The Healing Begins


It’s one of my favorite times of day:  The middle of the night.  All is quiet but for the heat blasting warmth into the parsonage against the freezing cold night.  I have my cup of tea.  For the moment, I am alone with my thoughts.  And I am so privileged to share them with you, dear reader.

Too many things have been on my mind today.  It’s been that kind of Sunday.  So please accept my apologies if today’s (lengthy) post is a bit of a hodgepodge, veering from my usual practice of picking one topic and more or less sticking to it.


A Picture of a Person I Don’t Know

When I purchased my first new car, back in the mid-eighties, I was thrilled that it came standard with a cassette player.  I was a bit behind the times, still listening mostly to 33⅓ rpm vinyl records.  But I went right out and bought a few tapes to listen to on the way to work.  The first of these was the original cast recording of the musical A Chorus Line.  I had seen it performed on Broadway while I was in college, and it made a big impression on me.  So no surprise that this is not the first A Chorus Line reference I’ve made on this blog; knowing me, it probably will not be the last.

Being unemployed and applying for jobs online is a humbling experience.  It makes me feel like a beggar, hopeful for a crumb but not counting on it.  And yes, I am nervous as hell about an interview I have coming up next week.  So today I find myself channeling Paul, the dancer who sings at the end of “I Hope I Get It,” one of the musical numbers early in A Chorus Line (you can listen to one version here):

Who am I, anyway?
Am I my résumé?
That is a picture of a person I don’t know.
What does he want from me?
What should I try to be?
So many faces all around, and here we go.
I need this job, oh God, I need this show.

Here I was thinking that having the right résumé might make the difference between getting the job or not.  It should be limited to a single page, if possible.  It needs to stand out from the crowd, but still be sufficiently conservative to convey a proper business image.  Your name and contact information has to be big and at the top, but not too big.  You want to show everything you’ve done, but you don’t want to go back too far.  You want to include enough detail to allow the employer to determine whether you are a good fit with the organization but you don’t want to pad your résumé either.

And now I find that none of this matters anymore.  You see, while I was working all these years, the world changed.  The résumé has become obsolete.

I’m not kidding.  The last two jobs that I applied for were “résumé optional.”  It’s almost as if employers think that your résumé is nothing but a bunch of lies and half-truths anyway, so why bother?

At first, I wondered if employers were being serious about this, or whether this was just some sort of newfangled passive-aggressive thing.  So I figured there’s one way to find out.  I played along with this little game by sending in an application sans résumé.  And I was called for an interview.

I am witnessing a barrage of employer caveats along the lines of:  Do not write “See résumé.”  They want applicants to fill in all of their tiny spaces that are too small to type in.  Half the time I have to print some of the pages and write in the info in my smallest, most cramped handwriting.

The whole thing is pretty obvious to me:  It’s a control mechanism.  When the applicant sends a résumé, the applicant is control.  But when the employer requires the applicant to fill in little spaces describing his or her duties and accomplishments at every previous job, the employer is in control.  We don’t care that you’ve already spent time and money preparing the perfect résumé.  You’re in our territory now, and you’ll do it our way or get lost.

The employer knows that it has the upper hand, and seeks to take maximum advantage of the situation.

After all, there is a long line of Pauls at the door, toes on the chorus line, singing “I need this job, oh God, I need this show.”


Don’t Blink

The weather has been cool and crisp, hanging in the upper thirties during the day, freezing us out in the twenties at night.

Yesterday, it snowed.

I know.  In northern California?  Crazy.

Calling Al Gore — What was that about global warming again?

I didn’t actually see it snow, mind you.  But I have it on good authority that a few flakes did indeed fall out of the sky at our location.

I had been following the weather forecast and was duly warned that this might happen.

As a native New Yorker, I miss the snow.  So I kept an eye out.

At 3 a.m., I hauled myself out of bed, undid all the locks and stepped out the front door in my jammies to check.  No snow.

It gets light about 7 a.m. this time of year, so I opened one eye and drew back the blinds to see what was going on.  No snow.

A couple hours later, I dragged myself out of bed and headed to the bathroom.  Just as I was about to set foot in the shower, my wife pounded on the door:  “IT’S SNOWING!”

By the time I got out of the shower, headed back to the bedroom and looked out of the window, the show was long over.  Any flakes that had fallen must have melted immediately.

So I missed it.

But all is not lost.  My niece and her baby were out shopping and shot video of snowflakes falling on the mall parking lot.  My wife showed it to me on her Facebook feed.

The evidence is clear.  You snooze, you lose.



The Joy of Bread

I love good bread.

A crusty sourdough, rye or baguette that is soft and chewy in the middle.  Forget the knife.  Just rip off a chunk.  You’re going to need your teeth for this one.

The best bread I’ve yet to find in this area is at Whole Foods Market.  The nearest location is about thirty miles from here, and it had been about six weeks since we’d been down there.

But today my wife and I enjoyed a lovely Sunday afternoon, driving over to the Roseville Galleria for lunch and some shopping.  The stores were packed with Christmas shoppers.  Whole Foods wasn’t too bad when we entered the store, but by the time we had walked around and picked out our purchases, the place had started to seriously fill up.  And forget about Trader Joe’s.  The place was wall-to-wall people.

But we picked up my favorite bread, along with some treats from Whole Foods’ olive bar, the best pickles in the world (Bubbie’s — pickled in brine, no vinegar), a sleeve of firm tofu (much better for broiling than the kind in water) and my 85% cocoa butter vegan dark chocolate from TJ’s.

Now I know for sure that my wife loves me.


Take a Number, Bucko

When we first moved in here, I wrote a post about the challenges of three people plus a steady stream of visitors sharing a single bathroom.

Let me assure you, nothing has changed.

I am reminded of my childhood days, when my little sister, wanting to be sure that her whereabouts were known should anyone be searching for her, would regularly announce:  “I’m going to the bathroom!”

“Put an ad in the paper!” my father would call down the hall.

And we had three bathrooms in our house.  Even when we vacationed out in the country in an old house that didn’t have electricity, our outhouse was a two-holer.  Know what I mean?

These days, I really do need to put out an advertisement before heading to the loo.  Hmm, maybe we can start our own daily for this purpose.  I think I’ll call it The Toilet Paper.

Within the last two days, I heard this:

“Are you coming out soon?  I gotta gooooo!!”

…and this…

“Aron’s going to take a shower.  Does anyone need in the bathroom first?”

…and this…

(bangs on bathroom door)  “You’re gonna have to take a break and go back later.  I gotta get in there.”

…and this…

“You’re going in there?  Wait!  I gotta go first!”  (from the other room) “Me, too!”

Take a number.

“Now serving… uh, number two!”



I woke up this morning to a sound to which I am growing quite accustomed.  People talking and laughing in the living room.

We had guests.

They blow in and out of here with some regularity.

Yesterday afternoon, my niece (and her baby) came by with friend (one of the Ms).  We put the baby down for a nap.  Later, my niece returned to retrieve the little one, this time with two friends (the sisters who we call M&M) and one of their boyfriends.  In the evening, my nephew showed up with his girlfriend and her parents.

So this morning it was no surprise when a crowd materialized before we had even rolled out of bed.  Pastor Mom was sitting in her recliner, visiting with my sister-in-law, my niece and her baby, and a nephew whom I had not seen in years.  He is one of the sons of my sister-in-law’s second husband, who she divorced a few years back.

My nephew is all grown up now.  He’s already served a tour in the service and now works as an engineer in Las Vegas.  He is thinking about going back in the Army.  I raised my eyebrows to learn that he actually wants to be deployed to Afghanistan.  Well, I’m sure glad someone wants to do it.

My wife and I have a lot of nieces and nephews.  While my sister-in-law still had her own three kids at home, she married a man who had custody of his eight children, from a toddler to several teenagers.

After the divorce, they scattered.  We tried to keep in touch for a while over Facebook and by text message.  But family issues arose.  Apparently we weren’t supposed to demonstrate any loyalty to the ex, nor (by extension) to his children.  I wrote about this sad state of affairs back in March.

I pointed out in that post that there is no such thing as an ex-niece or an ex-nephew.  You can’t expect people to turn love on and off like a light switch.

I am pleased to say that things are starting to change.  A couple of the nieces have returned to this area and brought their spouses and children to my sister-in-law’s table for Thanksgiving dinner.  And now one of the nephews dropped in to see all of us.

My wife and I are deeply moved by the way we are once again becoming the family that we’ve always known we could be.  Today, she copied a portion of my March post onto her Facebook page.  One of the nephews commented about his fond memories of us and how we will always be his auntie and uncle.  My wife and I both let the tears flow.

And then my sister-in-law added her own comment, stating that the healing has begun.

Amen, sister.



A California December

electric blanket

It has gotten really cold here.

I know.  It’s December.  It’s supposed to be cold.

Not here.  I mean what the heck?  This is California, for crying out loud!  When I lived in New York and New England all those years, everyone spent the winter whining about the snow and cold, wishing they could live in a warm place such as Florida or California.

California, in particular, was mythic.  The home of Schwarzenegger and Mickey Mouse.  Everyone there was either a movie star or a surfer dude, and we’d all seen the romantic photos of couples walking along the beach and enjoying the ocean at any time of year.

Joe Dee Messina sang “Heads Carolina, tails California, somewhere greener, somewhere warmer.”

The Mamas and The Papas were busy California dreamin’.  “I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A.”

Even in L.A., the weather people are calling for 41°F tonight.  But here, two-thirds of the way up from Mexico to Oregon, we’re going to have a hard freeze tonight, 23°F.

Just for kicks, I checked the forecast for some of my old haunts back east.  They may hit the low forties tonight.

Somehow, being in a place that is significantly colder than New York seems to defeat the purpose of living in California.

I am reminded that we don’t have blizzards here.  Sure, how often did that happen back in NYC?  Once per winter, maybe?  I remember my last winter on the east coast very clearly.  We barely had two flakes of snow to rub together the entire winter.

Be that as it may, this type of weather does not bode well for the homeless in our area, particularly those unable to reach a shelter or unwilling to stay there.  I am told that our homeless friend is still sleeping in his sister’s car, inside a fleece-lined sleeping bag, wearing a coat and covered by blankets.

I think what I’m supposed to do is smile and be glad it’s the holiday season.  It’s the eighth and final night of Hanukkah, and Christmas is just around the corner.  Cold weather is supposed to be a part of the whole ambience.  Mittens, scarves, hot chocolate and all that.  We wouldn’t want Frosty the Snowman to melt, now would we?  And perhaps, as we see our frozen breath while running about shopping, a taste of the North Pole will encourage empathy for the hardships endured by Santa and his elves.

I suppose that’s all well and good for the children and the Christmas carolers.

As for me, I stand with my bloggy friend, Vagina.

I want my electric blankie.


The Merry, Merry Month of May


How did the month of May get its name?

I’ve always been fascinated by etymology, so I couldn’t resist checking the dictionary on this one.  It turns out that May is named for Maia, an ancient Roman fertility goddess.

This makes sense, as May is the heart of springtime in the Northern Hemisphere, the season when the increasingly direct rays of the sun finally overcome winter’s icy grip and the tulips and daffodils in a riot of colors once again add cheer to our lives.

Here in the desert, we have more cacti than tulips or daffodils, but it’s the thought that counts.

When I was a kid, May was the time of year I could start collecting insects and rocks.  It was almost the end of the school year, with the tantalizing languor of the lengthy summer vacation just over the horizon.

Although the start of the month is a time for recognizing labor in some nations, I hold romantic visions of children dancing around the may pole with colorful streamers.

In the United States, the three-day Memorial Day weekend comes at the end of May, a holiday on which we remember the soldiers who have died, in wars extending back decades and centuries, to assure the security of our nation for future generations.  I’ve discovered that Memorial Day was not officially named by the U.S. federal government in 1967, which explains why my parents always referred to the holiday as Decoration Day during my childhood (a reference to the decoration of graves with flowers).

As we begin the summer season, we also celebrate our families, with Mothers’ Day this month and Fathers’ Day next.

I’ve always thought of May as a celebration of possibilities.  With the limitations of the winter behind us, we look forward to outdoor activities, family gatherings, road trips.  If New Year’s is a time for resolutions to make difficult self-improvements, May is the time to plan for whatever your idea of fun may be.  Whether you look forward to vacations, sports, gardening, weekends at the lake or beach, or just shucking off the coat and going for a walk, May is the time for making plans for what we really want to do, not what we ought to do.

In a sense, May is the month to celebrate our personal freedom.  It is the time of year when we give ourselves permission to engage in the activities that we really enjoy, when we finally give in and tell ourselves “yes.”

Perhaps that’s the real reason this month is named May.


Desert Spring



I don’t need to look at the calendar to know that winter has given way to spring.  Out here in the desert, three indicators clearly announce that March has arrived:  The fair, the heat and the first fruits.

The fair is in town this week in all its schlocky, throwback, family fun glory.  Kids from the high school perform, stuffed animals line the midway, the rides whirl and everyone eats cotton candy and funnel cakes.  The 4-H Club and the FFA strut their stuff; for weeks, I’ve heard nothing but tales of whose son has the finest pig and what prices the livestock auction will fetch.

As for the heat, well, March is the start of the long desert summer.  While New England suffers under yet another foot of snow, we have already had two days on which the mercury has reached 95 degrees.  We will likely hit the 100° mark before the end of the month, where the midday temperature will stay put for the next six or seven months.

Although I’m not a big fan of the fair and the relentless heat gets old quickly, I always look forward to the return of some of the best fresh fruit anywhere, just in time for Easter and Passover.  My treats today were an incredibly sweet, juicy red plum and some explosively tasty blueberries (photos above).

And let us not forget the flocks of birds that nest in our tree, sing us shrilly awake each morning and poop all over our cars.

Apparently, however, not all of our avian friends are keen about celebrating springtime in California.  I hear the Argentine cliff swallows have not returned to Capistrano this year.