Monday, November 21, 2011


I've lived with a lot of cats over the years, but I don't think I've ever known a cat as demanding as Mabel. Perhaps that's because most cats demand to go out, or to eat. What Mabel demands is to sit on you. And if you don't sit down and let her sit on you, she gets rather snippy. Literally snippy. We've learned to read the signals about a second before she swats or snaps and tell her "no." We also move out of reach.

Tonight she became increasingly huffy as I sat through an hour-long video with Zoe, her arch rival, on my lap. When the video was over and I attempted to leave the room, Mabel, who'd been sitting, glaring, in the cat tree for the duration of the show, somehow herded me back to the couch and then sat on me.

I find myself wondering: What is she thinking when she does this?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

This is an odd fall

Almost Thanksgiving, but all the leaves are still on the wisteria, the climbing hydrangea, and one of my odd vines — although most of the maple trees are bare.

There are still blueberries ripening on the blueberry bushes, and a few confused plants are flowering because they thought it was spring already.

Tuesday was the first true cold.

Even if the plants were confused, I was ready for it. I went out to a meeting wearing a long wool coat with a furry collar that buttons up around my ears. And gloves. And insulated boots. And it was STILL too cold.

Every day, I check the temperatures in Santa Cruz — where it's inevitably 20 degrees warmer.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I'm in Naples again, visiting my mother. She's lived here for 22 years. At first she was a snowbird, spending summers on Cape Cod or in the Seattle area, but three years ago she moved here full time.

Her condo is much like every place else my parents have lived -- everything is painted off-white, is sparely furnished, uncluttered, and very, very clean. (We're talking off-white tile floors and off-white wall-to-wall carpeting.) Needless to say, there are no pets, just two sofa pillows in the shape of tabby cats.

My mom's hobby is sewing, so she has a serger and sewing machine in the guest room. The living room has a flat-screen TV and a DVD player; the laundry room has a desk with her Powerbook. I've just downloaded the Steve Jobs biography on my iPad, and now she's 2/3 of the way through it. She keeps muttering "He didn't like to take showers!"

I'm reading The Falstaff Vampire Files (by Lynne Murray) on my iPhone. Not elegantly written, but it has a clever plot, a great Bay Area setting, and is highly entertaining. I think you'd call it a vampire cozy. Perfect vacation reading.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bad theater, broken dishwashers, and the mysterious cat

Context: Kind of stunned after wrapping up my year as a board president and getting back into my writing and digital content business full time.

Last night Tom and I went to see Friedrich Schiller's Mary Stuart at ACT Theater. I was not eager.

Because I have so many last minute meetings and weird client emergencies, I inevitably end up moving our tickets from date to date. And, even when it all gets settled, I usually wish we could just have a quiet evening at home. However, once I get to the theater, I enjoy the show and am glad we've gone.

Last night may change all that!

Have you ever been to a play where the ushers give you a warning as you enter? I hadn't, but last night they were warning everyone that the play was 2-1/2 hours long.

What they didn't tell us was that it was 2-1/2 hours of two nearly indistinguishably shrill actresses, both in red wigs and elaborate period gowns, ranting and raving. If there had been any scenery to speak of, they'd have chewed on it. The high point of the first act was the scene where they finally meet and are shrieking (Mary Stuart) and snarling (Elizabeth I) at each other.

During most of the scenes, male actors dressed in modern business suits stood by, looking about as involved as accountants, until called upon to speak their lines. Some of the Men in Gray turned out to be double agents.

When the intermission arrived, audience members stood up, as if stunned, and drifted out into the lobby. Tom and I just sat there. It slowly dawned on us that we both wanted to be somewhere else, and we simply fled.

On our way through the Convention Center to the parking garage, we came across a wonderful exhibition of prints, many of them by a local artist of Finnish heritage, Mirka Hokkanen. When we got home we looked her up on the internet and discovered that our favorite of her prints from the show, Peeping Tom Cat, was available for all of $20 on Etsy. (You can also see it on her homepage, though the low-resolution version there hardly does it justice.) We bought it, and I'm sure will enjoy it long after all memory of the Mary Stuart performance has faded.

* * *

I've been putting off various repair work because of lack of time to deal with finding, scheduling, and supervising things, but am now starting to come to grips with things like the flooding storage locker, the mysteriously rattling dishwasher, and the front steps badly in need of weather-proofing.

My favorite professional movers (Adam's Moving) are coming next week to help me move things from the flooding storage unit to a non-flooding one in the same building. I discovered that Sears, always so eager to get me to renew my dishwasher warranty, stopped being eager after the dishwasher turned 10. So it's now out of warranty. A diagnostic visit from Sears is exorbitant enough that I contemplated replacing the dishwasher — unfortunately, every mid-range dishwasher recommended by Consumer Reports gets low ratings from actual human beings, with nearly every reviewer saying that the new KitchenAid/Bosch/Kenmore dishwashers with all the nifty features and energy-saving ratings aren't nearly as sturdy or dependable as the old ones.

Since the problem with my old Kenmore Elite is a minor mechanical issue with the whirling spray arm, I've decided to get it repaired by a local repair person (not, shudder, Sears).

The ideal solution, apparently, would be to find a 10-year-old KitchenAid/Bosch/Kenmore dishwasher that has never been used and buy that.

* * *

And now, for the mysterious cat, Mr. Garibaldi. He turned up four years ago as a pathetic stray tomcat, absolutely terrified of people. He'd sit on the back porch with his nose against the glass door and stare. But when I opened the door to put out a dish of food, he'd flee and hide under the porch. Gradually, he got used to me and would allow me to pet him and sit next to him while he ate.

My neighbor the cat rescuer, Joe, was also dealing with Mr. Garibaldi (he calls him "Sidewinder") and it was Joe who succeeded in capturing Garibaldi and getting him neutered. Garibaldi then moved into Joe's house, and would come by to visit me only on weekends when Joe was traveling. Occasionally I swing by Joe's yard and Garibaldi comes over to be petted.

Garibaldi often vanishes during the summer, and returns in the fall. I was concerned because Mabel and Zoe ran him off one night last spring and he hadn't come by since. Every night when I go into the kitchen to turn off the lights and lock up, I look for him. And last night, there he was.

I got out the food, put it in a dish, took it out to him, and sat on the steps while he ate. Just like old times. He looks great — fluffy and healthy. You'd never guess how battered he'd been four years ago. He ate most of the food, and then trotted down the steps and sat on the patio, staring up at me.

I'm fascinated by Garibaldi. I interpret it as a good omen when he shows up, but it probably just means he's hungry.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Work weekend

I love the ironic name of Labor Day Weekend. I know it's supposed to be a vacation, but I use it to complete the final work projects of the summer.

I looked at the list of what didn't get done this summer and decided that "detail the car" and "polish the kitchen floor" were the two things that would work best in hot weather. We started with a basic vacuum and wash at Brown Bear, then I came home and got out the detailing sprays and crevice vacuum attachments and spent 45 minutes fine-tuning everything. That's it for a year...unless my mother decides to visit, in which case I'll rush the Fit off to a professional detailer plus figure out what to do about the spot of sky-blue paint on the door where a truck owner parked next to me at Home Depot opened his two-ton door into mine -- and then made a fast getaway.

Polishing the kitchen floor is somewhat more complicated than it sounds. The floor is marmoleum, and it requires three to five coats of a thin glaze, which is applied with a damp towel, one layer at a time, with plenty of time in between for drying.

It's a small floor, I don't mind crawling around on my hands and knees, but it's amazing how difficult it is to keep people and cats OFF the floor for two or more hours. My plan is to put most of the cats outside, and see if I can get Sheba to use the front door rather than the kitchen door. Finding cat hair in a layer of "set" glaze is disgusting.

None of this means that Labor Day Weekend is all work and no play. We went to a games party Friday night, hung out at the Ballard Sunday Market yesterday, and have been watching DVDs in the evening. This morning, before launching into the car rehab project, we went out to breakfast at Georgina's on 85th in Greenwood. I had forgotten what wonderful food they have, particularly the pita bread with quince jam. Eating there is like eating in someone's kitchen.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mysterious traveler is actually traveling

I'm writing this in the back bedroom of a restored Craftsman bungalow in the historic district of Carson City, a block from the governor's mansion. Crickets are chirping in the back yard, and sprinklers are hissing. It's summer in a small town/city.

We flew in to Reno yesterday afternoon, and then drove to Berkeley for an unexpected errand. It got complicated, so we needed to find a hotel -- at 11 p.m. I called the folks the Joie de Vivre chain, which has a lovely hotel I've stayed at in Sunnyvale, and they found is a room at their hotel at the Oakland marina.

Didn't know Oakland had a marina? It's an interesting neighborhood, with trendy clubs, a vegan soul food restaurant, and a lot of urban renewal struggling to happen. The hotel was friendly, the room was clean and fresh, and the bed was comfortable. My one complaint was the bathroom, which had been designed by that notorious and apparently far-ranging Discworld architect, Bloody Stupid Johnson.

It had a feature I've encountered only once before at a hotel, but which stuck in my memory: A glass shower door that when opened more than 1/3 of the way slammed, glass first, into the toilet.

This hotel's version of the slamming shower also had the highest nozzle I've ever seen, a feature which made it impossible to adjust or redirect the light drizzle. There was, as you may gather from this, no bathtub, which is an annoyance to me under normal travel circumstances and, after 10 hours on the road -- I was slightly berserk but made do with a shower.

This morning we got the errand done, drove up to Grass Valley for lunch with relatives who have a beautiful farmhouse, then drove winding roads down to Placerville (a charming old town) and drove from there over to South Lake Tahoe and up to Carson City.

I'll explain tomorrow why we're in Carson City. We wandered around the somewhat forlorn downtown (government buildings, casinos, and little restaurants) and ended up getting salads at a nice place called Sassafras. They call their food eclectic, and they're not kidding. I say it's unusual, somewhat overly exuberant cooking by someone who uses high quality, fresh ingredients. Dessert was a house specialty — homemade popsicles. We had peach-ginger, no sweeteners added, and it was superb. Back to the B&B, where we are going to watch an episode of...what else?...Deadwood.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The garage is done

We haven't had much summer, but my goal for it has been met:

I cleaned the garage.

Most of what I threw out (for the Happy Hauler to pick up on Tuesday) was left over from the previous owners' remodeling 10 years ago. I realized I was never going to need a box of bolts the size of Havana cigars or large sheets of drywall the cats had peed on. The 8-foot lengths of extra molding required their own shelving system. I realized I could rip down the shelving system, chop the molding to 7 feet, 6 inches, and store it upright in a Rubbermaid wastebasket in the corner, regaining access to the entire wall.

I also discovered I had three orbital sanders, two skil saws, and 35 slot-style screwdrivers (but only 5 Phillips head drivers, which makes me crazy since they're what I'm always looking for). And my beloved circular law seems to be missing.

Hank came over and tested all the electric tools and told me which ones to toss or give away and which ones to keep. He told me one of the orbital sanders just looks like an orbital. It is really a polishing sander.

The duplication was due in part to all of my dad's tools, which I got when my mom moved to Florida last year.

After clearing out all sorts of crummy scraps of drywall and lumber, I had enough wall space that we were able to put up an additional pegboard, and some gigantic wall hooks. Then a lot of the stuff that was hidden in drawers and piled on shelves got hung up, including my dad's  Oreck mini shop vac and heap of extension cords in orange, yellow, and green.

The sorting process involved hauling much of the stuff out to the driveway, including the mini-freezer, which desperately needed defrosting. Once the garage was relatively clear, I swept and washed the concrete floor. That was pretty disgusting.

This took all day Friday, Saturday morning, and Sunday afternoon — and Tom ran all the errands to Home Depot while I kept at the organizing. At 8 p.m. tonight I was still affixing labels (in yellow electric tape) to plastic storage boxes and shelves.

It's rather astonishing how much room there now is in the garage. I still need to organize the shelf with the drills and drill bits.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The dog in the night and the jerk who owns it

We have a neighbor who walks his or her dog in the dead of night and lets it poop on my lawn. Unfortunately, we don't know who it is.

After piles of poop started turning up on a daily basis, I did some research on surveillance cameras. They aren't cheap, so I decided to make a sign first.

It read "Anything your dog leaves on this lawn will be returned to your front porch." I placed it right where the dog had been pooping.

And it worked! The dog's owner was apparently embarrassed enough to keep the hound off my lawn.

Unfortunately, they weren't embarrassed enough to pick up after the dog. Four days after my sign went up, my next door neighbor came storming over to report that now she had four piles of crap on her front lawn. Her little daughter had just stepped in the poop, and she was furious.

She asked if she could borrow my sign. I said yes. Now I'm wondering if that will result in the dog returning to my lawn, or if the lazy owner will simply move the dog one more yard south, to the lawn of a newly remodeled house that is on the market — and has no one living in it who might open the door and catch the dog walker.

If the weather would just warm up, I'd be willing to get up at 4 a.m. and hide out on my enclosed porch so I could catch them in the act and follow the dog owner through the dark to his or her house — with the shit on a shovel.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What's really going on

• I got an invitation to Google+ (thank you!), signed on, and am sort of waiting to see what happens now. It's a cross between Facebook for grownups and LinkedIn without the recruiters.

• Mabel, the long-clawed black cat, nailed me yesterday morning. I washed the tiny puncture with alcohol, but for the first time I got an infection from a cat scratch. It came on very rapidly while I was at a reading at the U Bookstore last night. I left the store, called the consulting nurse (who reacted  as though I were about to collapse in the street), reluctantly skipped dinner, grabbed a bubble tea, and drove off to spend a long, long evening at urgent care. They gave me a tetanus shot and the opportunity to read nearly an entire novel (Kelley Eskridge's intriguing Solitaire) on my iPhone before I finally got the paperwork and directions to the basement late-night pharmacy to get some antibiotics. By 11:30 p.m. I was at Dick's on Broadway, where I finished the book in the car while drinking a delicious strawberry milkshake.

• The Clarion West Write-a-thon is halfway through. I've written one and a half of my three pledged short stories and yesterday ended up using a picture of Sheba to shill for sponsors. I love this picture of Sheba. The Write-a-thon is going very well (for the organization, as well as for the writers).

• I have three big Folklife projects yet to deal with as I wind up my year as board president (target date: September 27).

• There will be vacation of sorts. In July, I'm going to a weekend writers workshop at a remote location on the Washington coast. The conference center burned down, but we still have hotel rooms and apparently are going to wing the rest of it. In August, Tom and I are going to Worldcon in Reno, with a side trip to Lake Tahoe and Carson City. I've never see that part of the country. Against my better judgment, I signed up for a five-day volunteer assignment at the convention that is going to be major fun but demanding. At Worldcon, as at the Folklife festival, volunteering is the heart of the experience.

• The garden is different this year. The peas are disappointing but the beans are going gangbusters (especially my faves, the scarlet runner beans). We have very large, though green, tomatoes. It's the grapes where I've really got my hopes up. They have taken to the new arbor system and there are tiny clusters of grapes everywhere. Now, all we need is hot, sunny weather through August.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What I'm writing

What I write for a living:
  • Blog posts and brochures about automated external defibrillators — from stories of rescues to updates on legislation mandating AEDs in schools, gyms, and public places.
  • Profiles of formerly homeless individuals, most of them long-time "street people" suffering from mental illness and substance abuse who now live in subsidized apartments. I interviewed two of the 10 men who had been costing the city and county as much as $1 million a year in police, hospital, and social services. Once they were in "housing first" communities, the local goverments saved hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • Articles about business strategy, on behalf of a local CEO.
  • Humor columns about home, family, and community.
  • Websites for government agencies and large non-profits. Many of these are written in government-mandated "plain talk" — a style of communication so effective that one government agency tripled the rate of accurate responses to their letters to businesses and taxpayers.
  • ebooks and blog posts about the iPhone.
  • The WriterWay blog for my business.
  • PowerPoint and Keynote presentations — most of these are "social media audits" or short courses in matching social media tools to an organization's audiences and resources.
What I write for community agencies (on a volunteer basis):
  • Fundraising appeals
  • Web pages
  • Thank-you letters to donors
  • Marketing materials, press releases, and ads
What I write for myself:
Sadly, the science fiction writing is at the end of the list, even though it's the writing I often enjoy the most. I've started a novella, part of which will be critiqued at the upcoming Cascade Writers Workshop next month. And, as a part of the Clarion West Write-a-thon, I'll be writing three short stories during July, using the "How to write a short story in 90 minutes" techniques taught by author Mary Robinette Kowal.

I'm one of 149 writers who've signed up for the Write-a-thon to raise money for the Clarion West Writers Workshop. Clarion West has come to be the gold standard for speculative fiction writing courses — it's a six-week program taught by the field's top authors, editors, and publishers. The majority of the 18 students selected for the program require scholarship assistance, and the Write-a-thon is one of the primary sources of funding for the scholarships and other program costs.

Please consider supporting me, or one of the other 148 participants (some of them quite famous!) as we write our way through the summer.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Mystery Menu

Doug asked for the menu for the easy-to-make summer dinner that fits most dietary requirements. The philosophy behind it is that these are three healthy, hearty dishes and most diets will allow two of them.

1. Grilled meat or fish

The first time, we did steak rubbed with olive oil, garlic, and herbs. The second time, it was salmon cooked in a non-stick fish basket. I think we're going to stay away from chicken because it's fussier on the grill, marinades and basting sauces are a pain, and skinless chicken comes out too dry for company

2. Grilled green vegetables sprinkled with oil and herbs (A large amount — it's amazing how people eat more grilled vegetables than boiled/steamed.)

We grill them in a "dish" of aluminum foil (though you could also use a grilling basket). Thus far, we've grilled green beans, asparagus, and thick-sliced zucchini (this last one sprinkled with oregano, basil, and parsley). If you've got adventurous guests, try cooking the green beans with anchovies, garlic, halved cherry tomatoes, and black olives (a Naked Chef recipe).

You can also do nice things to the veggies after grilling them, like sprinkling chopped marinated sun-dried tomatoes over the zucchini or a little lemon zest over the asparagus.

3. Steamed baby potatoes (the little white, red, and purple ones)

We cut these in half, steam them, and dress them in a vinaigrette. They're pretty! You can serve this dish hot or cold. Depending on the dietary interests of your guests, and how much time you have, you can go with a vegan vinaigrette, a creamy dressing, or a hot honey-mustard dressing with or without bacon. Chopped fresh parsley dresses this up nicely.

While working on these "company" dishes, I made an interesting discovery. I always get frustrated when I cook some cool dish and then discover the only serving dish it fits in is ugly. In this case, I put the vegetables, and the potatoes, into large, attractive serving dishes before I cooked them, and then cooked the amount of food that would fit into the dish.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Last week I was trying to write a humor column about summer in Seattle. The deadline arrived, and all I had were a lot of disjointed anecdotes about trying to cram a whole summer's worth of activities into the nine weeks of actual summer weather between July 4 and Labor Day.

I called the editor and wheedled a 24-hour extension, hoping that somehow inspiration would strike. It did, about five minutes later, when I got an email saying that the conference center where I had been scheduled to attend a workshop next month had burned to the ground.

"Fanastic!" my column-writing alter ego exclaimed as she crossed the workshop off the calendar. "Er, sorry, I hope nobody got hurt."

In real life, the workshop is probably going to take place anyway, at a backup location. But that incident was the perfect illustration of how out-of-hand a summer calendar can get.

Ours was pretty much filled by last week — but this week 8 or 9 new barbecue invitations arrived, plus some neighborhood cat-sitting assignments.

[Make than 10. No joke: Less than 60 seconds after I hit "publish" on this post, T. forwarded to me an invitation to a barbecue for -- tomorrow night.]

One ray of hope for the summer social schedule:

Last week we had friends over to dinner and I served a three-dish menu that worked perfectly. It was fun to cook (two of the dishes are done on the outdoor grill), tasty, and, if you considered the dishes in pairs, the menu works with meat-eaters, vegetarians, low-carbohydrate dieters, or people who prefer a Mediterranean diet with carbs and vegetables.

This solves my perennial summer problem of what to cook for guests. This menu will be repeated throughout the summer with slight variations.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Disaster strikes!

I thought my week was off to a rough start. My major client had yet another leadership change and now we're back to square one with a number of projects. The new person I talked with there was horrified to discover they haven't paid my last three invoices.

Then, an email arrived that put things in perspective.

It was from the writing workshop I'll be attending in July: The conference center burned down!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Somebody's going to pay

There are two ways to do this:
1. You write, and I'll pay:
I’ve joined Kate Schaefer and Vonda McIntyre in a Clarion West Write-a-thon challenge: 
To help get the Write-a-thon underway, we have each pledged to donate $5 for each participating writer, up to $500, if 100 writers sign up for the Write-a-thon.
Here’s more information:
2. Or, if you like, I'll write and you pay:
My goal for this year's Write-a-thon is to develop three new stories using the techniques from Mary Robinette Kowal's workshop on writing a story in 90 minutes. My fundraising goal is $250 for Clarion West. If my friends' support gets me to that goal by July 30, I'll match the $250, dollar for dollar.
To sponsor me:

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Off to a great start

Note: Identifying information has been changed in this story for reasons that will become apparent.

At the top of my task list this morning was solving an ugly little problem:

One of the organizations I work with, a volunteer group, had put out a flier with a number of contact phone numbers. But one of the numbers is wrong.

Jody, the person whose number was supposed to have been on the flier, called me late last night to point that out.

"People will call and disturb some stranger," she said. "And they won't be able to reach me to get information."

Of course, some of these fliers have already been distributed, and huge piles of them have already been printed and are ready for distribution in the next few weeks.

My task this morning was to call the designers and tell them we needed to correct Jody's contact number and reprint hundreds of fliers. Big fun.

As I contemplated the problem I decided it might help if I figured out first just whose number was on the flier. Perhaps it was the designer's girlfriend, and the whole thing had been a Freudian slip at his end — in which case I could take some high ground around the cost of reprinting the stuff.

I was curious — plus I realized it was an opportunity to warn this poor soul that they might be getting some strange phone calls later in the summer.

So I dialed.

"Hello," said Jody.

"Hi," I said, quickly recovering. "Hey, good news. I think I've solved the problem of the wrong phone number on the flier."

"Really?" she said.

At that point I lost it and began giggling hysterically.

"," I choked out. "And you...answered!"

Jody was flabbergasted.

"I have another number?" she asked. "I need to call the phone company and..."

She caught herself quickly. "No, I think I'll wait until the end of the summer."

May all of today's problems be solved this easily and amusingly.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

This old cat

I woke up at 5 a.m. this morning because Obnoxious Cat was pawing me with her claws. I had a choice: Pull the covers over my head and ignore her and wait until Timid Cat began clawing the cat scratching post and Tornado Cat began yowling and throwing things off the counters in the next room, or just get up, go downstairs, and feed them.

I fed them. The flavor of wet food Tornado Cat currently favors was not in the cabinet, so I went down to the basement to get a can of it. But Tornado cat did not like the wet food, and tried shoving the bowl off the counter. I caught it, and gave her freeze-dried salmon instead.

Obnoxious Cat wanted to go out. I put her out. Tornado Cat began tearing around the house, leaping onto cat trees. She tore into the bathroom, nearly flattening Timid Cat, and I turned on the bathroom faucet for her before she had a chance to pull down the towels and throw the soap into the sink.

While she drank, I went into the kitchen emptied the dishwasher.

Went to turn off the bathroom water, but found Tornado Cat was gone and Timid Cat was now having a drink. Went back to the kitchen and found Obnoxious Cat waiting at the door to be let in again. Let Obnoxious Cat in. Obnoxious Cat promptly devoured the wet food Tornado Cat had ignored.

Timid Cat appeared in the kitchen, and I went to the bathroom and turned off the water.

Horrible glorping sounds from living room. Found Tornado Cat sitting in cat bed and barfing on cat bed and floor. Got spray cleaner and paper towels, cleaned up, and took cat bed down to the laundry room to be washed.

It was now 5:30. Went back up stairs to find Intelligent Cat had appeared from her secret hiding place and was now sleeping on my side of the bed. I crawled in beside her and went back to sleep for three hours.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ready for Folklife

I realized around 7 p.m. this evening that I am Ready for Folklife. At least I am ready for Folklife assuming that things go mostly as planned.

I've submitted materials due to my clients this week, and now have two days to get the house ready and my gear packed.

Tom vacuumed the house, I cleaned the bathrooms, and tonight I was mopping the kitchen floor when disaster struck: I'd mopped over to the far end of the kitchen when a cat leaped up on the counter and projectile vomited onto the floor I'd already mopped. Sigh.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

All over the place

Every morning when the iPhone alarm goes off I look at my calendar. Much of what I see surprises me a bit. That's good; if I'd been thinking about it, I probably wouldn't have slept very well.

Occasionally solutions for one of my projects jump into my head while I'm working on a different project. I've started to send myself emails with these ideas.

Other times I get so deeply into a particular project that I can't remember anything else.
Tom walks into my office and for just a millisecond I'm not sure who he is or what he's doing here.

The constants in all of this are the cats. They are always sure they belong everywhere.


Monday, May 09, 2011

Spring cleaning: I don't do windows

I know there are those among you who consider me a neatnik, but, believe me, my brand of cleaning is nothing compared to the way my mom (and her cleaning woman) cleaned the house when I was a kid.

There was weekly dusting that involved the removal of anything that wasn't glued down and moving most of the furniture. An electric broom deployed daily in addition to weekly vacuuming. Bathroom floors (tile) scrubbed on hands and knees with sudsy ammonia. (Just the thought if that last one makes me stop breathing.)

And seasonally my mom would clean out every closet and cabinet in the house, replacing the shelf-liners and draw-liners. Each spring, blankets and sweaters were washed (and occasionally shrunk beyond recognition), aired, and stored with mothballs (again with the breathing) in massive steamer trunks and padded, quilted garment bags of a sort that can no longer be purchased (and neither can the mothballs, thank gods).

These days my spring cleaning consists of sending a bunch of winter sweaters and wool coats out for dry cleaning and throwing the down and fleece clothing into the washer and dryer. Once the stuff is clean, I store it in labeled boxes in the attic along with packets of some herbal moth-discourager.

My big splurge is having all the windows cleaned by a fellow who's insured if he falls off the ladder into my rhodies. After he's done, we haul the screens out various storage nooks and install them. Ready for summer!

I used to take my car in to be detailed every May, but that's no longer urgent because my mom no longer comes out to Seattle for the summer. So the car's exterior is gray-on-gray and the back seat is full of needles from the evergreens I bought at the garden center two months ago. Shhh! I think I can live with it.

Saturday, May 07, 2011


I am looking at deadlines for a series of's not so bad now that the first one — a board retreat I was organizing — is done.

The next deadline is for a major-donor "thank you" party I'm organizing (May 11).

After that, it's a deadline for a magazine article (new publication, major article) on May 30. (Yes! Folklife weekend!)

Then there's a deadline for a short story for a writer's workshop later in the summer (due June 15).

I think it says something that I have been completely freaking out about the entertainment events but am actually looking forward to doing the writing. Writing doesn't require cleaning the house, subduing the cats, mowing the lawn, getting dressed up, being diplomatic. In fact, quite the opposite.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Contest: The Mystery Room

Below are five photos taken in a room in Naples, Florida. If you can guess what this room is, you have your choice of being taken out for espresso or gelato in Seattle or being sent a bottle of Italian olive oil. Have at it! (By the way, I don't expect anyone to get even close to the answer.)

HINT: The room is not in a private residence. And, yes, that's a waterfall in the first photo.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How deep is my swamp?

My iPad 2 arrived Friday and I haven't unboxed it yet.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A great weekend

What  great weekend! Friday I went out and pressure washed about 1/3 of the hardscaping, getting covered with wet moss (which smells like seaweed). I came in, took a shower, and can't remember what we did Friday night; apparently I was very tired. Kate arrived for the weekend.

Saturday morning Kate and I survived two mediocre yard sales, thanks to the restorative properties of croissants from Besalu. She went off shopping with a friend while I ran a record number of errands, picking up a blue fescue at Swanson's, visiting the dry cleaner in Wallingford, picking up a replacement outlet cover for a patio outlet, dropping off two ancient laptops at the computer recycler near Gas Works Park, picking up a special trellis for the grape arbor at the Fred Meyer garden center sale, and getting an aggregate paver at the stone yard. When I got home, there was time to install the blue fescue and the paver and dig a lot of weeds out of one of the garden beds. My neighbor Jeff came over with some scary power saws and removed the pear-tree stump, right down to ground level. Impressive — more than payback for taking care of their cats at Christmas. Tom got home from his continuing education class around 6:30. We went out to dinner at Fu Man Dumpling with Kate and Janna, then came home and collapsed.

This morning Kate packed up and headed off to a knitting confab. After the Sunday check-in with my mom, I braved light rain to make yet another foray into the garden. This time I dug up a huge rhodie to make room for a high-bush Legacy blueberry bush. This was one of the rhodies I'd transplanted from the south side of the house 8 years ago, possible the one whose transplantation resulted in the need for wrist surgery. This time I approached it with caution. I cut off the branches, then went to work on the stumps, which had apparently once again sent a tap root down into bedrock. After I dug down two feet, the damn thing still wouldn't budge. Tom, on his way to a Potlatch concom meeting, came by and stomped on the stumps. As a result, I was able to pop them out, in two pieces, about five minutes later, and plant the blueberry.

I then prepared an area for the new trellis, but the rain started in earnest before I could make any significant progress on screwing together the various pieces of tress. That may have to wait until after the trip to Florida.

So, I'm now at my desk looking at all the office work I didn't get gone. And not particularly caring about it.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Pressure and Pressure Washing

I woke up this morning with the urge to go out and pressure wash the hardscaping in the garden.

It's not going to happen, unless I get a lot of other stuff done first. I can't believe the lists.

This is the year that I'm spending 50% of my normal work hours and about 99% of my normal dancing, gardening, yoga, etc., hours working with the boards of two non-profits that are in the midst of exciting growth, repair, and transition.

The work isn't a pain; it's fascinating. The brainstorming stuff is, of course, energizing. The people are great. I'm learning to anticipate how people will react, how people will react with each other, and how to create experiences that bring out the best in people — which often means challenging them with responsibility and trust.

I'm also learning how to ask people for help and for money — large amounts — which I find exhausting.

All that said, this is not natural work for me, and never will be. I'm tired, and it's frustrating not to have time for the activities that restore me: aimless wandering around the neighborhood, pottering around in the garden, reading books that I have no idea if I'll like or not, and writing stories that might not pan out and that never have to be posted on a blog. I very much miss demolishing structures, digging up deadwood shrubs, and pressure washing moss off the patio — big, messy, projects that are measured in hours rather than minutes.

I am promising myself: Next year. Please let me get to next year.

Meanwhile, off to write a book review, run a round of errands, and condition the wood on the antique dresser Tom brought out of The Magic Storage Locker.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Thank you for all your notes of concern.

Group Health gave me antibiotics; within 6 hours of the first (double) dose, I felt like myself again, and I continue to improve. The goal is to get myself to the presentation tomorrow afternoon.

I have only the vaguest memory of what I've been doing between March 9 and yesterday. I hope I didn't offend anyone, do anything embarrassing, or give anyone else bronchitis.

I do, however, seem to have committed to a really scary amount of activity through the end of June.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Still barking

I've spent the past two weeks sick with bronchitis, and last night it got worse. I came home from a board meeting hallucinating...I actually have no idea how I drove from Seattle Center to the house. I got here with fever, chills, and the miserable cough that I'd thought was getting somewhat better. It's as if we'd rolled the whole thing back to March 9, and started all over again.

This relapse gets me in to see a doctor at Group Health this afternoon. It's not that I'm particularly sick — if something started out this way, you'd say, hmmm, the flu, big deal — but having been exhausted for two weeks and then getting hit by this is really discouraging.

I'm supposed to be speaking to a IT industry group on Friday, and am hoping that I'll get some kind of medicine that will enable me to deal with a two-hour panel discussion. At the moment, I can't even imagine driving to the event!

Fortunately, I have only one major client project in the works this week, and it can all be done (ghost blogging) from bed. And, fortunately, Tom got better so is able to bring me liquids and take care of the cats when he's not at work.

Unfortunately, the part of last night's meeting at which I committed to organizing and hosting a strategic planing event in April and a cocktail part at the house in May turns out to have not been a hallucination.

Mostly, I'm sorry to be missing the non-rainy weather today. I have five blueberry bushes that need to get planted!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

I thought I heard a seal bark

I get colds a few times a year, but it's been a very long time since I've run a fever. Somewhere along the trip from Seattle to San Jose to Washington, D.C., I was exposed to a bug, and now I'm incredibly sick.
Tom does quite a good job of taking care of me when I'm sick, and I, him,  but that doesn't help much -- because we got the same thing at the same time.

After dinner with family this evening we went to a drugstore and I got all the right chemicals (I like chemicals, Tom doesn't) and we took them. Much good it did.

We are both barking like seals, and feel like someone is grinding our joints to dust. The last thing you want, of course, when you have aches from a fever is someone barking like a seal in the bed next to you.

Because it's an inflammation, the aches seem to be focusing on the ankle I chip fractured in October.

It could be worse. We're staying at a very homey hotel and our room has a refrigerator and microwave and coffee maker that is capable of making tea that doesn't taste like coffee. The hotel is full of vending machines with inexpensive name-brand sodas and sparkling water, plus snacks like pretzels. The heat is easy to control, there are plenty of blankets, and a pretty decent bathtub for when the chills get really bad.

Tomorrow night is when we are supposed to go to the events at the Italian embassy. I'm hoping that if we rest and drink lots of fluids from now until then we'll be able to get to the art exhibit opening and lecture and enjoy it as much as we enjoyed the tour of the Canaletto exhibit at the National Gallery this morning.

Flying home on the plane Friday? I am so trying not to think about that.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

A few things

Catalog photo of the "Script" fabric roman
 shades from Smith & Noble.
The painters have come and gone, with remarkably little fuss — once they discovered the local Benjamin Moore store had made a mistake mixing the trim color for my office and got that fixed. (Queen Anne Painting; highly recommended).

Now the bathrooms have new (white) paint after 10 years, and all sorts of minor damage to the walls got repaired. Best of all, my office is no longer a sterile, cold white: It's a pale sage green with beige/cream trim. The wall with the large window is done in an accent color: A sunny hacienda-style yellow. The colors are all part of the Cabana color palette from Color and Space, who did the colors for the living room and dining room three years ago and then gave me the rest of the palette for future projects.

When I get back from San Jose and DC, the challenge will be to fill the walls with art. No, actually that will be easy — the challenge will be to do it in a way that looks good. I'm will be, literally, following directions from Martha Stewart Living.

I also want to splurge on an attractive, cat-proof shade for the window. That means no metal or plastic blinds they can bend, no clawable fabric, and no snaggable weaves. I'm thinking either a very sturdy bamboo shade, like the ones in the living room, or this amazing linen roman shade (see photo, above). The shade, from Smith & Noble, is hideously expensive, so it'll likely be either the bamboo — or get a plain linen shade and hire a calligrapher to write all over it!

* * *

Today's weather was the usual mix of sun, snow, rain, sleet, high winds, with the occasional rattle of hail on the roof. I watched in delight as this foul weather tormented the roofers working on the house one block down from us.

Why so sadistic? Well, this was the crummy rental house that, three years ago, had its perfectly nice roof torn off and a shoddy "second story" with a (I love this) metal stove-pipe chimney slapped on.

Apparently that original roof job was so crummy that just three years later they are having to tear off all the asphalt and the plywood and start over again.

It has always been my dream to win a small lottery and use the money to buy that house so I could rip off the second story and that ghastly chimney and reinstate the original roofline — along with it the very pretty view of Puget Sound that I used to enjoy from my kitchen table.

* * *

Sheba. She gives new meaning to
flying toasters.
No update would be complete without mention of the cats. Sheba the deaf white cat is now about 13, and definitely looking older. Yet she still dashes madly about and leaps onto high shelves. Recently she has become even fussier about food — something I associate with age in cats. She used to eat only one flavor of fancy feast; now she won't eat even that, and yowls and throws things (like the toaster oven) off the counter if she isn't given treats, freeze-dried salmon, or baked chicken for her meals. Sheba is such a lovely cat when she isn't yowling or throwing things that this is less annoying that it sounds. After all, baked chicken is good for all of us.

Kaylee, the high-strung little Abyssinian has finally settled down. For the past several months, she's been sitting on my lap late at night when the house is very quiet and I'm wearing a fleece bathrobe. She now comes in and ambushes me when I'm getting out of the tub or shower and she knows I'm about to put on the robe. It takes her several minutes of stomping around and kneading before she sits down to be petted, but this morning she actually skipped the stomping around and relaxed immediately.

Kaylee's half-sister, Zoe, the huge striped non-Abyssinian, is just as clownish as ever. I've never been able to get Zoe to stop clawing me in the face in the middle of the night unless I wake up enough to blast her with a squirt gun. Instead, I've just resigned myself to getting her claws clipped professionally on a regular basis — so I get pawed, rather than clawed, at 3 a.m. (We tried clipping Zoe's nails ourselves but sustained way too much damage. It's a job for the pros, and we take Zoe in along with Mabel, who I wouldn't even dream of trying to clip.)

Mabel, the Bombay, is a lovely, extremely sage cat who treats people as if they were her kittens. She, also, has extraordinarily long, sharp claws. Unlike Zoe, she can retract them. Mabel doesn't seem to have very strong back legs, and she uses her front claws to haul herself up on things, like the bed. Or your lap. OUCH. Mabel sharpens her claws on the cedar posts of the back porch. Zoe has been working on one of the posts for years, but Mabel has been able to demolish her target in just 15 months.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

March travels

I hope that our surprise trip to D.C. in March will be worth the last three hours I just spent on the computer and phone canceling plane reservations to San Jose, making plane reservations from San Jose, to D.C., to Seattle, canceling hotel reservations in Berkeley, extending hotel reservations in Sunnyvale, and trying to make hotel reservations in Washington, D.C., for the week that thousands of people are descending on the city for parents' weekend at George Washington University. (We finally found a hotel with rooms left in Maryland, on the Metro line to D.C.)

Now, for the fun of packing a suitcase, half with casual clothes for San Jose's temperate climate, and half with business and evening dress for what will probably be a late-season blizzard in D.C. (Alarmist? Not hardly. I grew up there, and remember the year that the cherry trees froze in March — oh, wait, they did that again in 2010.)

Why are we going to D.C.? The Italian embassy is opening an art exhibit featuring Italian prints from Tom's late grandmother's collection. Unfortunately, the opening comes right on the heels of our trip to Sunnyvale for Potlatch. Flying back to Seattle for 20 hours just didn't make sense.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Facebook weirdness

I'll bet you are expecting me to write about Macworld 2011, where I've been all week, but I'm going to write about Facebook instead.

This afternoon my Ballard next-door neighbor, Gwen, commented on Facebook that she'd just seen Green Hornet and it was horrible. I left a comment agreeing that it was awful. A couple of hours later I got an email from Facebook that contained a subsequent comment in the Green Hornet thread, left by a friend of Gwen's named Sasha.

Here's the weird part: I realized when I saw her last name that Sasha is someone I already knew...because she was my next-door neighbor when I lived in Wallingford 10 years ago.

Good grief. I mean, what are the chances of your next-door neighbors from two different neighborhoods knowing each other?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The bad and the good

Bad: Steve Jobs announces he's taking a health-related leave of absence.
Good: All my Apple and ex-Apple friends are worrying about him together.

Bad: My biggest and best client gets acquired by a foreign company and the executive I report to gets laid off.
Good: I have more time to work on book-writing projects for my publisher, which I've discovered I like to do.

Bad: I have less reliable income.
Good: My partner suddenly has lots of work coming in.

Bad: My volunteer work seems to be full of urgent stuff and people with communications issues.
Good: I'm finally learning to prioritize and to deal with difficult people.

Bad: It's rainy and gray and soggy and cold.
Good: I have waterproof gardening boots and gardening gloves.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Big improvements, small repairs

It wasn't until we went to clean the house today that I realized how much has changed around here in the past month.

There's a beautiful new window in my office. It's not just a much nicer view of the garden, it's got insulated glass, snug fittings, and an insulated frame. No more drafts at my desk! No more closing the curtains to get insulation!

The basement den has been completely rearranged to create a 7-foot deep area in which to use the XBox, Kinect, and Dance Central. There are probably a few more changes yet to come down there that I'm in denial about, involving large bookcases.

The living room is now in its post-holiday configuration, which is more spacious than usual.

All that's the good news.

The bad news? We're in one of those weeks in which things break. Not badly, and not irreparably, but in annoying and time-consuming fashion.

It started with the annual visit from the oil company to tune up the furnace yesterday. The upstairs is always chilly when we wake up, but this morning it was exceptionally so. The seriousness of the situation became apparent when I went down to the kitchen and discovered it was 52 degrees. All attempts to revive the furnace failed, so I called the company. They apologized and sent out the serviceman, who discovered that some new equipment he'd installed had malfunctioned. He put in yet another piece, and, well, we'll see what the temperature is tomorrow morning.

In the midst of the furnace follies, I went to take a shower and the plastic handle on the shower valve shattered. There is now no way to control water flow and temperature without grasping the metal stem with a pair of pliers. I was reluctant to get scalded, so went dripping upstairs to the stall shower. We didn't get out to the plumbing store today, but "replace faucet" is at the top of tomorrow's to-do list. I sure hope it is a realistic do-it-yourself task and we don't end up having to bring out the plumber.

These things tend to happen in threes. I am now eying the refrigerator, dishwasher, washer, and dryer suspiciously — though they are all four under extended warranty. Clogged drain, anybody?