Category Archives: families

Dear Tom (and Ray), I met prejudice/ignorance today.

Loess Hills

Loess Hills.

I know I haven’t posted in a long time. Sorry. Been insanely busy re the upcoming move to Montana. But I have to say something about what happened today, and I’m including Ray because he’s a Midwesterner. Upper Midwest, but that’s okay.

I was chatting with this guy who had a real cute dog, a Scottie. I love Scotties, attitude and all. They are like little bearded hairy men. (Oh, by the way, when big ol’ Jake goes to puppy camp he’s greeted with, “Hello Sunshine!” He’s a happy camper!)

Anyways… I was chatting with this guy. He was here in Napa enjoying the sunshine. He’d driven down from Portland because he wanted a break from all the rain- which we happen to be having for a minute. Our weather has been beautiful.

We discussed the rain. We discussed my recent stop at PDX, landing in the midst of a horrific downpour. If you get off one of the little planes you have to walk through the downpour to get to the terminal. We were all soaked.

I mentioned my parents. Told him that they’d retired to Southern Oregon.

He asked, “Oh, did they move from California?”

I answered, “No, they moved from Iowa. We’re all from Iowa, I’m not a native Californian.” (‘Cuz yeah, I’m proud as heckfire to be from Iowa.)

He said, “Oh. Iowa. Bunch of illiterate evangelicals there.”

And I was like… “Um, what?”

He said, “Yeah, everyone is stupid religious. Nothing there but cornfields and ignorant racist white farmers.”

I asked, “Have you been to Iowa?”

He shrugged. He said, “I’ve read about it.”

Hey Tom, and Ray, I wanted to punch him in the face.

This is what I deal with on the West Coast. People who think they know the Midwest even though they’ve never been farther east than Vegas (or maybe they’ve flown to NYC). People like this dude, who was about as white as a slice of Wonderbread, who think everyone in the Midwest is a toothless dumbass church-goin’ snake-handling redneck filled with hate and vitriol; that we’re uneducated hicks who stupidly refuse to accept the superiority of the West Coast elites who should be in charge of EVERYTHING.

I don’t care if he had a nice dog. I wanted to kick the living shit out of him.

But I didn’t. I said, “You know nothing about Iowa. Have a safe drive back to Portland.” And I walked away.

Tom, you would have been proud of me.

XOXO! Julia

The Loess Hills: I grew up here, played here. My ancestors lived and died here.

Did I mention the University of Iowa Writers Workshop???

Besides, Iowa is home to one of the best bugs in the world – Fireflies! If you watch the video you’ll discover that we’re not all toothless yahoos.

 

Dear Tom, it’s been a helluva ride!

No, not leaving yet, but I’m about to close up shop temporarily.

We’re moving to Montana! I’ve dreamed of this for five years. Oscar saw the light… at last! As his job has become more and more untenable/onerous and California has become an increasingly challenging place to live.

All I can say is~ yes.

About damn time.

We recently returned from a ten day visit to the ranch. We babysat the cows, horses and dogs. Split and stacked two years worth of wood for our daughter and son-in-law, and met with a real estate agent in Bozeman. We put in an offer on a house and lo and behold… it was accepted right off! (Although my husband pulled a Chip Gaines and tried to fool me into thinking the offer had been rejected! Shiplap ho!)

Thus begins the hard work. I have to get our house on the market. Fingers crossed, it will sell ASAP. We had the hardwood floors refinished while we were away. Lookin’ good, I tells ya!

Yes, I do have two twenty-ish kids here, one of whom is pretty flummoxed at the idea of her parents moving. We are leaving the only home she’s ever known. Even though she doesn’t live with us, the idea of us gives her roots. I get it. My kids are the sole reason I’ve stayed.

But, all things must change. Seems like everyone I know is transitioning in one way or another. We wish us all the best!

In the meantime, enjoy the view from my new backyard! I know Jake will!

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The Bridgers from our new backyard!

XOXO! Julia

 

Dear Tom, my son promised he wouldn’t weaponize the ghost peppers.

Ghost Peppers or Red Naga: Where the Ghost Pepper is From and Why It’s so Hot.

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The (dreaded) Red Naga.

My son made me grow them. He has plans. I did warn him there would be no weaponizing of the Ghost Peppers. Merely harvesting them was scary enough. For the time being they are safely ensconced in my freezer. Along with these chilies- bought the seedlings from a corner vendor:

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Chilies Diablo.

All he could say was~ “Chilies Diablo. Muy caliente.” So far I’ve harvested two quart bags and I’ve got at least another couple quarts still ripening on the plants. I too have plans!

Sambal Oelek!

I’ve very excited about this! Chrismukkah presents for all!

I’ve had a little time on my hands and a little produce left over from last year. Finally got around to dealing with it.

I added this year’s quince harvest to last year’s harvest (freezer) and made two pints of quince jam. The stuff is like gold! A gallon of quinces made a measly two pints.

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Quince Jam.

I also dried my drunken figs. Yes, drunken. They’ve been soaking in rum for a year, I’ll have you know! I dried them with my new food dehydrator.

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Dried Drunken Figs.

These are killer, man. Each one is like a shot of rum.

I thought I’d give a shout out to Jake- He treed a mountain lion last week. Dang! The thing was yowling at him like a kazoo! Jake went insane chasing the lion across the yard. It managed to scramble up into one of our redwoods. Seriously, the yowling sounded like a kazoo. My son said, “Mom, I don’t think there are any wild kazoos marauding around Napa.” Took me a long time to get the dog back in so the lion could be on his/her merry way. Hey, I don’t care about mountain lions. They snag the vicious marauding raccoons, so… (And yeah, it’s always me who has to go out and retrieve the dog. Oscar can sleep through an earthquake.)

Speaking of raccoons– Another shout out to my goldfish. Our little pond is a good example of survival of the fittest. This tough guy is two years old! He’s outlasted twelve other goldfish, all of whom have been eaten by raccoons and egrets. He’s super smart. Has a good hiding place. Only comes out for me even though I’ve never fed him. Occasionally I pull out some of the algae, otherwise the pond is a nice little ecosystem. Provides him with all the food he requires.

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The Goldfish.

His name is Fishy-Fishy. If anyone has a better suggestion I’m sure he won’t mind.

Still recovering. More on that at a later time.

That’s about it for now. Peace out.

Julia

 

Dear Tom, I’m a changed woman postop.

Texas Woman Wakes From Surgery With A British Accent

No, she’s not me. But I woke from surgery a different person.

I’m scared, Tom.

I no longer like chocolate. Can’t stand the sight of it nor the smell of it.

lindt

This is serious.

Do you understand what this means?

This means that after a life-long love affair with chocolate, as in chocolate has been the only sweet thing I like– I. Now. Hate. Chocolate.

You know what’s even scarier???

I’m craving vanilla ice cream. I’ve despised (yes, despised) ice cream in every way, shape or form, my entire life. I’ve refused to eat it. I’ve hated the taste, the texture, the creaminess, the sweetness…I was the only child I knew who hated ice cream. I’m the only adult I know who hates ice cream.

But that’s no longer true. Just this past week I ate my first ice cream sandwich – vanilla ice cream between two oatmeal cookies – and it was amazing! I mean, it was astounding.

I woke from surgery with a vision of an oatmeal cookie ice cream sandwich, a gourmet confection I’d once glimpsed in the freezer section at the neighborhood market. An ice cream sandwich that previously held zero interest for me. As soon as I got home I begged my husband to go buy one.

Bi rite ice cream sandwich

This is it.

Wait… here’s the conversation:

“Please please please go to the market and buy me an ice cream sandwich, the gourmet kind in a single-pack, wrapped in cellophane– vanilla ice cream between two oatmeal cookies.”

Oscar, staring at me: “You don’t eat ice cream.”

Me: “I know, but I want one.”

Oscar, still staring at me: “But you hate ice cream.”

Me: “I know but I really really really want one of these ice cream sandwiches.” I showed him the picture.

Oscar, skeptical: “Where does a store keep ice cream?”

Me, trying not to laugh: “Honey, think for a minute. Where would a store keep ice cream?”

Oscar: “Uh, where it’s cold?”
Me: “Yes. Now where would it be cold in a grocery store?”

Oscar: “I don’t know.”

Oh Tom… You have no idea what I’m dealing with here.

Me: “Honey, when you get to the store, ask someone.”

Oscar made a halfhearted attempt to find the ice cream sandwich I wanted but he failed because he refused to ask for help. Instead he bought a box of It’s-It which I couldn’t eat because It’s-It is covered in chocolate.

It's it

So I sent my best friend on a mission to seek out the perfect ice cream sandwich. She found one. And it was the best thing I’ve ever tasted. I want more!!!

This is so bloody weird! Even weirder? My lactose intolerance seems to be a non-issue.

I’ve lived my entire life with lactose intolerance. Even as a baby I couldn’t tolerate dairy-based formula. My parents had to start me on solid food at three months of age because every formula that went in came back out within a minute or two. (My mom wasn’t the type to nurse a kid.)

Out of the blue I’m eating yogurt, ice cream, and drinking milk.

Holy crap, Tom! What in the world is going on???

Oh, and by the way~

Happy Independence Day! Yay America!

fireworks

For the first time in my life I’m eating ice cream on the Fourth of July! XOXO! Julia

 

Dear Tom- Those who live in a bubble don’t understand that not everyone has it easy.

bubble

Oscar works with a physician who lives in a well-off area of Palo Alto. She and her family live in the high-tech bubble surrounded by other high-tech bubblers. Other than her once a month drive to Oakland for admin meetings, she rarely leaves her bubble.

A number of years ago, her husband, a techie engineer, worked for a startup and made millions when it was sold. Now he works for a big time high-tech company and, yes, makes tens of millions of dollars a year.

Their children attended private schools. Their son went to Stanford and now works for a startup. He’s made millions and plans to return to Standford for his PhD in something or other. Their daughter attends a very expensive college.

When they travel overseas, which they do often, they travel first class. Do you know how much it costs to travel the world first class?

Yesterday she said to my husband, “You know, young people have it great these days. They get out of college and within six months they’ve made a few million dollars.”

Oscar was flabbergasted. He said his mouth dropped open. He asked her, “Do you know what it’s like for most young people in this country?”

She looked confused. “Well, it’s like that,” she said. “They all get rich.”

Oscar said, “You live in the wealthiest neighborhood in the wealthiest part of the Bay Area. Do you know what it’s like in the Central Valley? In the North Bay? In Solano County? In Oakland? In Richmond? Do you know anyone who lives in the Midwest or the Rust Belt? Do you know what happens to those kids, to those families? Do you read about what’s happening in other parts of this country?”

Again, she seemed confused. “But they have the same opportunities…”

“No,” Oscar said. “They don’t.”

He said she’s never ridden BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) or left the freeway on her drive into Oakland – in fact she’s scared to death to leave her bubble. But apparently it’s never occurred to her that there are actual people living actual lives out there.

(Whenever I have to drive a kid to the Oakland Airport I’m all over Oakland searching for one particular burrito place- a real dive- in a real bad neighborhood. But both my daughters insist this place makes the best burritos in the world. In fact, the last time married daughter was here she made me detour so she could buy one to eat on the plane and another for her husband. It survived in her purse through two flights, a long layover, and a two-hour ride home from Billings. Still, finding the place and getting her to the airport on time was insane. And I’m not stupid enough to go there at night. Generally if I have to go to Oakland or San Francisco I first take a bus to Vallejo, then a bus to the El Cerrito BART Station, and then I take BART and walk to my destination. Or I take the ferry from Vallejo. Easier than getting lost. Truly, if you want to know how the other half lives, take BART.)

This woman has never seen patients outside of her bubble. You know, she sees the kind of people who can afford plenty of organic fruits and veggies and nuts and grass-fed meats or have the luxury of becoming raw foodies if they prefer… The people with au pairs and personal chefs and trainers or free access to a training facility and a nutritional educator at their high-tech company. They live in secure neighborhoods.

The conversation Oscar repeated to me blew my mind. It is, as we speak, blowing my mind.

Her life is good. She’s a physician. She can’t possibly be so stupid as to think the entire world lives like she does. Or is she?

I don’t know. I only know she’s surrounded by a bunch of people who see the world exactly the same way she does.

My husband and I both work in one of the most depressed areas of the Bay Area. You. Have. No. Idea. How. Bad. Things. Are.

Oh my gawd. I’d get into the politics of the entire situation but then I’d probably get hate email.

Holy shite, Tom!

XOXO! Julia

 

 

 

Dear Tom, this morning’s harvest~

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Garlic. Purple potatoes. A couple leftover spring onions.

Yesterday I harvested asparagus, three bunches of celery, and a big bunch of broccoli. Now that the garlic is out of the ground I’ve got to get the clover-stuff out of the bed. Last year I purchased plants from a new nursery and unfortunately contaminated one entire bed with this yellow clover-ish weed. You can see some with the garlic.

My four baby robins fledged! Now a pair of mockingbirds have moved into the robin’s nest. They spend all their spare time begging for worms (making sounds like a puppy) and attacking Jake. Unlike the great horned owl, he can safely ignore them.

Yesterday we went to a beautiful beach. Jake had a wonderful time. He ran around like a maniac, then he and Oscar took a three mile hike. Unfortunately my climbing days are over until I’ve had surgery and rehabbed, so I walked along the shore and collected semi-precious stones. Then we drove over the Golden Gate into San Francisco to meet our youngest and her boyfriend for coffee. He lives at the very top of one of those hellacious hills and yes, I drove. Driving up the hills scares me to death. I always feel as if my car is going to flip upside down. Down doesn’t bother me. But believe me, I’d rather be driving than sitting in the passenger seat. I remember the first time I rode in the passenger seat up one of those hills – I was nineteen years old. I insisted the driver stop and let me out. I walked up the hill.

Last night we got lost in the mountains outside of Lafayette, looking for a retirement dinner. One of my husband’s managers is retiring after 40 years. The event was held in the middle of the wilderness (not kidding) at the end of a single-track road after we’d wound our way through a maze of country roads. Reminded me of the roads in Scotland but without the necessary turnouts. We had a hill on one side and a cliff on the other. We somehow managed to make it there without encountering another car (3 miles). The way home was another matter. All I can say is at least we were on the hill side, not the cliff side.

I only mention this retirement dinner because it made me sad. This woman has dedicated her life to her job. She’s married but has no children and only one sister. Her co-workers are both her family and her closest friends and now she’s leaving them.

There was a photo retrospective running on a loop on a big screen television.

Oscar’s co-worker is a happy healthy 70 year old woman. She radiates warmth and intelligence. But I experienced this weird disconnect as I watched the slide show. I’ve only known her for a couple years and I know little of her history. I was, to be frank, stunned. She was a glamorous young thing. She had model looks, kind of a combination of Bridgette Bardot and Twiggy. I had this completely inappropriate thought – If anyone ever makes one of these retrospectives of me I’ll come back from the grave and kill them. I think it’s kind of the same reason movie stars don’t watch their old movies. We’re young and then one day we get old. It ain’t always pretty.

Time does fly, doesn’t it?

XOXO! Julia