Tag: Santa Rosa

Gather Such Crumbs As You May

burnt toaster crumbs bw

All the data on my laptop was mysteriously wiped clean and the computer tech guys have no clue what happened and couldn’t retrieve a scrap of data but my hardware is all in good shape and there are no viruses on my computer.  I have concluded that my laptop had a midlife crisis and went on a wild deleting spree.  Since I downloaded all my files onto my LaCie a month ago I haven’t permanently lost more than a month’s worth of data and pictures.  Which is a bummer since that includes all my notes on The Phlebotomists.  But considering how bad it could have been – I really have no right to complain and I am thanking myself for feeling guilty that I hadn’t backed anything up for months and so did it.

I think I’ve used this picture of crumbs before but I had limited access to my photos so this is what I found and it felt appropriate for my general mood which has been very dark.

I still have much to be worried about as big things remain unresolved and probably will for some time but I can’t live in a state of constant crisis-level stress so I’ve been trying to live more in the moment and appreciate the small things that are good in my life.

Max has been eating quite a bit better right now and this requires a lot of baking and efforts on my part.  He wanted gingerbread the other day and as my recipe doesn’t have dessert-level sugar in it and has a lot of blackstrap molasses – I am happy to have him eat lots of it.  I needed some Dutch processed cocoa and a lot of places don’t carry it but Pacific Market carries Drost and that’s the kind I like so I went to buy a box.  Pacific Market is a small fancy market where a lot of really rich people shop.  The rest of the clientele are non-rich locals buying just a few items here or there because it’s a wonderful market and convenient and locally owned.  Anyway – I used to shop there a lot more when we were doing pretty well when Max was still a baby.  It is within easy bicycling distance so when I needed something I would put Max on the bicycle and we’d pedal over to Pacific where everyone would gaze with amazement at Max’s platinum hair.  Often we’d get a treat at Village Bakery next door before pedaling ourselves home.

Monday was a really sunny warm day and I rode to the market on my scooter as I was in a hurry to get back to the kitchen.  I found the Drost cocoa and some milk (both priced quite dear) and back out into the sunshine I was hit with familiar smells and a barrage of happy memories.  The air was redolent of sweet blossoms, freshly baked bread, sunshine on pavement and a little wisp of eucalyptus – the smell of Santa Rosa and home.  In that moment my mood lifted and I remembered that a lot can (and will) go wrong with my life but being here is right.  We have laid down so many good times among the rough.  I have walked and ridden every inch of my neighborhood and some of the surrounding ones with my baby in tow living a pretty simple life back then in which I stayed home and gardened and cooked and wrote during Max’s naps.  My house then was (is) the best and prettiest house in the world and I loved every minute living in it even when we still had the fire engine red porcelain kitchen sink.

Even though we ended up having to sell our house and even though we moved away and had a somewhat wild and prickly adventure in Oregon, all the good memories are still here.  All around me.  Every day.  That’s what counts the most – all the good memories we generated between the tough times.

That’s what I’m telling myself right now as I try to force a panic attack back down my throat.

Finding My Walking Groove Again

I am a walker.  I was never into sports or the gym or jogging or hiking but I can walk across a city with great enthusiasm and speed.  When I lived in San Francisco I walked everywhere.  I rode my bicycle sometimes and of course I took Muni at night or when I didn’t have time to walk to where I was going or if I was headed for a rougher neighborhood than I wanted to walk alone in.  Though there really weren’t many neighborhoods I wouldn’t walk in.

I especially like walking while listening to music on headphones.  I get to block out the noise and the world turns into a silent film with my own hand picked soundtrack.  I love to look at architecture, people, gardens, graffiti, dark alleyways, open doorways.  I love to walk through neighborhoods at dusk when lights are just turning on and the smell of dinner wafts out of windows into the evening air.  It’s such an intimate moment in people’s lives – when they’re sauteing onions and baking things – those smells reach the street and it’s like seeing inside a person’s life through those ordinary and constant daily rhythms.

(This has always been one of my favorite houses in the McDonald neighborhood)

Some cities are better for walking in than others.  Some cities offer more interest to the eye and the nose than others.  What scenery inspires you to get outside and walk is terribly personal.  If you like to walk in one city more than another it isn’t a failing on the part of the city you don’t like to walk in – it’s just not your place.  That’s how McMinnville was for me.  There are a couple of pretty neighborhoods there with cute vintage houses and there are a few interesting gardens to see – but for my tastes it was a tedious place to walk.  A huge proportion of the town was developed after the 50’s so the major building styles are low ranches or the newer developments that are trying to be modern Victorian or fresh takes on bungalows for people who really want mansions.  And most people are fixated on 1 of 3 garden styles and they pretty  much all look the same.

It was a pretty little town in its way but there wasn’t enough variety to hold my attention as a walker.  What I did love were the bulbs in the spring – I have never seen so many beautiful bulbs than I have in Northern Oregon.  The lilacs are stunning and smell wonderful.  And the peonies – which don’t do reliably well here in Northern California – are breathtaking.  I will miss all of those things as the seasons here come and go.

But Santa Rosa is one of the best cities for walking in – for me.  For one thing – there are sidewalks everywhere.  (In McMinnville there were a surprising number of streets that had no sidewalks.)  I remember when I first lived here in Santa Rosa how surprised I was that I could go walking every day and find a new garden to admire, a new hidden street I hadn’t walked through before, and a new neighborhood tucked behind a familiar one.  There are parts of Santa Rosa that are hideously ugly.  No question about that.  There are several strip malls that are like pockmarks of doom in the city.  All of Santa Rosa Avenue is one endless open-air strip mall.  There are also plenty of gross planned McMansion neighborhoods you can live in if you like that sort of thing.  But most of them are on the outskirts because the city was developed quite a long time ago and the only room for new developments were on the edges of the city, expanding it’s boundaries.

I live downtown.  So from my house I can go in any direction and hit a cool neighborhood predominantly comprised of vintage houses of the charming kind.  Whether run down or poshed up – there’s lots of variety.  I can go a long way without running into a modern planned development.  When I first came back here I was so bunched up and worn out and ragged that taking walks for exercise seemed like more effort than I could bear.  I got a gym membership at the Y and started off using it a lot.  I love the Y.  However, collecting walnuts in the neighborhood brought my feet back to earth and fresh fall air to my lungs and I’ve been working myself up to more regular walking.

The thought of going to the Y now seems tedious.  Chick needs exercise and she’s not allowed to use the treadmills at the Y.  So.  I haven’t been to the gym in weeks but I’ve been out in the fresh air with Chick.  The side benefit to this is that the gardens I see on my walk have been stirring my hunger to get back out into the dirt.  I don’t have a big area to garden here, as I’ve mentioned, since the back yard is almost all shade and filled with a huge oak tree and a big stand of bamboo.  But there’s plenty I can do with the small front and we’ve decided to build some beds in the stupidly long driveway that gets tons of light.

So I’ve been getting out into the yard between rains this week.  Just maintenance stuff like sweeping the crepe myrtle crud off the sidewalk to avoid lawsuits.  I trimmed up my potted bay trees.  I cut back the enormous salvias choking the little walkway under my office window.  Yesterday I took Chick to the McDonald neighborhood for a 45 minute vigorous walk.  It’s where all the rich people live who like old houses (as opposed to those who like to live in mansions in new developments).  Many of the streets in the McDonald neighborhood are double wide.  There are quaint little alleys between streets where service people enter. Yep.  Service people.  And that’s where the trash cans go too.  You will never see a trashcan on the actual streets there.  I used to walk that neighborhood frequently.  I love the old houses and the gardens.

I’m a happy walker again.  My hip sometimes hurts afterwards for a day or two but I’m trying not to notice.  Just keep moving… just keep moving…

A Walk Between Storms

It’s been raining for days and I’ve been loving every minute of it.  My eyes sorely needed a break from all the bright sunlight.  There are flood warnings and this is usual for the rainy season here in Sonoma County.  Every year the Russian River floods at least a little bit.  Every year people all over Sonoma County act shocked and dismayed about the flooding as though it’s a sign of the end days, as though they didn’t just fix the flood damage in their basement last year.  Few people realize that Sonoma County only gets 10″ less rain a year than Northern Oregon on average.  Before moving north I compared weather demographics that showed yearly rainfall and many years there were only a couple of inches difference.

The reason it feels so different and the reason flooding is more common here than in Yamhill county is that in Yamhill you get rain in smaller increments for many more months of the year.  It’s only dry in Yamhill a maximum of 3 months of the year.  In Sonoma there are many years where it’s dry for 10 months and only rains for two.  It dumps almost the same amount of water in two months that it takes Oregon to dump in 10.  So, pretty much all at once.

The other main difference is that it’s much warmer most of the time here.  While it’s in the 40’s in McMinnville this week it’s in the 50’s and 60’s here.  Mostly the 60’s.

The day before yesterday it rained so hard that the gutter water on either side of the street almost met in the middle of the road.  It tore down like a punishment and then suddenly it stopped, the clouds stretched apart and everything was flooded with sunshine.  I needed to get the dog out for a walk so I got dressed and took my opportunity knowing that it wasn’t going to last.

I walked through the St. Rose Neighborhood on the other side of Santa Rosa Ave from the Cherry Street Historic District Neighborhood (mine).  Everything was shiny and glinting.  When I walk I name plants that I see if I know their names:

Oleander, sweet alyssum, fig, orange, lemon, oxalis, erigeron, lavender, buddleia, Cecile Brunner rose, potato vine, hens and chicks, English walnut, black walnut, limes, monkey flower, rosemary, Swiss chard, salvia, and camellia.

I saw all of those plants on my walk.  While the trees are shedding their dressing down to their bones, so many other plants here are still blooming.  They scented my walk – especially the sweet alyssum.  I have been disconnected from plants and gardening since moving here.  Our yard is actually a decent size but the back is mostly a big stand of bamboo and a giant old oak tree.  So – mostly shade.  The front gets tons of sun but is quite small.  Even so – I have plans.  I just haven’t been able to dig in because of all the other business of settling in and unpacking and a thousand hours with the DMV.  Oh – and because of the punishing HEAT AND CONSTANT BLINDING LIGHT.  My walk was energizing and inspiring.

Just last weekend I finally got my elderberry and my wild rose in the ground.  I can’t believe how long they’ve hung on in their buckets of water.  It’s possible that now that they’re in the ground they’ll perish.  But that’s not the point.  The point is that I got out there and it felt so damn good.  There’s a lot of maintenance I need to do outside in the yard.  Naturally it started raining right after I got back in the dirt.  I think there are a few rain-free days coming up.

I know where I’ll be heading.

Burqas, pedal vehicles, and Tap Dance

I went to the Santa Rosa Wednesday Market which runs all summer and the first thing I saw was this group of tap dancers.  It was surprising and funny and totally endearing.  Most of the Wednesday Market is just food vendors rather than farmers with produce.  There used to be way more produce stands than there are now.  I think it’s become more of a social evening on the streets and an excuse to eat street food (I’m pretty sure I saw a funnel cakes vendor but I’m hoping I imagined that).  I might write more about the produce scene on Stitch.

Some things I’ve been meaning to share:

The other day I saw six pigeon toed people within a one hour period.  At least four of them were spotted at Target.

As I was coming home via Mendocino Avenue the other evening, just about to cross College Avenue I saw a pedaled vehicle being driven by a woman in a burqa and the long loose garments traditional Muslim women wear.  The vehicle had four wheels and two rows of bench seats on which 3 blue eyed children were sitting (all wearing hijabs but not burqas).  Behind this curious pedaled cart there was a baby trailer, the kind you commonly find on bicycles.  The children were looking at my Vespa as curiously as I was looking at their cart which had pulled fully into traffic.  It really was a most wonderful sight.

I was behind a truck the other day whose business and phone number were printed on the back.  I think I might have laughed out loud.  His business was called “Steele Erection”

My body doesn’t smell like it used to.*  It’s disconcerting.  The only other time this happened was when I was pregnant.  It’s not that I started stinking or anything like that.  I just smelled different to myself.  It’s happened again and I find it disconcerting.  My theory is that this is related to my hormones which must be shifting.  I am now almost completely certain that I’ve begun peri-menopause.  (Not just based on this, obviously, but on other factors as well.)  If you are either going through the same or have already gone through menopause and know what I’m talking about – please share with me in the name of curiosity and science.

I just remembered that when I was at the Wednesday Market I also saw a teen girl dressed up as a baby girl all in white with a white parasol and there was a guy (teen?  Not teen?  Not sure.) who was paying her court, as it were.  I desperately wanted to snap a picture of them but I panicked because they scared me.  Were they doing some kind of performance art?  Were they just wacky kids dressing up?  WHAT WAS THEIR DEAL?!

Time for me to go clean the kitchen and try to cook some food so I don’t gnaw off my own hand the next time I want cheese and remember that there’s no cheese in the house now.

Have a great Tuesday!

It’s either peri-menopause or cancer.**

*Yes.  I’m talking about my ladybits.  Trying to be discreet-ish while being completely public for the sake of curiosity and science.

**Or maybe it’s the result of a food allergy.***

***Shut up.

Finding New Favorites and Missing Old Ones

The best part about settling into a new place is finding new favorite cafes and restaurants and hangouts.  Or – if you’re moving back to a place – to rediscover old favorites.  Max approves of Adele’s Diner which is just down the street from us.  I’m not sure he’ll approve as much when the curly fries run out but we’ll see.  We really miss Golden Valley Brewery for their high backed booths, they’re beers, they’re mostly reliable french fries, and their Snickers pie.

The other night Philip’s bicycle friend from Southern California stayed the night with us.  He and his daughter were en route to Portland.  He took us out and at first Philip was suggesting that we go to the Russian River Brewery on Fourth Street but I nixed this suggestion on a couple of vital points: the noise level in there is obnoxious, it’s a very adult hangout (tall stools, no french fries, mostly young hip college aged people with hook-ups in mind).  Yes, they have good beer.  But I suggested the slightly more kid friendly 3rd Street Aleworks.  They have better beer, french fries, and big tables for families, and less noise.

I was wrong about the noise level.  It was NOISY in there.  Have I mentioned how much I dislike noisy restaurants?  If you can’t have a conversation without being a few inches from the mouths issuing sounds then it’s too loud.  Or if you have to shout.  How did I not remember that?  However, on all other counts I was right.  It has great beer (less aggressive than the Russian River brews), good food (decent fries – Max ate quite a few), and nice big tables for groups of people.  The nachos were very good.  Max was not thrilled with the noise level and was also put off by the home made potato chips which he also tried (some soft bits on a few chips repulsed him) so after eating some fries and drinking one and a half Mr. Pibbs (which he was keen to try because of affiliation with American Dad) he went off to check out the other restaurant next door called “The Flip Side” which he’s decided we must try next because it’s much quieter and they have french fries and Mr. Pibb as well.  “Coca Cola products” as he put it.  (As a side note – Max normally prefers to drink either root beer or Dr. Pepper)  Both these places are right next to a movie theater which Max noted with interest.  Strange, because he hates going to the movie theater.  I commented on this and he says he might be interested in trying it out again.

There are days (like yesterday) when all the electronics in the house stop working (our internet connection sucks, our remote controls are weird, and we had 2 bad video game purchases) and Max decides we need to move back to Oregon where things worked and the Game Stop didn’t suck and the video rental place had video games to rent (apparently there is nowhere to rent video games in Santa Rosa).  But then we go to Sweet Tooth and thoughts of fleeing back to McMinnville evaporate.  Sweet Tooth is his new favorite cafe.  They have coffee and Italian Sodas (grape flavor is on order just for Max!) and soft serve ice cream and frozen yogurt and a whole store full of candy.  New and old kinds, gimmicky kinds, weird kinds (little plastic hospital bag of blood, for example), and humorous packs of gum.  It’s a candy lover’s mecca.

My favorite places (so far) are Third Street Ale Works (in spite of the noise), Trader Joe’s, Treehorn Books (good old fashioned used bookstore), El Patio, and The Tearoom in Petaluma.  I haven’t found my own favorite cafe yet but I enjoy going to Sweet Tooth with Max just because he enjoys it so much.

I have yet to visit the farmer’s market here but hope to do that on Saturday.  I still need a library card (the library in McMinnville is very good – but the Santa Rosa library is much bigger so there’s more available) and I really need to get myself to some Chinese and Indian restaurants.  However, what with all the grocery buying (so expensive here!) and electronics replacements, joining the Y and getting shoes… must budget.  We still have to make one more trip to the old house for the rest of our furniture and things.  It will all fit in a much much smaller truck than before but will still be quite expensive.  Plus – the IRS is pounding down my door.  So all the frivolous going out to dinner and exploring restaurants must wait.  For now we will only go where Max wants to go because dining out will be a family experience.

What I’m missing in McMinnville (aside from friends):

Movietime Video


Saturday Market

Golden Valley

I’m off to get some work done and later go to the Y for my 3rd workout in a row and then I must hang out with the kid.  Have a great Thursday!

The Porch Life

Our farmhouse had a wonderful porch.  We did love to sit on it and enjoy the view which happened to be our own back yard.  The down side of having your front porch in your back yard is that there’s no watching the comings and goings of the neighborhood.  Being part of a porch peanut-gallery is one of life’s greatest activities.  Our new house has a wonderful porch that looks out at the street and as the street we live on is fairly bustling it affords us opportunity to observe and even TALK TO NEIGHBORS.  If you didn’t know this already – neighbors are a lot more likely to say hello if you’re in your front yard doing something that looks relaxing such as enjoying a festive beverage while lounging in a brightly painted Adirondack chair than if you skulk behind your 6 foot tall fence.

If I want to be unseen I can either go back in my house or I can go into my private back yard.  This is a healthy arrangement.  I love having a porch life!

Speaking of our back yard… we have a giant heritage oak in ours that gives the most wonderful shade to those of us who loathe the direct light of the sun.  I think Chick is scared of the bird noises in the tree – there are several varieties that hang out in there and chatter and/or complain.  She’s also afraid of the neighbor who practices playing the tuba.  I personally LOVE hearing the tuba playing – it makes me smile every single time.  It reminds me of when I was practicing playing the accordion every day worrying that I was bothering the neighbors.

I want, for the sake of the people I love that I left back in McMinnville, to be circumspect in my praise of Santa Rosa and of my new house.  However, have I not always resolved to be as truthful as I can here in my corner?  So – I have to say that I am so happy to be home and within two days I had the strangest feeling that maybe someone slipped drugs into my water and I just had the longest most surreal bad trip and I just woke up the next morning six years ago – that’s how much I feel like I’ve come home and how bad McMinnville was for me.

What year is it?  It’s the friends I love that I left behind in Yamhill County that are keeping the reality clear – and also I think if it weren’t for them I would not have lived long enough to make it back to California.

Coming home and immediately being surrounded by the love and help of so many friends here I realize how unbelievably fucking lucky I am that I have the ability to make good friends wherever I go.  Yes yes yes – I have joked a lot about the enemies I’ve made in McMinnville but the other side of it is that I made more friends than enemies and my life is rich with them and no matter how much I have to learn in life (I have a lot to learn in life) and no matter how many mistakes I make (I make a shitload of mistakes all the time) there is no way I would have so many people pulling for me and helping me and supporting me through tough times if I was a truly bad person.

I’ve spent a good amount of time recently staring at my feet smoking on the floor of hell asking myself what I need to do to get the brimstone outta my hair and I’m still not sure about the answer but I know what hands reached out and pulled me up and I know that I owe a lot to a lot of people.  You’re all on the balance sheet and if you need me to pick the coals out of your eyes I’ll burn my fingers doing it.

I don’t think I’ve been relaxed in 6 years.  Not down to my bones.  I relaxed on my porch yesterday and talked with friends Philip went to college with and I unpacked more boxes.  I don’t think I’ve been this happy for 8 days in a row in six years either.  Coming home is powerful.  I think it’s valuable in life to try new things, new places, and have adventures outside of your comfort zone.  Sometimes you accidentally discover that you were never home in the first place until you traveled and landed somewhere you never dreamed was in your blood – but when you find home you know it.

We owe a lot of money in back taxes.  I am waiting for my work check which we expected to come the Friday before our move and consequently we’re on our last few dollars today.  I have to face putting Max in a real school and I have to get all his assessments lined up.  I don’t know what I’ll be able to do for my child here.  My dog is scared of so much right now and I still haven’t let my cats outside.  My house is still largely unpacked and I’m still quite behind in work (but starting to catch up).

For all of that – I’m just happy.  I’m not worried.  Not about the big picture.  I know we’ll be able to pay our bills and catch up with taxes.  I’m still worried about things like my first spider bite in years which I’m a little obsessed with because I opened it up to let the fluid out because the hard little bump was really irritating me (as in: couldn’t stop thinking about it or touching it) and then it freakily kept filling up and getting all tight and hard again.  But this is ME.  This is my usual stupid anxiety and I can put it into better perspective when I’m not constantly freaking out about the bigger picture.

I love this house of my aunt and my mom’s.  I LOVE IT.  They chose the wall colors so carefully and because they are who they are – the colors are fantastic!  I’ve never moved into a house with wall colors I don’t wish to change.  The dining room especially reminds me of everything I love about my aunt – it’s this soft elegant lavender color with a creamy ceiling and white trim.  It’s wonderful!  We keep trying to find faults so our old house will not feel bad, like how the water pressure in this house sucks.  Yes, it sucks, but it’s ridiculous to point that out since we got used to it within a mere few days.

I love that my kitchen has a window that can actually be opened.  It’s kind of important.  This evening I baked hamburger buns using my friend Emma’s recipe – there’s nothing better than filling a new house with the smell of baking bread.  I haven’t been in the bread making habit for years but I used to bake a lot of it and while I wouldn’t call myself any kind of master – I was good at it.  It seems fitting that coming home would result in the exhumation of old habits.

Life is still going to be messy and stressful and tangled because that’s the nature of the beast but my light, which nearly extinguished recently, has been re-lit.  I am enjoying the simplest of things like my cat Penny’s silhouette in the window of our new home as I look up from outside and see all that warmth spilling out.

My door is always open and if you come I will let you in.

Provided you are gun and hostility free.  And haven’t been bitten by a zombie.

Now, any ideas how I can convince my friend Sharon to start a pigeon messaging system between our houses?