Mystery

When I arrived at work yesterday, I was somewhat taken aback to see that the door was ajar. It was even more unnerving since Daylight Saving Time plunged us back into morning darkness, which we all know is entire evil point of it.

The door needs an ID badge to open, and opens and closes (at least, theoretically) automatically, with no human intervention needed, other than the application of the company-issued ID card (from the outside) or a sweep of the hand past the sensor (on the inside). It is supposed to be touchless.

The alarm is right inside the door, and it was turned off. You need a special assigned code to turn it off. Hmm.

I closed the door manually, and then called out for the coworker who often arrives around the same time I do, even though Wednesday was the only car in the parking lot. I walked through the clinic, but it was a human-free zone at that early hour. I was relieved that there were no unauthorized visitors wandering the halls, but I was also wondering, as Iggy Pop would put it, what the hell? What the heck?

I later learned that another colleague had arrived early that day, done a few critical things, and then gone to get coffee, setting the stage for the mystery. She thought the door had closed behind her, and maybe it had, and then popped open again. The doors were easier to deal with and rely on when they worked by hand instead of (allegedly) automatically, in my change-resistant opinion.

A YEAR AGO: Thinking about Mom.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A field trip to Willits.

TEN YEARS AGO: A different kind of mystery.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Come to Tuscany with me, circa 1984.

Fiery

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!

Secrets

I should really have my own radio show. People are always telling me their deepest, darkest secrets, even strangers. Maybe especially strangers. Back when I used to fly to London once or twice a year, people were always talking to me, even when I had the then-equivalent of earbuds in and was reading.

Sometimes when I’m in staff meetings, I look around me and think about the many things I know about my co-workers.

This one’s relative murdered two of the town’s most popular residents and led law enforcement on a long manhunt before dying in a hail of police bullets.

This one was President Obama’s teacher in college and is still his friend.

This one has five generations of her family living. This is only possible with some seriously precocious parenting.

This one’s father was driving the car which killed his wife and seriously injured his grandchild and himself when he got into an accident. He was a homicide detective.

This one had a long ago fling with one of the docs who still works here.

This one has a mail order bride.

This one is married to an ex con half her age who cheated on her before and during their marriage. She attempted suicide over him but was unsuccessful.

And then there’s me.

A YEAR AGO: Almost moved! I still can’t believe I live in this beautiful place.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Car talk.

TEN YEARS AGO: You never know where you’ll find a cat! With a guest appearance by Audrey’s gorgeous sister June. I miss her and Roscoe every day.

Emergencies

There haven’t been a lot of dull moments for Megan at work lately. She has worked in the emergency room of our local hospital for many years now, and just when you think you’ve seen it all, it turns out you haven’t.

A woman showed up carrying a blanket, which later turned out to contain a two week old fawn. She wanted Megan to help her with the fawn, and Megan told her to take it back where she found it. Mother deer will go in search of food and then come back. If you see a baby deer, leave it alone.

Well, she had picked it up 30 miles away.

Megan’s Plan B was that the woman keep the fawn overnight and contact Woodlands Wildlife and Parks & Recreation in the morning to get help. The woman left, and left Megan wondering why she thought the ER could do anything for, you know, a wild animal. Do they need a “Humans Only” sign on the door, like the “Please park off highway” sign at Gowman’s?

Later that evening, Megan met Monica in the hospital parking lot and noticed a blanket by the bus stop. Guess who?

So this person took the fawn, drove it 30 miles, and then abandoned it.

Megan convinced Monica to take it home, where she cared for it until Woodlands Wildlife came to get it. They said the fawn was weak, but would probably make it, thanks to Megan and Monica. And you thought they only rescued dogs!

On another occasion, someone came in and said her friend’s neck looked a little strange. Megan took a look, and it certainly did. Friend had had the same spinal surgery Rob has twice endured, though with less successful results and presumably at a less reputable establishment, since her sutures had failed spectacularly, allowing for an unobstructed view of the spine and all the inner workings associated with it.

Megan was fascinated, yet horrified as she alerted the doctors to the situation, agreeing that it did indeed look a little strange and trying to keep everyone calm. Let’s hope the repair job is more successful than the original patch job.

The Powers That Be who run our hospital – all men – decided a couple of months ago that they would no longer deliver babies. So pregnant women living on the coast have to drive an hour and a half over winding and sometimes snowy and icy or even closed roads to get there. Great idea, right? They said that the 100 or so births a year did not justify keeping the department open. That works out to a couple of births a week in any given year, right? As I said to Megan, if there was an average of two heart attacks a week, would they get rid of defibrillators?

It didn’t take long for a baby to be born in the emergency room.

There was no equipment, no staff specializing in this service, the baby was early and mother had no prenatal care, claiming she didn’t know she was pregnant. Maybe she was too busy taking care of the nine month old baby she already had to notice. This birth was fast and unexpected, and Megan caught the baby, who was given the same name as our brother. Mom and baby were transferred out, but it was complicated by rainy weather. Not ideal for anyone, though the PTB considered that it “went off without a hitch”. Of course, they weren’t there and they never will be.

When Megan was getting ready to go to work for her next shift after that one, I said that I hoped she would have an easier night. She said, “If I don’t end up with a face full of amniotic fluid, it’s all good.”

A YEAR AGO: Dealing with the past so I could start my future.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Small town fun.

TEN YEARS AGO: A bad day for our heroine.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: I still think I’d enjoy Eloise’s lifestyle.

Stay

The monthly Bored meeting at work fell on Dad’s birthday. It was supposed to be a much longer meeting than usual – and it’s more than long enough – and would mean a much longer day than usual. I decided that I didn’t want to face the lengthy drive home after a day that would be at least 12 and might be as much as 14 hours long, so I asked a local innkeeper and friend if he happened to have a room for that night.

He not only had a room, he gave me a prix d’amie that I thought must be a typo due to its tininess. I double checked that there wasn’t a digit missing, and then happily took him up on his offer.

The morning of the meeting, I packed up my suitcase, checking it for moths since it hadn’t been used in so long, gave the cats as much food and water as their dishes would hold*, and headed out into the morning darkness, admiring the slim golden crescent moon and the bright, silvery Venus hanging over the ocean.

The meeting was changed at the last minute and was much shorter than expected, so I got to the hotel before the sun set. I ordered dinner to be delivered and while I waited for it, went out on the balcony and watched the sun set as the ducks and pelicans swan serenely around the estuary below. I thought of Dad and how much I miss him, and how he would have approved of my working a long day on his birthday, since he loved his work so much. He used to say that he would have done his own work whether he was paid for it or not. He was lucky to feel that way. And I was lucky that he was my Dad.

*I am 99% sure that Clyde ate 50% of it. Lately, he has been more food obsessed than ever, walking all over me in bed and meowing starting around 3 am. Can cats be emotional eaters?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Wild turkeys and secretly expensive wine.

TEN YEARS AGO: A day at the beach.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Thinking about Dad. And Mom.

Dark

The Naked Ladies are flaunting their pink, leafless blooms by the side of the road, and you know what that means: high beams have made their unwelcome return to my morning commute. I need a flashlight to get to the car, and I am extra vigilant looking for the wildlife hanging out or meandering on the Ridge in the early morning darkness.

This morning, I wondered what that mysterious light through the trees was. It turned out to be the nearly full moon once I emerged from the redwoods. The moon kept me beaming company all the way down the Ridge and yet was also hanging over the pastel ocean once I arrived there.

It reminded me of when I was a young girl and my mother’s father, the inimitable (and much missed) HoHo, had me convinced that he put the moon up every night, using a long ladder. Once the moon landing happened, I asked him what he did about the astronauts, those men on the moon. He explained that he used a catapult for that. Remembering this half a century later still made me smile as I drove down the beautifully empty highway. Is there anything lovelier than a two lane highway beside the ocean with no other cars in sight on a clear summer morning?

Work has been a crazy thing lately. Or crazier than usual. I worked 35 hours in three days this week, as the Feds examined the operations at the clinic where I work. Weeks of planning, data gathering, and fretting were involved, and there was of course a last minute scramble for documentation, and you know how I love that. In the end, we got 88 out of 93, and have a certain amount of time to fix the 5 things we did not pass. The graders themselves said it was “excellent”, but somehow I just feel let down and not all celebratory like my boss and my coworkers. Maybe because the fix involves having yet another board meeting this month, which means yet another twelve hour day for me.

I have to admit that I’m a bit worn down. I feel like I have been running a marathon. First the move in June, then the dreaded annual staff day and 25th anniversary party in one week in July, then the Feds in August, and now the annual audit is looming in September. I also have to find time to help set up the library’s annual book sale, since I am now the board president, and have been knee deep in dealing with contracts for the library expansion, a thing I know nothing about. Not that this has ever stopped me.

In other library news, yet another board member has passed away, making a total of three this year. To be fair, she was 94, but it’s still a sad loss. She was much loved by the community and still very active on the board. So I am attending her funeral next week and hoping that I will not find myself shoveling dirt onto a coffin again.

I keep thinking, “Once this is over, I can relax”, but it doesn’t seem to work that way.

A YEAR AGO: Yup, the darkness was coming back in. And the new normal does seem to be the norm, since I am sleeping with fans again and can’t remember the last time I didn’t. I miss having the screen door open in the bedroom at the old house. If I have the windows open here, Dodge pushes the screens out.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Under construction!

TEN YEARS AGO: The sudden, unheralded appearance of my landlords. Yet another good reason to move.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Summering in the Hamptons, darling!

Hello


Here’s to me!

Well, hello there!

I have not, as you may have suspected, fallen off the edge of the earth, which is perilously nearby. But I was swept away by a work tsunami, which we all know is the worst kind. We had two events in one week, so in addition to those days, there were two days of preparations. People never think about how things get set up for these shindigs, or how they get cleaned up afterwards, either. Suffice it to say that I do not have Jeannie-like powers and have to do it all the Darren-approved Samantha way. Also that I worked 13 hours of overtime in one week.

I was scheduled to attend a fundraiser in the distant county seat on Saturday after this long and crazy week. Though for a very worthy cause, I found myself unequal to the three hour round trip drive and donated money instead of my beleaguered presence. I felt guilty but also relieved as I mixed up a batch of Cosmos and watched A Crooked Somebody surrounded by sleepy cats.

I had recovered enough by Sunday morning to head over to Rio’s house:

for breakfast with the visiting Jarrett and Kalli. Jonathan made huckleberry pancakes, served with huckleberry sauce and real maple syrup:

.

They were as delicious as they looked.

Kalli and Jarrett had big news to share: they are planning to get married on the family estate in the spring of 2021! We are very excited about that and looking forward to the big day. I am so happy for them!

A YEAR AGO: Farewell to my wonderful former mother-in-law. I was so lucky to have had her and Ed in my life. I will always miss them.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Kalli’s birthday party at the family property/wedding venue to be!

TEN YEARS AGO: A lovely stroll around Little River Cemetery.

One Week

Darkness is creeping back again. If it weren’t so foggy in the mornings this week, I would have put the high beams on. I am always glad to see the fog, though this summer, it hasn’t been as cool as I would like even when it is foggy. I can’t remember the last time I slept without the fans on. It’s not that it is exceptionally hot, just that it hasn’t been as cool as usual for the coast and never gets really cold at night the way it used to. Maybe it’s an anomaly and maybe it’s the new normal. Did you ever notice that anytime it’s a “new normal” it’s never good?

Hopefully this Fogust will not give way to a hellacious heat wave the way it did last year.

It’s been a long and dreary week for our heroine. It kicked off with a dental appointment, which is never a good way to start the week. No cavities this time, but unenjoyable nonetheless, especially since they insist on making an appointment for six months later before you leave, so you don’t even get to enjoy what Gilbert and Sullivan called “the gratifying feeling that our duty has been done.” It’s already hanging over you even though it’s next year, and you can’t really feel like you’ve checked it off your ever-expanding to do list.

Dental duty was followed by two long days. One had 4 hours of meetings in its 12 hours, and the other had setting up for and attending a work-related party/reception in its mere 10 hours. I’m not sure which of these was worse, but I do know when I got in the car 11 hours after I had gotten out of it, it all seemed a little too familiar.

Add in looking after my boss with some health issues and a Board meeting at the library and you have a week you are glad to see end.

Grateful

Despite the recent minor health and car problems, I have been trying to focus on the many things I have to be grateful for. My sister coming to my rescue with cold remedies; my brothers coming to my rescue with car remedies; a few minutes to cuddle with Clyde before the alarm goes off; an empty stretch of highway; the golden morning light on the hills as they make their seasonal change from green to gold; the deep lavender of a fog bank floating over a slate-blue sea; Mark’s dogs running up to joyfully greet me as I arrive home from work.

Since the tragedies occurred last month, I have been more thankful than ever for the little surprise gifts from my co-workers. One colleague brought me a beautiful beaded bracelet from Mexico:

She told me that she had it blessed in a little chapel in her home town, and that it would protect me when I wore it, as I often do. I was touched that she thought of me when she was so far away.

One of the doctors used to be a professional chef (How’s that for a career change? Though perhaps the late, great Anthony Bourdain would not be surprised), and one day, she brought me a generous helping of a new recipe she had tried in her Instant Pot, which was both delicious and enough for two dinners which I did not have to make, which happens to be my favorite kind.

Another co-worker brought me a stunning little arrangement of a flower from her garden called Mock Orange, a new one on me.

It was so pretty and lasted all week, reminding me of how lucky I am to work with such kind people. Whether they knew it or not, they helped me through that dark time and I am grateful for that.

A YEAR AGO: Sorbet, cracksicles, camping, and sculpture. All in Hooterville!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Some wonderful quilts.

TEN YEARS AGO: The fate of my former home. Their fates are never good.

Wild, Wild Life

Well, Thursday was a day and a half. Or maybe more…

It kicked off with a power outage about 10 minutes after I arrived at work, out of the proverbial, and in this case, literal, blue sky. In keeping with the theme of the day, the weather would alternate in a schizo manner between blazing sun, high winds, blasting hail, and intense rain. There was snow on higher elevations.

As usual, I was the first one to report the outage to our friends at PG&E. I guess everyone else thinks someone else is doing it, and they’re right. I am.

I texted my boss to let her know what was happening, and looking out of the window, discovered that the people who were running the scrubs sale scheduled for that day had arrived early. They had made the long drive from Oregon and were good sports about unloading their wares into the dark and heat-free conference room.

I held the door open for them since the lack of electricity meant that the doors would not stay open on their own. A behavioral health patient turned up half an hour early for her appointment, in floods of tears. Since she was half an hour early, there was no qualified staff available so I did my best to calm her down while doing my Carlton imitation in the chilly early morning.

Eventually all the scrubs were decanted and the patient delivered into qualified hands, at which point I discovered that there were a couple of conflicts with meetings scheduled in the conference rooms that day. It was too late to cancel anything, so I had to somehow, some way find alternate spaces for said meetings, which I did, moving furniture and trying not to inconvenience anyone more than necessary.

On the bright side, the power was back on by then, so there was light and heat.

I had barely settled back in my office to deal with things needed for a six hour meeting on the following day when one of the meeting participants came out and said that her fellow meeting goers were asking about food. I pointed out that it was 2:00 in the afternoon, and she said that they thought I had made dinner reservations, which I had not, since a) no-one had asked me to; and 2) this was the first I heard of it. Later I had to set up a conference call for them and then call the guy who was supposed to be on the call, only to find that he was on vacation and had to, yes, call yet another person.

I got that sorted out and was then notified that we had been contacted by a doctor who was interested in interviewing. I can’t even tell you how hard it is to find doctors who are willing to work in the middle of nowhere for way less money than they would make working somewhere that is somewhere, so I wanted to schedule the interview with my boss and the Medical Director as soon as Suzily possible.

I went over to medical to check on his schedule, and while checking on it, he appeared. I asked him what his schedule was on the day in question and he said he would be in San Francisco that day and the day before it. I pointed out that there was a standing meeting with all the doctors that day which he led, and asked if I should cancel it. He said yes and disappeared, leaving me unsure of what to do next.

For those of you who do not work in the medical field, I will just say that scheduling doctors’ days is very complicated. The good news here is that the doctors could see patients instead of spending non billable time in meetings, but the challenges are that they have things they need to talk about and letting them know that the meeting was canceled, since many of them do not work on Fridays and others do not work on Mondays. Also finding someone with the correct credentials to open their schedules.

I did get it done, though, and somehow survived the crazy day.

Arriving home, I discovered that the underachieving amaryllis had attempted suicide and was lying on the rug beside the heater with its bud broken off and its blossoming flower was damaged and poured a glass of overdue wine. On the bright side, the Leafs beat the Islanders, unlike the time I actually saw them play.

*I see my photo included the glorious Mats Sundin, number 13. The Leafs have never had such a captain since Sundin retired.

A YEAR AGO: Stormy weather and darkness.

FIVE YEARS AGO: My brother took a courageous leap.

TEN YEARS AGO: A mental vacation in the pages of the New York Times section section.

Smallville

It was the smallest of small town days.

The tone was set right from the start, when I arrived at work to find Megan’s car already there. Knowing she had just finished the third of her 12 hour night shifts for the week, I wondered what she was doing there.

She was planning to finish working on a chart for a patient who had a visit that day, thinking it would only take a little while, but of course, Technology had other plans. By the time she left, she had been awake so long that I asked her to text me when she got home. You will be as glad as I was to hear that she did.

Meanwhile, back at work, I received an email with a patient issue. Emails sent to our website come to me, and I try to get the questions resolved as soon as I can. This one turned out to be from the same person whose dog I hit with my car (and who looked like his old and handsome self when we had lunch recently). I got her issue taken care of quickly and she was very happy. Truly, I do this for every patient when it’s possible, but it is a little nicer when it’s someone you know. Also in keeping with our small town theme of the day.

Unrelated to my attempted murder of a local celebrity dog, Wednesday has been having some issues of her own. When I last had the tires rotated, the tire guy mentioned that I needed to have the brake pads replaced. So I ordered those, and in consulting the little orange notebook that details the adventures of Wednesday, I noticed that she was also overdue for an oil change, so I bought oil and filters. Needless to say, the car parts guy asked me which kind of filter, and as usual, I had no idea, so he sold me both and said I could bring back the runner up.

I gave all this stuff to my brother, and reminded him about the eternal engine light. He and Rob changed the oil no problem, but noticed when applying the new brake pads that the rotors needed to be smoothed out (or something). He jetted into town to get this done so he could continue to work on my car, and when I picked them up later that day, I noticed that the name immediately ahead of mine in the handwritten book of jobs to be done was that of one of my coworkers.

With the manicured rotors safely in the car, I headed for the library, where I found Rob pulling up across the street from me just as I arrived. I asked him if he was interested in some previously enjoyed rotors, and fortunately for me, he was, moving them from my heap to his. Now all we have to do is wait for the parts Jonathan ordered to arrive to complete the brake repair extravaganza. In the meantime, we are a little car-challenged, but we’ll work it out.

A YEAR AGO: Stormy weather.

FIVE YEARS AGO: An update on Jarrett’s puppy, Archimedes, aka The World’s Cutest Puppy. They are still each other’s best friends.

TEN YEARS AGO: Taking a break from Oakland’s homicides for the peace of Mendocino County. Moving here was one of the best decisions I ever made!

Luna-cy

My friend the Moon has been showing off this week!

Yesterday, she was huge and golden, beaming down on the black trees and the quiet ocean. I could almost hear her laughing, and I gasped with shock and delight at my first sight of her as I drove down the Ridge in the early morning darkness.

Today, I got up at the peak of the eclipse, and watched for a while in the cold stillness, remembering that other lunar eclipse a few years ago when my much loved ex father-in-law left this earth and bade farewell with a shooting star. As I drove workwards, the Moon kept slipping out from the eclipse’s shadow, bathing the dark, calm ocean with a luminous path, growing larger every moment, surrounded by a dazzle of glittering stars.

Winter is beginning to give way to spring. It’s not here yet, but the vivid green grass at the side of the road is starred with daffodils and calla lilies unfurling their flags. And my camellias are blooming at last! Well, one bush is anyway:

As for me, I once again made it through the hell of the annual fundraiser, somehow staying afloat on a sea of last minute tasks, stupidity, and minor and major emergencies. It was a battle at times, and a lengthy one, but I prevailed.

Megan worked at the Clinic on the first day of the fundraiser, which conveniently fell on the last day of the week, and offered to take me out for a drink if/when my work day ended. I went home, fed the kitties, put on some lights, and headed over to Megan’s place.

We reached our favorite watering hole just in time to catch a last glimpse of sunset:

before pulling up stools at the bar and ordering a Lavender Lemon Drop:

It was as delicious as it was beautiful, and it was medicinal as well, having a magically tonic effect on my previously bad attitude. I felt the civilization suffuse my being as I enjoyed chatting with my sister, the wonderful bartender, and some fellow locals as the sun slipped into the sea and the lights twinkled in the bar.

It was a two drink kind of night, and when the bartender gave us the bill, she said that the first round was on her. We of course protested, but she insisted, and I have to say that it was a first for me, having a bartender buy me a drink. It’s a lovely experience, too. The perfect end to a crazy week!

A YEAR AGO: You guessed it: the horror of the annual fundraiser. Is anything annual ever fun?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Nothing like a game of heirloom lost and found, I always say.

TEN YEARS AGO: Enjoying the film noir festival in San Francisco.

Back Up

It took me three tries to get home on Friday night.

Wednesday and I had turned onto the long driveway, with its astonishing collection of water filled craters (or super puddles), and I was looking forward to an adult beverage after a long and crazy week at work of preparing for the annual fundraiser, among other things*. Not so fast, missy!

The driveway is also only wide enough for one car, so when Mark’s wife Citlali came down the driveway headed straight for me, I had to back up. Now, backing up is not one of my special skills. Instantly knowing whether someone is a guy or a girl? You bet. Guessing which piece is the most expensive in “New Yorker” jewelry ads? Absolutely! Choose the perfect wine for dinner? I am your girl. But backing up? Not so much.

My lack of talent in this arena is exacerbated, or possibly enhanced, by Wednesday’s infamous gangsta dark windows. In the spirit of full disclosure here, I will just say that I long ago ceased using my rearview mirror and rely solely on the side ones. So I backed up slowly, hoping that I wouldn’t hear the distinctive sound of huckleberry bushes and rhododendrons scratching Wednesday’s paint. Or, you know, hit a tree.

Whew. I made it to the loop in front of the Front House, and then started drinkward once again. Another car came down the driveway toward me. I said out loud, “Are you kidding me?” and retraced my steps, or tracks. I didn’t realize it was Megan until she was already past me.

I figured I must be through with backing up practice, hopefully for the rest of the year, but as usual, I was wrong. An unknown grey car was the next one to get between me and a now necessary cocktail. I backed into the loop for the third time, and when the coast was clear, drove as fast as I could to Stately Suzy Manor, where Kovu greeted me with a plastic Santa in his mouth. Much like Me, the Santa had seen much better days, but Kovu was very proud of it anyway. I petted him and told him what a good boy he was, and he trotted off to show someone else his prize.

Welcome home!

*One of the “other things” was rodential in nature, if not in Nature. One of the doctors and a couple of the staff had noticed the presence of a rat in the courtyard, and did not welcome the new neighbor. We set a trap, and the new neighbor was smart enough to get the bait without being trapped. But rats don’t seem to have as many lives as cats, and at the end of the day on Friday, I discovered it was also the end of the rat’s days.

I asked Facilities Guy if he could dispose of the undearly departed, after apologizing for the poor timing of the request. He had just returned from his 108 year old great aunt’s graveside service. He laughed and said, “Two funerals in one day!”

A YEAR AGO: The wonders of the fine woodworking show.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The delights of Drybar.

TEN YEARS AGO: The joys of a new library card.

Cats & Dogs

The Plague is finally beginning to lose its death grip on our heroine, but after all this time, I am still not fully restored to health and sanity, though of course I am back at work, having burned through 42 hours of paid time off without the advantages of having fun, getting rest, or restoring my severely depleted batteries.

I also failed to enjoy the short weeks over the holidays, being fully occupied with being sick, and now I’m back to the five day a week grind, staring down the barrel of a 12 hour day yesterday and the ordeal of the annual fundraiser, which is of course this month. Basically I am still living on Vernors ginger ale and Jacob’s Cream Crackers.

Plague: 5,042 Suzy: 0

I haven’t seen Mark yet this new year, but I see his dogs every day when I get home from work, and they greet me with outsized and muddy enthusiasm. The current dramatis personae is sweet old Luna; pretty Lupe; cute little Blue; and super bouncy Kovu. This is Kovu:

For some reason, Kovu used to be horrified by me, but he got way over that stage, and now he has the enthusiasm of the converted. If I don’t get out of the car fast enough to suit him, he climbs muddily in, to the detriment of Wednesday’s upholstery and my work wardrobe. I think he would like to move in with me. I might like that too, but Queen Audrey would object and little Clyde would be scared, so for now, all Kovu petting has to take place outside.

As for inside…I went to dig out some potatoes from the buckets in the studio the other day and discovered that potatoes were not all that was in the buckets.

It appeared that Audrey decided that the potato buckets were her personal litter boxes. Undoubtedly, she considered it very thoughtful of the Staff to have so many of them available for her exclusive use, since Clyde has never thought outside the box in his life.

The Staff, however, was less thrilled. An informal survey revealed that Audrey’s contributions were more than surface deep, so I ended up hauling all the buckets outside in the rain, with plans to empty them into the woods if/when I feel up to it or can persuade the long-suffering Rob to do so for me.

A YEAR AGO: The power was on an extended vacation amidst stormy weather.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Be careful what you wish for.

Aftermath

While the rest of you were celebrating your Christmas, I was cleaning up after ours.

Every year I tell myself not to bother cleaning up before hand, and every year, I ignore my own well-meant advice and am annoyed/horrified by having to re-clean everything I had cleaned the day before. This year, of course, was no exception, and by the time I had emptied out the somewhat disgraceful recycling, washed the heirlooms and put them carefully away (nothing broke!), re-vacuumed, and done a couple of loads of laundry, it was afternoon, and I was thankful that I had at least had the sense to take the day after Christmas off from work, both domestic and unpaid.

Arriving at work today, I discovered a plague of ants had taken up residence in my absence. I wiped them to a rapid and sanitary death with the atomic wipes they use in Medical, but the super ants were not deterred or their friends did not get the message that Doom awaited them in my office. Facilities Guy provided me with a gooey ant trap, which I have set on my windowsill for the unwary ants and which he assures me are more effective than the germicidal wipes of doom.

I was planning to work tomorrow, but Megan got sick last night and is unable to drive to Eureka with me tomorrow. The original plan was that she would pick me up at work in the late afternoon after she woke up from her last night shift of the week, but if I am doing all the driving on the sinuous and scenic Highway 1, I do not want to be doing it in the dark. I conferred with my boss and she decided that I should just take the day off and drive up in the morning, so that is now my new plan. Gotta love a one day work week!

I am going to see my friend Janice, who you may remember visited me a few years back with her lovely daughter Julie, and also our nephew Jarrett and his beautiful girlfriend Kalli. So the next time I check in with you will be from a whole new county! Wish me an uneventful journey.

A YEAR AGO:Cleaning up after a lovely celebration.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A warm and wonderful Christmas. Jessica looks like a baby!

Frosty Solstice

I’m sitting in bed with the heater and Audrey purring away (Clyde has been Adventure Boy lately, spending more time in the woods than I personally enjoy). I got up when it was actually light out, turned the heater on, made coffee, and took it back to bed. I love doing that.

It’s been pretty chilly lately. The house is about 42F when I get up, and it’s been hovering around the 32F or lower outside overnight. On solstice morning, I discovered that Wednesday’s windows were iced up hard. The door creaked when I opened it. I left the car running for about 10 minutes before heading out to the Ridge, which was a winter wonderland, sparkling with frost. That’s about the closest I have ever gotten to driving on snow*, and I’m happy to keep it that way.

The shortest and darkest day of the year also happens to be my boss’s birthday, much to her displeasure. Besides those two disadvantages, her birthday has historically resulted in the dreaded combo gift, and when she was in school, everyone was always on break, so she never got the little school parties with her classmates, either.

We tried to make it up to her by taking her out to lunch at a restaurant overlooking the harbor. It was a sunny, postcard day, and fishing boats chugged in and out while seals played in the frigid water. I am pleased to report that she was showered with gifts by coworkers (including me). One came in to drop off flowers on his way to a hunting trip, and her husband sent an arrangement that was so beautiful that another colleague took one look and called the florist to order the exact same arrangement to be delivered that day to his own wife.

I left work after lunch, stopped by Monica’s shop to exchange gifts, dropped off library books (sadly, there were none to pick up, though I am observing my own sort of advent by re-reading “The Box of Delights”, timing its 12 chapters to end on Christmas Day. Dad used to read it out loud to us in that manner), and made one last stop at the post office, where I was overwhelmed by a tide of cards and presents to the point that Darlene helped me to carry it all to the car.

Let the holidays – and the celebrating – begin!

*I learned to drive in San Francisco, in the beautiful Presidio.

The Party

I survived the office holiday party!

It was a marathon, though, with days of planning and decorating and blasting down the Ridge in the early morning darkness. This may well be the perfect song to listen to when driving winding roads under a blanket of stars and beside the moonlit ocean.

This year, the person who used to do the decorating moved away, so that left me to do it. You know, the person whose present-wrapping skills are on par with a particularly inept and possibly thumbless five year old. Which makes it even more amusing that I Christo-ed up the tables in the conference room for the party. I regretted this decision at more than one stage in the process, but it looked great when it was done:

My vision was to wrap the tables in brown paper and have centerpieces of freshly cut greenery. My dream came true with holly, cedar, eucalyptus, bay and mystery red berries which were probably poisonous, but whatever! I added glittery pine cones and sparkly mini succulents:

It wouldn’t be Me if it wasn’t sparkly. I also found an unopened box of glittery snowflakes in the store room, so I borrowed an industrial size box of dental floss from the dental clinic and hung them from the ceiling, as you can see in the first photo. I added white lights around the whole room, and it looked warm and welcoming when the room was lit only by those lights:

I was later told that there had never been Christmas lights in the room before, an egregious omission and one that will not recur during my sparkly reign.

I somehow managed to squeeze seating for 85 people in a room whose official capacity is 68 (all that practice making and hosting Thanksgiving for 14 people in my undersized residence came in handy), and I was pleased to note that people hung out and seemed to be enjoying themselves. Most years, they eat and run, since they get paid for the rest of the day, so it was especially nice to see the party continue.

Unfortunately for me, though, I had a Board meeting to set up and take minutes at, so I had to leave the festivities. But I was delighted to receive nothing but compliments, a couple of the doctors going so far as to email all the staff about how great the party was and how well I did, both embarrassing and delightful at the same time.

A YEAR AGO: At the Candlelight Shopping Night.

A Loss

The official month of death kicked off with the unexpected loss of a coworker, Carol, on August 1. She had been fighting lymphoma, but we all – including, I think, her – expected her to return to work.

She was admitted to intensive care on Tuesday, and because this is not just a small world but a small town, my sister was the one called in to try to revive Carol that night, and she died under my sister’s hands.

My sister takes these things better than I do. She believes that by the time the code team is called in, the patient is no longer really “there”, though she adds that maybe she just tells herself that in order to be able to do what she does.

It’s been quiet at work in the days since, as we all try to come to terms with the loss of someone who always had a smile and a cheerful word, a bright presence who had worked at the clinic for a decade and who left the world too soon.

One thing I have learned the hard way is that you can’t tell grieving people “let me know if you need anything”. They don’t know what they need and they can’t tell you. So you do something useful, like walk the dog, mow, the lawn, or pick up groceries. We have set up a calendar at work so people can sign up to bring the family food, and an account at the local credit union to raise money to get Carol’s youngest daughter here from Alaska and to defray final expenses.

Today was my turn to bring food to the family. I made chicken enchiladas using salsa verde my siblings made from tomatillos, garlic, and onions grown at the property, and Megan picked a fresh onion for it from the garden. Somehow, using food we grew ourselves seemed to make it more meaningful. And I found the process of cooking itself to be healing.

Carol and her husband were an extremely devoted couple, and he is devastated. He did say that these gifts of food from Carol’s coworkers mean a lot to him and to the family, especially since they involve a visit and the opportunity to talk about Carol and share memories. Nothing can really help except time, but in the meantime, they are not alone and our community, as it always does, has wrapped its arms around the family.

Hold close those you love.

A YEAR AGO: More death, with the loss of Jack, the last cat John and I had together. Maybe my friend who told me I should start getting used to these departures was right.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Uh, well…the anniversary of my mother’s death, and other assorted bad news. August, man. I’m telling you.

Encore

I (barely) survived the ordeal of the annual Hell Day Staff Day.

This year Staff Day Eve was very nearly as bad as Staff Day itself. It was certainly a longer one, clocking in at 13 fun-filled hours as technology rebelled and I honed my non-existent catering skills.

The Powers That Be decided that this year we would serve fruit for breakfast instead of the traditional bagels and cream cheese. Sounds like a good idea, right? Until you have to spend nearly three hours washing and cutting it up and finding things to store it in overnight and places in the refrigerators to jam it into. While I was slicing, dicing, and hating the Whos*, they drifted through the kitchen saying how great it smelled and snitching pieces of watermelon. To a (wo)man, they failed to offer to help. As you would expect.

Right before I started my fruit dissection, I was told that we would need 50 copies each of two different 60 page documents. I set them to print and headed to the kitchen in the naïve belief that they would be printing while I was chopping. Instead, my printer chose this exact moment to run out of toner and stop working completely. When I came to check on its progress, there was none.

I changed all of the toner cartridges and brought the dead ones to the junk room Facilities Guy’s office with a note asking him to order more (which has not happened – yet another detail to keep track of) and went to copy the finally printed documents.

The copier is of a snail-like slowness, yet equipped with a touch screen which gives you the gloomy prognostication of when the job will be finished. Its original estimate was 55 minutes for one of the double-sided 60 page documents. I left it unattended to attend to other matters, and was rewarded by the discovery that it, too, had stopped working, claiming that a part needed to be replaced.

I called the Facilities Guy, who said that you just have to take it out and put it back in. This turned out to be true. So I started the job again and went to copy the other 60 page document on the Medical Records copier. The deplorable quality of the copies was the least of my concerns, since it too stopped after making a couple of the 50 required copies, and it was so late that there was no-one around with superior copier experience to fix it.

On to Plan C, the Behavioral Health copier. I discovered after a couple of copies that it does not collate, instead presenting the hapless user with 50 copies of page 1. I might have expected that the copier there would have a personality disorder. So I cancelled that one and went back to the original copier, which was still slowly churning out the copies of Document One.

When I finally got home about 14 hours after I left it, I couldn’t even have an adult beverage, since I had to be at Starbucks at 6:30 am on the following day, which I was. Don’t even ask me about writing cheap dime store poetry and cutting out puzzle pieces.

The day itself flowed by in a nightmare of prep, clean-up, and running around as it always does. As per usual, the staff all took off around 3:00 or 3:30, leaving me to clean up the FEMA-worthy aftermath and contemplate the seemingly endless vista of these meetings, the annual fundraiser, and Board meetings for what remains of my life. But hey, it was only a 10 hour day!

You can see why working at the jobette on Saturdays doesn’t even seem like work!

*I was delighted, yet saddened, to learn that the same voice artist was Cindy Lou Who and Natasha Fatale after she passed away just short of her 100th birthday.

A YEAR AGO: You guessed it!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Those crazy kitties.

Summer Saturday

Megan drove me to work on Saturday. As you know, I love being chauffeured or chauffeused, and it was nice to relax in Megan’s little red car while she steered us toward the Big Town in the summer traffic. As we drove, she told me that one of her coworkers was stuck in a long line of cars driving 25 mph behind someone who refused to pull over for most of the duration of Highway 20. The drivers stranded behind him were honking, flashing their lights, and throwing garbage at the miscreant, who blithely ignored these signs of his fellow motorists’ displeasure.

Fortunately, no honking or trash throwing was involved in our commute, though there may have been a little trash talking. As Megan dropped me off at the jobette, I noticed a guy standing in the street singing, and I thought, I hope he isn’t crazy and he leaves me alone. This wish was granted.

Megan headed off to the clinic to work on her second job, while I unlocked the doors to start on my own second job.

Our plan was that she would pick me up and we’d go to the library, stop by Monica’s shop, and then meet Rob in the Village to see a woodworking exhibit and walk the dogs on the headlands, but we were only partially successful.

We did make it to the library, where my haul included the sequel to the book Jessica lent me at our sleepover. I was reminded of going to the library on Saturdays when I was a girl, with Miss Opal the librarian telling us tales of the past, and in the splendid library in Maine, the librarians always let us take out extra book since we were lab kids. Library expeditions were usually followed by a trip to the Victory Market (New York) or the Shop’n’Save (Maine). I now wonder why Dad dragged us all along on these Saturday expeditions, but years later, Megan and I are keeping up the tradition.

We had so much fun talking with Monica that we lost track of the time, and before we knew it, it was time for her to close the shop and we had missed the woodworking show. Megan texted Rob to let him know, and we headed home, where we took a bottle of wine outside in my garden and chatted some more, watching Clyde and Audrey play. It was a good day. Sometimes it’s nice when things don’t go according to plan.