November Garden Tour – Cautious Optimism

It’s official! Fall has arrived in California. This is the second weekend in a row of rain in the valley and snow in the Sierra. Let’s hope it is just the beginning of a very wet Fall and Winter. My brown back lawn is even showing signs of green.


Not even the cherry tomatoes have given up. (Note the small yellow blossoms.)


Life cycle of a rose – on display all at the same time.

P1000524                                                  Humming bird’s favorite.


How Flat is My Tire? (with apologies to John Ford and the Morgan Family – 1941)

I am fortunate to have a car that is under two years old. It works well, I like the style, it is modern, and it has very low mileage. I’m writing this while sitting in a local shopping mall. I’m writing it here because my almost-beloved car is next door having the tires checked, and this is much more comfortable than the chairs in the waiting room.

There is apparently a slow leak in one of the tires. Yesterday afternoon I noticed the low tire pressure. When I checked it out, it was not the left front tire as the car’s  sensor indicated, but the left rear tire. I pumped the tire up, then decided to let it rest overnight and check it again in the morning.  I have to  get the tire repaired locally, then drive to the dealership 25 miles away to get the sensor reprogrammed.

The timeline for the tire repair was two to three hours, due to labor shortages. This is much better than the other company which promised to fix the tire in two days, also  due to a labor shortage.  Which leads me to wonder why these major companies are having so much trouble recruiting and keeping employees.

My car tire was repaired and they were able to adjust the sensor, so I was saved a trip to the dealership.

While waiting to see how much pressure the tire would lose overnight, I went to the movies and saw The Martian.  It is an excellent movie. I was so impressed with the fact that although this movie had the potential for being a disaster/horror film, it was anything but! It celebrated problem solving and human ingenuity in a very unique way. It made my small problem of a leaky tire seem silly.

All of us face all sorts of challenges everyday. For some of us, they are  life threatening. I’m very fortunate that I’m not facing such a problem – at least not today.


What the BEEeeeeep ?

I live in a multi-lingual household. In addition to English, some Spanish is spoken, an occasional mispronounced French phrase, Latin (thankfully no one knows if it is pronounced correctly), and some cartoon swearing (Dirty-rack-a-fratz!) can be heard. Outside, in the backyard, bird, squirrel and cat are the more predominant languages.

Saturday night, a new, previously unheard language emerged inside my house. About 9:30 p.m., a mysterious, short, fairly soft “beep” sounded. Since I have several devices that speak “beep” and the direction from which the beep emerged was not clear, I proceeded to discover the source. Following the lead of my current mystery book heroine, Kinsey Milhone, I set about using the process of elimination to find the source. (By the way, Sue Grafton’s latest book featuring Kinsey Milhone, X is a very good read!)

One hour later, I had narrowed it down to one area of the house. The fact that the once soft beep had become much louder, longer and the beeps were closer together was a big factor in the success of the process.

I found it! It was emerging from a black box, about the size of a car battery, that was lurking under my desk. It was labeled “Battery Backup and Surge Protector ES 750 APC.” I was puzzled, since both the Wi Fi and the phone services were hooked up to this box, and yet they both worked. Just in case, I unplugged the computer, printer and phone, then closed the door for the night. The beep did not sound.

The next morning I plugged in the phone and Wi Fi. They were still in service and the box sat quietly, its one green eye brightly lit. I called the phone company. The technician confirmed that, “Yup, the battery was probably dying.” All I had to do was bring in the box to the store on Monday and they would replace the battery. “Thanks,” I said. The box sat their quietly. All was well.

Two hours later, the beep resumed – only much louder and non-stop. It verged on ear-splitting. I again carefully unplugged the phone, computer, Wi Fi and printer, then crawled behind the desk and unplugged the black box. Of course, the beep did not stop, since it was generated by the dying battery and didn’t need to be plugged in to continue its song.

I put the box, still beeping, in the garage and closed the door. For a moment I felt guilty about leaving the box alone as it beeped its last beep. But it was a very short moment. Ears ringing, I went into the house. I checked later and the box was quiet. I placed it in the car, ready for its Monday morning trip to the store.

You don’t expect most things to break – small things, yes, but not the really large things; e.g. front steps, water heaters, pipes, or car battery sized back up systems that have been with you forever. They do break, of course. Everything and everybody has a life span, but we are perpetually surprised when those life spans approach their end.


 The culprit

The culprit

Just a nice flower.

Just a nice flower.

Sometimes . . . .

Historic City Hall, Toronto

Sometimes you need to take a walk.


DSCF1908                                       Sometimes you need to stop and smell the flowers.



DSCF1890                                                                Sometimes you need to work.


P1000505                                                          Sometimes you just need a nap.



So Good, I Couldn’t Put it Down

The door flew open and a hulking figure lurched into the room. It stopped, glared at me, then lumbered to the bookshelf, grabbed a small volume, ripped out a page, wadded it up and swallowed it whole. “Good book,” it belched as it left the room.

What makes a “good book?” Unlike the figure described in the nightmare above, “devouring” a book does not have to be literal, but it should hold your attention long enough to finish the book. To me, the key requirement for a “good book” is that I care about at least one of the major characters. I have been known to read a book others might consider boring, looking in vain for that one character who deserves some degree of sympathy.

In junior high (now known as “middle school” where I live), our English teacher made a practice of reading to us each day. I still remember her reading Kon Tiki to us and I can still hear her voice when I say the title.

In high school, our daring and handsome young English teacher read Raise High the Roof Beam. I would not have read J.D. Salinger without that introduction.

When my son was two years old, he became fascinated with “funches”. We weren’t quite sure what a “funch” was until we visited a book store that had a wonderful display of children’s books featuring “funches.” (That’s right, Fire Engines.) Of course we bought the book.

Not too long ago, I read a YA (young adult) novel featuring the youngest son of a family of seven boys growing up in Eastern Washington State. It was set around the time of the War in Vietnam. I did read it in one day. The next morning, my first waking thoughts were of the main character. I found myself thinking about him, hoping that he had had a good life. It took me a minute to realize I was thinking about a fictional character, not  a live human being. That is powerful writing.






Just a nice sunset. Nothing to do with this post!                                                                                                                           Some of my books.


The Routine! The Routine!

Research tells us our brains deal with the overwhelming amount of information available to it by categorizing that information, often in terms of what is a danger, and what is not: e.g. fire is hot and a danger, sunsets are beautiful and not a threat. The information is cemented through experience. If you live anywhere near traffic, when you hear the screech of brakes, you expect to hear the sound of a crash (danger). If we don’t hear the crash sound, most of us breathe a sigh of relief and go about our business. The crash sound brings about another response (fear, anxiety). Over time, the responses are routinized; loud noises make you look around to assess danger, hot chocolate makes your mouth water; you do not have to stop and think each time, what does that mean?

Because so many of our responses, both physical and emotional, are a matter of routine, it frees our brains to do other, more interesting things, such as shopping after Christmas sales.

I found myself in just that situation the Friday after Christmas. One would think my past experience would have led me to avoid shopping on that day (Danger! Crowds! Debt!), but my lack of experience and the failure of the battery in my beautiful watch led me to the mall to replace the battery at a fix it shop. I should have realized that fifty others would do the same, but I had never shopped at a mall on the 26th of December. Naively, I set out on my mission.

“It will be ready in thirty minutes,” said the clerk. “Do you have other shopping to do?”   “Sure,” I replied with a smile. “See you then.”

I had no watch; after all, mine had a dead battery. I had no idea when “thirty minutes” would be up. Have you noticed that there aren’t many clocks in the malls? Kind of like casinos in that respect. The other problem is that I lack the shopping gene. I am a strategic shopper. I research before I go, swoop in, make the purchase and leave. My husband always told me I shop like a guy. I took it as a compliment.

So, clueless, I wandered into the mega-department store in the mall and began my version of browsing. I discovered I was not very good at this. My rapid walk and horizon-scanning look was not in line with the sauntering required for successful browsing. I forced myself to slow down. After all, I had thirty minutes to kill. I began to notice that there were several items of clothing on the floor under dangling empty hangers. I stooped down and picked up one item and put it neatly back on the hanger. After the fifth stoop and hang, I was getting funny looks from the browsers, so I stopped.

I did find one item, which I decided to purchase. I stood in line behind five other shoppers. Most of them held armloads of clothing. They weren’t alone. Many of them brought family members who stood with them in line. Periodically the primary shopper would talk and gesture to one of the assistant shoppers who would leave and return with additional items. I stood holding my one sweater, no assistant at hand. After about fifteen minutes (I’m guessing since I had no watch and there were no visible clocks), a very nice lady with a large basket of chocolate candy came by and offered us a chocolate to keep up our energy while we waited. Sweet!

By the time I reached the cashier, she was glassy-eyed. I told her I had only one item. She smiled. “Thank heavens! I’ve been here six hours and it hasn’t let up!” I felt guilty for eating my piece of chocolate. She needed it far more than I did.

My shopping complete, I returned to the fix it shop and picked up my beloved watch. It only took two hours!

For those of you who do not live in California, and may not be cognizant of our customs, I am enclosing two photos of a typical California Christmas. Enjoy!



The California Christmas Tree with family pose.

P1000205                      One of the Camellia blossoms in Capitol Park, Sacramento CA.

(Yes, we had roses in bloom until the frost came this week. The camellias remain.)

 My husband and I had been taking a tour of the California Coast over the last two years. I’ve posted many of the pictures of our trips. We had planned to  continue our exploration of the coast, through Oregon and Washington State. My husband grew up in Washington. He wanted to revisit Cannon Beach Oregon and see Hay Stack Rock once again, but he did not make it. In November, we took his ashes and those of his younger brother, to Hay Stack Rock. Here are some photos of this haunting, beautiful beach.