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Archive for September, 2009

On October 11 I will drive away on my planned walkabout to sunshine and desert. I’m taking extra containers to store all that sunshine for the winter. I don’t have a laptop, so there won’t be any posts for the three or so weeks I’m gone, unless I sneak one in while I’m visiting my in-laws in Tucson. But I will be faithfully recording my experiences, and taking pictures like the photo nut I’ve become. Up until I leave, I’m going to be very busy with the wedding cakes and desserts for my friend’s wedding on October 10. I will make time for a few posts with fall yard photos, cake pictures, and random photo collections. I might even talk about my new therapy sessions. The one yesterday was useful, but the result was to awaken thoughts I’ve been shoving under the couch, so I ended up lying awake half the night with jumbled thoughts milling around.

I spent 4 hours researching a cheap prepaid cell phone for my walkabout. That did nothing to endear me to cell phones or shopping, both of which I can do without in most circumstances. But because I will spend many days alone in the desert, without even a cat or dog to fend off the crazy people, loneliness, and car trouble, I thought I should bite the bullet and get a damn cell phone for the trip. My new cell phone will work in Nevada and Arizona, but not here where I live. Perfect.

I’ve been building a maze on my Facebook Farm Town. Wow, what a project! Farm Town should add a visible grid. The precision involved in building a maze is incredible. I’m on day 4 and not even close to done. Sure beats planting pineapples though. Hopefully I will have it done before my days are filled with baking cakes like a madwoman.

I turned the heater on today for the first time since spring. The house got down to 57 degrees F. Too cold for me. But with the double pane windows and dehumidifier, it should be a decent winter. I shall survive, as some singer said. Or maybe it was I will survive. No matter. Survive is the key word. Stupid winter. As my favorite fridge magnet says, winter is nature’s way of saying fuck you.

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What’s a henweigh?

Wait for it……………………………………………………………………..oh, about 5 pounds. So what does a henweigh have to do with this post? Well, you’ll just have to look at the pictures. I went with my husband down to Rohnert Park for the weekend. He had a union meeting to learn how to read his contract (he’s a union steward). I just went along for the free food and nice motel room. Just to get away from the house. It was a little boring because Rohnert Park isn’t a very exciting place. But we went to the Russian River Brewing Company for dinner one night to drink Pliny the Elder and eat pizza. Both were great.

Then on Saturday I drove over to Bodega Bay to kill time after checking out of the motel. A hot fall Saturday is not a good time to be on the Gravenstein Highway or go to a coastal tourist destination. The road was full of cars. Sebastopol was a zoo. Bodega Bay was packed with campers and picnickers. I kept picturing it dark, desolate, and ominous in my mind, like in The Birds, but it was sunny and cheerful, with blue skies and bluer water. People sitting on restaurant patios eating seafood, kids screeching on the beaches. Nothing but well-behaved birds. Sigh.

I drove to Bodega Head and hiked around a bit, but the trails were so crowded I felt claustrophobic. I am SO not a crowd person. I’m a quiet tourist who tries to blend in and lay low. I gave up and didn’t walk the entire headland. Sat by some granite and looked at the sky for a while. Then I drove down to the marina and walked out on a fishing pier. A couple of fishing birds (grebes maybe?) entertained me for a while with their excellent fishing skills.

After watching the fishing birds for a bit, I got back in the car and drove back the way I had come. I stopped at a couple of spots I had noticed on the way to Bodega Bay. One was the Bodega cemetary, just outside the little town of Bodega (not the same as the town of Bodega Bay). Down the road a bit past Bodega was a little old schoolhouse. I took a few pictures at those two places and continued on. When I got back to Sebastopol, I turned north and drove 4 miles to a little restaurant I had read about in a local paper and then checked out online. It was called the Henweigh Cafe. I had lunch there and then drove back to Rohnert Park in time to pick up Steve after his meeting.

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A view of Bodega Bay from Bodega Head.

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Doran Beach at the mouth of the harbor.

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The ocean from the headland.

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The outer part of the bay from the headland.

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The rock where sea lions hang out. You can hear them barking.

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The sea lion rock.

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Bodega Bay.

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The ocean side of the headland.

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The iceplant is colorful.

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The headland trail.

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Looking the other direction at the sea lion rock.

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Watching the waves.

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Waves.

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A hawk rides the thermals.

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The ocean from the top of the headland.

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The bay from the top of the headland. Bodega granite in foreground.

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The outer bay again.

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The headland, ocean, and granite.

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Well-behaved birds.

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More well-behaved birds. Come on you featherheads, where’s your anger?

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The calm bay.

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The fishing pier.

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Fishing bird.

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The westside marina.

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My bird buddy.

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Dive!

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Score!

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The other fishing bird.

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Dive!

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Rats, nothing.

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Back to the first bird.

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Dive!

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Distracted by the humans fishing.

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And the pretty marina.

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More bird.

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Dive!

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Score!

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Other bird dives.

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I couldn’t resist adding some photo stills from “The Birds.”

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So idyllic.

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The old Potter Schoolhouse. I was going to look for it but too many tourists in my way.

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Uh oh! Run kids!

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Faster!

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Help!

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Sinister gathering.

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All hell breaks loose.

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Black cloud of birds.

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Birds one, people zero.

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Okay, back to my pictures. This is Bodega Cemetary.

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The big tree by the gate.

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The gate.

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A view of Bodega from the cemetary gate.

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Sign about a historic fence. It was too hot to look for the fence.

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Watson School.

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Pretty little schoolhouse.

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At the cafe. The owners have a sense of humor.

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Pretty cafe patio.

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The restroom. Don’t laugh. I have a thing about restaurants that have pretty restrooms.

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The patio again.

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What’s a henweigh?

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Pliny the Elder

My husband and I are going down south to the Santa Rosa area for the weekend. He has a union meeting to learn to read contracts (does that sound dull or what?). Anyway, I was assigned to find a place to eat for our one night out while there (the other two nights we will eat on the way down and on the way back). I found the Russian River Brewing Company.

We like beer. Hoppy beer. So I start looking at reviews of this place and can’t stop laughing. Some people complain about the service. One hops-challenged person called the beer “gross.” But the overwhelming take on the place was that it has some of the finest hoppy beer in the universe. Especially Pliny the Elder. All hoppy beer drinkers are reduced to Homer Simpson-style drooling (mmmmmm…beeeeer) when describing this brew. They dismiss poor service or mediocre food with a wave of the hand. Doesn’t matter if you get lucky or unlucky with food and service. All that matters is Pliny the Elder. lol.

http://russianriverbrewing.com/

http://www.yelp.com/biz/russian-river-brewing-company-santa-rosa

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Sarah is in Asia pretending Todd is there too, but he’s back in Wasilla in his new apartment he’s been fixing up. Greta took the opportunity for a visit. They shared a few beers and Greta gave Todd a foot rub.

Do you think Mattel could make their Ken dolls any stiffer? Is there some hidden motivation for making very bendable barbies with perky expressions and then making vacuous stiff-board Kens?

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Emotional trauma

As I have been writing out my walkabout story the last few days, I’ve been reminded of what a friend said when I was recounting the traumatic story of my New Orleans road trip. He said to be careful about too much retelling of traumatic experiences, as it can re-traumatize you in the telling. This morning when Steve got up right after I finished chapter two of my tale, I had to remind myself that I was not mad at him, that I was revisiting anger from almost a year ago. Just a little warning to myself not to water old anger seeds. I also realized this morning that one of my traumatic “death” anniversaries is coming up fast. October 9th is forever a day of mourning for me, the day that my beloved Tripod died. And that reminded me that my son’s birthday comes up the first week of January, and I’m already dreading it. It will be the first big “trigger” day I face since my son died. The holidays aren’t too traumatic that way because we didn’t spend many of them together over the years.

All of these trauma dates are why I scheduled another walkabout this year. I need a way to spiritually fortify myself for the coming year. I have been feeling rather lost and ungrounded lately, spinning my wheels in limbo land.

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Thanksgiving is traditionally the kick-off for the holiday season, with everybody’s thoughts turning to Christmas shopping, entertaining, baking, college kids home for vacation, etc. I had always loved Christmas as a child, and most of that love rolled over into adulthood. There were some frustrations over the years: the joint custody tug-of-war when my son was younger; the fact that most of my family lived someplace distant, requiring package mailing to multiple destinations; the ever-present lack of money to buy presents; dogs eating presents and kittens attacking the tree…

But this particular Christmas I was having serious difficulty getting into the spirit. I wasn’t getting along well with my mother, which left me feeling claustrophobic and angry. Dealing with her the previous Christmas, when she dragged the package-mailing drama out for months (oh, I really need to get a box for those presents…), which ended with us having a fight over her stupid package, had left me feeling negative about having another Christmas with mom.

I just wanted to have my own Christmas, minus other expectations. I didn’t want to go through another round of package drama. I didn’t even feel like baking cookies, which I had always done. I was fed up with having to bake cookies as gifts because we had no money to buy presents. I really wanted to have a Christmas where I could actually go out and buy nice things for the people on my list, but that wasn’t going to happen because we were as broke as ever. And baking cookies, which used to be something I loved, just became a chore, with the added chore of having to package them immediately and get them in the mail while they were fresh. Which meant that I couldn’t have a gradual lead-up to Christmas, buying a few presents in September or November. No, everything had to be crammed in right before Christmas, on a tight schedule.

At one point, mom asked me something about Christmas cookies, and I told her that I was thinking about not making any. She got all bummed out. When I told Steve that I was thinking about no cookies and that it made mom sad, he brought up the cookies she let go completely stale the previous Christmas, because she let them sit and sit and sit, long after we were out of our own cookies. Steve finally tried to eat them but they were too stale. The whole subject of cookies was just getting steadily more annoying.

Then I decided to see if I could make a few extra dollars for Christmas by catering some holiday desserts. I made up a small list of desserts with prices and deadlines, and gave copies to Steve to post at his work. I told a few of mom’s friends. Then I waited. Nobody ordered any desserts. So much for that idea. (one of mom’s friends finally did put in an order, but it came in a day or two before I left town, after I had decided to bail on Christmas and my frustrating life).

The next and final trigger came the first week of December. Every year, the geology department has a Rock Auction. It is a huge fundraiser for the Geology Club, and a big gift-buying holiday event for many in town. Every year I donate a bottle or two of my homemade kahlua, which always goes for a high price tag. Since I can rarely afford to buy items at the auction, at least I get to contribute a small amount to their fundraiser with my kahlua. I’ve been doing it for many years.

Quite a few years ago, when most universities went through a big anti-alcohol phase, campuses across the country started banning alcohol at school events, and even removing their pubs and any other alcohol outlets. Our school was no exception. We used to serve alcohol at the auction, along with food, but it had been several years since that was allowed. What had happened though, was that there were often private bars for such events, and our auction was no exception. For the last couple of years, one of the grad students, a close friend of mine, had set up a small bar event in his office, all hushy hush, so that people in the know could have a drink before the auction.

This particular year, my friend was not in town because he was at a different university, but he still wanted to fund the bar in his old office. So I got him to send the money to my husband, who then went out and purchased supplies. The whole thing wouldn’t even have happened if I hadn’t acted as facilitator. Yet, when my husband bought supplies, he bought hard alcohol and mixers only, with no beer or wine, even though he KNOWS I do not drink hard alcohol. He couldn’t have bought one lousy sixpack of beer or a bottle of wine? NO!

So we get to the auction and go down for a drink. That’s when I realize there is absolutely nothing for me to drink. Old friends are stopping in and fixing themselves drinks. I’m just standing there with my hands in my pockets. The more people who arrived to fix drinks, the more left out I felt. I felt like Steve had been a completely oblivious ass to leave me out. The longer I stood there, the worse I felt. When I asked Steve at one point why he hadn’t gotten any beer or wine, he said something about thinking we didn’t need it. I reminded him that I didn’t drink hard alcohol and that I was part of the group too. He didn’t seem particularly bothered by his oversight but asked if I wanted to go get some. I said no, because the rock auction was starting in just a few minutes, but then I said maybe I would. People started drifting out to go get seats. I was torn about just forgetting the whole thing or going to get something to drink. But at that point it wasn’t about the actual drink. It was about being left out, about not being considered in the equation. By my own husband who knows me. I told him I would catch up, and that I might go get something, but I just walked to my car and drove home. I didn’t feel festive anymore. I didn’t feel like I mattered. I just felt alone. So I went home alone.

I sat at home and thought about my life, about expectations that I just take care of everybody’s basic needs but nobody pays attention to my needs. I thought about how frustrating it was to live with my mother. I thought about how Steve had a satisfying job where everybody loved him, but I was stuck cooking and cleaning because I couldn’t find part time work with a regular schedule that let me be home in the evenings to cook dinner. I thought about how invisible I felt, simply taken for granted but not accounted for. I thought about how disconnected I felt, as though I didn’t really exist in the world with everybody else. I thought about how I had no friends, no career, no money, nothing really to look forward to each day. I thought about how I was drinking and smoking too much because I really didn’t have anything else to do. I thought about how I hated being stuck between the hated ocean and the claustrophobic coast mountains. I thought about how much I missed wide open spaces and big sky.

And I decided to leave.

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I left on my walkabout at the end of the first week in December. I had been feeling depressed and angry for a while, so it only took a few incidents to set me off. For the first time in my life, the holidays felt negative to me, full of expectations and lacking magic.

The first trigger was Thanksgiving, mostly due to my own expectations. I love to make a big meal, with lots of side dishes and desserts. A few old favorites and some new recipes. Deciding the Thanksgiving menu is a particular joy of mine. Should I do the butternut squash this year? AND the yam mousse? Which one or both? Is it going to be turkey with those yummy sandwich leftovers, or should we go fancy with prime rib or leg of lamb? What about a goose? I love goose! Oh the choices to be made! Main course, side dishes, desserts! But it is a short hop from fun food planning to overdoing it.

To really appreciate a food holiday, three people simply aren’t enough. So I told mom to invite a couple of friends. I told Steve to invite our friend, Les, and I invited Velma and Cole. Most of the people we invited said they couldn’t make it. So mom invited others. They also said they couldn’t make it. Then, in the few days before Thanksgiving, virtually all of the people who turned us down suddenly asked if it was too late to come anyway. What the heck, okay, come on over.

Because I had lots of side dishes and desserts already planned, and because people kept re-inviting themselves gradually over several days, I kept saying no, I don’t need food, just bring an appetizer and some wine or beer, and yourselves. The numbers kept going up. I really can’t remember how many people we ended up with, but it was a houseful.

I was busy cooking for a larger crowd than I had expected, and because my old 50’s kitchen is a pain in terms of useful counter space and because I was swamped, I didn’t have time to explain to helpful guests what I needed to have done. So I ended up doing kitchen and not much else. When I did need help, I had trouble getting it, partly because I asked the wrong people. Mom was in tunnel-vision mode, entertaining her guests. Steve was entertaining the non-mom guests, and is famous for only single-tasking ability (he has many wonderful qualities, so I forgive his complete inability to multi-task), so to get him to do anything, I had to interrupt him, get his FULL attention, then explain what I wanted. I tried it with getting the extra table in the office. I couldn’t get his attention. So I went into the office, stacked mom’s papers (I had also tried to get mom’s attention about the stuff on her table, good luck with that), and then grabbed Steve forcefully to move the table into the living room.

Then, after all of the tables were in place. I set out all of the plates, glasses, napkins and silverware, and asked Steve if he could set the tables. I should have just asked my friend Velma. She has good taste and a sense of the proper organization. But my vision narrows when I am busting my butt, and I was just trying to do too many things to keep my mind clear for organizing. I grabbed the hubby. Mistake. He just scattered the plates around, put the knives on the wrong side, kinda tossed out the napkins, and put the wineglasses all catawampus. My face took on that, “you’ve got to be kidding” look, and I said to him, “Surely you’ve set a table before!” He just gave me back a distracted Steve look and acted clueless. I realized my mistake in choosing him and reset the table myself, then ran back into the kitchen to finish food. I like a well set table for events. We’re not talking Monday night dinner. This is Thanksgiving. Time to get all Martha Stewart on the table. I should have just set the tables earlier in the day, the way I like them, but the cats always walk all over the table and hair the plates, and I wasn’t sure how many people we’d end up with, so I waited until near dinnertime.

Everybody was having a great time, except me. I realized that it was more than just having too much to do with no help. Aside from wishing I had a bigger kitchen where people could actually gather and help out, what I really wanted was to have a big family Thanksgiving, with cousins and in-laws and old friends. As I slurped more wine and tried to relax and pull food out of the oven, I thought back to the last really fun Thanksgiving I’d been to.

We were still living in Arizona at the time, and we drove to Tucson to visit my in-laws and have Thanksgiving over at Steve’s Aunt Sue and Uncle Don’s place. I always laugh at my father-in-law, who, unlike me, does NOT like big family gatherings and would avoid them if he could do so politely. I, on the other hand, was delighted to go, having had so few big Thanksgivings over the years.

Off we went to Sue and Don’s. Aunt Sue, being the one in charge (Ha! whoever is the head honcho at Thanksgiving always gets more work and tension), was bustling around a bit frantically, and was arguing with Uncle Don about something. I put my green beans on a burner and got out of the way on the appetizer side of the big kitchen island. There I met Great Aunt Ginny for the first time. What a hoot that lady was. She started pestering Sue about no wine being open, which Sue said was for dinner. “Oh pooh!” said Ginny and grabbed a bottle for me to open. While Ginny and I were opening and pouring wine, Sue and Don’s altercation escalated to the point that Sue took the turkey she’d just pulled out of the oven and threw it in the sink, cracking the porcelain (it was a big turkey).

Eventually we all got seated for dinner, and there was actually plenty of wine left to go with the well-thrown turkey. I laugh because I loved that Thanksgiving, with its drama and family and big long dinner table. But of course it was not my kitchen, and all of the family was on my husband’s side.

The lesson I learned: It is easy to enjoy Thanksgiving if you are not in charge and you have at least one degree of separation but not too much. I didn’t remember that lesson though when I planned the current Thanksgiving, so I ended up with a house full of people I barely knew, and too much on my own preparation plate. But I did get dinner on the table. Everybody crowded into the seating and ate and talked and drank. I relaxed enough to enjoy the food and people, and even let some people help with the dishes while I put food away. And I vowed not to have more than three or four guests for the next Thanksgiving.

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