I’m Proud of My Friends

Waterford baby block

Dear Reader:

Today ends Pride Month and I’m thinking of all the gay men I’ve known, but particularly the first one I met twenty five years ago and the one I met only 8 months ago. Shopping and fashion are part of my DNA and that interest served as the foundation for all of my  friendships with gay men.

Before I had my daughter, I shared a cubicle wall with Carlos. We worked in a high testosterone environment at a Silicon Valley start-up. Neither of us were destined for great success at the company, but we earned enough to dine well and shop well on shared lunch breaks.

One day, I visited him in the hospital during my lunch hour in the middle of a dramatic rain storm. He joked that he always provided plenty of drama. Thankfully, he’s an AID’s survivor. He was my first friend to give me a gift when I announced my pregnancy. The tiny crystal baby block came with a note: “Here’s your girl’s first piece of Waterford.”

He really went above and beyond throughout my pregnancy accompanying me to maternity shops to apply his critical eye to my selections. One day about seven months along, I came into work with a new purchase I’d made on my own. I’ll never forget his reaction…uh, open mouth, “That’s a whole lotta denim!” I’ve got the pictures in my photo album and, of course, he was right. Every time I look at that dress now, I can hear his voice.

I haven’t seen Carlos in years, but he was the first of several gay friends. I feel so fortunate to have made another close friend when I moved eight months ago. One of my neighbors has become particularly dear to me. He and his partner go out of their way to help everyone on the street. They are the guys who take out and bring in the trash bins of elderly widows. They can be found on the street often walking their tiny dog and they’re always ready with a pleasant greeting. When their trees give them too much fruit, they leave bags of lemons and oranges on their neighbors’ doorsteps.

One night, early in our friendship, my friend shared that he’d always known he was gay. He remembered watching the Donny and Marie Show with his buddies. While they appreciated the attributes of Marie Osmond, he found himself admiring Donny. Well, we had that in common!

“But, I wouldn’t have chosen to be this way,” he concluded.

I haven’t been able to get that moment out of my mind. It is so sad to me that someone I find simply wonderful would want to change an integral part of himself. It is, of course, understandable. I do hope for continued progress and acceptance of those in the LBGTQ community. If only everyone had friends as good as mine, society would surely change.

Michele

 

 

 

 

Protesters Hit the Street in My Neighborhood

 

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Protestors gathered in front of my neighborhood Trader Joe’s.

Dear Reader:

Last night was not a typical night in my new neighborhood. My phone started ringing at 5 p.m. Neighbors were calling to warn us that the local chapter of Black Lives Matter had organized a march through our section of town to protest the shooting death of a black man at the hands of the police.

“I’ll bet this didn’t happen much in Carmel, ” joked my first caller. “Actually, it’s a first here…as far as I know, and I’ve been here for 35 years!”

Shortly after that first call, we heard a police helicopter overhead. My husband used a tracking app and we followed the yellow line as it made its way closer to our home. Suddenly it was over us and we heard the people in the street before we saw them.

We watched from the windows that surround our front door. It’s an odd sight to see a steady stream of people moving down the road. There were a couple hundred marchers chanting “Not a Gun” over and over. We stayed by the door until the last marchers passed. They were followed by a dozen police cars and several white unmarked vans that we speculated were filled with SWAT teams.

The organizers said that they chose our neighborhood because it is old, established, upscale and  predominantly white. They also noted that many city officials reside in East Sacramento. I only know one. I met him while walking the dog the day after Thanksgiving. He was giving his home the Chevy Chase Christmas Vacation treatment and I commented on how magnificent it looked.

“Well,” he shrugged, “when you have kids, you just do it!”

He’s the Assistant City Manager …and a father of three. We bought Girl Scout cookies from his daughter last month.

I do not have an opinion to share regarding the shooting, but I do have strong feelings about what transpired outside my home last night. Since the 2016 election, I’ve often felt simply ashamed of my country. But, last night I felt proud to live in a country that gives people the right to peaceably gather and protest. I wholeheartedly support free speech and that says something when POTUS regularly attacks the fourth estate.

I must honestly conclude by saying that I was also extremely grateful for the highly visible police presence.

Michele

 

 

You’ve Got to Have Friends!

It’s the friends you can call up at 4am that matter.”

-Marlene Dietrich

 

Dear Reader:

I’ve been very quiet lately and the friends who know me best have guessed why. Nearly four months ago, my husband and I moved from Carmel to Sacramento and I still haven’t quite caught my breath. Despite the fact that I love my new home and neighbors, I’ve felt overwhelmed, disoriented and sad. So, I’ve retreated …which is my way. It’s particularly easy to do that in the darkness of winter.

I haven’t wanted to share my unhappiness with others because it seems incredibly unwarranted. But, I began reaching out to my friends this week and they’ve reminded me of some basic truths.

Change, even positive change, is difficult.

My lovely friend waited until she was 50 years old for the right man to appear and she married him less than a year ago. Now she’s adjusting to her new home, role and life. She’s lost her desire to create and, as she put it, entered a period of “hibernation.” She wrote: “No doubt you and I will move through this season ( it’s just a season, after all) and blossom with new insights and greater creativity …in time.”

Your problems may not be BIG problems, but you’re entitled to them!

One of my friends lost her home several months ago. Just as wildfires were gobbling up California, her home was destroyed when a chemical fire spontaneously combusted in her garage. She was on vacation and got the news while she floated on a boat beside her husband. She’s negotiating with the insurance company who insists the value of her lost home is $80,000 less than the construction company does.

I felt guilty complaining that the carpet we had installed the week before we moved in was going to have to be ripped out and replaced due to an incredibly poor install. And yet, all she had to offer was compassion. “How frustrating!” she said after agreeing that moving was a major upset.

Each stage of life offers rewards and challenges.

One of my dearest friends is feeling the loneliness that comes from having grown children and a husband with a demanding career. She is truly one of the kindest people I’ve ever known and so it pains me greatly to hear her express doubt about her purpose. I wonder silently if it isn’t enough that she is such a generous person.

And finally, we’ve all got problems! Friends are there to remind us that we’re not alone.

May you all be blessed with friends as good as mine!

xo,

Michele

 

Thank You Mary Oliver

My Library

Dear Reader:

Mary Oliver, the Pulitzer Prize winning poet, is dead. I feel heavy writing those words as if I lost a friend. I am simply another reader…one of millions. But with her books in my hands, I’ve felt the companionship of a friend. I’ve nodded my head or spoken aloud as if in conversation with her. And, so it would be true to say that we had a relationship. That was the power of Mary’s art. That’s what made her so well-loved.

She was the rare poet who sold well. My social media feeds are filled with her brilliantly strung together words and moving tributes from regular people like me and her famous admirers like Hillary Clinton, Madonna and Oprah.

When I heard the news of her death, I retreated to my shed to pull her book Dog Songs from my shelf. The book popped open to page 31:

BENJAMIN, WHO CAME FROM

WHO KNOWS WHERE

What shall I do?

When I pick up the broom

he leaves the room.

When I fuss with kindling he

runs for the yard.

Then he’s back, and we

hug for a long time.

In his low-to-the ground chest

I can hear his heart slowing down.

Then I rub his shoulders and

kiss his feet

and fondle his long hound ears.

Benny, I say,

don’t worry. I also know the way

the old life haunts the new.

I read that poem as a dog lover, a hound lover, to be precise. But, I also read it as a person whose old life can be haunting. In one of the rare interviews Mary gave, she spoke of her unhappy childhood that included sexual abuse and parental neglect.

“I had a very dysfunctional family, and a very hard childhood,” Mary told Maria Shriver. “So I made a world out of words. And it was my salvation.”

Thank you Mary for sharing your world with me.The joy, solace and inspiration your words have given me are alive. Still. On my bookcase.

Michele

 

Merry Memories from My First Christmas in Sacramento, California

 

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My kitchen chalkboard says it all!
Christmas Lights
Our new neighborhood is decked out! 
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Our home is decked out!
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The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament is 130 years old and beautiful.
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I love It’s a Small World in Disneyland; my daughter made sure I’m ready for my next visit!
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Chanel No. 5’s red edition was a thoughtful gift from my husband.

Hope you’ve made some lovely memories, too!

 

 

The $1,400 Gingerbread House

“Oh, life is like that. Sometimes, at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at its zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us.”

From the 1983 classic A Christmas Story

Dear Reader:

I absolutely LOVE Christmas. I love it all…the carols, the movies, the trees, the egg nog, the presents and most especially the fun of assembling and decorating a gingerbread house with my daughter. We’ve been creating in candy and frosting since Natalie was four years old.

This year within days of her return from college, we set up our decorating station at the kitchen table in our new home. It was such fun. Truth be told, I’ve been having a hard time adjusting to the move. But, as soon as my girl arrived, my mood improved. We simply need to make memories in our new home…I thought. And, a gingerbread house was the perfect start.

Two days later, it was time to celebrate Natalie’s 22nd birthday. We’d do whatever she wanted. Turns out it was a simple request. Pizza on the couch while watching one of our favorite seasonal movies: A Christmas Story.

We’ve got a bigger house this year so I placed Nat’s birthday gifts in our living room under the tree. As we left the family room, I checked to make sure all the plates and pizza scraps were removed from the coffee table and shut the adjoining door as our three doxies are not welcome in our formal living room.

It’s funny how you develop a sixth sense about these things when you own dachshunds, but I knew something was wrong the second we returned to the family room.

Where’s Winnie?! I quickly answered my own question when I discovered her on top of the kitchen table gorging on our gingerbread house. The next thing I knew I was slipping on my boots and throwing a coat over my p.j.’s while my husband googled emergency veterinary services. Luckily I thought to toss the half empty bag of Navitas cocoa nibs into my purse.

The veterinarian was not particularly concerned that Winnie had consumed about 10-15 milk chocolate chips (see the empty bowl up top) or large quantities of coconut and frosting. But the cocoa nibs that we surrounded our house with, because they so resembled dirt or gravel, necessitated a call to the Animal Poison Control Center .

About an hour and a half after we checked in, we were called into a room to consult with a vet who looked too concerned for me to be comfortable.

“We’ll need to keep her tonight,” she began. “She’ll be put on an i.v. and her heart rate and vitals will be monitored.”

There was more rather serious conversation until I finally asked if her life was in danger.

“Well, the experts at the ASPCA are very concerned about the cocoa nibs. That’s straight chocolate and she had a large dose for an 11 pound dog.”

“She can’t die,” I said. “Today’s my daughter’s birthday.”

“She probably thinks Nats is eight,” my husband whispered as we left.

“All she had to do is look at me to know our daughter is not eight,” I replied. “But, no one wants their dog to die on their birthday no matter how old they are!”

As you can see, Winnie lives! She spent two days in the ICU at a cost of $1,400. She’s asleep in my lap now. There aren’t too many things nicer than having your daughter home for the holidays and a sweet, small, warm creature to warm your heart and home. And I’d say that we made a memory!

I’d like to challenge anyone to show me a more expensive gingerbread house.

Michele

P.S. The cocoa nibs are excellent in yogurt, but I’ll never buy them again!

Pancakes, Christmas Lights and Rudolph to the Rescue!

Christmas Lights
Our new neighborhood is decked out! That’s my handsome husband on the right.

Dear Reader:

I woke up with the “moving blues” today. I was not alone. My husband passed me in the kitchen transferring items from one spot to another and then back again and asked how I was doing. I think he knew.

“Moving is a drag!” I responded. “And, you?”

“I was thinking the same thing. Let’s go out!”

I’ve got to say banana blackberry pancakes can do a lot to improve one’s disposition! They fueled us throughout the day until we needed another diversion. It wasn’t hard to find one; we simply stepped out our front door and walked the neighborhood.

We live in an old part of the city that’s known for decking the halls big time! People walk our block, drive our block and rent carriages to trot down our block to see the lights. We’ve managed to decorate a bit and we’re gathering ideas to step up our game next year.

When we returned home with cold noses and ears, I was happy to see that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was just showing on t.v. My husband kindly agreed to indulge me as I sang along to my favorite childhood Christmas show.

Moving is still a drag and I still haven’t found the perfect organizational system for my new pantry. But, I’m reminded of the simple truth: All work and no play make Michele a very dull girl! Here’s to pancakes, lights, fantasy and the companionship of a lovely man!

What are you doing to balance your life during this busy season, dear reader?

Michele

So Many Options!

 

Which rug will it be?
Two out of three dachshunds agree on the first rug option…the third could care less as the sun is shining outside!

Dear Reader:

I’ve been in my new home now for exactly 25 days. I always think that I should count the boxes when I move, but I never do. Part of me thinks it would give me a sense of accomplishment to know how many boxes had been packed and unpacked, but the smarter side of me knows that I’d be better off not knowing.

There are a lot of boxes. My husband and I love to collect…art, china, books and all things Christmas! I’ve managed to get through about 3/4 of them.

I’ve only had a washer/dryer for four days now and we are still waiting for California Closets to come and install new master bedroom closets in the empty spaces cleared by our contractor. But, we are almost fully functional here! As you can see, we have the bandwidth to consider rug options for our kitchen nook, so that’s an improvement over the first ten or so days when we were drowning in wrapping paper and trying to find the dust buster.

I am making friends with my new town and feeling confident that life here is going to offer so many opportunities to learn and grow. I’m truly excited to get beyond the “home set-up phase” and onto the “live my best life phase.”

I’ll be doing a reveal of my new pink shed soon. Watch for it!

Michele

 

Home for Thanksgiving

My Neighborhood
The view down the street from my new home on the day we fell in love with it. Today, the Sycamore leaves are golden and crisp and falling like the rain.

Dear Reader:

So much has happened since I last wrote. But, I must start by wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving, if it’s a holiday that you celebrate. If not, well…everyday is a day to be grateful. It goes without saying that I’m most blessed by the people in my life: husband, daughter, friends and neighbors.

But this year, I’m thinking about my home. I moved from Carmel, California to our state’s capital Sacramento on November 7th. I began unpacking boxes just as the fires broke out in Paradise which is a mere 88 miles from my new neighborhood.

As of today, nearly 14,000 people have lost their homes. As I work my way through each box to create a beautiful, functional, relaxing environment, I can’t help but think of those people who have no place to gather today.

I’ve always been a homebody who dreamed of living in beautiful spaces. When I was a teenager, I’d spend my hard-earned babysitting dollars on books and magazines. In addition to Tiger Beat, I’d often purchase a copy of Architectural Digest or House Beautiful. I’ve been blessed to live in several wonderful neighborhoods and my husband and I are poised to begin another adventure in a lovely 100-year-old home in a bustling area of town.

I’m so grateful for the roof over my head and so sorry for the victims of California’s fires. I hope you are happy, warm and snug in your home tonight.

Michele