Along for the ride:

Monday, May 30, 2016

Smelly Cat...

The good news is that Slinkie does not have a mystery disease, or cancer, as I had feared. The vet said she'd put on weight and was disinclined to torture herself with the Kitty-Yoga poses necessary to keep herself clean.
The diagnosis was made from a distance, as my, usually sociable, cat hissed and growled from her solidly anchored position on the table top scales. 14.8 lbs is just over a pound more than she weighed three months ago, when she came in for her yearly shots. The vet had suggested that I start feeding her some dry kibble to keep her teeth clean. It also kept her from waking us up in the pre-dawn hours, begging for breakfast. That's been lovely, but no more. Kitty diet is on.
I bought cat shampoo to go and once home with my grumpy feline, donned an apron as I filled a plastic bowl with tepid water. The kitchen sink has a movable shower head attachment which is great.
Lifting Slinky into the waiting bath, holding strategically to the scruff of her neck with one hand, pointing the rearing, clawing side of the cat away from me, I was able to give her a good soaking, despite her vertical position and charming commentaries. Next was time to add shampoo to the mix. I flipped the cap, inverted the bottle and squeezed...nothing.
Technical hitch being the interior plastic seal that was unbroken. Wet cat at arm's length in one hand, shampoo bottle gripped under same arm, I managed to unscrew the cap, find a knife and perforate to allow free flowing shampoo. After several applications and rinses, Stinky cat has been reborn as soft and silky cat. Once she finished drying herself off and was served her carefully apportioned dinner, she seemed much happier.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Thumbs up!


 Having Facebook World Headquarters just down the road from our business premises has a certain novelty value. The ebb and flow of the Big White Buses sweeping along twice a day to transport the workforce hither and yon, although monochromatic, has lent a dimensional aspect, previously lacking in our commute.
It often takes more than thirty minutes now to go less than a mile; to escape from the grid of Feeder Roads;
( here I include University Avenue, which was previously better known as the Feeder Road, in the opposite direction, to Stanford University) and reach the bridge that will carry us across The Bay to less crowded freeways and lower property values.
It's entertaining, as we idle in the tired Conga Line waiting-out the traffic light at Hacker Way, to see inexplicable, multinational hoards, with selfie sticks, waiting their turn to complete the pilgrimage and return to Earth with digital proof of their presence before the big hand (and thumb) of Destiny.
Our plain industrial warehouse building, which used to stand out among a crowd of rickety structures that had seen better days, is now outshone by mixed retail and luxury apartments that are stretching steadily skyward just across the street with not even a nod to their blue collar foundations. The attractive banners with renderings of what is to come promise a Fitness Center, Doggy Day Spa, Custom Bicycle Emporium and more. The multilevel garage has already been completed and windows and doors fill the openings in the walls of the project.
Did I forget to mention the coming transformation of our space into a well protected berth for exotic cars and a home for collector wines? All to be tastefully arranged so that the new tenant can also entertain parties and conferences in such intriguing surroundings. I do think it's a smart business plan to be paid to store and because you store such things. He already has one such Event Space. He knows what he's doing.
As a local Police Officer said the other day, during a visit to write tickets for illegally parked motor homes that have been an ongoing blight on the neighborhood "Just wait until those additional cars start streaming in and out to further snarl traffic and also the place will be a magnet for property crimes"
Well, the good news and the bad news are that we won't be here to see it or experience it. Today we signed a lease on a new work space further south. The move is on. Our commute will be but a memory. We are reclaiming a couple of hours of our living time every day. I may even have time to get a dog of my own again.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Orchids



Dark rain clouds momentarily split this morning to transform a simple white orchid into an alabaster sculpture struck by a bolt of sunlight.

I can't take credit for the white orchid. It's a recent purchase. However the one below, that's grown large and wide and is just beginning to bloom, I've had for many years.

I'm going to have to learn about splitting and repotting this one before it takes over the patio completely.




Saturday, December 26, 2015

Sea Otters

We drove out to the coast this morning, under bright sunny skies. There was frost to scrape off my car window before we left and the breeze was chilly but we found ourselves in a seaside heaven, at a restaurant with a glassed in patio, on pilons over the water.

Lunch of freshest grilled sand dabs, lightly painted with a ginger teriaki glaze, watching pelicans diving and hearing the bark of seals.

The sea otters were so big, I thought they were seals but their playful spinning and waggling feet-flippers made me question that assumption. I left my meal to hang over the railing and watch them dive and come up with mussels, which they cracked and ate, using their fat tummies as tables.
There was a brief territorial dispute when two otters surfaced a few inches from one another. Those who were done feasting swam up the mouth of the river and let themselves be swooshed back down into the ocean estuary.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Artistic Boundaries & War without Bloodshed

I'm glad I didn't take a "before" picture of The Artistic One's encroachment into our dining room. The stacked piles of art supplies, books and drawings began spreading like a formless lava flow a few weeks ago and have grown messier each time he sits there to work on another sketch or watercolor.
TAO's official studio space is where normal folks would have a living room and one guest bedroom is his office. There's a large separate building on the property that is stuffed with paintings, books, magazines and every phone, computer, fax machine and printer that has ever ceased working whilst in our care. I call that space "The Hoard". I have been known to mumble about us needing a good, cleansing fire.
The week leading up to Thanksgiving was very stressful at work and we had been bickering with one another about clients and completion dates etc. When you carpool with your spouse and disagree about work, the drive home seems even longer than the hour or so it usually takes.
Problem solving is what I do best. Once I saw that my best big salad bowl was being used as an overflow receptacle; containing crumpled, rejected drawings, a hammer and screw driver and my wooden dresser had a big scratch across it, from the metal clips under TAO's briefcase, I had to come up with a plan.
Dumping everything on the floor, in the middle of "His Space" is something I might have considered when we both were younger. My old Artist can't bend down to pick anything up and probably wouldn't have, even if he could. That would have been a call to battle and we've had a few of those in our power struggle of a marriage.

Call it Diplomacy or Deviousness, I hatched a plan. We have a folding table that's about 8ft long. It has been leaning against the wall of the covered patio since I lent it to my neighbors for a party they were hosting. I know they wiped it down and they were very good about bringing it back right away. It's been on my radar as something that needed a scrub. Residual black marks from the loaner party and then accumulated dust from the weekly mow and blow gardener who pushes as much debris and dirt onto the patio as off, with his nasty leaf blower.
I was awake early on Thanksgiving Day. We've been having a run of bright sunshine, blue skies and chilly temps that have actually skirted freezing point. It's been exciting to have an excuse to wear a real sweater, with long sleeves. I started by topping up the humming bird feeder with a warm water and sugar mixture and added extra sunflower seed mix to the songbird buffet. The squirrels gather the dropped grains and collect the acorns that are all over the driveway.
I scrubbed the table with bleach and left it on its side to dry in the slanted sunbeams then went inside to make room in the studio. I hauled the heavy double-decker glass shelving unit into the middle of the room and pushed the armchair closer to the door, leaving just enough space for the table to be placed right in front of the floor to ceiling windows, with a view out into the garden. I had found a plaid table cloth to make it look warm and homey, as well as disguising the inevitable and predictable stains. Next I transported each individual pile from my dining room table to a similar placement on the new studio table.
My poor naked dining table had accumulated some dark ink-spots. I had a little dark furniture oil left and spread that around to even out the finish. I also used it to hide the scratches on the dresser. Shabby Chic, with an emphasis on shabby.
One more thing to add to the list of complaints about the afforementioned state of encroachment was seeing our poor kitty struggle to find a spot to lie down on the dining table. The dining table is underneath a heater vent, catches the morning sun and has a perfect view of the bird feeders.It's cat heaven. I gave up on preventing the cat from being on the table when I started fostering dogs. Fair's fair. Slinkie deserves a safe zone.
I've never owned, or used a table runner before but the whole picture came together in my head when I saw this one. The orchids won't make water marks on my table and Slinkie will have an attractive mat to sit on. Win, Win!
TAO awoke to live the dream. If he believes I did all that for him, rather than for myself and the cat, so be it. He feels loved by the work I put in on his behalf and has revelled in his own sunbeams all weekend. I smile to myself at the perfect tranquility of my dining table and the sense of achievment it awards me.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Trouble Magnetism

Apparently, and to the mystified frustration of my podiatrist, my anatomy is such that a nerve which should not have needed to be blocked to numb pain in my toe, was the one spot that finally did it. After three weeks of hoping my ingrown toenail would sort itself out, and the past ten days of red hot needle sensations in the top of my toe, I gave in and made an appointment.
The Medical assistant who checked me in, took one look and immediately started laying out syringes and sterile cutting implements. Gulp! I admit I'd hoped for a plan B.
The Doctor began with several injections into the area on the right, below my toe joint. It felt as though there was numbness setting in there, and I was feeling confidant that the process would be bearable, until he tried to lever up the nail. Not happening!
Over a period of an hour, he kept adding shots and massaging the magical deadening agent into my foot. He made several  attempts to do what had to be done but I couldn't stand it. I asked about other options, such as taking a course of antibiotics and returning once the infection had subsided. he said that was a possibility but it would be better to finish the job.
His final idea was to inject the nerve on the left side below the joint, with the disclaimer that this nerve should not be the one causing the trouble, if my anatomy followed the norm. Well call me Spock, or whoever is an example of backwards electrical wiring. It worked and I think he was as relieved as I.

Naturally, I have Brook to stay this week so had to come up with a solution for walking. I sculpted a comfortable space in an old pair of shoes, which only slightly lowered my glamour rating. I feel so much better already.
I quit and came home early yesterday as it was quiet at work. It is such a luxury to make the long drive in daylight and without nose to tail traffic. I headed out to walk Brook before dark, for once, intending to put my feet up and do nothing much but relax for the rest of the evening.
Part way through our walk I received a text from my very elusive CPA. Over the years, he has saved us a lot by taking a fairly aggressive approach to filing our tax returns. He's not good at returning calls and now that his son works with him, he spends more time on the golf course than at work. That's entirely his business, except when I get audited and he won't respond to the auditor's calls either.
I laughed out loud when I received the notice that the IRS was going to audit us for 2011. The economy had been atrocious; we'd had to move our business as the old place had been sold; the new premises didn't have the power we needed to run our machines and The Artistic One had a major health scare. What could the IRS possibly find? Maybe they owed us money?
After months of  believing our CPA had forwarded the piles of paperwork I'd hauled out of archives, to answer the auditor's queries, I now have my doubts that he'd answered them at all. (I have also hired a new CPA). I received a decision letter stating that I owed $90,000 in taxes; more than one third of that year's gross revenue! How did they come up with such a mythical figure? Did he just piss them off so much that they picked a number out of thin air?
Once I perceived that "Rocky" (his name should have made me wonder) needed special herding to get him and us, to the end of this  process, I strategically decided to take a civil and pleading approach that did not give him an excuse to bail. I won't list the attempts I made to have a conversation with him and how stressed, frustrated and helpless I felt. There were days when I thought my head would explode.
In mid October, I received a reminder letter from the attorney assigned to our case. As if I didn't remember the looming court date in a few short weeks. I sent a text to Rocky and he replied, for once. "We're just waiting for the appeal auditor to finish. case is on hold until then". Hmm? Within a week, I had another reminder letter in my mail. I texted an urgent message to Rocky with no response. 48 hours after that, a personal call from the IRS attorney, warned me that the Appeals Auditor had not been getting any responses either and would be closing out our case the next day, and not to our advantage. I began bombarding texts: "Anybody out there?" "Do I answer the IRS, or will you?". "Name and phone number of person you must speak to attached". A response arrived "I already handled it" he said. "Have an appointment next week".
Trusting soul that I (no longer) am, I phoned my contact, to verify that this was true; realizing how ironic it is that the lawyer for the Treasury Department seems to be more helpful than my accountant. Rocky had indeed made a call and had a phone appointment to go over everything this week.
This text, in the middle of my hobble-along dog walk, was to share the result of that conversation. The sun was at an oblique angle, glaring back where the words should be legible. I'm no fool. I know that the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of refraction. That's actually the only thing that ever made sense to me in Physics class; perchance due to the subsequent rainbow prisms. You can't read a text anyway, when the phone hand goes through the leash of a vigorously bouncing canine. I was dying to find out what was written and headed for a patch of shade with some grass to distract the sniff machine into some semblance of stillness.
Yay! There was an offer on the table to accept $6,000 in extra taxes and be done. Still an arbitrary number and not an amount I have in hand but a very good deal to get out of their clutches and move on. I was told there was an email waiting and a paper to sign and return. We hadn't reached the half-way point of our walk so we set out to finish as quickly as possible. Joke!
On the return portion of our loop, we were greeted by an enthusiastic female boxer, with no humans in sight. She was zooming back and forth and I grabbed her by the collar, to check for ID tags and prevent her demise, on the busy road, in diminishing daylight. Nothing.
There were a few homes with porch light on and one or two open garage doors. Our procession of three visited every one and asked if anyone recognized our stray. No one did. Using the other end of Brook's thankfully long leash, I was able to return home with one more dog than when I started.
Bringing an unknown dog into our home entails certain precautions. I have a cat. Not every dog is to be trusted. I have crates and cages and pens from my rescue fostering. I usually have some time to set things up beforehand. The Artistic One found himself holding a leash, with a bundle of nervous energy at the other end. Brook wanted to play with the newcomer and kept circling and pawing her new buddy. My toes were in danger of being stepped on or being squashed by the heavy wire dog cage I was dragging out of the garage to unfold in our living room. All the time conscious, through the chaos, of a time sensitive email I needed to read.
I fed the cat and the dogs. Boxer immediately upended her dish and trampled the soggy mess around. The cat was crossly stomping around on the relative safety of the kitchen counter, alternating between hisses at the interloper and meows designed to remind me she was usually first in line.
My early evening with my feet up evolved into a trip to the local vet clinic to check Boxer for a microchip. I tied her leash to the headrest in the car for safety. Unknown beast bouncing around while driving is not a good plan. The scan revealed nothing but the vet confirmed a healthy looking, well cared for pet. "Oh and by the way, she's in heat."
The rest of the evening went by fast. I scraped together something completely forgettable for our dinner and left messages at local animal shelters. I walked both dogs again before bed and was very pleasantly surprised that boxer slept through the night.
I took care of the morning dog walk and feeding, soaked my foot in Epsom salts and changed the dressing, as instructed. I called the Sheriffs' Dept non-emergency number and left word in case someone called them searching for boxer. I decided to wait until the shelters opened at Eight before heading for work with two dogs. After multiple calls, I gave up and loaded up my car for the hour drive to the office. I hadn't intended to send her to the shelter, anyway. Too many dogs get sick from kennel cough etc. due to confined conditions. Shelters are a last resort.
I did get some work done, in between multiple excursions to the grass verge outside, but was hugely relieved to get a call from Boxer's family. One of the neighbors on whose door I knocked had taken a photo of boxer and posted it on the neighborhood email group. Boxer's owners had been out looking for her far and wide and it was late when they saw that she was safe. Too polite to call after 9 pm, they had waited until morning to track us down. I offered to bring her home with me at the end of the day but they didn't want to wait to retrieve her. A twenty-something student son was dispatched to fetch Prodigal Boxer and bring her home.
The story was that someone had broken in to their house a few days prior. They had changed door locks and phone numbers and had removed dog tags to replace with new ones. They hadn't noticed that the fence was damaged and/or boxers can climb and jump at the best of times and this one was driven by natural urges, to boot. Leila the boxer would be visiting the vet for a "morning after" shot and to be micro-chipped.

Friday, October 30, 2015

A Day at the Office




Although a work day, I could just as easily have titled this post "Escape to Paradise". This is the view from a new client's master bedroom window.
The Golden Gate Bridge on one side and a hazy silhouette of San Francisco, a slight turn of the head, on the other.
Admittedly, this four storey home has a lot of stairs, but they also have an elevator. The driveway is so steep that, by the addition of a few hand holds, it could easily be turned into a climbing wall. I had to enlist a troop of helpers from the construction site to carry in my heavy stone samples. 
The design firm that brought me in to bring their fireplace inspirations to fruition, with a "before Christmas" completion deadline, uses code names for their clients, to protect their privacy. 
This Sunday post is my preamble to knuckling down and drafting scale drawings and proposals, that I've promised them by tomorrow morning.
On the feral kitty front, here's the latest feline addition to the meal ticket. He's been showing up regularly. At first, I shooed him away, as an interloper, and he'd wait to clean up after Poppy and Mango. As you can see from his plump good looks, he now gets his own plate. He's got a ginger mask and tail, which makes him some variation of a Flame Point Siamese. I'm guessing he's a boy, as I think he's got a large head, indicative of a Tom Cat. Right or wrong, he's here to stay.