The Bane of my Existence

Deep orange, lustrous, slick, sometimes hard, sometimes pulpy, cloyingly sweet when ripe, astringently tannic when green.  Persimmons.

The Fuyu (above), round and firm, is the type most commonly found in American markets.  It can be eaten in bites, or sliced and used in salads or as garnish.  

The ovoid Hachiya (left) is edible when it is soft and pulpy and therefore completely unsuitable for market bins.  The texture can be off-putting, but if you freeze and eat them with a spoon (and throw in a little whiskey), it's not too bad.

I abhorred persimmons as a kid, and even now won't go out of my way to eat them, so of course I inherited not just one, but two large trees, one of each kind.  Every year, friends and family members receive both the fresh fruits, and those my father dries, so most of the fruits are given away or consumed by the birds and I never really give them much thought.  This year, for the first time, I actually noticed how pretty they actually are, and took some photos today.

Every autumn, both trees sag under the weight of the maturing fruit, and the delicate branches need to be propped up so they don't break.  As the weather cools and the leaves drop, the fruits ripen on bare limbs.  On the stark branches, the contrast of orange against the blue sky is brilliant on a sunny day.  And on a gray day, the flash of brightness can be a welcome reminder that clear skies will return.


Winter Rituals

I spend much of this time of year cleaning house -- literally and figuratively.  I've written about cultural new year traditions I follow -- cleaning house, paying bills and opening my house for oshogatsu.  All this serves to begin the year with a clean slate (no clutter, no obligations) and open heart.

This is also the time I reflect on my life, and decide what non-domestic clutter belongs in my past as well.  Letting go of feelings, issues, people is never easy, no matter how much you dread them or know how bad for you they are.  I admit I tend to hold onto emotional baggage much longer than I should and often allow negative influences to drag me down far enough to chip away at my well-being.

Most of you know I am taking "cleaning house" to a new level this year, and leaving family, friends, home and possessions to live in a different country.  I gave up my spring teaching load at City College, a job I have held continuously, albeit part-time, since I finished grad school.  Granted, as backup, I have not given up my fall classes, but I am going without my teaching salary for nine months minimum.  I'd like to think I'll stay in touch with everyone at home, but I know some people will move out of my life.  I don't know who yet, but I hope I will remain in their hearts as they will in mine.

In opposition to losing touch, I recently spoke with one of my oldest friends.  I met Didier the summer of my twentieth year meandering down the bank of the Truckee River.  He was a drifter who stayed in a country long enough to save money to move to the next.  I had never left the US.  I was a "type A" person, worried about my future and security.  He had faith things would work out in the end.  He passed on a scholarship to MIT to travel the world.  I clung to academia as though it were gold.  Polar opposites.  We spent the summer together, and from him I learned about passion, anger, love, hate, courage, fear, and how to let go and follow my heart a tad more and my head a bit less.  Since then, we've written irregularly, but we have kept in touch, and he moved back to his home town of Cluses, in the French Alps.

When I was in Paris last month, I called.  Unfortunately, I didn't call until I was there and he couldn't take time off work.  He offered to spend the weekend showing me around Geneva, but I was leaving Saturday morning and could only delay my departure one day without having to scramble to find a substitute for my Monday class.  It felt good to talk to him, though, and since I will be relatively close this spring, I will make it a point to visit.

The next few months will be full, as I learn German, review French and Japanese, get a TEFL certificate (I hope to teach English until I find something more stable), research employment agencies, jobs and potential employers, and pare down my life to the essentials.  We will see how things pan out when I leave my pets, possessions and home in Steve's care and head to Germany with everything I can carry in two suitcases to do the legwork on finding a job.


I'm Off!

I didn't realize the value of time until recently.  Between my day job, teaching at night, brushing up on my French, trying to learn German, and trying to find time to job hunt, free time has become a scarce commodity... and sleep a luxury item!  My schedule is beginning to take its toll, as I've had a hard time concentrating the last month or so and am perpetually exhausted!

I look forward to my upcoming vacation much more than any other.  For the first time, I actually need the break away from work, which is an odd feeling for me.  And because I haven't seen him in four months, I covet the few days I'll have with Lobo.  No amount of electronic communication can replace the experience of seeing expression and body language, hearing vocal intonations, and feeling someone's warmth and substance when interacting in person.

Given my need to separate myself from my routine, it is somewhat ironic I have chosen to vacation in one of the two cities in which my boss spends the bulk of his time.  Luckily, I know the names of the places he frequents and can avoid them.  In some ways, it's good to be the bean counter.

I haven't been online much lately, and will likely be on even less this week, if at all, but I hope to post photos at some point (unless they are all bad).  Well, my plane leaves tomorrow afternoon and I'm not finished packing!


My Home

In 1950, there were relatively few neighborhoods in San Mateo where people of Japanese ethnicity could buy a house and feel relatively at home. My paternal grandparents bought a lot in the older section of town, an area that was, and still is, populated largely by ethnic minorities. People abandon this neighborhood when they can, but I am reluctant to give up something my grandparents worked so hard to turn into a home.

My grandfather, a gardener, initially built a tiny, 2-bedroom house with a friend of his, where my grandparents and father stayed until the main house was built. This house still stands, and you can see one side of it next to the orange tree on the lower right. It now holds mementos and tools, and occasionally my car.

The fireplace in the photo is in my living room. It wasn't used much before I moved in and I had to have quite a bit of work done on it to get it into safe, working condition. This photo contains other photos of several family members, and I think it will be one that will keep me company when I am homesick.

Steven will stay and take care of the house and the animals we've accumulated. My financial situation is uncertain, so I may not be able to return as often as I'd like. It's good to have someone I trust to take care of everything. In writing this, I am faced with those nearest and dearest to me -- animals (bipedal and quadripedal), plants and inanimate objects I won't see regularly for awhile, possibly years -- and I feel a tad sentimental. But pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and immersing myself in more of the world before I am too old to do so are high on my priority list. Leaving home is something I need to do.

Not that I don't have insecurities, the major one being I don't have a job yet. There is the very real possibility I won't find one. I haven't picked a good time to look for work! I could try to find some unfilled niche and create my own job...

And there's Lobo. Being separated by so much time and distance is stressful. The possibility that he changes his mind about me, I don't live up to his memory or expectations of me, or we ultimately want different and non-complementary things from our relationship is always in the back of my mind.

A couple of years ago, I wrote about the uncertainty I was feeling in hitting middle age, although much of my insecurity couldn't be attributed to middle age so much as carryover from an insecure youth. Since then, my midlife experiences have fostered much in the way of personal growth, some painful and some pleasurable. I think the next year or two will continue that trend. I am hopeful it will involve more pleasure than pain, but knowing how life works, am prepared for the reverse.


Enchanted's New Quiz

1. Do you like blue cheese?  Yes
2. Have you ever smoked?  Not habitually, but tried a few times
3. Do you own a gun?
 - Do water cannons count?
4. What flavor Kool-Aid was your favorite?  Possibly Cherry?
5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments?
 - No. Never had health problems (knock on wood)
6. What do you think of hot dogs?
 - They taste weird and the texture is odd, but I'll eat chicken & turkey dogs.
7. Favorite Christmas film(s)?  Bad Santa!
8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning?  coffee or tea
9. Can you do push ups?
 - It would look bad if the PE teacher couldn't do push ups
10. What's your favorite piece of jewelry?  Black pearl pendant
11. Favorite hobby?
 - I don't think I can narrow it down to one.
12. Do you have A.D.D.?  No
13. What's one trait you dislike about yourself?
 - I don't give up, even when I should
14. Middle name: yes
15. Name thoughts at this exact moment?
 - I need to sleep more hours at night
16. Name drinks you regularly drink?
 - Tea, coffee, hot cocoa and water
17. Current worry?
 - Not being able to find a job (relatively) close to my boyfriend
18. Current hate right now?
 - Organ meats (probably why I don't like hot dogs) and okra
19. Favorite place to be?
 - Snuggled up in bed on clean sheet day!
20. How did you bring in the new year?
 - Most likely, one of my friends had a party.
21. Where would you like to go?
 - Prague, Great Wall, the Karakoram Range, Macchu Picchu... so many places!
23. Do you own slippers?
 - Several pair, and I wear them, too, because I'm always cold!
24. What shirt are you wearing?
 - Exercise bra top with two sweatshirts over it
25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?
 - I've never tried, but I think they'd be too cold.
26. Can you whistle?
 - Only by sticking my fingers in my mouth
27. Favorite color?  Violet
28. Would you be a pirate?
 - No - I couldn't live on a crowded boat
 - Plus, I'm not really good at robbing and killing people in that fashion
29. What songs do you sing in the shower?
 - Old Michael Jackson songs
30. What's in your pocket right now? - Lint
31. Last thing that made you laugh?  - My housemate
32. What vehicle do you drive?
 - 2003 5-speed Mazda MX-5 Miata (used to be called EOS in Japan)
33. Worst injury you've ever had?
 - Possibly when I snapped my left fibula in the caves at Pinnacles monument
I had to crawl out of the cave with my then-11 year old nieces crying
and then hop up a flight of stairs so I could get to a place where the rangers
could put me on a stretcher and carry me down the hill
34. Do you love where you live? - Yes
35. How many TVs do you have in your house?
 - 1? I have none, and I *think* my housemate has 1
36. Who is your loudest friend?
 - Greg has a pretty voluminous voice
 - We frequent Peninsula Coffee Roaster
37. Do you have any pets?  - yes
38. Does someone have a crush on you?
 - I'm too ornery and ugly
39. Your favorite book(s)?
Mario Vargas Llosa's older books, Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman,
Snow Falling on Cedars (no, I didn't see the film)...
40. Do you collect anything? - I try not to
41. Favorite Sports Team?
 - Nope. I know, you'd think a PE teacher & former coach would be a big sports fan.
42. What song do you want played at your funeral?
My niece has instructions to scatter my ashes at several places around the world,
but I don't plan on having any kind of formal service.


Carnivora Canidae Canis Lupis

Surely, someone describing himself as the Big Bad Wolf in search of Red Riding Hood has much to hide and can only be trouble! Best to steer clear.  No problem, I'm a pro at avoidance.  Besides, he is on the other side of the world.

A comment here, a chat there. Then I am a one hour flight away, at least for two months. More chats. Hints of intelligence, depth, a few shared interests, and suddenly, I'm on that one hour flight.  I have a name and one photograph.  No backup plan.  Not doing well at steering clear.  What am I doing?!?

You are taller than I imagined! The lump in my throat restricts my breathing. I change my mind. You haven't seen me and are facing the other way. I can still turn tail. My mouth betrays my escape and says hello before my brain can stop it.

Now it's too late.  I am locked in for the weekend. Two weeks later, I lock myself in for another weekend.  The events are a blur, but I see you with clarity.  Clear, expressive, eyes that are kind one minute, and mischievous the next.  A somewhat serious set to your mouth that softens when we are alone.  The dimples that form as you laugh when you try to teach me to say "ich spreiche" and I fail miserably.

I return home reluctant to give up the happiness that has evaded me for so many years so soon. Plans to move halfway around the world take shape. They had been in the works before, but now they are much more appealing. Except they won't bear fruit for at least five months. A short visit at the four month mark provides some consolation.

Until then, you are again on the other side of the globe. I wonder whether I will be enough reason for you to end your search... and hope someone else won't in the meantime.


It's Fleet Week

Sitting in my office yesterday, trying to close out the third quarter nine days after it ends (my bosses have no sense of how much time it takes to collect all the data -- and they work on cash rather than accrual basis). Outside my window, four blue streaks overtake a commercial jet in the SFO landing pattern, making it look like it's suspended in place in midair. The Blue Angels are in town.

They must have touched down and taken right off again, because they circled back into the landing pattern again not long after. I have to admit, they are not all that interesting to me. Given that their sole purpose is to be a recruiting tool for the Navy and Marines (even though they are mainly seen as an entertainment group), I'm not their target audience, anyway -- I'm middle-aged, female and have poor eyesight. Oh, and sonic booms hurt my ears.

I kind of wonder what percentage of Navy and Marine recruits join up because of the Blue Angels' influence. Realistically, the chances of making the 6-man squad, or even the 110-man support crew, are pretty low. Maybe the alternative of serving on ships isn't all that bad.


Another Quiz from Raven...

1. If you could live at any time in history, when would it be?
Right now (I'm too fond of indoor plumbing and electricity)

2. If you were asked to do so, would you sing in public?
I already have

3. What are you passionate about? Education and intelligent city planning
What really moves you? Beethoven's Eroica, when well-played

4. If you won the lottery, how would you spend the money?
I'm not much of a spender. I'd probably stick the bulk of it in my investment portfolio, donate some to organizations I support and finish some repairs and upgrades on my house I've been putting off. Of course, if I only won fifty dollars, I guess I'd buy myself a tank of gas!

5. What is the craziest thing you've ever done?
Traveled on a whim to a country where I couldn't speak the language to meet a complete stranger without a backup plan in case things went badly. I am about to leave everything behind and move a continent and an ocean away from my home in part to be closer this stranger.

6. If you were throwing a party for five famous people, alive or dead...who would you invite?
I don't know! Maybe Richard Feynman.

7. If time and money were no object, to what causes would you dedicate your efforts?
Animals and education.

8. What is your favorite comfort food meal?
Dungeness crab cioppino

9. If you could pick one talent that you don't already have, what would it be?
I don't know!

10. If you could spend a whole day doing exactly as you wished with no demands and no responsibilities,and no limits what would you do?
Only one? I'd put the top down on my car, drive out to the coast and have breakfast at Ketch Joanne's at Pillar Point Harbor (the food is so-so, but it's just a comfortable place). From there, I'd walk down Highway 1 to the beach and continue down the beach for a bit. On the way back, I'd stop to watch the surfers at surfer beach (its 'real' name is something else, but I can't remember it). Then I'd walk out on Johnson's pier and visit Captain Dan on the Seabird and buy a crab or two from him, stop at the fish market to pick up some mussels, stop at the farm stands to pick up vegetables, go home to make cioppino, and eat it with warm sourdough.


Firsts - from the Raven Lady

I was going to post my answers in the comments, but it took up too much space!

1. Who was your FIRST prom date? Pedram. He was on the track team with me and held (possibly still holds) the national record in the 1500m run in Iran.

2. Do you still talk to your FIRST love? No, but I'm Facebook friends with the first boy I ever kissed!

3.What was your FIRST alcoholic drink? Wine coolers? Ahh... the eighties!

4. Who was your first kiss? Chris. I think I was eight, but it was actually just a peck. I don't remember my first REAL kiss, so it must have been bad!

5. Who was the FIRST person to tell you they loved you? David (we were engaged)

6. Who is the FIRST person you thought of this morning? My animals!

7. Who was your FIRST grade teacher? Ms. Butler, maybe?

8. Whose heart did you break for the FIRST time? Quite possibly David

9. Who was your FIRST best friend and are you still friends with them? Jill, no.

10. What was your FIRST sport played? basketball on the street. soccer was my first organized sport.

11. Where was your FIRST sleep over? Jill's, San Mateo, 4th Grade. And since Raven mentioned her first adult sleepover, I think mine was in San Francisco with Paul.

12. Who was the FIRST person you talked to today? I was chatting on IM with Lobo when it became today, but the first person I actually spoke with after waking up was Jon at the coffee shop.

13. Whose wedding were you in for the FIRST time? Possibly my friend Tracy's in New Jersey.

14. What was the FIRST thing you did this morning? Kissed the desktop picture on my notebook -- a photo of mi novio. I know, corny.

15. What was the FIRST concert you ever went to? hmm.... thinking....

16. FIRST tattoo or piercing? NONE! I'm the only person left with no ink and no added holes.

17. FIRST foreign country you went to for vacation? Japan, if you count the races I ran there. If not, then I think either El Salvador or French Polynesia.

18. What was your FIRST run in with the law? Moving violation, most likely.

19. When was your FIRST detention? Nerdy kids who play the violin don't get detention.

20. What was the FIRST state you lived in? California

21. Who was the FIRST person to break your heart? I was pretty hurt when David (not the one I was engaged to) broke up with me, but I don't know that we had enough invested in the relationship at the time to qualify as a heartbreak.

22. Who was your FIRST roommate? I had 5 housemates, not just one!

23. Where did you go on your FIRST roller coaster ride? Santa Cruz, or maybe Great America?



One of my students (I'll call her Rachel) told me of a friend of hers with whom she took a class. Although her friend understood the subject matter, English was not her first language, and her work was consistently downgraded for spelling and grammatical errors. Rachel helped her friend by proofreading and correcting those errors and her friend's grades and English skills improved. Rachel mentioned how she felt downgrading those errors was unfair, since her friend knew the material. I felt otherwise, though. Her friend was not failing the course, her work just wasn't receiving outstanding marks. I think that is fair.

I think too many people these days blur the lines between passable and outstanding work. For whatever reason, people feel entitled to be credited with outstanding work when the work they're doing is really just satisfactory. Maybe I'm contributing to that by adding the "just" to satisfactory. Most people are "average." There is nothing wrong with that, but for whatever reason, it's seen as substandard when it really is the standard.

Rachel's friend's work was good, but not outstanding, because she couldn't communicate well in the language in which the course was taught. She wasn't failing, she just didn't receive superior marks. There is nothing wrong with that! If anything, we need to see this not as a barrier to a degree, but as an opportunity to learn and improve in the language of choice. People have a better chance of excelling professionally and socially if they know how to communicate effectively with those around them. Schools should enforce that.

...By the way, if there are any current students who happen by this posting, I highly recommend having friends and family proofread your work before submitting it, and try NOT to have the same proofreader every time. Sometimes it's easier for others to catch small errors, and sometimes others can give you a perspective you may not have thought of...

Within the educational system, the value of the degrees we confer is lessened when we pass people just for enrolling in our classes. I admit, this is a blurry line, and some happy medium between one extreme of teaching to overly rigid standards to the detriment of all else and the other of not having a consistent set of criteria to judge progress has yet to be found. But it seems as though the value of our degrees is already compromised. I taught a computer skills course a few years back, and when we covered formulas in Excel, I had to give a basic Algebra lesson for the younger students. The older students may have been a bit rusty, but it came back to them much more quickly when I said "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally."

In terms of the individual, when we award students grades they haven't earned, we do them no favors. In a sense, we are setting them up for failure at the next step or perhaps beyond. I would rather have someone have the opportunity to work on their weak points than send them on ill-equipped for what comes next by ignoring them.

All this said, I don't know what the solution is. I know a lot of primary and secondary level teachers who are dedicated professionals saddled with overly crowded classrooms and not enough resources to do even small things like make photocopies for their students. The masses want to place all the blame for the system's shortcomings onto them. Yes, there are a few bad eggs, but those exist in pretty much all professions. A lot of the problems lie in the dense and inefficient administrative/bureaucratic structures created by a bunch of separate laws implemented by tacking their requirements on wherever they may sort of fit, rather than something created as an integrated system.


I Forgot Dogs are Predators

Many years ago I had a Sheltie mix named Moonshine.  Shelties were originally bred as herding dogs, and therefore tend to be high-strung and can have a fairly strong predatory instinct.  Unfortunately, the inclination to hunt was very strong in Moonshine, and from what I can remember, she killed several rats, two opossums, one bird, one skunk... and one cat.

It was a hot, sunny July afternoon and I had most the windows and doors open to let air circulate through the house.  I was inside and realized I hadn't heard Moonshine in awhile. Shelties are also notoriously yappy -- when my niece was very young, she thought the dog's name was "Shut Up Moonshine" -- so it was unusual not to hear her barking.  I walked out the the back porch, and looked into the yard.  Moonshine had a gray cat pinned down with one paw while fighting with another.

In my most authoritative voice, I yelled "Moonshine, off!" and took off down the stairs.  She completely ignored me, grabbed the cat she had pinned by the throat, and began shaking her head viciously back and forth.  The cat yowled as it was jerked off the ground, its cries mingling with the dog's low growl.  And then, in the few seconds it took me to run across the yard, it was suddenly silent.  The other cat took off across the yard and safely over the fence to my neighbor's yard.  My stomach turned as I scruffed the dog and yanked her up onto her hind legs.  The cat, still in her mouth, was horribly limp.

"Drop it!!!"  My voice was way too high pitched to sound anything resembling alpha, I was so grief stricken.  She clamped her mouth down tightly and growled.  I had to pry her jaws open to make her drop her prey, a skinny, unkempt, probably feral, young cat/old kitten, somewhere around a year old.  All I could do for several minutes was sit there, sobbing uncontrollably while the dog paced in front of me.  It was the first time I had ever witnessed one animal intentionally kill another in person, and while I could intellectualize the whole predator/prey relationship before that day, I was completely unprepared for the brutality of the act of killing itself.

I hadn't thought about that incident for several years until last night.  I was in my home officesitting at my desk.  Piglet was lying on the floor next to me, and my cat, Mini, was on her perch in the corner across the room.  Piglet is part Border Collie, another herding breed, and Mini is a nervous cat, deathly afraid of dogs.  The cat hisses at the dog, who barks at her, and if the dog comes too close for comfort, the cat bolts, the worst possible thing to do with a border collie, because it will always give chase.

Last night, for some reason, the back and forth was worse than usual, and the two constantly eyed each-other.  Three or four times, Piglet stood up, barking at Mini.  Three or four times, I turned to Piglet, yelled "Leave It!" in the lowest voice I could muster.  Three or four times, the dog lay back down at my feet, still staring at the cat.

Piglet jumped up one more time, but this time she growled low in her throat and her bark was lower and hoarser than previously.  She lunged across the room.  I pushed back from my desk and followed, again yelling "Leave It!"  And like Moonshine that July day, Piglet ignored me.  And again, in a very un-alpha way, I screamed "Piglet, no!!!"  

Mini panicked, and jumped down to a lower shelf on her perch in an attempt to make a run for it.  Piglet, attracted to the movement, reached out a paw, swiped Mini off her perch, and pinned her to the ground.  Just as Piglet lowered her head to pick up the cat, I scruffed her.  I managed to pull her head back several inches, but a 70 pound border collie is considerably stronger than a 30 pound sheltie.  Piglet dragged me forward a bit as she lowered her head again.  I reached out with my other arm, locking it under her neck, paying no heed to Mini's slashing claws.  I jerked my arm, pulling Piglet back, then rolled her onto her back and growled as deeply as I could and yelled "Leave It!!!"  I also threw in a "Bad Dog!" which I feel bad about, although I don't think Piglet understands English that well.  Steven locked Piglet in a room for about an hour, and we ignored her.  She seems to know what she did wrong.

As I type this entry, I am at my desk in my home office.  Piglet, who has been relatively subdued, and even apologetic, since I came home from work, is lying at my feet.  Mini is on her perch in the corner across the room.  So far tonight, there has been no stare-down, no barking or hissing, and no fight to break up.  I am grateful for this temporary reprieve, but am worried about this situation in the long-term.


Comfort Food

One thing I missed this summer was the abundance of a variety of super-fresh produce and specialty grocery items unless I wanted a long commute. I can understand the produce issue, as California's terroir supports a variety of crops almost year-round, while England has a relatively limited growing season. However, being a fairly large port city, Bristol should have ready access to a variety of "exotic" items. Perhaps I didn't explore the right places.  I did find out about a local organic market the week before I left, and I'm disappointed I didn't have the chance to explore it.

I also missed being able to cook in my kitchen on my stove with my cooking paraphernalia, so on my first opportunity after returning home, I decided to make oden, a stew, and chawan mushi, a savory custard.  I made the stock (or dashi) first, a deceptively simple task.  It is easy to make from scratch, but also easily ruined if you don't pay attention.  Good dashi has the faintest tint, a subtly earthy scent and an equally subtle, but rich flavor.  This batch was not my best, but it was good, and worlds better than the instant version that is mixed with water.

I began the prep, enjoying the weight and feel of the well-balanced Wüsthof chef's knife inherited from my grandmother, and the precision of the sashimi knife (also inherited -- carbon steel, a pain to care for, but worth the effort).  I even appreciated my faithful wood cutting board, which is still in pristine condition for the most part, because it's hand washed and oiled regularly.

As I reached for the age (pron. ah' geh), a spongy fried form of tofu, I realized it, and Piglet, were missing.  Arrggghh!!!  I ran to the living room and there on the back porch was the dog, swallowing her prize and attempting to look innocent.  Easy come, easy go, I guess.  I headed back to the kitchen, grabbed two new age sheets chopped them into manageable pieces.

While the stew simmered and the custard steamed, I picked a few lemons from my trees to squeeze on the jicama and little yellow pear tomatoes (it didn't fit with the rest of the meal, but I was in the mood for it).  My grandfather planted Meyer lemons long before they were popular.  Until recently, most of the people taking the fruits were my neighbors, which is okay, because I can't use them all and I live in a working class neighborhood, where sharing is always appreciated.  In the last 10 years, people from "good" neighborhoods who wanted free Meyers began stealing them, so I stripped them of their loot and chased them off, because they could afford them.  Yeah, I'm mean.

Back inside, I pulled the custard from the steamer, plated the stew and salad, and sat down with a bottle of nigori sake to wash it down.  As usual, Steve drank most of the bottle, and I drank enough for moral support.  I savored the warm, soft custard, filled with bits of shiitake, chicken, carrot and shallots - it is one of my favorite comfort foods. 

After we ate, Steve came to my room holding the leftover konyaku, a yam cake with an unusual texture that is an acquired taste for most people.  I had used it in the oden.  He asked "hey, are you missing this?"

"Umm, I don't think so, but I haven't been back in the kitchen."

"Well, Piglet had it in her little corner.  I don't think she liked it though, because it's still intact."

One thing I didn't miss this summer was having to keep constant watch on my food.


Home Again

A month has passed since my return home, and my last entry.  Settling back in has been difficult.  I am suddenly not as comfortable at home, and I long to immerse myself in new experiences, meet new people, and explore new places.

On a happy note, my housemate started a new job as Technical Director at a local arts organization.  I took him out for a drink last week to celebrate at a local dive bar, where the bartender poured a fairly generous shot of Jack for me, which I drank on an empty stomach (that's the recently-poured shot in the photo -- good thing I didn't order a double!).  I was soon plastered, and completely oblivious to the conversation around me.  Steven had to drive home.

My company is closing the Bay Area office at the end of October, and I will probably work from home until I finish teaching in Mid-December.  And then?  I have the option of moving first to the UK, and then possibly Paris with this company.  But I am restless, and in a way I want to test myself.  I am beginning a search for a new job in Europe to see what comes up.

And I have to admit I want to be closer to someone I think has the potential to be very special to me.  A frightening prospect, considering we've only spent a total of one week together and I'm basing my opinion of him on a "gut" feeling.  But the heart wants what it wants, and I need to follow where it leads, so I won't have regrets later.

I sent a "hey, I'm looking for a job far away from home and need suggestions" message to a third of the people in my address book Saturday night.  So far, I received many words of encouragement, a few suggestions and an outright offer of help from a college friend who now works near Nürnberg, Germany.  I may have a bunch of visa/work permit questions for him!


Journey Home

Six forty five in the morning.  Pete was cheerful and on time, as usual.  He put my bags in the car and whisked me to the bus station downtown.  Pete and I were both musicians and athletes in former lives, so we always had a lot to talk about.  He was my favorite taxi driver in Bristol (actually, it was a tie between him and Rachel, but I'd already said thank you and good-bye to her), and I was happy to have a chance to chat with him one last time.  Pete schlepped my bags into the station for me, gave me a big hug and drove off into the sunrise.

The bus ride, wait in the airport and successive flight all went thankfully smoothly.  I was headed home, a place that had always been my sanctuary.  And yet, my return was somewhat bittersweet.  The Airbus carrying me homeward was also taking me farther away from the place where I not only found happiness and contentment, but also put me out of my element just enough to make me want to experience more.

Steven was waiting at arrivals in SFO, and drove me home in my broken-down 1985 Honda CRX he's been using (left).  We drove up to an overgrown garden full of weeds (below), and I cursed the gardeners who deserted me last winter without notice.  As we walked up to the house, I heard a thundering noise and high-pitched whine inside.  I braced myself, opened the door, and held onto the stair rails for dear life when two gigantic paws thumped my chest, a large black head butted mine and a big, red tongue slashed across my face.

  "Sit, Piglet!"  

Piglet sat for half a second, ran in circles, whining the whole time, then started jumping again.  She can be a little excitable sometimes.  All the animals, except my Mini cat, who ran away while I was gone, all seemed happy to see me.  Mini always waited for me in her corner perch in my office every night, and now she's gone.  I'm devastated.

I picked up the neighborhood newsletter.  The last large undeveloped plot of land in town is being developed!  Arrggghhh!  Yes, the Bay Area has housing issues due to a growing population (which irks me because population growth is the problem, not lack of housing), but town councils everywhere are rubber-stamping poorly planned developments because all they see are dollar signs.  In the meantime, they are not planning for things like efficient transportation for the masses of people who will be living here or the education of their children.  I'm disheartened.  Before I left home, I'd put an effort into speaking out about development issues through several neighborhood groups, and I feel like those efforts were useless.  I think a lot of the residents here feel that way now.

Steve barbecued that night.  As we ate, he kept asking if I was okay.  Even after I insisted I was just tired from the long day of travel, he looked worried.  In the coming week, three other people kept asking the same question.  It was too difficult to tell them how my life at home is missing something, so I pleaded jet lag and made an effort to seem happier.

I created ltljpnzgrl on 360 as a way to work through uncertainties I faced in hitting my midlife crisis, many of which were insecurities carried over from my youth (I migrated to Multiply because of the interesting people I met).  Those insecurities led to many bad decisions as a young woman, and almost as many regrets.

It seems I'm still in flux and still working through issues, although I had moments this summer that allowed me to forget them.  I discovered that when I was out of my comfort zone in a completely new environment, I felt alive again, and eager to face what lay ahead, rather than dwell on mistakes of the past.  In coming home, I regressed somewhat.  I want that good feeling back.  I think it is time for me to make major changes in my life.  I just need a plan...


Leaving town

It's 1:00 am.  The evening rain cooled the heavy summer air to a comfortable level.  Yes, the temperatures finally rose here in my final week or so in this island nation.

What will happen to the ficus I found near-dead in the garage when I arrived?  I pulled it out, threw some coffee grounds and water on it, pruned it back, and watched as tiny green dots appeared on the brown twigs one morning.  In a few more days, they evolved into slivers, then tiny spears and finally, full-fledged leaves unfurled in the sunlight.  With no one to care for it, the tree I've come to regard as mine will probably dry out again and die.

Not one to leave behind a mess, I cleaned the house and did my laundry this weekend.  Sorting through my clothing, a familiar scent wafted off my sundress.  I closed my eyes, brought it to my face, inhaling deeply and saw a grassy hill under a clear sky, a quiet inn tucked away in the hills, fragrant herbs surrounded by vineyards, eyes that at times seemed clear blue, others stormy gray, but always full of expression and passion.  I felt the warmth of a summer evening along the Mediterranean, the cool kiss of mountain air as I gazed out an open window into the darkness, the reassuring hand that steadied me on cobbles slicked by rain, the warm embrace that made everything else in the world cease to exist for me, if only for awhile.  Not wanting to lose those moments, I decided not to wash that dress.

And the job?  I hadn't accomplished what I'd hoped I would this summer, but my goals diverged from those of my boss.  My time was consumed by odd jobs and errands that took precedence.  My brain is atrophying due to lack of challenging stimulation.

This summer I learned not to trust people who possess an overbearing sense of entitlement, and to trust my instincts when I sense something isn't quite right about a situation, things I already "knew," but hadn't really experienced.  A painful lesson I am still working through.

This summer I learned to feel.  For the first time ever, I didn't analyze the life out of a situation, I just let myself live in the moment and opened myself to whatever feelings flowed through me.  For the first time ever, I felt deep passion and attachment at a level of which I didn't think I was capable.  And for the first time ever, I understand deep in my heart the meaning of the adage 'tis better to have loved and lost...  even though I'm desperately fighting the 'lost' part.


Just a mindless meandering

Have you ever been so inspired by someone that they brought out qualities in you that you never knew you had and made it possible for you to try things you never thought you would?

Have you ever been so infatuated that you seriously contemplated throwing all caution to the wind and doing things you would normally consider to be stupid... and possibly did some of those things?

Have you ever been so obsessed that one person or thing has dominated your every waking (and sleeping) thought?

And have you ever cried yourself to sleep because you knew that one of the best things to ever stumble into your life would pass back out again far too soon?


My name

Three out of four of my grandparents were from Japan (the fourth was born in California, but she's also of Japanese heritage).  When I was born, my parents, apparently in a fit of cruelty, named me Tracey, a name of Celtic origin, which means "warrior like."  Why was that cruel?  One could say my mom rued the day she named me, because I've always been an argumentative pain in the ass, but no, it's weirder than that.

In Japanese, there is neither a "TR" sound nor a "SEE" sound.  Only one out of three of my grandparents could pronounce my name (my maternal grandfather had passed years before I was born)!  The closest approximation of my name my maternal grandmother (and several other immigrant relatives) could do was based on the Japanese syllables for:  tsu - re - i - shi, which came out sounding something like "Tsreish" or "Tsreishee" (hence, Rei, one of many nicknames I've used through the years).

Not that I don't like my name, but you'd think my parents would have named me something my relatives could pronounce, like Tara or Sara.


Relaxing in Bath

Last week, my boss yelled at me for not going out more and having fun while I'm in the UK.  Then he assigned a bunch of menial, time-consuming tasks that guaranteed I'd be working long hours and would therefore be too tired to go out and have fun for at least a couple weeks.

When the weekend rolled around, I worked half a day Saturday to catch up on routine menial tasks, then headed to the mall for a coffee grinder, french press and a couple usb broadband modems.  I spent the night trying to get one of the modems to work with my Mac -- the sales guy said the new dongles don't require Mac users to download drivers... then sold me one of the old modems that require it.  AND the files on Three's UK website were either not working or obsolete.  The tech support person told me to download the files on the Ireland website, then call back to obtain a code I'd need for installation.  Programmers like making life difficult for Mac users.

I made it a point to try and relax on Sunday.  I slept in until 8:00, ground the coffee beans I'd brought from home, made coffee, and actually sat down to drink it and eat a bowl of cereal.  I headed to Bath, wandered the streets a bit (I did the tour of the Roman baths the last time I was there), then signed on for the 2 hour spa package at Thermae Spa.

I changed, slipped into the pool, let the current carry me around, and thought about the tasks I need to do this week and the order in which I'd do them.  I realized I was thinking about work and tried to clear my mind and let it wander.  It meandered to my bank account and credit card transactions and how I need to check those to make sure everything is okay, because I have the wrong version of Quicken installed on my notebook and can't download that information.  Damn, that's not a good line of thought, either!

Okay, maybe it's because I have to work too hard to stay afloat in the water.  I headed upstairs and walked into the Lavender steam room.  Lavender's supposed to be calming.  I thought about how my job evolved into mostly unchallenging menial tasks and started to reevaluate my future.  While I do need to think about my path, it's also not something I should think of when I'm trying to relax.  Damn again.  I tried sitting, lying, deep breathing, but my brain wouldn't stop, and then I noticed others were looking at me strangely and scooting away from me.  I headed to the changing rooms, showered, dressed and was out of there with a half hour yet to go on my package.

On the streets again, this time in search of food, which allowed me to divert my attention for a time.  I had dinner at a little vegetarian restaurant, then headed back to the train station, stopping in a bookstore on the way to buy a book on English architectural styles to read while waiting for my train.  Even though I couldn't relax much, at least I was tense in a beautiful town.

Oh, I did treat the interns to dinner at the Bradley Stoke pub last Thursday.  They had bungee jumping for 50 pounds a pop.  I wasn't about to spend that much money to jump, but it was fun to watch.


No longer homeless

We did the quickest move into a house ever, in spite of a lot of weird barriers to entry. Our UK subsidiary has only existed since last November and has no credit history, so we spent Wednesday complaining over having to pay the whole six month's rent up-front, which we ended up agreeing to anyway. The landlord's agent says we move in when the payment clears his account and he has at least an electronic version of a signed contract in hand. So we wire payment Thursday and email the signed contract. On Friday he says he can't get the person who does the walkthrough until the following Monday. I'm lousy at negotiating, so I hand the phone to our COO who tells him to call the walkthrough person and ask if she'll meet us on Saturday. They go back and forth, the agent offers to return our money, the COO tells him he should, and then... the agent calls the woman and she agrees to meet us.

Saturday afternoon rolls around, and the COO and his lady friend spent the day loading our luggage into the car, taking me shopping for supplies... and she loaned us sheets and towels (I'm trying to think of a nice gift for her). We meet the woman at the house, and she's in a foul mood. She rushes us, she's rude. Obviously, we ruined her Saturday.

And... the house hadn't been cleaned! The refrigerator had brown sticky stuff on top of it, and mildew inside, and there was mildew in the clothes washer, the grass needed cutting, a moulding strip was loose, mildew and soap scum in the bathrooms... that's me in the photo writing down everything that hadn't been fixed or cleaned. I already look exhausted!

The interns were in London yesterday, which is good, because they would have been in the way once the COO & his friend left. I scrubbed the kitchen ceiling to floor, cleaned out the clothes washer (the COO cleaned the refrigerator for me), washed every dish, utensil, and cooking tool, scrubbed the bathrooms, and finally made dinner sometime between midnight and 1am. It's still a nice place, though. I've never lived anywhere with a conservatory.

I still need internet access. The COO suggested a USB mobile broadband device made by Three. I'll check for them at retail stores nearby. Apparently, it works anywhere in Europe. Not that it matters. It's Sunday and I'm in the office working on payables and payroll. I'm the only one in the building. Big difference from back home. It's not unusual for someone to be in the office at night or on weekends there, but here it's like a vacuum on weekends and after 4:30 or 5:00 during the week. Maybe being here for two months will be a good influence on me, because I work way too many hours.

Okay, I've rambled... sorry!


Still in a hotel

... but at least it's closer to the office, and the rooms are in slightly better condition! It still takes two buses to get to and from work, though. We should be in more stable accommodations by next week.

The downside? The wireless network here sucks! When I walked into the lobby, a bunch of people were huddled over their laptops. The signal out there is the strongest. It took over an hour to send a file to my boss from my room last night, because my connection kept dropping. My room is just off the lobby, though, so I now have the garbage bin propping the door open, and I've scooted myself as close as I can to the door (I'd already changed into my pj's when I thought about going into the lobby, and I thought it might be in ad form to pad out there in flops and nightshirt). Not pretty, but it works. Better an inconvenient connection than the strong connection that didn't work correctly at the Hyatt.


I'm in Bristol

The redeye from Miami to London was thankfully not full, so I wasn't boxed into my seat, and my arrival in London Tuesday morning was uneventful -- wait for interns to arrive, wait for CEO to pick us up and take us to Bristol, check out office, check into hotel, eat dinner, zonk out.

My week was dedicated to finding housing. I thought the US had a lot of extraneous fees! For each application, we pay a credit check fee of at least 205 pounds, which we can't apply to other applications or dispute if it doesn't come out in our favor! Then there's a Council Tax, which tacks on another several hundred pounds to our monthly fees. Plus, the office is in Aztec West business park in North Bristol, too far from City Center, where housing suitable for our situation is abundant (commute would suck), so pickings are slim. In the meantime, 'home' is the Premier Inn Filton. No frills, but it's clean and the staff have been friendly.

So far, I like the office at Aztec West. The property management staff are friendly and helpful whenever I bombard them with questions. I share an office with the two interns, which is a nice change from Burlingame, where I sit in a huge suite by myself (our lease there is up in December and we'll downsize then). The COO took that photo of me today. If I'd known he was doing it, I would have made an effort to not look so goofy, but what the heck. The original he sent was a 1.3M file and when I opened the email, all I saw were wrinkles and age spots... aaahhhh!

No big plans for fun yet, although my friend is coming out from London in the morning. She's looking at one house with me and then we're heading to a pub. Well, I guess the pub part is fun!



Well, I survived 3.5 days in Miami with my family and my niece's wedding! I arrived disgustingly early Friday morning so I wouldn't miss the rehearsal dinner that night. When I walked into the Hyatt Regency Coral Gables somewhere around 6:30am, plunked down 4 huge bags filled with 2 months of junk, and started sifting through them and muttering to myself so I could drop off my bags and find somewhere to work until check-in time, the clerk very graciously allowed me to check in early, probably so he could get the muttering street urchin out of his lobby!

I walked into my room, a suite that does double duty as a conference conversion and was hit with a slight mildewy smell, probably due to the fact the bathroom fan was broken and I was in a hot, humid state. But I was exhausted and didn't care, so I climbed into the Murphy bed and zonked out for an hour or two. I worked a few hours that day and took the afternoon off to do the family thing, and then went to the rehearsal dinner that night.

Saturday I just relaxed and went for a little run, lifted some weights, got my nails done... and discovered my internet connection didn't work correctly -- I could send and receive plain text, but not hypertext. I spent over an hour on the phone with the hotel's computer support company, who concluded that everything was right on their side and the issue had to be my Macintosh. So I thought okay fine, I have to transmit paystubs anyway, I'll just use my Windows machine... except of course, it had the same problem! When I tried to get the support people back on the phone, they were gone for the day. Evil jerks.

My job on the day of the wedding was to keep my sister from stressing too much, because when she did, it stressed my niece. So I tried to keep things light and keep my sister distracted and help out when I could.

After hair and makeup, I looked at my niece and for the first time realized just how much like my sister she looked! My sister also had her hair done, pulled back into a loose bun that made her look like an asian Eva Peron. That's my sister and niece in the photo. My niece normally looks more like her biodad in terms of individual features. Go figure.

The ceremony was refreshingly short and the reception generous with the booze. It was fun! I met my niece's oboe teacher, snapped candid photos, did a little drunken dancing and of course, spent quality time with family, including my other niece I only see maybe once every few years (she lives in Puerto Rico and has a small child).

My flight from Miami to London wasn't until Monday evening, so I spent the day with family again. This time they wanted to take a bus tour of Miami and boat tour of "Millionaire Row," neither of which were really on my list of things I wanted to do before I die, but spending as much time as possible with family was, so I tagged along.

The tour people let us out of the bus in Little Havana and I ran away from the tour group to use the restroom at the McDonalds, then continued down the street to a little tienda to buy candy to bring on the plane with me. On the way back to the bus, a man on the street called me 'chinita,' and I gave my usual response to that remark, 'yo soy japonesa,' and the next thing I knew, the guy was walking back to the bus with me! His name is Santos, he's from Cuba and he thinks either Japanese women or my hair is pretty, or possibly both. That's about all I could get from the Spanish I know.

Our shuttle driver, Alfredo, dropped me off at a local hotel with a free shuttle to the airport (the Hyatt didn't have a free shuttle). Alfredo rocks! And the security people at MIA rock! Wow, they are so much nicer than the security people at SFO! Everyone was friendly and courteous, and because their attitude put the passengers at ease, they were also very efficient. Security agents at other airports should be trained by the folks at MIA.


Quick Update

I didn't have http access in Miami, and I'm paying something like 8 gbp per hour for access here in the hotel in Bristol. So... will catch up with everyone when I'm no longer homeless and have a reliable connection, or maybe if I have time during the work day this week!



This coming Monday is Memorial Day in the US, a day commemorating those who died in our nation's service.  It usually takes the form of decorating the graves of those who died at war.

This morning I heard a story on NPR (National Public Radio, which isn't TRULY public, because they can receive large sums of money from private sponsors, but since they're non-profit they can call the sponsors "donors") about a man whose father took the time to remember people who had made a significant impact on his own life.  This was back in the day of canned coffee, and during the year, he would accumulate his empty cans in his garage and as the day approached, he'd decorate the cans and fill them with silk flowers.  On Memorial Day, he visited the graves of these people, many of whom no longer had friends or relatives alive to visit, and cleaned the graves, leaving one of the decorated cans at each.

After hearing this story, I thought about the people who have come in and out of my life, each leaving their mark, some large, some small, some full of joy, some pain, some I think of often, others not at all.  While not everyone has made a huge impact on me, they've all been significant to me in their own way.

But what I took away from my ruminations is that I need to focus on appreciating people while they are still in my life and letting go of those who have moved on.  Sometimes I wallow in regret, fret over situations beyond my control and care about the well-being of those who don't care about me a little too much.


Killing Time

It's half past midnight and I'm waiting for one am so I can call customer service for our payroll service in the UK.  It's the UK version of the payroll service we use for our US payroll, except US customer service runs 24 hours.  The UK people are usually more polite and helpful, though, so there's tradeoff to the convenience of being able to call any time.  I think I prefer having to stay up into what is the middle of the night for me so I can speak with a courteous person over being able to call a surly person any time.

Less than 50 miles south of me a fire raged today, burning 3,000 acres.  When things like this happen, I remember to be grateful for my health, family and friends.  I'm even grateful to be fortunate enough to have mementos and possessions that are safe and sound, but at the same time I'm reminded that when it's all said and done, the relationships and bonds I form with others are much more important than clinging to material items.


Feeling my Mortality

One of my students missed class last week.  A student missing class is not such an unusual event, except for her reason.

Her brother had a two-in-one surgery performed -- a knee replacement and carpal tunnel release.  He awoke from surgery already able to move his hand freely.  Two days later he took his first steps and felt no pain, and began physical therapy.  On his second day of physical therapy, he became dizzy and collapsed, likely due to some random bloot clot, and they were unable to revive him.

They always warn you of the potential hazards involved in "routine" surgery, but those incidences are so few and far between, they almost seem impossible.  And yet, it happened to someone in my network.

When tragedies such as this happen, I think of some near-misses I've had and wonder how it was that I was spared.  And I feel grateful for being given the opportunity to continue.


Mindless meanderings

I borrowed a book from a friend a few years ago. It's a book about Japanese Americans during WWII, and his wife is also Japanese American, so they thought I would enjoy the book, and I did... except I haven't seen them since! So I've had this book sitting in my bedroom in its little bag, gathering dust, and I haven't contacted them to return it because I forgot I had it for about a year, and I was too chicken to contact them at that point!

By coincidence, a mutual friend came online the other night on IM (who I also haven't seen in a few years), and he offered to return the book for me! So I arranged to meet him in Palo Alto last night for coffee after work. As usual, I tried cramming a bunch of small tasks in at the last minute, and left my office in a rush, leaving the lights on. As I drove out of the parking lot, I looked up and saw the interior of my office, and realized for the first time that the glass I thought was one-way... wasn't!

For the most part, this is okay, because I typically just sit in there typing anyway, and it's on the 4th floor of the building, so it's not like people walking by can just look in and see everything. Except there's only one locker room in the building that's shared by everyone, so I change in my office when I go jogging or ride the bike, and I tend to change close to the window, because I keep my shoes on the ledge and my clothes under the window so I can lay them out on the heating/air conditioning unit. Plus, it's been relatively dark outside this time of the year, so the lighting has been relatively brighter inside. I never closed the blinds before, because I thought the glass was one-way. And now I know pretty much anyone walking or driving by on the street, or the trail across the street, can see me if they look up. I'm such a dope! Who knows what else I've done while standing in the window... I could have been there picking my teeth or something.


Blasts from the Past

This week one of my former athletes and a former student contacted me out of the blue just to say hello. One was one of my pole vaulters at College of San Mateo, and the other took a basic computing class I taught through the SF Housing Authority. It meant a lot to me that they would take the time to do that, and I think it means even more given that I'm in somewhat of a deep blue funk with regard to my self esteem right now (I don't think you can tell that from my blog postings, but I've been struggling with that internally for several years now).

Anyway, this photo is back from that era, and features the two athletes who will forever be known as "my kids," because they just happened to be the first vaulters I ever coached, and I think I formed the strongest bond with them. I posted more photos from that time frame in my photo section, in case anyone is interested.


Birthday Weekend

I'm back from my long weekend! Actually, I've been back since Sunday evening, I just haven't had a chance to sit and be a schlub until now, because when I returned home I had work piled up waiting for me (okay it's still piled up).

Due to the untimely demise of my beloved Subaru wagon a few years ago, and the fact that I drive a Miata convertible now, I decided to forego the Tahoe trip and just head straight for Calistoga. Actually, my father insisted I drive his Pilot this weekend, but it's front wheel drive only and he doesn't have chains for it, so I couldn't have headed up to the mountains anyway. I took it just to make him happy, although I'm a menace in that oversized crackerbox!

I headed up late Friday morning. On the way, I received calls from my niece, sister and boss. Actually, I received one call from my niece, four from my boss on Friday, and four from my sister over the weekend. The four from my boss were all to sing Happy Birthday, each time with a different person -- the owner of the coffee shop we frequent, our patent counsel, our COO, and the other owner of the coffee shop. Oh, wait a minute, my boss also called to ask me where something was, so that would be five from him.

I checked into the Mount View Hotel, an early 1900's Mission revival style building, at about 1:45. Like other buildings of its era, it sports a lot of wonderful detail, but the climate control left something to be desired. The hallway to the room was COLD!!! The room was small, but clean, tastefully appointed and quiet. They bring fruit, pastry, juice and coffee to your room in the morning, and I have to admit it's nice not to have to dress for breakfast other than to throw on a robe to answer the door.

After checking into the hotel, I ran down the street for my appointment at the Lincoln Avenue Spa, where I did the body masque/facial/massage package. I had a mud bath several years ago, and did not enjoy it one bit, so I really wanted something different this time. With the body masque, you smear the mud all over your body and lie down on a steam table, rather than sitting in a tub of mud that countless others sat in before. The massage therapist, Lily, really laid into the monster knots under my shoulder blades and along my neck, and made a valiant effort to make them go away. I didn't have the heart to tell her that they're always there.

I have a new friend who joined me in Calistoga, and we visited a couple of wineries and a geyser. There were baby goats on the property around the geyser, and a couple were so young, their umbilical cords were still attached! You can see the red "string" hanging from underneath the little guy.

I headed back down toward home on Sunday afternoon, with a stop in Petaluma on the way to visit Fuller. He and another of his exes celebrated my birthday with me and we watched the Super Bowl together, as well. I have to admit I was a bit rude and did some work during the game. I don't have much opportunity to do prep work for the classes I teach during the week because of my day job, so I have to take advantage of small chunks of time here and there when I can.

This was one of my quietest birthdays, and one of the most enjoyable. I seem to appreciate the simple things much more these days.


One Word (from John B's blog)


Not as easy as you might think.

1. Where is your cell phone? desk
2. Your boyfriend/girlfriend? none
3. Your hair? yes
4. Work? yes
5. Your father? smartass
6. Your favorite thing? hugs
7. Your dream last night? dunno
8. Your favorite drink? Benromach
9. Your dream car? Boxster
10. The room you're in? office
11. Your pet? several
12. Your fears? loneliness
13. What do you want to be in 10 years? happy
14. Where did you hang out last night? home
15. What you're not good at? tact
16. Eyebrow rings on the opposite sex? indifferent
17. One of your wish list items? bra
18. Where you grew up? home
19. The last thing you did? type
20. What are you wearing? clothes
21. What aren't you wearing? hat
23. Your computer? Mac
24. Your life? stable
25. Your mood? indifferent
26. Missing? direction
27. What are you thinking about right now? bills
28. Your car? Miata
29. Your work? grunt
30. Your summer? work
31. Your relationship status? none
32. Your favorite color? purple
33. When is the last time you laughed? today
34. Last time you cried? today
35. School? perpetually


Okay, I'm a Loser

My boss gave the the go-ahead to take PTO next Thursday and Friday for my birthday, and I got a sub to take my class Friday night... and now I have nowhere to go!!! Up until a couple of days ago, I'd been thinking I'd have to work on my birthday. Lobo suggested heading down to Rio, but I kind of don't want to travel that far for just a few days, plus I admit I'm a little insecure about travelling to strange places alone, and whoah, I just looked at prices... a little more than I want to dish out just before having to pay taxes! Well, it was a good idea, Lobo...

My backup plan is to head up to my dad's place in Truckee and get in a day or two of skiing and relaxing a bit, but I'm hoping inspiration will strike me and I won't have to resort to the backup, because I think I'll have to blow the snow out of the driveway when I get there.



My housemate, Steven, has a dog named Piglet. A couple of months ago, Piglet accidentally bopped Steven in the eye, and it was red and sore for days. This evening, I came home from work, and Steven was cussing and screaming in pain, which is very uncharacteristic of him -- he's a welder and has taken molten metal to skin without a flinch. He'd woken up this morning, and although he doesn't remember Piglet punching him again, his eye had the same issue as before -- redness, irritation, pain. He's been editing a film and he couldn't work on it at all today, because it bothered him so much, AND he said it felt like there was something in there, but neither of us could actually see anything in his eye.

Up until today, I kind of thought of Steven as being unbreakable. Sure, he's been sick and gotten hurt, but he's always internalized everything he was going through, so for me, he's been somewhat of a paragon of strength. Now that he's hurting enough to actually voice his frustration, it's a little scary. He doesn't accept help easily, and even if he did, there's not much I can do anyway. He doesn't have health insurance, can't spare the money to pay for medical care, and is too proud to let me pay for it, so he flat out refused to let me take him to the emergency room. I contemplated cold cocking him and dragging him to see a doctor, but even considering the state he's in, he's still a much better fighter than I am, and tends to defend himself reflexively, so I think that would be a bad idea.


I felt my age this weekend

First, let me say I'm sorry I've been all but absent. The weeks leading into a new school term are always busy, and now that I'm working full time outside of teaching, those weeks are even busier!

I love the outdoors, yet haven't done much outdoors the past 6 months or so. The time commitment of two jobs was catching up with me, although I remember working the same number of hours when I was younger and not being even half as tired as I am these days!

In the last month or so I decided to make time for myself, instead of sitting around complaining I never had time to take care of myself. When my day job moved to an office building along the bay trail, I took the opportunity to start jogging a few days a week, instead of just eating my lunch in my office like a recluse, so I've been doing 2-3 miles along the bay and estuary. I have to say I've felt a bit more energetic in general since I began doing that, and my mood has also mellowed out quite a bit.

Last week, when some members of my hiking group tossed around the idea of seeing the waterfalls at Cascade Canyon on Saturday, I made the commitment not to flake on them the way I had been for almost a year by offering to give someone a ride. We arrived at the trailhead at noon, and sauntered up the hill and through the trees. It was a beautiful day, clear and not too cold. We reached the falls with no problem, and had lunch as we watched the water racing down.

Of course, someone had to jump into the cold water, and this time it was the new guy, Loek (not sure of the spelling, but it's pronounced 'low eck. Loek stripped down, dipped a toe, and after deciding it wasn't THAT cold, jumped in! Being completely submerged was a little more of a shock to him than he'd anticipated, so he didn't stay in long. Adam snapped a photo, promising to post it on Facebook.

The excitement of someone submerging himself in winter water over, we headed off-trail to come down on the other side of the hill, our goal being the top of the ridge, where we could rejoin the trail. We walked through a stand of trees, traversed across some thick underbrush, then up the hill. Except the underbrush was still fairly thick, and seemed to be getting denser the higher we climbed. Soon, the brush was dense enough that we really didn't want to have to whack through it, so we headed back down to the rivulet and back up again on the other side of the bushes. We made it to the ridge, and walked along it. As we passed above where we had tried to make it up earlier, we noticed that we'd only been about 15 or 20 feet short of making it up to the path when we turned back!

It was all downhill from there. Literally. The downhill effort made my quadricep begin to cramp, but I was getting tired by then and I just kept walking, because I didn't want to stop until I got back to the car! I was definitely feeling the effects of not having hiked in awhile, much more so than everyone else, even though they hadn't been hiking, either. I'm also older than they are -- about 6 or 7 years older than the next person in age. We all spent some time stretching when we got back to the cars, then drove into Fairfax for ice cream before heading home.

I intended to sit in the hot tub after my shower when I got home, but I never made it! First, I was hungry, so I had a little to eat. I was pretty wiped out from the hike, plus the food made me a little sleepy, so I figured I'd take a little nap before tubbing. I slipped into bed, picked up my notebook to send a quick email to one of my friends, and fell asleep with the computer open on my lap! I vaguely remember waking up when my housemate got home later that night, and shutting everything off before curling back up under the covers again.

I take Piglet, my housemate's dog, for a little jog most weekend mornings. I was so sore this morning, I couldn't do it! I did muster up the strength to get out and walk downtown with her, though. We stopped at Three Bees, my Sunday coffee shop (I go to Peninsula Roaster on Saturdays) and I sat outside with her while I drank half my coffee and ate half a poppyseed cake slice. Then Piglet growled at a sweet little lady walking by, and kept barking at a man who sat at the table next to mine, so I picked up my cup, put the rest of the cake in my pocket, and took off down the street with her, apologizing profusely to the targets of her missives. They were just glad I was leaving!

As we passed a dietary supplement store, Piglet spied the shop dog there. She pulled me toward the door, and I tried to pull back, but still had my coffee cup in my hand, and combined with my soreness, it threw off my balance a little. Little by little, Piglet was dragging me into the store. I had to set my coffee cup on the ground so I could grab the leash with both hands to give a good yank on it! In the meantime, I was a source of great amusement to the shopkeeper and patrons in the store watching our antics. Both Piglet and I made it home without further incident, and I spent the rest of the day trying to be productive and failing miserably. So here I sit, trying to get the handouts for my weight control course together so I can send them to duplicating tonight, and all I really want to do now is sleep!


70 mph winds today!

Winds in the Bay Area reached something like 70 mph today (well, yesterday now). Big rigs fell over, bridges and highways were closed, it was a mess.

My boss called at 8:00 to tell me the electricity in the building was out, and to keep him updated on the estimated time for everything to be up and running. Snafus beyond immediate control are always bad, because he's the type of person who panics as he imagines a bunch of unlikely scenarios and hounds people who are trying to help him to the point that he impedes their progress. On top of that, he's having a midlife crisis now, and has been crankier than usual.

I got to the office, and everything was dark, but the doors to the buildings and stairways were propped open, so I headed up to the office and attempted to call the utility company for a status update while I waited for the property manager to arrive. Except PG&E won't give status updates unless you have an account number or phone number associated with the account handy. I tried the property manager's office number... no dice.

I found out there was no estimated time for the electricity to come back on, because lines were down all over the state, so I called the boss with the news, and he said to leave him alone for an hour and a half and report back again. While I was waiting, some windows in the floor above blew out, the emergency power on my floor failed and property management put the building on lockdown and evacuated it, due to the danger posed by failing glass and the fact that there was no electricity.

I reported back to my boss as I headed to the car, and this is where his panic began. He fumed about not being able to access the building if he needed to get something and what if he needed to get something tomorrow for his trip to London on Sunday? I said it would be a function of whether the electricity was back on or not, and as I figured he would, he said to go back and and ask property management to make sure. Mind you, it's not that he actually has much there he would need. He doesn't keep much in the office other than completed paperwork. On the few occasions he has needed something while on a trip, he called to have me send it to him.

I turned back to the building... and the door was locked. I was in the basement garage, and had to walk out to the street and then around to the back of the building to get to the building's main entrance... which was also locked. The sign said to use the delivery entrance, which was on the opposite side of the building I'd just come around. It only took a few minutes, but the rain had already soaked through my raincoat and was making its way through my sweater and skirt. I found the property manager, who told me access to the building tomorrow would depend on... yep, whether the electricity was back on or not!

One more time, I reported back, then I had to walk around the outside of the building again to get to my car, and on the way, a small branch that was being carried by the wind whipped by and blindsided me, clipping me in the back, and sending me sprawling to the pavement. I was pissed! And then I was scared, because if that thing had hit me squarely and just a foot or so higher, I could have been seriously injured or dead. I was on the far side of the buildng, where there was no one going by, and if I had been hurt, it probably would have been awhile before someone found me. So then I was soaked, still pissed, lying in a puddle and getting cold. The only good news is my phone switched off from the impact of hitting the ground and/or having water on it, so my boss couldn't call back and tell me to go back again and make sure.

I was chilled the rest of the day. Actually, I still am. That's why I'm up typing this. I couldn't get warm, which prevented me from falling asleep. Plus, the fact that I really need to be more assertive when my boss is being unreasonable is weighing on me right now. I pretty much just let him rant and take out his frustrations on me. They don't really do much to harm me most of the time (I'm good at blocking out unnecessary chatter), but they are counter-productive.


My Holidays...

Well, the last few weeks have been a whirlwind of social activity! There was a cookie baking party, the results of which we donated to a home for troubled teens, a "Guitar Hero" party, 4 engagements between the 24th and 26th of December, my own Oshogatsu open house (Japanese new years tradition) at which my dad brought his own little battery-powered black and white tv to watch football because I don't have a tv, and my family's oshogatsu get-together. I actually missed a few parties, because I was too tired to attend! I love my friends and I like spending time with people, but I have to say I'm somewhat relieved the holidays are over, because I definitely had too much of a good thing.

So I'm back at work (technically, the only days I had off were Christmas eve, Christmas day and New Years day, but I'm kind of a work junkie, so it seemed like a lot of days off to me) and I'm prepping for my spring classes... I think I actually missed the deadline to turn in my course materials to duplicating services in time to get them for the first day of classes, so I'll be sending them to Kinko's and paying out of my own pocket. Oh well.

My boss at the day job wants me to learn to do business valuations, so he's bringing someone in to teach me the research methods at some point. In the meantime, I ordered a couple of books so I can familiarize myself with the basic methods and theories. Plus, my house mate, Steven, who is now a welder, was a stock broker and investment banker in his former lives, so I'm picking his brain as well.

So far, the year seems to be off to a good start. I've been jogging a little loop by my office on a regular basis, and bringing my lunch in more often to save money AND not eat so much junk. I do have big, fat knots up my whole back,Steven worked on my back the other day, and the next day I went to the massage therapist and there are STILL huge knots!

Well, it's late and I need to be up early! I'm already in my favorite bear night shirt, which has a bear holding its own little bear toy. One of my exes hated this shirt because it was unsexy. I was telling Steven that and he said "well, the shirt does kind of say 'no sex tonight... it's something a grandmother would wear!'" Oh well, I'm only sleeping with the cats and the dog occasionally, and they don't care what I wear!