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.

Get Together

On my way home from work on Saturday, I stopped at the Gro for cracksicles. They are delicious pomegranate and cherry popsicles, made of fruit and juice with chunks of fruit in them, and around here, the only place to get them is the Gro.

At the Gro, I discovered that they were out of cracksicles, the supply being down to undesirable flavors like banana. I also ran into yet another co-worker, who was buying beer. And beer. Also, beer. Who am I to judge? After all, I was trying (and failing) to buy cracksicles.

On the bright side, I did get a late-breaking birthday present, so it wasn’t a total loss. I seem to be having a birth month this year, and Junapalooza hasn’t even happened yet.

Arriving at the family estate, I noticed that Rob had replaced his original gate ornament, a modest, but charming pinecone, with one of his amazing sculptures:

Those are skillful casts of Rob’s skillful hands. He’s got the whole world (or at least the whole gate) in his hands.

The garden had sprouted a nice crop of tents:

Must be all that rain and all the relentless sun! Jarrett and Kalli had brought a group of their friends. They have done this camping party for the past few years, usually around Kalli’s birthday in July (which she shares with Audrey). It’s a nice tradition. It seemed like a long time since we had seen them, so it was good to sit under the shade of the canopy from Rio’s daughter’s wedding and catch up over some home-made cider.

We had a taco bar for dinner, with Megan trying her hand at al pastor in her instant pot. It was really good, but the star of the show was dessert. Jonathan made two different sorbets from fruit picked in the garden that day: strawberry and raspberry. They were both delicious, though I’d have to say the raspberry was my favorite. Jonathan thinks he can vacuum seal batches over the summer and store it stacked up in the freezer.

We were having so much fun that I forgot to take pictures, except the ones in my head. And my heart.

A YEAR AGO: The most amazing gift ever!

FIVE YEARS AGO: The many joys of the jobette. Those were the days!

When Worlds Collide

It was a wildlife extravaganza on my way to the jobette this morning.

Bunnies seemed to having a convention, hopping around and across the Ridge before vanishing into the bushes with a flick of white cotton tails. Quail twinkled across the road like the opening credits of the Partridge Family, and a pair of young stags strolled leisurely toward the firehouse, slowly enough that I could enjoy the sight of the velvet on their budding horns.

Arriving at the jobette, I discovered that the car show was once again in town, so the road was blocked off. I drove the wrong way down a one way alley to park in the alley beside the jobette, and then had to move three chairs which were firmly placed in front of the door so I could get in.

Whew.

One of the first visitors of the day was a doc from my real job. He was clearly surprised to see me out of context. The surprise wore off quickly, though, and he settled in and made himself at home on the couch, sharing videos of a clown singing Johnny Cash and the Who and sharing his unique world view with me, even as I answered the phone and talked to the visitors. He finally drifted off after an hour, and I am hoping this does not become a habit.

Later my boss and yet another co-worker stopped by to say hello. I began to wonder which Suzy I was.

My worlds are also colliding at my real job, since I basically got my sister a part-time job there. The clinic manager was saying she needed help dealing with patient charts, and I said I knew just the person. She and Megan had worked together at the hospital, so she jumped on it, called Megan, and the deal was done. So now Megan is at the clinic before she starts her night shift on Monday, and also for a few hours on Friday, doing mysterious things with charts that I do not and probably cannot understand. Sometimes she pops in on the weekend. She is doing a great job, is paid decently, appreciated by her boss, and doesn’t have to deal with patients, so it is made out of win.

It looks like she is going to guest star at the dreaded staff day next month. While I am running around setting it up, cleaning it up, and getting Ranch dressing, she will be doing practice codes with staff and showing them CPR and the joys of the crash cart. We recently had a situation where a patient collapsed and it became clear that staff did not know how to respond. The (admittedly temporary, but still) provider she had an appointment with was walking toward her, saying “I think she needs to see a real doctor.” So we need some training in emergency situations. And if we are paying someone to do it, they might as well be part of the family.

A YEAR AGO: A totally awesome Junapalooza. It’s coming up again next week!

FIVE YEARS AGO: My family’s epic garden was born! Let the parties begin!

Megan’s Birthday

If it’s Memorial Day weekend (and it is), I must be back at the jobette and it must be Megan’s birthday.

I started working Saturdays again yesterday. The many people who have worked there since I (more or less) left have changed things around a lot, so it looks very different while still being familiar. My old desk has been relocated to what used to be the conference room, so I sat at a different one so the visitors could find me. It was really nice to talk to them and hear how magical they find it here.

I did not find the holiday traffic magical, however. The sides of the highway were a parking lot and zombie-like abalone divers were meandering across the road in droves. Fortunately for them we were driving around 40 mph. I could drive faster on the Ridge than I could on the highway for the most part. I have never ever seen Van Damme beach so packed with cars.

Stopping at the Gro on my way home, I ran into Dave and Jennifer, my siblings’ land partners. Dave was going fishing and Jennifer was dropping him off. It’s been a while since I’ve seen them due to their having family situations to deal with, so it was great to catch up and part ways with a hug and a kiss.

Arriving at the property, the birthday girl took me for a tour of the garden. Peas, onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, and tomatillos are flourishing. As for the orchard, I’m sorry to say that the late rains, besides depressing the pants off us and flooding everything, knocked off a lot of the apple blossoms, so it’s not looking like a great apple year.

On the other hand, the peaches are peaching nicely:

and the pears are on their way:

The strawberries have both flowers and fruit on them:

The netting is almost done over the cherry tree. It is in the corner since cherry trees do not play well with others. It too has fruit appearing on it. The elaborate netting dome is to let the birds know it’s not an all you can eat buffet:

Also flourishing is Jessica, whose hat was made just for her by her ever-creative mother:

She was very nice about letting her aged auntie take her picture, especially after I told her how fun it is to look back to posts when she was just a little kid. We are plotting sleepovers and movies for the summer. Under consideration are “Auntie Mame”, “Desk Set”, and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”. I’m also thinking “Desperately Seeking Susan” and “Practical Magic”.

I forgot to take a picture of the amazing dessert Erica made. It was a napoleon with puff pastry made from scratch, strawberries, and home-made caramel drizzle. It was outstanding. It vanished too quickly for me to get a photo, though. We all sang happy birthday despite the lack of candles.

At the end of the evening, Jessica asked to “escort fair Suzy to her car” and took my arm. I do love this tradition. She enhanced the experience by curtseying at the end of it. I sure love that kid. And my family and family of friends.

A YEAR AGO: My, what an industrious day I had!

FIVE YEARS AGO: I was heading to San Francisco, and Rob was coming home after losing his Mother.

The Bad Habit

Well, this is becoming a bad habit. Get up early, go to sleep late, have a series of nightmares that wake me up throughout the night. On Thursday, I got up at 4:30 am, when Clyde joyfully leaped onto my unsuspecting stomach. It is a very effective wake up call, though more enjoyable for the leaper than the landing pad.

Since I took Friday off as a mental health day, I had an adult beverage or two after work on Thursday night while watching playoff hockey and staying up until 11:00 pm, fueled by fantasies of the Maple Leafs David beating the Goliath Washington Capitals. I know all the odds are against it, but a girl can hope.

I figured I’d sleep in until it was light outside on Freedom Friday, but I was as wrong about that as I probably am about the Maple Leafs. After a restless night of bad dreams, I finally gave up on the whole thing before 5:00 am.

After the requisite caffeination and cat duties, I threw in a load of laundry and did some cooking for during the week, including this delicious recipe. I left out the cilantro, upped the ginger, and used half sweet paprika and half smoked paprika, and threw the olives in near the end of the cooking instead of boiling them separately (Why? Why?). While things were cooking and cleaning, I finished a data entry project for my friends at the former jobette and emailed it over to them.

The jobette may not be so former after all. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but I am once again considering working Saturdays this summer.

You may recall that after a change in leadership at the jobette last year, the New Guy decided to close on Saturdays, among other unpopular decisions that ended up costing him his entire staff. After wreaking havoc in just a few short months, he quit and went back from whence he came, to the relief of all.

The current CEO seems very nice. We had a good meeting where he asked if I would consider doing data entry, blog writing, and working on Saturdays. He is willing to pay me more than I make at my real job, so it’s hard to say no, though I am a little worried about getting burned out. Decision-making, as you know, is not among my few talents. Maybe if/when I make a decision, I can finally start sleeping better.

A YEAR AGO: It was an internet-free zone at stately Suzy Manor. And there was quite the liestorm to go with it.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Meet the jobette’s newest employee, the office cat!

Stormy


Stormy Seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Main Event

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

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

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: Just guess!

FIVE YEARS AGO: A midnight caller.

Tempestuous

It was sleep in your sweater night at stately Suzy Manor last night!

I accessorized my sleep sweater with the latest in sleep hats. It is so wrong to see your own breath in your own house.

The power obdurately continues to be out. We are solidly in Day Three now. Not only that, but we are also in the throes of Giant Storm II: the Sequel, with rain and wind bashing away relentlessly at the roof/walls even while we are still suffering the aftereffects of Giant Storm I. It’s like déjà vu all over again!

I don’t know when I will be able to post this, but I am writing it on Tuesday morning, when I should be at work. I took one look at the storm and texted my boss that I would not be braving the elements today. I’m not the only one. Yesterday, the local schools announced they would be closed today, and we moved our regularly scheduled Board meeting to next week. The Sheriff asked residents to stay home and off the roads if at all possible.

So I am sitting in bed under all the covers, wearing the hat, two sweaters, and two pairs of socks while my delicate pale breaths wreathe my delicate pale features.

I did make it to work on Monday despite the many downed trees on the Ridge, delightful surprises in the early morning darkness. I headed straight to the gym, where I took a hot shower and applied makeup and the other accoutrements of the convincingly faux adult. I guess we know what it takes to get me to go to the gym.

Even though I left home at 5:30 am, I didn’t get to work until after 7:00 am, so I clearly underestimated the amount of time needed to complete the grownupization process.

Our friends at PG&E have steadfastly declined to give an estimated time of restoration since long ago Day One, even while my coworkers all have power and I have seen on the local message boards the lights wink on across the county, just not in Hooterville. I think we are low priority, since we don’t have essential things like Safeway and the DMV like the Big Town does, and we aren’t a tourist attraction, like the Village. Also, so few people filled out their census forms last time that the official population of our town is 169. The PG&E map shows that 78 people are out of power in Hooterville, but I’m guessing it’s more like 1,000 or at least several hundred. When I drove home last night, the only lights I saw were on at the Gro.

At least I did a lot of cooking on Saturday and can heat up food on my (thankfully) gas stove, and spend some time with the cats and library books. Anyone want to make a bet on when/if the power will come back on, and whether it will remain that way once it does?

[Update: Power finally back on Wednesday morning. Hello, heat and light!]

A YEAR AGO: Consulting on Rob’s crumbling spine.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The technology problems continue. Rob gets a date for his disability hearing at last.

Night and Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Secret World of Food

food
Deskside Delivery

Of the many things that have surprised me about working at the clinic – and there are more than a few – one of the most unexpected is that it is a hotbed (or hot kitchen) of food. This occurred to me when I found a steaming bowl of menudo on my desk one day, a gift from one of the receptionists. It made me think back to the other culinary gifts that have turned up in my office since I started working there.

  • Panuchos, with all the accessories in little Baggies so all I had to do was put them together when I got home. Dinner’s ready!
  • Pumpkin bread: Like a deeply moist and spicy gingerbread. Delicious!
  • Freshly laid eggs – Just bring the empty carton back for more. Downside: makes Safeway eggs vary from the unappealing to the completely inedible, depending on mood.
  • Pupusas – In photo above. Corn tortillas with delicious fillings. As with panuchos, they come accessorized with little Baggies of goodness.

Of course, the leftovers from the endless meetings which all require food (there is one in particular which I am convinced most of the attendees only show up for because of the lunch catered by a certain Mexican restaurant) all end up in the kitchen, where they vanish more quickly than you would believe. Somehow, the word gets out that there’s pizza or doughnuts in the kitchen and the ravening hordes descend like a mob of real life Pac Men.

Our operations director, who moved here from Noo Yawk and has the accent to prove it (did you know “Long Island” has a hard g?) is a sugar pusher. She is always handing out candy and doughnuts. She says her philosophy is to start eating sugar around 11 am and keep going until bedtime, making her a real life Gilmore Girl*, since she might weigh 100 pounds at the most on a fat day. She often brings me cookies, including shortbread as a nod to my British heritage.

But the food fest isn’t limited to the kitchen and conference room. On any given day, you might find a variety of chips and salsa in one of the pod – I mean, team** – offices in Medical. Or random cupcakes. You just never know what you’ll find around the clinic. In more ways than one.

*Can’t wait until November 25!

**Yes, there was an actual, non catered meeting held to discuss the important topic of “pod” versus “team”. The team players won. See what I did there?

A YEAR AGO: Out on the town.

Now & Then

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Saturday Morning

Alert the media, y’all! I slept in until it was sunny out on Saturday morning!

It is amazing how a good night’s sleep can improve a girl’s outlook. I slept badly during the recent audit ordeals, despite logging long hours under a lot of pressure, and I think it all finally caught up with me. Hopefully I am now back to new, or new-ish. There’s still a lot of clean-up to do in the wake of the audits, but there’s more time, too.

It was a successful morning of drinking coffee, cuddling with Clyde, and doing a little on line Christmas stocking shopping, because it’s never too early for that. Eventually, I faced the inevitable and did some cooking and laundry to prepare for the week that now looms ahead, but it was nice to enjoy cats, caffeine, and the sun in the garden.

Enquiring minds may wonder why I was not doing my modest preparations for the jobette, which do not include putting on make-up or dressy clothes. The answer is that I lost the jobette recently in an overthrow change of leadership.

The CEO who hired me years ago moved on to greener pastures, and a New Guy was recently hired. In his infinite wisdom, the New Guy has decided to close the office on Saturdays, which is when visitors are here and need information, and stop participating in First Friday, when shops are open late, art is displayed, and wine and nibbles are enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. He also wants to eliminate selling souvenirs of any kind.

Both of the people hired since I left have also left, including one who quit with no notice on the day a new person was supposed to start. The golden days of the jobette are definitely over, when I used to feel like I was being paid to hang out with my friends and share my love of this beautiful corner of the world with the visitors.

My only regret is the money, which I currently have no way of replacing.

I see that a year ago, I thought that I was truly finished working at the jobette, though it turned out I was wrong about that, as I am about so many things. The person who was supposed to work Tuesday to Saturday never did, so I ended up filling in again this year. I wonder why I am the only person who doesn’t find working on Saturdays to be unconscionable?

It will be nice to have a little more time, even if it means less money.

Birthday, Barfing, and Bureaucracy

First things first: it’s Rob’s birthday! As soon as it’s a reasonable hour by Rob standards, I will wish him happy birthday and remind him of how happy I am he was born. His Rob-ness never ceases to delight me, from his view that the dump is a two way street to his wry sense of humor to the way he puts his head to one side when he’s listening to you. And he really listens.

Not to mention that my entire house is Brought to Me by Rob(TM) and that he makes all our lives better and happier. I love you, little big brother!

As for me, the full moon is blasting like a spotlight outside and I am attempting to improve my own outside after a grueling week. I have GlamGlow applied to my eyes and Fresh Vitamin Nectar mask on the rest of my face. Radiance, y’all! Clyde, however, has other ideas and has chosen to barf on the carpet, ruining the relaxing mood. Why do cats always throw up on the carpet instead of the wood floor?

It’s all in keeping with this week, though, which featured the second of back to back audits. Like most sequels, Part 2 was worse than Part 1.

The first one was the audit which is done every year. I thought that was a hassle until the Feds descended on us in all their glory. I had prepared (I thought) for this by creating a nearly 1,000 page binder and putting it on a flash drive for their inquisition convenience. Like the great Iggy Pop, however, they needed more, so I was running around collecting the required documents every day this week.

Perhaps this is a special skill honed by the Feds, but they also had an unerring ability to request supposedly random files that were incomplete, including the file of a doctor who works for the clinic as a contractor. Repeated phone calls and emails to him of increasing desperation were unreturned, so our new Operations Director went to beard him in his lair. They must have just missed each other, because a few minutes after she departed on her mission, he arrived, slouching Spicoli-like into my office in sweats, clutching a Starbucks cup, wearing shades, and saying, “What the fuck, dude?”

I explained that the fuck in this particular case was that his contract expired last year and the Feds looked askance at his treating our patients with no contract. He signed a new one while grumbling that he needed a raise, and headed off to catch a wave. I clearly harshed his buzz.

This was a joy compared to the complexities of providing lunch. At first they asked for sandwiches, so I got Deli A to fax me a menu. Then they wanted salads, and very customized ones at that. I called the deli and was told that it was prêt-à-porter or nothing, since two people had called in sick that day, making bespoke salads impossible. Back to the drawing board. I got the menu from Deli B, printed it, and presented it for consideration. They wanted to know what the soup du jour was, so I called and asked (the winning answer: vegetable beef). Needless to say, none of them got the soup.

Also, for fear of bribery with soup and salads, they paid for their own lunches, meaning three separate checks and lot of change. Why not?

The Feds judge every health center in America on 19 elements. They told us that the average across the country is 5-7 “not met”, or fails. They further clarified that they do not round up, and 98% is still “not met”, aka a fail. Our report card was 6 “not mets”, making us entirely average, while yet feeling that we had been called to the principal’s office and/or were getting detention.

When they finally left on Thursday afternoon, my boss sent me home, a welcome gesture since the shortest day I have logged in the past two weeks was 11 hours and the longest 14. I was just settling down to read Kate Summerscale’s “The Wicked Boy”, a relaxing read about a 19th century boy murderer, when my 21st century phone buzzed with a text from my boss. There had been some attempted fraudulent use of her company credit card, so the bank canceled it, and now all of the travel booked on it has to be re-done with the new card. By me. My estimate is something like 20 reservations. You know what I’ll be doing this week. At least the federal government isn’t involved.

A YEAR AGO: At the fabulous Fair with my fabulous sister and our equally fabulous friend.

Jack

Are there time-released bad omens? If so, I think that Steller’s Jay was one…

It’s been another crazy week, and it’s far from over. It seems that no matter how hard I work, it’s not enough. I am fighting serious headwinds of feeling both overwhelmed and inadequate, which is a spectacularly unenjoyable combo platter, especially when garnished with a preview of (possibly inaccurate) old age and infirmity.

What I thought was a mere spat between my back and me has devolved into a lover’s quarrel at best and a complete breakdown in our formerly friendly relationship at the worst. Despite applications of ibuprofen, the heating pad, and unnecessarily long, hot, and drought-defying showers, it remains adamantly angry and is not afraid to express its annoyance, usually at the most annoying times. I don’t know whether to be proud or sad that no one at work seems to have noticed that I have been walking around in pain for a week.

In the midst of decrepitude and despair, I woke up to an email from my ex John, telling me that the last cat we had together, the irrepressible Jack, had died in his arms. She was almost 17.

August being the Official Month of Death, she died on the same day we lost Schatzi (three years ago! How is that possible?). And it was also three years ago that my divorce from John became final. Somehow, losing the last cat we had together makes the divorce seem more final.

Much like Jack came into our lives with a bang as the World’s Naughtiest Kitten, she shook it up when she left with a 5.1 earthquake.

Goodbye, little Jack. You will always be in my heart, where loved ones live and naughty kittens play.

A YEAR AGO: A hole in my head instead of my heart.

Annual Ordeal

I got up so early on Hell Day – I mean Staff Day – that Clyde just stayed in bed, like a sane person. Audrey of course bustled out to take on the world and show it who’s boss while I drank coffee and tried to mentally prepare for the day ahead.

I was saddened to note that I was already getting up in the dark again. Hello, darkness, my old enemy…

Picking up the bagels for breakfast, I found that instead of getting the 60 bagels I had ordered, I got a paltry 3 dozen. I had ordered them the week before and called the day before to confirm. This kind of set the tone for the whole day, as I would soon discover.

Arriving at the clinic, I saw that the ever-elusive Facilities Guy had failed to open the wall between the two conference rooms and to set it up, as we had discussed numerous times. The set up includes taking all the tables out and putting in as many rows of chairs as possible. Chairs from both reception areas are pressed into service, so after dropping off my inadequate bagel supply in the kitchen, I headed over to Medical to start dragging chairs to the conference room.

I texted Facilities Guy, and he said he’d be there in a few minutes. It took more minutes than there were bagels, giving me time to do most of the chair hauling. I was washing and displaying the breakfast fruit beside the bagel boxes and cream cheese by the time he arrived.

Other duties included meeting the caterer – we had yellow “caution” tape strung across the driveway to stop people from driving/meandering in – and helping her to set up the quite splendid salad bar, which included mixed greens, grilled chicken, sliced hard-boiled eggs, cheese, sliced cucumbers, shredded carrots, bacon, croutons, and five different kinds of dressing, along with focaccia rolls. There was water infused with watermelon and mint, lemonade, iced tea and iced green tea. All this was topped off with bite-sized cream puffs and lemon bars, including a small tray of gluten free versions.

You’d think they’d be happy with this, but you’d be wrong. There were complaints that the tea was sweetened, and worse than that, we ran out of ranch dressing. You probably already heard about this on CNN. “Horror in a small town!” Even though there were four other kinds of dressing, I was sent to the store to buy more ranch*. When I came back, I had barely gotten out of the car and triumphantly brought the ranch dressing to the masses before I was informed that we had run out of salad greens. Way to kill the buzz, peeps.

I called the caterer and she arrived on her mission of mercy, bearing additional salad greens. Needless to say, I never got to eat any of the lunch, though I did get to clean it up. The festivities concluded at about 3:30. Most people took off, but I left around 5:00 after – you guessed it – cleaning up after more than 100 people.

I went home hating the Whos and applied wine as an attitude adjustor. Now all I have to worry about is the new boss starting on Monday and the Open House on August 13.

Where’s that corkscrew?

*What the hell IS it, anyway?

A YEAR AGO: Ah, future dishes! You are still in my present.

Predicta-ment

One morning, I heard a text while I was getting ready for work. Usually, texts at 6:00 am are from my sister, who is still at work after her long night shift. So early morning texts do not scare me the way late night phone calls still do*.

I went to see what was up, and it turned out to be my boss, letting me know that the power was out at the clinic. A flurry of texts ensued from other staff members with updates as I applied mascara and lip gloss and headed out the door. Since the power had gone out at about 3:00 am, I figured it would be up and running by the time I got to work around 7:00.

This prediction was correct, but although there were lights and power, the servers were still down, rendering our computers useless plastic boxes, at least temporarily.

While the IT guys worked away at the computer issues, I caught up on my filing and other things that did not require computers. It was a good feeling to get that stuff done. I always wonder why I don’t keep up with it on an ongoing basis. I have the same thoughts after cleaning the house, but with the same (lack of) results.

Speaking of electricity, Jonathan and Rio acquired a fantastic vintage TV set (delightfully) called a Predicta:

predicta

Like the computers at work, the Predicta is temporarily non-operational, but I have faith that my brother can get it back in working order. If he could make a temporarily non-working very vintage telescope into a NASA-worthy contraption, he can do the same for the Predicta.

While he scouts for parts, we are amusing ourselves by thinking of appropriately retro TV shows to watch on it, like The Munsters and Peter Gunn and Perry Mason. And we are always going to refer to it as The Predicta.

A YEAR AGO: Dinner and a movie.

* I still think “Mom” when the phone rings, even though she has been gone for so long. And I always think it will be bad news.

Whirlwind Week

It was a busy week, full of friends, family, and work!

I had lunch with a dear friend on Tuesday. She is scaling back at work since her father was just diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer and she wants to spend as much time as she can with him. I really admire her for doing this. So far, both she and her Dad are in good spirits and enjoying every day. I learned that the brain does not feel pain, so he is not suffering, and also that cancer doesn’t spread anywhere else from the brain. He is more interested in reading in his garden and petting his cats than going on heroic adventures, and I’m glad that he is able to do just that, with his daughter at his side.

I met up with my irrepressible friend Richard for a glass of wine after work on Wednesday. He chose the resort from the movie “Same Time Next Year”, and we enjoyed the view:

IMG_2952

along with a glass of local wine. Richard filled me in on his latest adventures, which included dog sledding in Alaska (“I was literally covered in ice!”) and visiting an ancient Roman amphitheater in Lyon. Up next: Australia and New Zealand.

He also convinced me to work at the jobette at First Friday, which meant I left the house at 6:15 am that morning and got home around 8:45 that night. The shops and art galleries in the Big Town stay open late on the first Friday of each month, dispensing nibbles and in some cases, wine to the public.

At the jobette, we were featuring a photographer from the magical South Coast, who was there to meet the public and talk about his work and inspiration while I poured (but, sadly, did not drink) local sparkling wine, chatted with the visitors, and sold his artwork.

When I walked out to the car again about 12 hours after getting home, it all felt so familiar…

Saturday was busy at the jobette, with visitors asking about Fourth of July events* and other things of a tourist nature. The time flew by, and soon it was time to head over to Lu and Rik’s house for their wedding, which I will tell you about next time. It definitely deserves its own post.

*My father always used to say that England should be the one to celebrate the 4th of July, since as of that date in 1776 they were no longer responsible for America and its many problems, which have certainly not decreased over the last 240 years.

A YEAR AGO: Megan and I were enjoying the fabulous Flynn Creek Circus.

Summer Job

It’s a sunny Saturday morning, and I’m back to my old tricks again, working at the jobette.

Like last year, I will be working six days a week this summer, until Labor Day or until I can’t take it anymore, whichever comes first.

So when I got home from work on Friday, I started making future food while Rob put in a load of Megan’s laundry. It seems that insanity runs in the family, since she is working as a medic at a festival* in Anderson Valley Saturday and part of Sunday, then heading home for her usual night shifts in the ER. It’s how we roll.

Future food for the week included all’amatriciana sauce and sweet and spicy grilled chicken breasts, which I rubbed with the spice mixture to let it sit overnight and made the dipping sauce.

After I delivered Megan’s laundry, I made a Moscow Mule (ginger beer; lime; vodka) in one of my fox glasses and sat back to watch The Americans, a TV show about Soviet spies posing as an American family in 1980s Washington DC. Theme night! I am pleased to report that it was a much more successful cocktail outing than the mint julep experiment on Derby Day, though I wished I had the traditional copper cup for the Mule. Maybe a pretty silver cup would have improved my julep?

*She texted me from the festival: “70 year old men should not wear skin tight marijuana printed bike shorts. Splattered brains don’t scare me as much!”

A YEAR AGO: Unexpected wildlife visitors, inside and out.

The Rush

It’s 6:15 am. Do you know where your Suzy is?

She’s blasting down the highway in her Ramones-powered car, cursing the darkness and the blare of oncoming headlights equally. And hoping that the day’s marathon won’t be as bad or as long as the rest of the week’s.

I’m a slow learner. At least I left my book at home*, so I did learn something. No reading for you!

At this early hour, I had not only caffeinated and donned my faux adult disguise, but also cleaned out the litterbox twice, including one of Clyde’s patented DeathDumps(TM). It’s all about the glamor with me.

The point of these predawn endeavors was to get the mountain of work done to prepare for the annual fundraising event at work. It seemed that everything went wrong, from the computer system varying from barely working to not working to shut down, to the facilities guy ordering the wrong supplies I needed to create name tags and labels.

As I was sorting through donations one day, one of the doctors stopped by to observe that events are extremely inefficient fundraisers, since the return on one’s effort was so low. This was not news to me, though I can’t say I appreciated that remark at that particular point in time.

Every day, I thought I could get X number of things done, and every day I fell short of the mark, no matter how long I worked. Being the Little Suzy that Could was getting pretty old pretty fast. In the end, I logged about 55 hours of work and five bottles of wine in one week, and I did get it all done in time.

I’m trying not to think about next year’s event. Maybe I’ll forget how bad it was by the time it rolls around again. Or maybe I’ll be better at preparing for it. Or maybe we will come up with a more efficient way to raise money.

Well, Scarlett, if tomorrow is another day, next year is a whole year away.

*I often sit in my car and read on the rare occasions when I take a lunch break. No matter how unlikely it is that I will need it, I have an innate dislike for leaving the house without a book**, a tendency I share with Jessica. Once Megan and I picked her up and Megan asked if Jessica had a book with her, and she responded, “Really, Memmin, have you ever known me to be without a book?”

**Back when I used to travel, I was always amazed by the people who would get on a flight, especially a really long one, with nothing to read. And there’s always one person who falls asleep before takeoff and stays that way until landing.

A YEAR AGO: An all-girl road trip to the South Coast.