Goodbye…Hello

IMG_0732A dear friend asked me a while back if I had started saying Goodbye.  I am at the age where goodbyes are becoming more frequent, including a Goodbye last year for this blog.

For a while, all I wanted to do was write and vent about the new Era Orange and he who must not be named. But the truth is I couldn’t live in that constant state of frustration, except of course when making the daily call or email to my neanderthal congressman who treats women like…well, just watch The Handmaid’s Tale.

The rest of the time I couldn’t put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.  It was far easier to hide behind quilting. Or bridge. Or bocci ball. Or golf…all of which means there are so many other fun things to write about.

Hello readers. 

I hope some of you will stick around and pick up the thread of this column.

I thought yesterday was going to be a major Goodbye day. My longtime companion and sidekick, BlackJack, is nineteen in cat years — that’s 90 in human years — so I have been preparing to lose him.  I know it’s coming.

In the past couple of weeks, including one week of a major heatwave, BlackJack quit eating.  And drinking.  And peeing and pooping. It was becoming all too apparent that his once muscular eighteen pound body had become shriveled and bony.  Very bony.

Sensing the end was near, and not wanting him to suffer, I made The Appointment with his vet and spent the day crying and petting and cuddling the cat who wanted nothing more than to peacefully sleep.

It was a long, tearful day of Goodbye.

I decided that his Last Ride would not be in the dreaded cat carrier, so I scooped up his frail body and put him on a towel next to me in the front seat of the car.

We were barely out of the driveway before the cat was sitting up, looking out the window and then looking back at me with a grin as if to say, Pretty darn cool. And why haven’t we gone on rides before?

By the time we reached the country hi-way to the vet, BlackJack was sitting up straight, looking up and over the dashboard, meowing loudly at passing motor cycles, and scolding me for taking curves a bit too sharply. He was now not only riding Shotgun, but had become a very vocal Backseat Driver.

I grew pretty confident this was not going to be The Day. 

When we arrived at the vet’s, I put him in the carrier and was immediately escorted into the exam room, where the scheduled “consultation” was to take place.  Everyone in the room was appropriately solemn as they greeted us.

Well, everyone but BlackJack. I opened the carrier door and he bounded out, meowing I’m here, where’s the party?

The vet laughed.  Before leaving, the cat did get an eighth of an appetite stimulant pill and a B-12/steroid shot in the hopes of kick-starting his appetite and getting his systems functioning again.

The pill and shot evidently worked. By the time we got home, BlackJack bolted out of the car, into the house and his food dish.  He inhaled every bit of available food, belched and meowed for more.

Today, as I write, all of his systems are functioning and a plumped up Blackjack is out back, lounging in his favorite chair while watching and kibitzing with the golfers passing by.

I know full well this isn’t the end of his life journey, or mine, or any of ours for that matter, but at this moment in time, given all that is happening here and not happening in Congress, all is right in the world.

Hello.

 

 

 

 

 

oh, Suzanna…

IMG_0226We began as colleagues and grew into Sisters, ten women with a close friendship of almost forty years.  Mimi was the first to leave, almost five years ago. and we suspect she has spent a good deal of the past five years re-decorating the Pearly Gates, and whatever lies beyond, in a Country French theme.

Last week, Suzanna joined her.  Mimi would have no doubt been among the first to greet Suzanna, ready to show her the ropes for this new adventure.

Suzanna probably had some pithy observations to add to whatever Mimi might have shared.

Suzanna was a formidable woman with a moral compass set solidly to True North. She was down to earth with a quick wit and a heart as big as the great outdoors she so dearly loved. 

Suzanna was quick with a smile and good counsel, a comforting and stabilizing presence. Her tidbits of sage wisdom are still shared with novice teachers:  If the choice is between your sanity and theirs, always choose yours…Have an arsenal of quick comebacks for those very special moments with those very special students…Practice Teacher Conservation.

Suzanna kept an old fashion paper fan on her desk and when she told the occasional risqué story, she’d quickly fan her face to ease the bright Irish blush that was sure to follow. As our conversations thrived on innuendo, we knew a beet red, laughing Suzanna would soon be crying Where’s my fan? while frantically searching for it under piles of student papers.

Peggy and Dianne would visit Suzanna’s classroom with a subtle reminder from an ongoing office conversation, such as a piece of chocolate, an aspirin or a metaphor, and, without a word, hand Suzanna the token and her fan. They’d leave, with Suzanna in full blush in front of thirty students.

One year, Suzanna and Dianne decided to swim laps in the school pool before classes began. Of course, the kids got word of it.  Keenly aware of the teenage gawkers, Dianne hesitated. Suzanna just shrugged, They look at us; they turn to stone before plunging into the pool.

And when Jane and Carla were newly single and contemplating a brave new dating world, Suzanna shared her one and only dating rule: Date men half your age with twice your income. 

Suzanna was generous in sharing her love of nature, taking us kayaking and to Hume Lake. Once, with Mimi and Alice and their kids, Suzanna was determined to share the full outdoor experience and had Blaine leave a little something on the porch for a bear. The bear showed up and wanted to join them in the cabin. Suzanna said she looked in those eyes and the small amount of space where the brain might be, and declared she would never do that again.

Suzanna was fiercely proud of her husband, Reece, and their children. She found joy in their three young grandchildren and, as her health failed, Suzanna delighted in listening to their kids and grandkids laughing and talking outside her open window. She was so very appreciative of Reece’s love and especially the care that he provided in her final months.

While we are finding it difficult to imagine a world without Suzanna, sisters sharing in celebration, heartache, laughter and adventure ~ all while creating lifelong bonds and memories ~ our comfort is in knowing she is now without pain, hopefully enjoying a fragrant flower garden or kayaking in clear, calm waters. 

The Garden

These past few years have had my gardening gene a tad stifled and confined to containers on the deck. It has not been ideal for someone who views plants and flowers as one of her favorite palettes.

So I was very, very pleased with the possibilities just beyond the back door of my new home ~ a lovely, natural canvas of green just waiting for a touch of color to be woven through it.

Of course, that natural canvas also includes deer, squirrels, deer, wild turkeys, deer, raccoons, deer and geese. 

Minor challenge.

I purchased a boatload of deep blue iris bulbs, bright yellow daffodil bulbs, rich purple lavender and an assortment of colorful mums, all of which were deer resistant according to the memos attached to the containers.

uh huh.

Everything was planted in the next day or two, the hundreds of bulbs snuggled in the cool, damp soil and awaiting spring’s warmth, the mums and lavender dancing in the light rain that had begun falling. And I was content, smiling over my deer resistant flower beds.

Evidently, the deer had neglected to read the memos.

Within twenty minutes, a herd of deer were happily munching on the plants.  A few minutes after that, the squirrels were digging up the bulbs.

Sigh.

I’m now officially on watch patrol, chasing away deer and squirrels.  The turkeys have not yet made an appearance and the raccoons are far more interested in my neighbor’s garbage can. The geese are just loud and make a mess.

It reminds me of a time a few years back when I was in a relationship with a man who lived on a couple of acres of similarly natural landscape.  He had installed a beautiful hardscape of small patios and paths nestled among spreading oaks and towering redwoods before a California drought halted everything.

Finally, the winter rains came once again, so that spring we enthusiastically started on the garden, which meant I designed and planted flowers while he designed and installed multiple obstacles in hopes of thwarting the deer and squirrels.

The magic began as spring edged towards summer. Flowers bloomed, birds made themselves at home and the garden was a delight, except for one very sunny, barren area. I started looking for ideas to remedy the problem area.

I found an article in Sunset Magazine detailing a design for a copper spiral that started low on the outside and got to about four feet in height at the center. The spiral was probably eight to ten feet in diameter, filled with soil and planted with herbs and vegetables.  It was unique, beautiful and functional. It was perfect.

The fresh veggies and herbs would also be an ideal complement to a new kitchen even though cooking was not on either of our top ten lists. But, it was still the perfect addition for a very sunny area, so I showed him the article.

He reviewed the proposed project with a critical eye.

Ah yes. he smiled.  It is perfect.  And the deer will love it. They won’t have to bend over to eat the plants.

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Read the memo, dammit!
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Through my office window, I watch the enemy that lies in wait just beyond a struggling flower bed…

The Good Sisters

just me, coloring outside the lines

One of our colleagues and close friends rushed into the English Office early one October morning.

It’s going to be Halloween!  Mimi announced.

The rest of us groaned. 

Halloween on a high school campus falls somewhere between Carrie and Zombie ApocalypseII.  It is typically a lost teaching day and is spent keeping marginal control of 150 to 200 students dressed in every conceivable costume and are much more interested in each other than the assignment at hand.

I have an idea!  That was not news to us. Mimi always had a new idea.  We’re sisters.  We can all come dressed as nuns.

We looked at her. We looked at each other.  We grinned. A plan was in the works. 

On Halloween, we arrived, one by one, and looking very nun-like.  With floor-length black habits, 1940s black shoes, white wimples, black veils, rulers in hand, and reading glasses perched…

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Beginner Bridge

trumpsIt all started a few years ago, when a good friend took me by the hand and said, You’re retired. Time to learn Bridge.  And golf.

Good grief.  I had avoided both my entire life, and here I was, face to face with a petite blonde retiree, another teacher, with an iron will.

I sighed and asked, can we start with Bridge?  It was winter, raining cats and dogs at the time, and probably 40 degrees below zero, which was admittedly a bit unusual for California Bay Area weather.

So we started with Bridge.  She had done her prep work and was prepared with all kinds of handouts and notes for me.  She didn’t realize I was functioning at the lowest possible remedial level, with no math skills whatsoever, but she had all kinds of expectations for what I could eventually do.

Eventually being the critical word.

I struggled to hold the definition of a “Trick” while “Trump” was mystifying long before politics ever entered the picture.

But, she was incredibly patient and would repeat explanations without flinching. Nothing much helped.

Then I moved.  I wouldn’t exactly call it payback, but before the movers showed up, I nominated my friend for a county board position and now she’s an officer, which probably cuts into her Bridge and golf time.  I do feel marginally guilty about that, even though she’s doing an exceptional job.

It wasn’t long after the move, that another dear woman and new friend — actually, another petite blonde woman with a similar iron will — said she was teaching a beginner Bridge group and needed a fourth.  Thursdays, 12:3o. 

She was also well prepared with notes, a book, and cards that were pre-set so the three of us would get a lot of practice on the lesson of the day.  The other two women have also been incredibly patient, being more experience beginners than I.

That was almost eight months ago, before a more or less permanent sub was needed for yet another beginner Bridge group.  Tuesdays, 1:00.

Bridge has also become almost fun, albeit challenging, though not as enjoyable as the talking and laughter shared afterwards in the Sports Lounge.

I think I’m beginning to figure out the game.  Kind of.  The bidding process remains a constant challenge and scoring is still a mystery. 

But, now, I can confidently share that I actually understand the definition of a “Trick.”  I even get “Trump” but only as it applies to card games.

It’s probably the only thing about the Trump that I understand.

A Creek Runs Through It…

When I first lookeimg_0854-1d at this house, now my new home, one of the things that caught my attention, other than the spectacular views, was a dry creek bed meandering through the property. It wandered down from the golf course on the knoll above the back yard, worked its way around the house and decks, under a delightful bridge and through a large culvert under the street to the lake just beyond.

It was bone dry.  Neither the realtor nor I could figure out why it was so dry, other than it was the height of summer and a drought, but the other man-made creeks in the area regularly ran in order to keep the lake filled.

I thought perhaps it had something  to due with the upgrading at the small park across the street, so the next time I was down by the administration building I stopped in to ask about “turning the water back on.”

The ladies looked at one another, not knowing the answer, and then said, We need to get Sean. As it turned out, Sean was just down the hall and was more than happy to answer my question.

Ah.  You have a real creek.  It will run all winter.  He could barely contain a grin.

Good thing I don’t embarrass easily.

Sean was right. Now, a few months later, the rains have come — hopefully for more than a few days — and the creek runs full. 

It’s another unexpected delight, watching the water splash its way over river rocks and under the bridge on its journey from the hillside to the lake.

It also brings back unexpected and fond memories from childhood.  There was a creek at the end of our road, owned by a gruff, weathered old man whom we all knew as Mr. Scrabo, one of four Serbian brothers who settled in the rural valley and planted orchards.  There was an old road that ran along one side of his apple orchard and a wide creek that bordered the other side.

I don’t think he had any children of his own, other than the orchard that was, indeed, his child.  Mr. Scrabo would only allow children on his property, he’d say with a wink to the adults out walking. He hired the young neighborhood boys to help pick apples for a quarter an hour and all the rotten apples they wanted for after-work rotten apple fights. Girls were not supposed to do hard labor or fight.

But, Mr. Scrabo gave all of us access to the creek, even helping by clearing a wide path down its banks to a large clearing where the creek lazily snaked around a generous hairpin turn.  We spent many hot summer afternoons wading in the cool waters or fishing with with strainers from our moms’ kitchens, occasionally catching minnows and tadpoles while having great fun away from the eyes of any intruding parents.

The creek was gentle and babbling in the summer with waters so cool and clear you could see bugs and minnows alike, but, come the winter storms, the creek became swollen with water and part of the adventure of walking to school and having to cross the creek by balancing on a large fallen oak limb that, at the time, seemed oh-so-high above the raging waters below. 

When it was my young children’s turn to grow up in their mother’s childhood home, it was a gift to watch them relive many of my memories at the creek at the end of our road.

Of course, by then, Mr. Scrabo was another memory, too, the old road widened and paved over, and his prized orchard sold for homes, although Mr. Scrabo had made certain that a path, deeded in perpetuity, allowed the neighborhood children access to the creek and all the adventures that awaited them.

Sweet memories.  Sweeter man. 

I think I’ll get a mug of hot, spiced tea and sit by the window for a while, watching the rain and the creek, and see what other memories are waiting to be found.

AWOL

It’s been more than a few months since I last visited my blog. Somewhere between looking for a new home, cringing at a presidential nominee whose emotional and intellectual capabilities seem to hover at the lowest bar we’ve ever witnessed (quick, where’s my all’s-right-with-the-world quilt so I can hide beneath it?) and packing, things had to get prioritized.

Just me, coloring outside the lines lost out.

However, now that I have moved in to the new casa, unpacked and hung the paintings, I am home once again. Even BlackJack, the cat, is happy.  And you know what they say, a happy cat is a happy home.  Or something like that.

I have to say, this was a bit of a traumatic move for the cat.  He loved our former home.  As the mountain of packed boxes grew taller, BlackJack grew increasingly morose.  It was not like him.  I realized just how upset he was when,  just prior to The Move, I had returned from carting some boxes to the new house and turned down our very steep Driveway from Hell (think the first twisting drop of your favorite roller coaster and that approximates the driveway).

BlackJack never ventured up the drive; it was simply too steep and there was so much to see on the other side of the house. But there he was, trudging up the driveway, head hung low.  I stopped the car at the bottom of the hill and called out to him.

He paused, mid-step, thought for a moment before responding and then slowly looked back over his shoulder, dramatically milking the moment for all he could and shooting me a look of pure disgust as if to say,  You go. Do what you want.  I’m staying here.  

At that moment I realized BlackJack may well be more thoughtful than the current GOP presidential candidate.  I also realized that immediate action was needed, or the cat was indeed staying put.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

I turned the car around, drove back up the Driveway from Hell, stopped, got out and called for the cat. Fortunately, he’s been more or less trained as a dog so he begrudgingly came when I called for him. I picked him up and plopped him in the front seat of the car.

This was a new experience for BlackJack, being in a car and not in the despised cat carrier.  At first, he just looked at me like I had forgotten something, but then he realized there was a whole new world just beyond the window.  He sat up straight, looked out the side window, then the front window, turned and grinned at me.  He was quickly buying into our new adventure.

img_0852-1Two miles beyond the soon-to-be-old home and Driveway from Hell, was our soon-to-be-new home with a straight, flat driveway on the opposite side of the lake.  We turned into the drive and drove right into the garage, where I scooped up BlackJack and carried him into our new home.

He scampered from room to room, checking out the new digs, before finding a box in front of the large living room window and an expansive view of the lake. He jumped up and stood, transfixed at the view.  I forgot that the cat had never before seen a lake.  I wondered if he knew about the plethora of fish that were just waiting to be caught.

Three days later, The Move was completed and BlackJack is one happy cat.  He immediately became best friends with two neighborhood cats, and together, they seem to have formed a Cat Pack, racing among the deer, geese and wild turkeys along the fringes of the golf course in the back, visiting each other’s homes or lounging on the front deck and gazing at the lake shimmering across the street.

Happy cat, happy home.