Thanksgiving

November 28th, 2021

I woke up to the sun peeking coyly through the redwoods outside my bedroom window on Thanksgiving morning, the sunlight missing its usual PJs of fog and mist. I love waking up when it’s light out, instead of in night-like darkness, as I do for the majority of the year.

I don’t love being woken by Clyde walking all over me and patting my face with his paw, though. Like many of us, Clyde seems to be under the illusion that he is much smaller and lighter than he actually is, though fortunately for him, he is even more beautiful and adorable than he thinks. He is not, however, a tiny kitten.

I accepted the inevitable and got up, enjoying the feel of bare feet on the smooth wood floors and the soft rug in the bathroom. I reminded myself that I was lucky that all three of my cats are happy and healthy, and that one day, I would be missing them and wish they were here, waking me up and annoying me. My boss lost her beloved kitten Peanut a couple of weeks ago, to something horrible called FIP, which I had never heard of before and wish I never had. Peanut was only 10 months old, and she was devastated to lose him so young. It reminded me to be thankful for having three cats, ages 14, 11, and 5, all safe and healthy.

After feeding and caring for the cats, which is the first thing I do every day – before coffee, my friends – I went downstairs to make coffee and text my siblings, who are working, to wish them a happy Thanksgiving. I hope we can have dinner soon.

While I waited for the coffee to be ready in the stainless steel – Suzy proof! – French press, I tossed the stalenizing bread for stuffing, or dressing, as my Southern friends call it, which I cut up after work on Tuesday to start it drying out. Even when you aren’t having company, there’s a certain amount of labor involved in a Thanksgiving dinner.

I had ordered a turkey breast two weeks earlier, in preparation for my modest celebration, and went to pick it up after work on Thanksgiving Eve. Imagine my surprise when none of the three Susans on the list at the butcher counter were this particular Susan. Fortunately, the kindly butcher was able to find a turkey breast for this great-granddaughter of a butcher, and dinner was saved.

A YEAR AGO: My alter ego?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Thanksgiving aftermath.

TEN YEARS AGO: Thanksgiving wrap up.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Some chaos in my life.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Picking up my repaired diamond watch. I still love it. I still have the raw opal studs and I still wear them.

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Growing

November 24th, 2021

The kittens John rescued earlier this month are continuing to grow and thrive. He is still being like their mom, feeding them every few hours, and stimulating them to poop and pee, and then tidying that up. I don’t know how he has done this for the last few weeks. He is so dedicated! He did say, “It’s going to be hard to let them go, because caring for them is bonding, and I need them used to people, so it’s lots of contact all the time.”

They recently started walking, a big milestone. Hopefully soon John can start getting a little rest. I am so proud of him for all his hard work with these little guys. Not too many people would be willing to do this for weeks while working a full-time job. Glad he is working at home and can do this. I bet the kittens take up more time than the actual job does.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I am thankful that John is making a difference and helping the cats in his neighborhood. I am thankful that we are still a part of each other’s lives and that we always will be. I am thankful for my family and friends and to be breathing and walking on this beautiful planet we call home.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Getting ready for Thanksgiving.

TEN YEARS AGO: Thanksgiving prep.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Thanksgiving in New York.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Surviving our first Thanksgiving without Dad.

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Glue

November 15th, 2021


The Bathmat Boys

Here you see Clyde (left) and Dodge, watching me get ready to go to work. Not pictured: Audrey sitting on the windowsill, giving the Bathmat Boys the Laser Glare of Death, which they are calmly ignoring. I think Audrey dreams of a boy-free life.

Later that morning, with the cats fed and treated and my faux adult armor dutifully applied, I set off on the long drive to work. It’s like driving through a horror movie, and it seems pretty long these days. I am driving more slowly than my speedy nature enjoys on the dark, foggy roads, fearing the appearance of unexpected deer in the headlights. I managed to avoid hitting two of them on this particular morning, and I was also completely charmed by the sight of a frog leaping gracefully across the Ridge in the pool of light from my high beams. This time of year, the frogs are singing joyfully to welcome the annual rains. I love sitting in my bed on a weekend morning and listening to their song. It’s like the winter version of summer crickets.

My plans for weekend cooking went awry, and I am blaming Amazon for it.

I wanted to make more har gao and chive dumplings, so I ordered the necessary starches from Amazon. They were due to arrive on Friday, and I had them sent to the house instead of the post office box, so I could get cooking on Saturday morning. The box was waiting when I got home from work on Friday night, and I thought all cooking systems were go.

Imagine my surprise when I opened up the box and discovered…a tube of epoxy glue.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Even inexperienced cooks can see that glue is not an effective substitute for wheat starch or tapioca starch, or any kind of starch, really. Nor is glue a helpful ingredient in dim sum. I took a dim view of this.

I ventured to the Village the next day to see if I could locate the necessary ingredients, without much hope, and in this, I was sorry for once to be right. I couldn’t find them anywhere, so I reordered from Amazon after getting a refund for the original order. I tried to shop local!

I picked up a pizza for dinner instead, and hopefully I will be making deferred dim sum next weekend.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Food is love, even at work.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Have a seat.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Selecting Beaujolais Nouveau for Thanksgiving.

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Tiny

November 2nd, 2021

John and I never had kids, for which we are both eternally grateful, but lately he has been conducting his very own experiment in sleep deprivation. Because of babies. Baby cats, that is. Because you know that’s how John rolls.

For some reason, the Home Depot in Hayward, where John lives, is also Cat Depot. People seem to think this is the perfect place to drop off cats and kittens, and left to their own devices, they have been merrily (in)breeding ever since. John has valiantly trapped, neutered and released many of these cats, and has also fostered and adopted out more than a dozen kittens. Faithful readers may recall how he rescued pregnant Willow and saved her life, along with the two live kittens, Daisy and Peach (two other kittens did not survive and had to be surgically removed). All of them would have certainly died if John had not taken them in.

He feeds and waters the colony cats daily, and has set up shelters for them as well. He recently came across some kittens that were barely days old. A consultation with his local vet established that the kittens would not survive on their own, and that it was unlikely that their mother was going to come back for them, assuming she was around and it wasn’t just some fiend in human form that abandoned the babies to their fate.

So John took them in, and has been feeding them with special kitten food in a dropper ever since:

He also has to stimulate them to poop and pee, since they don’t know how and this is something their mother would do. Apparently cotton balls are needed for this process. They also need to be burped, much like human babies.

Despite their bad beginning in life, these little kittens are fighters, so John named them all after characters in “Rocky”. This is Rocky:

This is Apollo:

This is Adrian:

and this is Pauly:

Note teeniness of kittens next to John’s hand and the feeding syringe.

They have a fighting chance at a good life since being rescued by a good man. I hope they make it, and I hope they find the loving homes they deserve.

Bonus: Here’s my boyfriend Frank, looking happy after dinner the other night:

Frank is still his lovably fighty, tough guy self, showing up with scratches occasionally, but lately sleeping in a cozy bed on John’s porch:

His fighty nature (note healing wound on his handsome forehead) makes it impossible for him to live inside, but at least he’s getting fed and has a safe and warm place to sleep. I am so thankful to John for helping the cats in his neighborhood.

A YEAR AGO: A beautiful day in the Valley.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A visit to the South Coast.

TEN YEARS AGO: A swimming snag.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Having fun in Detroit.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Weight loss can be a problem.

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Birthday

September 24th, 2021

I got an email from John the other day, telling me that Peach and Daisy were now a year old. I can’t believe that it was a whole year ago that he rescued the pregnant and nervous Willow, who would certainly have died, since Peach and Daisy’s littermates died before they could be born and had to be surgically removed.

But Peach and Daisy are alive and well and happy. They still cuddle up together, and John sent me two delightful movies, which I will share with you here. I can’t improve on his descriptions:

In the first video, first-born Peach is already nursing, and Daisy is squeaking loudly for food. She still does that today. She’s never missed a meal in her life and she’s always crying like she’s starving. She’s a complete drama queen.

The second Video_1 is breakfast this morning. Note that Willow is still wary of what I might do to her.

It makes me happy to see the rescued cats so happy. John mentioned lately that he has rescued and rehomed around 35 cats so far, including 13 kittens that he has fostered and (amazingly) gotten adopted (instead of keeping them). He’s really making a difference.

A YEAR AGO: Car problems.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The joys of the County Fair.

TEN YEARS AGO: Clyde was recovering from his chin abscess, despite my benign neglect. I guess the parenting apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Allergies are not a beauty treatment.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Trying to focus on the positive.

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Cattitude

August 12th, 2021

People say cats are aloof, but mine aren’t.

Even Audrey, who is rightfully known for her general grumposity and imperious cattitude, cuddles up to me when I read in bed at night or lounge around reading my fan mail on the weekends. She sits right next to me, purring. Sometimes she butts her head against me, which is Audrey for “Pet me, silly human”. She also supervises me when I get ready for work in the morning. After all, her eyeliner is always perfect.

Lately, Dodge has decided that I need supervision in the morning, too. Unfortunately, his version of helping is not all that helpful. He plants himself firmly in front of the Rob-made ceramic tray which holds all my potions and elixirs which need to be applied to my face before the make-up goes on:

It makes it hard to reach them, and sometimes Dodge bats at me as I reach over him or into the bathroom cabinet behind him.

Thanks for the assist, Dodge.

He makes up for this with his endearing habit of jumping while simultaneously rubbing against me, which is as cute as it sounds. He also requires a minimum daily amount of petting.

As for my Clyde, he always greets me at the door when I come home. It makes my heart leap to see his little face peering through the glass when I finally get home from work. Around 7:00 every evening, he comes downstairs and sits next to me on the couch, even if what I’m watching on TV is not appropriate for baby boys.

Clyde has continued his recent quirk of patting my face with his paw if he needs attention, and of course he still climbs up onto my left shoulder (always the left) to be cuddled as needed. All three of them sleep on the bed with me every night, and it makes me happy to spend the weekend mornings in bed together. They are such good company. And while they may be many things – cute, naughty, annoying, soft, curious – they are never aloof.

A YEAR AGO: A lot of sadness for one little town.

FIVE YEARS AGO A lot of sadness on one day.

TEN YEARS AGO A wake up call from Audrey.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A cat rescue.

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Five

May 11th, 2021


Birthday Boy

Dodge turns five today!

Or five-ish, at least. The vet estimated that he was around two years old when I adopted him three summers ago. I gave him my much-loved American grandfather HoHo’s birthday, May 11, since HoHo loved cats, and he and Dodge are both mischievous, loving rascals who brought love and laughter to me and are eternally happy and optimistic. I think HoHo would be crazy about beautiful, happy little Dodge* and would enjoy his antics.

Lately, I’ve been wondering why Dodge chose that particular day to follow my co-worker home. The employees at the eponymous car dealership had seen him around for weeks (yet they did not see fit to give him food or water, or even call the Humane Society), and he was homeless long enough to be starved, flea-ridden, and partly bald from exposure, even though it was summer. So he was out there for quite a while. What made him decide to follow Susan home that sunny summer day?

I’ll never know, but I do know that he bounced back from life on the streets remarkably quickly. When I first brought him home, I thought he’d hide for days and be skittish, but instead, he napped for a few hours and then joined the family like he had always been there. He took one look at Clyde and decided that he was his new best friend. It didn’t take long to win Clyde over, and now they are inseparable.

Dodge has retained his sunny optimism, his adorable quirk of jumping and rubbing against my legs, his love of being petted, cuddling with Clyde, and basking in the sun. Clyde has adopted Dodge’s habit of pushing his head against me when being petted, and also of rubbing up against me when I’m in the bathroom. It’s fun to see them picking up each other’s little characteristics like that.

Happy birthday, little Dodge! You are a ray of sunshine and happiness. I’m so glad you followed my colleague home that day, just the beginning of our journey together. May it be a long and happy one.

*HoHo’s last car was a red Dodge Dart. He told me that he had always wanted a red car, and it was about time. So I think he would like Dodge’s name, too.

A YEAR AGO: Mother’s Day is a complicated thing for me.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The mystery of the cat in the night.

TEN YEARS AGO: The bumpkinization of Suzy.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A delightful day with a delightful friend.

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Adventure

May 3rd, 2021


Recovering

Dodge, the formerly stray cat from the mean streets of the Big Town, is a little sneakyboots. If he wants to go outside, he will lurk and plan and plot and find a way to escape from the Big House.

Usually, he makes a break for it during the daytime, when I am preoccupied with importing groceries or exporting compost. I have learned that there is absolutely no point in calling him or trying to catch him. He will come in when he’s good and ready, and not a second before. And when he does, he just strolls in casually, like he’s coming home from work or something.

Clyde is never casual about Dodge’s illicit excursions into the Wide World. He always sniffs Dodge all over carefully to ascertain where he has been and what he’s been doing, but Clyde himself is no longer interested in exploring the Unknown. Losing his brother Roscoe affected him profoundly, more than the near-death encounter with the Slobber Monster. I think Clyde either saw it happen or knows what happened to Roscoe. He definitely stays close to home.

One night, Dodge sneaked out into the darkness. I could not see him or stay awake, so I turned on all the outside lights and hoped for the best. I was rewarded by the sight of my wayward youngest cat sitting on the back porch in the early morning darkness the next day. He came inside and it was immediately clear that he was not his usual self.

Far from being the insouciant boulevardier he used to be, he was quiet and slow moving. He did not eat, and he sat like an uncomfortable loaf of bread instead of curling up on the heater or basking in the sun. I checked him all over for wounds or sore spots, but found none. I was beginning to fear that he had eaten something bad or even poisonous outside, especially when he started hiding under the bed.

I tried not to panic or worry, and my uncharacteristic patience was rewarded by Dodge slowly beginning to seem more like his old self, though, like Clyde, I don’t think he will ever be quite the same. Also like Clyde, I don’t know what happened out there, but it was enough to scare Dodge pretty badly. I noticed that some of the fur on top of his head had gone pure white, like Marie Antoinette’s hair was said to have gone white overnight, and the place where the Slobber Monster grabbed Clyde is pure white against his black fur. I guess it’s a reaction to trauma.

Whatever happened that night, Dodge has, at least temporarily, been unbounced. I’m just glad he’s safe.

A YEAR AGO: The beauty of spring.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A beautiful day in the Village.

TEN YEARS AGO: Getting contacts.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: My street must have had some interesting zoning laws. I imagine it is pretty much wall to wall condos now.

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Animals

April 12th, 2021

John’s kittens have been growing by leaps and bounds. They are now 6 months old, and were recently spayed. As might be expected, shy little Daisy was more horrified by the entire process than bold and brave Peach, but they both went running to Mom for comfort when they came home from the vet wearing mini cones of shame.

I have never had the experience of having a mother cat and her children in the same household. I think in the wild, the kids would be independent of Mom and possibly each other. But all living inside in the same house, they have stayed close and still cuddle. Willow still keeps a watchful eye on her progeny:

It must be so fun to see that dynamic. I hope it stays that way.

John and I disagree about whether they are still kittens. I say yes, and he says no. I think they are kittens until their first birthday. They are definitely looking more like cats than kittens these days, though.

As for my boyfriend Frank, he visits John daily. Their relationship has grown as fast as the kittens. At first, it was just for food, but now Frank lets John pet him. And gives him head butts, a sure sign of affection. He used to have sore eyes, which John has treated and improved, though he seems to get into fights occasionally, based on various wounds that have appeared from time to time. I think it’s all part of his rakish charm.

We don’t know where he sleeps, but even when it rains, he is dry when he turns up chez John for pets and food (now in that order). A happy Frank makes me happy, too.

Stella, on the other hand, is not happy. She misses Star so much. We all do. Stella did have a happy moment last week when a friend of Megan’s brought her dog Cooper over to play. Stella seemed like her old self again. It was really nice to see.

Megan is beginning to think that she needs to find a companion for Stella sooner rather than later, even though the humans in the house may not necessarily be ready. Megan has a line on a male foster dog who might be right for their household. You know how Stella loves the boys. Stay tuned!

A YEAR AGO: A well-traveled clock.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Nothing like having dinner made for you by someone else, I always say.

TEN YEARS AGO: A was recovering from her 3 month long hospital ordeal. She has never been the same, but I am still thankful that she is still with us. We email nearly every day.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: I still love this vase, made by the talented and handsome Aaron Oussoren. You can see more of his work here. As for the vase, it’s currently residing next to my TV, giving a welcome pop of color to the room.

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Kittens

February 2nd, 2021


Peach and Willow

John’s kittens are growing by leaps and bounds and purrs, as kittens do. Their personalities are still emerging, but it seems that “my” kitten, Daisy (I named her and secretly feel like she is mine in some way) is, like me, a little nervous about life in general, preferring to stay on the safe side, whereas her sister, Peach, is bold and adventurous. As John puts it, Peach is becoming a force to be reckoned with. Given time I’m pretty sure she could escape from Alcatraz.

John described this photo as follows: Here’s Peach trying to break out of the big house once again this morning, with a dirty screw watching her every move:

As most girls eventually do, Peach and Daisy have a crush on an older guy. In their case, it’s Ash, who is not just handsome, but tolerant of their affections. He may even enjoy it, while being too cool to admit that he does. Here’s Ash tolerating Daisy’s hero worship:

John also says, When the kittens wake up now (either in the morning or after a nap) they go utterly bananas, running and playing and making huge messes. It’s hard to believe when you see how cute they look like this:

I’ll let John have the last word. A final note – Peach smells like Pez candy.

A YEAR AGO: Surprise! A new phone!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Enjoying the beauty of the fine woodworking show.

TEN YEARS AGO: My beloved friend A was finally (more or less) out of the woods. And I was starting work at the jobette!

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Shopping at the 99 cent store. Not even the dollar store.

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Frank

January 23rd, 2021

They always say that no one is as zealous as a convert, and I think in my ex-husband’s case, that is true.

When we first met, he told me that he did not like cats. My view was that he would have to get used to my cat, Buddy, who was already the man in my life. I happened to be there when Buddy was born, and I fell hopelessly in love with him from his first breath, despite his then somewhat alarming appearance. He later became majestic and regal:

Basically, it was love me, love my cat.

So John, being the nice guy he still is, decided to he would have to endure Buddy’s presence. Little did he suspect that Buddy would become the gateway cat. The first one’s free!

It didn’t take long before John’s disdain for cats turned to love for Buddy in particular, and eventually, to all cat-kind in general. Our opinions diverged on this road at about the 4 cat mark. Despite currently having three cats, I still believe two is the right number. John believes it’s more like a dozen. Since he’s on his own and can please himself, I suspect the number of felines currently residing with him is higher than I would like. He also looks after neighborhood strays.

The most recent stray to cross his path is this charmer, seen here with a grain of rice on his adorable nose after John fed him:

It was pretty much love at first sight for me when John sent me Frank’s photo. John calls him Frank, “because he’s old and has blue eyes”, and despite my earlier stated opinion, I would love to have him join my cat family. Perhaps it’s best for all concerned that this is not possible, but I would dearly love to cuddle Frank and kiss his beautiful scarred ears and head. I have to settle for loving him from afar, but John sends me photos and videos so I can see his progress.

Much like Henry, he seems to have had a tough life and is slow to trust. But I am hopeful that food and affection will make him at least trust John and make his life a little happier.

A YEAR AGO: Good times with good friends.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Salon adventures

TEN YEARS AGO: A happy day, with a cameo from Miss Jessica. I miss her!

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Excuses for my absence.

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Visitor

January 11th, 2021

Lately Danielle’s cat Kiki has been around more, often in the early morning darkness, which does a creditable job of impersonating midnight. Her white fur shows up against the darkness as she slinks around from the front door to the side deck off the kitchen to the back door.

I’m not sure if her visits are because Danielle is in Hawaii and she is lonely, but I always wish I could pet her. I don’t want to encourage her visits, since I’m always afraid that one of my cats will get into a fight with Kiki. After persuading Danielle to let me keep my cats, it might be hard to get her forgiveness if one of my cats scratched her cat. The time that Audrey escaped, I narrowly averted a catfight by removing Audrey from the scene. My next-door neighbor (and Danielle’s son) Alex told me that Dodge had wandered over the last time he got out and Alex shooed him away to avoid a fight.

I think Dodge is still interested in the fight, though. Whenever Kiki appears, he is the first to run to the door where she is. This morning, they were growling and at each other and basically fighting through the glass. They fought through the kitchen window screen so much that the screen was destroyed (Rob just hauled the sad remains to the dump last weekend). At some point, I will have to replace it. I am hoping that Rob’s Robness will come up with window screens that are Dodge and Kiki proof. It would be great if so. I’d love to be able to open the bedroom windows on summer nights once things have cooled down, knowing that Dodge could not tear the screen out and jump down. It may be a lot to ask, even for Rob.

I wonder if Dodge is just more territorial from living on the mean streets of the Big Town. Or maybe it’s just his youth and nature? I’ll never know, but I will have to be extra careful to keep him as far away from Kiki as possible, even when she stops by for a visit.

A YEAR AGO: Assuming office is not without its challenges.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Lots of travel for Megan and Rob. So far, he has managed to avoid more surgery.

TEN YEARS AGO: There’s always something blooming in and around Hooterville.

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2020

December 31st, 2020

Looking back on the year with 2020 vision…or 2020 hindsight.

I made a decision to keep this space free of politics and other unpleasantness. As usual, with any decision I have ever made, I am not sure I made the right one. I work at a medical clinic and could have written about what it was/is like to work in a medical clinic during a pandemic, but I don’t want to write about work and I am too frivolous for such serious topics. Also, I like keeping everything ugly at bay. This is my safe (and sparkly) space, for better or for worse, for shallower or shallower.

Despite enjoying escapist fare such as children’s books (the wonderful E.L. Konigsberg and E. Nesbit) and Agatha Christies, as well as re-reading classics like The Catcher in the Rye and the works of the divine Jane when there was no library access, the total of books read by the local library chairperson was a paltry 86, not much of an improvement over the embarrassing 82 recorded in 2019. I greatly enjoyed Elton John’s memoir, Peter Swanson’s Eight Perfect Murders, Ruth Ware’s One by One, Connie Schultz’s The Daughters of Erietown, and Alex North’s The Whisper Man. As usual, Stephen King with If It Bleeds and Michael Connelly with Fair Warning and The Law of Innocence did not disappoint.

In addition to comfort viewing (The Rockford Files and Columbo), there were some amazing TV shows brightening my screen on these dark days: City on a Hill, Succession, Escape at Dannemora, Russian Doll, Unbelievable, Perry Mason (the new one; not the classic, which is also wonderful, but very different), The Morning Show, Dead to Me, Dash & Lily, Ozark, Bad Blood, Little Fires Everywhere, Better Call Saul, Emily in Paris, and Get Shorty. If you haven’t seen any of these, check them out. You’ll thank me later.

Other than that, here’s all the news I saw fit to print:

January: A quiet beginning to the new year, with no hangover and no particular plans. My beautiful commute. It still amazes me and reveals new joys. A seemingly endless supply of meetings.

February: The gift of a new cell phone from my sister, who was tired of not being able to text me at home. It took three visits to the Verizon Store to sort of get my data transferred. The nightmare of the kitties. A long story which was entirely my fault, and you know how much I love that. The kitchen sink was full of sewage again, and the power was out. Good times. Sunny days outside and pretty inside. A lovely day. And a lovely dinner.

March: An update on my bosses, the cats. Ignoring the ignominious time change with a look around the family garden. Close encounters with wildlife. In my case, the hare (thankfully) won the race. Remembering my beloved father on his birthday. A night in town. Of tires and take-out. Michelin-starred, no less. the take-out, not the tires (though they could have been Michelins). I was shocked and saddened to hear of my former brother-in-law Mike’s death, but thankful it was a peaceful one at home. Rest in peace, dear Mike. You were a wonderful man and will always be loved and remembered with joy.

April: Michelin starred take-out 2.0. Is it conceited that I prefer my own cooking? Maybe the starriness doesn’t translate well to the take-out genre. Mom? Is that you? The tale of the grandfather clock, more than 250 years and counting (the hours and minutes). Beauty is all around me. My blog turned 19! The differences between my weekday and weekend routines. Adventures in cooking.

May: Welcoming spring. I really enjoyed spring this year. It was so beautiful. The beauty of the season was darkened by the sudden and shocking death of a dear and long-time friend. Randy, I will never forget you or your smile that lit up a room. Some reflections on Mother’s Day from someone who will never be one and who had a complicated relationship with her own. There may be a connection here. Celebrating Dodge’s fourth (or so) birthday. He is such a beautiful, affectionate little guy. Never a dull moment for Megan, at work in the ER. The month ended with the end of the Beautiful Harriet, Megan and Rob’s much-loved 19 year old cat, just two days after Megan’s birthday. Harriet (then called Olivia) made her first appearance on my blog in December, 2001. She was part of our family for a long time and will always be missed.

June: Things were flourishing in the family garden. Of haircuts and hardware stores. A happy birthday for me…and for my beloved Clyde, who turned 10. A nice addition to the bedroom. Remembering the unforgettable Ginger, our childhood dog.

July: Celebrating the Fourth of July and both sides of my heritage. Also Megan and Rob’s 29th anniversary. Here’s to the next 29! Things were shady over at the family estate. Adjusting to a Kindle. I’m still a paper book girl at heart. Rob’s beautiful garden art. A delightful breakfast at the delightful Queenie’s. Some kitty adventures.

August: Things were rocking and rolling in the family garden. I think I did a better job of using produce this year. An unexpected operation for Stella. I’m glad to report she is fine. A lot of sadness in a short period of time in our little town. Time to start cooking with all that produce. The Evil Eighteenth rolled around for the nineteenth time. I was angry this year. I will never get over losing Dad like that. A heatwave, and remembering past summers. Trying to cool down with some icy adult beverages beside the ocean. Hello, darkness, my old enemy.

September: Rearranging the kitchen after my microwave gave up the ghost, as my appliances tend to do. Audrey being Audrey. Rob: always there to make my life better. Happy birthday to my amazing brother, Jonathan. The horror of wildfires. Getting my MacBook fixed, with all the fun that entails. And getting Wednesday repaired. Attacking the Closet of Doom, with Rob’s help.

October: Rob was working hard on the Closet of Doom. It’s still a work in progress. Summer seemed to be endless. A delightful visit with a friend. I hope we can do that again soon. Yet another crown for our princess. My ex John adopted a pregnant stray cat. Meet Willow, Peach, and Daisy (I named Daisy)! Doing some project cooking.

November: A road trip to beautiful Anderson Valley. Problems with the heater. Megan started an exciting new side gig at prestigious Stanford University! An update on Willow and her kittens. Getting my third crown was about as fun as you’d expect. I hope it’s the last one, but fear it won’t be. What would I be like if I had a different name? Trying to find the right blanket was harder than you’d expect.

December: The Christmas tree went up a little early this year. And the kitchen sink needed a minor procedure. Some lights in the darkness. Best friends. Memories of Christmas past. A quiet Christmas.

Thank you for coming along with me on this journey for another year, or staying with me for another year. Here’s to a brighter New Year for all of us!

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Mirror

December 20th, 2020


Mirror Image

When I first brought Dodge home, he took one look at Clyde and it was love at first sight.

Clyde isn’t much of a fighter, but he hissed at the interloper, defending his territory as most cats will do. Dodge took it in stride, and you could practically see the thought balloon over his head as he decided he would win Clyde over.

It took surprisingly little time for Clyde to decide that maybe this young whippersnapper from the mean streets of Fort Bragg might be, just might be, OK. Once Dodge had an opening, it wasn’t long before Clyde was completely won over by his hero-worshipping young friend, and they became inseparable companions, playing together, getting into trouble together, basking in the sun, and giving each other baths.

Clyde is 10 years old to Dodge’s relatively youthful 4. And while you may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, it seems you can teach an old cat new tricks. Clyde has started to copy a few of Dodge’s mannerisms, even though he is the senior member of the household and you would think his adoring acolyte would copy him. But no, Clyde has picked up on some of the new kid’s quirks, and fortunately, they are endearing.

Quirk One is rubbing up against my legs when I am in the bathroom. It’s nice to feel the soft fur. Clyde never did that before, and now he does it more than Dodge does. Quirk Two is pushing his head against me when I am petting him. It is so endearing. And speaking of endearing, Dodge still does his characteristic move of jumping while rubbing against me. I love that so much.

Audrey, of course, disdains them both, and often gives them Grinchy death glares. To be fair, Dodge has an unfortunate habit of chasing Audrey whenever the mood strikes him. I know we all need a hobby, but I wish he’d pick something a little less destructive to household peace, like learning to play the bagpipes. Also, Audrey took a dim view of humanity and her fellow felines long before Dodge came along.

Given that she is approaching her 14th year of her less than benevolent reign, I have started her on a glucosamine and chondroitin supplement for arthritic cats, and I do think it has made her less grumpy. Or at least changed the quality of her grumpitude somewhat. I tried CBD on her with no effect, but this does seem to be helping a bit. She seems a little more certain when jumping, too. If Audrey is happier, we all are.

A YEAR AGO: The many pleasures of Candlelit Shopping night in the Village.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A very enjoyable mini break in town.

TEN YEARS AGO: A really good mail day.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: An unexpected encounter with Santa.

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Growing

November 18th, 2020


Willow and her Babies

The kittens have been growing and changing, and it’s been really fun to watch the evolution along with John. I know he always envied me for having seen Buddy born and then grow up, so now it’s finally his chance to have that life-changing experience.

He’s been sending me photos and videos nearly every day since they were born in late September, and they have cheered me through some dark and stressful days and nights, I can tell you that. Another good reason for being on good terms with your ex-husband.

Here are a few recent milestones.

Peach started eating solid food before Daisy, though they were both still nursing at that time.

One of the charming stories John told me was how Peach was determined to use her mother Willow’s grown up litterbox rather than the baby litterbox. She could get into it, but had a hard time getting out of it. So Willow would go and lie next to the litterbox so Peach could climb onto her and then to the ground. John said this happened many times and it must have been something to see. Willow is a really good mother. I suspect that this is not her first rodeo, though I’m thankful it’s her last.

Here they are enjoying a heated bed which used to belong to a wonderful, very old cat named Abraham. Like me with Henry Etta, John rescued Abraham from the streets at an advanced age and was able to give him a peaceful and loving last couple of years. None of John’s other cats liked the bed, but the kittens give it two paws up:

Apparently Willow does not like to be caught playing with the kittens, as if it’s beneath her or something. So John was pretty excited to catch this video of them all playing together one morning.

Here’s Peach trying to escape the kitten room:

I wonder how long it will be before they blend into the family. At this point, I think they are already home.

A YEAR AGO: Hula classes!

FIVE YEARS AGO: The joys of Benedict Cumberbatch in “Hamlet”, followed by an excellent dinner.

TEN YEARS AGO: Buying sneakers can be harder than you’d think.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: I still think pretty much anything can be or is an Olympic sport. Also that the Olympics are on constantly, instead of every four years.

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Kittens

October 25th, 2020


Willow and her babies

Dear Reader,

I realize that I have been holding out on you. I have access to nearly unparalleled kitten cuteness, but yet have not shared it. I hope you can forgive this shocking oversight.

You may remember that when John and I were married, we disagreed slightly on the correct amount of cats for our household. My number was around the 2 range, and his was more like 8 is almost enough. We compromised at 4. Now that we have our own households, we have stayed true to our individual beliefs. I have three*, and he has…well, I’m not exactly sure, but I think it’s around the 6-8 mark. He takes excellent care of them and they are well and happy.

He also looks after the neighborhood strays, trapping them to get them spayed and neutered and finding homes (other than his) where possible, in addition to supplying food, water, and home-made shelters for the strays who live in a colony near the Home Depot in his city.

He recently came across a pregnant young cat, and earned her trust enough to catch her and take her home. She was examined by John’s vet, who opined that the babies would come along soon. John was always a bit envious that I was there when Buddy was born, saw his first breath (and his last – the whole wonderful journey), so he was pretty excited about seeing the kittens arrive, which two did in due course.

He was concerned about the mom cat, who he had named Willow, and correctly so, since Willow had two babies still inside her which hadn’t made it and had to be surgically removed. They spayed Willow while they were at it, and that tough little lady nursed her two beautiful little kittens despite her surgical scars, as you can see here. She is a good mother, and the vet estimates her to be about two years old, so this is likely not her first litter, though thankfully it is her last.

John decided to keep Willow, though he claims he is going to get the babies adopted when they are old enough. I named the dark, stripy one Daisy, and she seems to be the bolder of the two, and he named Peach, who is lighter in color and more playful. I pointed out that the names have a botanical theme, and that the kittens’ names are old-fashioned slang for cute and/or awesome.

So without further ado, here are some kitten movies and pictures to make your day.

John says Willow turns into “super protective demon Mom” when he changes the towels in the nest and is a formidable opponent:

Here’s Peach, playing for the first time.

And here’s Daisy sleeping while Peach plays. Daisy sleeping is quite possibly the cutest thing on earth.

*Can you blame me? You’ve seen how irresistible Dodge is!

A YEAR AGO: Marking a decade in Hooterville.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A BBQ with an old friend and up close and personal with my old friend the Moon.

TEN YEARS AGO: A less than stellar day.

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Fiery

September 16th, 2020

The monthly Board meetings at work always mean around a twelve hour day for our heroine, so it was both disappointing and ironic in equal measure that this month’s arrived the day after Labor Day. I have started doing them from home, which is a process improvement for me. I leave work around 3:15 pm and get the long drive out of the way in daylight, instead of hitting the long and winding road in the 7:00 pm darkness. And when the meeting is over, I’m already home.

As I drove down the Ridge that afternoon, I could see where the fog at the coast met the smoke from the Oak Fire in Willits, about 30 miles to the east:

My house is nearly 6 miles east of the highway, so I was basically driving toward the fire and smoke, even though the fire was unlikely to reach us through the intervening mountainous terrain. By the time I was set up for the meeting, the light outside was an eerie dark orange. Here’s how it looked from my back door:

Clyde did not like it. During the meeting, he kept going from door to door, looking to see if it looked any less disturbing. It kept getting darker, even though sunset was still hours away. Clyde did not approve of this. He is a sensitive boy, and seemed as perturbed as he did during the moving process last year. He enjoyed the chaos as much as I did, and we were both stressed out by it.

I could hardly wait for it to get dark so I could stop looking at the creepy orange light and get some semblance of normalcy. As the days wore on, the fire was thankfully contained, but the air remained smoky and terrible-smelling. You could see the ash and particulates in the air. We are used to such clean air here, and it was a dramatic and distressing change. The skies stayed orange or brown, dark in the daytime, to the point that I had to have both lights on in my office. I longed to see the sky after a week of not seeing it.

Still, we were the lucky ones, not being evacuated or under immediate threat. This time. I can’t help wondering if it’s like falling off the dock was when my siblings lived on boats at Pier 39, or hitting a deer when you live in the depths of the country: There’s them that has, and them that will. I wonder when it will be our turn to flee for our lives and hope our house isn’t burning to the ground behind us.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The absurdity of “insurance”.

TEN YEARS AGO: Pantry invaders!

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Updates

September 5th, 2020

So, I decided that Audrey’s outdoor privileges were revoked after the skirmish with Kiki, Danielle’s cat. Audrey and I did not see eye to eye on this. She expressed her displeasure with her unjustified imprisonment by clawing madly at the glass on various doors (thankfully, not on the wood of the doors) while squeaking with rage. A frantic Audrey is hard to ignore – well, Audrey in any mood is hard to ignore – but I steeled myself to it and thought that I had won the battle, if not the war.

Silly me. I should have known better. Audrey skulked stealthily under the couch unbeknownst to the Help, and scooted out the door as soon as she saw an opportunity.

Of course the opportunity was right before I was ready to go to bed and the sun was almost there.

My inner worrier kicked in automatically, like those enviable people who have generators that come on as soon as the power goes out. I reminded myself that Audrey is the undisputed winner of Survivor: Hooterville, but I didn’t love knowing that she was out there with the monsters and possibly a revenge-seeking Kiki.

Eventually I went to bed and read In Five Years while wondering what the hell was going on out there. I went to sleep with Clyde cuddled up next to me – he has been cuddlier than ever lately, for some reason – and hoping for the best.

I checked a couple of times during the night, and eventually found her sitting on the front porch, peeking in the door (which is basically a giant piece of glass). I opened the door and she walked in daintily, as if nothing had happened, and went upstairs to have a snack before vanishing somewhere in the house. She is very good at being unseen in the house, so perhaps these skills also stand her in good stead in the wild.

I still had a couple of hours to sleep before I had to get up in the dark and go to work. The dark circles under my eyes went with the general darkness motif of that morning.

As I drank my much-needed coffee out of my starry mug that morning, I noticed that Kiki was peeking through the glass door, to Dodge’s displeasure. He was wagging his tail and making quiet little bird sounds as he stared at her with his big blue eyes. I was glad that she wasn’t there a few hours earlier. I shooed her away, even though she is adorable and clearly needs petting and affection. But I can’t risk her hanging around my house in case of more Houdini-like escapades.

In happier animal news, Stella went to the vet to get her stitches out, and was pronounced cancer free. There is only a 2% chance that the cancer will recur, so that is something to celebrate!

A YEAR AGO: Helping to set up the annual library book sale.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Thinking about cars, past and present. I still miss my Mustang.

TEN YEARS AGO: A trip to town.

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Memorial

August 9th, 2020


Harriet’s Tree

Soon after the loss of the Beautiful Harriet, my friend and coworker Michelle (who loves Megan and shares an office with her at work) and I bought a memorial tree in her honor. We had it shipped from nearby Humboldt County, and it arrived safe and sound, with lots of roots. It is a Moon Mountain Dogwood tree, just like the one on the Ridge I think of as the Dr. Seuss tree. Our family friend Blue Jay identified the tree for me so Michelle and I could buy it for Megan.

Harriet’s tree is about three feet tall, maybe a little more. I’m not sure how long it will take before it starts to make the flowers, but I’m looking forward to them. For those who haven’t seen this kind of tree, it looks like this:

The flowers last a long time and have that Dr. Seuss look. The whole tree looks like something out of one of his books, and I love that.

Rob made a really beautiful container for the tree. If you’re wondering why they didn’t just plant it in the ground, the ground is hard and the soil is poor here, so good soil has to be imported, whether it’s a big project, like the one acre family garden and orchard, or a more modest one, like Harriet’s tree.

The tree container is made from reused ceramic tiles. Rob found them and carefully beveled the edges so they would fit together. He also made the metal frame, soldering it together, and then planted flowers around the tree. It’s going to look amazing when it’s all grown in and the tree is flowering. It’s planted where it can be seen from the living room, too, so it can be enjoyed inside and out.

I think The Beautiful Harriet would approve. I wish she were here to see it.

A YEAR AGO: At the movies.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A visit from Erica. I miss her so much!

TEN YEARS AGO: A whole new window!

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Farewell to my mother, after a long and courageous battle against breast cancer. She was a fighter and never gave up. Rest easy, Mom.

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Out

July 28th, 2020


Just look at me!

Mostly, you know, Dodge is like a little angel. He is super affectionate, jumping against my legs asking to be petted – I am so glad he kept that endearing quirk – or pushing his head against me, purring loudly. If you have hands, you should be using them to pet him, is his general view.

He loves to play with Clyde, and Clyde is always glad to cuddle with Dodge or play with him. They enjoy lounging in the sunshine together.

And of course, he is incredibly beautiful. The Medical Director at work often stops by my office to ask how Dodge is.

Pretty much everyone loves Dodge except Audrey, and she has good reason to hate this handsome young interloper.

Dodge has an unfortunate penchant for chasing Audrey. The kindest interpretation of this is that he wants her to play with him, but I suspect he is just messing with her. Maybe because she’s old and more fragile than he is, or maybe he wants to stake a claim on his territory. Who knows?

Whatever his motivation, I am continually shooing him away from her. And for Audrey’s part, she growls whenever she sees him. If she is sitting next to me on the bed and he is at the foot of it, she keeps up a low-grade growl, letting everyone know of her displeasure with his existence.

Not that it deters Dodge any.

So lately I have let her outside on the rare occasions I am home, to give her a break from her hated roommate. Mostly, she sits on the porch and enjoys being in a Dodge-free zone. But on Sunday, I heard the unmistakable noise of an impending cat fight. Audrey and my landlord’s cat Kiki were squaring off on the driveway.

The last thing I need is for one of my cats to injure Danielle’s cat, especially after all the drama we went through, so I scooped Audrey up and brought her inside, where the growling did not abate. I was lucky I could catch her and hold her. Although she is feather light, she is strong and determined.

So, I’m thinking no more outside for Audrey, though it will undoubtedly be a battle of wills. I almost never win those when it comes to Audrey.

A YEAR AGO: Getting to know my new neighborhood.

FIVE YEARS AGO: How to manage working six days a week. I did that for a long time.

TEN YEARS AGO: Watching lots of girl movies while my sister recovered from knee surgery.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Remembering Nana on her birthday.

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