Grandma Ward

Grandpa and Grandma 1941

Grandfather Roland and Grandma Ginny, 1941


This is my much loved Grandma Ward, with her first husband, Roland, back in 1941.

Grandma was born in Southern California but moved to the Central Valley near Modesto when she was a young girl. She remembered riding the bus with the high school kids when she was in Kindergarten, because her parents didn’t want her taking the bus the other Kindergarteners took, as it was on the Highway and they didn’t think that was safe. So she rode with the big kids. The step to get on the bus was too high for her to reach, so a high schooler would lift her up. Kindergarten was 1/2 day, and High School was full day, so she waited outside the school for 3 hours or so until the big kids got out. All alone. Can you imagine anything like that today? Her parents would be in jail for neglect.

She fell in love with my Grandfather Roland when she was in High School, on a date with another boy. I guess that boy was friends with Roland, and they double dated. They didn’t care a bit for the others they were with, and Roland asked her out the next day. A few months later, they eloped. They had to elope, because he was older (27 to her 18) and divorced. The older her family could have dealt with, but the divorced would have been a deal breaker. So they chartered a little airplane that flew them to Carson City, Nevada, and they got married. They came home and she went to school and didn’t tell anyone until after graduation. Her parents couldn’t do much with her, but they didn’t let her younger sister Florence out of their sight for about 2 years, and she wasn’t allowed to date, which she said was fine with her because she was too shy anyway and it gave her an excuse.

Roland worked in construction, and he and my Granmda (Ginny) lived in a little trailer that was hitched to the back of their car. They drove up and down the valley following work, and were very happy. My mom came along about a year later, and made them even happier. Ginny felt like my mom was her little doll to play with, and had a great time being a mom. They had another baby, a boy, two years later, but baby Roland was very ill, and never came home from the hospital. He lived for several months, but kept getting sick before he could be released. When he died, they were devistated. They had another baby, another boy, a couple of years later. This baby was my Uncle Forrest, and all was well, they were again very happy and loving life with the two little children. I think they had an apartment now. One day, Grandpa Roland stepped on a nail while at work. He wasn’t terribly worried because he had had a tetanus shot. But the tetanus shot turned out to be ineffective, likely expired when given to him, and he died quite suddenly. He complained of a headache at breakfast, and was dead before lunch. My Grandma was left with a high school education, a 5 year old, a baby, and a broken heart. They had no life insurance, because they had cancelled the policy because it was too expensive.

Grandma had to find work, and couldn’t keep her kids with her. So my mom went to a convent, and my uncle to a foster home. Grandma and Aunt Flo had an apartment together, and Grandma’s small wages went to pay for the convent and the foster home, plus of course food and rent and so on. This went on for a couple of years, until my Grandma met my Grandpa, who fell in love with her and her kids, and the next thing you know, they were married. My Grandpa was in sales for a large printing company, and they sent him around the country. They lived in Puerto Rico, which is where my Aunt Colleen was born. They lived in Texas and New Mexico and Colorado, and eventually back in California. My mom and Grandpa did NOT get along (he was abusive in many ways) and she left to go live with her Great Aunt Julia in Modesto, which is where she finished high school, and where she met my dad.

My grandfather lost his job at the printing company, I believe because they thought he was too old (he was in his 50s) and they moved to Stockton, where he opened his own company, taking most of his clients with him. They lived there the rest of their lives. My grandfather died in 1988, and my Great Aunt Flo moved in with my Grandma. Aunt Flo’s husband had died quite awhile before. She had taken care of her parents until they died, then helped Grandma take care of Grandpa, and now they were living together.

These last few years, Grandma has not been well. She blames it on having had four children, while Aunt Flo’s kids are step kids, so of course she was healthier. The reality is a combination of factors, including a 60+ year smoking habit, dieting every day from about the age of 12, breaking her hip at the age of 40, and scoliosis in her spine, which as she aged and her spine compressed, became very painful. Aunt Flo has been her nurse and caretaker, as well as her sister and best friend.

When we moved back to California from Alaska when I was 9, Richard and I came first, my mom and our dog (Samantha) came a couple of weeks later. Grandma and Grandpa had downsized to a mobile home park at that time, and it had a swimming pool. Grandma would take us swimming every afternoon, and we would watch cartoons on cable TV (which we hadn’t had in Alaska) before dinner. It was a lot of fun and they spoiled us. They decided that mobile home living wasn’t for them, so they bought a house, which was 2 blocks from our place. I would spend the night at their house sometimes, I spent a week there for Spring Break (called Easter Vacation back then), and my Grandpa would make me apple turnovers for breakfast. When my mom decided we were vegetarian, I would go over there for dinner and Grandma would make me pork chops. When I had swimming and karate lessons at the Y after school, my Grandma would come pick me up and bring me to her house until my mom got home. We were pen pals, which started when we lived in Alaska, and lasted until a couple of years ago when she broke her wrist, plus her eyes weren’t what they once were.

When Ted and I got engaged and moved in together, I worried that she would be angry and scold me. She had asked me to promise never to do such a thing a few years before, when Richard was living with a girlfriend. I wrote to her and told her my news, and asked for her understanding. She wrote back that she had had so little time with my Grandpa Roland, and she thought we should all take our happiness where and when we could. She wasn’t thrilled, but she was OK with it.

Grandma was so strong. She outlived two husbands and all four of her children. She had many adventures and lived a good life.

She has always been a fierce ally, always on her grandchildren’s side, always wanting the best for us, always loving us. My grandma died last Saturday, and I am going to miss her terribly. I’m glad she’s not suffering anymore, but I will miss our trips to Red Lobster and our visits.

Bitter

Clinton Cookies

Clinton Cookies*

These were supposed to be our victory cookies, based on a recipe from the 1992 Presidential election, when Hillary Clinton made a comment on the Today show that she supposed she could have stayed home and baked cookies, but instead she continued her law career.  She was slammed, with the assumption being that she held contempt for stay-at-home moms, that she thought their life was simply baking cookies and drinking tea.  She quickly fell in line, doing the politically expedient thing and entering a cookie recipe in the Family Circle baking contest, a First Lady challange that survives to this day.

I decided it would be symbolic of how far we’ve come to bake a batch of her cookie recipe.  I baked some on Saturday and sent them to my Grandma and Great Aunt, who were SO EXCITED about this victory.  I baked the rest for us yesterday.  I made one small change, in that I used butter instead of shortening.  I’m not enough of a baker to know how the shortening ones would have turned out, but I looked at both oatmeal and chocolate chip cookie recipes, and both seemed to generally call for butter.  

And now, here we are. President Trump. It sticks in my throat and gave me nightmares last night. I cannot believe we are here. I cannot believe our next President will be a man with zero political experience, who denies climate change in the face of all evidence, who says and does the things he says and does. It is a bitter pill to swallow.

Anyway, since I had it ready to post yesterday, here is Hillary Clinton’s recipe.

Hillary Clinton’s Chocolate Chips

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup solid vegetable shortening (I used butter)
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar (I used dark because we had it)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 12 oz semisweet chocolate chips

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease baking sheets (I used parchment paper instead, so the cookies wouldn’t spread as much.
  2. Combine flour, salt, and baking soda in a bowl.
  3. Beat together shortening (butter, room temperature), sugars, and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy.  Add eggs, beating until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in flour mixture and rolled Oates.  Stir in chocolate chips.  (Add some nuts if you’re baking for Grandma and Aunt Flo, omit if you’re baking for Ted and Maya.  Life is a little complicated sometimes.)
  4. Drop batter by well-rounded teaspoonfuls onto baking sheets.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden.
  5. Cool cookies on sheets for 2 minutes.  Remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: 7 1/2 dozen cookies

* The Almond Joy is Maya’s superstitiouss move…she enjoyed an Almond Joy for Obama’s win in ’08

Presidential Cereal

I had a dream last night (or was it a vision?) of a cereal box with Trump’s picture on it.  I know, what a horrid idea.  I told Ted, and he went and found this picture, likely in order to torture me.

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I mentioned it on Facebook, (which is where Ted put the picture), and my FB and prior bloggy friend V-Grrrl said that her nephew (founder of Air B&B) had presidential cereals back in 2008.  So I did a search for Presidential Cereals, and found these.  The Obama Os and Cap’n McCain’s are VGrrrl’s nephew’s.

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Good thing these aren’t around all the time.  I for one do not want to see politicians in the cereal aisle?

Do you have a favorite?  I’d try Clinton Crunch.

Friday Randomness (on Saturday)

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Maybe I should say something about the election that’s coming up, but I can’t.  I’m sick of the whole thing.  I wish that Clinton had a more worthy adversary.  I want her to win, but I’d rather it be on her own merits, not because her opponent is such an asshole.

We went to Portland a couple of weeks ago for a ‘drive by visit’.  Maya is in school, Ted and I don’t have a lot of vacation time saved up, so we flew up Friday night, spent Saturday with family, flew home Sunday morning.  My sister got married back in March, a VERY small ceremony, and this was the party to celebrate.  It was so lovely to see everyone, but again it reminded us that we are living far from my family, and the kids are growing up without our frequently getting to see them.

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Back when I worked in a cubicle farm, I had a clock radio/iPod docking station, because I wanted to listen to my iPod at work.   When I started working from home, I brought it home and put it next to my bed.  The clock sucked for being next to my bed.  I hated the backlit display, SO bright, and it was hard to read the numbers at night.  At some point along the way, the volume stopped working well.  It was hard to get it to a decent volume.  Too loud, or too quiet.  I had no idea how to set the alarm on the thing.  For some reason, inertia mostly, I kept it for years.  Finally, I decided that I had had enough, and I went to the drug store and bought myself a new clock radio to keep by my bed.  It’s not the best ever, but it has a dark face with red numbers, very easy to read at night.  It was still a bit more bright than I wanted, so I bought an interesting product to dim it.  It’s black film that clings to the front of the clock.  You can’t even see the numbers during the day, but I don’t care about that.  What I like is that it’s dark in our room at night, and I can easily read the numbers.  I haven’t tried setting the alarm yet, so we’ll have to see how that works.

Monday was Canadian Thanksgiving.  Since Ted was born in Canada (though they came to the U.S. when he was just over a year old), I like to make Thanksgiving dinner for the three of us.  Often I make a turkey breast, but this year I wanted leftovers, so I made a small turkey, about 10lbs.  There was enough that Monday night we had Thanksgiving dinner, Tuesday we had turkey chili, Wednesday we had leftovers, Thursday we had turkey pot pie. Friday I was looking in the fridge, and we still have yams, cranberry sauce, and gravy, but no more turkey.  So I decided to buy a turkey breast, and we would have Thanksgiving dinner part 2.  When I told Ted, he said he would rather have pizza, he’s a little tired of turkey.  So pizza it was.  I’d already bought the turkey breast, so we will be having that along with the yams and so on, probably tonight.

Are you a fan of the Gilmore Girls?  I’m a fan, and I’ve been watching the series again on Netflix in anticipation of the new season coming out after Thanksgiving.  If you’ve not been paying attention, it’s going to be 4 episodes, I believe 90 minutes each.  Each episode will be a different season, so they will take place over the course of one year.  There’s been a lot of speculation as to what has changed over the almost 10 years since the series ended.  One change is that the actor who played the father, Ed Hermann, has died in the interim, so there will be no Richard Gilmore.  I’m sad about that.  I loved him and Emily best for the whole show.

He loves to sleep like this. Don't know why.

He loves to sleep like this. Don’t know why.

Puppy Boy was super sick last week.  We have to assume that he ate something he shouldn’t have, or licked up something nasty off the ground, but we don’t know exactly.  He has a habit of barfing.  Not sure why, but he does. Maybe he has an acid prone stomach.  Generally we give him a Pepcid AC every morning, and that takes care of it.  But last week, he started barfing and couldn’t stop.  He threw up all over the house, with us following close behind with the carpet cleaner, until it had been a couple of hours and he was just puking foam.  We decided enough was enough, and took him to the vet.  He threw up in the car on the way there, and at the vet’s as well.  The vet said it could be that he ate something dangerous, or it could be obstructed bowels, or who knows.  Blood work and x-rays were next, followed by an IV of liquids and anti-nausea meds.  He stopped barfing.  The vet said to take him home, and if he was OK in the morning, no need to come back.  If he threw up again in the morning, we had to bring him in again.  There was something on the x-Ray that was PROBABLY nothing, but if he was still barfing the next morning, we should check into it.  Morning came, he drank some water, and barfed it up.  Back to the vet for us.  More x-rays.  More IV.  More meds.  The x-Ray was again inconclusive, but the spot that the vet worried about was gone.  We brought him home, and then the diarrhea started.  That went on much of Friday, thankfully all in the yard, none at home.  Saturday he was a little better.  Sunday he seemed almost back to his regular self, and every day got a little better until now he’s fine.  The only thing that’s bothering him at all now is that while he was sick, he was eating chicken and rice, and now it’s all gone and it’s back to kibble.  So, we never found out exactly what was wrong, except that the blood work didn’t show anything like poison, and the x-rays didn’t show anything too crazy.  Our puppy boy is fine.  Our bank account is not.

Remembering Edelmiro Abad, Again, Still

Here we are again, 15 years after that horrible day. What strikes me today is remembering the days and weeks following the attacks of September 11th, how we all seemed to come together, as a country. And how much of the world came together for us as well. So much of that is gone. I want it back in a way, but I want it to be for a good reason, not because of another horrific, unimaginable event.

Here then, I again remember Edelmiro Abad, one of the almost 3.000 who were murdered that day.

Edelmiro Abad

Beloved husband, proud father, loving son, brother, uncle and dear friend are words that best describe Edelmiro Abad. Ed touched the lives of all who knew him with loving words, a kind gesture, or his unique sense of humor. Ed lived a happy, fulfilled life with his wife of 29 years and three daughters. He also enjoyed a successful career with Fiduciary Trust for 26 years. His co-workers and clients became more than just friends; they became family. Although we have lost a beautiful person, we have truly gained an angel. We love you, we miss you, and we will meet again.

He was my mentor and friend. He was always there when I needed him professionally and personally. First and foremost always were “his girls.” He would always burst with pride when he told us about his writer, his dancer, his chef and Lorraine just being Lorraine. Ed was loved and respected by all who had the privilege of knowing him. Ed, thank you for your strength and kindness. I will miss you more than you could ever know.

-Michele Kearney

Back in June, I read on Ally Bean’s site about this project, called the 2996 project, where you can volunteer to take the name of one victim from the September 11th attacks, and write a memorial to that person. I was assigned the name of Ed Abad.

This project seems far removed to me, far removed from my life in California, 3,000 miles from New York, DC, and Pennsylvania, where people suffered immeasurable horrors on that day. And yet, I thought, maybe I can do my part. Maybe I can write about how this loss, the loss of Mr. Abad and so many, too many, others has affected me. How it has affected us all.

September 11th, was, for me, supposed to be a day when I went into Oakland for a payroll conference, learning about boring changes to reporting requirements from the spokespeople from the Social Security Administration. It was a chance to get out of the office, maybe have lunch in a different place, learn some new things about my newish job.

I was in the shower, getting ready, when Ted came in and told me that his Aunt had called his mother, called from England since she knew we were so far removed, time wise, and might not yet be up and watching TV or listening to the news. Ted told me that someone had flown a plane into the World Trade Center. By the time I got downstairs, the first tower had fallen…they were showing the second plane hitting, over and over again. I remember the horror that I felt, not knowing whether this was the work of foreign terrorists, or perhaps the work of another Timothy McVeigh type psychopath. I remember worrying about Ted and his family, about the fear that was felt by many people of color, of that certain color, during the first Gulf War, that they would be targeted for acts of violence and hatred.

Then the second tower fell. It was such a horrid time, such an amazingly horrid event in the history of our country. I remember thinking…this is what people in Northern Ireland, Israel, Kashmir, and London have been living with for years. Now it has come here.

My boss came to my house, not sure if what he had heard on the radio was true, or if it was a stupid radio stunt. He knew by my face that it was true. We left from here to go to Oakland for our conference, not sure that that was the thing to do, but oddly holding on to normalcy. We arrived in Oakland, went through maybe 15 minutes of training, before the Federal Building there was shut down as a precaution. So we went home. Then in to the office, oddly. In retrospect, I’m not sure why we went. Just habit I suppose, like I went into work the day after the earthquake in ’89. Stayed at work for a few hours, watching the news unfold, crying quietly in my cubicle. Finally the word came that we should go home.

I came home, hungry for more news. Turned on the TV, only to see pictures of people, desperate people, jumping to their deaths from the top of the twin towers. It was the most horrid sight I have ever seen in my life. I hope to never see anything like it again. I turned off the TV, cried, cleaned house, tried to get some idea of how to deal with this.

I remember the weeks following…the days of strange quiet in the air when no airplanes flew…knowing that there were no airplanes, from coast to coast, border to border. It was a very strange feeling.

I remember being told by my leader that we needed to act normal, that we needed to go shopping, to keep our economy afloat. This cut me to the quick. I wanted to sacrifice…to give up something, as the victims of the attacks had done. As our grandparents had done after Pearl Harbor, with their shortages and sacrifice, that you felt and knew were contributing to the greater good of America, the fight against evil. Instead, we were asked to go shopping.

I knew then that we would attack Iraq. Hoped in my heart that I was wrong. Hoped that our leader would not take this opportunity to settle a grudge against the man who shamed his father. But deep down, I feared that I would turn out to be right on this.

I remember the day my mother and I had chosen to go to an Afghani restaurant for dinner, and decided it was somehow wrong to change those plans because of current circumstances…that maybe if we went, we would be telling the people who ran the restaurant that we understood that THEY were not the Taliban. THEY were not Al Quaeda. THEY were not the people who had attacked our nation. The day we chose, sadly, was the day that the U.S. started dropping bombs on Afghanistan. Our waiter walked around like a man in a dream, a man in a nightmare. I felt like we were there to support him, but that maybe, he just wanted to be home, alone, to not have to serve food to strangers, white strangers, and wonder what we thought of him, if he even had those thoughts at that time. Any thoughts to spare save those for his friends and family at home.

I remember that there were songs that were not supposed to be played on the radio. One of those songs was U2, Sunday Bloody Sunday. To this day, the opening lyrics tie me with September 11th, with the pain and horror of watching those buildings fall, of watching people fall to their deaths rather than stay in such a toxic, horrid building.

I can’t believe the news today
I can’t close my eyes, and make it go away
How long, how long must we sing this song,
How long?

Now, 5 years later, how am I to put any sort of perspective on that day. On the many, many horrid days since that day. On the loss of American life, the loss of life for our allies from England, France, Germany, Australia, etc. The loss of Iraqi life, the loss of Afghani life in a now mostly ignored war….what to say about the more recent loss of life in Israel and Lebanon…what to say about the hatred in our hearts, that pits person against person so venemously.

I want to say moving, amazing words to remember them all. To remember Ed Abad, of Brooklyn, who I committed to commerate this day. And truly, I don’t know how.

Fixing your Fridge

We thought our refrigerator was dying yesterday. Such a sad day. Don’t get me wrong, I dislike our fridge. Our last fridge had a bottom freezer, which I really liked. But when it died, we didn’t have a lot of time to shop and wait, as living without a fridge can be difficult, so we went with what was in stock in the color that matches our other kitchen appliances. We’ve never replaced all of our appliances at once, so we’re always trying to match what we have (bisque). Anyway, our current fridge is a top freezer model, and the drawers are difficult to pull out to clean, and the door compartment things (where you put your mayo and so on) have broken twice, and are not easy to get replaced. I overall dislike it.

However, much as I dislike our fridge, I don’t want to have to buy a new one. This one is 5 or 6 years old. I resent how cheaply appliances are made these days. When our last one was dying, we had a repairman come out, and he said it was expensive to fix, and the problem nowadays is that you can buy an expensive fridge with all of the bells and whistles, or you can buy a cheap one, and they have different configurations, shelf space, bells and whistles, but the basic guts of them all are now cheap and don’t last. I HATED hearing that. GET OFF MY LAWN! I know, I’m old, and I don’t like this disposable economy that we live in. I want a fridge that will last 20 or 30 years.

Side story, we bought a stove quite a few years ago. There was a crappy little piece of plastic in the control knobs that broke, and one burner would not turn off. It was always on, at a low temp, but on. Not good. And yes, it was a couple of weeks after the warranty ran out. Grrr. The guy who came to fix it said it was a tiny piece of plastic in the back end of the knob, which of course used to be metal, but is now plastic, and they don’t make them like they used to.

So here we are. Maybe a week or two ago, I was in the kitchen and the fridge was making a weird noise, starting and stopping, starting and stopping. Uh oh. But it mellowed out, and turned out OK. Or so I thought. Then a few days later, I noticed some green onions had frozen in the fridge. Not good, but what’s going on? Off and on over the next week or so, we hear the stopping and starting of the fridge, like, “START.STOP.START.STOP” quickly like that. Then yesterday, we noticed that our food didn’t seem as cold as it had been. It was luke warm. We looked in the freezer, and noticed that the freezer had snow/ice in it. Ted’s parents were over for dinner, and they mentioned how that had happened to them, and it meant blockage in the vents between the freezer and fridge (ice), which causes the air to not flow. They unplugged their fridge for a couple of hours, and that melted the ice blockage, and it was fixed. Maya looked on her phone for an answer, and that seemed to be it. So Ted and his dad cleaned out the snow inside, and vacuumed the horrible amount of dust on the back of the fridge, and we all hoped for the best.

When we woke up this morning, the fridge was 60 degrees (according to our meat thermometer). Not good. I decided to take my life in my hands and eat eggs anyway, and the milk smelled fine, so I put it in my tea. Then I read up on such things, and talked to my friend Cherry, who went to culinary school and studied food safety, and decided to follow Ted’s advice and throw things out. So when Maya got up, I took her to breakfast/lunch. I cleaned out the fridge, and took our perfectly frozen food to our neighbor’s house, and unplugged the fridge. I left the doors open and put a fan on it to try to melt the ice blocking up the works. When Ted came home from work a couple of hours later, the snow had melted, but the ice in the vents was still frozen solid. So he worked on that, attacked it with the hair dryer, etc. for a couple of hours. When all was clear and looked good, we plugged it back in. Here we are, a couple of hours later, and it’s looking good. There is still a chance that we will need a new fridge fairly soon (Do I want this? Yes. Do I want to pay for this? No.) The fridge isn’t down to the required

Here’s the video Ted watched to give him tips on what to do when your freezer is still cold but the fridge isn’t.

What the crap?

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What the crap is going on, that it’s been 6 weeks since I last posted? God I suck.

So, what’s going on here? Well, Maya is graduating from our local community college with her transfer AA next Friday, and she has been accepted to every school she applied to for transfer, including her number one favorite tip top choice, U.C. Berkeley! YAY! We’re so proud of her it’s ridiculous. This year at least, she’ll live at home, which will save us about $16,000 in room and board.

Speaking of Cal, did you happen to see Sheryl Sandberg’s commencement address? I loved it. Really moving and wonderful. I was impressed by her vulnerability and honesty, and by the advice she had regarding developing resilience.

What else is new? Seems like I went out and got myself a new job. Gulp. I wasn’t really looking for one, though I was open to it. I’ve been at my company for 15 years, and I’m ready to do something a little different. It’s more money, which is GOOD. I’ll still be working from home, which I love. It will be a lot different as far as the actual work goes, and yet my same desk, same room, same same. Strange. Always before, when leaving a job, I say my farewells to my coworkers, and leave the building. New job, new building. So this will be different in that way.

Puppy boy Mulder is doing well. He’s gotten a little better about pulling on the leash on walks, which is good. He doesn’t bark QUITE as often, though he’s still a barky boy. We’re going to a bbq with a bunch of other Keeshonden from the rescue where we got him this Saturday. That will be fun, to see him playing with his buddies.

Ted’s family has been in California for 50 years in a week or so. They came here from Canada back in ’66. We’ll be having a family get together to celebrate, which should be fun.

I’m wanting to re-do our tiny back yard. I was originally thinking I would put in drought resistant plants, but I talked to a master gardener who suggested that that might be a mistake, as our little yard gets very little sunshine, and drought tolerant plants generally want sunshine. So my current plan is to improve the soil by digging in some compost or something, and then plant some shade tolerant plants. It will look nice with our new patio table and chairs. Right now it looks dried out and sad to me, which generally happens when it gets warm around here. What I want is a yard that will look cool and serene. Maybe I need a little Buddha figurine out there to frighten the dog.

And wow, what about this election season? Crazy. Trump is the nominee on the Republican side, barring anything too crazy. Clinton is likely to win over Sanders, but it’s gotten a lot more contentious recently. I do not like what is happening with the Democrats. Not good. I sure hope things settle down before the convention.

Failure and Success

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Tuesday was Maya’s 20th Birthday, and also Spring Break for the elementary school where she works, so she didn’t have work that day. Spring Break at her college was last week, so she did have school, but she decided to play hooky and spend the day with us, her loving parents. I love this kid. (Not a kid at 20, but still MY kid)

We recently watched the movie “Chef” on HBO. Have you seen that movie? It’s really cute, about a chef in Los Angeles who is working for a restaurant that is uninspired and doesn’t allow him to showcase his creativity, and he ends up quitting his job, flying across the country, and starting up a food truck, driving across the country selling Cuban sandwiches. Maya decided that for her birthday, she wanted to go into San Francisco and get Cuban sandwiches. So she went online and found a place that gets fabulous reviews, which is in fact a corner store that also has a little sandwich area. So off we went. When we got there, we discovered that it wasn’t a traditional Cuban sandwich like you might get in Havana, but is instead a Torta Cubana, which has ham, cheese, mayonnaise, chorizo, chicken, pickled peppers, sour cream, fried egg, milanesa, avocado, and hot dog slices. Way too much, when what we were looking for has roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on Cuban bread, which is buttered and grilled in a press, like a panini. Failure

So I looked on my phone, and found another restaurant, known for the Cuban version (rather than the Mexican Torta). We drove across town, and when we got there, discovered they had shut down, permanantly. Looked for another place, also shut down. Clearly, our internet research skills are lacking.Failure

Ted had to go to work that afternoon, so we found a sandwich shop near his office, and had a late lunch there. No Cubans in sight, but it was nice nonetheless. Since Maya was born in Philadelphia, I had the Philly Cheese, which was quite good. Success (at last)

After dropping Ted off at work, Maya and I went to the Legion of Honor, so we could see a lovely painting by Raphael, Portrait of a Lady with a Unicorn. We do love the Legion of Honor…the views of San Francisco’s skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge, the smell of the sea, the gorgeous Cypress trees, and of course the beautiful paintings and sculptures. The current exposition is a collection of Pierre Bonnard’s paintings from around the world, which we very much enjoyed. Success

The following day, I saw a recipe online that looked pretty good to me, for Rajma, or Red Kidney Bean Curry, which popped up on Facebook, since I follow Smitten Kitchen there. In her post, she mentions a spice mixture that she found at Whole Foods and loved, and eventually figured out how to make herself. I thought that perhaps I might try it, and since sometimes spices in my cabinet can get a bit old, I’d just use the mix. So I went to the spice blend website, which said it was carried at both our local Whole Foods and at another local grocery store. So I went to Whole Foods (since I was in that neighborhood), and searched for the mix. Nope. Not in the Indian food section, nor in the spice section. I asked at customer service, and they said they had never heard of the brand. Sigh. So I went to the Indian spice shop across the street, where I was also out of luck. Failure I asked the woman at the spice shop, and she said the spices for Rajma are coriander, cumin, and garam masala. I had cumin at home that was fairly fresh, so I bought some coriander and garam masala and went on my way. I made the recipe for dinner and served it with rice, and it was delicious indeed. Ted said he could eat it every week, so I suspect I’ll be making it again soon. I varied the recipe in that I added a bit of garam masala, which the recipe did NOT call for, but the woman at the spice shop said it should. Really good. Success

Another recipe I tried this week was something that I saw on America’s Test Kitchen, which was lentils and rice with crispy onions, which included cumin and cinnamon. As they are known to do, America’s Test Kitchen tries the recipe several ways and tweaks it until they feel they have it just right. The recipe was supposed to be a pilaf type recipe, with tender lentils and fluffy rice, and crispy fried onions. When I made it, however, the rice came out gloppy and disgusting, and the flavors were blah. So Maya and I had bagels for dinner, and when Ted came home from work he had leftovers. Failure

Maya, as you know, has been attending our local community college for the last two years, in order to save money. Now she’s finishing up her Sophomore year, and is getting ready to transfer. She applied to one California State University, SF State (where Ted and I met!), and perhaps 6 University of California schools. She has heard from SF State, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Santa Cruz, and she is accepted to all three. YAY! She likely won’t hear from the others for a few more weeks. Her first and second choices are UC Berkeley and UC Davis, so we’re hoping for those. But if they don’t work out, she has some very good options to consider. Success!

It’s Raining, it’s Pouring…

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So happy about all of that beautiful rain we’re hoping for over the next several days*. We had a nice January, but February was dry dry day. And the ad at the bottom for slippers? I bought a pair of orthaheel slippers (not the Gemma, the Adilyn) and they are the most comfortable slippers EVER. They have arch support, not just a nice cushion at the bottom. Since I work from home, comfy slippers are important.

* I hope I’m not counting chickens before they’re hatched…we need a very wet March to make up for a very dry February. It hasn’t started raining yet, but having several days in a row coming up is a really good thing.

Friday Randomness

Have you seen the beautiful tribute to my first husband, David Bowie, at the BRIT awards?  This is the entire thing, I think, including a tribute by Annie Lennox, a tribute by Gary Oldmam, and a song by Lorde, backed up by performers who had worked with Bowie in the past.  I’ll confess, Lorde’s song brought me to tears.  I miss David Bowie being alive in the world.  It was a better place with him here.   Coming so soon after the Emmy awards, which included a tribute by Lady Gaga, of course invites comparison.  I’ll chime in and say that Gaga’s tribute left me feeling cold, didn’t move me at all.  Hers was an over the top performance, with her dressed to honor the glam rock Bowie from the 70s.  She did a fine job, but tried to squeeze in too many songs, and it sounded like she was trying to pitch her voice to match his.  Lorde instead did a straight up version of ‘Life on Mars?’ that was gorgeous and simple.  The video above is the whole BRIT tribute.  If you want to see just Lorde’s performance, it starts about 9 minutes in.

Speaking of Gaga, I read today that Joe Biden is going to introduce her at the Academy Awards on Sunday, where she will perform her Oscar nominated song about rape and sexual assult.  This comes in the wake of a court decision this week that Kesha, who was (allegedly) sexually assaulted by her producer, Dr. Luke, will not be released from her contract with Sony.  Kesha says she wants to break all ties with Luke, but Sony says they are unable to do so, because the contract belongs to Dr. Luke’s company, which has a deal with Sony.  What a mess.  This is just an injunction, however, and the actual trial hasn’t started yet.  So we’ll see whether she will be contractually required to create 4 more albums with her attacker.  I don’t know more about the case, but I’m glad it’s getting attention.  Sexual assult is hard to prove, and so often the blame is put on the victim.  We need to change that mentality.

How’s the weather where you are?  It’s stupidly gorgeous here, 70 degrees outside right now.  We’ve had a very dry February, though not as dry as recent years.  January was pretty wet, which was good, unless you live on a cliff in Pacifica.  But February is prime rainy season.  It’s not unheard of in an ‘el nino’ year for us to have a dry spell, so I’m hoping still for a wet March and maybe even April.  After that it pretty much dries up around here.  What we need are winter storms to drop a lot of moisture, and we’re just not getting that right now.  Ugh.

Did you watch ‘Freaks and Geeks‘ when it was on back in ’99-2000?   We did, though I think we missed it first run and watched in reruns.  The entire series (only 18 episodes) is available now on Netflix.  If you came of age in the early 80s, you should give yourself up to a good binge and watch the entire thing.  We just finished the other night, and it really held up well.

I thought the series finale of Downton Abbey was this coming Sunday, but maybe they didn’t want to go up against the Academy Awards.  It’s next week, March 6th.  We have the DVD, so we’ve watched already.  Clearly I’m not evil and I won’t spoil anything for you, but I will say I think they did a really nice job with it.

Do you like Spaghetti and Meatballs?  We do.  We’re especially fond of the recipe in my Alice Waters cookbook.  It’s fairly involved, though, and usually Ted makes the meatballs while I make the sauce and it’s a real team effort weekend type meal.  So I was happy the other day to see that Smitten Kitchen had an everyday meatball recipe.  And instead of serving it with pasta, she said maybe you might want to have it with garlic toast, as sort of an open face meatball sub.  So that’s exactly what we did, and gosh it was good.  I think I would have liked the sauce portion to be a bit more complex, maybe some onions or carrots or something in there, but for a quick sauce, it was quite good.  Happily, there are leftovers on the menu tonight.

Lastly in this rambling post, for some reason last night I was thinking about these TV dinners, Libbyland, we sometimes got when I was a kid, in Alaska.  They were made and marketed to kids, so there was a game or a puzzle or something on the box that you could occupy yourself with, there was a packet of Nestle Quick that you could mix with milk and have chocolate milk (maybe they even had strawberry milk with some meals, I’m not sure.)  TV dinners back then were cooked in the oven, and these for some reason often came with chocolate pudding, so that was hot.  Strange.  The food was definitely geared towards kids tastes, and was fairly gross.  But boy, I loved those things.  I think we would get those if my mom was going on a date, so not a nightly thing by any means.

 

Waffling

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image found here…dream interpretation of waffles…
Back in the 2008 primaries, the choice for Democrats was between Clinton and Obama. I looked at them as both too centrist for my taste, but if those were my choices, I wanted a woman President, so I voted for Clinton. I remember my liberal mother being displeased at this decision, as Clinton voted for the war in Iraq, and she was unwilling to let that go. I felt like the political climate at that time was such that it would be political suicide to vote against that war, especially if you were a Senator in New York, so I looked past it. Perhaps that says something not very good about me, I don’t know.

In those same primaries, Ted also looked at Clinton and Obama as centrist, and he wanted a President who was a person of color. So he voted for Obama. We pretty much cancelled out each others’ votes, but we didn’t care. It felt really good to vote for a woman and a black man.

This time, though, I’m having more trouble.  I keep waffling between Clinton and Sanders. I like Sanders’ ideas, and he’s NOT too centrist for me. The things he wants to fix, I sincerely believe need fixing. Our political system is mired in corporate money. Higher education is obscenely expensive. Healthcare is obscenely expensive. Clinton says she wants to fix these things, but so did Obama, and he didn’t get terribly far. Not far enough for me, certainly. So maybe I should vote for Sanders.

But then, I think Clinton is likely a better manager, perhaps better at getting things done. With the right pressure from the left side of her base, perhaps she could fix some of these things.  And Sanders voted against gun legislation that I would have liked to see, likely for the same reason that Clinton voted for war.  Because it kept him in office.  Politicians who piss off their constituents get voted down.

But then there’s this.  I still really, really want a woman president. I am convinced we will have one in Maya’s lifetime, and pretty sure we will in mine. But I’d like to have one in my Great Aunt’s lifetime, and she’s going to be 92 in April. She has given money to Clinton ($10 I think), because she wants a woman President. I think having a black man as President has brought a lot of the racism in our country to the forefront, and we, as a nation, are more aware and accepting that this shit really does happen. Maybe we would have been just as aware with a white President, since so much of what has been unearthed is through video cameras on phones.  But the hatred and disrespect (remember “LIAR!” during the State of the Union?) he has faced has boiled over into people’s consciousness.  And will Clinton be able to get things done? Depends a lot on the Congress. Bill Clinton’s Congress sure hated him, didn’t they? The current Congrss hates Hillary even more.  She may be hated as much as Obama.

So here I am, stuck between my ideals and my dreams. Those of you not on Facebook, this is a good time for that. My political Democrat friends are all posting, daily, their reasons why Sanders is a better pick, or why Clinton is the better choice, and no, it doesn’t confuse me, but it does get a little old. California doesn’t have our primaries until June, so I have a lot of time between now and then to see what’s going on, to think about this a little more, and figure things out. I’ve always kind of laughed at people who are undecided up until the last minute, thinking they weren’t paying attention. But I’m paying attention. I just don’t know what’s best…for me, for my daughter, for my country.

What about you? How’s your decision making process going?

Happy New Year – Friday Randomness

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Hey There Party People, what’s shakin’? December was a good combination of busy and lazy, and somehow in amongst the lazy I did not post even once. That’s pathetic.

In line with catching you up a bit, life here has been good, not crazy, not too different than it was before. We’ve had another month with dog-boy, Mulder, and he’s settling in so very well. We all adore him so much. He’s playful and loving and wonderful. He’s learning a bit of manners, learning to walk better on a leash, etc. He doesn’t jump on the furniture as much anymore. He doesn’t bark nearly as much anymore. He’s only vomited twice. He did wake us up barking Christmas Eve morning, maybe 1 A.M. Not good. But it turned out he was barking at the police officers who were here, because our neighbor’s house had been broken into. He didn’t bark during the actual burglery, but based on the layout of our houses, I doubt he even heard it. So he’s a good guard dog. And so darned darling.

Sometimes Ted and I get each other similar gifts, without knowing that would happen. One year it was cozy bathrobes. This year it was art for our walls, at least sort of. I say sort of, because while he bought me a photograph/print to frame and hang, I bought him a set of frames to hang record albums. This is big for us, because we have such different taste in art, we have a lot of trouble finding anything to hang on our walls. He likes abstract art, geometrical with contrasting colors. I like flowers and more girly type things. I have a theory that he likes the contrasting colors because he’s somewhat color blind, and I like flowers and portraits because I’m girly.  See the beautiful picture of San Francisco and the cloudy sky up there?  That’s the picture he bought me.  I love it. I think it’s contrasting enough for him and pretty enough for me, is why it works.  It was taken by a friend of his, who does great work you can find here, if you’re so inclined.

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I love Jacques Pepin and enjoy watching his cooking shows on PBS. He has a new one now, ‘Heart and Soul’ that I’m enjoying enough that Ted gave me the cookbook for Christmas. Yay! One of the recipes was this one, which is a deconstructed sushi. I decided to give it a try the other day, and it was delishious. Our favorite grocery store has a sushi counter (don’t they all?) and they sell the spicy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger, so I bought those to add. It was really good, but I think the trout roe that I bought was a bit too fishy for me, so maybe I’d save myself a bit of money and not use that next time. But overall it was good.

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What else…well, I turned 50. Ted threw me a lovely party with family and friends, and we feasted on delicious lamb curry, curried pumpkin, and roti. So so so good. My friend Marilee was in Canada and couldn’t make it to my party, but she sent me the most gorgeous bouquet of flowers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen orchids this way before, but aren’t they amazing? I love them. Here we are a week later, and they’re still stunning.

What else…We’re enjoying Downton Abbey, and I’m looking forward to getting the DVD in a couple of weeks so we can forge ahead and binge watch. It’s how I started watching D.A., and really my preferred method.

We’ll see if I end up posting here more than I did last year. I certainly HOPE that I do, but I’m not going to make it a resolution or anything like that. Happy New Year, everyone.

A Day in the City

Kouign-amann

Kouign-amann

Yesterday found the three of us going into the City. For Ted, it was a work day, so we dropped him off a few blocks from his office, and then we went to have some fun. We met up with our friends, Marilee and Paul. Marilee is my dear friend, whom I met in Latin class while studying at San Francisco State back in the early 90s. Paul is her wonderful husband, who she met on an archilogical dig in Greece. We went to b. Patisserie on California Street, and enjoyed kouign-amann, the lovely pastry that you see above. I had never heard of kouign-amann, but it is similar to a croissant, though sweeter and a bit crisper. Delicious. The picture above I took from the Wikipedia page on kouign-amann, though it was taken at this same little restaurant. We spent a lovely hour or so there, catching up and enjoying our coffee and sweets. It was perfect.

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Then Maya and I drove to Grace Cathedral, which is actually only 2 blocks from Marilee and Paul’s house, and they walked back from the restaurant, but the arthritis in my feet would not have allowed such a journey. It’s almost 2 miles (from the restaurant to GC), which my feet can do, but I would have suffered the rest of the day for it, which did not interest me. Also, pretty steep hills. Anyway, Maya is taking a class in Art History that she is really enjoying, and one of her assignments was to go to Grace Cathedral, it being the closest Gothic Cathedral to us. Paris would have been better perhaps, but much more expensive.

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I’ve been to Grace Cathedral once before. Another dear friend of mine, Janet, was married in one of the chapels there, way back when Maya was a baby. I did notice how grand and beautiful it was at that time, but I was also busy being a bridesmaid and doing bridesmaid things, so this time I had more time to look around. The architecture, the pointed arches, the art on the walls, the gloreous stained glass. It was wonderful. We spent about an hour and a half there, really trying to get a good feel of the place. If I were religious, and if I lived in the neighborhood, I think I’d stop by from time to time. Heck, even if I just lived in the neighborhood. Really beautiful.

Fresco depicting the fire destroying the old Grace Cathedral, Grace Cathedral. San Francisco, California, USA

Fresco depicting the fire destroying the old Grace Cathedral, Grace Cathedral. San Francisco, California, USA

We were intrigued by the frescos on the walls, which depicted the history of California and of the Church. This one depicts the fire of 1906 that destroyed the old Grace Church, the predecessor to the current Cathedral. After the earthquake and fire, the Crocker family, which had had a mansion at this location which burned to the ground, they donated the land so the Cathedral could be built.

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I considered the labyrinth inside the Cathedral, and started to walk it, but found my mind wasn’t in the right place for it. Perhaps it was the $2.75 per 15 minutes I was paying to park at the garage across the street, perhaps it was the beautiful architecture and art surrounding me, that seemed a better use of such expensive time. It is supposed to be very calming, and to help one spiritually. You can read more about it, if you’re interested.

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We took a moment to stop in the Interfaith Aids Memorial chapel of the church, to remember the friends I had who died from Aids, back before the current medicines that are allowing people to live so much longer with the disease. Two of my coworkers from my hotel days, Damon and Shelby, both died horrible deaths. Ugh. It was a long time ago, and it was nice to reflect on their lives.

From there, we drove over to Nordstrom, so Maya could get her leather boots shined. She had been playing soccer in them with some kids at her work (She works in the after school care at her old elemtary school), and the boots were pretty dirty. That task accomplished, we shopped a bit, then voila, Ted’s work day was over. So we went to pick him up, and then we went to dinner.

We went to the Clement Street Bar and Grill, a sentimental favorite. My friend Janet first took me there, I think, or at least suggested it to me when I first moved to SF in 1987, I don’t remember which. It’s where I had dinner with my parents that same fall, the first day I had ever met my dad. It’s where Ted and I, with some friends, celebrated our graduation from college in 1990. It’s basic California cuisine. I don’t think the menu has changed much over the years, but that’s OK. Ted had a delicious steak, I had lovely crab cakes, and Maya had a goat cheese salad.

It was a lovely day, but by the time we got home at a little after 9, we were tuckered out, and ready for bed.

Friday Randomness

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4 out of 5 ain’t bad. I’m not a fan of In-N-Out Burger, except that they pay better than most fast food places, and supposedly they use better quality ingredients. But the food is meh. And Maya likes to tell the story of when she went with her cheer squad, and she asked for a veggie burger. She didn’t know that their version of a veggie burger is a standard hamburger, sans beef. Bun, lettuce, tomato, onion, and sauce. Needless to say, she was hungry soon after.

Anyway, what else is going on? It’s hot. It’s been over 100 for the last several days, and I’m tired of it. I dislike the heat, though I’m thankful that it’s a dry heat and no humidity. So it may be 102, but it FEELS like it’s 97. I’ll take 100 and dry over 85 and humid any day, so I guess it’s a good thing I live here. We’re supposed to get a break starting tomorrow, with temps in the 90s, and then into the low 80s for several days after that. I can’t wait.

Do you ever get cold sores? Have you ever wondered whether Abreva works? I’ve been trying Abreva for several years now, on the occasional cold sore that pops up. Maybe one every 2 years. Generally I feel the cold sore coming, and I think, “Gah, I’d better buy some Abreva”, but then I don’t get there for at least 12 hours. I put it on and hope for the best, but generally the cold sore still bugs me. Well, a few weeks ago I woke up feeling like I might be getting a cold sore, and I had some new (not expired) Abreva in the house, and used it right away. I applied it maybe 2x a day for the next few days. I barely got any cold sore at all. I don’t think it was visible, but in any case, it was much less uncomfortable than usual. The stuff works! Consider that an endorsement.

Do you like cooking shows? I sometimes do, and one chef that I really like it Jacques Pepin. He has a new series starting tomorrow on our local PBS station. I’ve only watched him on PBS, locally, so I don’t know if all (or most) PBS stations carry his shows, but if yours does, give it a try.
Update: Jacques just alerted me, via Facebook, that his show will start here tomorrow, and nationally next Saturday, Sept 19th.

Did you have a nice Labor Day? We had some friends over on Sunday for a swim in our very cold pool. Monday I pretty much relaxed…Ted had to work. Labor Day is always worth stopping and thinking about the labor movement, and the benefits that it has brought us. Safer working conditions, 5 day work week, overtime pay, minimum wage. I’m thankful for all of that, though I’ve never been the member of a union. Ted’s a member of SAG/AFTRA, which gets us free DVDs of award nominated movies every winter. Not as important as safe working conditions, but nice nonetheless.

I’m plugging along on my inflammatory arthritis treatment. I’m optomistic that it’s working, though it’s slower than I’d like. I still can’t really go for a nice long walk without suffering for it for hours, and I can only dream of wearing my rings again someday, but I’m much better than I was seveal months ago, and I do think it’s working. I’m very glad for that.

Since my Uncle Forrest passed away, my cousin and I have been asked to serve as trustees of our Grandma’s estate. So we’ve been helping her to plan for her eventual death, and trying to plan for her wishes to be carried out when that sad day comes. That motivated me to buy an urn for my mom’s ashes. It was too much, emotionally, for too long, and her ashes have been sitting in the closet, quietly waiting. When my Grandma dies, she wants to have her ashes buried in the grave with her first husband, my mom’s father. My mom said, off-handedly, that we should scatter her ashes on her father’s grave if something were to happen to her. Well, I haven’t done that, and I don’t really like the idea of it. So I talked to my Grandma, and she said we can bury my mom’s ashes in with hers and my Grandfather’s coffin. So now at least I feel ready for that. I will say, Amazon is a lovely thing. I got a very nice wood urn for $89, with an engraved plate with her name on top. I think she would have liked it, and I know she would have been happy that I didn’t pay the $600 – $700 I would have paid if I bought it at a funeral home.

Maya did the 23&me thing, as did my dad. Pretty interesting stuff, though of course no real surprises. You send in a vial of your saliva, and they run it through some DNA tests, and they tell you who your ancestors are, genetically. Not any famous names or anything, but ‘56% Britiish, 23% French’, that sort of thing.

Lastly, (but not least) here we are, it’s September 11th again. What an amazingly horrible day that was, and the reprecussions have been horrific in the extreme. We can never forget that day, even if we wish we could. Our world has been changed in so many ways, and I don’t know that any of it has been for the better. Not any. Such a somber occasion. We are flying our flag in rememberance. It doesn’t feel like enough. Likely because it isn’t. I don’t know what would be enough, other than staying involved, politically, and trying to make this a world in which such atrocities do not happen again. It feels like we keep saying that, doesn’t it?

Our hot dry burning state

imagepicture of lovely drought resistant landscaping

California is a bit of a mess right now.  OK, more than a bit.  I’m sick of this damn drought, as I’m sure everyone else in the state is.

Everything is dry dry dry.  August is generally dry.  We rarely get any measurable wet between May or June and October.  But this was the dryest winter on record, so we started out dry.  Ugh.  We’re under orders from our Governor to reduce our water use, which is a good thing.  But it sucks.  So many dead lawns everywhere.  Then there are the people who continue to water their lawns, oblivious to the suffering around them.  One green lawn, reminding us of the way things used to be, surrounded by brown dead lawns, reminding us of what is.  Then there are those who landscape with bark and drought tolerant plants, reminding us of how things ought to be.  We don’t have a lawn, we have a tiny front area and a small back area, both more patio than yard, and it’s all bricks.  We have a hodgepodge of plants around the perimeter of the back patio, filled in with potted plants.   There once was a theme to the perimeter plants, meaning there was some sense of cohesiveness, but there are goddamned eucalyptus trees on the other side of our fence, and they pretty much do their best to kill whatever is below them. So the plants that we put there on purpose have all died years ago, and whenever I get a potted plant that outgrows its pot, in the ground it goes, and good luck fighting the eucalyptus.  None of that is due to the drought, just the neighboring trees and my general neglect (don’t water enough, don’t fertilize often).

So here we are, taking our drought showers and saving water in the sink (like when you rinse an apple) in a pitcher to water the plants, and I assume that we’re all in this together.  Until I find out that we’re not.  The central valley, my home for many years of my mis-spent youth, is fertile ground for many many crops, including the big money maker, nuts.  Mostly almonds and pistachios, which are big deal money makers.  If you’re a tomato farmer, or a corn farmer, you can decide to let your fields go fallow in years of drought.  But trees need water, you cannot fallow that field.  You can let your trees die perhaps, but that’s awfully expensive, and I don’t really expect anyone to do that.  But then I heard the other day that some farmers are actually PLANTING almond and pistachio trees now.  NOW, in this horrible drought, when there is simply not enough water.  Why?  Because the drought has driven prices up, so there’s good money to be made.   But wait, you may ask, how will they water these trees, if there is no water?  The answer is depressing.  There are some huge aquifers under the valley, vast underground lakes, which are being pumped dry.  These aquifers have been there for generations, and farmers generally do pump some water out in dry years.  But they’re pumping so much out, they now have to get much bigger drills,  the ones used for fracking oil out of tar sands, in order to reach the shrinking water levels.  Which is making the valley sink.  How can we possibly be so damned stupid?  I mean, yes, you have to feed your family, you want to employ people and keep the economy from collapsing around you.  But to increase production now of all times, seems beyond selfish.  It makes me want to take a long bath, and I hate baths.  How, you may ask, does the government allow this?  Because they’re elected by the farmers, and our water rights in California were put in place almost a hundred years ago, and not much has changed.  There are changes coming to the water rights rules, but those won’t be in effect for at least 5 years (I think maybe it’s 10, but I’m not positive), so what use  is that?

And then, of course, there are the fires.  Fire in California in the summer is pretty much a given, but this year’s fires are acting differenttly than they have acted in the past, likely because the trees are SO dry, and the weather is generally hotter than it has been before.  So that’s fun.  Last Saturday, we decided to get out of dodge, which was a good thing because the wind had shifted and was sending smoke down our way from the lake fires, which aren’t really that close.  Our town is at the foot of a mountain, and you coudln’t even tell there was a mountain in the area, it was so smokey.  It smelled bad, and made me worry for those with breathing and heart problems.  We went to Monterey, which is right on the ocean and lovely and cool and just what the doctor ordered, aside from the long  drive getting there.  It took us almost 3.5 hours from here, which would generally be a bit over 2 hours. Ugh.  We should have spent the night.  So the fires are burning, (not just here, the whole west coast), and they are using active duty military to fight the fires, as well as convicts.  It’s a mess.

The question, of course, is “will it rain this winter?”  Will we have a real nasty beautiful wet winter, the kind that puts water in our reservoirs, lakes, rivers, and streams?  The kind that erodes coastlines and sends people’s houses sliding down hillsides in a bunch of mud, and floods the same towns that always seem to flood in wet years?  We need one.  We need an ugly winter, the kind that punishes a lot of people who live or drive or walk in the wrong place at the wrong time.  We may get it.  There’s talk of a strong El Nino brewing off the coast.  But there was similar talk last year, and it didn’t happen.  There’s talk about that high pressure system that sat off the coast of California last winter, forcing the jet stream north, forcing the wet and cold to punish the rest of the country with record snowfalls, while we sat here with gorgeous weather, watching, longingly.  That high pressure system that may or may not be out there again this winter.

I love California.  I love San Francisco and Tahoe and Monterey.  I love Napa and Bodega Bay and Sonoma.  It hurts to see my beloved home in such dire circumstances.  Sometimes we talk about moving, to get away from the drought.  Wondering if we wait to see how things turn out, if we’ll blow it and our house will be worthless. Hard to believe with current housing prices being so stupidly high, but I guess it’s possible.  I don’t want to move.  I love it here.  I want to stick it out and see if things get better.

Did I mention the little earthquake we had last week?  It had the decency to wait until almost 7am, and wasn’t a big one, didn’t do a lot of damage. (My friend’s hat fell off of her bookcase)  That was the only damage I heard of at first, but then it turned otu that several water mains busted.  Maybe because of the earthquake, maybe because the pipes are 90 years old, I don’t know.

Poor California.  I hope things get better, soon.