Posts Tagged ‘July’

A restaurant review

July 28, 2013

Every summer I gotta go to Big Bear. It’s a couple hours away from me, but I will get up and drive there to eat bacon-and-cheese waffles for breakfast at The Teddy Bear Restaurant, or to roam The Village for jewelry and boots.

I discovered this place when my husband had a three-day conference there on my birthday years ago. I tagged along, intending to stay in the hotel, as I always do when he has a conference. I spend his conferences in the tub with a book.

We stayed at the Northwoods Resort, which borders The Village. I wandered out looking for breakfast and found a row of small businesses that could have been planned for me as a birthday surprise.

First there was a bath shop. I bought bath oils, bath beads, soaps and lotions. These are my favorite things — right up there with chocolate and books.

Then I looked down the street and saw several coffeehouses and chocolatiers. There were three bookstores, too. I may have cried.

After a quick morning buying myself gifts, I climbed into my oiled bath with a novel and some tri-tip. An hour later I was by the fire with red wine and chocolate-dipped things like strawberries and pretzels. It was one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had.

My husband returned to find a wife with a totally balanced chi.

My husband had this conference every August for a few years, but last year there was nothing. It was gone, and it wasn’t coming back. We went up on our own twice. I just needed to smell the place.

Today I couldn’t stand it. I’ve been missing that town so much I can’t concentrate, so at 1 p.m. I put the kids in the car and went.

About 4 o’clock we walked past a small, tucked-back door that said “Pizzeria.” I was Book-and-Bean bound, and didn’t give a fig about the pizzeria, but I noted that I didn’t remember seeing it there before.

Then around 5 the kids got hungry. They said they had a craving for pizza. I was surprised by this, because we almost never eat it. More surprising, they were both in the mood for the same thing.

I’ve been experimenting with some new recipes. Last night we had pita, stuffed with vegetables, chicken and cantalope and topped with a tarragon mayonnaise. I guess I understand why they were in accord.

So I pointed them toward the doorway I’d noticed. It was Saucy Mama’s Pizza. We walked past some umbrellaed tables in the narrow space between two buildings, and entered the place, which was mostly behind an ice-cream and fudge parlor.

It had a great atmosphere. I love a pizzeria with red-checkered tablecloths. A guy was tossing a big circle of dough in the air. We chose the table with tall stools.

My daughter ordered a vegetable calzone, and my son and I split a Hawaiian Delight pizza, which had Canadian bacon, pineapple and regular bacon chunks on it.

I have rambled on all this time to get to this sentence: This was the best pizza I have ever eaten in my life.

We packed up half the calzone and two slices of pizza for Daddy. My son and I almost wept, denying ourselves those last two slices.

Back at home, we presented the food to my husband like begging dogs at his feet.

He shook his head at us, “I can’t believe it’s as good as you guys are saying. It’s just pizza. You three have built it up so much, there’s no food can live up to your description.”

He bent over his plate and took a bite. Then he looked up, met my eyes, and nodded.

“Oh my God.”

The kids and I started cheering and hugging. We were crazed with the greatness of this food.

Then the dam broke, and my husband would not shut up. “The crust is sublime. These people must be from New York. This sauce is fantastic….”

So there it is, my first post as an amateur food critic. Get on a plane, wherever you are, and fly here so you can eat at Saucy Mama’s Pizza.

If you want my family to sit at your feet and watch you take your first bite, we’ll be happy to make the drive up the mountain.


How I ended up in journalism

June 14, 2013

I promised to tell you about how I threw over The Hot Guy for The Smart Guy. I have to get to it, because on July 26 I have a story about us, and you should have been introduced to him by then.

Let’s recap what we have so far of my post-high school adventures: I worked as a hula-hooping singer at a ’50s place until a former customer saw me in public and offered me a job at a college where a Hot Guy came in asking for paperwork for a semester in Mexico, which I had never heard of but said I was doing, too.

So there I was, living in Mexico based on the lie that I could speak Spanish. I lived with a family there. I was a student at the Universidad de Guanajuato.

Every morning we rode an open-air bus over the cobbled streets to the university. All of us Californians got picked up along the same route.

There was a panaderia next to the school, where several of us would buy bolillos fresh out of the oven. I remember standing in that bakery in the overcast of the mornings, breaking my bolillo in half so I could shove my face into the steam and aroma.

In Mexico, papaya juice is their orange juice. They use what’s labeled here as sweet butter — there’s no salt in it. And when you order cheese on something, you get a white, crumbly goat cheese. I didn’t like any of these things, but I liked bolillos.

From the panaderia we tackled the stairs to our classrooms. I counted them once, and wish I had written down the number. There were more than 100. First there were the wide steps to get into the building, which you can see a picture of in Photos O’ Mine. Then there was a series of short switchback stairs we took to the top tower, about six stories up.

It was on those switchbacks I lost my heart.

There was a guy with unruly hair and tragically matched clothing who went up ahead of me. I always made sure I was behind him, so I could smell his cologne. I go weak in the knees for Polo. The Hot Guy smelled like cigarettes.

By the time we were loaded on a bus for a weekend in Guadalajara, I had completely lost interest in The Hot Guy. I made a point of sitting by the guy from the stairs for the six-hour ride.

He was wearing green denim pants and a turquoise sweater vest.

He had a gentle voice and kind manners. He told me interesting things and laughed at my stories. When we ran out of conversation I read aloud to him from my Katherine Stone novel. We got so engrossed in the story, that when all the kids went out dancing that night, we stayed back to finish the book.

This smart guy had become much hotter than The Hot Guy.

I loved being around him. By the time we were back in Guanajuato we were together all the time. We knew each other’s favorite things.

He had been a writer for his school’s newspaper. “Me too!” I said, which was true insofar as two of my St. Patrick’s Day entries won the limerick contest and were published.

As the summer grew short, I got worried. He had been accepted to Stanford, and would be moving there from Laguna Niguel a month after we returned. That was far from me. I began to send him telepathic messages to ask me to go with him. Ultimately he learned my hope when we wrote entries in each other’s diaries. He asked.

Back in the States he showed me the newspapers he had been a part of. I was inspired. When I enrolled for the fall semester, I joined the staff.

This story picks back up with The Earthquake story. After that quake, The Smart Guy, along with many others, suffered from depression. He cut me loose out of guilt for bringing me down, which broke my heart.

Then in spring I was sent to Hawaii….

The Smart Guy is now running Yahoo!

Click here for photo

How we got our piano

March 16, 2013

My daughter is in Washington, D.C., for spring break.

When we went there on a family vacation we got a big thrill. A twin to our piano is on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

We have an antique quarter-grand Chickering. It has amazing sound, which we are told will continue to be true for generations.

We almost didn’t get it. When we found it in the classifieds, it was advertised at $2,500. We figured it was old; we’d have a tuner look at it and offer what it was really worth. If the old lady selling it let us pay a little every month we could pay off two grand in a year.

This plan began to fall apart when the tuner said it was worth more than she was asking, and completely unraveled when she told us she underpriced it, because she wanted the money right away.

It was a humiliating afternoon. My son was testing out the goods with a Bach piece when she threw us out of her powder-blue living room with a huffy ‘well I never!’

This was a month after his second surgery — the one to remove the disfiguring tumors.

Because whatever was wrong with him had never been seen before, the Discovery Channel did a Medical Diary episode about him. All of the local papers ran a story about the local boy who was on TV.

The day after the show first aired we got a call from the old lady we offended. She knew there was something special about that boy, she insisted.

She wanted us to take the piano for $2,000, pay for it as we were able, and accept the bench, lamp and sheet music to boot.

We had too much pride for that. We would pay the full price.

And by ‘pride,’ I mean money from my mother-in law.

link to photos

The Twilight Zone

January 27, 2013

Today my daughter and I stayed home sick. We bundled under Granny Jane’s afghan with tea and watched a Twilight Zone marathon.

When this show is on, one of us has to say, “Remember that time…?”

Here’s what happened that time.

We were on a road trip to see everybody and everything worth seeing in the USA via minivan. We had six VHS tapes packed with Twilight Zone episodes and a portable TV/VCR in the back.

We weren’t watching it, because I was reading Tom Sawyer out loud, and whenever I tried to stop, everybody hollered for more. But on a stretch between Boulder and Mount Rushmore we decided to pop in an episode so I could eat a PB&J. It was July 21.

The first episode on the tape was “One for the Angels,” in which Ed Wynn is visited by a man — death — come to take him to the other side.

Wynn argues with him, but death insists, showing him his appointment book, “Look here, it says I am to pick up Lew Bookman, that’s you, at 1:36 p.m. on July 21, that’s now.”

Dad called from the driver’s seat, “What’s today’s date?”


We all looked up at the clock. It was 1:36 p.m.

Whoa! We had been changing time zones everyday, and we watched only one episode out of 70.

So we did what all red-blooded Americans do when faced with eerie coincidence. We sang the Twilight Zone theme.

The rugby reunion story

December 17, 2012

Today we got a Christmas card from the Rooney family. I must tell you what happened during our stay at their home.

When we made our Road Trip USA (one month, one mini-van, the whole country), we planned our route to include not only every major landmark in the country but every significant person in our lives.

Over the years I’ve tried to plan reunions of various kinds: family, high school friends, my bridal party. It never works. People are spread out hither and yon. It was either go to them individually or live on Christmas cards.

We went out a-visiting.

Among the stops were two of my husband’s college rugby foursome. One was in the Colorado mountains, and one — Rooney — was in Long Island, New York. I had never met and couldn’t find the third.

We drove to Long Island from my in-laws’ house in upstate New York and spent the night at the Rooneys’. It was great. Our children played together. We had barbecue and beer on the deck. In the morning we would linger over goodbyes and head for Uncle Jer’s in New Jersey.

The doorbell rang as we were getting coffee. It was the Sanchez family, just in from Colorado. Grampa had died, and they came for the funeral, figured to swing by and catch a visit with the Rooneys.

We pulled out two more coffee mugs and the doorbell rang again. It was the mysterious fourth family, down from Connecticut for a sister’s wedding, swinging by for a catch-up with the Rooneys.

All four of those rowdy boys were together by happenstance, eating bagels in the kitchen — seven children in the yard, four wives in the living room talking about births and hairstyles.

It had been 15 years since they’d all been together, and may be 15 over again. It may be never.

We’re back to living on Christmas cards, but now I believe in magic.

My cousin knows me too well

December 9, 2012

Today is my baby cousin’s birthday.

I call her my baby cousin, as if I have some kind of seniority. She’s prettier, thinnier, richer, smarter and a better athlete. She puts the word ‘doctor’ before her name because she earned it, and she commutes to work in Washington, D.C. from her home on the beach in California.

My only seniority is being six years older, which isn’t as exciting as it was when I was in my 20s.

Today is her birthday, but because I’m egocentric, I thought I’d talk about my birthday, and how she brightened it.

As you know, I turned 40 only just. I said in my head, I spent my young, firm-body years wishing I had the courage to get my belly button pierced. I’m fast becoming an old hag. I’m on the cusp of its being ridiculous. It’s now or never.

So I made an appointment with a plastic surgeon, who put me under to do it. This is how big a sissy I am.

The man couldn’t help but notice the toll five years of lactating took on the breasts he had to tie out of the way to do the piercing.

He urged me to get a boob job. I stood firm — you know, figuratively — and just got the piercing.

Here’s where my baby cousin comes in.

She sent me one of the two funniest birthday cards I’ve ever gotten, (Fred Bauman sent me the other.) It showed two blue-haired wrinkly old biddies playing poker.

One of them has a speech bubble that says, “I’m thinking of piercing my belly button.” The other says, “Really?”

On the inside she replies, “That way I can put a hook in it to hold up my bra.”

Nailed it.

click here for photo

The really big poop story

October 7, 2012

On the same vacation as The road trip fight story, we stayed in Rogue River, Oregon at the Weasku Inn.

My Unca Rob lives nearby, and kept calling it the Whydon’tyoucome Inn. Unca Rob is either getting old, or he’s still got it. Who can tell?

This place is a dream. Instead of motel rooms, you get an A-frame cabin with bedrooms and a living room. The soaps in the bathroom smell woodsy. We had a fireplace and a back porch over the river.

To eat, you walk across a lawn my son called the Frisbee park to the lodge. There was a big dining room, a billiard area and a community bathroom.

That’s where I saw it.

I spent the whole drive home from work today trying to think of adjectives to describe the size of this thing. It was just smaller than a loaf of bread.

I had gone in to pee. When I found it there my eyes went wide. I ran out and called in everybody to see it. Would you believe they came running?

Normally I would have worried they’d think I had made it, but not this time.

My husband said, “Someone feels really good right now.”

There was no flushing it. The diameter of the toilet’s hole was too small by half.

My husband went to alert an employee.

I spent the rest of our stay trying to figure out who it was, but none of the large men was walking funny.

The road trip fight

September 5, 2012

In the summer of 2001 we drove up the west coast for vacation.

It was two weeks of heaven, with one day of hell tacked on the end.

Our last stop was the Monterey Bay Aquarium. By then we had seen Hearst Castle, Carmel Beach, the California Redwoods, The Santa Cruz Boardwalk, the Rogue River, Seattle, Victoria Canada and San Francisco.

We were tired. The kids were 6 and 8.

Several hours from home they started this:

“Stop saying OK!” “OK!”

They didn’t stop until they fell asleep 40 miles from our driveway.

They did this naturally, but only because I didn’t have access to chloroform.

click here for photo

A miracle?

August 21, 2012

One summer we packed the kids plus Uncle Jer and Katherine in cars and drove to Southern California for a vacation.

At the end of the visit my mom dropped a bomb. The doctor had found a tumor on her cervix. It appeared to be growing rapidly.

In a week she would have surgery.

I put my suitcase back down and waved everyone but the babies back to Boulder. I would stay until 10 days after the surgery, to offer emotional support, tend to her post-op care and do the cooking and cleaning.

She had been through breast cancer in ’90, so we took this seriously.

On the day of the operation, the waiting room was packed with family. My grampa stayed home with my kids.

About an hour and a half into it, the surgeon came in looking sorrowful. “We opened her up and found tumors all over the place. There’s a big one we hadn’t even known about, because it’s hiding behind the intestine.” Or some such.

“We can get some of them out, but some are inoperable, so there isn’t a lot of point. We’re aborting the mission and closing her up.”

He shook his head, making another go at his sorrowful face, and walked out.

It was quiet in the waiting room. Then my grama stood up. She was calm and dignified. She strode out of the room.

I peeked out the door’s window and saw her in the hall with her back to the wall. I thought about my own daughter and left her to her privacy.

After a long time, I went to check on her. She was gone.

 Then she came back in and sat next to me. She leaned in conspiratorially, topped it off with a knee pat and said, “Everything is going to be fine.”

Was she losing it? Nothing was fine.

She smiled and began talking with Uncle Monty about the price of housing in Whittier.

I said, “Nana, are you OK?”

She said, “I visualized the doctor walking in and saying, ‘Everything’s OK. There’s no cancer.’ Then I went to the chapel and prayed for it to be me instead.”

This seemed to be final. She made that nod you make when you just replaced the batteries in your flashlight and you’re ready to get on with using it.

Then the doctor flung the door open. He had put on his congratulatory face and was smiling at us each in turn. “Everything’s OK! There’s no cancer.”

Holy crap.

“We did a freeze section on one of the tumors. It was fibroid tissue.”

Um. Wasn’t that ruled out early?

“We can’t figure it. She hasn’t had a uterus or a period in 13 years. Fibroid tumors are an impossibility. But that’s what they are.”

Shortly after, Nana began chemotherapy for macroglobulanemia, which is a cancer in the blood and bones.

I believe this was a coincidence. Nevertheless, if anyone sees me go into surgery, please show my Nana where the hallway is.

Scotchie’s proposal

August 15, 2012

The John of my personal Beatles, who I refer to in my posts as Scotchie, is celebrating his birthday today.

A few years ago he amped up his wife hunting, because his biological clock was about to chime 40.

I didn’t figure it would be as hard as it was. Scotchie is a perfect catch. He’s smart, thoughtful, funny and good-looking. He loves to play games, and brings so much enthusiasm he makes them fun for everyone. He’s affectionate. He left a career as a reporter to work at the county animal shelter finding homes for abandoned pets. His family is large and embracing. He listens to Weezer and Billie Holiday.

So it surprised me that it took so long to find a nice Catholic girl who hiked and wanted kids.

About a year ago he found one, and she’s perfect. Last month he flew to Pennsylvania, where she lives, and he proposed to her.

He took her to a romantic bridge with a ring in his pocket.

They were standing right in front of the theater where the famous The Blob movie-evacuation scene was filmed.

It was the anniversary of  The Blob’s release. Will you believe this is a holiday? It was Blobfest. Good timing, Scotchie.

Amid a throng of enthusiasts re-enacting a jelly escape, Scotchie took her hand and got on his knee. She thought he was kidding.

Here’s how I know the details. One of the Blobfesters was videotaping the Blobfestivities, and his buddy tapped his shoulder and said, “Hey this guy’s about to propose.”

Scotchie’s proposal is on YouTube.

Hey, Scotchie, if you’re looking for a site for the ceremony, I just discovered where they filmed Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The casino story

July 31, 2012

Tonight at dinner my son’s girlfriend told us her parents went to Morongo casino with $500 and lost it all.

On the way out, her dad found a single dollar in his pocket. He put it in a machine and won $700.

I’m lucky too, kind of.

I have been in a casino once in my life. I was 14.

There was a family reunion in Lake Tahoe. My aunt Elsie, one of my grama’s sisters, was a gambler like nobody’s business. She dragged a bunch of people over the state line to Reno for an afternoon.

She, my grama, my mom and I don’t even know who else were in the casino, and my cousins and I were in an arcade in another part of the mall.

Aunt Elsie was winning, and she kept bringing us tokens.

The arcade games took quarters.

My cousin Stephanie and I went to find her and give them back. We stood in the hall area at the entrance to the action. The slot machines were packed in tight, right up to the edge of the door jamb.

…Where I stood with a pocketful of tokens.

What would you do?

I still technically had my feet outside the casino, which I thought meant something, I guess. I dropped a token in a slot machine and pulled the handle.

It was loud. Lights started flashing, sirens went off and coins poured clanking into a steel bin. Oops.

Security guards were on me before I had a chance to curse. I remember without affection the brick surface my face was pressed against. My hands were behind my back.

The guard got me out of reach of the winnings and demanded, “Where are your parents? Are your parents here?”

“No.” Please don’t let one of my 50 relatives in the room look this way.

“How did you get here?”

“We walked from our hotel.” This was taking a long time. OK, if someone has to see us, please let it be Aunt Elsie. Aunt Elsie would probably keep a straight face and tell the officer I was 21.

He let me go with a hollering at, and my family was none the wiser.

Except Stephie, who laughed all the way back to the arcade. “I wish you could have seen your face. Man you were sh**ting bricks.”

Based on this one-token history of casino gambling, I announce myself to be lucky, kind of.

I tried to get married in Mexico

July 26, 2012

Twenty years ago today The Smart Guy and I celebrated his 20th birthday by getting a little nutty.

We were living in Guanajuato, doing a semester at the university there, and getting excited about finding each other.

As we did every night, we hung out at a bar called ¿Donde?, drinking some things I can’t remember the name of. There was an upside-down shot glass full of tequila submerged in a rocks glass of beer. When the shot glass is lifted, the drinks blend and you drink it really fast. These were awful. I had lots.

The Smart Guy and I went wandering — read ‘staggering’ — among the old buildings and found ourselves in an ancient basilica.

“Let’s do it,” we said — read ‘slurred.’

There was a priest in there. At least, there was a man in there we assumed to be a priest. We asked him to marry us.

He refused on two grounds: We weren’t Catholic, and we didn’t have a marriage certificate. Our state of lucidity apparently had no bearing.

We were in love, though, we said. We tried to bribe him. We were a classy, pair, The Smart Guy and I.

The Father seemed to gather we weren’t going to leave, so he said some words in Latin and waved his arms ceremoniously to pacify us. He was translating an Eagles song for all we knew, but we were pleased and the Father was rid of us.

The next day we went out with all our exchange-student friends and fed each other cake.

At the time, none of this struck me as nutty. I’m glad for that.

My grampa’s death

July 24, 2012

My grampa died on this date, 12 years ago.

About three months after we discovered the tumors in my son’s head, my grampa was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

This was out of nowhere. He didn’t smoke or live with a smoker. He was a watercolor artist.

The doctor told him he had about a year to live. It was March.

I came by the house sometime that spring and found him repaving the driveway. I sat in my car for a second shaking my head that he would spend his remaining time doing this.

I must have had a face, because he pointed to it when I approached and said there was a crack.

I thought, ‘What did he care?’

It later occurred to me he didn’t want my grama to have to deal with it.

Everybody handled his impending death differently.

He didn’t have the fighting spirit my mom wanted him to have, but he was cooperative. He drank the tea she gave him.

Nana took him for a weeklong camp with Deepak Chopra.

Then one morning in July my grama got up and went to the bathroom. She hurried, as always, to get back to the bedroom before my grampa beat her to making the bed.

She found the bed unmade. With a peek into the family room she could see he had fallen back to sleep in his recliner. She smiled at that. She made the bed.

Then she did her face and hair.

When she went to him, he had his hand on his chest, and he wasn’t breathing.

He was warm.

She calmly called 911, and then my mom. She says his spirit embraced her. I believe this. She’s never done anything calmly.

She knew it was over.

We realized in the aftermath they hadn’t believed the doctor. There were no plans, except to go on a cruise. They had tickets on a ship that left the day of his funeral.

Nana even discovered afterward there was a mix up with their life insurance, and they weren’t covered.

We all jumped in and helped with arrangements for the body, the service, Nana on her own.

I wrote and delivered the eulogy.

People asked, how could I do that?

How could I not? I had too much to say.

Redwood Summer

July 16, 2012

A human-rights activist has been kidnapped and killed.

This brings back a terrible memory.

Two weeks after I moved to Boulder to live near my boyfriend, a group from the University of Colorado Environmental Center rented a bus and went to California to be a part of Redwood Summer.

This was a gathering, primarily of college students, in Northern California. The kids were staging protests against the logging industry.

It was a peaceful effort. Ben & Jerry would be there, and the ice cream would be free. I grabbed two cameras and my reporter’s notebook and jumped aboard.

On the way out our busful engaged in nonviolence training.

When we arrived in Humbolt County, we were met with the somber news that the events’ organizers, Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, had been hospitalized. A bomb exploded under Bari when she sat in the driver’s seat of her car. Her pelvis was blown apart, among other things.

This was the first indication that I was in harm’s way.

We sat cross-legged in a ring on the floor while our leader guy did an emotion check. I was freaking out. I am not brave.

This news had the protesters angry and ready to charge. Our exercise that afternoon was role playing, to prepare ourselves for confrontations with loggers.

First I played a protester. My ersatz logger was shoving me and yelling obsenities. I practiced not fighting back.

Then it was my turn to be the logger. Perhaps it was because of my journalism training, or because I was not a protester, but I was surpised by the myopia these kids had.

My logger response in this game was “I hear you, but I have a family that depends on me. I don’t cut and haul what I’m told; I don’t get paid.”

My drill partner said, “I never thought of that.” Those zealous college kids were putting themselves in danger without even considering the other side. I agreed with them, mind, but thought they couldn’t have a good strategy without they saw the forest through the trees.

The plan for the next day was something called ‘Cat and Mouse.’ This was not a drill. Half of the protesters sneaked into the forest at 4 a.m. to hide, the second half at 6. The idea was that the loggers couldn’t fell trees knowing there was a bunch of people in there.

I was with a group in a gully as dawn broke. I can’t describe how frightened I was. Mingled with the sounds of the forest was the voice in my head, replaying ‘This is a bad idea.’ I couldn’t make it stop.

A large, strong man appeared at some point on higher ground. He had seen my group, and was heaving softball-size boulders at us. If one had made contact with someone’s head it could have been fatal. People started running, but I’m slow and got separated. I called for my boyfriend, and forgot to use the code name he was assigned. I didn’t know what to do. I struggled up the side of the gully, but there was no trail, and it was steep. It was also dark, and I was afraid. This was out of the cover of the trees, but I just wanted to get out of there.

I couldn’t hear the quiet anymore, just screaming from the protesters, yelling from the loggers, and thuds from the rocks they threw. That’s what my husband says he remembers the most — the thuds.

As I crested the forest I saw a sherrif’s car. I ran to it and embraced the officer. Shortly after, my boyfriend found me. We were done with this craziness.

The officer gave my boyfriend and me a ride to our camp. I used that time to get his perspective for my story, but he also asked us a lot of questions. By the end of the ride, I had a great article, and the officer had decided he agreed with the environmentalists’ cause.

By nightfall one of our number hadn’t returned. We learned he had been caught by a group of loggers and beaten with an axe handle and abandoned.

That was the end of the action for the Coloradans. We got our free ice cream and headed back.

I grabbed a stack of local newspapers before we hit the road. Someone had done a story on my boyfriend, me and our officer friend, who was a Mendocino County sheriff sergeant. He had credited us by name with educating him on the issue and inspiring him to work toward protecting old-growth forests.

Shoot, if I’d known I would make my biggest impact sitting in a car, I never would have gone into that forest.

And to top it off, someone else had written my story.

The dress story

July 4, 2012

I made my daughter a million little sundresses. I made infant ones, toddler ones and elementary-sized ones.

She had them with frogs, flowers, easter eggs, fireworks, shamrocks and Sesame Street characters.

I also shopped at second-hand stores.

One Fourth of July she was sitting next to me on the curb waiting for the parade. She wore a red-and-white handmade sundress I had bought at my mom’s church’s rummage sale.

A family friend, who later became the middle-school band director for both my kids, sat down with her daughters on her other side, and made conversation.

“How are you today? That’s a pretty little dress. Did your mommy make it?”

My daughter looked to me. “Did you make this, Mommy?”

I felt like taking the easy way and just saying yes. It was just like the ones I made, and her wearing one I didn’t make defied the odds. Also, I figured she was just making preschooler conversation, and it didn’t really matter.

But I said no.

Then our friend said, “Mm-hmm. I made it.”

I live in such a small town.

The grocery store story

June 24, 2012

I love to cook. I plan every week’s menu on Saturday morning and tape it to the refrigerator. Tonight we’re having chicken marsala, watercress and citrus salad, and pecan rice pilaf.

My husband usually comes home, leans against the fridge and says over the crumpling sounds of my menu, “Smells wonderful. What’re we having?”

Then I have to move my complaining bracelet.

He also stands under the calendar and asks if we have any plans today.

There. Now my complaining bracelet is back where it started.

My point is I put work, time and love into nutritious meals for my family, and am proud to make almost everything from scratch. (Please pretend you did not read the post that begins, ‘My son and I were at McDonald’s.’)

Last summer, I got it in my head to teach my son how to make his favorite dish, his being only three years from going off to college. I pulled out the recipe and had him make a grocery list.

We set out to shop.

This happened to be during my husband’s trip to visit his mother in Pennsylvania. My kids and I were whooping it up in his absence. We went to the beach, played board games and watched reruns of “Good Times” in our camping tent, which took up the whole kitchen.

This wild abandon infected our trip to the store. We were throwing all kinds of crap in the cart. There was Chef Boyardee, Ben & Jerry’s, Dino Nuggets and Pasta Roni in there. Whatever. Looks good. Toss it in.

We rounded the corner by the cheese and saw a girl I knew in high school. She was and is a beautiful, popular blonde. She was and is sweet and friendly.

After an enthusiastic round of ‘You look great,’ I introduced her to my kids and headed for the checkout.

My son wrapped his arms around me. “I’m so sorry, Mom. Of all the times….”

Do I look bad? What?

“I tried to block the cart,” he looked genuinely sorry, “but I think she saw the Pasta Roni.”

I hadn’t thought to be embarrassed, but once he’d mentioned it I like to died.

If anyone sees Jill, please make excuses for me.

A smaller earthquake story

June 22, 2012

My mother asked at our Fathers Day dinner tonight, “Did you feel the earthquake this morning?”

I came home and looked it up. It was a 3.3 at 7:30. Is she sleeping on a seismograph? I don’t think I would have felt that if I was expecting it.

I’m glad she brought it up, because it gives me the opportunity to tell you another earthquake story.

Last summer I was sitting in the breakfast nook, which has a flimsy-feeling floor, when my husband stood behind me dancing or some such.

I felt a jiggle.

I made my this-might-be-the-beginning-of-The-Big-One face, half standing with my palms flat on the table, and said, “Did you feel a little earthquake?”

My husband shook his head like I’m an idiot. “I did that. Here, I’ll do it again.”

He bent his knees and bounced. As he did this, I felt the floor roll and shake under me.

“Stop it!” I yelled, because for a minute I believed he was shaking the breakfast room.

No. He just happened to do that as a 5.5 earthquake struck.

The intruder story

June 19, 2012

School’s out for summer. My kids are home.

When I was a kid, my parents were already at work by the time I got out of bed during break.

We lived in a big, old house on a busy street.

One morning in the middle of the summer I had gotten up and gone into the bathroom. Just before I flushed, I heard someone in the house. Someone with heavy footsteps.

I crept to the door and turned the lock quietly. Then I crouched next to the toilet behind the little wall dividing it from the tub. From there, I listened to the intruder opening cabinets in the dining room and pulling dishes out. That’s where the crystal was.

I pictured a guy in striped convict clothes with a Zorro mask emptying the dishes into a large sack.

He went from room to room. I tried periodically to figure out how to get out the window, but it was too high. I was a small 12-year-old.

Finally I resigned myself to my fate. I would be killed. At  some point he would try the bathroom door, and there was nothing I could do but wait.

I imagined my family hearing the news by phone. One at a time I pictured my aunts’ and cousins’ reactions.

I thought how I hadn’t appreciated it when I wasn’t scared.

Then I heard the intruder clear his throat. It was my dad.

I waited for him to do it again, because I wanted to be sure before I emerged.

By then I was mad. Why didn’t anyone tell me he was going to be home? He never stayed home.

I heard him say, “I wondered why you were in there so long” as I stomped off to watch Three’s Company.

The angel story

May 11, 2012

This morning I was reading a book we bought at the Winchester Mystery House. It’s California ghost stories.

I was reading one to my daughter while she skimmed the pool, and she said to me, “What if you were those people? Would you move?”

This made me laugh. “I didn’t.”

Tonight we were at my mom’s for Mothers Day dinner, and I told her what my daughter had asked. She laughed and said, “We didn’t.”

As you know, we lived in a haunted house until I was 18. Just like in the story I read my daughter, we heard voices and footsteps. The appliances turned on. We got the whole show.

Before we moved in, it was vacant and the toilets flushed. We were standing right there.

Anyway we got to talking about spirits contacting the living, and I remembered when I wondered if my grampa had reached out from beyond.

He had been a watercolor artist before he died. Everytime we see a sunset I announce he painted it for me.

I don’t believe it. I just say it.

When he died the mortuary gave us a selection of sappy poems for the program. I rejected those and wrote my own sappy poem. I ended it with a take on something I stole from the movie ‘Fried Green Tomatoes.’ A character said some angels walk around this earth disguised as humans.

Three years after Grampa’s death, we took a road trip in his van around the whole USA. At sunset on the last evening of this month-long adventure, we drove straight into a beautiful sky of purple and yellow. I said, “Look at the sunset Grampa made us!”

And everybody yelled, “Whoa! Look at the cloud! It’s an angel!”

It was clearly a full-body profile of an angel crouching and blowing something off the palm of her hand.

I didn’t think it was a supernatural occurance. At first.

But then Aerosmith’s ‘Angel’ came on the radio.