This morning the neighbors behind us cut down a tree in their yard that overhangs our fence. It was home to many hummingbirds.
It wasn’t ill. Just messy. Periodically it filled our yard with tiny, holly-like leaves that crunched under my feet when I walked over them to water my plants.
I felt physically sick when I watched it start to happen this morning. The sounds of the chainsaws cut into my attempt at a quiet coffee reverie. It sounded like violent environmental murder. “STOPSTOPSTOP!!” rattled my brain.
I had to get into the shower to get away. When I came out, she was gone. I don’t know why it was a she.
And now the view out my kitchen window is jarring, too bright, and unfamiliar in a way that makes me feel like I am in someone else’s house. Standing at somebody else’s window. Because the giant tree is gone and now suddenly I see a stark tile roof and a wide expanse of sky.
And the hummingbirds are already arriving and are navigationally off kilter.
It’s 3AM and I’m just now starting to wind down after flying home to California from Texas. My 91-year-old mom lives there. How a liberal democrat wound up in a Texas county that was dry (no alcohol sold in it) until a few years ago, is another story entirely.
Right now, I need to document the weird coincidences that happen in my life with absurd regularity.
I arrived in Dallas via Southwest Airlines and then picked up my rental car. After getting up at 4:15AM/ aka “0’dark stupid” to catch my flight, a 2.25 hour drive lay in front of me, through some of the poorest areas of Texas (look up Wood County). I had a huge iced coffee and decent music so the trip wouldn’t be too bad. In the last eight years I’d come to know where to stop for any reason along the way, although many miles still contained a whole lotta nothing ( and roof antennas on trailers). I swear every time I’d do the drive Waze sends me on a new route out of Dallas. This time it was through an area that was very un-typical Texas like: Tattoo parlors, vegan restaurants, new apartment buildings, and funky rehabbed Victorian cottages lined the two-lane road. But the five lefts and six rights still led me to the familiar highway and car traffic thinned out as trucks multiplied as I headed east.
When I arrived at my mom’s winsome, cottage-like yellow ranch house, she and her sweet little white dog Happy, (who is now 12 and more like Grumpy) were very glad to see me. For 91, my mom is doing exceptionally well (still lives alone), but hugging her, I was aware of how she’d aged in the nine months since I’d seen her.
I wanted to cook her dinner a few times while I was there, so one morning we headed to the “local” grocery store.
I am not kidding. She lives in a gated, heavily-wooded, and narrow-roaded, community where there’s a definite divide between vacation home owners, retirees, and lower income people. Some residents ride around in golf carts (even ones who don’t play), there’s a lake, a pool, a weight room, and a clubhouse/restaurant that’s had a series of owners and managers all of whom simply couldn’t make the business viable because the HOA refuses to open it to the public and most residents can’t afford to eat there. Despite all the amenities, most people here have shallow pockets, a handful of retirees, and a few mansion dwellers/golf players being the exception. There’s even what mom calls “the rich section”.
Said grocery store is the closest one to her (?!?) and has a selection of BBQ/barbecue/barbeque sauces that takes up nearly half an aisle, but no Paul Newman Dressing, cuts of pork I’ve never heard of, but no lamb, nine brands of white bread and five brands of wheat, but no pumpernickel, a five-pound bag of gold potatoes, but you can’t buy just six, salsa, salsa and more salsa, and ice cream prices as high as a 7-11.
We collected what we needed and arrived at the checkout where my mom was on a first name basis with nearly everyone and they were very glad to see her. The man bagging (plastic!) our dinner-to-be looked to be in his sixties.
And here’s where it gets really weird.
He grinned at me, “You’re from California!”
I looked at him, dumbfounded. How in the hell would he possibly know that?
“I am. But how…”
“The license plate on your car!” He said, “I saw you pull in.”
God as my witness, I never noticed what state the car was from when I picked it up at the car rental lot. After all I was in Texas, I didn’t give it a second thought.
“So where are you from in California? He asked with slightly too much interest for this introvert, as he continued to bag our purchases.
(No one recognizes the name of my town when I say it, so I always just say “San Diego”).
“Where in San Diego?” He pressed.
I named the town and his grin widened “My kids went to that high school!” He exclaimed. “I used to live in R.” (The the town right next to me.)
An tingle-like shiver went over the top of my head. My younger son goes to that high school RIGHT NOW. I laughed out loud nervously and he joined in as he pushed our cart to the car. (Everyone gets this service here, whether you want it or not. It’s southern hospitality and wanting to visit/chat. I’ve actually seen a cart tug-of-war between a customer and an employee and immediately assumed the customer has never been in the store before).
We chatted more as he put bags in the trunk, as he hadn’t been back to my town in several years, and wanted to know if some things hadn’t changed.
After pleasant goodbyes, my mom and I got into the car and closed the doors. I looked at her as I started it up. “And this is my synchronistic life.” She smiled.
I say no.
You see: Two months prior I was in Las Vegas on business and my Uber driver on the way to the airport struck up the usual conversation:
Driver: “Where are you headed?”
Driver: “Really? I used to live in MY TOWN.”
Me: “Seriously? That’s where I live.”
Driver: “I was a teacher at ‘THE HIGH SCHOOL MY SON GOES TO’. I retired four years ago and moved here.”
I decided I have to start writing these down. It happens so often I nearly question my sanity. I need witnesses and documentation.
Because the next book I write will have the title Synchonicities: My Life is Weird.
In 2012 MRIs and X-rays show I have spondyliothesis at L5 vertebrae, an arthritic facet joint, and disk compression at L5. I’ve tried chiropractors, acupuncture, disc traction and decompression machines, prolotherapy, and physical therapy. And easily spent $5k.
Physical Therapy worked for me two years ago, but then menopause and sitting at a desk all day started and I gained 20# and it got bad again. I am back in PT now and hoping… I come from a line of scoliosis and bad backs, birthed babies that were 11 and 10 pounds and that’s when it started.
Everyone is different and as my orthopedist says “you have so much going on there I cannot tell you what is causing the pain. And I won’t operate.” Next step for me is block injections ….
I cannot believe I am destined to ache and hurt every day. I have so much I want to do…
This is the photo that told me I needed a third cat. That old soul sweet face. I had two: Mocha who has an Instagram with 600+ followers and is a person in a cat suit. And Ming, the gorgeous but vacant girl who hides under things unless it’s dinner time. I had to put Luna my polydactyl down a year ago last May. She was only six. It was horrible.
And then I started sporadically visiting the Facebook page of the rescue I got Mocha from. Nothing. Still nothing. Then…
I know. Right? She’s black. No Grey. No… well. She was three weeks old here and had been bottle fed. She loved people. I just knew. My gut was peaceful, my lips in a soft smile and I shook my head.
So we waited till she was 12 weeks old and went to pick her up. Brought one of those pet store pet carriers that’s really just a cardboard box with holes in it and a handle. We got into the car and that little kit would have NONE of it. Panting. Scrambling. Trying to chew her way out. And we had a 1.5 hour ride home. I knew even though I wasn’t driving, letting her out was a bad idea. But she was FRANTIC.
And so. l Let her out.
And this is what she did. Climbed up on my shoulder and fell asleep. In bumper-to-bumper highway traffic. She’d look around every so often and go right back to sleep.
I said to my driver/husband. “She’s so Zen!”
Name stuck. She still is. She’s smart and the other two cats find her balsy. She plays with Mocha and stalks poor Ming who has no idea what playing is (we think Ming had a kittenhood trauma, we got her late).
She is growing up and nine months old. She sucks on fingers when she can and still plops down on my left shoulder when she can. And is learning a human vocabulary (Dinner, Hungry, Play, Toy, Zen, Out – we have a small netted tent outside she and Mocha go in when I am out on the patio.)
The only issue – she’s so dark I trip or sit on her sometimes.
And in the sun, I am not really sure what color she is.
We are smitten. Even when she snores. And even when she steals food off the table.
Shameful. How long it has been since I have been here. I read old posts and marvel that I wrote them. And I remember. Where I was. What was going on? The feelings attached.
So much is different. I got a job. A job that was okay. I met great people. It was too chaotic, too unstructured, too much, OMYGODIAMNEVERGOINGTOGETALLTHISDONEANDALSOBETHECEOSADMINBECAUSEHEWILLNEVERHIREONE. And when you tangle with a truly toxic, weird place like that you think you are incompetent. But then everyone around you does and suddenly you realize it’s not you. It’s the place.
I made a difference in spite of it. I wrote. A ton. Boring technical things. I learned enough about cybersecurity to never want a smart fridge and to be suspicious of my Echo.
And enough to get another job in cybersecurity two weeks ago. And here I am. Working at home.
With HOTFLASHES, and a BADBACK. And oh I just need to shut up and feel blessed and lucky. Good Lord. What is WRONGWITHME that I see holes, not donuts? I want to be a LIFE LOVER. I know them when I see them and have a few out the outskirts of my life. Is that something you are born with or learn? I am 54 and stumbling around in the dark of life and want more bliss and sun. Things are SO GOOD right now overall and I just can’t seem to get it. To wallow in the goodness that is having enough money, and decent health, and love, and good kids, and sweet cats, and cars that run, and air, water, and food…
First world problems. The water in my glass shudders as an F18 flies overhead.
And I succeeded in capturing my thoughts this time.
I just figured out why our government spends so much money and has mountains of debt.
It’s all hush money to keep those that know about the fake moon landing, the contrails that are poisoning us, the fact that Obama is a Muslim, that 911 was an inside job, that JFK was an inside job, the existence of Area 51, the cure for cancer that the government is hiding, that secret societies rule the world….
……all of the conspiracy theories you can google require hush money.
1. ARE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? My first name is my paternal grandpa’s aunt’s (sorta, she was Jennie. I was supposed to be Sarah but we had a dog with that name, the family lore says my dad balked at naming me after an English Springer), my middle name is misspelled as Ellen and was supposed to be Elin after my maternal great grandfather’s middle name.
2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? I cry watching the news, the Olympics, when my kids are kind. Really cried? I don’t remember. A good sign. Probably last summer after my PEs.
3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? It depends on the pen I am using.
4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? Salami!
5. DO YOU HAVE ANY KIDS? 2
6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? Yes. And I’d be nicer to me than me.
7. DO YOU USE SARCASM? Fluent.
8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? Nope
9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? For $5M
10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? They don’t make it anymore: Post Fortified Oat Flakes. Their Oatmeal Crisp is close.
11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? Nope. Not when I take them off or put them on. Confounds my husband. My kids do it too. 😂
12. DO YOU THINK YOU’RE STRONG? No. Despite evidence to the contrary.
13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? Coffee
14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE? Smile
15. RED OR PINK? Red
16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING YOU LIKE ABOUT YOURSELF? I am very mean to myself.
17. WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING RIGHT NOW? Cropped jeans. Barefoot.
18. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? Pork potstickers from Trader Joes.
19. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? ❤️husband loading dishwasher❤️
20. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? Peacock blue
21. FAVORITE SMELLS? My mom. Horses. Neither of which I smell often 💔 My husband <— and that is really weird. LOL
22. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE? One of my besties : Christina
23. FAVORITE SPORT TO WATCH? Nada
24. HAIR COLOR REAL? Not since 2001
25. EYE COLOR? green. I am the 3%
26. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? nope
27. FAVORITE FOOD? Maine lobster roll
28. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? Happy Endings
29. LAST MOVIE WATCHED? The Words
30. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? Floral
31. SUMMER OR WINTER? Winter
32. HUGS OR KISSES? Hugs
33. FAVORITE DESSERT? Tiramisu
34. What book are you reading right now? It’s about writer’s block and I cannot remember the name.
35. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? I don’t use a mouse.
36. WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON T.V. LAST NIGHT? The Olympics
37. FAVORITE SOUND? My kids laughter and my husband’s contented sigh.
38. ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES? Beatles
39. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME? Tuscany ❤️❤️❤️
40. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? I can write, but since I currently have writers block and think I suck, I’m going with “no” for now.
41. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Danvers, MA
Your turn! Entertain me.
There’s a hell of a noisy tree on the other side of my backyard fence. It constantly chirps and squeaks. Sometimes there’s even a squawk, and then the branches shudder and something falls out of it. Then it gets quiet for a minute before starting all over again.
The leaves are small and densely packed along the branches. The neighbors trimmed it way back a few years ago and it seemed to recoil and rest awhile, figuring out a strategy. Then it got angry and the period of dormancy stopped. Now it’s twice the size it was before the trimming and reaches over my fence in numerous places. I’m wondering what kind of tree.
I have been out of work for nearly seven months now. I have applied for nearly 500 jobs in various ways and gotten little traction. I’ve gotten advice, redone my resume three times, talked to headhunters, got my LinkedIn redone twice. I created an online portfolio.
I look at the same walls all day. I try not to go anywhere or spend money. My moods fluctuate wildly between depressed, frantic, and restless.
I am running low on savings and entertaining applying at Starbucks.
Is this my new reality?
Thankfully, my husband squirreled away some vacation money and insisted we “get out of here” for a few days. It helped a ton with my attitude and outlook.
My husband and I do suffer from analysis paralysis when planning a vacation. After all, we are spending our hard-earned money. We want to try to ensure (haha) we will have the best time possible. (Well, at least stack the odds in our favor.) So yes we research and research and research. Then we narrow things down. And choosing a B&B in Paso Robles (wine country!) was no different. All the locations had pluses and minuses. We knew what was a deal breaker: The place had to have a private bath (with a big tub since we don’t have one at home); it had to have a full breakfast: Not a “muffin and coffee grab and go”; and it had to be reasonably close enough to wineries, but not noisy and in town.
We narrowed it down to two: Seven Quails and The Winemaker’s Porch. I read on the latter’s website “Your stay includes beautiful accommodations, a complimentary bottle of wine… and a gourmet breakfast each morning.”But the deciding factor, the one that threw us over the edge, was the last name of the owners: Evenson. Why? My mom’s maiden name is Evansen. I was pretty sure, looking on ancestry.com at all my cousins in North Dakota, that these people were somehow relatives. That last name has so many different spellings (my mom told me that those fickle Norwegians changed it on a whim and then sometimes even changed it back): there were seven Evensons in my family tree. I couldn’t wait to talk about possible people in common when I met the folks.
Getting there: Oil fields of CA. Tiny Towns. The drive was supposed to take 4-5 hours and thanks to LA traffic was seven. We did take a “OMYGODDWHERETHEHELLAREWE” two lane road that was a blast navigate. Coming down the hill we were behind a dump truck with a trailer and that driver knew the limits of his truck and was right at them. I recorded us rounding corners at 58MPH behind him. For entertainment value alone, this route was a riot. Add in the diverse scenery (caution: take a reliable car full of gas because there are NO TOWNS on Route 33 and no cell service) and you had a winner when you’re in a car that loves corners!
We thought we would be there by four and I called to tell the B&B owners it would more likely be six. Waze (our trusty traffic app) told us about traffic, but there wasn’t much we could do about it: half the population of CA was obviously going the same way we were.
Are We There Yet?! The last stretch: a sign “Pavement Ends”.
What? Indeed. It was an unpaved road that crossed over a paved one.
Next right and we were at the gate to the place. It was 6:10PM.
The estate house is stunning and there’s one B&B bedroom located on the first floor in it. But we had reserved the largest room with its own huge bath (soaking tub! Yay!) in the unattached large “barn”. Don’t let that word fool you: hidden inside is a charming oasis.
I got out of the car and stretched a bit, and noticed the evening wind had picked up: I’d find out over the next four days that this happened every night about 5 or 6 and the temperature dropped from 103 to 50 pretty quickly as well.
Who Are You? I rang the estate doorbell and was greeted by a couple in their sixties who didn’t look anything like the Evensons/owners on the web site. They introduced themselves as Denise and Jim and offered us cold water and a chat. It turned out that Marlowe and Corrine Evenson (the owners) were on vacation that week. My husband and I tried to hide our disappointment. The owner’s name had been the deciding factor, after all. There’d be no “how are we related” discussion. If we had known they were going to be gone, I can’t say we would have still picked this place. But we were tired and ready to shake off the drive and get acquainted with our home for the next four nights. Denise and Jim offered to have the included wine tasting ready that night: Frances James Vineyards only sells their labeled wines to people who stay at the B&B. We agreed that it was a good night for it. The last thing we wanted was to get back in the car!
In The “Barn”
The downstairs Barrel Room was charming: a full-sized kitchen with a small living area off it (Jim said we should feel free to store any items needing refrigeration here as the fridge in our room was small). This kitchen had just been done as the owners were thinking about opening up the barn to AIRBnB type leases: renting the entire place to a larger group. The stairs up to our room were steep and narrow but well-lit.
At the top of the stairs we opened a door on the right and entered peace, quiet, and a spa- like scented large room with a canopy bed, an electric fireplace with a remote (it was forecast to be 102 the next day, but nice touch), a kitchenette (small fridge, sink with disposal, and a microwave), a round table with four chairs, two sitting chairs, and a bathroom with a large soaking tub, shower, and a sink. Oh yes. This would work. Our hosts left us to get settled and said they’d meet us on the back patio at 7:30.
The little touches in this place were classy: a container in the kitchenette with three different teas and cups, wine glasses, chilled water in the fridge, tons of pillows, very soft sheets, enough towels for eight people, Gilchrest and Soames soaps and shampoos, a container with cotton, cotton swabs, bath salts and fizzy tabs, and two logo’d soft robes. Just lovely. My favorite touch was the choice of books on the nightstand: all “feel good” titles to help with the transition from “normal life” to “relax awhile and think about how lucky you are.” There were at least two “guestbooks” with reviews/comments people had written about our room and their stay in general. The owners have been doing this for a few years and you can really tell.
Taste and Talk At 7:30 we headed out to the estate patio, connected to the barn by a paved walkway. Even in the dim-but-adequate-light, I could see planters full of flowers everywhere and the wind had really picked up. We sat down at a large glass table where there was already a plate of crackers, cheese and salami, bread, two small bowls of olive oil, and four wine glasses. The seats were padded and overlooked the expansive, green lawn. There was a fountain with a giant ball in it next to us, its water sounds soothing. Jim explained the wines we’d be tasting and we settled in to relax and get to know them. They were great people and our disappointment at not meeting the Evensons abated slightly By 9:30 we were passing a yawn around and realized that after some wonderful wine (try the Petit Verdot!) and a filling snack, we didn’t need or want dinner that night. Denise told us we were the only ones staying there that night so we could have our morning coffee (delivered to the table outside our room door) anytime we liked. We settled on 8AM and breakfast at 9:30 and headed up to our suite.
Amazing (and a lot of) Food The next morning, (the AC unit turning on kept waking me, but we figured out how to fix that the next night), my husband fetched the coffee and we enjoyed it as we got ready for breakfast. It was more like brunch: fresh fruit and yogurt and then a large egg dish. Denise is an amazing cook! We decided that we wouldn’t need lunch that day as we perused the map with our hosts and they helped us figure out where to go and what to do that day. We explored the grounds just a bit, noticing lots of fragrant lavender, flowers of every color, and woodpeckers, finches and hummingbirds who were quite busy.
The next few nights we enjoyed: Peaceful digs and great sleeping (we recommend you open the windows after 7PM and turn the AC on fan only. You get the white noise if you need it and the fresh cool night air), three soakings in the tub, interaction with the four cats on the property (Molly is very friendly), amazing food (enough so we skipped lunch entirely those days!), great hosts/conversations, wandering around the grounds (they have a swing), watching the birds and bees drink from the fountain, drinking wine on the front patio in the dark, seeing owls and bats, and feeling grounded, refreshed and relaxed.
No ambient light makes for great stargazing out front
Night winds and coolness
Location- by Sculpterra Winery
Large room with private attached bath.
Amazing large breakfasts (they can accommodate any dietary restrictions)
Great wine tasting
Great substitute hosts
Great recommendations for where to go and what to see
Didn’t get to meet the Evensons
Hot tub would be a serious bonus
We would love to go back and meet the owners next time! (Budget permitting)
I judge a getaway by the “reentry”. Can I conjure up the feeling of being there after I have left?
(I will get to the wineries and olive oil on a later post!)