Thursday, December 31, 2015

Spent another day in bed with aching head and bones, exhausted, despite the fact that i slept for hours.  Chris and Nancy are going to the Swiss Hotel in Sonoma, but I am just not up to it.  So it is another night of bed and television.  Yesterday, I watched nearly twelve hours of "Bluebloods."  Actually, I slept and watched.  I started watching an episode, fell asleep, and woke up three episodes later.  At the moment, I am watching "The Thin Man."

Today, I actually took a shower, and went for a ride on some of my favorite streets in Vallejo - Kentucky, Virginia, Ohio, Capital, Napa ... Came home and climbed back into bed with Oscar, the tuxedo cat.

I have never been a fan of New Years Eve. I am perfectly content to stay home tonight and reflect on what an amazing year it has been.  Chris laughed when I asked him if he and Nancy would make it to midnight.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Still feeling crappy, especially my head, eyes, and stomach.  Yesterday, I slept a lot, and it looks like that is what is on the agenda today.  The things to be anxious about when i am sick are numerous, and the mean voice in my head is more than willing to trot the list out.  Will I feel this way forever? Do i really feel this way? What if it is depression coming back?  what if i cannot recover from this?

I am going to stay off that track and focus on the good stuff, or take a  nap.  I am the one who can control the bully in my mind.

Every day, there is an article in the Chronicle about the homeless.  I was always afraid of being homeless, and i am flush up against that fear, in reality.  But i am not, thanks to Chris and Nancy.  I have a whole lot more empathy now about people who are homeless, being this close to it myself.  You can be working hard and still not be able to make enough to pay for a decent living space.

The Syrian refugee crisis has also been in the news since i have been on the road.  I have been emarrassed, angered and astonished by the behavior of people in this country toward human beings, who, through no fault of their own, have lost everything.

My mind has all kinds of creative ideas, but my body is holding me back.  back to my nap.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Feeling under the weather.  That is a scary place to be, living this close to the edge.  The idea of being sick at the moment is crazy, so i am going to continue to act as though i am a sane person who is minimally concerned about my health.

Chelsea had to leave at 3:00 am, for her flight back to Atlanta.  I got up, showered, and went to Starbucks, to use the card Chelsea gave me for Christmas.  Drove around with my latte, looking at houses around Vallejo. Stopped by one of my favorites, on top of one of the highest hills and called Lulu.  She, Mary, and Paul are coming to visit on January 16! What a great Christmas present.  
i need a nap.

my future house

Monday, December 28, 2015

On this crisp, clear morning, I am sitting out back, drinking coffee.  I just finished reading the Chronicle.  I do love that paper.  So many common sense food articles.  Today Dave Weigand wrote a critique of the Michael Pollan show on PBS tonight.  I will actually watch it because of what he said.  I haven't enjoyed reading a television critic since I lived in DC, and read Tom Shales, especially after major current events or national disasters.  Shales would rip the news media apart over shoddy, cheap coverage, long before Jon Stewart sat in his Daily Show chair.

I am reveling in the fact that I have the energy to actually write each day, and that i have some ambition about getting my life back on track.  Talk about perfect peace: At this moment, birds sing, sun shines, airplanes buzz, turkeys caw.  I am basking in the sun's warmth, drinking my coffee in a Christmas mug, far away from sadness and misery, unless I make the choice to encounter them here, in the west.  That would be like picking up baggage i threw away in the Badlands.  Counter productive, to say the least.  Just keep swimming.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Found a new place for my latte this morning.  Java Jax has a totally different vibe, like that of a 1950s hot dog stand. It has its own port cochere, so, at some point, it might have served a ritzier clientele.  It is quiet and clean, with few distractions. I found a perfect spot for writing and reflecting.  The stool i am perched on is the right height for me, as is the counter. There is a huge window overlooking the intersection of Georgia and Sonoma, in downtown Vallejo.  Watching the world go by is its own distraction.  There is also a New York Times on the counter. Just another reason to live in this neighborhood.

Yesterday, Chelsea and I woke up early, and met Megan and Chris in Concord. We watched the sunrise as we drove to Monterey.  After waiting for almost four cold hours in the hangar at Skydive Monterey, we watched Chelsea jump from an airplane 18,000 feet above this earth.

It was so much fun hanging out with them, like having all the rewards of mothering smart, beautiful daughters, without having to endure what all mothers have to go through to reach the point where everyone is sitting in a restaurant on Fishermen's Wharf, laughing and enjoying a meal together.

Chelsea did great (this was her fifth (!) jump), although she did hurt her ankle.

The whole day has been unbelievable.  Here I am, on the other side of the country, in a place i had not heard of a few months ago.  I did not know places like this existed.  But they do, and I belong here.

I am getting a lot of wear out of my wool sweater from Norway.  The temps have been in the forties, and it has been grey and dark.  Patricia Hoben texted me from Vero, saying it is in the 80s there.  I am glad for them and the other tourists, but i am loving this chill.

Friday, December 25, 2015


office du jour

What a happy day! We were up early, at Vince and Jean's for an english breakfast and opening secret santa presents.  All we've done is eat delicious food and drink fabulous wine, surrounded by gorgeous decorations.  Tonight, we had lasagna, which was as delicious as Chelsea promised me it would be, made by Nancy.  Chelsea said it is her favorite thing that Nancy makes, which is high praise.

This Christmas has been like a holiday movie. I drove down Summit Street, in historic Vallejo, and I met Rudy, who lives in a nice house with his wife, who he has been in love with since elementary school, but didn't marry until three years ago.  I told him i liked his holiday decorations. I also gave him my card, and asked that if he heard of any nice, reasonable, comfortable apartments in the neighborhood, would he give me a call.

I let Chelsea, my little free spirit, know that she is one of the top two contenders for who is going to take care of me when (if) I get older.  I told her I would make it worth her while.  She was totally non-plussed, God bless her.

Tomorrow we are going down to Monterey, to witness this free spirit jump from a plane at 18,000 feet.  Ho hum, just another Saturday, a day in the life ...

Nancy's twin sister, Ann

Vince and Jean

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve

Got up after 9 and drank coffee made by Nancy, who shares my taste for good coffee.  And then there is Nancy's pumpkin bread, moist and studded with chocolate chips.  I had a few slices to go with my coffee.

I am so grateful, and can barely articulate the feeling, to Nancy and Chris for putting me up for so long, and for being so supportive.  While i have no regrets in being rid of my brother, it is sad sometimes to think i am alone in this world.  Until i remember how i am not.

I have a brother from another mother, with none of the painful history that comes with real siblings.  There are no bad memories of him trying to stab me while our parents were out to dinner.  I am so grateful to be around a guy who is not trying to steal my clothes, my makeup, and my boyfriends.

Some people handle their anxiety by engaging in any one of a number of distractions.  My distraction of choice is driving around the neighborhoods of Vallejo, looking at houses, and the restoration efforts taking place in the hills.  Today i pulled over on Miltia and Loma Vista, and phoned a friend.

We had dinner tonight at Ann and Doug's.  Doug made the most delicious prime rib i have ever tasted.  For a seven rib roast, he set the oven for 500 degrees, where the roast sits for an hour.  After that, the oven is turned off, but the roast stays in the oven for six hours, when it comes out perfectly medium rare.  And it did. Once again, the Slaydons outdid themselves.  Delicious food and sparkling wine for me.

This incredible adventure has been my gift to myself. I am coming back to life in a place I have never been. Every day is an adventure.  Merry Christmas.

St. Peter's Chapel, Mare Island

Uncle Vince

Aunt Jean, Chelsea, Chris

Nancy, Doug's Mom, Megan

Megan and Chris


Doug (the Butcher) and his seven rack roast

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

It is hard to be a Scrooge around here.  Nancy and Ann and are like Christmas elves, and everything is decorated beautifully. That sugar cookie smell wafts through the air, and having Chelsea here adds to the fun. I am so happy that this is where I landed.

As wonderful as it all is, I keep being struck with homesick pangs, thinking about Vero at Christmas.  Part of it is that Patty and Charlie are there, with their daughters.

What i miss is a place of my own. At the moment, i am so unmoored, trying to find my berth, a safe harbor where i can be and spread out my stuff and not feel weird about napping so much.  At least I am steering myself in the right direction.  And it is wonderful to be part of a family.  The past sixteen years have been dark and lonely, so i am slowly getting used to the light. I feel like i lost a lot of social skills, living with my dad, and then alone, with my dog.  They are slowly returning, but it takes practice.

I was feeling a little weepy, this being my first Christmas away from Vero in a long time.  I was really missing my mom and dad, when i got a call from my cousin, Jim Nuth, the oldest cousin on my mother's side of the family.  Here's what he said to me that helped heal my heart.

"Every little tear I shed, I am thanking God for, because each one shows me that i had great parents."


"No matter how alone you think are, you are always part of this huge pack, for better or for worse. That's the good news AND the bad news."

Monday, December 21, 2015

I have to get my clothes from storage in Florida, because there is so much I need for this wet climate. At the moment, I need an umbrella and my Burberry raincoat.

Today was really wet and really fun.  Richard and Gregory took me to Oakland's Chinatown, where we had dim sum at Tin's Tea House.  We were the only Asians in a very crowded dining room.  The atmosphere was festive, as servers bustled through the crowd with wheeled carts carrying all kinds of goodies.  Richard and Gregory ordered a variety of amazing, tasty dishes, some I recognized, and some i didn't.  We had roasted eggplant, a green vegetable with a stalk that looked like tall broccoli, served in oyster sauce, dumplings , and a few other delightfully slimy tasty dishes.  I tasted chicken feet, to prove i was not a finicky eater, but I had to pass on the rest, draping a steamed banana leaf over the claw.

After lunch, we sloshed around Chinatown, poking into markets.  Richard is a chef, and the brothers were showing me all kinds of produce, meat, and dried soup ingredients i had never seen before, like dried oysters, scallops, and chicken legs.

For now, I am staying close to home, making a pot roast for everyone.

Greens I have never seen before 

Lamps in my favorite second hand store in downtown Vallejo

next year's tree 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

All I wanted to do today was to rest somewhere peaceful, in front of a fire.  It's funny how you get what you ask for.  I ended up at Moschetti Coffee Roasters, for the Saturday morning tasting, and after getting my coffee, i sat down by the crackling fire pit, where i started talking to the woman who is the president of the Vallejo Garden Club.  I ran into Richard's neighbor, Loretta, again, and she introduced me to two other people who moved from San Francisco to Vallejo.  The woman i met by the fire pit has a friend who is a realtor, so i gave her my card, in case she knows of any place.

Before meeting Richard to walk at Mare Island, I had some time to kill, so I went to St. Peter's Chapel, at Mare Island, and stretched out on my quilt, in the sun.  I thought about how all i wanted was a seat by the fire, and there it was, waiting for me at Moschetti.

I met Richard at his house at 3, and we took the dogs back to the Preserve at Mare Island, and hiked the trail.  It was so much fun. But there were moments when i thought was going to die, going up those hills. But Kate's voice returned, once again. So i stood straighter and walked slower.  Most important, I kept moving, although i had to stop a few times to catch my breath, and to look at the gorgeous view.

Spencer, the Wheaten terrier puppy, sat on my lap to and from the walk, and after our walk, Richard showed me B Street, and a few other really nice streets, high up in the hills of Vallejo.

Ann and Doug had everyone over for dinner, and what a dinner it was.  They are such great hosts.  Doug grilled tri-tip and made green beans with pancetta, and Ann made garlic smashed potatoes and a gorgeous, delicious salad.  They always serve good wine.  For dessert, Ann served the most delicious, moist carrot cake I have ever tasted, that she made.  It was a delightful evening, among festive decor.

Friday, December 18, 2015

OK, i am just about at the end of my rope as far as this substitute teaching is concerned.  I am hoping that I put all this work into the process for nothing, because a more lucrative part-time job that i can do in my pajamas will become available to me.

All of my paperwork is assembled, with the exception of my social security card.  The woman at the school district office said nothing else could substitute, like a birth certificate or passport, both of which i have.  So i spent this afternoon at the Social Security office in Fairfield, getting a replacement card. It is supposed to come within the week, although it doesn't matter, because the substitute coordinator said i can't sub until the results of my fingerprints and background check have to come back first.

Had lovely conversations with my friends from Vero, Ivy and Linda. I miss them, but I don't miss being in the classroom on this last day before Winter Break.  It was fun when i taught.  We came to school, dressed in our pajamas.  The morning was spent reading and playing board games, and in the afternoon, we watched a movie and had snacks, as low key as it gets with third graders the before Christmas.   My day started with whatever sweet someone left on my desk that morning, and by the time i got home, i was in a sugar coma, vowing to never touch the stuff again.

Richard and I were going to take a walk this afternoon, but he had to postpone, so here i sit, at Nathan's, funky and welcoming, enjoying the warmth of a peppermint mocha, on a night when darkness came really early.

This is the first Christmas since 1986 or so that I have spent away from Vero Beach.  It's not that i want to go back, but I do feel homesick for certain people and places i love.

I miss life at 835 Bougainvillea Lane.Right before she died, my mom found me a cute apartment 350 steps from the beach. A cast of characters came with it, and for seven years, i had some of the nicest christmases I ever had in my life, thanks to Jimmy, Karen, Tony, Scott, and assorted other players in the cast, under the stars, tropical breezes blowing some years, and people wearing heavy wool sweaters in other years.

The first weekend in December heralded the holiday season, with the Christmas parade, featuring Santa himself, on Ocean Drive.  We had a party every year after it, assuring a motley crew showing up on our front lawn, thanks to all the people in different sectors of town who each of us knew.

I feel really stuck.  Some day I hope i will look back on this time with laughter, tenderness, and compassion at brave and relentless i was.

So forward ... it is the only way to go.  As Kate said, "upright, small steps, fuck the time."

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Things feel very stalled, at the moment.

I have an appointment at the Fairfield-Suisun Valley Unified School District tomorrow about substitute teaching.  I am hoping that means I can start working on January 4, right after the winter break.

The good news is that Chelsea, Chris' younger daughter, is home from Hawaii.  She flew in last Thursday from Atlanta, and I have had the pleasure of hanging out with her while she is on vacation from her job as a butler on a cruise ship.  It has been really nice having a co-pilot, and today, we went to the San Pedro Trail on Mare Island.  She ran and I walked on this gorgeous, sunny, chilly winter day.

On Monday, Chris had to have shoulder surgery in Davis, so Chelsea and I accompanied him to the hospital, and drove home through Green Valley, where they used to live.  We drove the route that Chelsea used to drive when she was in high school, and stopped to visit the home of a friend's father, a local sculptor.

Chelsea is one of the people who influenced me to take this trip.  Her spirit of adventure is evident in all of her postings on Instagram and Facebook.  When I was in Florida, unable to see the light past my obligations, and thinking I would never get out of Vero Beach, Chelsea's posts gave me hope.  

What feels like being stalled is actually a chance for me to spend time with Chelsea, who leaves on December 29.  

Sunday, December 13, 2015

All Part of the Adventure

This morning, somewhere between the passenger side of my car and the driver side, I lost the key to my ignition.  I was cleaning out my car, because I was supposed to pick Chelsea up from the airport.  I must have thrown the key into the recycle bin, and the truck came within a few minutes.  When i went to check, the bin was empty.

Luckily, I had given myself time, and Chelsea's plane was late.  I called AAA for a tow to the Honda dealership, texted Nancy, and had time to read the Chronicle and drink a couple of cups of coffee.  Also, I had a chance to change the way i dealt with the situation.

In the old days, i would have gotten hysterical, and assumed the role of the victim, and used up precious energy fretting about the problem.  This morning, I had glimpses of hysteria, but nothing over the top or exhausting, and I actually have the energy to be productive.

It is an expensive lesson, but now I have learned it.  And it is all part of the adventure that i signed up for when i decided to take this trip.  Considering the changes I have been through in the past six months, it is remarkable that all i have lost is this key.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

If Not Now, When?

That is today's question of the day.

Every time I doubt that all of this is for real, and that I am really happy, I ask myself this question.  Seriously, how long am i going to wait to be happy?  Every life has drawbacks, and my life has very few these days, especially because of the way i choose to see it and embrace it.

I am finally where i want to be each day, and on the road to building a new life out here on the west coast. I have been given a second, a third, and even a fourth chance at a life lived well.  Everything points me in that direction.  All i have to do is relax into the wind and let go of the idea that suffering is necessary, because it is not.  And even if it was necessary, I have done my share into perpetuity.

Today is sunny and cold, and the brisk air makes me feel really emboldened and full of vitality.

Things are moving on the substitute teaching front.  I go for a background check and finger printing next Monday, along with my negative TB test results.

I have an interview at a deli out in Sonoma this afternoon, thirty-five miles away.  I'll go for the interview, but it might be too far.  I will keep an open mind.

But the most wonderful thing that has happened is that I have made some friends, people who are not related to me.  Richard and Gregory are twin brothers and I met them, and their sweet dogs, Kate and Spencer, on the crazy beautiful Mare Island Preserve Trail. I found the most amazingly beautiful trail to the top of the hill, and they were hiking behind me.  We talked when we all stopped in a clearing, and, after assuring me that they were not murderers, they offered to show me some more beautiful trails.  And so we went.

They kept their promise.  They did not murder me and they did show me the most beautiful trails that led to high, high spots overlooking the bay.  Richard pointed out Mount Diablo, and Gregory informed me that the Mount Tam legend I heard from local a few weeks ago was made up by a bunch of boy scouts in the early 1900s.

They invited me to go with them on another walk on Sunday, out in the Suisin Valley. It was a spectacular day, what with the blazing wine colored foliage, the rolling hills, and the snappy weather.  The hills were steep, but the twins, who are way over 6 foot, took them easily.  I did not, but that was ok.  Kate, a really nice woman who came with us, told me that she does hills by taking really small steps, standing up straight, and not giving a shit about the time it takes.

We walked for over an hour, and then Richard invited me to their house for an oyster roast on Sunday night. Just when it could not get any better, BAM! It does.

Richard and Gregory live in the house they grew up in, in a sweet neighborhood on top of a very high hill.  The house was built in 1938 and is full of the original woodwork.  Richard lives upstairs and Gregory lives downstairs, in the in-law suite. It's a magical place.  There is a gorgeous bottle trumpet lily tree in the front yard, and an artistic array of succulents on the entry porch.

Inside, the house is really exquisite, comfortable, and colorful.  It is a deja vu kind of place, dreamy and surreal.

The food was delicious and homey, served in such an elegant way.  Gold chargers gave the table a regal feel, even though we were eating the most incredibly tasty oyster bisque i have ever eaten.   Richard is a chef at a B&B in Napa, and they must love his cooking, because this was really a treat.

The centerpiece was the soup, a creamy tomato based bisque with a nice horseradish kick, like cocktail sauce.  In the center of each soup bowl were five plump lightly poached, tender pacific oysters just waiting to be devoured. The spinach for the salad, as is the case with all the produce i have eaten out here, was picked that morning, and so was the pineapple Gregory served with a glorious pineapple upside down cake for dessert.

It was a really lovely evening, and I hated to leave, but poor Richard had to get up at the crack of dawn to cook breakfast.