2012 in Review


Farewell, 2012

It’s really fun going back and seeing what happened during the year, even if it wasn’t that great a year, like this one. Pay cuts and grand jury summons do not make for a good year. Hopefully the new one will also be improved.

Power outages: 6, including one in October due to someone driving into a power pole at 8:30 am – go figure – and two from a big storm in late November.

Rainfall: 24.20 inches for the season so far, vs. 11 inches this time last year.

Books read: 103 (vs. last year’s 118). Working more means reading less.

Favorites this year were Damien Echols’ astonishing, moving memoir, Life After Death; Gillian Flynn’s clever Gone Girl; William Landay’s surprising Defending Jacob; James M. Cain’s just-discovered final novel The Cocktail Waitress; Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins; and the beautifully written and moving Stoner (it’s not what you think).

Trips to San Francisco: 3. I went 4 times in 2011, but one of those was to keep Megan company while Rob endured more spinal surgery, so that doesn’t really count. I’m starting the new year off right by heading to San Francisco tomorrow morning for a few days to meet up with my boss/partner and make some plans for the future. And maybe do some shopping…

As for this year:

January: Hockey, Suzy-style. Little did I realize there wouldn’t be any when October arrived. Or December, for that matter. The case of the ransomed Christmas cards. Ordeal by utility company. Technological difficulties. Why I’m here. Outs & ins. One man’s trash…an unexpected visitor.

February: Cops and a movie! Third power outage of the season. Musing about one grandfather…and another. Coffee break. Finally, a break for Rob! In which our heroine learns that she is just as annoying as everyone else. Maybe more. A surprise wedding.

March: Small town moments. Home repairs. A visit with Jim (and other things). Dad’s 81st birthday. A date with my family. Getting a jump on spring. Suzy the screwup. Surprise present!

April: Megan’s new (to her, anyway) car! Mom’s 80th birthday. Spring planting. A rainy trip to the City. Impersonating a responsible adult. San Francisco storm. A lovely last day in the City. Jessica’s ninth birthday. The arrival of Digit, the Office Cat. Kitty update. A girls’ day out. With my favorite girl.

May: A new (well, to me) couch! My 12th blogaversary, among other things. Festive. A dilemma. License to drive. Scarred for (or by) life. An eclipse, and other things. Rob’s epic trip to see his Mother one last time. My considerably less epic trip to San Francisco. Farewell to Rob’s Mother.

June: A magical evening with the Beach Boys. Fabulous fifty! An unexpected trip. Birthday party. Dilemma solved. Birth of a garden. A wonderful tour of artists’ studios. The arrival of my first (and I hope only) subpoena.

July: A belated and fabulous birthday present. Erica and Jessica are back! My first crown. Sadly, not the Queen kind, though almost as expensive. The looming trip to Detroit makes my humble home look like paradise. The unlovely itinerary. The trip does not go according to plan. Finally in Detroit. Court of horrors. Home at last. Changes at home and at work. Time for an engine check. The neighbors stop by. A snake in the grass. I mean, house.

August: A quick trip to San Francisco. The splendid pool reopens. My 2,000th blog post. And Roscoe’s mystery injury. A lousy day with a better ending. The 11th anniversary of Dad’s death (post won’t link; it’s August 18). A new home for the adorable Digit (who is very happy there). First day at the new office – and more car problems.

September: The money fairy stops by. First foray into retail, and an update on Digit. Two very sad losses for two very dear friends. A fabulous County Fair. A check up for the Schatz. Could, woulda, shoulda – or not. Appreciating the simple things.

October: A small town moment. A very special event. A great evening with family and friends. Swimming lessons resume. Now with Jessica! The 15% pay cut rears its ugly head. So does winter. An eventful day. The Giants win the World Series again! Oh, and we go to the circus.

November: A happy Halloween. The President is, thankfully, re-elected. This campaign was brutal – I can’t believe we have to go through it again in four years. But I won’t think about that now. A beautiful way to remember. An evening at the theatah. A look around the garden. Some new beginnings. Getting ready for Thanksgiving. A wonderful Thanksgiving. Jarrett adopts the World’s Cutest Puppy.

December: Christmas decorations. Church concert. Getting ready for Christmas. A happy holiday. Lighting up the night.

Thanks for joining me for another year of adventures. I wish you all a very happy and healthy new year!

Weekend Roundup

I slept in until 7:15 this morning! Audrey complained bitterly about the terrible service around here, but the boys decided to have breakfast before bounding out into the foggy morning.

Speaking of the boys: I may have solved the mystery of Roscoe’s head wound. The other day, I saw Clyde getting ready to pounce on his unsuspecting brother, and went to get the camera:

They play pretty rough, and sometimes one or both of them meows like it hurts, though I’m not sure that’s what it really means. The fact is they appear to bite each other, and their claws are pretty sharp, so my guess is that Clyde bit Roscoe, and Roscoe keep wiping at the wound with his wet paw until the fur came off and it got infected. The presence of a couple of claw-sized bald spots on his head and little puncture scabs on the wound area lend credence to my Poirot-style theory.

At least it’s healed up, and the fur is growing back. I wish they’d be more careful, but boys will be boys!

******

Digit’s new family is delightful. The daughter is eight years old and just fell in love with Digit, who is now “her” cat. I’m really happy for Digit, who is going to have the loving attention she deserves, but I have to admit that I had to go and sit in the car and compose myself before I could drive home after saying goodbye to her. I’m glad for her, but sad for me.

******

We had our last swimming class of the summer yesterday. Sallie is the best swimming teacher ever. I hope I can fit in more lessons in the fall, though it will be harder than ever since I will now be working on the weekends as well as longer hours during the week as part of Operation Save Suzy.

After class, Megan and I went to the old jobette office, where I picked up keys for the new office and was surprised to see that the phones were still there, along with all the plants and the outside garbage and recycling bins. Also there were a few bottles of wine and it seemed that the modem and its accessories were still there, too, though on arrival at the new office, it was clear that the interwebs were working there, so who knows?

Megan and I packed up her car with the plants and wine, leaving the phones and other equipment to the professionals. We spent about four hours unpacking boxes, breaking them down and stacking them in the alley, setting up my desk, the coffee area, and kitchen and bathrooms (finally, we will have men’s and ladies’ separate, and a janitorial service). The painter was there to touch up, and because it’s a small town, he is also the husband of Megan’s boss.

Finally, we got to the point where we couldn’t do more, so we locked up and went to the grocery store, where we picked up a few things for our brother as well as ourselves, stopping off at his place to deliver them and catch up, parting with hugs and “Love yous”, as we always do. As we headed home, I said to Megan, “We’re so lucky we have each other,” and she said, “You know it!”

I do.

Letting Go


Sprucing up

There seems to be some kind of bug that is making it impossible to comment. I have notified the Blog Doctor and he is on the case.

And now back to our irregularly scheduled program…

As I mentioned earlier, the jobette is moving. It’s only about three blocks, but as everyone who has ever moved knows, it’s as much hassle to move three blocks as it is three hundred miles. So I’ve been packing like mad over the past week in preparation for Thursday’s move.

The new office is a much better and bigger space, but it is in a much busier location. Right now, in the days about to become the old days, Digit hangs out in the yard most of the day, chasing butterflies and playing in the sun, but in the new place, there is just a sidewalk and a very busy intersection.

We are also expecting a lot more foot traffic and are even going to have a retail (t-shirts, mugs, etc.) area, presided over by Me.

You can probably tell where I’m going with this. We have had to find a new home for the lovely Digit.

Fortunately, we have located a family which has recently lost their oldest cat at 22 years old. The daughter is devastated and would like to have another cat, even though the family has two neutered males, a 10 year old who is polydactl, like Digit, and a 3 year old Siamese who is disabled due to a head injury but who is much loved and carefully cared for.

These people clearly know a lot about cats and love them. Digit adores children and is super affectionate, which will be great for the little girl. I have to admit that I have felt a little guilty about Digit being alone at night and most of the weekend, and I know she would be happier with a full-time family and that she would not be safe at the new office. I would never forgive myself if something happened to her.

But I have always kind of despised people who move somewhere which doesn’t allow cats or isn’t good for their cats and then give them away, and now I’m One of Them. I think this is kind of a hot button issue with me, since when John and I broke up, he kept the cats. I knew it was the best thing for them to stay together in their familiar environment and one of their people, but it was one of the most painful things I have ever gone through and it still makes me sad.

Still, Digit will be much happier with her new family, who are picking her up this week. I think it’s a good omen that their polydactl is named Clydesdale (for the horses with the huge hoofs/feet), but is called Clyde!

Caller

Part of my current frugality is that I don’t have caller ID anymore, or call waiting, which is not only retro of me, but it makes the identity of every phone caller a little mystery.

Usually when the phone* rings first thing in the morning, it’s either my brother or my boss, neither of whom tend to call me just to chat. So I figured it was one of them with a question or a request when the phone rang this morning, but it was someone asking for Rose.

This has happened a few times since I moved into her home and kept her phone number. It’s always people trying to sell her things or charities to which she has donated in the past. I say, “I’m, sorry, she passed away a few months ago,” they say they’re sorry back (with varying degrees of surprise and concern) and that’s it.

Today’s caller turned out to be a friend of Rose’s, who had no idea her friend was gone.

She gasped and asked me what happened, so I told her to the best of my ability, and answered her questions as best I could, while eyeing the coffee grinder longingly.

It turned out that she used to live in my sister’s house about ten years ago, so that made her the person who refused to move out, forcing my sister and brother-in-law to camp with my brother, leaving all their furniture, etc., in his driveway until she could finally be ousted. On moving in, my sister discovered that the previous tenant had left her cat there, so she and her husband adopted her.

I kept these thoughts (and others) to myself as I condoled with her and attempted to get her off the phone. She seemed to want to talk to anyone, mostly about death, which is a subject that also takes up far too much of my time, though I generally try to keep that to myself. Eventually, I promised to pass on her to message to Rose’s family and thankfully hung up the phone.

It was a lot to deal with before coffee.

*I can’t tell you how annoyed I was to discover that calling my sibs’ cell phones from my landline is long distance. Even though my sister lives a few hundred feet away and my brother less than a quarter of a mile. Apparently, their cell phone numbers are registered in Boonville, an hour’s drive from here. But if I call them on my cell, which has an Oakland area code, it’s free. Go figure. If only the cell reception wasn’t so lousy at my house.

The Adventure

roadThe road home

Operation Escape Oakland hit a few snags, as many elaborate maneuvers are wont to do.

Rob is an insulin-dependent diabetic, and had some issues with his sugar count early on Wednesday morning. We applied soda and waited for him to feel better. At times like this, it’s great to have your EMS trained brother at hand.

While Rob was recovering, Audrey decided she’d get a head start and escaped from her carrier. The girls’ carriers are cloth and close with zippers that meet in the middle. Audrey must have poked her nose or paw through the place where the zippers met until she made a big enough hole to slip out.

Unfortunately, I had left the car window open to give the girls some air while we completed the packing process.

Fortunately, Audrey ran into B’s garden, which is enclosed, so trapping her was (relatively) easy.

Unfortunately, I had learned nothing from this experience since Audrey repeated the escape, though this time remaining inside the car (with its windows closed).

Fortunately, my brother had a bit of string in his pocket, as boys often do, and tied the zippers together tightly.

It seems that Audrey does not enjoy driving any more than I do, since she did an encore of the carrier poo. When I finally decanted her, she was literally covered in it. Megan immediately put her in the sink and washed her, which Audrey took remarkably well, after meowing for pretty much the entire four hour drive. June had thrown up in her carrier, undoubtedly due to the proximity of the carrier poo. Henry didn’t utter a peep and all his bodily fluids stayed in his body.

I expected a series of boos, hisses, and claw to claw combat when all three cats met, but so far, so good. They have walked past each other without remark, though fights may still ensue. They do seem happy to be here, and are enjoying the view from the glass doors and exploring a new place. This is definitely a much more interesting house from a cat’s point of view.

As for me, I now have proof positive that housework is very, very bad for you.

After we finished most of the packing on Wednesday, we cleaned the house, which entailed grovelling around on hands and knees. Not for the first time, I reflected that cleaning is a job best left to the professionals. I’m pretty sure that this unnatural activity resulted in my knees going on strike. By the time I caught Audrey the second time, I noticed that the inside side of my knees (if you follow me) hurt. By the time we stopped for gas, I could hardly bend them. By the time we got home, Megan took one look at me and put me on her couch with ice packs and painkillers.

So while my family was unpacking all my things and stuff, I was lying on Megan’s couch watching “Gilmore Girls” and whimpering. The guilt was definitely worse than the pain. I feel better today, but have been ordered to take it easy so that hopefully tomorrow I’ll be able to get a few things done around my new house.

It was an adventure, all right. Would you expect anything less from Calamity Suzy?

Convoy, Convoy

Well, this will be my last post from Oakhampton.

I’m ending as I began, camping in my house with weirded out cats. Though now there are three instead of two. Henry is in the pantry, a marked improvement over being stuck in the cat carrier all day (the landlords insisted that I remove the screening, so we did that first). He was so patient, and never made a peep.

The girls are wandering around the nearly-empty house, wondering where The Boxes have gone. Presumably they’re all wondering what the hell is going on around here.

The giant moving truck is occupying the entire driveway. I hope that no-one decides to snip off the padlock and help themselves.

We’re hoping to get out of here at 7:00 tomorrow morning. We’ll be a convoy: Jonathan in the truck; Rob in Jonathan’s car (they drove down together this morning); then Self and cat cargo. Jonathan brought little radios, sort of like walkie-talkies, in case we lose sight of each other on the way or someone wants to stop. Much easier than cell phones, and not illegal.

Wish us luck!

Henry Update

ReadytoGOAre we there yet?

Yesterday, I trapped Henry on the screened-in porch by the simple expedient of removing the concrete block propping the screen door open. I closed it carefully and locked it. I poured some litter into the top of a banker’s box and placed it as far away from his food and bed as I could, but in a sheltered area so a gentleman has some privacy.

He got up from his cozy bed and started looking around and sniffing. I have no idea what his former life was like, and whether it included litter boxes or not, but he seemed a lot less concerned about having no way out than I thought he would be. I briefly imagined him clawing his way to freedom through the thin screening, but instead, he just went back to bed.

A wise friend suggested that I try putting his food in the carrier, which is lined with a soft, fleecy blanket and awaiting him with the door open on the porch, in case he felt like exploring. I fed the girls, and while they were distracted, brought a packet of treats out to the porch.

Henry sniffed the open packet, and then I sprinkled them liberally in the carrier. He jumped in and ate them, and after he was done, he hung out in there for a while. So that problem may be solved: Maybe all I’ll have to do is put a few treats in there on Thursday and close the door!!

I really think he knows something is up, and he wants to make sure I don’t forget him. As if I ever would.

Further update: Guess where he was when I looked out the window this morning?

Full Circle

It’s simply tipping it down outside, as my late, great stepmother used to say, in her rich, plummy voice. It’s giving me flashbacks of the Highway to Hell last week. Just looking at the car is making me nervous.

The girls are trapped in the house, and Henry is the King of the Porch again. It warms my Grinchy little heart whenever I peek out of my bedroom window and see him all curled up on his cozy bed, fast asleep as the rain beats at the windows. I wonder if he’ll like living in a house?

I hope it doesn’t rain on Wednesday, when we’re packing the truck, or Thursday, when we’re unpacking it. Operation Escape Oakland has been slightly modified. Rob and Jonathan are going to leave Albion before sunrise, and we’ll all troop over to the U-Haul place sometime around 9:00 or 10:00 on Wednesday morning. I’m planning to pick up a couple of rental boys, since Rob is forbidden to lift anything heavier than 20 pounds, and that’s about all I can lift, anyway. Also, there’s my new manicure to consider.

When I went to the U-Haul place on popular murder destination International Boulevard to get a price list a couple of weeks ago, I was swarmed by men before I even got out of the car. You’d have thought I was Megan Fox in a teeny bikini. They were disappointed, because not only did I fail to be a gorgeous starlet, I wasn’t hiring. For a low, low price, they’ll help you pack your truck, mow your lawn, and pretty much any other odd job that isn’t too odd. So I think we’ll pick up a couple when we pick up the truck. Cash for them, help for us. What’s not to love?

Note to self: do not make jokes about what could be in the grandfather clock’s coffiny box, or how heavy it is.

So we’ll pack up on Wednesday, grab dinner at the taqueria, and the boys who are related to me will sleep on an inflatable bed in the living room, and I’ll sleep on my mattress in the empty bedroom, both the pull-out couch and the bed being safely packed in the truck. Then we’ll take off on Thursday morning.

So I’ll come full circle in this house. I started out camping here, waiting for my furniture to be delivered, and I’ll end up camping here, with my furniture in the truck. There’s something poetic about that.

Cats, Books & Boxes

Henry was nowhere to be seen when I went out to feed him this morning. I called him and called him, but he didn’t appear. I could have alerted the TV networks, but decided to go and pack some more and then look for him again. While I packed, I worried about not being able to find him on Wednesday. My plan was to lure him onto the screened-in porch with food in the morning, so he can stay there while we’re packing up the truck, but what if he isn’t there to be lured?

Henry was lying on his bed as if nothing had happened when I went to look for him again. He gave me a hushed meow of acknowledgement, but didn’t bother to get up. Cats need their beauty sleep, after all. I think I’ll try and get him onto the porch on Tuesday and just keep him there with his food and a litter box until my brother can wrestle him into his carrying case on Wednesday.

He’ll have to get used to the litter box in the short term anyway, since all three cats will have to stay inside for the first few days after we move so they know it’s their house. After that, I’ll let them all out and hope for the best. I’m planning to bring them in at night, but they may have ideas of their own.

At night I lie in bed and fret about things like whether the cats will fight all the time and hate each other, or how on earth I’ll get rid of all the boxes after I unpack, or whether I should buy a bunch of bottled water for my moving crew instead of having glasses to wash up and pack after we’re all done. These minor details which are probably making you laugh are making me sleepless.

I haven’t heard back from the people I risked life and limb to interview with, and since they said they’d decide by the end of the week, I’m thinking that no answer is a no. Looking for a job in the midst of moving really does add to a girl’s stress.

When the day’s packing is through and I’ve washed my ink-stained hands, I settle back with a glass or two of wine and an episode of Columbo. They are intriguing enough to keep my mind – or at least the surface of it – off my worries, but are delightfully lacking in the graphic grossness of the CSI franchise or the sadness of the Law & Orders, which make me despair of humanity much of the time. Also, they were shot in sunny LA in the early 1970s, and I have never much enjoyed the present. And then there’s the considerable charm of Peter Falk. I smile every time he introduces himself as “from the police”.

I’ve had to cancel all my Oakland library holds and return all the books I had checked out. So I’ve been digging in The Boxes for escapism. I can only read children’s books (Edward Eager*, E.L. Konigsburg, and Zilpha Keatley Snyder) and light fiction (Barbara Pym, Peter Mayle, and Miss Read). I can’t wait to get a library card when I move, and I have a list of books to request when I do. That’s a happy thought for sleepless nights. Or any time of day.

*Megan just bought Jessica her first Edward Eager! Also some of the delightful Great Brain series. She’s reading at a fourth grade level at the age of six.

Wind & Whether

Stormy weather

Wow! That was intense!

I must have aged ten years on the drive home today. Jessica will be even less complimentary the next time she compares the original to my decade-old driver’s license picture.

I was the most worried about Highway 128, whose curves make Marilyn look like Audrey Hepburn. It turns out that was the fun part. Both 101 and 580 were full of trucks whooshing by, or hanging out in front of me, so I was blinded by the mist in the their wake (is there a term for this?) half the time. Add in torrential rains, gale-force winds, a few flooded lanes, and people driving without their lights on, and you have a hell-a-palooza on your hands.

My Mouse must have been working overtime and wishing I brought its twin.

According to the radio, 280 was partly closed due to flooding, and 101 south of San Francisco was also flooded, backing up traffic for miles. About ten minutes after I passed Philo, I heard that a car had driven into a tree which had fallen across the road there.

I have never been so happy to see Oakland in my life.

As for the interview, also known as the stress-free part of the trip, I think it went well. One of the interviewers worked with Megan at the hospital for several years, so that was a point in my favor. She also remembered my mother’s long, painful illness and was really sweet about it. That’s a small town for you!

They are supposed to decide by the end of the week. If they make me an offer, I don’t know how I can fit it in with my current job, especially since they want someone 5 hours a day, 5 days a week. I’m not too happy at the the thought of driving all that way every day, but they do offer medical benefits and it seems like a great place to work. And if they don’t make me an offer, I’ll be all huffy because they don’t want me.

Ugh


Being the Halloween Fairy takes practice.

Also blah.

So I have a job interview on Monday. It’s the first one I’ve had in nearly twenty years*. I suppose I should be glad that I haven’t had more interviewing experience, but on the other hand, I haven’t had more interviewing experience.

The interview is also 180 miles away.

I figured I’d go first thing on Sunday, so I could hang out with the sibs and play with the puppy, but no. The landlord** is showing the house again between 1:00 and 2:00 on Sunday, and she’s such a flake that I know she’ll let the kitties out and not be able to catch them. So I’ll have to stay here uncomfortably while strangers inspect my chaotic house and bad housekeeping and closet contents, and then spend four hours driving north. Hopefully I’ll get there before dark.

The interview is scheduled for 2:00 on Monday. I was thinking of driving back afterwards, but I realized that if I leave Fort Bragg around 3:00, I’d hit Santa Rosa at rush hour, and be immersed in rush hour the rest of the way home. So I think I’ll stay overnight, and have coffee with my sister when she comes home from work at 7:00 in the morning, and then head home. All this before moving next week.

To make it even more fun, there’s a storm advisory for Monday afternoon through Wednesday, so I’ll get to drive home in pouring rains and high winds.

Good times.

On the bright side, I’ll have an excellent Halloween weekend. Lu is giving a party on Friday, then I’l be part of Jessica’s Halloween entourage on Saturday (she might be a Halloween fairy), and Sunday we’ll be celebrating the Day of the Dead with Mark and Citlali and their family.

*In case you’re wondering how I performed this amazing feat, it’s because the two jobs I had before this one were temp to hire, and then my boss just called me and asked if I’d like to work with him again (we had worked together for years at my previous job). So no interview required. There’s a lot to be said for temp to hire, since you find out what the job actually is and who your coworkers really are before you commit.
**I told her about the water bill, and she just said “Oh.” That was it.

Henry Makes a Move


Henry on the front steps

When I talk on the phone, I always pace. Since the house is small, and clogged with boxes, I usually walk up and down the sidewalk in front of my house. Lately, Henry’s been following me on these meanders, meowing his harsh, yet muted meow. I’m not sure what he wants, but maybe pacing annoys cats, since Audrey tends to bat the blinds and mew loudly when I do so. Not that it stops me.

Yesterday, I finished a call and went back in the house. A few minutes later, I noticed both June and Audrey were at the front door, staring out with their tails switching back and forth. I went over to see what was so fascinating, and there was Henry, sitting on the steps. He has never done this before.

I wonder if he knows I’m moving and wants to make sure I don’t forget him.

I may be a crazy cat lady*, but I think animals pick up on our emotions and changes in our patterns of behavior.

Many years ago, when my brother moved, he was almost finished packing up the truck when Jed the Wonder Dog started trotting into the surrounding woods and appearing with a ball in her mouth. She dropped the ball by the truck, and went back into the woods. When she had collected all her balls, she sat beside the pile, looking up at my brother and wagging her tail. It was as if she was trying to say, “You’re bringing your stuff, and I’m bringing mine.”

*And it’s only going to get worse. Rose and James’s cat, Gertie, can’t understand that they’re gone, so she spends a lot of her day at their old house/my new house. I’m not sure if she’ll flee in horror at the invasion or stand her ground. Then there’s Fiona, who lives nearby with Rose’s daughter Catherine, but comes over whenever she feels like it. So instead of two and a half cats, I’ll have three and two fractions. I think that’s definitely crazy cat lady territory.

A Letter to Two Girls

Dear June and Audrey,

You are more than two years old now, so you are practically grown up. Since there seem to be no cat boarding schools or nannies available, it falls to me to explain a few things to you which will hopefully make our lives together more harmonious.

Clanging the blinds behind the bed in the morning will not persuade me to feed you immediately. If anything, it makes me annoyed, and I want to make you wait a few extra minutes. And when I do feed you, milling around underfoot slows down the process rather than speeding it up, and also puts your paws and tails at risk of being stepped on.

Racing around the house and breaking things, particularly full glasses of water, does not endear you to me. Nor does clanging the blinds and meowing loudly when I’m on the phone. I also happen to dislike having the bed skirt clawed, whether I am in or out of bed. Same goes for the thick wool rug in the living room. And the washing machine beside the litter box. Have you ever noticed that clawing the metal not only creates a shrieking noise, which should be as unpleasing to the feline ear as it is to the human, but completely fails to cover up the poo? That’s what the litter is for. Litter. Box. Get it?

Speaking of litter boxes, the bathroom is mine, and I’m not a big fan of you squeezing onto the tank behind me, destroying the roll of toilet paper, or playing with toiletries in a vain attempt to speed up the feeding process, or just because you’re bored and there’s nothing to do. You wouldn’t enjoy it if I invaded the privacy of your litter box, so let’s go for some reciprocity here, ‘k?

In a couple of weeks, we’ll all be moving to the country. The good news for you: you can play outside to your hearts’ content, and hopefully burn off some of that naughtiness energy. The good news for me: I won’t have to worry about your escaping or search for you with a flashlight and treats while trying not to scream. The less good news: Henry is coming with us, and you’ll have to share the house and garden with him. And there will probably be some visitors, like the elderly cat who used to live in our new house, and a tame deer. Given how good you girls are at adjusting to changes, and your friendly, outgoing natures, I’m sure you’ll adapt beautifully. And I’ll always be there to help you and keep you safe.

Love,

Your Girl

The Funeral Fiesta

I’m kind of surprised by how upset I am over losing the original of this post. I had a hard time putting it back together. And it’s not as good as the original.

Also, since I had internet problems when I was up there last week, I got out of the habit of writing nearly every day. I find the more I write, the more I write. If I take a few days off, I have a hard time getting back in stride. Go figure.

Here’s the reconstituted post. Sigh.

Rose’s funeral fiesta was amazing. It was held at her former house, which will soon be my house. Dozens and dozens of people were there; kids ran around the garden and played on the trampoline. It turns out that I also have a swing, seen here being modeled by Jessica:

jessicaswing

There was a buffet, and a bar with red and white wine, water, lemonade, and of course margaritas. Overhead, there were beautiful hand-cut banners with images traditional for Mexican Dia de los Muertos* (Day of the Dead) celebrations. Here you can see skeletons bearing a coffin, with lit candles on either side:

There were little shrines all over the garden, with flowers, candles, little sculptures, shells, and some of Rose’s work (she was a gifted potter and artist). I love the saw repurposed as art in the last photo:

shrine1
shrine2
shrine3
shrine4

There was an altar for Rose, covered with photos from every stage of her life. My favorite was one of her sitting happily in a hammock, beaming with joy.

roseshrine

All over the garden, there were notes and letters to Rose and her family pinned to the trees. We also wrote messages in a little book. I have to admit that I was as proud as a mother when I saw Jessica write “I miss you Rosemarie. Love, Jessica” in the book. She signed her name in cursive writing, a new accomplishment.

treenotes

A mariachi band had come all the way from Santa Rosa, and serenaded us as we ate, drank, and talked. Erica set up a tip jar for the band before setting to work carving a watermelon to look like a flower.
mariachis

Mark, who was Rose’s son-in-law, announced the last song the mariachis would play. It is a traditional farewell song, and sounded to my untutored ears like “Los Galindos”. Mark says the title means something like “Little Birds”. It was a lovely and moving song. As the artists took their leave (and their tip jar), we moved our chairs to the part of the garden where Rose’s altar was.

A microphone was set up, and people got up and spoke about Rose, including her granddaughters and, remarkably, their friends, all of whom were less than 10 years old; the woman who had introduced James and Rose many years ago in Baja; and James’s cousin. There were laughter and tears, and many shared memories. Rose’s daughter Citlali recited a poem, and played a tape of Rose’s brother Axel, who couldn’t be there, singing Charlie Chaplin’s Smile.

As the sun began to set, Mark set a large chunk of clay beside Rose’s altar and invited everyone to take a piece and make a bead, which would be fired in Rose’s kiln. I patterned mine with little dots in spirals, and Erica made hers look like a little face. Here are some of the beads on Rose’s altar:

claybeads

The celebration went on long into the night, with impromptu music provided by the guests, playing guitar, harmonica, and conga drums. Candles were lit and flickered in the moonlight. As Mark hugged me good-bye, he gestured around the garden and said, “She is everywhere here.”

Jessbye

*It’s on November 1. My new landlords have offered to celebrate with us, so we can do something special for our parents. It’s the day after Halloween, when I will be the newest member of Jessica’s trick-or-treating entourage. Last year’s numbered six.

Wake Up Call

Well, this is getting to be a bad habit.

This morning, I was eating a bagel and watching “Bewitched” before getting down to work. One of my landlords suddenly appeared in the doorway, as if Samantha (or one of her mischievous relatives) had twitched her there. I had a feeling of déjà vu, wondering why she always turned up while I was eating, and why she never felt the need to call first. The one time she did actually email me to tell me they were coming was the one time they didn’t show up.

I figured there was no point in pointing out that the law says landlords have to give 24 hours’ notice before showing up, but I have to wonder if the next tenant will also be subject to these surprise attacks. And how hard it will be to rent out the house now that the house next door, which is nearly the same, is also for rent.

At least it gave me a chance to talk to her about the move. I had expected her to contact me after getting my note, but I hadn’t heard anything, and in the back of my mind, I wondered if something might go wrong, like having to pay an extra month’s rent, if she said she didn’t receive the note, or it wasn’t proper notification or something.

I talked to my brother today, and he’s going to check his schedule since he’s the dedicated truck driver. He said it would probably be Wednesday or Thursday, but he’ll let me know. I consulted the calendar, and the last Wednesday in October is the 28th. That would make sure that I won’t be paying rent on two places at once. I might even be able to go trick or treating with Jessica!

Location, Location, Location


Gratuitous Schatzi picture, which has nothing to do with this post, except she’d be my neighbor if I move. And she looks so pretty!

Really, this alone should be enough to make me move, if the puppies weren’t. I found it fascinating, yet scary, and spent way too much time playing with it instead of working today. I was interested to note that my area seems to specialize in car thefts and burglaries, which makes me feel especially lucky that my neighbor B keeps an eye on my place on the rare occasions I’m away. She brought over my mail on Saturday (which included the September Issue of Vogue – yay!) and mentioned that I had left my car window open.

I need a nanny.

If I do move, the house I’ll live in has no locks at all. No worry about forgetting house keys! And most people up there leave their car keys in the ignition. So they know where they are.

I was going to take pictures for you, but the house wasn’t looking its best. The owners have removed the old balcony railings in order to replace them, so there’s a pile of old wood in front. Inside, the owners are still in the process of dealing with their late mother’s things, so it was a little on the disordered side, and it seemed disrespectful somehow to take pictures. It was so poignant to see Rose’s mail still on the coffee table, as if she’d be back anytime.

The room downstairs has a living space and a kitchen area. You can tell a guy built the house, since there are no closets and the kitchen* is almost an afterthought. I’ll have to be ruthless in getting rid of furniture and kitchen accessories. But the counter space isn’t much worse than my current kitchen, and there’s enough room for a table and chairs.

The stairs have a wonderful railing made from a single sinuous tree branch, and lead to the sleeping loft, which has a skylight and a door to the balcony. Outside, I discovered that the balcony wraps around to the side of the house. It’s big enough for a party up there.

There’s also an attached garage with sliding glass doors which Rose used as a pottery studio, and has plenty of room for storage. There’s also a washer and dryer, which is good, since the nearest laundromat is a half hour drive away.

Rose had the bathroom built on, so it’s new and nice. Also much better than dealing with an outhouse and an outdoor shower, which was the original arrangement. Again with the guy house, n’est-ce pas?

The house is heated with propane, so I won’t have to buy wood and chop it, which is great. All in all, I really like it, and all that really remains now is to negotiate the rent, since no-one has ever rented it before. Rose’s kids are having a memorial for her in a couple of weeks, so I’ll probably go up for that. Especially since they’re getting a mariachi band to perform. Now, that’s a funeral!

*I have to admit that I love watching those HGTV shows where people buy fabulous houses or renovate them. I’m always amazed by how, well, spoiled the people are. They always think kitchens that look perfectly fine to me need updating or aren’t big enough. Their heads would fall OFF if they saw Rose’s kitchen or my sister’s. Also, I can’t understand the obsession with stainless steel appliances, which show every single fingerprint, and granite countertops, which I find ugly. Also the need for two sinks in a bathroom. I don’t want anyone else in there while I’m getting ready, so why do you need two sinks?

Surprise!

Yesterday afternoon, I was eating hummus and watching a re-run of Monk when my landlords appeared at the front door. Since the doorbell doesn’t work, they actually said, “Knock, knock”, though I failed to ask who was there, being fully occupied by being totally surprised.

They had come to operate on the poor, sickly lawn. They brought a sprinkler with a timer and a bunch of seed, so I guess the already insane water bill will go up. Hopefully the transfusion will help the grass regain its youth and vigor. Plastic surgery is never cheap.

I was completely taken aback by their sudden appearance. I also had to admit to them that I had inadvertently killed the hose for the front lawn by mowing it, but they didn’t seem to mind and just used the hose from the back yard instead. I imagine Henry fled the scene of such unaccustomed industriousness, especially in the afternoon heat. The girls were fascinated, running to the back porch to see what they were doing in the back yard, then racing to the front door to try and see what they were up to there. Guard cats!

It just figures that they decided to fix the lawn now, when I’m probably moving. I felt weird talking to them, like I was cheating on them or something, and guilty for not watering the lawn more or enough or whatever.

Plan B?


Home sweet home?

You will be amazed to hear that I’m thinking of moving. Again. But you might really be amazed to hear where.

It’s no secret that I hate living in Oakland, or that I’m deeply tired of spending nearly every penny I make to do so. I can’t afford to live in San Francisco, or anywhere desirable in the East Bay. I’m sick of the BART station of death and the weirdness of strangers.

So here’s my possible Plan B: move into my sister’s house (back view from the garden is pictured above). Our brother has already moved out to the property (more or less), so his house is vacant-ish, and my sis and her husband can move there, and I can move into their house. Musical houses!

Yes, it’s even teenier than my current house. It’s in the country. The separation between outside and inside is extremely blurred (and dusty or muddy, depending on the season). It’s a four hour drive from my job. I’m worried about the cats going outside and disappearing forever, which has happened to both my brother and sister.

But…

I’ll be close to my family and friends. I can spend more time with Jessica. Rent will be a third of what I’m paying now, and there will be no more insane water bills. There aren’t any locks on the door, even if I wanted to lock them. Sure, I’ll have to drive everywhere, but I do here, too. And who wouldn’t prefer driving by the ocean to the freeway?

I can consign The Boxes to my brother’s storage container. I can pile up meetings on a couple of days a month, stay in the familiar hotel near my old place in San Francisco. With 24 hours’ notice, I can be there if my boss/partner needs me.

I can even take the good bridge to get there.

Can I do it? Will it be like Green Acres? Will my boss say OK?

Stay tuned.

Thoughts, opinions, notions and moving cartons are welcome. if you’re too discreet to comment, email me at speakall at earthlink dot net. I’ll be glad you did.

Unmoved

Now that the heat wave is gone and my mind is more or less back in working in order, I’ve been thinking a lot about the great house hunt.

It’s probably just as well that I didn’t get that house. I’m not sure I could handle the stress of sudden packing, giving notice, having to pay for two places at once, and the cost of moving. Also, I didn’t get a good feeling from the landlady. She was pretty cold and distant, and immune to my charm, which may well be what bothers me the most. My current landlords may be flaky, but at least they’re nice.

The biggest problem with that house was no outside access for June and Audrey. They spend a lot of their time on the screened-in porch, sniffing the air and keeping an eye on Henry. It’s the best of both worlds, since they can be outside while still staying safe. It would have been really hard for them to adjust to being inside all the time again, and I want my girls to be happy.

I also wonder if Henry would have run away or stayed at the new house. We had a breakthrough today. I was talking on the phone and walking around the back yard. He saw me and came running up. I reached out, and instead of clawing my hand or running away, he sniffed my hand and then let me pet him. I think he may have actually purred. It’s the first time this has happened, so he must really trust me.

Maybe it’s all for the best if I stay here for now.

To Move, or Not to Move?

There were sun and showers today. Take your pick! The traffic goddesses smiled upon me, other than the usual slow spots (Berkeley and that construction place when you pass San Quentin). The sun was shining in Petaluma as I arrived at the house with the white picket fence.

The owner was a nice guy, and showed me around the little house. I’d say it’s a little bigger than my current digs in Oakland, but it has a garage big enough to hold all the boxes taking up my living room and all the stuff in the Oakland storage. It has a lovely back yard, a side yard, where the current tenants have a table, chairs, and umbrella set up, and a small front garden. Everything is professionally landscaped in drought tolerant plants, which I think is important. It’s also beautiful.

Inside, the kitchen is essentially a corner of the living room, being completely open to it without even a breakfast bar. The counter and cupboard situation is about the same as here, though the cupboard doors actually close. There is beige carpet everywhere but the kitchen and bath. It doesn’t look like my bed and bed side tables, none of which are very big, would fit in either bedroom, but there is a huge walk-in closet in one, and a regular closet in the other.

The owner mentioned that temperatures get into the three digits in the summer, though it cools down at night. And you know how I love the heat.

So there are a lot of pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Beautiful town. Can walk to historic downtown, and transit to San Francisco is only two blocks away. Neighborhood is quaint Victorians* and tall trees.
  • Much safer and no audible barking dogs or visible depressing dogs marooned outside.
  • Beautiful, drought-tolerant landscaping. No sad, dead lawn to mow and bemoan. Nice yards for Henry to play in, though will have to come up with some kind of shelter.
  • Pretty house with use of bathtub and doors, cupboard and otherwise, that actually close.
  • Lots of closet space, and, more importantly, lots of storage.
  • Rent is cheaper than current abode, and I wouldn’t have to pay for storage, making it cheaper still. Also water is about half the price it is in Oakland, and car insurance will be cheaper.
  • Could probably put the grandfather clock in the front hallway (and finally get it out of storage).
  • Much closer to my brother sister and so much easier to get there.

Cons:

  • The owners want first month’s rent, last month’s rent, a security deposit, and an unspecified pet deposit. This would be in the neighborhood of $3,500+ dollars, and I doubt if I can afford that neighborhood right now.
  • I’d have to move in about two weeks!
  • Beige carpeting with cats. Beige carpeting.
  • Not much improvement, if any, in the kitchen situation, though at least I could close the cupboard doors.
  • The current tenants are taking their washer and dryer with them, so I’d have to buy used ones to replace them, adding to moving costs. Then there’s the U-Haul.
  • Sliding screened door in the laundry room, which looks onto the back yard, so the girls could hang out there, but is that a real substitute for a screened porch with sun and shade?
  • Would have to come up with some kind of shelter for Henry. And how can I be sure he’ll understand about the move when I can’t have him in the house with the girls?
  • It didn’t look like either of the bedrooms was wide enough to accommodate queen size bed plus two IKEA bedside tables (yes, nothing but the best for me). I could have one table, though.
  • 100 degree weather for part of the summer. It does cool off at night, but 100 degrees is too hot for a delicate flower like Self, not to mention girls in permanent, always-stylish fur coats.

Any thoughts, advice, opinions and spare change gratefully accepted.

*The house’s owner kept referring to the house as “Victorian”, though it was built in the 1920s.