Sunday, January 27, 2008

Our Life in Shreds


After my December clutter-purge, I realized I hadn’t yet dealt with a huge stash of confidential documents – mostly old tax returns. We have a huge, two-story garage that provides a wealth of storage in its upper regions but it also hides a wealth of trash. They say it’s safe to destroy tax records after seven years. Why don’t I trust the IRS? I saved `em for eight just to be sure. Most of the account numbers were probably defunct but without combing through the bags, I couldn’t be sure. A few years back, when burn barrels were still allowed in the City, we would periodically rip open a bag of outdated tax returns and toss them in the barrel with other paper trash. Of course, we wouldn’t remember to do it every time, then burning was outlawed and we were left with dirty boxes of musty wads of previously important papers.

Several years back, in a pre-garage sale mode, I had pulled a bunch of the tax bundles off of the shelf piled them at the top of the stairs, intending to do something with them. Apparently I never did and Mark finally asked what was in the pile…..Whoops! Shredding was an option but I don’t have the time or patience for the grinding noise to sit and run one page at a time though the marginal shredder that we have.
In the Bay Area, you’ll see trucks parked in the business district collecting documents for confidential shredding from businesses. We don’t have commercial services like that up here but we do have
HCAR -- a local non-profit that serves the developmentally disabled. Teams of HCAR clients are employed in the community and after making some phone calls, I found out that one of the services they offer is confidential shredding. They came and PICKED UP our papers and stored them securely until they could be shredded. When it was time to shred, their team went through the bags and boxes, removing clips and other miscellaneous at which time it was weighed and I was billed. The cost? A mere 37 cents a pound. I got the bill the other day. It was a little over two weeks between the day they collected our stuff and the day it was shredded. Mark said they took five or six boxes of paperwork which apparently weighed 83.2 pounds. My bill was for $30.78. That’s a cool deal in my book.
So I got rid of a BUNCH of stuff for which there is no easy disposal method.
HCAR clients were employed. The paper was recycled. Life is good. Now there is space to store more stuff in the garage.

Monday, January 21, 2008

THE FINAL (semester) COUNTDOWN

Though still a little chilly, the sun got me out in the garden for a little post-winter cleanup, better late than never. Tended to the hens who also seem to be coming out of their winter funk, feathers replenished and an occasional green egg to show their enthusiasm. The garden looks a little tidier, I feel less guilty and maybe a little invigorated.
Thank goodness for the three-day weekend but this is the first time since high school that I can remember NOT being excited about the start of the new semester but start it tomorrow I shall. I have just one REAL class, an online Computer Literacy class. Even though I’ve been using a PC for more than twenty years, I know this won’t be a cake-walk. In fact, I hope to better understand what the hell I’m supposed to be doing with this chunk of electronics that entertains me for the better part of my day.
The Computer class is four units which allowed me to step out side the academic box and, for the first time, take a one-unit PE class. Yeah for exercise gear instead of a textbook. I just needed five units this semester to finish my A.S. degree. Considering I’ve laughed about getting my 2-year degree on the ten-year plan, finishing in eight isn’t bad. Actually, I looked back and my first class at CR was in 2000 when Monica and I took Spanish together….probably the reason Angela isn’t teaching at the college anymore, poor thing. I really didn’t take anything more than a couple half-unit classes until 2003 then started taking one or two each semester as I could fit them in. Looking at it that way, doing the bulk of my 60 units in five years isn’t too bad though it would have been easier done fresh out of high school. When I graduated from Harbor High, a degree wasn’t required unless you were going to be a doctor, lawyer, teacher, maybe a scientist? I wanted to be a “secretary”. I took typing, shorthand, 10-key….viola, I’m a secretary. Actually, I’m an “Administrative Office Assistant” which is PC for….. “secretary” but I still want to be a good one.
God willing, I’ll get through this semester and actually walk with cap and gown in May with an Associates degree in what I call “Random Studies” -- a homemade conglomeration of classes that have helped me to do a better job of what I already do. I started with Digital Media until I ran out of software classes I needed….I really had no interest in animation and creating a video game. Does the world really NEED another video game, especially one designed by a middle-aged woman? If I wrote what I know, I’d end up with The Sims and it’s already been done. So, I switched to a Business major, did my general ed and here I am, months away from a dance with Pomp and Circumstance. I’ll probably take a few more classes just to get better at certain programs I use daily and I DO have a thing for marketing. The nice thing is that I won’t HAVE to do it. I don’t see myself going on to HSU anytime soon, though …who knows what the future might bring.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A VISIT FROM THE TOOTH FAIRY

When I was little and lost a tooth, I would place it under my pillow. In the night, the “tooth fairy” would visit, take the tooth and, in its place leave a quarter or perhaps a Kennedy half-dollar if it was a particularly fabulous specimen. When I became a parent, I became impressed with the stealth with which this operation took place. I hope I’m not letting the cat out of the bag here but….WE had to be the tooth fairy and Mark and I were NOT worthy of the responsibility. Tooth fairy at our house was lame. We suggested the tooth be placed in a bowl of water on Monica’s dresser. On occasion, the tooth fairy “forgot”. Explanation: “Well, honey, I’m betting a LOT of kids lost teeth yesterday and she just couldn’t keep up. I’m SURE she’ll make it tonight”. That happened more than once and she always showed up the second night. On at least one occasion, the tooth fairy actually visited while Monica was eating breakfast….she’s THAT good. (*Whew*). As time went on, I learned to put money in my pocket as soon as I knew the tooth would be left. Since I don’t usually have cash in my pocket, it would serve as a reminder to do the big switch before we turned in.

Fast forward to years later when Monica informed us that she once had seen the tooth fairy. Can you see the panic in our eyes? What could she have seen? Well, lets just say that Mark’s pajamas are the ones in which he came from the factory. Yep, apparently, the moon was shining particularly BRIGHT on the night Monica lost her tooth. Fast forward to last week when I received this photo via e-mail. The note attached said it was a “snow angel” but Monica confirmed…it’s the tooth fairy!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hillbilly Humboldt

We just watched a show on the History channel on Hillbilly history – narrated by Billy Ray Cyrus. Just reading the blurb made us smile so we had to check it out. As always…we’ve gotten old enough to find history interesting, dangit.

So, the account got into the inevitable stories about moonshine, stills, revenuers and shine-runnin’ as a predecessor to stock car racing -- made me think about Burt Reynolds in White Lighting. Because shine was one of the few ways for the hill folk to eek out a living, towns people turned a blind eye because of the money it brought to the economy. During Prohibition, moonshine was in its heyday, tripling in value as an accessible libation for speakeasys without access to other alcohol.

Now days, the growing of marijuana in the hills of Appalachia has replaced stills that ceased being as profitable once Prohibition ended. Think about that. What an interesting comparison between moonshine stills in the backwoods and dope grows in the hills, tucked in among the trees, visible only from the air. Defiance of the government being quietly condoned because of the money it brings to local economy. Then there's the profitability of corn likker increasing with Prohibition and becoming less profitable once it was legal. Things that make ya go hmmmmmm.

Friday, January 11, 2008

HOW DO YOU FAIL A SURVEY?!

I’m fixing dinner…the phone rings. A 3-minute survey. “I’m not selling anything". Ever available to someone asking my opinion, I tell him I’m holding him to his three minutes – “go”. He was caught off-guard but starts through the list of disqualifiers:

Survey Guy: Do you or any member of your family work for a pet-food manufacturer?

ME: “No”.

SG: “Ad agency?”

ME: “No”.

SG: “Pet store?”

ME: “No”.

Blah blah blah down the list. You can generally tell the topic of the survey based on what will disqualify you so I’m figuring this will have to do with pet food or pet products of some sort. I’m in like Flint. With cats, a dog, chickens and an aquarium, we’re on the frequent buyer program at virtually ALL the pet and feed stores….

SG: “Do you have any cats?

ME: “Yes”

SG: “How many?”

ME: “Five” (oh they’ll like me for THIS survey…)

SG: Silence…..then “Five?”

ME: “Yep, five”

SG: He chuckles, “I guess that’s too many”

Me: “No kidding”.

SG: No really, this is where I say “thank you very much, that’s all the questions I have”.

ME: “Really, how many do they figure is OK?”

SG: Well, I think the last one I did that had four was OK….

ME: Well, one of mine isn’t doing real well, you might call me back in six months or so….

SG: “Thank you for participating.” click

Damn honey, we have too many cats…

Mark: Yeah? No kidding!

Seriously, do they figure anyone with five cats is too crazy to have a valuable opinion but four is somehow acceptable!?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

RIDERS ON THE STORM

If you know me, you know that the phrase "hazardous seas" is just a taunt to get me out there. And I went, dragging Gloria with me. The road was fun since last night's surge had drug sand over part of the road. It was a bit precarious in my little Xbox with NO ground clearance but we made it. Check these out...The first one is of the north jetty, what you can see of it. You can't see the rocks where I was crawling on Tuesday. Oh..MY...GAWD!
videoGlo got this video. Just for perspective, that black is the jetty wall where people sit and fish, along which I generally walk. The wave is IN the channel and ENORMOUS. I'd like to tell you it's her voice, all excited and awestruck but, hey, she's sixteen. It was me. Needless to say, no fishing boats and no surfers. Glo and I stayed on the dune as did most of the other people who couldn't resist the call of the "hazardous seas". I can honestly tell you that the scene was truly APOCALYPTIC!
Although I don't know that I've ever seen anything as impressive, Mark reminded me of a big storm in Santa Cruz. I begged him to drive out on to the wharf and I was pissed because my pictures of the waves skimming the bottom of the pier beneath us didn't turn out. I don't know WHY....I was hanging plenty far over the side?! We must have already been married .... I'm not sure he would have married me AFTER that.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

OF SHOEHORNS AND PASTRY BLENDERS.....

So, I was putting on my shoes this morning and, as I pulled my shiny shoehorn from the drawer, I wondered if anyone else OWNS a shoehorn, let alone USES one. Then I realized that, in this world of new-fangled gadgets and toys, there are still some old school tools for which there has been no adequate improvement, at least in my book. The shoehorn is one of those. Mine is metal, stamped with the GallenKamp’s name, a Santa Cruz shoe store where my brother, Greg, worked in high school. The shoe horns would gravitate home in his shirt pocket -- remember shoe stores with clerks?! I’m sure they gave them away to customers or I wouldn’t think they’d bother to have them engraved with the store name. Anyway, I have one pair of shoes that have a tall back that I’d rather not smash down quite yet so the shoehorn is used for that one pair of shoes. If I didn’t have it, I’d probably steal a serving spoon from the kitchen but it wouldn’t work as well.

My other old school favorite….my mom’s pastry blender. For those of you who don’t bake, it’s the other option for making pie crusts that isn’t a food processor or two forks. It’s used for blending butter cubes into flour in the first stage of making a pie crust or biscuits. When my mom passed away in 2004 (damn you, Alzheimer's!), my sister cleared out the kitchen and randomly divvied things between the siblings. I feel fortunate to have received mom’s pastry blender. Its red handle worn by my mom’s hands and wire "blades" tweaked just a little from years of use (and probably abuse by us kids).

I like to bake but never had much luck with pie crusts – they were always flakey and tasty but not particularly attractive. I’m sure I added too much or too little of something, or maybe I rolled it out too much or too little, overworked or underworked. I never cared much for a food processor either. One Thanksgiving, my mom called while I was making a crust for pumpkin pie. Because I was distracted, or perhaps because mom was sending good vibes, I mixed the crust absent-mindedly with the phone tucked between my shoulder and my ear. That was the first crust that ever turned out PERFECT. Once I inherited mom’s pastry blender, I feel Mom pitching in every time I use it.

So, what old school devise to YOU prefer, even in light of modern upgrades? Maybe you’re a straight razor guy who sharpens with a leather strap? Or you use a rotary lawn mower? Anyone?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

BARNACLES AND MUSSELS ALIVE ALIVE-O

Happy New Year….from the Jaws…..Since I generally head to the Breakers when the waves are big, it was unusual to find myself there when the water was glassy smooth. I had checked the tides and found that the low was due around 1:30 so was able to climb on the rocks below the jetty for a few hours, communing with the occupants of the tidal areas generally well below the water line. I’m not sure you could consider it tide pools. Rocks and pockets teeming with anemones, barnacles and mussels as well as some pretty little snails who were unfortunately still in their homes or the shells would have
been in my pocket. I love beachcombing but stop short of bringing home anything still alive. I REALLY wanted this pretty gold one that was just laying there, unattached but….alas, still occupied. I tried to get down to a really intriguing area at the head of the jetty...the water was down and rocks were exposed but getting to them was mighty slippery. There's a fine line between adventurous and foolish...often I step over that line for the sake of a picture but even I stop short of putting the Coasties to work on New Years Day.