Along for the ride:

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.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Please don't put honey on my Brussels sprouts!

As willing as I am to try new ingredients and recipes, I know that I don't ever wish to try Brussels sprouts with honey.
The restaurant in question is convenient for lunch; has outdoor seating and parking near by. It's very on trend and popular. The Artistic One likes the decor and the young and attractive waitresses. I find it pretentious for a waiter, who has been asked to serve the starter before the entree, to accept the request and then serve everything at once, responding with "Oh, the kitchen just prepares everything when the order comes in".  I understand that might be more lucrative for their time management but the place is not cheap and I found it annoying last time we ate there.
Some time has passed and I decided to set aside my reservations and try another lunch yesterday. The first special they described was poached pears in balsamic reduction. The second was Brussels Sprouts with a honey glaze. I didn't even translate those for TAO. They were non-starters (oops, pun).
The pizza menu is not a pizza menu, it's divided into "Red Pies" and "White Pies" and sausage and honey red pie did not appeal.
We found two items on the menu that were from our food planet. Arugula and beet salad with pine nuts and cheese as well as pork meatballs, supposedly with a special aioli that I didn't spot on the plate. They were very tasty, once we'd asked for salt and pepper, which were on none of the tables.
It was Friday and we ordered a glass of rose each that was very enjoyable, which was our downfall and led to ordering a dessert.
I can't imagine why we were so surprised that the delicious looking Mexican choclate bread pudding was coated with a crusty layer of sea salt!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Leaps of Faith, or not...?

When a seed or bulb that has been planted pushes apart the dirt with its first green shoots do you smile and envision the promise of the future flower, or set up camp next to it, agonize over and analyze every inch of growth? Will it still grow if you are not observing? Will your shadow block the sunlight and inhibit the flower from becoming?
When you follow a recipe to bake a cake, do you expect your world to be filled with the glorious aromas of cake baking, resulting in a cake, fresh and warm from the oven, or do you doubt your skills and the quality of your ingredients? Do you need an electrician or plumber to verify that the oven will work and check repeatedly if the timer is functioning as it should? 
Will your successful cake bring you greater pleasure, or be tarnished, by the anxiety that flavored the process?
Do I need to detail the quirks and foibles of the people I encounter every day, in this very specialized corner of Tech-Engineer-Land, or will my readers grasp the point I'm making as it wafts by? I choose to have faith.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Don't you have enough shoes?

An otherwise harmonious weekend went sideways in a big way when the above, thoughtless, words were uttered. The conversation took flight in exponentially increasing and angry tones in response to the follow-up comment that there was no need to shout. Apparently, shouting was required, as the previously repeated mentions of said need, had been ignored and the accumulated frustration of so many similar conversations over the years roiled up front and center.
I do have multiple pairs of shoes in my closet. Many are seldom worn, from days gone by when my big toe had no osteoarthritis and I could wear them with impunity. Nowadays, I must calculate the number of steps from car to house door and know if I am going to a seated event or will be required to stand on burning toes. Anything with a sole that is supple rubs the rough ended bones at the base of my left big toe together, with every step.
It took a long time for me to tune in to the fact that the problem was me, not the shoes. I'd go to a basic high street shoe chain, try on something cute in my size and make a fun and inexpensive purchase. I always tried on the right foot, from habit. I'd later select those shoes for an outing and wonder why they hurt my feet. Sometimes, I couldn't even get them on. Especially on the left foot. I started having changes of shoes both at work and in my car, as well as carrying a shoe horn in my purse. I'd curse the darn shoe designers who made such uncomfortable shoes. Then my toe started keeping me awake at night, throbbing and burning. It was sore to the touch. I finally talked to a doctor and an x-ray revealed the truth.
I was given a shot of cortisone into the joint, which is one of the worst experiences imaginable. Big needle full of viscous contents that have to be pumped into a very confined space, that was already on fire. It did help, for months at a time. I'd hobble around as the injection wore off, trying to avoid returning to experience that repeat torture. After seeing me squirm through the process a few times, the podiatrist decided to pull on my toe at the same time as he injected the cortisone. That made a huge difference. There was a space open to be filled.
The other thing I was advised to do was to select shoes with solid soles. I started buying clogs, hiking boots and those "Rocking" tennis shoes that are supposed to enhance your butt muscles. Wedge heeled shoes came into fashion and were also a good alternative. I've gone along in this way, without further steroid shots for a long time now.
My two standby pairs of wedge heeled shoes that have walked on California construction sites and cobbled village streets in Europe, have given me a lot of mileage. They reached the shabby chic stage at the end of last year and were well into the scruffy and irredeemable phase of their history as 2015 came around. California has sandal weather almost all year so, by March, I knew what I needed for my birthday splurge.
When you have your own business every decision is colored by issues of time and/or money. Something always came up that I felt should be put before spending time at the shoe store or spending money on the higher quality shoes I must now purchase.
The last event that bumped shoe shopping off my calendar was the appearance of two feral kitties in the empty lot on our street.

Initially the tuxedo cat was hanging around, presumably left by someone who moved away and, not long after, the little Siamese fluff ball was running after her, belly flattened to the floor, in fear.
I reached out to animal services who were overwhelmed with kitten season and I checked in with various rescues. The best solution I could find was to capture, spay and re-release the cats to stop further breeding.
I rented two traps and started feeding the cats on a regular basis right next to the cages. I had them covered with blankets and the cats got to sitting on top waiting to be fed. They still skittered away like wind blown leaves when I came out of the house.
I had to get strategic as I was taking them to a vet near my work, which is an hour drive from home. I needed to catch both cats on the same day. I had one false start when I had set the spring loads on the traps just to be sure I could do it in the semi dark, pre-coffee morning of the day I was aiming for. The kitten went inside, even though I hadn't put the food in there and she was captured a day early. Mama cat stayed by her baby's side, next to the cage. I released the little one with grave doubts that I'd get a second shot but hunger overcame their fear and the next morning I had them both.
They were quiet in the car. I'd draped the traps with old curtains and left space so that they could see one another. I dropped my husband at work and headed to the rescue vet's office. Spay, vaccinate, de-worm, de-flea treatments for two. It all added up to a nice pair of shoes but there was never a doubt it had to take priority. Two female kitties can multiply into great numbers and their health suffers. The vet found them to be exceptionally healthy for ferals. They haven't had too bad a start in life. They live on a quiet cul de sac with shelter, if it rains again one day. The older lady across the street feeds them in the evening and I'm condemned to continue feeding mornings, now that I've started. They have each other for company and play. The receptionist at the cat rescue said they have four hundred cats and they often get sick and stressed from being confined in such numbers.
That was a month ago. Poppy, mama cat and Mango, the baby are outside my front door as soon as I get up in the morning. Mango will let me touch her briefly, as she dives for her dish, but Poppy has become more aloof than before. It's hard to blame her.
To return to the shoe story, this weekend was Labor Day, a time known for sales and with an extra day off work. There were clients who had paid their bills on time and a deliciously surreal feeling that stems from the incredibly rare occurrence of a moment without worries.
The shoe store chain I have found to best fit my needs (Footwear etc) has a shop closer to our current home than the one I frequented before. I found directions and headed out to conquer new territories. As soon as I walked in the door, I heard a familiar voice. The manager had been transferred from the store I knew to this one and we had a bit of a reunion chat. Every shoe I selected was available in my size. There was a 30% off sale on all summer shoes and a few with even bigger discounts. I found shoes that I liked, were comfortable and reasonably stylish and was given an additional 10% off because he knew me as a loyal customer.
When I got home, I pulled the two pairs of worn out shoes from my closet and put them under the nose of the rage inspiring idiot mentioned in the first paragraph. I put them in the trash can in his bathroom, just in case he wanted time to look more closely.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Camping: No Valet Parking & No Maid

We ventured south, to Carmel, for the weekend. Although less than two hours' drive, a lot more than two hours of preparation go into loading everything up and garden must be watered and arrangements must be made for cats to be fed, before we can "spontaneously" hit the road.
The Artistic One is limited to a few steps, with a cane, and has a hard time pulling himself up the steps into our Travel Trailer when he gets to it, so everything falls to me. I admit that I  participate with a chip on my shoulder. I'd be happy to stay at home; go riding on the weekend; not have to haul half the contents of our kitchen and bedroom across the driveway and find places to pack it all away. I also hate being a passenger when my driver is so nonchalant about the rules of the road.
We had reserved a spot under a shady oak, overlooking Carmel Valley. Our Travel Trailer is 20ft long and very comfortable for the two of us and occasional guest Brook a prior foster dog who's forever family had asked if we could take her for a few days while they went on a road trip with their Corvette Club.
Four miles inland from the ocean and a steep road up to the top of Saddle-Back Mountain is a small and tranquil camp ground, surrounded by nature. The late afternoon hazy fog blows in from the ocean and cools everything down. The other campers are from all parts of the US as well as Germany, Sweden and Canada.
We unhitched our car and drove down to the beach on Saturday morning. I had to borrow some children to get Brook far enough away from me to take her photo. She's a bit of a Princess. She accidentally got her feet wet and kept sitting down and giving me her paws, obviously not enamored of the feel of sandy feet. You could imagine her saying "Eeww!"
The Carmel River spills out into a wide lagoon. The beach was uncrowded and beautiful. Everyone was at Ocean Beach, the better known destination at the foot of the main street and open to off-leash doggy exploits so our beach was barely  punctuated by humans.
Further up the valley, the same river must be crossed to enter a park with wide, well groomed trails. It's nice to know there is some water left in California. 
We had planned on cooking dinner for friends who love the coast and were going to join us. Our fridge was loaded with the makings of Ratatouille and Brochettes. Rose wine was chilling and red wine and fresh, crusty bread were available too.  I hadn't heard from them by mid-afternoon so I texted and found out that they were busy doing other things and hadn't had the courtesy to update us on their change of plans.
We ended up heading into the village for a drink and some food, too disheartened to make a special dinner just for us. We were seated outside on the deck with just the right combination of warm air and shade. I had a salad that turned out to be very good. I had asked them to add salmon, not thinking it would be smoked, but it was lovely, if unexpected.
A band of "mature" musicians showed up to entertain. They were very musical with their guitars but someone should have told them long ago that singing was not their strong suit. I clapped anyway, to be polite but they didn't make us want to prolong our stay.
We had a less than perfect night as the carbon monoxide alarm kept going off, for no reason, and I couldn't make it stop for more than an hour at a time. I wanted to get at the batteries but finding a Philips screwdriver at 2:30am was beyond me. I kept leaping up at the slightest beep, afraid of waking our neighbors. By shortly before dawn it gave up squealing and I was able to sleep for a couple of hours, until the dog needed to go out.
Brook found a comfortable spot to sleep in the caravan. From a mangy, hairless foundling, picked up in torrential rain on city streets, Brook has adapted well to the good life.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Definitely not the Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady

With a bra resembling a crow's nest, full of twigs and scratchy leaves of  a black oak tree, and a shoe containing millet and other assorted bird seeds, by lunch time today, I  was ready for a shower. 
The Black Oak is an untidy evergreen, overhanging our front patio and part of our driveway. It's shade is welcome but it has dangling branchlets that scratch the top of taller vehicles on one side and had spread over the top of a Japanese Maple on the other.
When we first moved in, just over a year ago, the landlord had instructed someone to trim these trees. It being easier to decimate a lithe and supple young Maple than a rugged, rough-barked oak, the poor little maple was chopped and slashed to within an inch of its life. It's been fighting its way back; stretching out one limb after another, in graceful arabesque, cloaked in innumerable multifingered leaves that tremble with every breath of air. 
Promises were made that the oak would be tidied and the maple freed to grow into a flame colored glory in the autumn. Today was the day that the tall step ladder behind the garage and my trusty hedge trimmer connected in my brain and, as the day was not as furnace hot as previous weekends have been, I decided to Lone Ranger it and get the job done.
Mind you, I have been limping and gimping on my advanced osteo-arthritis knee, pending a visit with the ortho surgeon and the last time I "trimmed" the morning glory I slashed through our cable TV line (Amazingly, they come out and fix that for free!) so the outcome was uncertain.
The big step-ladder is much more stable than any I've used before. I was careful to climb slowly and very vigilant against any shifting, leaning or sinking into the dirt and I thought through my moves as I reached out and up with one-handed swipes of the electric trimmer blade to get every last offending twig.
There are large piles of oak cuttings waiting for the lazy gardener to deal with. Gardening is like eating an artichoke, there's more stuff lying around afterwards than when you started, or that's how it is when I do it. Now my maple has some space to flutter and wriggle in the breeze and the flower beds beneath have been returned to a state of filtered sunlight rather than dark shadow. 
I filled the bird feeder, which I hadn't had time to do for a while and the busy chirpers came back in a flash. We enjoy lunch on the patio with the animation of birds coming and going and even from inside the house, we can still hear their conversations.