Saturday, July 30, 2011

My Mother

I had two actually. My birth mother and my step-mother. My birth mother died when I was 13, the oldest of five kids. My dad married my step-mother about a year later.

My step-mother had her faults (what step-mother doesn't?), but she raised five step-children (and one birth daughter) and we all turned out basically all right. We all finished high school, are responsible adults, and have regular jobs. None of us have been in trouble with the law. She taught us, through difficult and sometimes even harsh lessons, how to be independent. She died ten years ago, of a heart attack. I knew her for 34 years and have many memories of my step-mother - how she loved growing flowers, how she loved her dogs, the countless hours she spent volunteering, how important religion was to her, how important "family" was to her, how much she loved my dad. Even after ten years, I remember her Brooklyn accent, which my dad sometimes teased her about and which she could never change.

My birth mother is a different story. Her youngest three children do not even remember her. I was barely 13 when she died; I was twelve the last time I saw her. How much can a 12 year old remember? I remember her telling us every year that she didn't want any gift for Mother's Day - that having her children was enough. I remember she wore a bright red lipstick. I remember her curly reddish-brown hair and green eyes and freckles. I remember she was compassionate, and when we did something wrong, we could count on her compassion and understanding. I remember her teaching me how to bake cookies and cakes. I remember her often with a baby in her arms. But I don't remember her voice....or her laugh. I can see her laughing, but it is like a silent movie.

She died in a hospital, of breast cancer, at the age of 37. She never got to see her children grow up. I never got to know her as an adult. All I have for memories are a few hazy silent movies in my mind.


I never thought I would actually appreciate Walmart. At least for today, I do.

When you shrink everything you ever owned into a 10X12 storage space, and a year later return to set up a household, after you've purchased a couch and dining table on Craigslist, it is amazing to me all the little things you still don't have - wastebaskets, desklamp, broom, and vacuum cleaner to name a few. I have no idea what happened to these mundane household items in the packing, but somehow they did not make the cut for the storage unit. On the other hand, I have enough dishes and silverware to serve a Thanksgiving feast for twenty people. I will not run out of mugs in the foreseeable future, even if I break one every week for a year.

It is the little things that make me happy. I bought a flowered shower curtain to go with my very pink bathroom (think 1950s pink). I looking forward to taking down the gun metal grey plastic curtain and replacing it with something pretty.

Most important of all, I bought a phone. A landline phone. (Cell phones don't work up her in foggy redwood country.) I have a landline phone number. I have a phone jack in my bedroom. Once I recover from spending two hours scouring Walmart for wall hooks and sliverware trays and dish drainers, I'm going to find out if I have dial tone, and maybe a friendly voice at the other end of the line.

And tomorrow, I am going buy a vacuum cleaner.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Turning Thirty

I don't remember turning 30. I remember turning 40. I had a large pot-luck birthday party at the big yellow house I shared with two other single parents and our three kids. I remember turning 50. I had an even bigger party, outdoors, in a county park with a contra dance band to play for listening or dancing. I had not one but two scrumptious cakes from the Prolific Oven, chocolate fudge and orange-almond. I have not yet reached the big 6-0. I have time yet to plan for that one. I'm thinking smaller and simpler. Maybe just a party for one, someplace I've never been, Greece perhaps.

The summer I turned 30, Jim and I did not have a permanent home address. We were house-sitting for various friends, with a five month old in tow, moving from one gig to another with motel stops in between. I was still on crutches, having broken my femur six months before. For most of that summer, I was hooked up to an electro-magnetic stimulation device for twelve hours a day, taking care of a baby while Jim worked on building our cabin. For one month of that summer, before I found out I needed to be connected to the grid twelve hours a day, we camped out on the land where we were building our cabin, up in the hills above the peninsula, all three of us, in a large tent, with running water from a spring. We drove to town five days a week for work. I don't remember what we did for showers. A quick plunge in the cold creek probably sufficed. We had no phone in case of emergency, just an hour long ride into town.

It didn't seem daunting at the time, as it does now when I look back on those days and wondered how I coped. We just did it. We were young and strong. We were willing to take risks.

So today I have been thinking of my friend Sarah, who turns thirty tomorrow. During the past year, she has uprooted her familiar life in LA and moved to an Israeli kibbutz with her husband and two young pre-school age children. She has started a new life in a new land, with a new language and new culture, a new life far from her LA home, her family and friends.

And I wonder...when Sarah looks back at her 30th birthday thirty years from now, what will she remember?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Exciting Times

I met a neighbor this evening on the dirt road that has become home to me over the past ten days. He was going to check out the dead deer down the way. That's what passes for excitement out here in foggy redwood country. Yep.

He asked he if I had heard the coyotes last weekend. I hadn't but I am sure I will in the future. We watched the little bunnies cross the dirt driveway, back and forth and back and forth. "Bunny" is just another name for "snack" to the wily coyotes. We talked about the local trails and the other (TWO) houses on our dirt road. (Apparantly the families like each other about as much as the Wyatts and the Clantons did.)

I watched the golden sunlight filter through the trees on my way out for a short walk. On my way back, I found a spot on the road where I can actually see the ocean.

The other day, I actually got some mail in the community mailbox. (A birthday card from my sister.)

Exciting times up here in foggy redwood country. Yep.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Goodbye Willow Glen

I passed the Starbucks on the corner where I used to stop after my mile long walk from my home to downtown Willow Glen; the Nicknacks and Doodads used goods store where I got my flowered armchair in which I can sit cross-legged; the wonderful Vietnamese restaurant that has lines down the street during Chinese New Year's; John's Greek restaurant, where I left my green sweater, never to be seen again; the old-fashioned Candy Store that has several real theatre seats in the back and runs "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" on infinite do-loop; Aqui, the Mexican restaurant, a favorite spot for friends to gather; the Kids Clothing store where I bought summer dresses for Maytali; the frozen yogurt shop on the corner of Lincoln and Willow, worth the very long wait in line in the summertime; and last but not least, Bill's Cafe, where Tim and I would occasionally meet for breakfast.

I turned the corner on Lincoln and Willow and headed north to my new place further up the peninsula, and thought about my 18 months in Willow Glen. I will miss the big backyard, where I could grow flowers and vegetables, or just go out and sit way in the back of the deep shady backyard. I will miss the neighbors - the older gentleman across the street, who sells home grown vegetables from his garden in the summertime, right on the sidewalk in front of his house; the family across the street, the Frorens, who helped me out time and again when I got locked out of the house, or needed a garden tool, or help moving; the next door neighbor, with whom I discussed gardening over the fence.

Yes, there are some things that I will miss. But I am already looking forward to new adventures up here, in foggy redwood country.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Big Blue Barn

It sounds like a name from Sesame Street. I can hear the television show announcer now: "Today's episode is Big Bird and the Big Blue Barn". Yup.

But the truth is that I now live in the big blue barn. Well, it was at barn, at one point. The barn has been converted into two separate apartments, one upstairs, one downstairs. The outside has been painted sky blue with dark blue trim, the barn doors still visible, although sealed. Kind of strange color for a barn, or building of any kind. But I like the fact that its a bit unusual. Most of the people who live up here in foggy redwood country march to the tune of a slightly different drummer.

My part of the big blue barn, which is upstairs, has a small deck off the living area. The deck is also painted sky blue, with dark blue railings, where I can commune with nature in my pajamas in the morning, drinking my guava juice. Or check my emails in the evening, sitting in a chair on the deck, laptop on my lap, feet up on a footstool, as the sun paints golden colors through the trees.

It may be a Big Blue Barn in the woods, but that's just fine with me.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Joe Wouldn't Like It Here

My sister said that our brother-in-law (my other sister's husband) has mastered his goal of keeping bugs out of his house. As this was an instant message on Facebook, I didn't get details. But it is no secret that Joe is not fond of hiking in the woods, communing with nature and encountering all kinds of nasty little critters.

My new place is in the woods. I see a forest of redwood trees out my back door. The new place is a converted barn and somewhat funky, although everything works. I even have indoor plumbing! (Don't laugh. When I lived out here 25 years ago we had an outhouse for a toilet, and an outdoor shower.) Not all the windows have screens, but I don't really care. I open the windows anyway to let in fresh air. So far, the bugs that have come in have been amenable. A few Daddy Long Legs. No yellow jackets, no misquitoes, no flies, no brown recluse spiders. If it ever gets hot out here this summer, I may resort to closing the two screen-less windows at dusk to keep out misquitoes.

We are fortunate in the Bay Area. Our summer weather is fairly dry. Many insects prefer their weather both hotter and wetter. We rarely have Lyme's disease and only an occasional case of West Nile virus.

Yes, some bugs can be deadly. But I've decided to take my chances. The view out my back door is worth it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lions, Tigers and Bears

...Oh My!

They were young and athletic and sometimes graceful. And naieve. The "boys" of All Reasons.

They ran up and down the stairs like teenage boys, complity-complity-clump. And yet when their profession called for amazing grace, they went into slow motion ballet. With furniture.

I asked if they had done this before. "Yeah, we seen it once in a movie."

The four "boys" were from All Reasons Moving. They weren't really boys, but they seemed so to me.

I paid extra to have the four of them. Four is better than two. At the large house in town, ballet as they danced my large and heavy desk around the corner and down the stairs. Packed and loaded in an hour; closed-my-eyes truck manuevering up the treacherous steep narrow and winding driveway; unpacked with amazing speed as they passed the boxes from the back of the pickup, up the stairs and onto the landing.

One after the other they asked me "how did you find this place?" (Craigslist) "Are there animals in the woods?" "Bears?" "Snakes?" No to the bears, yes to the snakes. California rattlers. I have seen a few rattlesnakes, up close and personal. But mostly deer, and an occasional bobcat. And the incredible beauty of the woods. (Yes, I have done this before.)

So now I sit early on a Sunday morning, looking out the patio doors into foggy woods, the only noise collected water dripping from the trees onto the forest floor. The still unpacked boxes sit behind me, some unopened, some with contents scattered about.

It is serene. I am happy. I am home.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I've Been Probed

It reminded me of those abduction scenarios you see in science fiction movies. Bright lights. Steel tables. Having your body physically probed.

I have now been officially probed through every orafice of the human body, without the benefit being lifted up into the belly of a starship. The routine colonoscopy celebrating my 50th birthday occurred several years ago. For the uninitiated, they stick a flexible camera up your colon. I had an endoscopy a few years before that, where they stuck a camera down my throat to see the lower end of my esophogus, which did not turn up anything serious.

Most females endure invasive procedures on regular basis. We are used to having hands and metal instruments shoved up into our "private parts" and I am no exception. The doctors don't need camera to perform this procedure; they have a bird's eye view at eye level. (Maybe they should use a flexible camera; it would certainly make the procedure more comfortable.)

Today, I think I had my last orafice probed - and I'm not even sure what the procedure is officially called. They stuck a tiny camera up my nose and down my throat. I got to see my vocal chords in action, which was actually very interesting. (No, I don't have Lou Gherig's disease, just a tiny polyp on my vocal chords.) He even looked into my ears with the flexible medical marvel.

There is no need to go back to the mother ship. All my inner workings have already been probed and have been captured in glorious living color on some data chip in some computer somewhere. On Earth.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Can't Wait for Saturday

The green pickup truck was gone from its ubiquitous spot in the driveway, my housemate gone for the evening. A few minutes later, I watched as the twenty-something year-olds rattled keys and stumbled out the front door.

Yes! The house was mine for a few hours. The evening air was cool, the house was quiet. The cat had even stopped her incessant whining. A cool summer salad, corn on the cob simmering on the stove. I headed for the dining room.

The dining room table was covered with a corrugated box and packaging material. The living room floor looked like Jeff just turned his gym bag upside-down and dumped his dirty gym clothes on the floor. Dirty plates littered every surface. My plan for eating dinner downstairs had been thwarted.

I headed upstairs to my room, where I usually eat dinner sitting in a chair with my plate on my lap. Plate in hand, I kicked Andrea's shoes, which had been carelessly discarded at the bottom of the stairs, out of the way.

After dinner, I planned to ice my back, injured in a recent minor car accident. I usually lie down on my back on my folded comfortor, which I place on the floor, with an ice pack under my back. However, the cat peed on the comfortor the other day, after getting shut in my room by mistake for the day.

My life with housemates is over, or will be on Saturday. I can't wait.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Not In My Town

In an attempt to stay cool over this swealtering 4th of July weekend, I plopped myself down in front of the downstairs TV, where it is 10 degrees cooler than my upstairs rooms. I turned the TV on; the station was set to KQED, the local public television station. The show that came on when I pushed the button on the remote was called "Not In My Town". And it was filmed at a local bay area high school, Gunn High School, in Palo Alto.

"Not In My Town", or "Not In My School", is a campaign against prejudice and discrimination and about creating an atmostphere where everyone feels accepted whether they are black or Asian, gay or straight, Mormon or Muslim. "Not In My School" has been celebrated at Gunn High School with a week of activities for several years.

As I watched this show while I ate my leftover spaghetti lunch, I was thinking: Here we are, celebrating Independence Day for a country supposedly founded on "freedom" - freedom of thought and of belief and of expression. Any American schoolchild knows those first few familar words from the Declaration itself: "We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal." I suppose your interpetation of those words depends on your defintion of "equality" and "men".

And so, we continue to have "Not In My School" week, until the day arrives when there is no longer a need to have it. And I wonder....if that day will happen in my lifetime.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


I am moving. Again. Fifth time in two years. You would think I get some kind of bizarre pleasure from the experience. But, no.

This time I am moving ostensibly to be closer to my "new" job and to cut my commute time in half. And to be rid of my inconsiderate housemates. I have had many housemates over the years. Quite frankly, we are all inconsiderate some of the time, myself included. But I have been able to work things out with most. This time, I am just tired of the whole dang housemate thing. Maybe I am getting too old and crochety to live with other people. At least, without getting pissed off. And without the occasional accompanying yelling and screaming, on my part and/or theirs.

I am tired of the kitchen looking like a WWII battlefield. I am tired of the bin of Christmas decorations that still graces our back porch and several cardboard boxes of junk that have been sitting on the porch dining table for just about as long. I am tired of coming outside to smashed flowers after someone threw a heavy duty hose on top of my delicate flowers. I am tired of tripping over gym bags in the front hall and garbage waiting to be taken out in the back hall. I am tired of the pile of gravel that has been sitting in the driveway for months. I could go on, but you get my drift...

Mostly, I am tired of housemates who treat you like you are some kind of intruder into their space when both of our names are on the rental agreement. Someone who rearranges the shared space furniture in my absence. Someone who screams at me for parking in the driveway. You might have been here first, but that does not give you the right to make all the rules. Or, in my opinion, it should not give you the right.

Good luck with the next housemate, DonnaLou. I think you are going to need it.