The Busyness of Life: Wires, Cables and Primary Elections

I know, I know. That is such a labored title for this post. I haven’t blogged for a while and I didn’t want to leave anything out. It’s not that I think you’re sitting around waiting to hear what I have to say. It’s more that when you write a blog, it gives you the opportunity to express some of the jumble that occupies your brain.

Let’s start with the wires, the electrical transmission wires that travel along the fence line of our property and carry several thousands volts of electricity. I glanced out of the kitchen window to see a firefighter approaching our front door. I asked him if everything was okay and he said “yes, as long as you stay out of your back yard.”

Oh no!

My garden!

my garden

My garden, not far from the pine tree

He said that a neighbor reported sparks coming from the power line and that a crew from PG&E (Pacific, Gas & Electric), would arrive shortly.

Yikes!

By the end of the night it seemed to have all blown over and no one said another word. We assumed it was a false alarm.

The following morning, three PG&E trucks were on the scene, along with two large tree-trimming trucks with crew and a couple of supervisors assessing the problem. It turns out that the neighbor’s pine tree, a tree large enough to span four properties, had a broken limb resting on the line. The crew disconnected power to our home and surrounding neighbors while crews went up into the tree and removed the offending branches.

I brought Slinky indoors for the day, worried that she would either get under foot or have something fall on her. They were able to restore the power by late afternoon, and all was well. No fire as a result of the falling branch, and a nicely trimmed tree in the process.  I’m always a bit unsettled to see workers climbing so high into trees, followed by the awful noise of chain saws and stump grinders. It was a relief when they were finally done.

This past Tuesday, we offered our garage as a local polling place. This is something we’ve been doing for a decade. It’s a nice way to take part in our civic duties in addition to voting.

Our garage the night before the election

Our garage the night before the election

If you follow the primary process in the US, you’ll know it’s been a contentious year. I’m happy to have cast my ballot *in our garage* and delighted too that my son could vote for the first time. He turned 18 last June. With all that foot traffic, I made sure Slinky was outside all day, safely enclosed in her favorite outdoor spot.

slinky in her greenhouse

Slinky’s shelter from the rain

The poll workers, all volunteers, are a wonderful group of people. I served coffee and tea along with bagels and cookies throughout the day, and enjoyed the festive environment of seeing neighbors and friends approach our home to vote. The poll workers arrive at 6 am and stay past 9. It’s a long day for them. I appreciate their commitment to the process. I also wonder to myself why everyone doesn’t exercise their right to vote in this country.

roses from Barb

A stunning surprise. These flowers arrived after election day from my friend, Barb. The card said “thank you for your public service. I would vote for you and day.” The sweetest! These flowers and her thoughtfulness  made my day.

Friday, while I was out running errands, a friend called to tell me that Comcast (our internet and cable company) had a representative walking around our garden. I headed home to a note on the door with a vague description of the problem and a request to call their toll-free number. Time spent on phone calls and trouble shooting led nowhere. The customer service rep kept reading from a script, and was ultimately unable to tell me what was wrong.  We went to bed that night without internet, and woke to another Comcast worker wandering around the garden. It’s been one of those weeks.

This morning’s technician told me that squirrels had chewed the lines, weakening the connections so they shut them all down. He had to string new cable through our yard as well as the house behind us. Once they replaced the cable, our internet was up and running. As the technician headed for the door, he told me that I had the “perfect garden for squirrels.”  If he only knew.

My 2016 swing cover remains intact, while the squirrels moved to higher ground.

garden swing cover 2016-004

The Garden Swing: 2015 Edition

I told the tech that the squirrels were doing their part for the economy, keeping Comcast workers employed.

In between the comings and goings of firefighters, PG&E crews, cable technicians and voters, it’s been a hectic start to June.  I’ve been gardening early to avoid the oppressive heat, working on a couple of big projects during the day, and still managed to squeeze in our monthly book club. We celebrated our oldest son’s 19th birthday and both boys finished school for the summer.

I’ve been wondering why I’ve been so tired, but I think I know. I’m missing my introvert time, the hours spent in quiet solitude, reading, writing, gardening or just sitting and petting one of the cats.

It’s been lovely visiting other blogs today and nice to catch up on everyone’s news.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Perhaps like me you’re a bit of both.

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Xylocopa varipuncta: Love and Romance in the Garden

What a romantic! Did you know that the Xylocopa varipuncta, also known as the male Valley Carpenter Bee emits “a rose-scented blend of volatiles”  from within “massive thoracic glands.”¹

You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

While courting the shiny black females,

female carpenter bee

Female Carpenter Bee

the amber male, with his bright green eyes and fuzzy amber body, emits a special cologne.²

Valley Carpenter Bee

Valley Carpenter Bee

The female decides if she likes his cologne and only then does nature takes its course.

When Love-in-a-mist met the Valley Carpenter Bee, it was a match made in gardening heaven.

love in a mist with Valley Carpenter Bee

Valley Carpenter Bee circling a Love-in-a-mist flower

Love in a mist flowered all over the garden this spring, both front and back and the bees love it. It makes me so happy to see them buzzing from bloom to bloom. Sometimes I just sit nearby and watch them work.

bee on love in a mist

The more typical, seen daily be the dozen

What surprises me is that most of the bees are small with stripes. There are dozens of them throughout the day working in the garden.

Conversely, the golden hunk of bee is an occasional visitor.

Meanwhile, his female counterpart is out back pollinating the pumpkin planted by the squirrel.

pumpkin vine

Runaway Pumpkin Vine…and yes, love in a mist

The pumpkin vine is racing across the garden at record speed and it’s only June. In all my years of gardening, I’ve never seen anything like it.

The bees working in my garden are docile. They don’t mind my presence as I brush up against the flowers, currently referred to by my family as “the jungle”. Love in a mist has completely taken over.

love in a mist takes over

The Jungle

slinky love in a mist

Slinky guards her catnip near the love-in-a-mist

Slinky likes to rest near one of the flowers in the back, but to be fair, it’s also close to her secret Nepeta plant, also known as catnip.

Mouse is also enamored with this flower, attracting lots of camera time with his antics.

In case it’s not obvious by now, I love this beautiful plant and the ease with which it grows. The original seeds were part of a “seeds that attract hummingbirds and bees” packet a few years back. They didn’t do much throughout the drought, but they’ve loved our season of rain.

We’re in the midst of a long heat wave now, so it could spell the end. I’m enjoying them while they last.

¹Wikipedia: Xylocopa varipuncta

²Native Bees: What’s the Buzz

A Surreal Week

One of the definitions of surreal is “very strange or unusual”. That pretty much sums up last week.

Monday I received an email from the Santa Clara University provost where my son attends college. They hospitalized one of his classmates with a suspected case of meningitis. Yikes! On Tuesday a second student entered the hospital, then a third. By mid-week we were pretty nervous. I pulled out my son’s immunization records which shows he’s been vaccinated, but a quick call to our pediatrician indicated otherwise. He’s not covered for this particular strain of meningococcal bacteria, common on many college campuses.

waiting for vaccines

Waiting in line for meningitis vaccine

His university handled the details swiftly and impressively, coordinating a free vaccination clinic on campus for all 5,000 undergraduates. My son waited in line for two and a half hours to get his shot, along with everyone else. They were not allowed to return to class without a “vaccine pass.” They have to get a booster shot in thirty days, so they’ll be waiting in line again in early March.

The hospital released two of the three students from the hospital but a third remains under medical care. I can’t imagine what his parents are going through.

Last week also coincided with the lead up to the Super Bowl 50, hosted in Santa Clara, California. My husband works a few blocks away. The city set up detours early in the week, and by Friday all of his co-workers worked remotely to avoid the chaos. What is surely a sign of the times, but disquieting nonetheless, is the level of security for this sort of event. Outside Mike’s office window he could see army tanks, helicopters and security personnel practicing drills in case of an attack. It’s one thing to see this on the news, but surreal when it’s happening in your own back yard. The Super Bowl came and went this weekend without incident, and we’re all relieved to have things returning to normal.

super bowl parking lot photos

Super Bowl 50 Security Maneuvers in Santa Clara

My sweet Slinky, who’s been my constant companion throughout my recovery, started hiding under my son’s bed. We were finishing up a medication for a bladder infection and thought she was simply avoiding us. Then I saw her walk into a wall, retreat, then step over one of the other cats lounging in the hallway. I thought she’d suddenly lost her eyesight. I got her into the vet the following day for a thorough exam and asked them to test for things that might be causing this, anything we might be able to treat. Apparently a spike in blood pressure can temporarily rob them of sight. Dr. Shanker said there was nothing wrong with her eyes and believes there is something systemic causing a dulling of all her senses. He said a blind cat can get around just fine, and can find their food hidden in another room while at the same time easily negotiating furniture. So, my sweet Slinky has now retreated to one room in the house, where she sleeps on a pile of blankets on the floor. She’s eating well and purrs when I pet her, but she’ll also swat at me if she’s not sure that I’m in front of her.

slinky 2016

Slinky

It’s hard not knowing what’s going on. She’s eating, using her litter box…most of the time, and purrs when she finally relaxes and lets me sit next to her on my son’s bed. The few time she ventures out of his room, we find her staring at walls. If I pick her up and bring her to the couch, she gets upset and goes back into hiding. Our vet always says it comes down to quality of life. If she’s not in pain, responds to touch, eats and purrs, then her life is still pretty good.  I have a heavy heart.

And on the subject of cats, last night Mouse figured out how to open the screen door so he could bring in a dead rodent. What a way to round out the week

I have the beginnings of a head cold, I lost my prescription sunglasses and I fell off the sugar-free eating plan I’ve been committed to since January. The Girl Scouts came to the door, Mike bought a few boxes of cookies, and I helped myself to a “sleeve of them”. The scale didn’t go down this week. Coincidence?

Stress eating once again rears its ugly head. I’m back on plan and hope this week is mind-numbingly mundane.

I’m sure you’ve had weeks where you were  happy to draw the curtain on the whole thing. Do you ever stress eat as a result? Do you have any tips for keeping it in check?

National Cat Day

A few of my friends let me know that today is National Cat Day.  Of course every day is cat day around here. We currently reside with three delightful felines. On occasion, that number has swelled to six. It never drops below two. Once we went to the Humane Society and adopted a cat, but most of the time the cats find us. They’re all former strays, or occasionally kitties that decide we offer better care, kibble and karma than they’re finding at home. Everyone is welcome.

I love all animals but I’ve always had a strong affinity for cats, probably because it’s what we grew up with.

Here is the current lineup:

Slinky is our senior cat, or so we think. She arrived as a somewhat feral stray. It took a long, long time to gain her trust, but she’s made remarkable strides over the years. She’s a tiny thing at only six pounds (3 kilos), with shiny silky black fur that shines in the sun and beautiful, albeit weary, green eyes.

slinky looking leery

Slinky looking leery

Lindy came home with us from the Humane Society on our son’s 8th birthday. She was around three then, putting her at 13 today. My husband says she’s part dog, because she comes when called, displays all the mellower characteristics of a dog and at 16 pounds (7 kilos), she’s bigger than some of the pooches on our street.

lindy with catnip

Lindy with my son

Mighty Mouse (named by the family that adopted him) pretty much lives at our house. He’s about five years old, full of energy and makes us smile with all his antics. It’s hard for me to understand why he’s allowed to roam, but we do our best to keep him safe, warm and fed. He spends his nights in a cozy bed in our garage or in my son’s room. He eats here, sleeps here and likes to play and “box” with Lindy. She puts up with him, and keeps him in line when necessary.

mouse on my back

This photo exemplifies Mouse’s personality

We adore them one and all.

Do you live with a cat? A dog? Perhaps birds, fish or reptiles? I can’t imagine life without animals. They make my world go round.

Happy National Cat Day!

My Cat Hero:

Alicia Snelen Koberstein has spent most of this year promoting understanding about, and support for, a colony of feral cats who live on the shores of “Cat” Harbor on Catalina Island. She’s coordinated volunteers to help trap, neuter and return this colony of cats, in addition to providing medical care where needed. She’s arranged boats, coordinated flights to relocate a few of the high-risk cats to a sanctuary, while raising funds for food, shelter and veterinary care. She’s my hero.

If you’re interested in supporting this colony of cats, you can make a tax-deductible financial contribution, go to http://www.aprl-socal.org/ and click “Donate”. When you reach the page to confirm the amount, look for the link that says “add special instructions to recipient”. Click on that, then type “Cat Harbor Cats” so that your donation will be directed to them instead of going into the general fund.

 

If Slinky Had a Thought Bubble

When I was sorting and editing photos this morning it hit me: Slinky needs a thought bubble.

slinky in the sun

Here’s what I think it might say:

My appetite is back You gotta love that thyroid medication.

or perhaps…

Finally that miserable heat wave is over. I thought it would never end.

maybe she’s thinking

I never miss my morning sun bath. I love vitamin D.

or

My shiny black fur looks like chocolate in the morning light. Is that why she keeps pointing that flashy thing at me?

Wouldn’t life be interesting if we were all walking around with our own thought bubbles? I’m sure there’s a Halloween costume idea in there somewhere.

What would your thought bubble say today?

Slinky Malinki: Life in the Blue Zone

slinky looking leery

Slinky looking a bit world-weary

Our little Slinky has a sordid past. We don’t know the details, but she arrived on our front steps a few years ago with fear in her eyes, looking for a meal. I reached down to pet her and she lashed out, biting and clawing my hand. Boy did that hurt.

My family quickly learned to keep our hands to ourselves. Slinky visited our deck every few days and we offered her food and water on her visits. She started rubbing up against our legs with a nervous purr, but any attempt to pet her sent her scrambling, biting or both. This went on for months. Then one day, my son simply bent down and picked her up and carried her into the house. She froze in his hands, clearly terrified, but I rejoiced knowing we could get our hands on her. In November of 2010 I lifted her into a cat carrier and took her to our vet.

contemplation

Contemplation

I warned our vet about Slinky’s propensity to bite and claw, but they countered that she was a sweetie. Clearly they’ve seen it all. Her health checked out, I paid for boosters and an exam and came home.

We kept Slinky indoors that first night, but with a small house, two boys and at the time, four other cats, she was under great duress. The eventual compromise was to create an outdoor enclosure in our back, side yard. This kept her safe from the dangers of the street, including cars and cat fights, but we still dreamed of having her inside.

Slinky Today

We’ve come a long way since those early years. About two and a half years ago, and on her own terms, Slinky moved indoors. She sleeps on the back of my desk and keeps the other cats in line. She’s the smallest and the oldest and hearing-impaired, but Lindy and Mouse know to give her a wide berth. Slinky likes to dart outside for ‘fresh’ water, then quickly returns to her chosen spot on my desk.

Until this summer.

When we cleaned out the side yard earlier this year, we tossed the decaying bench. I bought small blue cushions for the bench, and used to sit there to keep her company and to give her treats. The blue bench cushions were still in good shape, so I planned to use them on the back steps. As I tossed the cushions on the patio Slinky seemed to recognize them. She headed straight for them with purpose and intent. I wonder if she has fond memories of sitting on those cushions in her side-yard domain? Whatever it is, she’s spent most of her summer in this area of the patio known as the blue zone.

Life in the Blue Zone

Slinky wants to go out on the porch around 6 am.

slinky takes a drink

A long, cool drink at the bowl

She has a long drink of water from her blue bowl, which is really a ceramic tray used to catch water under a plant. She spends the rest of the day on her blue cushions.

slinky grooming

8:42 Grooming

slinky grooming

9:04 Planning her day

slinky naps

9:12 The first of several naps

On really hot days, she slips off the sides on to the cool stones, but by day’s end she’s back up on her cushions.

slinky slides off the cushions

Another nap, resting her head on the cool stone

slinky on blue cushions

Another nap

At dusk she comes inside and sits on the arm of the couch for a bit of TLC. She purrs and head butts and looks for affection, but we’re still a bit leery. One false move and the claws come out. A quick hiss follows, from a place of fear. Slinky recovers and things return to normal. Eventually we’re all off to bed until Slinky sounds the alarm the following day. She can’t hear so she dials up the volume to an impossible-to-ignore cry: GET UP! IT’S TIME TO RETURN TO THE BLUE ZONE!

Slinky patrols the blue zone

Slinky patrols the Blue Zone

Slinky is loud-mouthed, quick to temper and at times a bit of a bully.

Sometimes you just can’t explain love.

A bit more about Slinky and the origins of her name

2012: Slinky in the Garden

2013: All’s Well with Slinky

Penguin Books: Slinky Malinki by Dame Lynley Dodd

slinky turning grey

My old, graying Slinky. On a recent visit, my vet described her as “an old woman with really good teeth.”

 

Unwanted Gifts, Ahead by a Whisker

slinky on the desk

Slinky lounging on my desk

I’m ready to pull my hair out, but I’m having a hot cup of tea instead. I’m trying to sooth my nerves. A curled up Slinky sits next to me on the desk and the leaves outside my window are finally turning orange. Breathe, Alys, breathe.

We have a standing joke that when my husband travels on long business trips, something in the house breaks.  I think of myself as capable in a crisis, but computers and home appliances are generally outside of my purview.  He left town late Thursday, and on Friday the dishwasher stopped working. Initially, I refused to believe it. It was one of those weeks. I played with the buttons, hoping it was just the light. Next I went outside and checked the fuse box. All appeared to be in order, but I reset it anyway and came back inside. No luck. I got down on my knees to see if the machine came unplugged. Isn’t it nice when it’s something that obvious? That’s when I saw the frayed cord. Chewed, actually. Did I mention the unwanted gift?

mouse looking round

Mouse doing his Butterball turkey impression

Mouse (a cat) likes to catch rats (alive and well) and bring them in the house. The cat flap is now firmly closed and any open door carefully monitored. You know what they say about hindsight. Mouse brought us a gift anyway, and it’s alive and well, living in a little condo formerly known as my under-sink cabinet. There is a small hole to allow the hose and plug to the dishwasher to pass under the sink. The other side of the cabinet has a similar opening for a water pipe. For a week  now, the rat has been passing between the two holes, but firmly out of reach.  My oldest son made a humane rat trap based on internet research, but the rat apparently has a Ph.D. and refused to fall for it. We tried two different containers, baited with delicious peanut butter and crackers but to no avail.  We put down a ‘test cracker’ to be sure he was still coming around and that cracker disappeared.  Clever rodent.

Last night I found a small, humane trap online at Home Depot. I stopped by the local store this morning, but it isn’t in stock. The smaller size is only available online. The store clerk, a kind and helpful man, tried to order it for me three times using my credit card. The system kept sending a message that the account number and address didn’t match. Of course they did, but we reentered it again and again to no avail.  After several more attempts using two different credit cards and finally PayPal, the annoying message persisted.

Back home I called around, still hoping to get my hands on a small, humane trap in town. The Humane Society doesn’t sell them, and the traps available at Lowe’s and Home Depot are for larger animals.  Desperate to get my hands on a trap, I called the Home Depot 800 number and explained the problem. She said I would have to call my financial institution to clear the hold on my account.

I called my credit union and they told me I didn’t have a hold on my account. I logged on to see if there was  a problem with the first credit card I tried using and found four separate charges to Home Depot, each for one dollar.

target home depot screen capture

Pending transactions?

Don’t worry, the tea is helping and I still have most of my hair. I’m trying to breathe in and out with the rhythm of the cat. Breathe…breathe…breathe.

I made a note of Target’s 800 number and gave them a call. I pushed numbers and pound signs and cycled through the proffered choices. A recorded voice told me my balance, the date of my last payment, my recent charges…pretty much everything but what to do about those charges and how to make my card work again.

The game’s not over yet, but I’m sitting on the bench for a spell. I don’t know the current score, but I’m pretty sure the rat is ahead by more than a whisker.