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The holiday weekend is upon us. I wonder so many people I know are going on road trips with the price of gas being what it is. Literally, my gas tank is siphoning my bank account dry. The good news is apparently prices are headed up, not down. Boo, the Queen of Cats, may have to seek employment if she wishes to continue indulging in her special salmon/chicken treats that cost me an arm and a leg every week at the pet store.

The past week, I have been sifting through open jobs online. I sent out three applications from one site before noticing the email associated with my profile was an old one I deactivated some time ago. Thinking this to be an easy fix, I went in to change it. After a half an hour of expletives and repeating the same task over and over again with no positive result, I had to throw up the white flag and admit I was stumped. Hate that. I decided to see if I could locate a customer service number on the site. Naturally, there wasn’t one to be found. They never include these numbers, I’ve noticed lately, so you have to muck about on your own until you either give up or drink the Kool-Aid. Jesh. Doing a Google search, I came up with an actual phone contact number. Yay. Dialing it, I was dropped into the usual endless loop of questions about why I had called in the first place. I have come to believe companies do this so they will wear you down and you will simply hang up and slink back under your rock. The first question in the next loop said, “If you are a job seeker, press 1”. Dutifully, I pushed 1 on my phone. The message once 1 had been pushed said, “Thank you for choosing our company for your job search. Please go to our website located at …….. for assistance. Good luck with finding a job you love”. Since there was no other option available but to hang up, I did, but then called right back. Turns out, when listening to the message again, there was also an option 2 available. Option 2, it appeared, was for companies looking for employees. Hmmmmm, says I, and pushed 2. Sure enough, a human voice appeared on the other end of the phone. I explained to the woman what the problem was, and she assured me she could rectify the situation on her end. SUCCESS!! She asked me all the questions used to identify the caller as the actual owner of the account. Then, she asked the name of my company. Ummmm? So, I did something I actually have perfected, I acted dumb. “Company”, says I? She went on to explain this line was for company inquiries. “Oh, huh, who knew”? At any rate, after putting me on hold, she came back on and fixed the problem for me. Desperate times call for desperate measures, I say.

Good news is I already have an interview set up for this coming week. The jobs I chose to apply for were definitely a lot below my skill level. I have had high impact, stressful jobs most of my life. This time around I want twenty hours a week, a small supplementary paycheck, and zero – spell that z-e-r-o stress. The past eight years have had enough stress packed into them to satisfy my stress quotient for the next twenty years, so I feel at this point I am good to go.

Today I am going out to lunch with the new man in my life. Cheeseburgers are what the restaurant we are going to are known for. This offers up a direct line to my heart, as a good cheeseburger is my favorite meal. With fries, naturally. We are just beginning the arduous process of getting to know one another. When you are in your twenties, you haven’t had enough life experience to really have a lot of wrinkles to iron out. Now that is not true of everyone, of course. People like Charles Manson covered a lot of ground by their mid twenties, but generally people of that age are at the beginning of their learning curve. By the time you’ve hit fifty, you’ve pretty much crested the hill, and have most likely added a lot of notches to your belt. At the mid point of our lives, there are usually marriages, or at least serious relationships behind us, children, grandchildren even, and a whole bag full of life to share with a new partner. Some of the contents of the bag, one would certainly hope, will prove productive. There will be learned lessons tucked away in the bag, along with uncovered talents, achieved goals, hopes and dreams, all mixed in with heartaches, losses, unfulfilled desires and failures. The trick is to not take the memories or unfortunate events associated with old relationships that did not work, or memories with hard edges and drag them into the empty bag waiting to be filled up by a new relationship. I speak from some experience, this is not always an easy task and one I struggle with.

Outside my window the tops of the trees are bent in the wind. We seem to have an awful lot of windy days this year. According to the weather station this can be attributed to climate change. Wind always makes me a bit edgy. My friend, up on such things, says it has something to do with ions which effect your mood. My mood has been a bit off for a couple of days. I need to move it up the happy scale a bit before I meet my new guy for our burger. As I’ve said I’m usually fairly sunny as a personality but for some reason, could be all the sad news this week about shootings and mayhem my smile is beginning to droop. I’ve noticed I’m not alone in this. The phone has been ringing even more than it’s usual craziness and often the person on the other end has wanted to discuss a problem or was simply feeling somehow down and without energy. I keep pumping up my tire, and someone keeps coming by to stick a nail in it. It is hard not to absorb the collective energy swirling all around us right now. For me, when effected in such a way, I have to chain myself to my chair to keep from heading out for a little retail therapy. I am trying to generate new income right now, not deplete what financial security I do have. I heard a startling statistic this morning, 25% of Americans have no savings whatsoever to lean back on. That really did surprise me. I wouldn’t have any either if it wasn’t I have recently sold a house. Just heard that since I sold my home three years ago the value of it has increased by $100,000. Whew. Up, up, up and away here in California with the price of either owning or renting a place to hang your hat accelerating at a fevered pace.

At any rate before I go completely down the rabbit hole here, that is what I know for today. I need to go in and readjust my smile and prepare for my date. Have a good and safe holiday weekend. Keep your smile in place and hope for the best outcome no matter what.

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Well here we are, 2022. Wow. I remember seeing 2001 a Space Odyssey back in the day and imagining where we would be when 2001 actually rolled around on the calendar. In our minds back then, we pictured by this time in history, humans would be hovering above ultra modern cities in personal spacecraft. It didn’t seem far fetched to imagine people in 2001 routinely hopping aboard inter galactic transports visiting space stations in far off galaxies or having dinner served by robotic maids in computerized kitchens. Here we are now twenty years and counting past that date, still trying to figure out how to keep our gas powered vehicles on the road. Amazing.

I hope you all had a nice holiday season. It would have been additionally joyous had Covid taken a vacation as well as so many of us apparently did, preferably somewhere like Mars. But, even with the ever present and persistently annoying corona virus circulating in our midst, I managed to pull out some beautiful Christmas memories to press in my memory book.

Christmas was spent at my daughter’s house with her family with my mother. It was two days of tree purging and eating with her lovely family. I next hopped in my car and pointing the nose south drove to the San Jose area to spend New Years with my son and his brood. This was a lovely surprise, not only were all five children present and accounted for, but a magnificent dinner was planned for New Year’s Eve. It seemed my son’s team building business dinner with his employees had to be cancelled due to Covid concerns. Unfortunately, or fortunately for those of us in-house, the caterer had already been paid and the food ordered. Soooooo, we sat down to a lovely, elegant dinner served by masked servers and a bartender was in place behind the bar should anyone need a little liquid comfort. Very nice way to bring in 2022.

I so enjoyed the drive there and back. Lately, my mind seems to require a little private time. I guess after last years demands, I am in need of a little rebuilding both spiritually, as well as physically and emotionally. It was good just to “be”, cruising along the highway with the music playing and nothing much to think about but keeping the car in between two lines and the traffic coming and going around me. Always I have enjoyed being on the road. Perhaps that’s why I continually seemed to pick people to marry who didn’t let grass grow under their feet. Was I to seek out or discover another love down the line, I would definitely need to choose someone who wanted to travel a bit and have an adventure or two. I may have some miles on me, but I’m most definitely not hanging up my shield yet.

With another year splayed out before me, I am pondering what it is I want to accomplish in it. According to my yearly horoscope which I read every January, unlike the several years past, this year promises to bring exciting surprises and happy endings. Sign me up for that.

2021 definitely went out with a bang in our neck of the woods. Woods being the optimum word in that sentence. The day after Christmas, we had record snowstorms in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Even those of us down in the foothills were treated to a couple of inches of snow. My old neighborhood, unfortunately, was devastated by the storm. It is a mountain town surrounded by trees. The onslaught of snow and wind combined for the perfect storm for residents there. I found a picture of my old house on Facebook showing a tree protruding through the living room roof with half the deck railing crushed beneath the trunk. I am so thankful I made the decision to “come down the hill” as the locals put it, after Rick died. As beautiful as the mountains are, a woman up there alone has to be willing to deal with fires, landslides and snow, none of which I want to participate in any more. A dear friend of mine in the same neighborhood lost two vehicles and a boat to tree damage, and came close to losing her husband, who fortunately escaped with fairly minor injuries after a tree fell on him. It seems with the drought situation plaguing California over the past few years, the trees were fragile and unable to withstand the heavy blanket of snow forced upon them. I’ve heard account after account of people living up there saying during the storm they could hear “cracking” all around them as trees came down. Wow. When the trees fell, they took down power lines as well leaving a lot of “live” lines flailing about. Transformers blew and equipment was damaged. When I looked at the incident map, the small green dots indicating each problem area looked like a cake decorated with green sprinkles. Some people, they are saying, will be without power for nearly a month. To add to the mix, stores have been closed as well as restaurants and gas stations. Supplies are dwindling and people are getting cold and frustrated.

Thankfully, after the next much smaller rain event coming through our area tomorrow we are in for some nice weather for a week or two. This will give PG&E a chance to get the repair work done more expediently.

There is always something to be thankful for. Today, in my world, it is that I am warm and safe and have food in the cupboard. I had a friend stay with me from up the hill who just finally got the heads up to go home this morning because her power was back on. The community pulled together beautifully to lend a hand to the person next to them. We hear so much in the news about how miserable people can behave towards one another, it is heartening to know conversely how kind and generous they can be.

Have a great day. Stop to say hello to someone who looks like they could use a smile. Offer a hand when you can see someone who needs it. We are never too busy to take a few moments to help another human being and there is little I have found more rewarding.

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Well here we are on the precipice of New Year’s Day 2022. Another year tied up, almost, and ready to be left to the history books for posterity. On reflection, it wasn’t an easy year by any stretch of the imagination. Going into 2021, my life was definitely headed in a direction that has since dramatically altered its course. This leaves me with a lot of uncertainty as this year turns off its lights, and yes, a great deal of anticipation as I set foot in the new year. This year Dale and I entered January together, hopeful for new adventures and sharing our days together. As I exit on the other end, I have had to let him go on ahead of me and am left to find a new life on my own. Once again, I restart my life. I will begin to rebuild the foundation, and as the days go by add brick by brick to make the structure sound. Makes me wonder what on earth the universe had in store for me when they sent me down the chute. So many times, I get comfortable in a direction I am headed, only to find myself completely redirected into an entirely different life. Always, though, I believe there is a reason. We do not often know what that is, but I believe we are guided to where it is we are to go. I am glad to put this holiday season to bed and pleased I made it through and found much joy with my family and my little house and Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats.

Well, Christmas gifts have been opened, appreciated, and tucked away for another year. The second of January I will dismantle the tree and put it back in its zippered bag. it has done its job for this season, brightening both my home and my spirits. My mother was with us all day on Christmas at my daughter’s for presents and dinner. With the dementia, she often misunderstands what is going on in new surroundings, so she thought we’d made a party in her honor. It was such a lovely misconception, we let her believe it to be true. Really, the day was all about three year old Zeppelin when it came to what was under the tree. So many presents had his name on the tag, and he is old enough now to thoroughly immerse himself in the spirit of the day. My daughter, Heather, has a way of making magic happen around the holidays. While Zeppelin was still happily dreaming about the day to come, Heather was stamping muddy hoof prints stretching from the door to the fireplace on her tile floor. Next, she made a line of snowy boot prints leading from the fireplace to the tree. A pile of half eaten cookies sat in the dish on a mantle near a half filled glass of milk, and filled stockings were then lined up on the hearth. The scene was set, and none of the ambience was wasted on our littlest member. Truly seeing the holidays through children’s eyes can make you young again, even if just for the moment.

My mother definitely had her holiday spirit turned up to full volume as well. Five generations were represented at our table, with the oldest and the youngest member of our small but hearty band seated at opposite ends enjoying their Christmas dinner. Something very special about a moment like that, that really fits nicely in the confines of your heart.

I am driving down to the Bay Area for the New Years holiday. Seem to be getting around quite a bit these days. I love to drive actually. Getting out on the road with the music turned to 70’s classic rock, no time schedule but the one I choose for myself, and my son and his family waiting for me on the other end sounds very inviting. Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, will have her usual pet sitter to keep an eye on her in my absence so the home front will be covered until I come back.

Though jeans and leggings topped with sweaters will be appropriate attire for most of my stay, my son and his fiance are hosting an engagement/New Year’s Eve party on the thirty first. This, will require a little effort on my part. When Rick and I owned the restaurant half my closet my filled with dresses and skirts. These days, I definitely lean towards more comfortable clothes. It’s not like the Queen is stopping by for tea any time soon. There isn’t a pair of heels visible among my vast assortment of shoes, and I don’t own any dresses at all except some of the casual summer variety. Hmmmm. Well, this is a good week to hit the stores. All the after Christmas sales will be in full bloom. I don’t really like what the designers are pushing our way this year, unfortunately. Most of the dresses look like they could also serve as appropriate shelter from a storm should you get caught in inclement weather while wearing them outside. A few tent poles and a Coleman lantern and you’re good to go. Perhaps this is because a lot of people have added a few pounds during the pandemic, I don’t know, but they surely aren’t very figure flattering. Big, blousey numbers in really busy bold prints. They remind me of the upholstery on the couch in my piano teachers parlor when I was a kid. Ugh.

I used to dress up all the time, but then I was working full time. In the restaurant, part of my job was to look professional and pulled together. Rick and I were there most days, so I needed a wardrobe to support being in the public eye. We chose Italian fine dining, making it relatively upscale as far as decor and menu. As the owners, Rick and I were expected to look the part. Owning a restaurant is not for the feint of heart. To say it’s a lot of work, barely begins to cover the amount of work it actually is. Sunday was the only day Vino Vino was closed, but that did not mean it was necessarily a day of rest. I still went into the restaurant early in the morning to pick up the server’s envelopes from the night before. Their receipts and monies would be in the safe and I would separate their gratuities from the bank deposit which would be made Monday morning, and every morning of the week.

It always was a bit of an eerie experience stepping inside that door when the building was empty. A very old structure, it was originally a saloon in it’s early days, or so the stories go. Built in the late 1800’s I’m sure it held many interesting stories and lurid tales inside it’s walls. The cooks, all men by the way, were not comfortable cooking in the kitchen alone, claiming they never felt they really were, alone, that is. Often, when I came in the front of the building sounds like banging or tapping could be heard in the bar area toward the back of the building. If I went back there by myself, I always left the front door standing ajar in case I needed an easy escape route. At night before we closed up, whether by design or chance, it always seemed we left in twos. One cannot be too cautious when dealing with ethereal things we don’t quite understand.

People ask me often if I would do it again. The answer would be, no. However, I am glad I did it then. It was a fascinating experience and I’m happy I was part of it. Sometimes I toy with the idea of opening a breakfast and lunch place somewhere in a lovely beach community, but really it is like a cat batting around a stuffed mouse. It’s fun to play with but the relationship is not going anywhere beyond that point.

Snow and rain have moved into our area. We sorely need it so I’m glad it’s here but it is making a mess for travelers trying to get home after the holidays. A lot of my friends in the high country are snowed in and without power. Whew, there is a price to pay for everything, I would guess.

Stay safe and snug over the holidays. Remember to count your blessings. You can’t do this too many times to my mind. Happy Monday.

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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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Sometimes I think our devices are more trouble then they’re worth. My new phone, though I love it, can be really annoying at times. For example, I had the phone sitting in front of me recently and was engaged in a discussion with someone in the room about the weather. Suddenly, my phone lit up and displayed a link to to an APP for making weather tracking easier. Siri, it appears, was listening. Siri is always listening. If she had a cup pressed up against our walls, she couldn’t be gathering more information about our lives. I just hope she isn’t watching. I’m just saying.

The other day while seated in the movie theater, the flashlight on my phone turned itself on without any encouragement from me. For some reason, no matter what I tried, including putting in a request to the ever present Siri, it refused to turn off. I wrestled with it so long, an usher finally came to the aisle and asked if something was wrong. Explaining the situation to him, he suggested turning the phone off. Oh. Embarrassing. Have to give it to that kid, he resisted what I suspect was his first impulse, rolling his eyes. The fun part of that sentence is, I was in a movie theater. It’s been some time since I’ve ventured into one, and have to say I really enjoyed it. The theater we chose is one of those with the incredibly comfortable chairs where you can pre-select your seats. The seating chart on the website allows you to see what seats have already been purchased, so we chose three seats in a section away from the majority of the people, and it worked out perfectly. You might ask, why would we do that when Dale, dealing with cancer, is obviously someone not needing to be exposed to a precarious health situation where the virus might be lurking. After weighing the pros and cons involved with taking a chance and going, and following all the necessary measures to ensure he was well protected, the best answer would have to be, “because he really wanted to go”. We have all been vaccinated and he and I have survived the virus, we wore masks and we kept far away from the other movie goers. He has a lot on his bucket list to accomplish and we want to make sure he crosses some of those items off as the disease progresses. In the end, no matter what the circumstance, I believe it is better to live your life as fully as you can, while you can, and never sit around passing time waiting for life to happen to you. Life is very whimsical. Truth is, feeling secure about tomorrow in many ways is only an illusion. So many things can come along in a twenty-four hour period capable of totally changing the direction you are currently heading. While tucked away in your bed a tree could fall on your roof, a runaway car could come flying through your bedroom wall, or a poisonous spider could plant a mouthful of fatal venom in your behind. There are no guarantees on what tomorrow will look like, so best to do what you can when you can. Not to be depressing, but the reality is we, as living beings, are marching steadily towards dying, from the day we draw our first breath. So, without being irresponsible or stupid about what you are doing, I think it is important to live with the most verve that you can each day you are here. Expect the unexpected. That is my mantra, and I’m giving it my best shot. I may have a tee shirt made.

Speaking of making tee shirts, I believe that will be my next project. Several months ago, I had some demo shirts printed of my various designs. I wore several of them around town to see if that elicited any comments or reactions from people I interacted with. Happily they did. So far, the feedback has been positive, which gives me incentive to move forward with my plans. Definitely within the next year, I need to come us with something to generate some extra income. I don’t want to go back to a regular job, but would rather pursue something that captures my imagination. It’s a weird time for me, as I’m sure it is for many of us, and I need to find my joy and center myself once again.

Another unexpected occurrence, though not really a surprise with the drought and lack of rain of late, was there was yet another fire in my old neighborhood this week. The unexpected part of that statement, is not that there was a fire, but that is was the second to pop up in that many weeks, and closer to the town itself. Friends of mine were evacuated, making me thankful yet one more time, I made the decision to sell my house in the mountains and move down to the valley. Also, made me most grateful those who were evacuated were able to return to their homes today thanks to the wonderful firefighters getting the fire quickly under control. These firefighters are amazing. Our unsung heroes. They get out on the fire lines weighed down by layers of heavy protective gear, work in unbearable heat, and battle these dangerous blazes until the last ember is extinguished. Because I have some understanding from the footage I see on TV of what they must be enduring, I try not to complain too much about the smoke in the air. Hard to work up a good whine, when I am safely inside with the A/C running and my air purifier cranking away in the corner.

Life is in such disarray these days, I keep my mind off things by enjoying pleasant daydreams of moving to a lovely cottage by the shore. In my minds eye, I can picture the interior of the building with French doors opening up onto a bright and sunny deck. I see sheer curtains blowing in the gentle sea breeze at one of the many windows, each providing a view of the glistening sea beyond the deck. Each morning waking up to the calling of the gulls and the peaceful heartbeat of the ocean as it moves in and back across the sand. Ahhhhhh. In this cottage in one corner where the light is perfect, I would set up an easel, with all my drawing tools arranged on trays around it. The kitchen would have an oval pan rack hanging over a generous center workspace, and in the bedroom, there would be a wood stove and a comfy overstuffed bed with lots of brightly colored pillows and throws tossed across it for settling in with an excellent book. They say if you imagine it long enough ……

What’s interesting, to me at least, about these daydreams, is I have never verbalized them to anyone. Well, at least, until the paragraph above, which I wrote yesterday. Up until I hit publish on this blog, they have remained only sweet, wistful wishes floating about in my brain as I’ve been going through my day. Oddly enough, however, after writing the paragraph, essentially giving the thoughts life, I have begun to be inundated with pictures of beautiful homes by the sea on my social media pages. Siri really is good. Not only can she see you and hear you, but apparently she can also feel you. Someone posted an array of pictures featuring a gorgeous home on Prince Edward Island. How I would love to visit there one of these days. The home was Victorian in style with modern flourishes. The aerial view of the property showed the ocean not far from where the house was located. The inside was immaculate and impeccably decorated. The huge well-appointed kitchen literally made me salivate on my new “If you can’t find the sunshine, be the sunshine” tee shirt. I’m spreading the word. There were numerous bedrooms and bathrooms, a great room, a formal living and dining room, a large laundry room and a myriad of other enticing amenities. All that house on a large chunk of ocean front land and they were asking $386,000 and change. Wow. This house I’m currently occupying is under 1,200 square feet. If you turn around in one room you might find yourself entering another. In California the market value for this home runs close to $500,000. There is no garage, mind you, and the grounds, though not postage stamp size, are most certainly not what you’d advertise as acreage. If you wish to get an ocean view from here, it will necessitate getting in your car and driving four hours west.

My “wishcraft” as Rick was always calling it, seems to be on the money of late. I think about something I would like to happen, and before long it seems to materialize. I believe my receptors somehow either got a good cleaning with all the high wind passing through our area, or that knock on the head I got last week when someone left the cupboard door open (no names shall be mentioned), shook something loose over the hair line. Rick often hinted I should use some of my pseudo magic powers to work the numbers on the lottery or the Keno cards in Vegas. I don’t think it’s that kind of magic. If it was, I would throw a spell in Dale’s direction to reverse the cancer and rewrite the end of that story. Unfortunately, we are where we are. Watching him begin to fail, brings up a lot of memories for me of when Rick was at a similar stage. Though they both were diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, it has manifested itself differently in both men. Thankfully, at least so far, there has been discomfort, but little pain. I hope that will remain the case. In this way, the cancer experience for both men has similarities. For those dealing with lung cancer, from my experience, it is all about the breathing. Being an asthmatic, I totally empathize with that feeling of being unable to gather a breath. It is very scary, triggering the bodies fear mechanisms and creating much anxiety. There are so many synchronizations between these two men in my life. Same diagnosis, same doctor. It’s weird, but then my life tends to run along a weird and peculiar vein. People ask how we’re dealing. Hard to answer that question. We’re dealing. One step in front of the other. Deep breaths, I say, and then we soldier on. All you can do really. We throw in lots of hugs, and many laughs and pour in a large helping of hope and make the best of a bad situation.

On the subject of soldiering, I want to stop here to acknowledge the fallen men and women in Afghanistan. Like our firefighters, these brave people are responsible for depending our citizens and those in foreign lands, and sacrifice so much to keep us safe. I will never understand war. The cost will always be too much, in my estimation, to ever justify the gains expected to be achieved by engaging in it. Watching what is going on overseas, does solidify my feeling of gratefulness at being fortunate enough to live in a country that welcomes freedom. I guess I don’t think anymore, as I have logged a few years on this planet, that anything is really totally free. As with the balance in all things, for what you receive, something is generally given up in kind to keep the scales in check. However, I am viewing my blessings today, and trying not to dwell on those things that make my heart heavy.

The winds are up outside this morning. The air is supposed to get better as the day progresses so my plants and flowers in my unhappily neglected garden will be thankful to get some much needed oxygen and water. Have a safe and grateful day.

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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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Birthday months are coming up in my family. I keep a calendar to remember all of them, but in spite of the effort, often find myself sending belated birthday cards these days. Too much going on to keep up with, and it leaves me feeling totally disorganized. My cat is sitting at my feet as I write this, waiting impatiently for her morning allotment of fishy treats. Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, could care less if I miss a birthday or two here or there, or if dinner is on time, or I’m behind schedule. Her main concern is four times a day I show up with two treats in my hand for her to enjoy. My, my, we are a tad self involved, even for a feline. Being her one and only well loved human, I do my best to keep her needs met. Keeping everybody happy is a job no applicant is qualified to fill. I know, I’ve tried for lo these many years. Finally, I have learned you have to keep yourself afloat, and then when you’re buoyant enough, you can lend a hand to pull others in the raft with the energy you have left.

The weather lady is saying another epic heat wave is headed our way. Oh goody. It’s supposed to reach 107 and above by Saturday. This will test people’s nerves as well as our electrical grid. Hopefully, it will not ignite any brush fires or create rolling blackouts. We have a generator sitting by the shed all primed and ready to go, but you can’t hook your A/C up to it. It’s only the first part of July, and already we are logging our third dangerous heat wave. This doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season. Personally, you could eliminate summer entirely for me, the way things seem to be headed, and leave the three other seasons for us to enjoy year round. As a kid, I could not wait for summer to arrive. Ahhhhh, sweet, lazy, crazy days of summer. No school, of course, was the main attraction, and it brought with it glorious long, hot, days filled with chlorine laced pools, bike rides along tree covered paths and backyard barbecues on the weekends. I can still picture my stepdad on the patio in his “Kiss the Cook” apron. The man could smoke, drink, and talk concurrently. He’d be flipping burgers and turning hot dogs, a lit cigarette dangling from his lips, and his martini glass glistening in the cone shaped glass next to him with an olive floating in it. Back then, other than the holidays, it was my favorite time of year. Not any more.

Since summer has arrived, whether I welcomed it or not, I decided to take a trip to my son’s next week. Recently he has upgraded his backyard and the pool area and he’s invited me to come and check it out. Having little access to swimming areas over the past few years, I didn’t have much need for swim wear. After looking at what my closet had to offer, I decided it was time to go bathing suit shopping. Not my favorite way to wile away an afternoon. It’s not that my body would cause young children to cringe in horror was I to expose it, mind you. However, though my weight has remained fairly static over the years, things aren’t as toned and firm as they could be. “You could go to the gym”, you say. Yes, I could. It’s not that I get no exercise, I walk every day, but I realize this does not have the same impact as taking up jazzersize, or zumba or whatever is fashionable with the impeccably cut ab group these days. Truth is, I am not one of those humans who can’t wait to pull on some Spandex and go work up a good sweat on an elliptical cross trainer or get up close and personal with some free weights. Actually, I’d rather be shot in the foot. There is a great gym not to far from my house. Pre-Covid I went down and took a tour. I talked myself into signing up for a year’s membership and then the virus showed up and blew the wind right out of that sail. Don’t feel sorry for me, there were no tears shed over this. Now I’m thinking about signing up once again. I’m not doing anything about it, but at least it’s shown up in the options for getting in shape column.

I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about getting older or the changes occurring to the body. Mostly, I’m just excited when I open my eyes in the morning and find I’m still here. Aging is part of life. Nobody is going to avoid it. Even those with the wherewithal to hire skilled plastic surgeons to pull up this up and tuck that in will eventually have to concede to the passage of time and go through the process with the rest of us. I still want to take a swim, and will continue to do so even when my body does scare young children, because life is to be lived and I intend to do exactly that for all the years I’m gifted with while on this earth.

So many of my friends worry endlessly about other people’s opinion of them. I try not to do this. It’s not I don’t care what people think about me, I do. I don’t think anyone enjoys being disliked or ridiculed. It is more I have come to the understanding every person I meet may not like me. Not every human I come in contact with will share my point of view, find my personality engaging, see humor where I do, or wish to spend time with me. This, in my estimation, is a fact of life. It does not mean I am a bad person, not likable, or obnoxious, though some might argue the point, but rather we all have different tastes and enjoy different types of people. I think we’ve all had people in our lives who instantly on meeting them we feel a strong connection. I am blessed to have a lot of dear friends who fit under this category. Then there are those people who you might have known for a long time who you will never share that special type of bond or friendship with. Doesn’t mean they aren’t good people, just not a connection of commonality you wish to foster on a deeper level.

I have reached a point where, though I’m still learning new things each and every day, I have pretty much set my sail in a particular direction and most likely that is the lane I will hold my course in. I do keep doing my best to adjust my lens when new opinions cross my desk, and keep my mind open to other ways of looking at a given subject or new concept. Nothing should be totally static in our lives, for that can create a stagnant state. Things can change tomorrow, they often do. My life has changed so many times up until now, I have run out of digits to count them on. Change, like growing older, is an expected part of being alive.

,Sometimes I think I’m ready to move again. My best friend is leaving California, my children are well established and busy with their lives, but where? This is not an imminent thing for sure. I have my mom to take care of and Dale, my companion, has cancer, so these are situations floating about in limbo riddled with question marks and unknowns. I will ride out each of these storms until the dust has settled once again in my world and the compass point is again directing my way. Being a bit of a fairy dust spreader, I hope my mother and Dale are with me far off in the distant future. The end to their stories, and mine, is yet left to be written in the great book chronicling our lives. It will be as it is, and all I can do is hold on tightly to the side of the boat and hope we all remain together until the end of the ride. Hope is such a powerful emotion. I’m glad when we were in the conception phase of being, our creator thought to include it in the original package. It’s like a warm blanket to wrap around us in cold harsh times.

Moving, as I’ve said many times, is not unfamiliar to me. Thirty-nine times I have packed up my worldly possessions and moved to another location. That’s a lot of packing paper to my credit. When my ex-husband and I got assigned to a job in Nitro, West Virginia we were at the time winding up a year and a couple of months in Arkansas. Moving was part of the landscape for the type of work he did, so Nitro was simply the next pin on the map. The spouses of those employed for the construction company he worked for were accustomed to having their lives uprooted and replanted somewhere else around the country. We formed a wives group, after a while, composed of those of us moving in similar circles. At one meeting, since most of us liked to cook, we decided to compile a cookbook of our time together, to include all our favorite recipes along with a story to accompany each contribution. Being the only artist in the group, I was tasked with creating a suitable cover. I came up with a picture of a woman, bent over, carrying all her wordly possessions on her back. It was a great success. Often I take out that old binder, pages now dotted with the usual grease stains and spill marks associated with someone who likes to work in the kitchen, and reread the stories included with each recipe or put one on the menu for dinner. I haven’t seen these ladies since that chapter of my life closed, but think of them often and the laughs and tears we shared. It was a time of great adventure on the open road. There was a real freedom associated with not hanging your hat too long in one location, paired with a sort of heady anticipation of what was to come around the bend on your next assignment. The enticing uncertainty associated with living your life in an unpredictable sort of way. After I had hung up my hard hat, as I worked a job or two myself, and David and I too had said our goodbyes, it took me a while to plant roots again in one spot without the restlessness whispering in my ear it was long past time to move on.

Nitro was an interesting place to find ourselves. David, my ex, worked at the plant located in Nitro itself, but we found a home to rent across the Kanawha River in St. Albans. A lot of people discount West Virginia as a great place to live, but truly the “mountain state” has a lot to offer. Visually it is quite beautiful, with a lot of gorgeous spots for a person taken with being outdoors to explore. We were to spend three years there on two separate trips, and of all the places we made our home over our eight years on the road, West Virginia would come to be remembered as my favorite. I will write more about my adventures there in my next blog. For now, I wish you a great day filled with exciting adventures.

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Growing up, my world had touches of elegance in it. My grandmother’s table was the gathering place for evening meals, and it was always set beautifully. There were forks for salad, forks for the main course, pickle forks, and dessert forks. We had knives for cutting, butter knives, serving spoons, tea spoons, and soup spoons. Depending on what was on the menu for a given day, these utensils were placed around the dinner plates in order of their use. When offered a half a grapefruit, a serrated spoon could be found sitting next to it on the plate for the purpose of helping whoever was eating it easily remove the sections. Though I did not set the table per se, largely because I could never remember what went where, I did have a hand it creating the mood. My job, was to retrieve the silver napkin rings from the top drawer of the china cabinet and secure them around the cloth napkins. Though not exactly rocket science, I was assured dinner would not be the same without this piece of the puzzle. Though she had more than enough in her world, my grandmother was not a wasteful being. Even after paper napkins became readily available in the grocery stores, my grandmother never used them until she was much older. Even then, she would keep one that wasn’t badly soiled, and reuse it, as she felt throwing them out to be wasteful.

Before having her family, my grandmother was an R.N. Well, for the sake of clarity, she was still an R.N. after having four children, just not a practicing one. When my grandfather, a urologist, first opened his practice, Gammy (as I called her) was his nurse. There were not the disposable products available now, so exam tables were draped with cloth coverings and pillows covered with fabric pillow cases, each which had to be changed between patients. My grandmother would wash the linens in the basement, and then press them crisply on the large ironing machine before returning them to be reused. Few things came in disposable cartons at the time. Milk, for example, was delivered by the milkman (there’s a piece of logic that needs no explaining) in glass bottles. When the bottles were empty, they were put back on the stoop and returned to the farm or factory to be sterilized, refilled, and reused. There were no paper towels either back then. If you needed a towel in the kitchen, you used a dish towel. For messy clean ups, a rag was retrieved from the rag bin, then washed and thrown back in the bin to be used for the next spill. Nowadays, it seems everything is disposable. The problem is where does it go, once we have disposed of it? Today I made a trip to the dump. It was unbelievable the piles of trash they were dealing with, and the plastic!

I was thinking the other day, as a kid I was never handed a bottle of water. If I was thirsty, I walked over to the sink, turned on the faucet, and filled my glass. When playing outside, I turned on the spigot and ducked my head under the tap or grabbed the hose to quench my thirst. There wasn’t the endless amount of trash and debris spilling into our landfills and oceans all these “conveniences” have created. The companies pushing bottled water will tell you their water is drawn from some pristine Himalayan spring kissed by angels, and tiptoed across by the glistening toes of spirited water nymphs. Truth is, it is water. Yup, and they are not trying to hide that fact. If you look on the bottle that is what they call it and that, as they say, is what it is. Like most things in our life if packaged prettily it has more curb appeal. I liken it to going by a property on the market advertising an open house. You arrive at the address, only to find the front yard littered with trash, raccoons scurrying about on the roof and blinds hanging in shreds in the windows. Would you stop to take the tour? My guess would be no. I know I wouldn’t. Manufacturers sell everything with beauty or slick packaging. Gorgeous women are pictured leaning seductively on expensive sports cars, good looking men are featured trimming hedges in commercials peddling power tools. If a bottled water company tried to sell you water and said it was, well, water, why would you pay for it when it freely flows in your kitchen sink? Advertising. Executives are paid high salaries to research a potential client’s customer base and come up with ad campaigns designed to hit their demographic market. We are tracked, examined, and dissected like flies pinned to an entomologist’s board. What programs we tune in to every week, what kind of cars people our age prefer, are red trucks more popular than blue? So many questions and so many firms lined up to provide the answers and the demographics for whatever product a manufacturer is currently pushing on an unsuspecting public.

Ads when I was a kid showed camels puffing on non-filtered cigarettes, and happy people downing cool beers at the beach. These promotions, no longer appropriate for obvious health reasons, have been banned. Instead, we’re bombarded with endless commercials touting the latest hemorrhoid cream or whatever prescription medication is currently hot on the market. What’s unnerving about these blurbs, is after they sing the praises of how this pill eases back pain, or that pill cures shingles, then they start with the side effects. Good Lord. Makes you wonder if the cure isn’t often worse than the disease. In Rick’s case, he took thirteen pills a day. Several were to treat heart related issues. The pills he took for his heart, eventually affected his kidneys and they too began to go downhill.

Wouldn’t it be great if they put all that energy into working to stop or at least slow down the progress of this climate change? There’s no denying it anymore, our oceans are warming and the earth become hotter. This year here in the U.S. they are expecting 17-20 hurricanes. These massive storms are coming earlier in the season, and there are more of them than there used to be. While other parts of the country are struggling with the impact of these mighty winds, enduring flooding, and property loss, those of us living in the western part of the country are dipping into the extreme drought territory and preparing for a much more aggressive fire season. For me it is very scary. I am glad every day I sold my house up in the tall trees and moved down to the valley. Not that it is safe anywhere with our vegetation so dry and our reservoirs so low, it’s just a matter of the degree of threat. Mother Nature is serving us with notice that if we don’t change our ways she will exact consequences.

I try to leave the lightest footprint possible, but certainly don’t always succeed. When I cook I try to use whatever is leftover, if anything, so it doesn’t just get thrown out. I either freeze it and reintroduce it, or simply recreate it as something else. I have found leftover meatloaf can be used in spaghetti sauce, and chicken can be recycled in a myriad of ways. Uneaten ribs can be tossed in a pot of beans or thrown into a hearty soup. When I leave a bottle of water in the car, I save it and pour it on my plants. I wash my clothes and dishes when the tubs are full, and keep my air conditioning at a comfortable level but not icy cold. Also, with the current drought in California I purchased more water resilient plants like succulents this year that wouldn’t require constant watering. If each of us added a few extra steps to our day or slightly adjusted our behavior, we might be able to dial back some of the damage our negligence has already created. We won’t be here to tend the earth fifty years from now, but most likely our children and theirs will. I hope there is something left to tend.

On that note, I will leave you for today to do good things. Have a great one!!

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The thermometer is going to push 90 degrees here, in what feels like perpetually sunny California of late. Another drought plagued season in this beautiful state will not bode well for what our firefighters will face as the inevitable summer heat presses down on us. Sigh. Already we had the first power outage of the season in our area Sunday. Predictably, the power went off right around dinner time. Not late enough in the day to have dinner prepared and on the table, but rather right in the middle of cooking time for my pork loin in the oven, and pot of corn on the cob happily boiling on the stove top. Fortunately, it came back on before we either had to order in, or label our dinner an early breakfast. Typical. If not in the middle of the meal, the power is guaranteed to go off immediately after I’ve purchased a large amount of groceries and meat at Costco. It’s like a signal goes off from the cash register directly to the power grid reading “Susie will be storing $300 worth of perishables in her refrigerator. Initiate two day shutdown protocol”. I have a generator my son gave me to use when when an outage occurs. They seem to be coming more and more often which each passing year. Summer before last, I threw out an entire refrigerator full of food three times. At least that is not a worry I will have going into this summer, hopefully. I have never used a generator before. From what I understand, you have to be careful how you use them, because if they are too close to the house or are used in an poorly ventilated area, they can prove lethal. This, I have to say, makes me a bit less enthusiastic about a trial run with the damnable thing. Being one of those people who can get her finger stuck in a manual can opener, anything with the word lethal in the precautionary hazards, is a bit worrisome to me. I am working hard on holding my grateful place so rather than complain, I will look for a positive spin to this. Let’s see, I am thankful I am blessed to have a new generator with which to off myself with. I’ll leave it at that. Good old PG&E.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks at my house for some unknown reason. Though not in a bad mood, I also haven’t been my usual sunny self. Could be spring fever, or cabin fever, or simply part of emerging like a pupa from a cocoon after a long period of hibernation, I don’t know. Seems a lot of friends and close acquaintances I’ve talked to lately are going through some transitional pains while beginning merge back into public gatherings again as well. I went out to lunch with a friend of mine on Friday. Both of us noted, sitting inside at a table felt both familiar and strange at the same time. Certainly it looked different. Notably, while we waited for our order to arrive, there was nothing on top of our table but our elbows. No napkins, utensils or condiments, as I would have expected to see pre-pandemic. When my friend asked for salt and pepper, a pile of small packets on a plate were delivered to the table. I’m so glad we didn’t own our restaurant during something like this. Restaurant ownership on the best of days is a stressful existence, but trying to work with these kind of restrictions must be like trying to do up the laces on your running shoes with your hands tied behind your back.

People ask me often if I would want to own a restaurant again. That, I have to say, is an answer requiring little deliberation on my part. NO!!!! Sorry. Was that too loud? Now, my response would be much different was I asked, “are you glad you owned a restaurant”? That answer would be a resounding, “yes”. It was an experience like no other in my life. I am both thankful to have been a part of it, and even more thankful to have come out the other end. Rick was the one carrying all the restaurant experience both going in, and going out. What knowledge I had about restaurants was limited to where to go to get the best Cobb salad, or where not to go for bad Chinese. However, by osmosis, I soaked up information along the way and managed to learn some of the ins and outs of the business for the two years we were open. Who knew? Not I certainly. I didn’t even have the usual street creds young people have on their resumes like “Waitress” or “Server”. Other than a brief, and might I add highly unsuccessful, Memorial Day weekend cocktail waitress debacle on Martha’s Vineyard in my early twenties, I was totally a restaurant virgin.

You know, rethinking my answer about ever owning a restaurant again, I have to say I have day dreamed about a little place that just served breakfast and lunch somewhere by the sea. Even perhaps a lunch truck of some description. I’ve also thought I’d like to work or run a bed and breakfast by the coast one day, but these thoughts are definitely can be found under the “dream on” column of my to do list unless I either hit the jackpot or marry well in the future.

Lately, the ocean has really dominated my thoughts. How I miss it. Sometimes it is an actually longing, like missing someone you love. For me, growing up smack up against water on all sides, it became a part of me, and, I, in turn, became a part of it. The Atlantic, where I grew up, is a far different beast than the peaceful Pacific here on the west coast. That is why people flock here, I would suppose, to enjoy the endless coastline decorated with long stretches of white sandy beaches, warm waters, and gorgeous sun soaked vistas. If one can afford it, of course. In my case, one can’t. Both oceans, to my eyes, have their own style of beauty and mystery.

The Atlantic always felt to me a far more angry stretch of water than the Pacific, harboring (no pun intended) darker moods and deeper hues. The sea, depending on you location, shows itself in many ways. The waters surrounding Hawaii, for example, have a light and yes, tropical, feel to them. Almost as though they know they are playing in paradise and wish to reflect the mood. The ocean there is a clear azure blue. When walking into the surf on Waikiki Beach the water was so translucent my feet were clearly visible on the sand below me.

I also enjoyed the beaches in Ft. Lauderdale, during my one and only visit there. Florida offered up some prime coastal experiences. If it wasn’t for the extreme humidity, frequent hurricanes, outrageously large insects, and flourishing alligator population, Florida undoubtedly would be a great place to live. If I was disposed to move to that part of the U.S., which I am not, I would prefer to live on the Keys. Key West is the only one I’ve visited but that would suit me just fine. Each night I would find my way down to the beach and sit with the locals enjoying the glorious sunsets and possibly indulging in a little cracked crab washed down by an icy margarita. My mouth is watering simply imagining it. Massachusetts had some nice coastal stops as well. Cape Cod waters are far more brooding and dark, the beaches there wearing a more windswept and scruffy look. Cape Cod, I believe would be a lovely place to write a novel or find oneself after being lost.

If I cannot be there right now, I can at least remember times that I have been. Memories are such lovely parts of our makeup. I’m glad whoever shaped our existence thought to include them in the factory rollout package. At times they can be both a curse and a blessing depending on the content, but being able to bring up the pleasant times in our lives like slides on a screen and to recall the smells, feelings, and colors of our experiences is a wondrous gift I have to say. Like pictures in an album, our memories lose their clarity and richness as the years pass. Still, they can be called up to be revisited from time to time and bring us joy. Often, I feel sad for my mum to have lost so many memories over the last few years, but dementia knows no master. Truly, I am blessed I am one face she never seems to forget.

So with thoughts of the sea on my mind, I am definitely adding a trip to the coast over the summer months. It’s about a four hour drive, which isn’t too much of a stretch. Rick and I often went to Little River, one of my favorite spots. Situated atop the craggy bluffs south of Mendocino, Little River is more a dot on the map than a thriving metropolis, only boasting a bustling population of 117. I have not gone there since he passed and am not sure how I will feel when I do. I do know I will go again when I’m ready, because it is such a beautiful place to visit. When we are left behind, it is up to us to find joy in the time we have, and I know he would always want me to do that.

Anyhow, I’ll leave you with thoughts of sea breezes, calling gulls, salty smells, and foghorns until next time.

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Before I go to bed, I make a habit of making sure my sink is empty and my house is picked up. Since I live alone, this ritual may seem unnecessary. Let’s face it Boo, the Queen of Cats, certainly doesn’t give a rats behind (a little cat humor) whether I’ve left a nasty old avocado dish to ferment on the counter or discarded a pair of pants on the floor by my bed. My daughter asked me why I’m so diligent about this ritual. “Who’s going to see it”, she asks? I explained, should I face a health challenge in the middle of the night and find myself in need of rescue, I don’t want one of those ridiculously attractive fireman looking around my house as he’s checking my blood pressure and labeling me a total slob. Have you seen the paramedics they send to your house if you dial 911? Perfect specimens of men standing over you when you look absolutely your worst. Hair hanging in your face, teeth in the jar, and vomit on your shirt. Even Christie Brinkley couldn’t carry that look off. The last time I had need of EMT’s, they sent six. Must have been a slow night. As they walked in the door, each one was (if possible) better looking than last. I wonder if there’s a section on the application for the fire department that says, Check here if you’re hot. If this box is not checked please return application to front desk. We’ll be in touch. Not.

Another reason to keep things tidy is in the event I might not make it, I wouldn’t want people rummaging through my belongings exchanging comments like “Wow, how ever did she live like this?”, or “my pygmy hog has better hygiene.” Nope, clean sinks and underwear all the way for me, just like my grandma told me.

I come to this line of thinking because the weather lately has turned almost springlike. Glorious balmy days have prompted me to get outside and walk every morning. Each day, I vary my route. One, because I get bored easily, and two to provide myself with a different level of cardio depending on the uphill climbs along the way. Yesterday, I opted for a route I had not taken before. Because my shin splints are acting up, I decided to take a less strenuous stroll along the ravine. The sidewalk wound me past a house situated on a cliff about a half a mile from where I live. As the years have passed, I’ve noticed this house sink into a state of shabby disrepair. It’s a shame really, because the lot itself is perched high on an overlook, most likely providing the occupants a panoramic view of the valley floor below stretching all the way to the Sierra Nevadas. The house, though not going to make the next cover of House Beautiful, is not too bad. What curb appeal it does possess, however, is completely eclipsed by the massive accumulation of “junk” in the side yard, creating an eyesore. Beyond the dilapidated fence, which looks as if someone may have backed over it, the filthy roofs of several well-used trailers are clearly visible alongside piles of plywood and debris. I’m surprised somebody hasn’t complained, as the neighborhood around it is composed of well manicured homes bordering on all sides. Something must have happened recently, because as I approached, I could see a crew of workers dressed in what looked like haz-mat gear moving in and out of the front door carrying household items. A rusted toilet and a beat up aluminum sink sat by the mailbox next to a sign reading “FREE”. Trust me, from the looks of them they were still overcharging. Walking towards the house I could see one of the crew members leaning on a broom obviously taking a break. Nodding in my direction, he said,”good morning”. I returned his, “good morning” and raised him a “looks like you’ve got your hands full”. He seemed to view this statement as opening the door for further conversation. I stopped for a moment, and “Ben”, as he’d introduced himself launched into a tirade about the project at hand. Before I knew it, he was sharing an outpouring of information about the residents. The people inside he told me had been elderly. The husband passed away, and the family had fast forwarded the matriarch of the family to an assisted living facility. Apparently, there hadn’t been much contact between family members over the past few years. Describing in great detail the mess they were dealing with, he said the inside of the house was in deplorable condition. Eager to not leave out a detail, and perhaps not looking forward to returning to his job, he went on to say there had been multiple animals inside who had left deposits all over the floor and carpeting. The smell, as one might imagine, was unbelievably rank. The kitchen, he said, was the worst, literally buried under mountains of dishes covered with rotting food and flies which probably meant maggots. Ewwww. As he plowed on he told me all the toilets were clogged. The look on his face indicated he found the whole situation totally disgusting. Already gleaning more WAY more information than I needed. Keeping up my end of the conversation by nodding my head at the appropriate pauses, and saying “huh” and “hmmmm” when called for, I hesitated before inquiring as to where the residents had been going to the bathroom in the absence of usable toilets. Some things are better left to the imagination. Another crew member emerged from the house telling Ben they had uncovered roaches in every cupboard, and every box of food in the cupboard as well as several carcusses of dead mice. Thanking them for all the information I really hadn’t needed, I said my goodbyes and continued on down the road. Suddenly, I felt sad for those two people, though I didn’t know them at all. Ben had somehow had opened a window into their lives and I felt like I had peeked in uninvited. Walking gives you time to cogitate and clear your head. Unfortunately, my brain was now preoccupied with roaches and clogged toilets. Got me to thinking though. What would people be saying about me after I’m gone? “That Susie, she surely had a clean sink and her banana bread,well, it was absolutely out of this world.” Not sure I want to be a fly on the wall for that program, and I surely don’t want old Ben leaning on broom in front of my house.


Lately, I’ve been taking a little inventory of my life. Perhaps it’s that I have more time alone, or could simply be I’ve reached a place in my life where I’ve climbed to the top of the mountain and am now looking at what is to be found on the downhill side of the slope. Whatever it is that motivates me to do an assessment, it’s allowed me to take a long look at where I’ve been, and give some serious thought as to where I’m going. I don’t linger long in the past. It is part of the whole of me and has contributed to who I am as a person today, but as my therapist likes to say, “Don’t look in the rear view mirror. That is not the direction you are going.”After Rick passed, hard to believe it’s going on three years, I had only enough energy to look at the day I was in with little reserve left for the tomorrows around the bend. Grief cores you out in a way, and allows you to rebuild from the foundation up. Life is so much different now then it was. Not worse, nor is it better, it is just different. Change always precipitates thoughtfulness, at least it does in me. Now that there is a new relationship in my life, something I didn’t expect nor was I looking for, this is something to be factored into my future plans as well. Possibilities remain once our masks are retired for new and exciting adventures. Always there will be new challenges, but also there will be new adventures, and new things to learn and new people to learn them from, no matter what stage you are entering in your life. Today, I will simply be thankful for the day I have, the flowers blooming beyond my window, the wind in the trees, the crazy Boo cat curled up at my feet, and my loved ones. Those are my riches.

When I look at just the last year and what has transpired, I can’t help but think you never really know what is coming around the next corner. You might win the lottery, fall in a sink hole, discover a cure for cancer, find yourself surviving (hopefully) a pandemic of epic proportions, be in the middle of a massive winter storm in Texas, welcome a new life into the world, or send one on its way. Perhaps the most intriguing part of living is the unknowing. I realize that is probably not the correct word, but I think it is the appropriate one. We don’t know, yet we have hope, and prayer, and wishful thinking, and believing in whatever we believe in. The indomitable human spirit shines bright even on the darkest of nights. I’ve seen it refuse to be extinguished so many times, when I had trouble still believing it existed.

We lost another member of our tribe this week. I attended my first virtual service, A Celebration of Life. Though not there in the person, it was lovely. At the end they released doves into the air, so spiritually moving. You are here then you are gone, and the cycle of life continues. Pieces and parts of you remain, though, in each and every person you touched. Perhaps words will be my legacy. God knows, if anyone is waiting to inherit my fortune, they will be sorely disappointed, and need not to quit their day job anytime soon. So goodbye, dear Janice. See you on the other side. Thank you for the beautiful grandchildren you have left behind. I promise I will cherish them.

Heavy thoughts for a Friday. Have a wonderful weekend. Remember each day is a precious gift, don’t waste it making bad karma or doing hurtful things. Trust me it takes years to erase the board once it is written on.

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