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Outside my window, the gardeners are bending and standing scooping huge rakes of fall leaves into my compostable bin. A cool breeze is keeping the supply of leaves needing sweeping swirling to the ground, and the days have turned cooler. Hard to believe, just last week we were laboring through the worst heat wave since weather has been reported here in Northern California. I am getting myself and my car packed for my trip down to the Bay Area to watch my son get married. Miss Boo is sitting in the corner tossing ugly looks in my direction from time to time, while I pull things from my closet to fill my suitcase with. Please, save your pity for an abused kitty somewhere. Boo has a house/pet sitter coming for the days I’ll be absent, so by no means is the cat being disregarded. For the price of a car payment, I am providing her company, plentiful treats, food in her dish, water in her bowl, and a companion to snuggle with in the middle of the night. Sometimes I think the cat lives better than I do.

Though this week is slated to be a busy one, life in general seems to have at last slowed down to a manageable pace. For one, my dating life has certainly quieted down. Again, save your pity. I quieted it down. Life was getting confusing. I don’t want or need confusion right at this juncture in my world. I cleared the playing field of all but a single competitor, and went back to square one to regroup and take a break. Perhaps, and that is a perhaps, I am not ready to step into something new quite yet. That being said, I am taking a long hard look at what it is I would like to do. I’ll send up a flare when I have any answers to that dilemma. Actually, I don’t HAVE to do anything exactly at the moment except head down to watch my son share his name with the love of his life. That, I have to say, is more than enough for now. Having my children, though they are far removed from that description these days, settled and happy allows me peace of mind and makes my heart smile every day. In August, my dear little mama moved on as well. All this leaving me standing at the crook in the road of late trying to decide whether to go left or right, or simply sit on a rock under a tree in the warm sun and take in the scenery.

It is smoky outside today. The biggest fire currently in progress in California, is in our back yard. Not literally, thank God, but twenty miles as the crow flies east of here, and that’s not nearly far enough away for me. We’ve been sucking up smoke for several weeks, and it’s only 25% contained. The location is difficult for firefighters to access, prone to steep slopes and valleys, and we are so dry here it can quickly spread with no lack of fuel. The fire fighters have a good battle on their hands. Watching the enormous plume spiraling up into the air leaves me with an admiration for the incredible power of nature.

I think a lot about the power nature wields in our universe. Last week I watched a documentary on the Dust Bowl. There wasn’t enough misery with the heat and the smoke, I thought I’d add a little extra to the pot. I had no idea those people endured that for ten years. Wow. They had dust in their teeth, their food, their homes, and most likely every other accessible orifice. Horrible.

Leaving thoughts of fire and dust bowls behind, while loading my car up with what I felt I needed for my trip, it became obvious to me I know not the first thing about “traveling light”. In my defense, I have learned over the years no matter whether leaving town for one night or a week, you basically have to pack about the same amount of belongings. Also, I was trained by the best. My mother, a self proclaimed “clothes horse”, would devote an entire suitcase to shoes, and another to handbags, when she went on a trip. Another problem lies in as we age, there simply is more equipment to take with because the maintenance of our bodies becomes more labor intensive. Before leaving the house in the morning I have at least forty-five minutes of upkeep required on my person before I can go out the front door. This is not including showering, hair and makeup. Truth is, I could use a team these days to help me get presentable before being allowed to run free in the general public.

My esthetician has me using a three part beauty treatment twice a day which she insists MUST be applied in the correct order. 1, 2, 3. Really it isn’t rocket science. Yet, she has thoughtfully numbered the bottles for me, apparently sensing I, 1) either don’t care about this order in the least, or 2) likely would forget what the order was by the time the words exited her lips. Both answers would have been correct. According to her, you must apply the products in this order lest your skin slide down your face and drift into a puddle at your feet. Let’s see, 1, 2, 3. By George I think I’ve got it. Really?

There has also been a sinus rinse added to my regimen by my allergist, which when the liquid is shot up your nostrils is tantamount to sliding your brain under a rushing waterfall for three minutes. This requires distilled water, a special dispenser, which has to be sanitized, and a saline packet. Sigh.

Next, I have a mask for my dry eyes which is popped in the microwave each morning while listening to the news, then applied for the pre-determined effective time of fifteen minutes. Siri has been kind enough to count this off for me every day until the caffeine has taken effect.

I am wishing my mother was here to witness the joining of these two dear people. Knowing how much she appreciated a good party and how much she loved her grandson, I’m sure she’ll be perched like the Cheshire Cat on one of the massive limbs of the oak tree they are to be married under, not missing a single magical moment.

As I say often in my blogs, life is like a movie with a series of frames. You must capture the most from each frame in order to absorb the story to its fullest.

There have been a lot of goodbyes over the past few years. As with everything when one door shuts, another opens. It will be lovely to be part of a new beginning once again.

Happy Friday! We are being gifted with a lovely preview to fall sort of day as we embark on a day of pre wedding festivities. Enjoy every moment.

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Night before last was the weirdest night I’ve had in a while. Of all things, I walked in my sleep. Well, perhaps you wouldn’t call it sleeping, as I remember parts of what is transpiring. I guess it’s more of a twilight in-between place I find myself where logic does not prevail. This is only the third time I can remember ever experiencing such a phenomena. Each time, once the episode is over, it leaves me with the strangest feeling like there is an unfamiliar dialogue streaming in my head. Sort of the way I feel after waking up from a bad dream. Takes me a while to shake it. In the first two episodes I endured, the sleep walking was triggered by medication. Not recreational, no, no, no, but prescribed. The first time, I believe, was attributed to a pain medication my doctor had prescribed post surgery. In this most recent instance, I can only point to the melatonin I decided to take before going to bed to help me sleep as being the likely culprit. I took the natural sleep aid once before and experienced perhaps a lingering laziness the following morning as the only side effect. This time, so desperate to get a good night’s sleep I also drank Sleepytime Tea, rubbed my arms with lavender laced cream, and may, I say may, have taken two instead of one melatonin capsules by accident. My bad. Totally, my bad.

The first time I went wandering about while still asleep I was in my twenties. My then husband, discovered me piling into my car at 2:30 a.m. fully dressed, lunch packed, and preparing to head off to the work. I had packed the back seat with a pup tent and some camping gear. Not only was it a Sunday morning, so there was no work, but 3:00 might have been a little early to arrive at the office had it been an actual workday. Why I packed camping gear I have no explanation. I suppose I could have pitched the tent and made some s’mores until everybody arrived for work on Monday. My husband said I made no sense when he asked what exactly I thought I was doing. Realizing I wasn’t sharing his dimension, he guided me back to the bedroom, put my pajamas back on, and tucked me back in bed. That time, I didn’t remember getting up at all. This time, was much different.

The second time it happened, I got up in the early hours of the morning and made a meatloaf and ate a full dinner leaving the remains of my mess on the counter and going back to bed. That night I’d taken medicine for the pain associated with an abcessed tooth. Have some memory of that incident, but only whipping light and fluffy mashed potatoes. I woke up the following morning with catsup on my shirt, only to find the dog standing on the counter licking up the residue of what was left on my kitchen counter. Thankfully, I didn’t either try to drive that night or go down the deck and take a swim (we lived on the Sacramento Delta at the time). My angels do keep me safe in spite of myself, I always feel.

This time after consuming all the sleep aids, I picked up my book. Under normal circumstances, if tired, I barely get two pages under my belt before my eyes droop. I’m not sure to be honest I even opened the book to begin reading before I dozed off. It was early, before seven probably. I don’t usually drop off that early in the day, but as I said, I haven’t been sleeping. Also, I am adjusting to working eight hours a day again after all these years. I woke up with a start. Groggy, I looked the clock by my bed. Almost eight o’clock. OMG. I had slept, and overslept. I flew out of bed and began to run around the house, stopping first to push the on button on my coffee maker. Being late on my third week on the job is simply not good form. Somewhere among the cobwebs and sinewy stuff cluttering my gray matter, an idea hatched in my addled brain. Suddenly I remembered I needed to call the Automobile Club and have them jump my battery in my car before I could leave the house. Now, this would not be a surprising thought to entertain, if my battery in fact needed jumping. It did not. First, I called work to tell them I would be late. A man answered who told me my boss was not in the office and wouldn’t be in until the morning but he could take a message. Morning? What are these people stupid? What morning? Then, he offered to give me my boss’s supervisor’s number. Really? Yup, called old John (who I don’t know from Adam) and told him I was going to be late because I had called AAA and they were on they way. Thankfully, the phone calls ended there. I did, however, continue on without restraint to send an email to my boss explaining the whole situation in detail. Next, I made a piece of toast (one does have to eat) and suddenly at that point became confused. Looking out the window, rather than getting lighter outside as it would during the daytime, dark was closing in. Now, my mind had no idea how to process that. It had no idea how to process that, because I had only been asleep one hour when I woke up and had begun this whole charade. Good Lord, it was now only 9:00 p.m.

When my eyes opened the following morning I was sleeping sideways on my bed, glasses on, cell phone in hand, with Boo on my chest staring in my face. On my phone I could see I had sent several texts about my battery to friends as well who had responded and gotten no further communication from me. Four concerned voicemails were waiting in the queue. “What”, I wondered, “had I done”? Oh man.

How embarrassing is that? I had to go to work and explain I created all this mayhem while asleep, or quasi asleep. I half expected to be handed a check and have her tell me they already have enough mental situations on campus without adding me to the pot. Amazingly, they were all laughing about it. The email was pretty funny stuff, I have to say. I’m sure there was some serious ribbing going on about me when I wasn’t in the room. My boss told me I definitely brought the entertainment factor to the table. I do my best.

So, it was just another day in the life of at my house. Really my life never seems quite bubble in the center. In the atmosphere in the world around us, we have to learn to lighten up and laugh at ourselves. Oh, and last night I nearly beat myself to death when I opened my blinds to find something looking back at me. It was the tree outside my window. It hadn’t moved there during the night. It has by the looks of it been there for many years, three years definitely since I’ve been here. I don’t know. Maybe I’m suffering from PTSD. Happy Tuesday!!!

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Looking out my window this morning, the patio chair closest to the house is barely visible. A heavy bank of fog has moved in making the landscape murky, and trees and bushes but shadowy figures moving in and out of view in the background. Growing up in Nova Scotia on the arm of the Halifax harbor, fog was an integral part of my world. At night, tucked in my little bed in the my room on the second floor of my grandmother’s large comfortable home, the fog horn was often the last sound I was to hear before drifting off to sleep. As I’ve said, repeatedly most likely, I do enjoy a little weather. I would not be content in a place where one season looks like the next, and a bit of inclement weather less likely than developing a case of smallpox. Change, in all things, is what, to me, makes life interesting.

Even if you must go to the same job every day year after year, I believe it is important not to follow the same route every morning in order to get there, or to bring the same lunch to put in the fridge in the break room you’d eaten the day before. Once I dated a man who had his clothes lined up in his closet according to the days of the week. There were his Monday pants, hanging next to his Monday shirt. On the floor beneath them sat his Monday shoes and socks waiting to be put on once his Monday clothes were in place. I dated him for two years and never saw him in other than his Monday shirt on a Monday in the time we were together. If he removed a catsup bottle from what he referred to as his “staples shelf” a bottle of catsup was immediately added to the list hanging on a clipboard on the wall to be purchased at the next trip to the store. Each moment of his life was neatly organized. I like my surroundings to be neat, but I don’t want my life too tidily in place as to not have room for movement.

Now, let me preface this writing by saying I am by nature a very organized person. I do run a tidy ship in my home and don’t find comfort sitting around in a bunch of clutter or disorder. That is just me. If you wish to sit in your house with old McDonald’s bags tossed in the corner, piles of unfolded laundry on the couch and your last dish sitting in the sink dripping maple syrup, it is not my business, nor would I judge you for doing so. This is simply not how I choose to live. Each of us has our own way of plowing through life, and I believe whatever works for you, is precisely what you should be doing.

I had a friend who went through a twelve step program for an addiction he was fighting. As his friend, I went to a meeting with him on several occasions by way of support. The speaker on the first visit was talking about how important how you keep your personal area is to your overall well being. I believe there is truth to this. Most likely if your living space would be suitable for Porky and his pals to take up residence in, your life might well be a reflection of this. But who am I to say? My house is clean, but my life has been untidy often and had many chaotic spaces in it. I’m just throwing the information out there. You may chew on it any way you might like.

Speaking of chewing, there is good news on the cow flatulence front. Cows pass gas or burp, it would appear, at an alarming rate which is negatively effecting our ozone layer. A farmer by the name of Joe Dorgan living in Prince Edward Island (PEI to us Canadians) discovered by feeding his cows organic seaweed it made the animals far less gassy. Go team Canada! They are still investigating how to make this seaweed accessible as a food source for all the gassy cows presently strewn across the globe, as well as determining whether this is a short term fix or a long term one. Either way it is quite an amazing discovery. Right on Joe.

I think of this, because yesterday I went to visit my mother. No, she does not suffer from gas. However, she is presently living in a board and care in a rural section of a Sacramento suburb. It is a lovely area, populated with large ranches situated on huge chunks of property. While driving along the back roads, I passed a flock of wild turkeys deciding whether or not to cross the road, a bee farm (I guess you’d call it that) and a huge flock of cows grazing in a pasture. There you go, the much needed connection to the previous paragraph. Having just read the article about the farmer in PEI, my mind naturally went to the the bovine gas producers as I drove on by.

There are currently three residents and not a single cow in the board and care where my mother stays. There were four, but one lady passed away several weeks ago. My mother and the other female resident both have varying stages of dementia. The third resident, the other woman’s husband, lives with her but is in fairly good health. He moved in to be close to his wife. I find that terribly sweet as I write it. He is always by her side. It is my understanding they have been married for years and when she needed more significant care he opted to join her without hesitation.

Last week, I went to the dollar store and purchased Christmas stockings and all kind of goodies to stuff them with. Then I went to another store and found warm socks for the ladies, and a wool cap for the gentleman in the group. I had noticed on my visits there were perhaps four hairs remaining on the top of his head. Rick, when I met him, was totally bald and always favored wool hats in the winter months to cover this exposed skin in the cold weather. The gentleman was so excited to get the hat, it immediately went on his head and was still in place when I was saying goodbye several hours later. He also told me he had never had a stocking in his life and was most pleased to be able to hang one up. I don’t know his story, perhaps it’s a religious preference, or just a personal one, but all in all it was really fun and a big hit on the other end. Funny how a little something like that can bring a smile to someone’s face. Small acts of kindness, really do have big impact.

The hat made me think of Rick, not that I don’t often have him on my mind. We were together nearly twenty years. That is not a vacancy you fill easily. As I said, he was bald when I met him, having begun to lose his hair in his thirties. With all the stress I’ve had in my life over the past three or four years my hair has taken a hit. Fortunately, I had quite a bit to begin with, but it certainly is less lush then it used to be. Once the hair went, Rick cultivated the middle aged manscape on his face, basically a moustache which was attached to a neatly trimmed goatee. The hair shows up on the face, I believe, as it begins to disappear on the top of the head. I thought he looked wonderful without his hair, and as I never knew him with it in place, never noticed the loss of it. He told me it was devastating for him, however, when his hairline first began to recede. I can feel that. I had a very dear friend who was much older. His hair had completely disappeared on the top of his head but he still had a healthy growth around the sides. His solution to this problem, was to grow it really long on one side and draw that up over the vacant space on the top. Once in place he sprayed it into submission. A comb over. Let me be the first to say, this is not a good look. If the wind comes up, for example, or you go swimming? The hair on the side either stands up or droops to one side and the empty field is revealed. Seriously, I would much rather see a cleanly shaved bald head any day then that. I’m just saying. In the end it is the person existing below the hairline is who is important not what’s growing on their head.

As we age, the things that seemed so important when we were young seem to fade into the background. People gain a few miles on them and aren’t as shiny and factory fresh as they were in their twenties or thirties. The good news unless we invent a magic elixir, all of us are going to age. As yet, I have heard of no effective cure for it. Oh, there is plastic surgery (sometimes scary), and there are a myriad of products out there touting youthful results if you use them, but in the end aging must be faced and accepted as part of the journey.

So, I am inside and cozy on this foggy, foggy day. Have many projects on my table in various stages of production so lots to keep me busy. Christmas is on the horizon and a new year with hopefully more exciting prospects and great bounty for all of us.

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Baby it’s cold outside this morning. Brrrrr. I forgot to take the trash to the curb last night, so had to rush out early to get it out there before the truck came by. The gardeners, such as they are, filled the compostable bin to the brim with leaves, then it rained. Sigh. The bin felt like it weighed about two hundred pounds. I’m not a very big being, as I’ve mentioned previously, so it took a serious amount of huffing, puffing, and general physical prowess to wrestle the darn thing down the driveway. Such things you begin to notice, when you lose the man in your life. Some chores you just need a man to help you with. Hard for me to admit here because I like to think I am the mistress of my own domain, but true is true. I do miss my man.

Last week I had to break down boxes, which was a job Dale always took care of for me. He had some sort of handy dandy tool (a box cutter I would suppose), that broke down the cardboard nicely. I had an old steak knife, not nearly as handy dandy. I remember the first time I was single, many moons ago, the only tool I had in my toolbox was a kitchen knife. I swear I could have built a Mars landing craft with that dull old blade. Seriously. That knife was used to take screws off the bottom of the vacuum, assemble furniture, ward off marauders, you name it. I must admit I had to add a Phillips head screwdriver and a hammer to the mix to get the job done effectively after a while, but until I got married again, those three tools served me well.

I took a swing at the gardeners in my first paragraph, because using the term to describe the three men who show up in my yard ever other week really is overreach. They swoop down like buzzards on a fresh carcass, blow the leaves off the yard into a pile by the fence which returns as soon as the wind picks up to form it’s original blanket on my lawn. They cut an uneven swath over the front and back areas of green and are in and out in less than fifteen minutes. Once I asked them to trim the weeds in the front and when I went out to see what they had done there wasn’t a plant standing in my garden. Pitiful. They are my landlords choice. Since I have little control other than constructive input, I deal with them, but never again asked them to trim the weeds.

The yard is a really nice yard, have to say. The back yard is large, with a small cement patio and deck. There are lovely trees placed here and there about the property providing much needed shade during the summer. Unfortunately, the two large shade trees in the back yard were cut down by PG&E because they were interfering with the power lines. I miss the lovely umbrella they provided during the hot summer months, but certainly don’t want anything resembling kindling that close to my little house.

Yesterday I went with a friend to visit a psychic. I see you shaking your head. I went after Rick passed away as well. This lady appears to have an actual gift for seeing beyond our normal borders. I told her nothing and provided no useful information for her to build on. Letting her lean on her own resources, she once again provided a really interesting reading for my yankee dollars. For those of you who view this as total nonsense or a sort of shell game, I say “don’t knock it until you’ve tried it”. Not all professing to have such a gift actually do, of course. As with everything, there are those who are just in it to relieve you of your money. This lady always delivers, not only on being spot on on so many things she has to say but on the entertainment value. Both she and the lady who writes a horoscope I read at the beginning of each month are saying the coming year is going to be a stellar one. “Yay”, says I. I am really ready to get in line for something uplifting and soul changing. Sign me up, please and don’t hold the mayo.

I am dragging a bit this morning. Had a restless night. Sometimes my dreams are soooooo real and decidedly unsettling. Perhaps this is the side effect of an overly active mind. Last night I was in a big city. I somehow perceived it as San Francisco, though it looked nothing like my favorite California city. First, I was lost in an office building. I couldn’t seem to get out of the elevator, at one point zooming up to the penthouse where the occupants weren’t particularly pleased to find me there. When I finally did get off in the lobby, I had no idea what street I was on, and couldn’t remember where on earth I’d parked my car. Apparently, I finally located it because next I was speeding down dark and unfamiliar streets with no idea where I was going or how to get home. Next, I was in a massive shopping mall. While struggling to find an exit, I apparently won a new house filled with furniture. I stood in front of a crowd in the center of the mall with a family I did not recognize to receive my bounty. I remember willing myself to wake up. When I did, I was in a bog for an hour before I again felt familiar with my surroundings. What a strange mind I have. Sometimes it worries me. Perhaps someone will take the time to study it when I’m no longer using it and let me know what’s up with that. Was I to analyze it, employing no dream analyzing skills whatsoever, I could see easily I’m feeling a bit lost and not sure where to go from here. Who the strange family was standing in the mall with me, is your best guess.

I am trying to get my outside errands done today, and visit with my mom tomorrow, before we finally are to be entertaining some winter weather here in Northern California. For those of you born with ski poles in your hands this will be welcome news. For me, I will be tucked inside with my tree lights glowing in the background, watching my Christmas movies, downing an eggnog latte and wrapping presents.

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What a stressful week. Whew. Night before last I got in bed after dinner, pulled the covers over my head, and hibernated. I switched the phone to silent, turned the TV off, and went to sleep. Yesterday was just a whirlwind, but today, I feel I am finally rising up above the haze. Most of the day yesterday was spent prepping vegetables for our big turkey dinner this afternoon. For me, though we are having turkey, the big bird is not really the main event, nor the vegetables, rolls or decadent desserts. On my plate, hands down, the stuffing is the star. From what I’ve observed, most of us prefer the stuffing (or dressing if that is how you say it) we grew up with. Some cooks toss in the gizzards (I simply toss them), others add cornbread, some include sausage, and the list goes on. My grandmother used to buy loaves of bread ahead of the big day and allow them to get slightly stale. I can still see her cutting the loaves into cubes in her kitchen in Nova Scotia. The kitchen would be in full production mode before the chickens opened their eyes. Uncooked pie crusts would be resting over glistening glass pie dishes waiting to be filled, and the cavity of the big bird would be cleaned and seasoned and waiting to receive the perfectly seasoned stuffing before going into the oven. Yum and double yum.

Back then, the stuffing was most likely cooked inside the bird. I haven’t done it that way in many years because they (whoever they are) determined this method to be more likely to make you sick. I don’t remember as a child ever being sick after eating a holiday meal, unless it was from eating that last piece of pumpkin pie when my stomach was already filled to capacity. Also turkeys, chickens, pork chops, or whatever, were taken out of the freezer and left in a dish in the sink to thaw. Now, of course, you wouldn’t do that. How did we survive before we had all this information? I can’t imagine.

Though I am not the head chef this year, nor is dinner being produced in my kitchen, I am a contributing partner. My portion of the meal is salad and vegetable side dishes. On paper, this sounds fairly foolproof, but with my strange behavior over the past few weeks, I hesitate to declare a solid win. Yesterday, for example, I had to go to several stores to pick up some last minute items. At the first store, I had a chat with the clerk while she was ringing up my items. This is a Dale residual effect. Dale talked to everyone, as I’ve said, and knew their name and they knew his by the time he left a store. Having lingered longer than I expected, I was rushing so I could get home and get on with the long to-do list waiting for me on the dining room table. Hopping in my car, I headed to the second store I needed to visit. Picking up what I wanted, I took my place in the already long line and finally got up to the cashier. Reaching in my purse, I realized my wallet wasn’t inside. Have you ever had your stomach drop so fast it actually hit the ground and rebounded back up? Happened to me, right there, and right then. I had a fair amount of money for Christmas shopping in my wallet, all my credit cards, and I just got my license with my new California ID. Panicked, I asked the clerk to hold my items and ran back to the car and backed out. Retracing my steps, I flew with gossamer wings back into the first store I visited. As soon as I entered the door, I could see the friendly clerk waving her arms at me. In one hand, I could see she held my wallet. Thank you God. This, I believe, was a Susie wake up call from the universe. The message was clear as a bell ringing in my frazzled brain. “Slow down, take a breath once and a while, pace yourself, and remember you are dealing with a fair amount right now. Last we looked YOU ARE NOT SUPERWOMAN! If something does not get done the earth will not stop turning, you will not be in trouble, and life will continue to go on. Remember, be kind to yourself”. Message received and noted. Whew. I felt like I’d just run the Preakness. Back to the store where they were holding my packages, I again got in line behind a number of other shoppers. The clerk, catching my eye, waved me to the front of the line. The lady in the very front looked like she was going to whack me over the head with her stuffed reindeer as I passed her up. I would have stopped and explained, but to be honest, I didn’t like her attitude. Had I been less irritated, I would have told her one of her reindeer’s feet was missing a hoof. Ah well. I’ll do better next time. I’m still stirring my pot of holiday good cheer, and it’s not quite done yet.

So, I came home and began methodically going down my list of things I had to get done. Veggies, as I said, were a big part of my day yesterday. Cooking them is never particularly complicated, it’s the peeling and chopping that takes the time. I decided with so much to do I’d have my groceries delivered. It’s a little more expensive, but less crazy in the store time, and frankly I didn’t know when I’d have had time to do it. If you’ve every done this, your “personal shopper” texts you back and forth as they are shopping with your list to ask questions or suggest replacements, etc. With so many things not being available this year, predictably my phone began to blow up once my shopper began pushing her cart through the aisles. Because half my clan are vegan, the other half carnivores, cooking becomes a bit more of a minefield. I tried to stay true to the vegan portion of the program by asking for organic products. She texted me the four bags of chopped rommaine were not to be found in organic packaging. “Okay”, I told her, “let’s do two bags of organic rommaine hearts”. Good to go. I can chop. I have the technology. Sooooo, when the bags arrived I waved at my lovely elf through the window, and gathered the spoils of her activities. Yay. Done and done. While unloading my food, I realized I had four bags of chopped rommaine plus six bundles of rommaine hearts. Wowser. Apparently I’m expecting ten extra people. I may have to set up a salad bar out by the curb.

So, I am salad rich over here, and feeling thankful. Thankful that I have too much salad, unlike some who don’t have enough. Thankful for my dear friends who have been there to prop me up as I’ve made my way through the crazy past three years. Thankful for my family who I love so fiercely, and that my dear little mama will be present at our table for yet another remarkable dinner. Thankful for the roof over my head and that I’m blessed with good health and a beloved kitty, who is obviously enjoying her Thanksgiving treats by the crunching I hear in the background. Oh and thanks to all of you who stop by and read my meanderings week after week.

Have a blessed day. Enjoy each minute with those you love. They are the most precious moments we have in our lives.

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Today I could really see through a clear lens, how distracted I am at the moment. The indicators of this lack of concentration became obvious early on in the day. For some reason, I seem to have accumulated a plethora of uncooked vegetables in the refrigerator. Though food isn’t high on my priority list right now, I hate to waste it. Particularly, with what they’re charging for everything with the supply chain issues at the grocery store. Also, my mother and grandmother drilled me well on the dire situation in China with all the starving children there when I was young and wouldn’t eat my Brussels sprouts. However, the truth is there are people who don’t have something to put on their plate right here in the good old U S of A. Knowing this to be a fact, there’s something terribly selfish to me about tossing food out in the trash. My ex husband grew up in a poor family in backwoods Arkansas. Their finances improved greatly when he was a teen, but his mother really scraped the bottom of the barrel to put food on the table when he was grade school. Often, with nothing much else to give him, she would give him beans and biscuits in his lunch. Kids can be really miserable when they smell vulnerable prey. If there is anything different about you, be it clothing, accent, looks, hair color, or in this case food choice, they pounce on you like a rat on a piece of ripe cheddar. At the noon break, he was teased regularly about what was in his lunch box. Where most kids had peanut butter and jelly or bologna and cheese and a bag of chips, David might have sorghum on rice or rabbit stew. Sometimes he went without eating to avoid scrutiny and his mom said he regularly got off the bus after school sporting a black eye or bruises on his hands from defending himself from bullies. Some days he would ask her to give him two biscuits in his lunch bag. She never knew why. Later he was to tell her, he would eat one and then go over to the trash can and toss the other one to prove to his tormentors his family had enough food to waste. There are so many children in the U.S. without enough food to eat, it is sad to me to casually throw something out because you don’t make good use of what you have. Just my opinion, but it’s a strong one.

At any rate, surveying my bounty and thinking Peter Rabbit would be right at home in my vegetable bin, I took out the bags and cleaned and trimmed my veggies. The cauliflower and broccoli could be steamed together. The rest of the vegetables I decided would work perfectly in a vegetable soup. I have to pay attention to my eating while going through this time of mourning. When you are being a caregiver, quite often self care gets puts on the back burner. Meals get skipped, or something is hurriedly consumed while standing at the counter. Then, after the person being cared for passes away, you enter a grief period where you really don’t want to eat. A double edged sword of sorts. Blessed with my mom’s rapid fire metabolism, it won’t take long for the pounds to begin to melt off if I don’t pay attention. I looked at a photo taken of me not long after Rick had passed away. I’d gotten so thin the only thing visible indicating I was in the picture were my big feet.

Being in the kitchen is cathartic for me. Standing there peeling and chopping it almost felt like a normal day in the life of. Settling the steaming tray in the bottom of my pan, I dumped the cauliflower and broccoli in and secured the lid. Turning on the burner, I went off to take a shower and get ready for the rest of my day. This would’ve been excellent except for the fact I forgot I’d left the vegetables cooking on the stove five seconds after exiting the kitchen. This is not easy to ignore, as both vegetables emit an odor when cooking I liken to elephant gas (not that I’ve ever actually experienced this phenomenon firsthand) to remind you they’re on the stove. Somehow, I managed to circumvent the signs, and pretty soon the smoke alarms loudly reminded me of my oversight. Darn. Aside from the cat losing a life or two, I managed to ruin a relatively new pan and reduce my veggies to a black gelatinous blob in the what was left of the bottom. Sigh.

Beyond the humanitarian side of food waste, it costs a lot to eat these days. In an effort to defray the flow of cash moving steadily out of my bank account, I have begun to watch for coupons. This is something I used to do routinely, but sort of phased myself out of over the last twenty years. The other day I was in the pharmacy picking up some toiletries. I pulled my cart up behind the only other shopper in line standing at the only checkstand with it’s light on. In the “baby basket” as I call it, the woman had what looked to be a wedding album sitting alongside her purse. Kay. Though her cart was not filled to the brim, there were a generous number of items resting inside the basket. I have learned to relax into those situations. Getting all impatient and wound up, at least I have found, doesn’t make the line move forward any faster. Unloading her purchases on the conveyor belt, the woman opened her book. Now I was not being nosy, but I could clearly see it was bulging with plastic covered pages lined with all manner of coupons. Well maybe a little nosy. This woman, apparently, had created the Bible of all coupon books and as I stood there she went through what felt to me to be every single one. By the time she was done, I had meditated three times and begun doing Tai Chi in the aisle. I believe this is called “extreme couponing” and I am here to tell you I don’t have either the time or the patience to pursue such an endeavor, but God bless her for doing it. While I’m still on the subject of the pharmacy, why is it one pharmacy in particular (if you’ve been there you’ll know which one) insists on rewarding your patronage by giving you a receipt long enough to write a legal brief on the back of it. If you walked into the Amazonian jungle and dragged this receipt behind you to leave a trail to follow you wouldn’t run out of paper until you hit Columbia. Aren’t we supposed to be saving trees? I realize these are all store coupons printed on the receipt but in my experience every time I’ve tried to use one of them it had either expired or couldn’t be used for whatever item I was buying. I’m just sayin.

Once I had put out the fire both literally and figuratively in my kitchen and disposed of he charred remains, I went outside to pick up all the twigs strewn around my yard from the last storm and put the trash cans by the curb. While standing by the bin, my neighbor wandered over to ask if Dale had passed. Telling her he had, though we speak frequently over the fence, I suddenly struggled to remember this woman’s name. I knew it had something to do with the TV show Bewitched. I set up little reminders in my tired brain to trigger a response for names. I am terrible at remembering them. Sometimes I have to look at the name embroidered in my underwear to be able to write a check. A light went off. “Tabitha” that’s it. Proud I had conjured (pardon the pun) up the correct name, I applied it liberally during our conversation. Before leaving, she turned and said, “Oh, and Susie, my name is Sabrina not Tabitha”. Drat the luck. Close but no cigar. At least I didn’t call her Darrin.

I’m trying hard to deal with the emptiness in the house. It hits me every time I leave to do something away from home and then come back into the front door. Dale was such a large presence in my world, it is hard to fill up the empty spaces, so I don’t even try for now. Easy to laugh, he was always already chuckling before telling a joke, and his hearty guffaws could be heard at the other end of the house when he was talking on the phone to one of his friends about something that greatly amused him. Boo, the Queen of Cats, though a sparkling conversationalist on most days, really hasn’t exhibited much of a sense of humor.

Feeling a bit antsy after cremating my innocent veggies, I decided to take myself to the store to get some more of the same and start the process again. Damn the torpedoes and all that. This time, I would cook them with my eye on the clock and the stove. I bought a few extra groceries while there, you never get exactly what’s on your list, and pushed my cart out into the parking lot. Pushing the trunk release on my remote, nothing happened. Really? Now the remote and/or the car is not working. WHAT IS GOING ON!!!!!! I pushed it again, and then again. Why do we do that? It is obviously not working. Perhaps it’s our mind way of coping with the situation. I gave the door handle a jiggle. Nothing. Suddenly a man came up behind me. Fine, now I’m being accosted in the parking lot. “Excuse me”, he said politely. (I thought he was going to offer to help). “Yes”, says I? “You’re trying to get into my car”. “What”? Looking in the window I realized I did not leave a gym bag in the back seat nor did I purchase the Starbucks coffee sitting in the cup holder. “Oh”. Insert red face here. Quickly I apologized for the mistake and located my car two rows over. Hello?

After that I just came home. I entertained the thought of going in the closet with the bottle of Gray Goose and some fiery Cheetos but decided to tough it out and cook my vegetables instead. This time without nearly setting the house on fire. Another day worked through and I’m still here. Hugs from me.

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My life is so upside down at the moment, all I need is to slap some sliced pineapple dotted with a few maraschino cherries on it and call it good. The phone rings incessantly. Dale is a well loved man. It is a tribute to him that so many people care about his well being and wish him well. He is playing a good defensive game, with all of us at the sidelines as his cheerleaders, but eventually, not withstanding a miracle, the cancer will most likely be the victorious opponent. Meanwhile, we support him in any way we can, and try to make each day as memorable as possible to carry us when we no longer have him to create new memories. All in all, a very melancholy, sometime joyous, and totally exhausting rite of passage.

I wonder often, as I have been in this same position twice in three years, why some humans have to suffer before moving on. Why when our time is done here on earth, we couldn’t simply drift out in a poof of glistening, fragrant, smoke evaporating seamlessly into the hereafter. “What is the purpose of the pain?”, I ask before going to bed each night, but as yet I have received no answer.

Today was the first day of fall actually feeling like the season had arrived. The sky is slightly overcast, with gray clouds block the sun at regular intervals suggesting the storm predicted to be on it’s way. According to the weatherman, the expected rainfall is not by way of a blockbuster, providing torrential downpours, but rather a trickle as opposed to a a steady flow. As dry as we are here on the west coast any precipitation at all is a cause for celebration at this point, so we’ll take it. Bring it on I say.

As I’ve said ad nauseam at this point, I live in a very small house. It is a sweet, and seductively cozy house, but was I to describe it, certainly spacious would never be an adjective I’d employ. Built in the 1930’s, there is no garage. I downsized considerably when moving here after selling my house. That being said, even with sluffing off a lot of household possessions, I still had more than I had room for. To avoid paying additional monies out every month for storage, my son-in-law built me a storage shed in the back yard to store my overflow in. Needless to say, I have filled that area up quite nicely. There are two things I really miss in this house when comparing it to my previous. First, as I said, a garage, and I also miss my large capacity side by side refrigerator. Yesterday at Costco I spied one the size of Rhode Island. This monster was equipped with enough room top and bottom to store a whole human should the need arise. Let’s face it, it is getting towards Halloween, and one never knows when such a situation might come up. For a mere $3,100, I could have had that puppy delivered. For a moment, just a blissful moment, I teetered on the brink of contemplating ownership of that bad boy, before gathering my senses and better judgement together and deciding to leave the store without regret. Driving the route towards my house, I kept imagining the glorious abandon of having ample room to store leftovers without having to generate a flow chart and make unfortunate decisions about what container was to be saved, and which ones fate was to be written at the bottom of my kitchen trash bin. When I came home, I rearranged my small freezer for the fourteenth time in two days and reminded myself to find my grateful space and remain in it until I got over it. Still there.

Aside from turning the thermostat from cool to heat, it is also time to switch out my closet from summer clothes to warmer wear. This, I have to say, is a project I detest. “Susie, old girl”, I told myself as I schlepped one plastic bin after another back and forth from the shed to the house, “you have wayyyyyyy too may clothes”. I do love clothes. Can’t lie. I blame my mother for this. If she was standing here and I said that, she wouldn’t even defend the statement. Always, my mother was a fashion plate. Never did I see her disheveled or unkempt. He outfits were coordinated from the tips of her earlobes all the way down to the glistening shine on the nails on her toes. Her hair was styled weekly, and remained in that style until the following week when it was washed and styled again, and cut and colored as needed. My mother’s hair has always been a bit of a “thing” in our family. Literally, it was something to be admired and revered. As if an entity unto itself, we weren’t allowed to touch it or get it wet. Once, at a summer party, my mother accidentally backed into the deep end of my daughter’s pool disappearing under water. When she arose from the dark abyss like Phoenix from the ashes, her “do” was dripping limply in her face. We were all so shocked to see her like that, and yes a bit terrified, nobody moved to help her for a minute until she suggested someone needed to do so. That, shall we say, literally doused that evening’s plans and an emergency appointment had to be secured at the local salon the following day to repair the damage. I see you shaking your heads. Every family has it’s thing that places that seed of dread when mentioned, ours just happens to be my mother’s coiffure. What can I say?

nClothes came in a close second to hair. Mother had work clothes, play clothes, evening clothes, spring clothes, summer clothes, fall clothes, winter clothes, and shoes, oh, the shoes. Once, I counted sixty-five pairs in her closet. That was her all time record as far as I know. They were excellent quality, the lady had taste, and my stepfather I’m sure probably had no idea what the price tag of this stiletto collection actually amounted to. When hats were fashionable, the top of her closet was lined with colorful hat boxes. Inside could be found all manner of head wear, some of the small pillbox variety that perched on top of your head, others larger and covering more cranial space, some had veils, others without, and each was purchased with an outfit hanging somewhere in her closet. When she was gone at work, I would sometimes open the closet door and model some of the lovely creations inside in front of her full length mirror. Later when grown, she told me she knew I was doing this because I never put them back the way she might have, but she thought it was sweet so allowed me to continue. Whew, dodged a bullet there.

Since work is no longer a place I go to every day my work clothes have been donated or handed down to friends, and my closet mainly consists these days of play clothes. I have stacks of jeans, shorts, sweaters, blouses, tee shirts and sweatshirts. It’s rare these days I get dressed up. Where am I going? The Queen hasn’t stopped by for tea in years. People at the market, at least up here in our area, sometimes show up to shop in there pajamas, so a dress code is really not in play around here. It’s not like my social life has been abuzz with activity over the past five years. When Rick and I had the restaurant, I had a whole closet of dresses. We were in the restaurant most nights, so had to look like we were somewhat professional. Those too have disappeared in a bin somewhere with only a few stragglers left in reserve for weddings, funerals, or the occasional big night out.

I remember when I was little I had to get “dressed up” for church. My feet were held in check in the dreaded Mary Janes. Bunnies or ducks adored my ankles on the fold of my crisp white socks, and a hat was sometimes tied under my chin for good measure. Being more of a tomboy than a girlie girl, for me this was tantamount to being tied to a chair and given Chinese water torture. My grandmother never attended church in anything but a dress or a suit. Always there was a hat, usually with a veil pulled over her forehead, to accompany her outfit. A pair of gloves was either in her purse or covering her hands, and over her shoulder, in the winter months at least, was draped her fox stole. I never warmed up to that particular garment, largely because the foxes used to create it were still attached to it. To me it always looked frightening and smelled a little gamey, but to ladies of the time it was quite the deal. Each generation has their nuances, I’m glad that one didn’t slop over on ours down the road.

At any rate, I have managed to switch the closet. Sooooo glad that job is behind me. I took all the extra junk from the shed I didn’t need, and piled it into my car and went to the dump to dispose of it. What a fragrant and messy place that must be to work. All that aroma in one place sort of gets my stomach to turning. I’m not good with strong smells. Even those stores in the mall dedicated to fragrant soaps, perfumes, scented candles, and the like, make me feel like revisiting my lunch. I’ve always known I wouldn’t be the ideal candidate for nursing school or a nursery attendant. I remember when changing my own children’s diapers I had to use one hand, reserving the other one for plugging my nostrils. Ah well, each of us has different things in our makeup to contend with, that is mine.

At least I’m feeling so much lighter for now until, of course, I get new junk to replace that which I threw away. For today, however, I feel light as a feather, at least when it comes to possessions. At this crossroad in my world, I will take the highs when and where I can get therm.

Have a lovely fall day!! Talk soon.

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It’s been a week this week, I have to say. Yesterday morning my IPhone froze up. For over an hour I followed instructions to unfreeze the damnable device producing no change whatsoever in the screen. I can’t be without a phone at the moment, and this one is relatively new. Finally, totally frustrated, I got in the car and drove the twenty or so minutes to the nearest dealer to have them take a look at it. I walked in the door, explained the situation to the clerk at the front desk, handed my device to a kid who looked to be in middle school, and with the flick of one thumb and two fingers “voila” the phone released the screen. Really? The gods are angry.

At least it is at last September. The days are marching forward in a steady rythm towards fall. I cannot tell you how ready I am for autumn, and all that season promises this year. I already have a few fall touches sprinkled about the house by way of a welcome mat for my favorite season. There is a bit of melancholy attached to fall creeping up so quickly. Before long all the beautiful colors decorating the landscape, the pumpkin lattes, and artistically carved jack-o-lanterns grinning on people’s stoops will have come and gone. I am feeling this way as I approach the end of this difficult year, I believe, because I have become weary of saying goodbye.

This has been a stressful couple of years, I have to say. Dale and I have spent a lot of time together the last year and a half, partly due to Covid and partly to the fact he has lung cancer. Though he doesn’t let his prognosis overrun him, with oxygen equipment all around and medicine containers, you can’t help but notice the elephant in the room every day when you wake up. When you think about sharing company with someone dealing with a terminal illness, several adjectives probably immediately come to mind….. depressing, sad, exhausting. Surprisingly there are many other adjectives of a positive nature that apply as well…..tender, compassionate, warm. Don’t misunderstand me, for I don’t want to misrepresent the experience, it can be all the darker adjectives and a bag of chips on some days. However, there is another, perhaps lighter side to it, people don’t often talk about. Along with all the deep emotions involved in losing a loved one, there is also the gift the person dying gives to the people they ask to share their last journey. The sweet gift of allowing someone you love to accompany you on your final days on this plateau. At the beginning of your travels with someone facing such a challenge, you will walk side by side. As the disease progresses, however, you will reach a crossroad. When at the fork in the road, you will continue on to wherever your destiny is to lead you, and the person transitioning will stay on their path to complete the final lap of their trip alone. Dying is an integral part of life. If we looked at death more directly instead of being afraid to say the word out loud or speak of it, perhaps we would be able to approach it with more easily with grace and dignity. Let’s face it, thus far none of us have gotten a hall pass to avoid it, so perhaps it would be better to accept, even embrace it.

Though the situation Dale is currently dealing with tends to pervade our lives, it’s amazing how resilient the human spirit can be. We still find plenty of time to catch a favorite movie, sit outside under the umbrella in the yard and watch the grass grow, and now that we can, spend time with our vaccinated friends and family. I say that not as an arrow directed at the hearts of those who still choose not to get the vaccine, but because Dale is definitely compromised when it comes to health issues. Being around someone who possibly could transmit the virus to him would be unwise. The beginning of the week we had a friend stop by to spend a couple of hours. She texted me not long after she’d left to tell me driving home from her shopping trip, she could see a huge plume of smoke billowing up behind the hills near where we live. As we were speaking, I began to hear planes flying overhead and sirens in the distance. Oh-oh. Sure enough, a fire was brewing and neighborhoods in our general area were being evacuated situated closer to the origin of the blaze. Sometimes it feels like it never rains but it pours. I’d like a rainbow or two thrown in for good measure. I’m just saying. While I was packing up the trunk of the car as a precaution, I thought once again, “the gods really must be angry”.

Maybe there’s some truth to that? It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if our creator or creators, however you believe, aren’t particularly pleased with how we’ve been handling ourselves recently. We’re not exactly behaving like kind, compassionate beings. Turn on the news for an hour or so, to remind yourself how true that statement is.

On the good news side of the page, since I wrote the paragraph about a fire brewing, the blaze, thanks to the continuing efforts of firefighters keeping us safe all over the state, has since been contained. Another “whew” moment for us living here in the north state. No structures or lives lost is always a good days work. Continuing with that positive note, I woke up in the middle of the night night before last to the sweet song of rain drumming on the roof. Wow. It has been so long since I’ve heard that, I almost didn’t recognize the sound. Got up the following morning and took a long walk just to grab a lungful of the sweet fresh air outside my window. There really is nothing to compare with the smell of the earth after it has been soaked with a good dose of rain.

This morning, I actually have the windows open in the house. A lovely cross breeze is flowing in through the screens. Between the smoke and my allergies, I haven’t been able to open them in a while. PG&E will undoubtedly be sending us a thank you letter for keeping them afloat with our energy consumption this summer. Yesterday marked the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. Seems as though it was so much more recent than that. For most of us, I’m sure what we were doing the exact moment we got the news of the events unfolding on that day has become permanently etched in our memory banks. I know for me it has. I was at work, standing in the conference room with a large group of co-workers standing in front of the TV. We watched in disbelief as one unreal image after another appeared on the screen. No one spoke really, other than an occasional “oh my, God” or “oh no”. When the realization of what had just happened on U.S. soil sank in, most of us filtered out the doors and went home for the day. There was no point in trying to work with those images fresh in our minds. Driving down the freeway I remember tears sliding down my cheeks. So many lives were instantly changed in those moments. My daughter-in-law, who’s birthday falls on September 11th, said that her birthday was changed forever for her with all the memories attached to it after the Twin Towers fell. I’m sad to say we lost her as well recently due to an unfortunate accident. So, I remembered her as well, and am thankful for the two beautiful grandchildren she left behind for me to share time with.

It is not an easy planet right now. Not that the earth has ever really rested completely comfortably because, in the end, it is a globe populated with human beings replete with all their foibles and missteps. Perhaps 9/11 is a day to remember how much we have to be thankful for, and be reminded in the end we’re all trying to survive as best we can and not as different from one another as it might sometimes appear.

Have a great day. Remember those who bravely went in to help and never came out, those who were in the buildings that fell, and those amazing passengers who brought down the second plane before it could reach the intended target. Bless them all and bless us as we move forward. We are left behind as caretakers of this glorious planet and I believe we need to step up and do a far better job.

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A rapidly moving fire broke out in my old neighborhood several days ago. Many people I know either had to be evacuated, or were at the very least, in danger of having to leave their homes. Though everyone is doing okay, people in the next town over from them are surveying the damage, many returning home to find nothing remaining but ashes. I am feeling very grateful this morning to be down in the valley. A picture popped up on Facebook when the evacuations were in progress, taken by someone located about three miles from Dale’s trailer. Huge plumes of smoke were visible billowing up on the hillside. His trailer is still parked up on the lot he occupied before coming to stay my house. As of this writing, it is still standing, but it was a close call. His direct neighbor, though their house is still in place, can’t return home with their seven animals because all the power lines are down and there is no electricity. Though I’ve never experienced having to live in a war torn country, sometimes these fire ruled summers feel a bit like I might imagine it, though obviously to a far lesser degree.

Though the local fire appears to be under control, we woke up this morning to find the the air full of smoke in our neighborhood. This smoke has blown in from another blaze much farther north of us that is still very active. It used to be I loved the breeze, finding it peaceful to watch the movement of grass on the lawn, or to hear the leaves rustling in the trees. Now, it is a signal of danger, as the brush in California is bone dry, there is no water in our reservoirs, and there are not enough fire personnel to fight these mammoth blazes once they erupt. Again, PG&E’s dirty hands are involved in the fire bringing us the smoke. A tree fell against one of their lines. Everybody is busy poking fingers at everyone else. Each summer it gets a little worse, but what to do?

We are stuck inside so are making the best of it. A technician came this morning to fix our internet connection to our cable. Recently we had to replace a box and it threw everything else out of alignment. Literally, I spent hours climbing around in the snakes nest of cords behind our large flat screen trying to address the problem. One phone tech after another rebooted on their end, walked me through progressive steps on my end, and to no avail. I connected, disconnected, located yellow wires, and red. I should get paid the big bucks and do this for a living. I’m getting pretty good at it. This time, I just couldn’t figure it out. Finally, I threw in the towel and asked them to send somebody out. What a nice guy. I pay a fee every month for maintenance on their equipment. If I didn’t have that connected to my account, I would have had to pay $100 for the privilege of having a repairman on the premises. He performed his magic in about a half an hour and now the TV and internet are working perfectly. I took the time to text a great review when prompted on my phone. When somebody goes above and beyond I think it’s important to acknowledge them.

I’m not the greatest person to watch TV with. Since the day I was born, I seem to have an over abundance of energy. Have to say Covid took care of that situation for about a month leaving me listless and without juice, but my energy level has returned to optimum speed of late. When I sit and stare at a flat screen, I have to be doing something else with my hands. If I don’t occupy myself, it won’t be long before my head is thrown back against the pillow and I’m sucking in air. Just the way it is. My theory is that I burn at such high octane most of the day, when I actually slow down and relax, like my laptop, my body goes into sleep mode. Fortunately, I am able to “power nap” as I call it. When I was working full time I used to sneak in a quick nap during lunch time on occasion. Behind my desk, I kept a small camping mattress. After I’d eaten, I’d close the door to my office, and take a 15 minute siesta. Somehow, I am able to set my internal clock to the time I need, and my mind sends out a wake up call when the elapsed time has passed. Weird, but then a lot of things about me are a little off bubble.

Thinking about plopping down on the floor on an air mattress doesn’t sound that inviting anymore. I prefer my nice soft mattress, and some fluffy pillows. Camping, I believe, though never say never, is intertwined in my past stories, not my future. However, one never knows what new stories you are going to find when you turn the next page. I’m open to new adventures every day. My son and his brood just posted pictures of them parachuting. He asked if I’d be interested in jumping out of a plane next time they go. That would be a negatory. They would have to pry my white knuckled hands off the door handle and knock me out with a baseball bat first. I am planning on zip lining. It is quite near the top of my bucket list. Not as adventurous to some, I would imagine, but it works just nicely for me. Someone asked if I would be interested in zip lining over the Grand Canyon. Um, again, that would be negatory. I don’t have a death wish, but wouldn’t mind injecting a little excitement in my life. Also, I would like to go white water rafting again. My first time was amazing, and I would sign up enthusiastically to experience that rush again.

In my twenties, I went camping regularly. Young bones don’t mind sleeping on the ground as much as older bones do I’ve found. We would pitch a tent, throw a sleeping bag on the ground, and sleep peacefully 8-10 hours. Please. Now, I have the most comfortable mattress in the world, and if I’m lucky enough to log seven hours of sleep on it, I throw a party. One of my favorite places to camp, specifically boat camp, was Cottonwood Cove on the Colorado River. You couldn’t ask for a more perfect setting to be outdoors. Pictures of the area are imprinted in my mind as if I’d stepped on shore there only yesterday. In the morning we would cook over a Coleman stove. There really is nothing to quite equal the aroma of bacon cooking outdoors. The water, that time of day, unless the weather was less than perfect, was pristine. Skiing across it was effortless, with no push back on your feet like you experience in choppy water. It was like skiing over a sheet of glass. That was my favorite time of the day to go.

Usually we set up camp several miles down river from the marina. There wasn’t much out there but gorgeous scenery, scrub brush, and sparkling river water. Being resourceful, and with no facilities where we were, we constructed a makeshift toilet. The toilet was dubbed “Lou” appropriately. Lou was a lawn chair with the webbing on the seat removed. One of the men had cut out an oval in the center of a piece of wood and placed a toilet seat and lid in the hole. Both were attached to the seat of the chair. A small shovel hung from a chain next to one arm. You get the idea. They had even thought of adding a side pocket where a newspaper and puzzle were available for those who like to linger a while after a big meal. Each person dug a hole, did what they needed to do, covered same and moved Lou to a new location. Very efficient.

There were so many sights to see on the Colorado. While visiting I saw owls, mountain goats, wild donkeys, eagles soaring overhead, all manner of lizards and even a snake or two. Midday the heat moved in with intensity. We would either sit in the shade on the bank, or take our lawn chairs into the water and submerge ourselves up to our necks to cool off. Fish would come and nip at the air bubbles on our bathing suits through the webbing on our chairs, which at first was a rather odd sensation. The women never took any makeup. The only cosmetic needed was sunscreen. You definitely needed to lather up. Back then we didn’t have as much knowledge as we do now about the dangers of tanning. I have paid for my years gathering rays with having many pre-cancers removed as time has passed. Hindsight, as they say, is 20-20. Also, if you tended to burn rather than tan you needed to find a place in the shade, because even sunscreen couldn’t fully protect you from a bad sunburn when exposed out there.

One weekend we sank a boat while on the river. The beautiful ski boat, picked up brand new on a Friday night, was gathering moss at the bottom of the river two days later. Thankfully, those of us on board were all safe. There were three boats with us that ill fated weekend. The first day there, the weather was perfect. Waking up the second morning, however, the sky had turned grey. The wind picked up enough so that we had trouble keeping the tent stakes anchored. Deciding to wait it out until the following morning, when we woke up the sky looked positively menacing. Determining the best course of action was to break camp and head back to the marina. The first two boats headed up river before us, while we tore down the remaining campsite and loaded what gear was left behind. The wind had picked up to an alarming pitch and it was becoming difficult to hear one another in between gusts. My daughter, eight at the time, myself, my fiance, two friends and their young daughter, piled into the boat and pushed off. Once out on the water it felt more like being on a rough ocean, than a peaceful stretch of river. The boat rode up and over waves and pitched down the slope on the other side. Still moving forward, we appeared to be making some progress, when the engine swamped. This left us freely floating in the waves. Before long water began to enter the boat over the sides. Seeing things were headed for a bad end, I straddled the bow of the boat with one leg on either side to balance myself, and began waving a white towel I had found under the seat in the air. Amazingly, I wasn’t tossed into the churning water. By this time the people in back seat were submerged up to their underarms. It became obvious without assistance, we were all going to be in the water shortly. The prow of a boat, a cabin cruiser riding so much higher out of the water than our low profile ski boat, suddenly came into view in the distance. By the time they reached us, the people in back seat were fully in the water and the bow of the boat was halfway pointing to vertical. The boat pulled up next to us. I handed off my daughter and the other little girl and was suddenly pitched into the waves. I can remember bobbing up and down like an ear of corn in a boiling pot of water out there. With each resurface, I’d take in more water, and my limbs were starting to get tired. A guitar floated by, belonging to my friend’s husband also in the water. He had had to knock his wife out, as she couldn’t swim, because she panicked and was drowning them both. At one point it seemed I was moving away not toward the rescue boat. Coming up one more time, an oar was being held out in front of me. I grabbed onto it, and at last helpful arms sucked me up out of the water. In the end we were all saved but the boat, which went down like a bag of rocks. All I had with me was the bathing suit and shorts I had on. My purse, my ID, my credit cards, my mother’s engagement ring all went down with the ship, so to speak. When I think of that experience I can’t help but remember those angels on that boat. They were the only ones out there in our area in that storm, and they told me they wouldn’t have known we were there, except they had seen the white towel. Guess it wasn’t our time to go.

Don’t think I’m going to be seeing that kind of excitement today. An eerie red sheen is pouring across my table and the sun looks more like a blood moon. So, I will entertain myself doing things I like to do and close out the outside for now. Have a safe day.

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Growing up in Canada, Fourth of July was significant in our house only in that it was my grandmother’s birthday. July 4th was Independence Day, after all, for the United States of America, not the Canadian provinces. We do, however, celebrate Canada Day on July 1st in much the similar way. It’s a time for Canadians to celebrate their history, achievements, and culture. Since it began in 1867, nearly a hundred years after the U.S. claimed independence, I have a feeling perhaps we looked across the border and saw all the Americans having a helluva party and decided to join in. I’m just sayin. There is no doubt we Canadians enjoy a good party.

In Halifax on Canada Day, just like here, we packed a picnic, grabbed a blanket, and headed for a fireworks display. Often our venue of choice was the Waegwoltic Club, or “The Wag” as we referred to it back then. The name, so I’m told, is derived from a Mi’ kmaw word loosely translated to mean “end of water”. The Mi’kmaw were the dominant tribe in the Maritime provinces. The Wag was, and still is, located on the Northwest Arm of the Halifax harbor a fork which defines the western side of the Halifax Peninsula. My grandparents always held a membership at the club, and as their progeny I reaped the benefits of this membership during my childhood. In the summer months my grandmother would walk me to the bus stop around the corner with a friend or two in tow. When the bus arrived, we would excitedly pile on,locate a seat, and ride the bus to our final stop just outside the gates of The Wag. Many times she would have packed me a picnic lunch which I would eat at one of the many picnic tables provided, but sometimes I was given money to eat at the snack bar in the main clubhouse or to get an ice cream. Thinking of this now, it strikes me how kids don’t have these kind of adventures anymore. Nobody seemed to worry back then about us being abducted, least of all us. It’s not, I’m sure, that there weren’t plenty of bad people to go around in those days, I just think it was there wasn’t as efficient a transport of information such as the Internet to tell us about it, or perhaps times were simply different. In either case, I loved those days of freedom right down to pulling the cord and waiting for the bus doors to release us for a day of swimming and boating on the Arm.

“The Wag”

The Wag was my families usual spot to spend Canada Day. Sitting high on a hill on a blanket laid out on the grass, I would watch in fascination as the fireworks exploded in vivid splashes across the dark sky over our heads. The most impressive display of fireworks I ever witnessed was not above the Atlantic, however, but rather right here in Northern California. When they were youngsters my second husband and I took our three children (two mine, one his) to an Oakland A’s baseball game to celebrate the Fourth. Being California, there was no weather other than good weather to deal with, so the day was perfectly constructed for spending the afternoon outside. The stadium, near the San Francisco Bay, got a welcome ocean breeze to keep the temperature down, so even though we sat high in the more exposed nosebleed seats, we were not uncomfortable. The game was really secondary to everything else going on around us. Though it had been a long day, the children, having had their fill of typical baseball fare, were still wired for sound and raring to go. Between the hot dogs, peanuts and nachos their little stomachs must have been lined with cast iron to still be asking for ice cream when the vendor went by our aisle just before the fireworks began. As night fell, with the game decided, the festivities centered around the holiday began to ramp up. When the show began, we were so far off the ground as the fireworks exploded over our heads it felt almost as if we were part of the blast. For the youngest member of our group, my stepdaughter only “free” as she liked to pronounce with three chubby fingers extended, this was a bit too much. Was it not for the loud bursts overhead, the scream that emanated from that child’s mouth after the first rocket went up, most likely could have been picked up by spy cams in the Kremlin. OMG. In the end we watched the show fading out of view out of the back window of the car exiting the stadium parking lot with two sulking older children and and one sniffling little one. The price of parenthood. Sigh.

This year, though we’re now fully vaccinated and able to mingle with others, we decided to stay home. We binge watched “The Virgin River” series on Neflix most of the day in between filling our faces with leftovers from a dinner party we hosted on Friday night for several friends. There is something absolutely freeing about doing nothing. I didn’t bother to get dressed any further than the boxer shorts and tee shirt I was wearing when I rolled out of bed. My hair, though having had a good brushing along with my teeth (but not with the same utensil) when I first got up, was then left to fend for itself the rest of the day. Generally, I was a lazy no good layabout for the next twelve hours after rising. Loved it. Thankfully, we don’t live in a neighborhood, like many in the area, where people were up at three in the morning setting off fireworks. It’s not just how annoying that is to the people around them, but animals are traumatized by fireworks. My girlfriend’s schnauzer used to live in the cupboard under the sink when the Fourth of July rolled around. They had to medicate him. I love fireworks myself, but when we’re sitting on a tinder box like we are at the moment on the west coast, activities involving fire don’t make me comfortable. Fire crews responded to 1500 calls over the weekend. Wow. They had a busy couple of days.

Seems we are all “busy” all the time. When my kids call, they generally begin the conversation with “Mom, I’m really busy so I have about fifteen minutes before”….. a) a meeting, b) I arrive at whatever destination I am headed to, or c) I am tired of talking and just want to drive along in silence for a few minutes before the fun begins again once I arrive where I am going. Trying to book a weekend with my children is like trying to get reservations at Yosemite for Memorial Day weekend. Calendars are researched, children’s schedules are consulted, it is a major undertaking of epic proportions.

I’m guilty of “doing” constantly myself. Truly, I can’t remember the last time I spent a day pursuing not one thing above and beyond sloth. Doing so Sunday left me with the most peaceful feeling in my head. It felt as if everything I’d been worried about over the past few weeks had either faded considerably or even disappeared all together. I must remember to add to my calendar “Day off” from time to time and honor the writing. I think women suffer more than men from this. Now, now, if you’re male don’t get all upset by this. Statistics indicate women have much to be responsible for. I told a friend the other day it still amazes me I have been married four times and cannot ever remember seeing one of my husbands holding a toilet brush. More is expected of us, and for the most part we are up to the task. As I’ve mentioned before, though in many houses both parents need to work to keep things going, often women are still doing two more hours of housework a day than men. This is changing certainly, but not at warp speed for sure. A woman put up a post on Facebook a while back that said simply, “Can we all now agree that housework is not gender specific?” I’m in.

At the dinner party Friday night we were discussing how expensive things are getting. It’s hard to imagine my mother’s house when I was in high school, a nice, three bedroom, two bath, tract home in a lovely middle class neighborhood, was purchased for $28,000 and change. To add to the mix, it had a huge Olympic sized pool in the back yard. Today in California at least, you couldn’t purchase shares in a garage for that amount of money. I just filled up half of my tank on Saturday, and with the new gas tax just implemented, the receipt totaled $49.74. Now I have a mid-sized sedan I’m driving around in, so I can only imagine what people with SUV’s or trucks are dishing out. Where is all this tax money going one wonders? They say it is for infrastructure, roads, and bridges, etc. They have been saying that for some time. I went down a road the other day in a local park. The ranger at the gate told us it had a few potholes. A more accurate description would have been it had a few flat spots. Good Lord. My kidneys were up under my left ear lobe by the time we got to the bottom.

Last week when I went to Costco I could not believe how pricey meat has gotten. A package of short ribs was selling for nearly $50. Whoa. I half expected to see a guy in a trenchcoat waiting by the curb as we exited the building selling a little black market beef on the side. Thought of doing it myself. No wonder people aren’t getting enough to eat. I was distressed to hear a news commentator talking about food insecurity in this country. So many little ones going to bed with grumbling stomachs. I have volunteered at the local food bank since I moved to this area. You think your neighborhood is immune to this because there are nice houses and well manicured lawns, but food insecurity is a serious and real problem in the U.S. At any rate, I hope we all do what we can to help when we can. I had to use a food distribution place once while living in Washington. I remember the humiliating feeling of standing in line for a handout, and I also remember how kind the lady handing me the free box of food was, and how relieved I was to have it. I asked what I could do to pay them back, and she said simply “pay it forward”. Words to live by.

Hope you had a safe and sane Fourth and got to hug a few family and friends this year. Something to be doubly thankful for.

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