Birthday Week


Good mail day

So far, I’m favorably impressed with the lead up to my birthday this year.

I’ve enough bad birthdays lately ($400 vet bill; 12 hour work day followed by fire-induced traffic stoppage on the way home from said 12 hour work day; power outage) to really appreciate a good one. Or even a good prequel.

A couple of days ago, I picked up the mail and was delighted to find that I had paid off Wednesday 7 months early! Not only that, I had overpaid, so a cashier’s check was included along with the beautiful pink title document. Mine, all mine!

As if that weren’t enough, there was also a check for website work and two early birthday cards from dear friends, one alerting me that a gift was on its way. I have the best friends ever!

I am coming to you from my bed at the outrageous hour of 8:00 am, with sunshine valiantly fighting its way through the fog to peer in the skylight and both kitties curled up and sleeping cutely. Is there anything cozier looking than a sleeping cat?

While still in my kitty PJs, I look pretty good, because I stopped by Angelika’s little salon in the big woods:

on my way home from work yesterday. She cut a couple of inches off my hair while we chatted and caught up. Being around Angelika is always inspiring, and I think she is as good for my spirit as she is for my hair. She also gave me a gift (unopened as yet), and a friend observed that there probably aren’t too many people who get presents from their hairdressers. But there also aren’t too many people like Angelika.

I had picked up dinner from Mayan Fusion on my way out of town last night, so dinner was ready when I got home. I have taken today and Monday off, so let the long birthday weekend begin!

A YEAR AGO: Playing post office.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A wonderful trip to the City. Chinese food, a new handbag, and the Beach Boys! What’s not to love?

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.

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.

Night and Day

Nothing like a bad night’s sleep to set you up for a weird day at work, I always say.

Clyde the cat decided the middle of the night was an excellent time to leap on my unsuspecting form. Like most males, of the feline persuasion or otherwise, he is decidedly pro-boobs*, persistently making them both his landing place and launching pad, to their owner’s varying levels of discomfort. In this case, I was unable to brace for impact, and my reaction affected his dismount, in which a back claw scratched the hell out of my nose. The Russian judge gave him a 1.0 and I applied Kleenex to the surprising amount of blood. Anything on your face just bleeds like crazy.

Despite my justifiable annoyance and Clyde’s characteristic insouciance – he was equally unperturbed when he celebrated the arrival of the shiny New Year by smashing a shiny new gift which had every reason to be on the shelf where he had no business being – I tried to get back to sleep. I was just beginning to drift away when I realized I was perfectly positioned to take full advantage of the leak in my ceiling. Given the height of the ceiling, the drips were able to achieve maximum velocity, and were able to achieve positively Clyde-like results of surprise and impact. I got a towel to catch the drips and relocated my head to other side of the bed.

Clyde, of course, was fast sleep through all of this. And the alarm.

The next day, I arrived at work to discover that my boss’s sidelight window beside her office door had been shattered by a person or persons unknown. I also had a phone call from the landlord of one of our doctors, complaining of, shall we say, some hygiene issues.

In disposing of lint from the dryer – they share laundry facilities and live on the same property – she discovered a very large and very dead rat in the garbage can. In addition to this non-paying rodential guest, he has failed to take out the garbage for months and his collection of detritus in the laundry room/garage/morgue features a moldering animal skin, or possibly skins.

When asked about this, he said that an injured deer had died near the garage. As anyone would in coming across free roadkill on the premises, he had butchered it and put the meat in the freezer. He considered the problem solved. I explained that memories of the deer remained in the skin and that it, the garbage, and rodents of any kind, alive or dead, needed to be removed from the premises before his landlord removed him. He promised to talk to his landlord.

It is amazing to me that he got through medical school. Though not that his daughter is a vegetarian.

**As Xander Harris aptly observed in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Men like sports. Men watch the action movie, they eat of the beef, and they enjoy to look at the bosoms.”

A YEAR AGO: Feeling powerless. ‘Tis the season!

New Year’s Day

New Year’s Day arrived with a bang at Suzy Manor – literally.

Clyde was exploring the impressive collection of Christmas cards on the shelves by the tree, and in his excitement, he managed to knock off and smash the beautiful little ornament which was one of the gifts I saved to open on Christmas evening:

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I vacuumed it up sadly. Clyde, of course, had no idea that he had upset the help along with the ornament. I will ask the giver where she got it and see if I can replace it. Not a great way to start the new year. I hope it’s not an omen or anything.

On the bright side, I failed to have a hangover, despite my best efforts on New Year’s Eve. Megan came by and we drank champagne and Cointreau as we watched “The Princess Bride”. It had been a long time since I’d seen it, and it was as delightful as ever.

We paused the movie to watch the ball drop in New York, marveling at the crowds, the utter lack of restroom facilities in Times Square, and the ugliness of the official hats. We also watched the new year arrive in San Francisco, with fireworks over the Bay. It’s been a while since I stayed up late enough to see the new year in on both coasts.

A YEAR AGO: I was much more industrious than I was this year.

2016

The sadness of losing my much-loved Roscoe at the end of the old year carried into the new year. A year later, I still can’t believe that his remarkable presence has been extinguished and that I will never have the joy of sharing my life with him again. I have yet to wash or dispose of his dish. I just can’t. A little spark of hope deep in my heart will never truly be doused, no matter what Logic decrees. I have never been a fan of Logic.

But there was light as well as shadow this year. I attended a beautiful wedding, some of my friends bought homes, and an unexpected visitor brought a lot of happiness with him on his epic road trip. I made a couple of little road trips myself, one south and one north.

Rainfall for the 2015-16 season was 55 inches. Rain started early for the 2016-17 season, beginning in September with a storm that dropped two inches in four days. Maybe this is a good sign for a wet winter. We can use every drop, a fact I must remind myself of when driving through it, especially in the ubiquitous winter darkness. So far for the 2016-17 season, we have received 23.4 inches, a good start.

Somehow, I managed to read more books than I did last year (103 vs. 85), despite working six days a week for most of it. Standouts included Sweetbitter, Dodgers, The Curse of Beauty, Everybody’s Fool, The Wicked Boy, The Wrong Side of Goodbye, and The Harder They Come.

Power Outages: I think we had three, which seems to be par for the course, but they seemed to occur more in the summer than the winter. What’s up with that?

Other than that, here’s what happened to our heroine this year:

January: I started the year off on a tidy note. It didn’t take long for the first power outage of the year to rear its ugly head. Same goes for Wednesday’s engine light. Some delightful coincidences. And some (mis)adventures in cooking. Trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to get everything done at work.

February: The wonderful woodworking show. A little preview of spring. A delightful day on the South Coast, with ballet and other pleasures. The first theater reading I have ever attended, though hopefully not the last. Our heroine finally leaves the County after a year and a half, heading to beautiful Monterey, where I visited the breathtaking Aquarium. Also beaches and farm stands.

March: A peek at our (eccentric) little corner of the world. And a delightful peek into its past. Not the most enjoyable morning ever. Family dinner to celebrate Dad’s birthday. The boys get the old grandfather clock running. Saturdays past and present.

April: Wednesday’s successful surgery. Road trips for everyone! Beauty inside and out. An early wake up call. Having the internet out for over a week is not the most festive way of celebrating my blogs 15th anniversary. Especially since the technician failed to show up. Our beloved Jessica turns 13! The kidlet is now a teenager. How did that happen?

May: Quilts, books, cats and dogs – just a perfect day in the Village. Rob’s incredible masterpiece. The last family dinner at Suzy Manor before they move to the family estate for the summer. The mystery of the cat in the night. A busy, but delightful, weekend. Out of season power outage. Celebrating Megan’s birthday in style.

June: An uneventful birthday for our heroine. Better than an eventful one! And the baby boy turns six, all by himself. Memorial Day BBQ with a side of bees. The joys of Junapalooza, showcasing the talents of the amazing Erica.

July: The ninth anniversary of Audrey’s reign. Lu and Rik’s beautiful, moving, wonderful wedding. It was such a joy to share that day with them and my family. I will always treasure that memory. A BBQ at the family estate with our extended family. A magical visit to the Botanical Gardens.

August: A bad omen, perhaps? Farewell to Jack, who first appeared in these pages as a dollar bill sized kitten. She was almost 17 and the last of the cats John and I had together. Much like when we lost Schatzi, it felt like Mom was really gone, losing Jack made me feel like our marriage was really over. Told you Logic and I don’t see eye to eye. Celebrating summer’s bounty with jam and a BBQ. Marking the 15th anniversary of losing my father and best friend. I will always love you, Dad. Thank you for always loving me, no matter what. A visit from our dear friend Clayton, garnished with a power outage. The two events were not connected. An obnoxious mountain lion made things a little scary for a while. He has since moved on – permanently, we hope.

September: September kicked off with a surprise visit that turned out to be utterly delightful. We had a great time going to the circus together, and having a BBQ at my brother’s place on his birthday. We sent our visitor on his way after giving his car a quick check up. Here’s to many happy returns! An exhausting visit from the Feds at work was followed by a delightful day at the Fair. As the month drew to an end, so did my jobette, for real-real this time. Lu, Megan, and I enjoyed dinner and a play together.

October: A look around my rather neglected garden, which still looks surprisingly good despite my lack of attention. It was a banner year for real estate for several of my friends. Megan and I enjoyed a cemetery tour in the Village. ‘Tis the season for scariness, but thinking I had lost my beloved Clyde was a little too scary. Fortunately, I was wrong. I love being wrong sometimes. Enjoying the rare gift of a day off. And a road trip north to the Drive Thru Tree and the One Log House. It was short, but sweet.

November: A trip to the magical South Coast for a play and some delicacies. A happy (and terrifying) Halloween. Speaking of terrifying, I hit a dog with the car. For the rest of my life, I will be a dog maimer. At least I wasn’t a dog murderer. My victim is recovering well and due back home from rehab on January 1. Regrets. I’ve had a few. Let the countdown to T-Day begin! Thanksgiving started a little earlier than I would have liked, but it was wonderful.

December: The traditional post-Thanksgiving craft fair. Going from the beach to the redwoods in one day. A candlelight shopping trip. Time to put up the vintage faux tree again! Taking Jessica to the Festival of Lights at the Gardens for the first time, but not the last. Getting ready for the big day. A merry Christmas celebrated on Christmas Eve, followed by a quiet Christmas Day.

A YEAR AGO: Remembering 2015.

Sparkling

On Saturday, Megan and I went to pick up Jessica at the Navarro General Store for our long-awaited trip to the Festival of Lights. We got there first, giving us time to admire Santa in his huge (moving!) snow globe:

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I enjoyed watching Santa in the seasonably cold weather, though Jessica commented that “It’s not like the Navarro Store is a cultural cornerstone.” This is true. It is also a scary place to boy shop, being almost entirely populated by the dentally challenged and overalls enthusiasts. Megan and I have had many enjoyable games of “I’ll fight you for him” there.

On our way to the Gardens, we decided to put Dad’s ornament on the tree near Dark Gulch:

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Here’s a closer look at the ornaments:

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Jessica considered carefully where to locate the bird ornament:

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I wish Dad had known her. He would have loved her. Here’s the ornament in its new home:

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It’s nice to know it’s there. Somehow it makes me feel that Dad is part of Christmas this year.

Arriving at the Gardens, Megan’s parking karma held, as she pulled neatly into the last space available, which was also right out front. This year, there were parking attendants sending dejected cars to the “event parking” far, far away. I imagine that when we left, our spot was filled in about .000003 seconds.

The Gardens are always beautiful, but they are especially magical when they are dressed in holiday lights:

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I loved the smoking volcano:

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And the ship with a whale:

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We stopped to roast marshmallows and warm up a little by the fire:

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You will be unsurprised to hear that both my marshmallow toasting and eating techniques left much to be desired. They also left marshmallow in my hair.

When we got home, we had a fun movie extravaganza: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Legally Blonde, and The Devil Wears Prada. Clyde always loves company, and even Audrey was slightly less disdainful than usual. Jessica observed, “Cats are so easy to spoil. And there are no consequences.” This is true, unlike with kids and dogs. At some point in the evening, Audrey was meowing and I asked her what she wanted. Jessica said, “She’s not going to tell you. She’s a cat. And you’re an inferior human. It’s how cats think.”

Later, when I was writing out a shopping list for Megan – we split up the final Christmas shopping this week – Jessica remarked that “Handwriting is the written equivalent of the sound of someone’s voice. Isn’t it cool how we all learn to write the same letters and numbers, but we all do it in our own way?” Yes, and you are the most amazing kid ever.

It was so fun to hang out with her and finally have our sleepover. I hope there are more to come. It’s good to know we’ll be seeing her (and the inimitable Erica) this Saturday, too!

A YEAR AGO: Making Christmas.

‘Tis the Season

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My old friend the moon was blasting this morning, looking suitably Halloween-y and illuminating the road and the ocean the whole way to work in the early morning darkness. It was a welcome change from the conditions I faced last week.

The first storm of the season made an early and dramatic appearance, rocking and rolling all night and leaving a frat party sized mess in its wake. The Ridge was covered with fallen red needles from redwood trees, which are very slippery, and they completely hid both the center line of the road and the edge of it, not to mention the car-eating ditches on each side.

It was still raining and windy, and fog ghosts threw themselves suicidally in front of my car as I drove at a grandmotherly rate through the dark and stormy morning. I blasted KISS and AC DC full tilt to distract me from the horror. I guess it’s not exactly a spoiler to tell you that I survived the drive.

At work, I discovered that my office had become festive overnight:

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I couldn’t help wondering if it was a compliment or an insult to find a witch on my office door. Are you trying to tell me something?

Meanwhile, back at my house, things were also festive:

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All it needs to complete the Halloween effect is a black cat. You can’t tell from the photo, but in fact there was a black cat loitering in the hallway and peering through the glass in the blue door when I took the picture. Clyde has been spending a lot more time inside lately. A couple of weeks ago, he was not there when I came home, and repeatedly calling him did not result in his appearance.

Panicking as the sky began to darken, I drove out to the Ridge, where I left the car to see if he had been hit by a car and to check the haul road behind the house where he likes to play and roll in the dust. I made the unpleasant discovery that the gate is now locked, making unauthorized human entrance impossible.

I went back to the house and kept looking and calling until it was dark. I was completely sure that my adored and adorable Clyde had joined his beloved brother Roscoe in oblivion and that Audrey was truly the winner of Survivor: Hooterville. Imagine my surprise and delight when he magically appeared at the sliding glass doors around 9:30 as if nothing had happened.

He was undoubtedly mystified when I picked him up and cried into his fur, kissing and hugging him and generally making a complete fool of myself. Clyde was far more interested in the traditional welcome home treats and dinner than he was in being fussed over. You could practically see a thought balloon over his head saying, “What the hell, lady?”

I’m sorry to say that I kept him inside for the next two days, though he undoubtedly didn’t make the connection between his night on the town and his sudden incarceration any more than dogs understand that playing with skunks inevitably leads to a bath. Fortunately, Clyde would make a pretty good house cat and doesn’t seem to mind that there’s been less recess these days.

A YEAR AGO: A long and daunting week came to a happy end.

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.

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.

The Kitty Report

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Birthday Girl

It’s the ninth anniversary of Audrey arriving on the planet and showing it who’s boss this Saturday. She shows no signs of slowing down or becoming less obnoxious with age. She still terrorizes Mark’s dogs and bosses Clyde and me around. Clyde and I are equal recipients of Audrey’s patented stink eye and passing swipes.

She continues to have her special privileges, such as going out first thing in the morning, when it’s dark and scary out. Possibly the Monsters are also afraid of her. When she comes back in, which is pretty soon these days, she hops up on the table for her welcome home treats. Clyde gets his on the floor, and Audrey will not eat hers if she is on the same level as Clyde. Nor will she come in a door if he is there. I usually have to pick him up so she will come in when she returns in the mornings, even though Clyde squirms like crazy for fear of missing the impending welcome home treats.

Lately, Audrey has been usurping Clyde’s favored spots. I have found her sitting on my desk and looking outside, and also sleeping on the armoire, usually Clyde’s favored napping spot:

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unless it’s too hot, in which case he dozes on the stairs in the pathway of the fan’s breeze.

It’s been a pretty warm summer so far, so it’s good that Clyde has successfully overcome his fear of ice cubes:

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because there is ice in my drinks more often than not these days. At least he avoids the adult beverages.

It’s a particularly festive weekend for Audrey’s birthday this year. It’s a holiday weekend, which of course it should be, but it also marks Megan and Rob’s 25th anniversary (today!) and Lu and Rik’s wedding (tomorrow!).

All you need is love. And cats.

A YEAR AGO: Things were on the stinky side at Suzy Manor. Much, much later – and not reported in these pages – the true source of the Smell was discovered. It was the remains of an extremely dead rat housed in the grandfather clock. Still don’t know how it got in there and closed the door behind itself, or why it didn’t just push the door open and get out. Yet another mystery for Nancy Drew! This one will remain unsolved, though. ~shudder~

Birthday Boy

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My Baby Boy

I am pleased to say that Clyde’s birthday yesterday was also (mostly) uneventful. The same day my little guy turned 6 years old, I came home to find a mostly intact but decidedly ex baby bird on the carpet.

As I disposed sobbily of the sad little unfledged body (to be fair, he likely fell from the nest and Clyde just delivered him to the house) in the woods, it occurred to me that the body count has dropped severely since Roscoe disappeared. It’s been months since I came home to a deconstructed bird or a former squirrel, or was woken up by a midnight mouse chase.

I would happily clean up bodies with the regularity of a Manhattan morgue worker if it meant I got Roscoe back. Clyde’s birthday will always be bittersweet since Roscoe is no longer here to share it with him.

Six months after losing the Mysterious Mr. Roscoe, I still miss his stealthy but remarkable presence in my life. Slinking through the house, always taking the route under the stairs. Sleeping on my pillow. The unique and delicious scent of his rough, yet soft fur: cold woods, a touch of pine resin, fresh air and warm Roscoe. How he had a white heart pattern on his chest and loved to stretch out extravagantly and have his narrow little belly rubbed, the only undignified thing he ever did.

It does make me realize though that Roscoe had a wilder nature than Clyde. He spent a lot of time in the woods and his love of hunting probably led to his loss, but perhaps he died the way he lived, much like our beloved Schatzi when she decided to leave us.

As for the birthday boy, he too has been changed by the loss of his brother. He spends more time at home and needs more cuddling than ever. He can often be found sitting on my desk, staring off into the woods, even when the doors are wide open and he could go into the woods himself. I believe he saw what happened to Roscoe or somehow knows. At a minimum, he misses the twin he shared the first five years of his life with.

I am thankful that Clyde is staying closer to home, and thankful for his sweetness to balance Audrey’s spiciness. He will always be my baby boy.

A YEAR AGO: I was limpy.

Uneventful Birthday

I am pleased to announce that my birthday this year was uneventful. Maybe it’s getting older, or maybe it’s because my birthdays have been on the disastrous side over the last few years (a roadside fire; a power outage; losing the Beautiful June Bug). No news is definitely good news.

I was gifted with the welcome sight of silvery fog misting through the redwoods on my birthday morning after a week of miserable 80+ degree days. The tent-like inside of my house being 84 degrees or more every day when I got home from work made me sad. Especially when it cooled down outside and stayed resolutely hot and blanketless inside. I am already sick of summer, and it’s barely June.

In addition to the loveliness of fog, I enjoyed the sight of a Steller’s Jay flicking its electric blue plumage on the fan palm in the backyard, as well as the astonishing sight of Clyde and Audrey actually sitting near each other on purpose! While awake!

kitty1

Here’s another view of the astonishing détente:

kitty2

I don’t think I have ever seen this before. Audrey mostly ignores Clyde, or swipes at him casually in passing, mostly because she’s Audrey. Oddly, Audrey will absolutely not come in the house if Clyde is anywhere near the door. Since Audrey’s return home often heralds the arrival of treats, Clyde is eager for her to come in and hovers anxiously by the door, much as he hovers under my feet at feeding time. So I have to pick him up in order for Her Majesty to deign to come in. I think we all know who is in charge at my house, and it ain’t Me.

Clyde turns 6 this week, and next month marks the 9th year of Audrey’s reign. I wish many happy returns for all of us, all together.

A YEAR AGO: Not the best birthday ever.

Spring Staycation

It’s 9:00 am and I have already done two loads of laundry and put them away; made pizza dough; washed a load of dishes; swept the stairs and floor; and finally filed paperwork on my desk and put the files in Rob’s amazing cabinet.

I also unpacked a box of books, including classics like The Poky Little Puppy, which used to be my favorite book as a child. My Dad read it to me so often that he used to read it with the pages facing me, his eyes closed. I never got tired of it. Other discoveries included a book on Queen Mary’s Dollhouse (as fascinating to me now as it was then) and a story John wrote about our cat Jack when she was still a kitten. She is the only surviving cat we had together and I don’t want to think about how old she is now.

While unpacking the books, I discovered a fairly sizable scorpion. Its claws freaked me out, but I swept it into the dustpan and then into the woods, where I hope it stays.

I rewarded this industriousness by going with Megan to the farmers’ market in the Village. I picked up some rhubarb and a fresh baguette:

baguette

Later, we took the dogs for a stroll in the Village. As usual, Megan took Star and I took Stella, or Stella took me. I discovered that we had many shared interests in common, since she bounded joyfully into a bar as if she were Norm on “Cheers” and went there every day, then into the ocean view bookstore, and then a jewelry store. It was challenging to remove her from these places, and the attention she got from total strangers didn’t help. Stella clearly preferred running a tab, shopping, and petting to walking on the boring sidewalk, and I can’t say I blamed her.

A YEAR AGO: Megan’s giant birthday BBQ, and Erica’s best prank ever!

Weather or Not

valley
Beautiful Anderson Valley

The weather has been a combo platter this week. We came off a string of grey, cloudy days, bemoaned by most but secretly enjoyed by me, to a couple of hot days by coastal standards, and delightful rain showers this morning.

It’s amazing how quickly I get sick of the heat. I came home, got out of the car, and thought, “Well, that’s unpleasant.” In the tent-like nature of my house, it was 82 degrees both inside and outside. I sighed and put the fans on. Clyde was melted on the stairs. It was not good weather to be black and furry.

Now, people think Clyde is a doofus – and I’m not saying he isn’t – but he is also smarter than he gets credit for sometimes. He lies right where the ceiling fan sends its breezes, ruffling his overheated fur. Audrey, of course, lounges in the shade on the balcony, and just like she can come in from the rain magically dry, she also never seems to get too hot.

Whereas I hate it when I don’t need a light sweater in the day and I have to sleep blanketless at night. Clyde joins me in my love of the comforter. These days, I have been folding it at bedtime and putting it on the rocking chair my great-grandfather made for my great-grandmother, and often Clyde jumps onto it before I can even get it on the chair. Then he sleeps there all night in comforter majesty, leaving me both blanketless and Clydeless.

This morning, I woke up to the happy sound of rain pattering on the roses on the balcony and Clyde purring beside me. The house is also humming with its civilized ration of electricity, which it was not at this time yesterday.

Megan barely made it home from her fourth night shift of the week yesterday morning before the power went out. And I was lucky enough to already be at work, because someone crashed into a power pole at 7:30 am on the Ridge, shearing it off so it fell onto the road, closing it to traffic until a tow truck could come and remove the old pole and our trusty friends at PG&E could bring and install a new one.

Power pole installation is a lengthy business. They were not finished until 5:30 that afternoon.

Megan and I left our powerless houses to go to a sale at a garden center in Anderson Valley, where we failed to find the pickling cucumbers of our dreams, but I was utterly charmed by a ceramic chicken:

chicken

On our way home, we naturally stopped at Libby’s to pick up dinner. We were rewarded not only by al pastor, but by running into Dr. Sue and her husband, who were having dinner there. We had such a good time chatting, and we promised each other that we would meet up properly soon and spend some time together.

A YEAR AGO: A new hairdo and a new play with old friends.

Mystery Cat

Speaking of cats…

Remember the white cat who made an uninvited appearance early one morning, simultaneously driving Audrey insane and cutting short my much-needed beauty sleep? I have finally solved the Mystery of the Cat in the Night*.

One night, Mark called me to ask if I had a white cat, because there was a large one treed outside in his house and making a large fuss about the predicament he found himself in. You’d think Mark would know that my dwindling supply of cats now only includes Clyde, who is jet black and rarely leaves the manor, and Audrey, who is stripy and whose hobby is terrorizing Mark’s dogs, but apparently not.

So I disclaimed ownership of the mysterious cat in the night, while being pretty sure it was the same one who had annoyed Audrey about a week before**.

The next morning, while I was drinking my coffee and perusing the local message boards, I came across a frantic message from someone who was missing a large white cat in my neighborhood. I emailed her and told her that as of the previous evening, the cat was up at a tree at my neighbor’s house.

She replied with relief, since it turned out that she was taking care of her son’s cat while he and his wife were on vacation and she was horrified that she had lost the cat. Being a small town, it also turned out that the cat’s owner was a long-time friend of my brother’s.

I alerted Mark, gave the cat sitting mother his address and directions, and went to work. I later learned that attempts to persuade the cat out of the tree were unsuccessful, and they had to call in the services of a semi-professional cat remover, who is well versed in dislodging disobliging felines from trees. He brought a ladder and a box, and apparently of all the cats he has relocated from their arboreal perches, this is the only one who didn’t pee on him during the process, so it was considered a win all the way around.

I am pleased to say that I haven’t seen the white cat again. Hopefully he is staying a little closer to home these days.

A YEAR AGO: Trying to accept my new lot in life. Still trying!

*If this isn’t a Nancy Drew title, it should be.

**A perusal of my blog shows that this same cat was annoying Audrey almost exactly a year ago. I hope this isn’t becoming an annual tradition.

Up & At ‘Em

evilgenius
Thanks, Evil Genius!

You can get a LOT done by 8:00 am if your cat wakes you up at 4:30 on a Sunday morning. Not that I am recommending this particular method of efficiency. Still, I have already: cooked for the week; done the cooking-induced dishes; done the laundry and put it away; taken out the garbage, compost, and recycling; and put out my clothes and accessories for the work week, a remarkable achievement on four hours’ sleep after a crazy work week. You know who to thank/blame…

I woke to the distinctive and distinctly unsettling sound of two cats growling at each other, making preparatory “You want a piece of me?” fight noises. Audrey was at the sliding glass doors in the living room, and I flipped on the outside light.

I have to admit that part of me was hoping it might be Roscoe, even though Audrey probably wouldn’t growl at him. However, instead of being a slim black cat, it was a large, fluffy white cat. The interloper was standing on the back porch (my grandiose term for a bunch of two foot wide boards hammered together) peeking in. He clearly belongs to someone, being both well fed and clean, but was in no particular hurry to return to his home, wherever it was.

Audrey flung her little stripy body against the glass, shaking it in its runners as her tail puffed up and her growl got louder. Clyde got out of bed to see what all the fuss was about, watching the proceedings from the safety of the stairs:

clydestairs

When Audrey began clawing at the glass as well as growling her loudest, he made a few little growls of his own.

I had never heard the baby boy growl before, and I have to say the results were more cute than intimidating. Eventually, the white cat wandered off, waving his plumy tail with disdain that only made Audrey more incensed. When the show was over, Clyde went back to bed, but Audrey remained on Orange Alert at her post, even though I turned off the lights. I’m pretty sure White Cat won’t be back. Also that it may be time for a nap.

A YEAR AGO: Sigh.

Unhappy Feet

It was a dark and stormy morning. I started it off on the wrong foot by putting my bare one into an alarmingly big (and remarkably cold) puddle by the table in the kitchen. That’s what I get for running around barefoot. My late, lamented stepmother found this habit deplorable. To her, only poor people went around with no shoes and it was utterly shameful.

Unfortunately for all of us, she was not around to see me get my comeuppance, or to notice the other big puddle near the sliding glass doors. Feeling like my house was falling apart around me, I went to feed the kitties, only to discover a large and slimy banana slug* in Clyde’s dish. I’m not sure which of us was more concerned. Clyde looked at it in horror (maybe it had bare feet) while I threw caution and the slug to the winds by grabbing it in my bare hands and chucking it into the woods. Why should my feet have all the fun?

The fun was just beginning. When I turned on the water in the shower, the water stayed persistently cold. It normally takes a while to warm up, and in the winter, I don’t have to add cold water to the hot, but it soon became clear that the pilot light in the flash heater was out.

As you would only expect in a house as eccentric as mine, where the light switches say “NO” when they’re on and you turn them off by flipping them up, the flash heater is located outside. Yes, where they keep the wind and the rain.

I pulled my coat, hat and flowered rain boots on over my PJs and deplorably bare feet and went out to investigate with a flashlight. It’s at moments like this when you realize that no matter how faux, you are in fact a grown up, and no one else is going to fix your flash heater in the early morning rainy darkness. I thought longingly of my brother-in-law Rob, sleeping innocently just yards away, and his ability to fix everything**. He could take care of this in less time than it took me to put on my coat and hat.

I couldn’t make it light by pushing the igniting button, so I went back inside and got one of those barbecue lighters. Then I pressed the gas button with one hand and, leaning back as far as possible, applied the lighter through the hole in the front and hoped for the best. I am pleased to report that nothing exploded and I lived to tell the tale. Also that the flash heater lit and stayed lit, much like F. Scott Fitzgerald.

On the other hand, my bare feet also discovered that Clyde had thrown up on the bathmat. At least it was on the way into the shower.

*When I still lived in the city, I came up here to visit my sister. Her bathroom is off the front porch, and when I went to use it late one night, I discovered a banana slug had wrapped itself around the doorknob by wrapping my hand around the banana slug. I shrieked with horror and I still think I could hear my brother-in-law snickering.

**He’s building more shelves for me! Stay tuned!

A YEAR AGO: Remembering my beloved father on his birthday.

Early Morning Rain

Hi! It’s 4:30 am! Want to take one guess why I’m up at this ridiculous hour?

You’re right. Of course it’s Audrey.

I tried to ignore her relentless pounding at the balcony door and the scritch of her claws against the glass of the sliding doors downstairs, but eventually, as she knew I would, I got up, put the outside lights on (go away, monsters!) and let her out in the storm that’s been battering the house since yesterday*, hoping that her stripy, featherweight body wouldn’t blow away. Possibly the wind wouldn’t dare to mess with her, though.

As I turned on the coffeemaker and the heater, I was thankful for the power still being on, a bet I would have lost. The winds were furious and the rain was slashing yesterday afternoon and into the evening. My friend and neighbor Jim said that one of his inside doors had slammed shut because of wind blasting through a dog door. Yikes.

So I went to bed resigned to waking up in the cold and dark, which I did, but not in the way I expected.

Um…thanks for the extra-long Sunday, Audrey?

There’s still a chance of a power outage as another storm is set to rage through here today, but I hope not. March has come in like a lion!

ocean
Stormy Ocean

My house has sprung a couple of new leaks, which I will have to tell Mark about. One upstairs, and one downstairs. The exact location of leaks can be complicated by the curved walls/roof.

Outside, the orchid has begun to bloom:

orchids

We are a little concerned about the orchard over at the family estate, though. There are blossoms on all the trees, so if the rain and wind blow them off, there will be a lot less fruit this summer. Hopefully our bees have been busy pollinating.

*Just emptied four inches of rain out of the gauge!

A YEAR AGO: March madness, in the hated form of Daylight Savings Time. Maybe all my complaining is finally paying off, because a San Jose assemblyman is planning to introduce a bill to Congress to end the madness. As the Beach Boys would say, wouldn’t it be nice?

Home Again

My culinary errands were not 100% successful. I found myself unable to face the line at Swan’s. Even at 10:30 am, the line was a block long and my patience wasn’t. I also struck out at Bob’s Doughnuts, where they were sold out of old fashioneds, so I settled for two cinnamon cake doughnuts. Of course Victor’s never lets me down, and I bought a surprise pizza for Megan and Rob to thank them for their cat sitting while I was away.

It was a bright, sunny day as I left the city, the Bridge gleaming International Orange in the sun, the white sails of boats dotting the blue Bay and the pastel houses tumbling down the hills. The hills closer to home were the deep green of winter, but starred with California poppies, daffodils, and calla lilies. The vineyards slept, but around them trees were hazed with green leaves and clouds of pink and white blossoms. Weeping willows dipped their long fronds into rivers that are rivers again instead of trickles.

Through the tall, dark, and handsome redwoods and out to the ocean, which was showing off for me. For the first time in three years, I missed my brother’s Polar Plunge, where he jumps in the freezing water to benefit Special Olympics, usually after singing a song while in costume. This year, it was “Under the Sea” from “The Little Mermaid”, and Megan was there to cheer him on and send me this photo of our merman after the jump:

JD

I am so proud of him!

Arriving home, I was greeted by Luna and Lupe, wagging their tails and jumping for joy as I petted them, and Megan, who happened to arrive home at the same time. Megan was much more helpful at unloading the car than the dogs were. Pets, I have noticed, never feel that they need to lend a paw with the housework.

Megan’s delight at the unexpected pizza delighted me. And it was nice to have unloading help. As we worked, we caught up on what had happened during my short absence.

Clyde came running to me, meowing his distinctive ClydeSound(TM), and I picked him up and cuddled him while he purred and pressed his head against me. Audrey, of course, does not permit such indignities as Being Picked Up, and she kept swatting me every time I passed her. I’m not sure if she was asking for attention or letting me know how annoyed she was at my absence, but hey – it’s Audrey. She also chased Lupe and Luna away with her tail all puffed up and giant.

My house seems amazingly quiet after Monterey and San Francisco, with their traffic and sirens and people yelling and honking. All I can hear are frogs peeping and cats purring. I’m really glad that I listened to Megan’s advice and came home on Saturday, so I have all of Sunday to relax and get ready to jump back on the hamster wheel on Monday.