Wednesday, July 27, 2011


You have to have health insurance.

You have to have health insurance.

You have to have health insurance!

Well, I'm screwed, in that case. Because I take medication for high cholesterol, have been taking a tiny dose of medication for high blood pressure, and have a herniated disc in my spine, I am considered "high risk," and health insurance companies want nothing to do with me. This is in spite of the fact that I haven't been sick at all for several years.

When I got the notice, I was very depressed by the news. The proud little striving straight-A teenager inside me felt I'd been given a failing grade. And the paranoid Type A control freak who lives in there, too, was running around flipping switches in the laboratory, ordering flunkies to find a solution, "Now! Now! NOW!" all the while running possible scenarios of disaster over and over again. But then the shaman, who drifts around looking at bugs and dirt muttered, "You know, you're going to get yourself so worked up over this you'll make yourself sick and it will serve you right. There's nothing you can do today, just chill. Pet your dog. Trim your fingernails, they look like you're trying out for the Mandarin Squad."

The next day I dragged them all to Mass, and went into church a bit early to go over this disaster with God. Yes, I do that. In fact, when I open my heart to God, and the realm of the Unseen, things seem to make a lot more sense.

Why do you want health insurance? Because if I become catastrophically ill, I'll need hospitalization, and we all know how expensive that is -- we'd be on the street in about six months with nothing at all. (At this point, I am glad that I can't hear God laugh, because I KNOW, God doesn't deal in coinage.) All right, fine, Lord, I shouldn't worry about that. And what happens to people with no money who get catastrophically ill? THEY DIE! OR THEY BECOME INCAPACITATED! BED-RIDDEN! AND THEN DIE! Hmm. But if they have health insurance, then what happens? They go to the hospital, of course, and are treated for their illness...

How? Visions of IV's, catheters, stomach tubes, medications upon medications, hospital rooms flashed through my head. You ... want that? Yikes!

I thought about my Dad's last months. Yes, x-ray treatment and chemotherapy did slow the progression of the cancer in his body, but his doctors had to know that the disease had gone too far for a cure. Realistically, I mean. Pill after pill, side effect after side effect, finally being tied down in a hospital bed so that he couldn't pull out the feeding tube that prolonged his failing life in misery. What would Dad have wanted instead? I know that answer: total honesty, and his own bed at home, with cigarettes and the occasional beer to pass the last hours.

And my mom ... yes, hospitalization and massive treatments gave her a chance for some more years of life ... so that she could die alone, in the dark cut-off corners of her brain, with Alzheimer's. What would she have wanted if she knew what her end would be? I think know the answer to that, too.

What it boiled down to, and I know I've said this before, is that I had succumbed to advertising hype on a most basic level. When was the last time I was hospitalized? When I gave birth. The last time I had to visit an emergency room was for a sprained ankle, which they x-rayed and then sent me home to recover for six weeks, with no further medical treatment. Technically, I didn't need the hospital then, either.

Howie is aging, too, but he doesn't give a damn. He leaps into the pool over and over for the sheer joy of fulfilling a basic drive to chase the ball. He doesn't worry about his form in the leap, or if he'll unexpectedly forget how to swim when he hits the water. He is disgusted when we make him slow down and rest; he doesn't complain later when he stiffens up and limps. The next day he is ready to make the leap again. I think I can understand that a little better now.

And you know, there's not a thing I can do about the herniated disc -- it doesn't bother me a lot at all. As to the other "pre-existing conditions"... well, if I'm really worried about my health, I could lose weight and exercise more, now couldn't I?

The skinny hedge-shaman in my head thinks that realization is really, really funny.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer Afternoon Cat

The temperature is still hovering around 97 as afternoon fades.

Even in the shade, it's hot. The hose leads to a mister, which keeps us humans cool, but who knows what Fourmyle had in mind when he decided to use the hose as a pillow?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Potatoes and Dog

For the last two days, we've been feasting on potatoes -- from our own garden.

As with many veggies, what comes out of our own ground is so far superior in taste than the stuff from the store that we have to wonder just what the heck producers do to their product to make their fruit so bland.

The ones in the picture are the last from the real seed potatoes planted in late spring. The trick seems to be catching the harvest at the exact right point: if the plants are in blossom, you can get tiny (but delicious) "new potatoes," but if you let the plants wither, the potatoes instantly start to re-sprout, and look a bit gnarly. We're still learning potatoes in California. Back East, we planted Kennebec potatoes in the spring, harvested them in late summer, and had enough to last us through most of the winter.

Learning is fun. I have a batch of bastard potatoes drying on the rack in the back yard -- I'm going to try for one more harvest this year, with store-bought potatoes that are shriveled and sprouting. Who knows?

And then there's the milestone of July 19th. Ten years ago on that date, I thought to myself in bemusement, "For my mother's birthday, I went out and bought myself a dog."

Howie was about four months old when I brought him home from Delta Humane Society. The night of July 19th, he slept beside me, tethered to my wrist on a leash. (I slept on the floor in the kitchen with him.)

Happy birthday, Mom, wherever you are. I miss the woman that you were in that all-too-short time when we were fishing buddies and mischief-makers. Thanks for teaching me how to pick and train a good dog. And you're welcome, for me teaching you how to grow Kennebecs.

Happy anniversary, Howie... best dog I've ever known.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Old Dog

We've had a change in policy recently.

Howie is no longer allowed to play "ball" in the pool with his younger buddy Sebastian.

Six years younger, Sebastian combines all the verve of a younger dog with the obsessive need to rule of his border collie daddy. Howie has herding instincts, too, and Order hard-wiring from his Queensland heeler ancestry ... but keeping up with his brother pup is a problem.

A couple weeks ago, skidding on the concrete, trying to keep up with Sebastian, Howie ripped up one of his hind feet pretty severely. It's just now healing up.

Yesterday, we let the dogs out to play in the pool and Howie fell twice as he was racing around the pool deck. Bad falls, not stumbles.

Today we had How chase the tennis ball in the pool without Sebastian's competition. Howie leapt into the pool ten feet at a time, over and over, while Seb was in the house. Howie had good exercise, but didn't have to be competitive.

I know Howie loves to best the pup, but the fact is, the pup outweighs him by 25 pounds, and is 6 years younger.

When the time for pool play was past, Howie was ready to rest on one of the chairs on the back patio, just hangin' with his Daddy.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

And It Also Makes a Great Rolling Board

Today Bernie asked me to make tacos.

It was the first time since before we started all this deconstruction and reconstruction that I was called upon to make tortillas. Back when we had the tall tiled bar attached to the kitchen island, I would put the griddle on top of the bar, and my rolling "board" (a large tempered glass cutting surface) on the counter beside the sink.

But now, the bar being GONE, how would I arrange the work space?

Like a dream, the griddle sits on the island, and because of the extra half foot of surface, there was plenty of room to roll out tortillas -- right on the perfectly polished granite surface.

Want to give them a try yourself? Here's my cousin Ramona's -- and my -- tortilla recipe.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Lovely Things!

Bernie called my attention this morning to some rose petals that had fallen on the new granite counter top.

Beautiful petals, beautiful stone, rich in color. Nothing would do but a photo shoot, and I decided to include the little antique, because it looks so perfect on the granite.

Alex was fascinated with the antique honey-server when she was a toddler. She was drawn almost hypnotically to its bee hive sides, even though the images of the bees in the glass frightened her. At three years old, Alex was precocious, but not infallible. One afternoon she clandestinely lifted the glass lid ... and fumbled it in fear of the bees. To her tiny life's credit, she owned up to the broken lid immediately.

Even intact, I had nothing I could really use a honey server for -- I don't serve honeycombs, like my mother before me rarely served honeycombs. A couple weeks ago I came across the little dish in the back of the top shelf of the laundry room, dusty and hidden behind cleaning supplies and sponges. I brought it out and washed it up, and found that it was the PERFECT holder for our salt and pepper shakers, accommodating the collection as though it was made for that purpose.

So Alex, had you never broken the lid, we wouldn't have thought of using the Bee Dish, and it would have lived out its days gathering dust and nothing more.

Here's another Lovely Thing: I decided today to help Lillian put her art work (at least some of it) up on my Resolution Every Day blog. She and I will share that space, and perhaps it will encourage us both to be more creative.

P.S. I figured out how to get rid of the pinstripes and get back to black. Hee!

Monday, July 04, 2011

"Change is good."

Back in 1995, when I worked in the vault room of a big hardware store, one of my predecessors had taped a paper sign to the little money window. It said, "No change."

One of the managers, getting ready to leave our store for another (they got moved around regularly, I think to keep them from being murdered by employees) would say to me every morning by way of a warning that he was leaving, "Change is good."

Each time he said that, I replied, "No change."

I liked him as a boss. I liked my job a lot less when he went off to his next assignment.

A couple days ago I was tinkering with this blog, and noted that I could "upgrade" my blog template. Bernie has the new template format and he can do a lot more with his blog than I can. What the heck! I upgraded ... and lost the black background that I liked so much. It was so madly me ... and now it's gone, replaced by pansy-assed pinstripes. Also all my blog links are gone, and I have to re-learn how to put them in.

I should have said, "No change."

Well, I'll learn from this experience, although at this point in my life I'm feeling a bit weathered, like the fence above, and more like a canvas for shadows than for great art. Just a bit. But perhaps what my former boss said to me will be true this time.

I'll let you know when I stop swearing about the "New and Improved" look for my blog.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Bored? Can I Schedule Time for That?

Recently I met a former co-worker in the hardware store in which I used to work.

She had come out of retirement, and re-applied at the hardware (at the minimum hiring wage) part-time. No benefits. "I got bored at home," she told me with a rueful twist to her mouth.

Bored. BORED? How the heck did she have the leisure to get BORED?

Amid my consternation at her answer, all I could mumble was, "I haven't got to that point yet."


Still Testing After What Seems Like Years

Still trying to find a way to make my posts appear without spamming all the posts of the last infinitive years ...

The Pet in John's Garden

John calls this plant a she, and hadn't the heart to eat the artichokes, so he let them bloom.

At least he didn't get another cat.

Delicious Kitchen

 Absolutely I love how this is looking.

The granite counter tops were installed yesterday. I chose a dark granite, nearly black, because the white and black combos are echoed throughout the kitchen. The stove is white with a black ceramic top; the dishwasher and the fridge are black; the walls and the marble tiles of the fireplace are white. The luscious white overmount Kohler sink sits upon the dark stone like a gem.

 The construction that will hide the plumbing will be white, matching the walls, also.

Not apparent in these photos is the area right under the counter top where the granite sits on the plywood, but in a week or so, there will be a band of trim stained the same color as I used on my now-hidden plywood. It's going to provide a range of color that will simply kick butt with the slate tile floor later this year.

There's a strangely different "feel" to the granite compared to the tile ... call me a half-crazed hedge shaman,  I don't care, but it's like you can sense the naturalness of the rock (and it was also obvious with the homely plywood we made do with) compared to the white ceramic tile.

Raggedy plywood, stained and polyurethaned over tile, yes, yes. But the granite is better ... I'm still not over the yearning to just stay in the kitchen and polish it all over and over again.

So far, so good.