he recovered, so they had a joyful reunion. I am hoping to stop by and see them both soon.

Stopped at a red light, I saw the guy in the truck in front of me put his arm around his dog and drop a kiss on his head. When the light changed, he drove off with his arm still around the dog.

*I have to agree with the River Rat on this one. Now more than ever: “Beyond the Wild Wood comes the Wide World,” said the Rat. “And that’s something that doesn’t matter, either to you or me. I’ve never been there, and I’m never going, nor you either, if you’ve got any sense at all.”

A YEAR AGO: Stormy weather. I’m sensing a theme here.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Rob finally won his disability case after four long years.

Flooded

Guess what? It’s raining! Y’all can stop your rain dances or waltzes or twerking, we’re good for now, especially in Oroville, wherever that is. I was touched at the international concern for my safety following the news of the Oroville Dam overflow. I still don’t know where it is, but I do know that the only flooding around here is the usual suspects (the Road to Civilization and the car eating ditches that border the Ridge). Cheerful yellow “Flooded” signs are popping up, along with their cousins, “Slide”. It’s late winter in California!

Calla lilies are also popping up by the side of the road, along with drifts of sunshiny daffodils in the rain. Cherry trees are hazed with pink blossoms, always a sure sign of February. This morning, I noticed that the air smells different, more like spring and less like winter, and this week I realized that it was no longer night dark at 5:30 pm. 5:30 am should take its cue from 5:30 pm instead of doing such an excellent impersonation of 12:00 am.

Valentine’s Day saw my desk flooded with love:

Inside the bag is home-made salsa and sugar facial scrub, among other delights. More cupcakes and even orchids arrived after the photo opp, making up for the fact that it was an extremely unromantic 12 hour Valentine’s Day. When I finally got home, I had some of the delicious salsa on a take-out burrito and watched an episode of “Victoria” before collapsing into bed surrounded by kitties.

It wasn’t all work this week, though. I made time to meet a friend at the charming seaside bar where Megan and I first made the delightful acquaintance of the cerise noir. The lovely bartender remembered that was what I had last time and set about making another for me, since she had already made an impeccable Negroni for my friend.

She hails from England, near where my father grew up, and we enjoyed talking about some of our favo(u)rite places there. The bar’s owner chimed in about a recent visit there. He and his wife found it an enchanting place. I have to say that there are few things more beautiful than a perfect summer day in England.

Of course, sitting in a pretty room with your friends, drink in hand, watching the sun set over the ocean isn’t bad, either. Despite the week of rain and the slate grey skies and sea, the clouds thinned just enough to allow us a peek of radiant pink sky as the sun slipped away, a wonderful parting gift.

A YEAR AGO: Enjoying being chauffeured.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Remembering my grandfather. Love you and miss you, Hoho.

Stormy


Stormy Seas

On Fridays, it makes me happy to know that my siblings are happily asleep as I jolt workwards down the muddy driveway in the early morning darkness. The driveway is puddlier than ever thanks to the stormy visitors we have had lately. I am beginning to think that whoever did those rain dances to end the drought may have overdone it. The driveway is either dust or mud, depending on the time of year, and its muddiness has reached new heights (or depths, depending on how you look at it) this winter. I don’t think it’s ever been as potholed and puddled as it is now. I flinch for Wednesday as I am tossed around the car, even at less than five miles an hour.

Thursday’s storm was particularly intense, with heavy rains and high winds. We had already received five inches of rain this week before that storm. I hate to admit it, but I’m kind of done with the rain. At this point, everything is saturated and it’s just causing landslides and fallen trees, which in turn cause power outages.

We had a power outage at work this week. Oddly, it was calm and not raining when it happened, and it affected the entire Big Town and the Village while leaving Hooterville untouched for once. The generator kicked on to power the lights in the clinic area, and patients were still seen, using paper charts. The receptionists print out schedules ahead of time during stormy weeks. I used the time to catch up on my filing, which I had not done for a couple of months due to fundraiser madness and human nature’s* general dislike of filing.

I did enjoy the unaccustomed feeling of virtue, though, and the lights came back on shortly after I completed the filing so I could get back to work on computer-related tasks.

This morning dawned clear and bright. I was momentarily confused when I woke up and saw the moonlight, wondering what it was in my precaffeinated state. I will enjoy the lightness and brightness while it lasts. We are due to get more storms next week. The calm before the storm…

*Among my filing were some old personnel records, one of which included a resignation letter saying that working at the clinic had made this person grow as a professional and “a human been.”

A YEAR AGO: A delightful day with surfers, ballet and Thai food. What more could a girl want?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Poor Rob. And his pain in the neck.

Saturday

For some reason, I decided that this weekend was the perfect time to attempt this unnecessarily elaborate dish for Sunday dinner*. Despite my lack of religious upbringing**, and the fact that I try to dedicate as much of Sunday as I can to my personal favorite sin of sloth, I usually make something nicer than usual for Sunday dinner.

So I set it to marinate on Friday night, while I threw in a load of laundry*** and made an adult beverage, and on Saturday morning, I was at stage two of frying the garlic chips when someone walked into the house.

I fully expected it to be Rob, but it turned out to be an unknown teenage girl:

Girl: Is everyone asleep?
Me: Who are you?

She was a friend of one of Mark’s daughters, and had mistaken my house for theirs. This is the kind of thing that happens when you have five doors, none of which lock. That, and surprise appliances. She was more embarrassed than necessary, but that’s all part of the joy of being a teenager.

I put the roast into the slow cooker for stage three, and Megan and I headed to the Village to meet Erica and our favorite teenager at the bookstore overlooking the stormy ocean.
The Great Catsby looked down disdainfully from his perch, enjoying the distance from those ridiculous humans and their grubby paws:

not to mention their tiresome adulation. Jessica was cashing in her Christmas gift certificate, and Erica was torn between Advanced Style and do it yourself taxidermy. It was great to catch up with our favorite girls as we strolled the aisles. We are already planning this year’s Junapalooza celebration. Erica and I had considered Jellopalooza, using her collection of vintage Jell-O molds, but we decided that not even a coconut water and fresh blackberry gelatin confection would win over the picky eaters in our family, so Plan B is Pizzapalooza.

Erica thinks we can make a cobb pizza oven at Megan’s birthday celebration, which is conveniently located on the Memorial Day weekend, when we should have maximum free labor and time. Then we can use it for the Junapalooza celebration. If not, I am pretty sure that the evil geniuses of my brothers can come up with a grill-related solution so we can make our own pizzas.

After the bookstore, we browsed around the toy store, where I was charmed by felted whales and stuffed hedgehogs, though I resisted buying them. You are never too old to look through kaleidoscopes and try on Halloween hats, especially out of season.

Eventually, we parted ways, the girls to see “Hidden Figures” and Megan and I to run a few errands. It was great to see them. I love those girls!

*It was delicious, though labor-intensive.

**Being brought up by atheists can have its drawbacks.

***I’m addicted to this sea salt and neroli laundry soap thanks to Monica, who gave me a sample. The first one’s free…

A YEAR AGO: A look around the storm-tossed garden.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Darkness descended.

Surprise

I came home one day to find that I had a new refrigerator.

The appliance fairy had apparently come by while I was at work, leaving a gift that kept on giving.

The new refrigerator is bigger and blockier than the old one. It is unfortunately too tall to fit under the (admittedly makeshift) shelf on which I used to store frequently used items like salt, olive oil, and soy sauce:

So the shelf had to go, and I had to find alternative locations for its former residents. Some I consigned to the wilds of the pantry/laundry room/salle de bains des chats/flood zone, and some I squeezed in next to the bowls, etc. under the counter.

With the shelf went the (admittedly ugly) stove hood. I never used the fan, but I am surprised to note how much I miss the light over the stove, and not just for cooking. It had a friendly yellow light, and I had it on most winter evenings.

I am sorry to say that James’s (admittedly eccentric) electrical whimsy meant that Rob got zapped a couple of times during the stove hood removal process. Also that it disabled the outlet which formerly powered the microwave, so I now have a large orange extension cord leading to the bathroom outlet which takes up about 75% of the hallway/foyer and is almost guaranteed to precipitate an unfortunate Calamity Suzy episode in the middle of the night.

Having a giant, Giants orange extension cord sprawling all over is not a charming decorative motif, and neither is the shelfless kitchen at this stage:

Notice how the giant, Stalinesque lines of the new refrigerator dwarf the much more attractive, vintage Wedgewood stove. Oddly, the freezer capacity seems much less than the old refrigerator. And the manual which came with it warns that the new refrigerator may be “nosier” than the old one. So far, it seems to be as uninterested in my daily activities as the old one, but perhaps it is secretly taking notes or reading my emails after I go to sleep.

Rob is planning to make a new and prettier shelf. I believe he is planning to make it match the lovely shelving units he recently made. He also says that the hole you see above the stove can and will be made into an outlet for the microwave, so the extension cord will be banished. I am hoping it will be sooner rather than later.

A YEAR AGO: At the very fine (though very crowded) woodworking show.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Adventures in law enforcement.

The Main Event

Well, I survived the annual scourge of the work fundraiser. Barely.

It was as Sisyphean as I remembered. No matter how many hours I worked, I never got the things done I planned/needed to, making me feel both incompetent and stupider than usual, feelings I do not enjoy. And being loaded down with event-related duties did not excuse me from doing my (ir)regular job.

Once again, I logged between 50 and 60 hours of work and several bottles of wine in the week leading up to the event. I was in my stress sleep pattern: fall asleep exhausted for three or four hours, wake up and worry for a couple more, drift off as alarm goes off, so I was also sleep-deprived.

I would have been really glad when Friday came, if I didn’t have to work for free on Saturday. Sadly for me, I no longer had the iron clad excuse of working for money on Saturday to excuse me from working for free on Saturday*.

Fortunately for me, Megan’s plans for the day included walking her dogs on the beach and running errands in the Big Town, so she chauffeured me to the event site, giving us time to chat and for me to enjoy the scenery and not having to drive. We met up when my shift was over and did our grocery shopping together, and then headed home, where I took an unprecedented nap for two hours instead of answering my emails (which I will do soon!), cooking, or cleaning up the house as I should have been. Sometimes a girl just needs her beauty sleep.

*The new CEO of the jobette quit just a few months after taking the job, though in those months he managed to cost me my Saturday jobette and lost all of the staff he inherited except for one person. He is going back where he came from, and not a moment too soon.

A YEAR AGO: Just guess!

FIVE YEARS AGO: A midnight caller.

Rained In

Megan and I had grand plans to see the Bolshoi Ballet performing “Sleeping Beauty”, but Mother Nature had other plans.

The appointed day dawned dark and dreary, and as the day went on, it got rainier and rainier. We already knew that the Road to Civilization was flooded and closed:

and that it was very likely that the river over which the Road to the South Coast passes would flood, too, effectively stranding us on the South Coast if we made it that far. We speculated on how we might possibly get home if we were marooned, and decided that we’d have to keep going south to Jenner until we could find a road to take us to 101, then to 20, then from the Big Town back to Hooterville.

Since this winding route would take several hours and Megan was scheduled to work that night, we decided to stay home, missing both the glories of a beautiful ballet and the joys of Thai food.

We aren’t imagining that we’ve gotten a lot of rain this winter. Our friends at PG&E, those fearless repairers of power outages, say it’s been the wettest January in 20 years ’round these parts. The local message boards say we have received 16 inches of rain in January so far. I well remember the winter of 1996-1997, when it rained every single day in January and February. I worked in an old building in downtown San Francisco with exposed brick walls, and the rain ran down the walls – inside. I had clear plastic draped over my computer to cover it from the inside rainfall.

I still have inside rainfall. The laundry room has flooded as per usual, and the usual leaks have sprung to life. On the bright side, though, the drought is definitely on the run for now.

With no Thai food on the menu for dinner, I started rummaging around the freezer for a Plan B. While in the midst of this icy exploration, Rob came by to hang up a picture for me. Hanging up pictures on curved walls takes expertise and patience that are far beyond my mortal abilities, but are no problem for Super Rob:

After he hung up the picture, Rob also investigated why my vacuum cleaner’s performance had been suboptimal lately, and discovered a clog in the hose, which he removed, allowing me to vacuum up cat hair and pine needles with abandon.

With the house in order and the rain falling outside (and in), I curled up on the couch with a Patricia Highsmith novel under my grandmother’s ancient quilt, a cozy way to spend a winter afternoon.

A YEAR AGO: Adventures in cooking. It takes a special talent to need three takes in making mashed potatoes.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Rob was fixing things up around here then, too. I wonder how often he regrets his ridiculous sister-in-law moving to Hooterville.

Muddy

I finally got around to clearing up the worst of the storm damage around my house.

Several good-sized limbs had been removed from trees, and a couple of smallish trees were uprooted. I dragged the corpses out of the way and into the remaining woods. I didn’t rake up all the smaller fallen pieces, though, because we all know that there are more storms and more mess to come.

Speaking of mess, the clean up process was rendered messier and more challenging by Mark’s latest project. For reasons unknown to me, but presumably known to Mark, he decided to dig trenches to bury the electrical lines:

in the rainiest part of the year. This does not seem like a great idea to me, but then my knowledge of both trench digging and electrical systems is limited at best.

Burying the electrical wires that festoon our houses and surrounding trees does seem like a good idea, though, since they a) look terrible and 2) are more likely to come down in a storm, leading to further power outages. So I am willing to put up with the extra muddiness:

for now. Hopefully the mud will be graveled over when the project is finished.

While I was out there, I took a peek at the rest of the garden. The daffodils are beginning to poke through the soil:

as are the tulips:

I think I planted the tulips too late again – I should have done it around Thanksgiving instead of Christmas. I always want them to bloom in February along with the daffodils, but they really show up around March. Though March is the secret winter month no-one ever talks about.

The camellias still don’t have flower buds. They have never bloomed. I must be doing something wrong here. The main point of having them is to have flowers in the winter. I should ask Lichen about this. On the bright side, though, both of the orchids have flower spikes:

so they should be blooming pretty soon.

All in all, the garden came through the storms pretty well. Hopefully the rest of the winter won’t be too bad.

A YEAR AGO: A couple of coincidences.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Gorgeous shoes to covet.