Time Flies

I realized this morning that I am not blogging, because every time I think about blogging, I think that Carol is not around to read my posts anymore and it makes me sad, so instead of writing, I go do something else, like playing solitaire or eating candy. She, of all people, would shake her head at this behavior, I think. She understood that the only day we have is the day we’re in and that we should appreciate it. I don’t know whether she also knew that the only way through sad is to let yourself be there, but I know that, so it’s time I started acting like it.

I’m sad that Carol will not read this post.

And that said, I’m really happy that it is a beautiful day in Arcata today. Suzanne was gone through most of the month of May, off adventuring in Europe, but she had a really delightful house-sitter, with whom I got to exchange the morning greeting every day of, “There might be sun today. It could happen,” and the evening farewell every night of, “Well, maybe tomorrow.” So much fog. So cold. So gray and dreary. Sigh.

This is the weather that Suzanne told me about eons ago, but it is not the weather that I’ve ever had in Arcata. It’s the weather that made me rule out ever living in Arcata, in fact! Or, I should say, “was” the weather, because now we’ve had three days of sunshine and it’s been glorious. Does the weather relate to the fact that I’ve been making lots of little adventure plans instead of sticking to my commitment to write, write, write? Yep, absolutely. The only day we have is the day we’re in and even though I know I need to write, write, write, I am actually going to do a bunch of other fun things instead. Or, I should say, as well, because I’m not giving up my write, write, write commitment, I’m just not going to not enjoy my life while I’m doing it. Double negative adds up to a positive, so yes, I’m going to enjoy my life. And write!

Little plans: an overnight camping trip near a river, so the dogs can play; a day trip to Santa Rosa, so that dogs and I can have fun while S sees her eye doctor; an incredibly swift four-day trip to FL to celebrate occasions with family; a three-day camping adventure in Oregon to escape from fireworks on the 4th of July. S’s making bigger and even more exciting plans for farther out in the future, too, but I’m holding off on those, because I do need to write. Or rather, I do need to earn some money.

Am I making smart choices when it comes to writing –> making money? Absolutely not! Not really a surprise, I guess. But that’s not just about not doing the work, it’s about the choice of projects I’m working on. I’m now 20K words into a cozy science-fiction romance which has actually stopped being cozy and become more of a science-fiction mystery adventure. The practical thing to do from a writing point of view is always to write romance, and also to always write series romance, and… well… yeah. I keep thinking I want to be practical, but I guess it’s just not my strong suit. I quite like this story, though, and am having fun with it, so I won’t bother regretting my choices for now. (If you want to read it as I write it, I’m posting first draft chapters to the Rescuing Ceres category on my 1000words at a time blog.)

Proof of how beautiful the day is:

A cute dog in a field of buttercups

Sophie, playing in a field of buttercups.

Sophie and I finished our dog training class yesterday, with a field trip to a park where she got to play on some dog agility equipment. I promptly signed up for the next class in the series, because I think she really liked the class overall and I know she loved the field trip. Her big success on the field trip, IMO, was staying in a crate without complaint for the portions of the event where the dogs needed to be crated. It took me the third time of putting her in the crate to realize that the proper command for the request is, “Load up,” which is what we say to the dogs when we want them to get into the car. She completely understands “load up” as meaning, “enter this enclosed space and wait patiently for something to happen,” and when I told her to “load up” with the crate, she went straight in, turned around and waited, exactly as one would hope. For her first time at using a crate, I was super pleased with how well she did.

She also did a pretty great job on jumps, although she knocked the bar over a couple times, and a great job with the tunnel and the balance beam, and an exceptionally great job with all the optimism equipment, ie boxes of noisy things to jump into and out of, plus wobbly things to jump and balance on. If I had to pick a favorite for her… well, actually, her favorites were all the ones where I was crouching at the end waiting for her to knock me over and give me kisses. Those were her favorites. She was not a super big fan of any of the ones where I needed to use the lead to show her where to go, ie running around cones, running in circles around a center point.

Here’s an obvious thing I learned about dog training from this class: it’s really about training the person, not the dog. Some of the skills we haven’t worked on, like sitting for a heel, are skills we should work on, just because they’re gateway skills to other things that are more fun, like jumping. But all of it is mostly me needing to figure out how to tell her what I want, because she’s both smart and willing. It makes me think of Anne Sullivan, trying to teach Helen Keller to communicate.

I did think, though, during the field trip, that if I was a dog trainer (never going to happen) and/or had my own school of dog training (never going to happen), all of my teaching would revolve around trust and relationship-building. During the jumps, I let Sophie off-leash, because, as the instructor said, “She’s not going to go far from you.” She didn’t, although she did hop over to visit another dog for a few seconds and then returned promptly when called. With the tunnel, the other instructor said, “She’s a real mama’s girl, if you’re at the far end, she’ll go through.” Yep, she did without hesitation. We don’t have the skills that obedience or agility competitions measure, but it’s such a huge advantage to have the foundation of trust that we have.

Anyway, the class was fun for both of us. I’m not sure I could sum up what we learned, but we enjoyed ourselves.

Somehow my quick little blog post, just to break the non-blogging cycle, has gotten kinda long. And I’ve got words to write on Rescuing Ceres, so I think I’m going to get back to it. TTYL!

BEST DAY EVER!!!, according to the dog

I said to my brother last week, “I think it’s a really good quality in a day if you think your dog would say, ‘BEST DAY EVER!!!’ about it.” Even if you wouldn’t say it yourself, if your own more measured perspective would think it was a pity that the sun didn’t shine more, and that the wind was so strong, and that the food was fine, but nothing so great that you’d remember it a week later… Even then, if your dog thinks it was the BEST DAY EVER!!!, then probably it was a pretty darn good day.

Of course, Sophie is kind of an easy audience. Her version of Best Day Ever!!! needs to include some time running around off-leash in nature, some activity with a ball, something to chew on somewhere along the way, and a fair amount of time with her people.

dog on beach with ball in her mouth

A ball on the beach might be all that’s needed for the BEST DAY EVER!!!

Speaking of her people, the BBE came to visit me for a couple of weeks and Sophie adored him immediately. I did not appear to be a particularly good dog trainer, because she was up on him, in his face, providing kisses and full body tail-wags and demands for tummy rubs pretty much from the moment she first saw him, and then every time they’d been separated for a few hours. Honestly, it was adorable. Not exactly well-behaved, but super cute anyway. I love that she loved him so much. She has good taste, my girl.

the BBE with Sophie in his lap

Not really a lap dog, but she wanted to be.

But speaking of well-behaved, she ate with us at a multitude of restaurants over the past couple of weeks and she was very good. The first time was the most work for me. She didn’t quite get the concept of just hanging out by my side and wanted to explore the entire patio. But after that one, she figured it out and was such a good girl that I got nice stranger/waitress comments about what a good dog she is.

In other news, well, yeah, I went on vacation with the BBE. We spent a few days in Arcata, while I dragged him around to all my favorite places — Moonstone Beach, the Mal’el Dunes, the Arcata Marsh, the bottoms, Stewart Park, Creamery Field. Yes, all my favorite places are basically long dog walks. Oh, but also Little Japan in Arcata which is a store with a great selection of Hi-Chews, a candy the BBE introduced me to in the summer of 2021, when we hung out in FL together.

After a few days in Arcata, we drove up to Oregon. We spent three days at a beach house in Waldport, where the weather wasn’t exactly awesome, but wasn’t too terrible either. We ate oyster tacos at Clausen Oysters, and gluten-free burgers and fries from a place called Skosh and more than one meal at the Drift Inn in Yachats, which had a great dog-friendly, covered patio. And we walked on the beach. A few photos:

a mysterious dead thing on the beach

A mysterious dead thing on the beach. No idea what it could have been.

A bald eagle on the beach.

But in the morning, bald eagles were eating it.

A sunrise

The sunrise view from the house we were staying at

After Waldport, we headed to Bend for a few days. We did nothing there except eat good food and take Sophie for long walks at the good dog trail next to our hotel. Well, okay — we went to one thrift store, and one other dog park, and the BBE went to the crazy expensive grocery store, I think to prove to himself that I wasn’t exaggerating. (I wasn’t!) And there was a little sitting outside in the sunshine reading and some peaceful hours hanging out. Mostly, though, long walks in a beautiful place, good food on patios so Sophie could be with us. And much nicer weather!

mountain with snow

Still snow on the mountains! The clerk at the hotel asked if we were there for the skiing. Ha, no.

Sophie loved the trail so much. Lots of running and exploring and really just an excellent response to my recall whistle. There was one time when I’d gotten a little separated from the BBE — we were on separate, adjacent trails, that we assumed would meet up again soon but that hadn’t yet. I could see him over the brush and vice versa, but Sophie could not see him. She disappeared. And stayed disappeared. I stopped moving and stood still, whistling, waiting, calling, waiting, whistling again. It was maybe a minute or so when she came barreling up the path to me, racing so fast that her ears flew out behind her in what I fondly call her otter look. She’d gone all the way back to the river to try to find the BBE where I’d lost him. She was very happy when we found him again.

river with dog

We made it to the river on Good Dog Trail more than once. Sophie did not approve of the swimming dogs! There was much barking.

The restaurants we ate at in Bend were mostly familiar but with two new additions: The Blissful Spoon, where I had a really incredible chakchouka, and Poke Row, for delicious GF poke bowls. I’d eat at either of those places again, quite happily. Oh, and on our way to Bend, we stopped in Philomath, aka the middle of nowhere, and ate at The Eats and Treats Cafe. Now I am SOO jealous of Philomath. Arcata is also the middle of nowhere, but we don ‘t have a restaurant like that. It was a really excellent, entirely GF menu. The roll on my barbecue chicken sandwich tasted absolutely like real bread, and my chocolate chip cookie was delicious.

On the way home, we stopped in Ashland for the night. Our hotel was very centrally located. Also very loud. It was nice to be able to walk to all the shops and restaurants on the main streets and wander around the downtown area, but I think I prefer a hotel where sleep is feasible at 11PM. (It was both a Saturday night and probably the first warm Saturday night of the year, so highly likely that it was worse than usual. But it was not good.) We ate at Vida, the Brazilian cheese bread bakery for lunch, and then stumbled across Thai Pepper in time for a really lovely dinner on a patio with Sophie underfoot and the sounds of a rushing creek nearby.

I did not manage to break my step count high for the year, which was 19,582 steps on March 26, but I did average 13,000 steps for the week, for which I’ll give myself some shine. It’s a little bit apples to oranges, because I do have a watch tracking all my steps now, not just a phone tracking the steps when I’m carrying it, but still, my 2022 average was 4652 steps, so I’m ahead of the game right now.

I will now, however, drop behind the game, because my goal for the next however much time is not steps, but words. Lots and lots and lots of words and these ones don’t count. I am determined that the next thing I do — no idea when, but the next thing I do! — will be to publish a book. So now I just have to get back to writing one. Although first, ha, I should probably walk a couple dogs. And eat a healthy breakfast with lots of vegetables! Our vacation was lovely but it included more cookies than vegetables. Which is not a bad quality in a vacation, really.

Stories about dogs

Suzanne was away for the past several days, so Bear joined Sophie and I in the tiny house. (Suzanne got a petsitter for the other animals, but Bear is not really the kind of girl who nonchalantly accepts random strangers wandering into her house. Or her yard.)

If I’d thought about it ahead of time, I would have assumed that Sophie Sunshine would be delighted to have her bestie staying with us and would happily ignore me entirely in favor of Bear. Not so much, actually. She was happy enough to have Bear visit us, but more than once she did her best to let me know that it was time for Bear to go back to her own house now. And I got excellent Sophie Sunshine snuggles because of the Bear competition. Sophie usually hangs out under the bed, often joining me on the bed after I turn the lights out at night, although usually at the foot of it. With Bear sprawled across the majority of the bed, Sophie felt it incumbent upon herself to establish that she was top dog and basically sleep on my neck. Fine by me, it was lovely to have dog cuddles.

Notable things about Bear as an almost 2-year old: she is extremely well behaved at meal times. She knows to sit and wait patiently until I put the food on the floor and then gesture at the bowl to let her know that it’s hers. I’ve made no attempt to teach Sophie that behavior because usually she’s the only one eating, no competition from cats or other dogs, but the two of them together in my small space did really well at respecting one another’s bowls, mostly because Bear was so good.

Bear is also such a smart girl. We went to the dog park in McKinleyville, which is a great place to roam with active dogs — lots of trails where dogs can be off-leash — and I played an off-leash game that I play with Sophie, where as soon as she gets too far ahead of me or disappears around a curve, I turn and start walking in the other direction. I’ll find a corner to go around myself if I can. As soon as Sophie finds me, I reward her with a treat and some praise. The goal, of course, is for her to always be paying attention to where I am. She needs to know that it’s her job to keep track of me, not vice versa, and that I will not always follow where she leads. It took Bear maybe three times to figure out the game and then she was always the first one back to me. She’s a little faster than Sophie when she wants to be, so possibly she was using Sophie’s decisions as a trigger, but I think she was paying attention herself. She’s not very treat-motivated usually, but she wanted her share of the duck jerky!

She also did really great with other dogs. She’s more reactive in general than Sophie, who’s pretty mellow about interacting with other dogs and quite capable of ignoring them if she feels like it, but we had two great incidents of solid Bear behavior. Hmm, both of them were when she had a ball in her mouth (she likes to carry it back to home/the car after we’re done playing), which is possibly worth noting — she’s a pup who likes having a job to do. But in one incident, we walked through a pack of dogs, probably four of them, all around her size and off-leash, on the path coming back from the beach, and she basically ignored them. She was on-leash and I was reminding her that she needed to hang on to her ball, but still, she did great. There’s also a dog that I call the junkyard dog (not really fairly) who races up and down a chain link fence barking at us on a section of our walk to Creamery Field. Bear’s had a very hard time ignoring that dog in the past, but this time she dropped her ball, then picked it up again and simply walked away. Yay, Bear!

Walking the two dogs together, though, still feels a little more like work than fun. (Outings with them = fun; just walking = kinda challenging.) Bear on-leash drags me as she tries to catch up to Sophie off-leash and/or Sophie mopes because she has to be on-leash to walk next to her buddy. Around Arcata now, Sophie is pretty much entirely off-leash. She roams ahead of me, but pauses at every street corner and waits for me to catch up and check for cars coming. I’ve noticed her checking for cars herself, too, which is really adorable. She looks both ways, then glances back at me as if to say, “Looking good to me, you agree?” I still have her wait until I can see, but she also clearly recognizes the difference between a trafficked street and a quiet street. On a busy street, she keeps her eyes on my face until I look down at her and nod to confirm we can go, and on a quiet street, she sniffs around and checks things out until I start walking. She loves exploring when she’s off-leash. Every new street is an adventure.

This afternoon, Sophie and I start a dog training class, called Training for Real Life, Level 1. It’s a foundations class. My real goal is to get into the classes that come after the three foundations segments — agility, games, and fitness, because I think Sophie might enjoy them and they might give her an outlet for some of her energy — but it’ll be interesting to see what we learn to begin with. The third section of the class — the one we’d be taking sometime in September, most likely — is where you work on a solid recall and retrieve, so Sophie’s ahead of the game in some ways. That said, she doesn’t have a “joyful stay” which is part of what she’s supposed to learn in Level 2, and I don’t know what she knows or doesn’t know from Level 1. The only specific they mention is “disengagement from scary things” and I don’t know that Sophie finds anything particularly scary. We had a seriously impressive thunderstorm last night and she was pretty dubious about it — incredibly loud thunder! — but I gave her a bully stick, and told her we didn’t care about those big noises, and she seemed perfectly willing to forget about it.

My list of things to do never seems to get any shorter: email, blurb revisions, update marketing graphics, write a book or two or three… all the usual stuff. I decided it was time to start using a literal to-do list, opened an Apple app, and realized there were things on it that still needed to be done from 2021. Ugh. In one sense, they probably weren’t important (send a letter re translation rights, update books where the rights have reverted to me), and in another… well, I used to be really good at getting things done. I was very efficient when I was an editor! I’m not sure why I’ve become so inefficient now, forever spinning my wheels, when it would surely be simpler to just Get Stuff Done. But I think I will try to check off at least an item or two on that list before heading off to our training class. Wish me luck!


I was thinking it was about six months since I realized I was depressed and decided to do something about it, so maybe it would be a good time for an update on my Depression Recovery Plan. Then I went back and looked and actually, it was mid-November when I wrote about crying in the middle of Creamery Field, December 1 when I wrote about deciding to do something about it. That’s not even five months. I had to count more than once to be sure — December, January, February, March, eleven days worth of April… yeah, not six months. But six months is a rather arbitrary number anyway, so update it is.


I did my reading, learned what the internet had to offer about sleep and depression (plenty, as it happens) and created my plan. Well, created it, then evolved it, then evolved it some more. The current plan:

  • No food after seven PM, especially not sugar, but really, not anything. Not even tea.
  • Overhead lights off at 8.
  • No internet or games after 9:30.
  • Actual bedtime with lights off, book down, room set up for sleeping (heat off, all random lights, ie on power strips and appliances, off) by 10:30, including listening to a sleep meditation if I feel like I need it.

Sounds easy, right? Nope. It’s by far the hardest part of my plan, because even though all those things are in my power, the actual sleeping is not really in my control. Also, because I’m surprisingly unmotivated to do what I know is the right thing to do. Night time is when human beings typically have the lowest level of motivation — it’s a thing we use up during the day, and run out of by evening, which is why exercising in the morning is more likely to be successful — and I have to force myself to follow my own rules most of the time.

What I want to do is to play stupid games until midnight, and only grudgingly turn the lights off. What I want to do is read until I’m finished with the story I’m reading, regardless of what hour it is. What I want to do is have a snack at 9:30 or so, probably something a little sweet, and a big mug of mint tea. Ugh. It’s so hard to be a grown-up.

That said, I’m using technology to track my sleep, and wow, the difference not eating after 7 makes is really astounding to me. Literally, it’s worth at least a full hour of sleep, which for me is the difference between 6 hours or so a night and 7 hours or so a night. And not obviously! Not in a really clear “Oh, I ate at 8 so didn’t fall asleep until 12,” sort of way. I can still fall asleep, I just don’t stay asleep. Consistently, if I have eaten something after seven PM, then regardless of what else I do, I will be awake more in the night, and my sleep will be more restless.

Also, incredibly consistently, eight hours of sleep — which I very rarely manage — is a trigger for two good, cheerful days in a row. Not just one! And, also consistently, after a week where I average under seven hours a night, the clouds start gathering again. My motivation disappears, it’s hard to get up, and I don’t bother to fold my clean clothes, if I can even manage to get the laundry done.

At least for me, the research and history connecting depression and sleep is not wrong: I am doing much better when I get enough sleep. In the time that I’ve been tracking, I’ve averaged 7 hours 25 minutes a night, which includes a couple weeks of under 7 hours. The best week I had was 7 hours 44 minutes, and looking through my morning words reveals that it was also the most productive week I’ve had this winter. What a coincidence. (Also, yes, getting rid of the roosters has probably had a HUGE impact on my depression level. I wasn’t tracking my sleep in the summer and fall, but I’m definitely getting a lot more sleep now that I’m not listening to roosters crow from 3AM on.)


If you remember my post on exercise and depression recovery, you’ll know that I concluded that walking 7500 steps a day would be my goal. In November of 2022, when I was first realizing that I was depressed, my phone tells me that my average daily step count was just over 5000 steps. My average step count for March of 2023 was just over 10,000 steps. So I basically doubled the amount of walking I do. My 2023 average is 8007 steps, including all the rainy days of winter. Shine on, self. Has it been good for me? Yep.


Vegetables, specifically. The relationship between depression and nutrition isn’t nearly as obvious as the relationship between sleep and depression, but depression shrinks your hippocampus and eating healthy foods — aka lots of vegetables — grows it. My goal was to eat 8-10 vegetables a day. Sadly, I do not have a technology tracking my vegetable eating for me, so I have to rely on my own memory, which is never a good way to get accurate data. I’d guess, though, that I’ve averaged about 80% success, maybe a little higher? I certainly haven’t given up on it: most days, I eat a veggie heavy breakfast, and I think about ways to incorporate vegetables into all my meals.


Oops. I see that I never wrote my post on appreciation and mindfulness. I thought about it! And the short version — which maybe I’ll try to expand on later this week — is that every day I give myself an appreciation experience. It’s like my happiness practice, or a mindfulness exercise, where I take a deep breath, then use my senses to find something to appreciate. Look, listen, smell, touch, or taste — looking is often the easiest because Arcata has plenty of pretty flowers and beautiful clouds, but birdsong is often a winner, and a warm beverage on a chilly day is delightful when you pause to savor it.

And yeah, it can be hard to appreciate things when you’re depressed. Depression is such a gray fog. It takes an active effort to look for glimmers of light when you’re feeling nothing. But I make the effort and it helps.


This has been a recovery of ups and downs. My first weeks of my DRP were a nice fast zoom into a hypomanic state, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but which I think messed up my sleep, which is probably why I slid back down again. The weather didn’t help: endless rain is hard. I used to love the sound of rain on the skylight; now I hear it and groan as I pull the covers over my head to hide.

And Sleeping, Walking, and Eating are not a miracle cure, because they require motivation, and motivation is hard to come by when you’re depressed. I can tell myself all I like that I will feel better if I go for a walk, but when it’s pouring outside, staying in bed just seems so much nicer. (Every single time — every single time! — I do feel better when I take the walk, even if I get soaking wet. Does this knowledge motivate me? No, it does not.)

But tracking my sleep, steps, and routines has been extraordinarily helpful, because I’m a person who can be swayed by good data. I’m using an Apple Watch, a habit tracker, and a journal, and the three tools in combination let me see what factors are affecting my mood. Not always, of course. Things happen, good and bad, and influence me unexpectedly. But tracking = paying attention, and attention (or awareness) is the first step toward happiness.

Also, though, Sleeping, Walking and Eating your way out of depression takes time. And consistency. Eating lots of vegetables every day helps my energy level as long as I keep it up, but as soon as I stop, the benefits drift away. It’s a set of things to do for the rest of my life, really, not a miracle cure. Obviously, that’s kinda fine? It’s not like sleeping enough every night is a burden. But you know, sometimes I want ice cream at 9PM. And sometimes I want pancakes for breakfast, and sometimes I don’t want to walk in the rain.

All that said, the other day I wrote an email in which I said, “I’m mostly happier than I’ve ever been before. My life is great.” And that is actually how I’m feeling about my life these days. Most of the time, I’m pretty happy, and I love my life. I think my depression fight is a lot like having Celiac’s — if I’m careless, I’ll be sick again. But as long as I’m paying attention and avoiding gluten (for the Celiac’s) and sleeping, walking and eating vegetables (for the depression), I’ll be fine. More than fine, really.


Sophie at the marsh

An appreciation experience. The baby Canadian geese were much too far away to make a good photograph, but it was such a beautiful day. And the sun was shining, at least for a while!

Saying Good-bye to Carol Westover

I lost a friend two months ago.

I didn’t know I had until last week. I suspected. She wasn’t updating her blog. There were no signs of activity on her Goodreads account, her Facebook account or Instagram. She stopped commenting on my blog posts. My email to her went unanswered. (And, relevantly, she was not in the best of health.)

I finally left a comment on her last blog post, dated sometime in January, and her niece responded via email. Carol Westover, who commented here as tehachap, passed away on February 9th, 2023, after a fall on January 24th that led to a short stay in the hospital, followed by some time in a nursing facility. She leaves behind her husband, Robert, as well as two sons, and, I think, two nieces.

And, I’m quite sure, some deeply saddened internet friends.

I’m definitely one of them. I didn’t know her, not really. I met her once in real life, when I was still living in Serenity. I stopped by her house and took her out to Vietnamese food, which she’d never had before. But we exchanged emails upon occasion, she sent me recipes that she thought might interest me, and… well, I’ve been blogging for 17 years and during that time, this blog has received just over 5000 comments. Over six hundred of them were from Carol. Every single one of those comments was supportive and positive and kind.

Blogging these days is essentially writing into the void for me. An average blog post of mine gets 10 views, sometimes less, sometimes very randomly more. (The Tucson post I did from my phone with only pictures got an astounding 34 views, way outclassing anything else I’ve written in 2023, which, you know, is kinda ironic, given that there were no words attached to that post.) I’m mostly okay with writing into the void, though. It encourages me to write for myself and not worry about my audience.

Well, to write for myself and for Carol. (And Judy and Barbara and Claudia and my dad and my brother. But for the purposes of this post, Carol.) I’ve been working on this post for almost two weeks now, trying to articulate what she meant to me.

Yes, she was an internet stranger. But she was such a nice internet stranger. She was enthusiastic about so many things. In real life, she was the kind of person who baked cookies and gave them away to anyone and everyone; made quilts, ditto the giving them away; volunteered at her local train museum. When the pandemic started, she made masks and sent them to us here. She volunteered to proof-read most of my books for me, and was great at catching those last few random typos. Her husband has Alzheimer’s and she was his full-time caretaker, and her life was not easy. But she was just an authentically kind, optimistic human being.

Her last blog post ended with this: “Take good care of yourself–enjoy your life. I told Robert at dinner that I was going to spend the rest of my life enjoying life, and then I ordered Flan for dessert with everything on it!! LOL It felt good.

Each day is a blessing. Take good care of yourself and those you love. And be sure to tell those you love that you love them. Apologize when you’ve wronged someone through word or deed. There is a whole world of possibilities for gratitude–find one and think on it. Be at peace with yourself and others. Blessings to you…”

Words of wisdom from a friend. I am sorry there will be no more of them. And I guess I just needed to say that in this space, to acknowledge that she was here and now she’s not, and I will miss her. I already do.

Tail-spinning delight

At the park this morning, Sophie Sunshine spotted a dog from a distance that was a dead ringer for Copper, one of the Australian Shepherds owned by Jen, who hosted Sophie, Bear and Riley at Woof Camp when Suzanne and I went to Oaxaca in September. Sophie was so excited that she immediately dropped her ball and took off running. By the time she reached the Copper-lookalike, she was so happy that her tail was spinning in circles. I have never noticed her do that before. Truly, circles, like a motorboat blade. It was so cute!

Sadly for her, the dog was not Copper. Happily for her, the dog was friendly, enthusiastic and a big puppy, so they romped together for a little bit and then Sophie found her ball and went back to playing ball, while the Copper-lookalike (Percy) played with a beagle puppy who was also happy to romp. We wound up staying at the park longer than I intended, because there was so much happy energy that it was hard to resist.

Can you guess what made the energy so happy? Well, dogs, obviously. But also, SUNSHINE! Unexpected sunshine, which is the best. Although, actually, all sunshine is good by me, and I’m perfectly happy with predicted sunshine, as well as surprise sunshine. Still, surprise sunshine makes for a nice Monday morning.

I know I’m writing about weather a lot — not the most interesting of topics! — but… well, the newspapers have been writing about the Californian weather a lot, too. There’s a certain level of weather that becomes newsworthy, and while Arcata itself isn’t entirely at that level, it’s not so far off. It is conceivable (albeit still unlikely) that all the roads in and out of town could wind up closed because of the weather. It gives us a little bit of that flavor of the early days of the pandemic, when people were stockpiling crazy stuff because of the uncertainty. The endless days of rain make it seem all too plausible, while the sunshine makes it seem like nonsense. Of course, it’s all going to be fine. Yay, sunshine!

This weekend, Sophie and I went on two long walks. On Saturday, we walked about a mile and met up with the Redwood Pals Rescue pack walk. We then walked about two miles, I think, with a group of about 9 other dogs. For our first solo mile, Sophie was entirely off-leash, including a stretch along a fairly busy road. She was so good! She gets ahead of me a bit, then falls behind me when there’s an interesting smell, then gets ahead again, but she stops at every street corner and waits for me to say go. Many treats are still involved, but she’s very attentive. Then on Sunday, we did the same loop, about four miles or so, off-leash (with a brief exception of a time when she went on-leash to get by another dog). Suzanne’s pet-sitter, Rachaelle, joined us on that walk, so she and I were chatting away, but even though I was distracted, Sophie was still 98% perfect.

I never actually expected to have a true off-leash dog. Off-leash in enclosed, safe, specific areas, yes, i.e. I would have been sad if I couldn’t let her run free in dog parks and on beaches. But I didn’t imagine even wanting to train her to be off-leash on city streets and in places with traffic. I would have thought I’d be just way too anxious to ever be comfortable in those situations. But Sophie is so responsive and so happy to be trusted. She very much wants that freedom and she is delighted to have it. I think she understands that sometimes a leash is inevitable, but she’s sad about it when I put it on her. She doesn’t quite view it as a punishment, but it’s something like that.

After the pack walk, I tried teaching her that when I drop the leash, she should stop moving. That was fun. I don’t think she’d do it if I didn’t have a plentiful supply of treats in my pocket, but she definitely figured out pretty quickly what I was aiming for. I’m hoping later this year to do some dog training at a local place. She has not mastered — at all! — the concept of “you stay put while I move away” and I haven’t figured out how I can teach her that in a house so small that there is really no way for me to move away from her. But it would be a useful skill for her to have, I think. Hmm, maybe I should start working on it in the park. Well, something to think about!

In other news, I went to the dentist last week for the first time since the pandemic began. Ugh. My new dentist thinks I need $10,000 worth of stuff. Four crowns on old fillings, root planing to treat my gums, a night guard to protect my implants. She’s very high-tech and I don’t think she’s wrong — she showed me the cracks radiating out from the old fillings — but most of it is still not happening anytime soon. The root planing is, but for the rest, I’m looking into dental tourism. If I’m going to spend thousands of dollars, I’d rather have it include a cool vacation. Maybe this fall. Maybe next winter!

As for today, I should be thinking about email. My sole goal for the day — apart from the obvious DRP activities (Sleep, Walk, Eat Vegetables) — is to get my email under control. Somewhere, buried under the hundreds of emails that are flooding my inboxes every single day, is an email from a college friend that’s about 10 days old now. I know it’s in there underneath the vast amounts of spam I’m getting, and I’d really like to answer it, but it’s currently lost. There might be plenty of other interesting things in there, too, but I honestly just cannot keep up with my email anymore. I don’t think it’s just me, I think the spammers have figured out ways to defeat the spam filters, but my email situation is just crazy right now. If it didn’t seem completely unfeasible, I’d just delete all my email addresses and set up a new secret one that I only gave out to actual human beings. But that does seem unrealistic. Anyway, the goal for the day: clean out the email. And write a blog post. And enjoy the sunshine! I sort of suspect that two out of three will happen, because that sunshine is calling my name.


I felt like the cows had been playing King of the Mountain and were just waiting for us to go by to get back to their game.

A fine, albeit rainy, Monday

Rain, rain, and more rain. Chance of rain today: 100%. Chance of rain tomorrow: 100%. We’ve got a flood watch in effect for the entire county and the counties around us, too, listed as “Severity: Moderate, Possible threat to life or property.” They don’t mention possible threat to mental health and well-being, but maybe we all just take that for granted.

I know I should not complain, because check it out:

Rain Map

We are actually getting the LEAST amount of rain of anyone in the vicinity. Lavender, not violet. So I’m not complaining, I’m just… noticing. Commenting. Aware. (Whining!)

Yesterday, I was playing ball with Sophie in the park, in the rain, and I hurled the ball without looking, then realized I’d thrown it directly at an approaching person, all bundled up against the weather. I called out, “Oh, I’m so sorry,” and hurried after Sophie, who was racing toward her. Fortunately the ball landed before it came too close and Sophie snagged it before it could roll much farther, but I was still embarrassed. When I got close enough that I was sure the person — an older woman — would hear me, I apologized again.

She responded, “You’re so faithful to your dog.” I must have looked confused, because she added, “I see you out here all the time, throwing the ball for her, no matter the weather.”

I laughed a little and said, “She needs a lot of exercise.” But as the woman walked away, I felt… validated. It was unexpected, certainly, that someone I didn’t recognize recognized me, and I wondered whether she lived in one of the houses adjoining the park, but it was definitely more nice than not. “Faithful” was a really interesting word choice, too — not a word one hears much in relation to anything besides marriage — but I understood it as her acknowledging that I am doing my best for Sophie, regardless of the weather. Of course, it’s also good for me to be getting out and walking, because my natural inclination is to hole up. Despite the Depression Recovery Plan, if I didn’t have Sophie, I’m not sure I’d be dragging myself out of bed at all.

The first time I drove through west Texas, I can remember thinking that I wished I was the kind of person who would appreciate the stark beauty of the landscape, the wild desolation, the vast open space. Meanwhile, I was discovering that I am actually the kind of person who hated it and wanted nothing more than to get past the desolation and onto something more interesting. I feel that way about the endless rain. I wish I was the kind of person who could enjoy gray day after gray day after gray day, always appreciating the appeal of cloudy skies and reflections in puddles and the feel of cool drizzle on my face … but I’m just not. Oh, well. The weather app claims that Wednesday might be sunny, so fingers crossed we’ll have a chance to dry out a little.

In other news, the universe continues to instruct me to keep working on Choosing Happiness. Or maybe in this case it’s just Suzanne? She’s away and the pet sitter she found to take care of the cats (and chickens and Riley) is a teacher, and a writer working on a memoir, with a memoir-writing group. An unlikely coincidence, IMO, but it’s made for some great conversations. Plus some unpleasant self-reflection, but also some useful takeaways, although maybe as much from the research our conversations inspired as from the conversations.

One takeaway is that maybe I need to write this memoir as a collection of essays, not a straightforward linear timeline: “The more traditional memoir focuses on seeking and attaining redemption. The nonlinear structure of an essay collection reveals that there is never easy redemption, never clear resolution: bad things happen for no reason; overcoming one trial does not lessen the need to adapt in the next.” 

Another is that maybe I need more focus: “A memoir needs to be focused on one theme, or one life lesson, that has wound its way like a bright thread through the experiences of your life. Yes, you have many such threads, many lessons that make up your life experience, but don’t try to include them all in one memoir. “

At the moment, I just get overwhelmed by the story. What do I need to share? Every detail I can resurrect of that original argument? The incredible betrayal by a person I thought was a friend? Zelda’s death? The emails exchanged, including my misreading of one of them? Do I go back in time, to making the decision to have a child, to home-schooling exhaustion, or is that just weird self-justification? Do I write about the one time I spanked him (because he BIT me!) or the time I yelled at him for wanting to quit Spanish? Or is all of that irrelevant to my central theme, which I think is about how I choose to be happy.

Not about the choice itself, because it’s trivially easy to say, “I choose to be happy.” (Although on par with saying “I choose to win a marathon” or “I choose to write a best-seller.” Yeah, good luck with that.) But about the HOW; the ways in which I’ve cultivated happiness, the tools that I created for myself, the work that I’ve done. Those feel like the useful things, the things I want to share with some other mom who is living in the pain and shame and grief and anger of estrangement. Some context is necessary, though, or at least I think it is.

Anyway, I don’t have answers to these profound questions yet. I’m working on it. Or at least thinking about working on it, which isn’t quite the same thing. Meanwhile, another few hundred words on Cici will at least make me feel like I’ve been productive on this fine rainy Monday. Or I could walk Sophie again. She knows which one she’d prefer!

Linda Vista Trail

scenery in Arizona

I’m currently sitting on my bed in Serendipity, listening to the sound of the rain on the skylight, with a muddy dog curled up next to me, literally on my pillows. Why, why, why does Sophie think that having mud on her feet means she should make a nest in the pillows? Also, why, why, why do I not clean my dog’s feet off when I come inside, before I get distracted and move on to other things and forget that she’s muddy?

I don’t know the answer to either of those questions, but the sunshine of Arizona feels like it was a long time ago. The only traces left of my delightful week in Tucson/Phoenix are 1) my incredibly chapped lips, 2) my fantastic LL Bean thrift store blue jeans (also two shirts and a purse), and 3) the five pounds or so I gained from a week spent eating desserts at nice restaurants. The BBE and I did go on some good hikes, including one morning on the above trail, but the calorie count of the hiking did not counterbalance the calorie count of the mesquite flour churros, the creme brûlée, the cinnamon muffins, and the raspados. Also the pulparindos and the Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups. Ha. Ironically, when I started writing this blog post I thought I was going to write about making healthy food choices while traveling. Or healthy food choices just in general. 

Mostly we did make healthy food choices. My favorite meal was a rice bowl with mixed grains, yucca fries, Mexican street corn, and mesquite salmon, which was so delicious that we went back to the restaurant, CharroVida,  three times. Three times! That’s a lot when two of those meals could have involved trying something new, which is usually my first choice when traveling. But it’s also relaxing to eat at a restaurant that takes gluten-contamination seriously. I nearly got burned at another restaurant that had items clearly marked gluten-free on their menu that were not actually gluten-free. I didn’t write a scathing review because the waitress was so nice, but I would have been really annoyed if she hadn’t warned me that the menu was wrong.

Other nice meals: an ahi-poke rice bowl; a rice bowl with sorrel pesto, kale, eggs, and sweet potatoes; GF pizza with an arugula-avocado salad with lemon vinaigrette; and tacos, the best of which was carnitas, I think. We also had sushi one night, which was fine but not as inspired as my own sushi; hotel scrambled eggs one morning; chilaquiles another morning. I kept claiming I was going to make the BBE take me to a really nice (read: expensive) restaurant, but as it happened, an interesting rice bowl or taco place always won out for me over $45 prime rib. Back when Suzanne and I went to Bend, I mentioned wavering over my food choices: feeling like vacation is the time to eat whatever you want while simultaneously thinking I should make healthy choices. This time, I realized that healthy food *IS* what I want. I’d rather have a good veggie-heavy rice bowl than steak and potatoes. Although I guess I also discovered that I want my healthy food plus dessert, and maybe next time I should go a little lighter on the desserts. 🙂 

Apart from hiking and eating, we took advantage of the hot tub at our hotel, as well as braving the heated pool once for about ninety seconds on my part, a bit longer on my brother’s part. Even a heated pool feels cold when the outside air is barely breaking into the 60s. Still, if we’d tried to make it to Sedona, we wouldn’t have gotten there (the roads were closed) and we would have been trapped in many inches of snow, so we weren’t complaining about sunshine and 60s. (Much.) We nearly got to experience snow in Phoenix, which apparently happens about once every 25 years, so would have been automatically cool. If it did snow, though, it happened at 4AM and was gone by the time I woke up at 6 or so. 

We did some touristing, too. On our first full day in Tucson, we went to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which had been recommended to us, possibly by the friendly Montanans in the hot tub the previous evening, possibly by in-laws of the BBE.  Possibly by both! I can’t remember tbh. Unexpectedly to me, the desert museum turned out to be a zoo, and not one just for desert animals. I took some great video of an otter eating fish and some less great photos of hummingbirds and a bobcat and a mountain lion. We also went to Old Town Scottsdale, which is as thorough a tourist shopping strip as the pier in San Francisco or the inner harbor in Baltimore. I don’t have any objection to tourist areas when I am, in fact, a tourist, but I did appreciate our Linda Vista hike and the two other hikes we took rather more than either of our tourist attractions.

We also dragged one another to our respective shopping interests: thrift stores for me, coin stores for the BBE. Arcata has plenty of thrift stores: at least three within easy walking distance, and I rarely go into them. But I love going to thrift stores while traveling, because it’s so interesting to see what sorts of things wind up donated in different places. Also, Arcata is a college town in a rural community, which means our thrift stores get thoroughly picked over very quickly. In contrast, the Goodwill in the northern part of Tucson held bargains. I got a couple $3 t-shirts, including this purple one with hummingbirds, and the aforementioned LL Bean jeans, which look new, for $8. The thrift store in the college part of town, unsurprisingly, not so good. Ditto the Phoenix thrift store. But if I ever make it back to Tucson, I’m definitely checking out the Goodwill store on North Oracle Road again. 

It was a fun escape, enough so that basically the moment I got home, I started planning our next adventure. Oregon, because the BBE really *needs* to try Brazilian cheese bread and oyster tacos! First, though, I should write a book. Time to get right on that! 

Really, Duolingo?

I have been “learning” Japanese for 144 days now. I put learning in quotes, because I am honestly just not very good at it. If an actual Japanese person said something to me in Japanese, I would completely freeze and stare at them blankly. If I had to say something to someone in Japanese, I could probably manage good morning (Ohio) or thank you (Arigato) or maybe even nice to meet you (ha-gee-may-mash-e-tay), but beyond that, not so much.

So why the hell did Duolingo think this was an appropriate thing for me to learn this morning?

This is not true. I did not write a new book, because I’ve been too busy learning Japanese and playing with my dog and binge-reading rock star romances.

Duolingo followed up with this.

No, Duolingo, no, I did not. But way to guilt trip me. And seriously, how can it be that while I’m still trying to tell time and barely know how to ask for a taxi and cannot tell one relative from the next (SO HARD!), Duolingo is asking if I am writing books? Like, just how??

Later in the morning, when I was again playing with Japanese instead of writing words, Duolingo offered up this.

Yes, Duolingo, this is very, very true. I do read a lot of books. In the past week, I have to admit, I’ve read something like 30 of them. I’m not entirely sure why but on February 15, according to my book tracking app, I read a book that was almost what I wanted it to be. It’s called Six Ways to Write a Love Letter, and it is a charming, off-beat romance, written entirely in the hero’s POV as he falls in love with a character who is essentially Taylor Swift. It could be Taylor Swift fanfiction, in fact, and maybe it once was. It’s really cute, fun, and a good quick read but something about it wasn’t quite what I wanted.

What did I want? I have no idea. But it was like I was searching for a book that I’d read once before — a romance featuring a rock star that was pure fun, beginning to end. Like craving a specific kind of food — not just a tuna fish sandwich, but a tuna melt, and not just a tuna melt, but the exact tuna melt made by Viva Baking in Ashland, Oregon.

So I proceeded to binge my way through Amazon’s vast collection of Kindle Unlimited rockstar romances. When I say “vast,” I mean enormous. I mean that Amazon is overflowing with rockstar romances. There are so many that I could probably read one rockstar romance a day for the rest of my life without finishing them all. Am I exaggerating? Honestly, I’m not sure I am.

Fortunately for me, many of them were… well. Easily rejected, that’s what I’m going to call them. If it only takes me three pages to despise the hero, I’m not going to waste my time, even if the heroine promises to redeem him. If I’m rolling my eyes before I’ve hit 10%, I’m returning the book. (It’s KU, so they all get returned eventually; I’m not buying books, reading them, and returning them, which is a very uncool thing to do.) If the descriptions read like they were written by an AI (in other words, a collection of cliches), I’m willing to take a pass, and if the angst is piling on before the first chapter ends, I could be pretty sure that I wasn’t going to find my pure fun.

I didn’t, in fact, find my pure unadulterated fun. But if you want to read rockstar romances, and what you’re looking for is off-beat, interesting, and even kind of grown-up, may I recommend Duet by Julie Kriss to you? I liked it so much that I had to read parts aloud to Suzanne while driving to Eureka yesterday. There’s a moment, early on, where the romantic leads are talking about music, and the heroine — whose POV we’re in — compares the joy of the conversation to being high, and it was just SO much more compelling than the dozens/hundreds/thousands of romances where the character falls in love with the hero’s blue eyes or muscles or, well, honestly, nothing, the characters are just in love because the author says they are.

Anyway, I’m probably done with my book binge for a while, not least because I’m currently sitting in the airport, waiting to catch a plane to Phoenix. I’m going to spend the next week having fun with my brother. It’s not going to be the fun we thought we were having — we were planning to go to Sedona and the Grand Canyon before the weather turned absolutely awful — but I expect we’ll manage to enjoy ourselves nonetheless. There will be no canyon pictures, but maybe I’ll post some cactus pictures later!