Sonoma County Strong

If it’s not one thing, it’s the other. This past winter we were worried about flooding throughout the county, and now a raging urban fire has torn through Santa Rosa and other towns throughout Wine Country.

I am very lucky. My partner and I were in Nevada visiting my brother, and were driving back on the Sunday night all the fires started. Instead of driving straight into it we went to the South Bay, where our three cats were already staying at one of our parents’ house. We didn’t realize what was happening until the next morning.

Then began several days of watching the news, which, honestly… was depressing. I feel for the people who lost their homes, and the people who still don’t know if they have homes or not, and the people whose houses are still standing but they can’t return to them because of evacuation rules. But “breaking news” provided more human interest stories than actual information, and here’s why:

  • There wasn’t any. Everything started at night, when they couldn’t start fighting it until dawn. By then there wasn’t anything they could do about containment, all focus was on evacuation and rescue. So there was nothing informative to report.
  • No one could really believe what was happening. We get our share of fires here in California, but even we are used to forest fires and wildfires in sparsely populated areas. Even up here where we know that Lake County just a couple hours north has semi-annual fire problems. This was different. This was multiple urban fires throughout four counties (Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lake) all at once. I think part of what kept us watching was these sense of, “wait this is actually happening?”
  • The news was also meant for people outside of the impacted areas. Because if it doesn’t affect you directly (even elsewhere in the Bay Area where it’s merely super smoky), we want you to know what we’re going through. Local news will broadcast the devastation again and again just to try and convey how real, how devastating this is to the area. Even once they get all the flames out, this will continue to impact our community for months, at least — and we have until then to make sure the outside interest and support will stick past that point.

Honestly, I got more helpful, direct information from Cal Fire’s twitter feed than the local news. (Sorry local news.)

The only other points of reference we had for what was happening near our home were our landlord and a smattering of local friends and coworkers. Our friends are lucky too, because none of them were injured or lost their homes. Some were evacuated, some were on high alert with the possibility, one’s workplace burned down, but overall they are okay.

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Facebook photos of the healing base camp. 

We happen to be friends with a really cool person who made some of the first moves to set up at evacuation centers and firefighter camps to offer massages, reiki, energy healing, etc. She’s been giving with her whole heart and soul for around eight hours a day ever since her neighborhood was deemed safe (ish, as long as the wind didn’t change, and so on). Firefighters have told her that she and her peers who are pitching in this way are making the experience legendary, because no one has ever done it for them before. (There tends to be a lot of red tape around actually getting into the firefighters’ camp, so she set up right outside one of the entrances and they come to her.) It’s heartwarming to see in her Facebook posts and talk about whenever we see here. We ❤️ you, Rebecca!

 

On Friday we were able to drive up and check on our place. It’s about twenty minutes from the Fulton Road evacuation line, but perfectly fine, not covered in snow-like drifts of ash as I had half imagined. We harvested tomatoes from the garden and went to a potluck dinner with friends to celebrate being able to get together in all this madness.

On Saturday we gathered up some things to donate. We don’t have a lot of money right now, so it wasn’t a lot. Two cans of tuna, two small containers of gluten free cereal, two cartons of rice milk, a tiny jar of honey, and a packet of hot chocolate mix. Some kitchen things, some clothes we no longer need, some cat toys our girls don’t play with much anymore, and a couple cans of kitten food.

After donating food at Redwood Empire Food Bank, we didn’t know where to go to drop off the other stuff so we visited our friends at Tilted Shed Ciderworks. They were having a benefit for neighbors of theirs who had lost their house, donating 35% of profits for the day to help. They were also handing out fliers for a place just down the street that was accepting donations, which was so helpful because I’d heard that some places had reached capacity for accepting things.

We ended up at what looked like an office building that had been vacant and the owners just decided, hey, let’s open it up and use it as a space to help people out. As we drove out a family was walking out carrying pillows, clothes, and bottled water. The woman I spoke to thanked us profusely for everything we brought — especially the cat supplies, because they had a lot of dog stuff but not a lot/no cat stuff. She asked if we needed anything, if we had been impacted by the fires, and when I said we were okay she offered us bottled water anyway and settled for giving me a hug. (As far as I know, they’re still accepting donations in Windsor.)

It wasn’t much, but it felt so wonderful to be able to help. There are more clothes that we can give away, we just have to dig it out.

On the way back down to the South Bay on Saturday night (since the air quality was okay we decided to bring the cats back up the next day), we were on 101 and drove through some of the area where the fire jumped the freeway. It was shocking. And it was pretty random. There would be one building that was just nothing, just a pile of ash with the remains of a roof collapsed down on top, surrounded by buildings that had been left untouched.

The thing about watching the news was, there was nothing we could do. But it’s empowering in the face of such tragedy to come home and see how much everyone is banding together.

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Walking With Giants

Thank you to everyone who commented on my last post. Your words have helped me feel a little lighter, a little more inspired. Plus, I had a kitty lounging on my chest and purring for quite a while this morning, which was nice.

The day after I made that post, we had already planned to go to a nearby redwood forrest and do a nature walk. My energy felt so sapped that I almost didn’t want to go, but between my partner’s infectious enthusiasm as sheer momentum I went. This particular park has an amphitheater area that we’re considering as a wedding venue, and I really wanted to see it. Temperatures have sometimes climbed to the 100s recently and that day was no exception, but at least the forest was full of shade.

“Green spaces are known to be good for mental health, and beyond that, there’s the powerful business of encountering.” —Nimue Brown

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With that, I felt a little better too. And this past weekend, as a delayed birthday present, my mom took my to Disneyland! It was very hot and very crowded, but even that helped clear my mind of non-immediate concerns. The Jungle Cruise was still there, despite some rumors we had heard of it being closed down permanently, and Space Mountain and Indiana Jones were as wildly enjoyable as ever. Plus, Disney is astonishingly good at accommodating allergies and I found gluten free bread here and there when I least expected it. (Grilled cheese and tomato soup, om nom nom!) Not for nothing is it called the Happiest Place on Earth, and although most of the happy glow wore off once I came home and returned to real life I do feel better for the three days of mental relief. I am extraordinarily lucky and grateful for that.

I don’t think I’m depressed. There are a lot of things I need to adjust in my life to get to a better mental place — I am too stressed, I am too anxious, I am worried about my upcoming endoscopy and the single Ativan I will take to keep myself calm that day, I don’t get enough exercise, I don’t eat enough protein, and I need to carry on with purging gluten from my system.

For the first three, I have started talking to a therapist again. I’m going to try and get back into meditation and breathing exercises, which might be a little easier to remember to do once the endoscopy is over and done with. I’m also taking some steps to reduce the stress in my environment… Work stuff. It’s a process.

For the last three, I have my Fitbit. I bought it for myself a few months ago and have been gradually bumping my step goal up from 5k as I build better daily habits. Currently my goal is 7k and I’m doing a pretty good job of hitting it. The app also tracks exercise and food/calorie/macronutrient intake. In the past week I’ve been using it as a food journal, in case I need to look back and figure out if I ate anything that wasn’t gluten free by accident. It tells me what percent of calories are from protein, too, so I can be more mindful of that.

There are probably other things I can do, but this is where I’m starting. I’m already taking vitamin D every day along with my anti-anxiety medication, which I believe isn’t giving me as much burnout from side effects as it was a few weeks ago. When I remember, I take gummy multi-vitamins. Once I get though the endoscopy, perhaps I will turn more of my focus towards meditation, vitamins, and writing more often.

And my partner and I definitely plan on taking more nature walks. We even bought matching water bottles for the purpose. 😊

Overall, I am not at my best, but I am better. I hope all of you are doing okay.

“Heal yourself first. Get what you need, do what you need to, first, always first, but after you have made some progress and stored up some strength yourself, go out and help the rest of the world heal.” — Lisa

Sunday Gratitudes #46: The Little Red Number

You know that little red number. It signifies unread texts, unread emails, missed calls, voicemails waiting for you to listen to, and other notifications. There are so many demands on our time and attention these days that it’s like omg overload all the time — depending, of course, on how many apps you have, how much friends and family members text, and whether or not you have your work email synched to your phone.

I really do not recommend that last one. I synced my work inbox to my phone once in 2013 and that only lasted a couple days before I undid it because that little red number was staring at me like a little red eyeball from hell.

This doesn’t bother everyone. My officemate has over 1000 unread emails and I just can’t even comprehend that. When I pointed it out, she said she hadn’t even noticed! Now, I’m a millennial and most of my coworkers are… well, if I had to guess, I’d guess they’re Baby Boomers. They are badass women who know what they’re doing and give very few fucks, and I like them all a lot, but there is an undeniable difference in the way we think and the way we approach certain tasks.

Some days I wish I was the kind of person who had one email addresses and didn’t care if it had hundreds of unread emails in it. Instead, I have upwards of ten, including six different work inboxes, and I start to get a little antsy if a double digit number is staring me down anywhere for more than a couple days.

So this Sunday, I am grateful that my personal inboxes (the most relentless red eye on my smartphone) are now down to just one unread email. That means I’ve paid my bills for the month. I’ve caught up on all the blogs I want to read. I’ve even finally remembered to update my FasTrack mailing address and dig through the stack of unopened mail to find three our of four of the W4s or whatever that I’m supposed to have. Despite being so sick yesterday that I threw up and slept nearly all day, since Friday afternoon I’ve also scooped the litter boxes/swept up the litter on the floor twice, neatened up the dining room table, washed some dishes, and voluntarily initiated a phone call with my parents.

And I’d like to thank a friend of mine for emailing me the link to this TED Talk video about stress, which I finally watched today. Did you know that stress isn’t as bad for you as simply believing that stress is bad for you? I knew it was a motivator, but I didn’t know that oxytocin, a stress hormone, helps strengthen your heart. If you stop to think about it, it makes a lot of evolutionary sense. I’ll leave you with the video — please feel free to comment on it and/or about how you feel about the little red numbers.

Sunday Gratitudes #45

What are you grateful for this week? I’m grateful for…

🌹- Valentine’s Day!

🌹- Remembering to get a card well in advance AND remembering I had it and where.

🌹- Getting a reservation at our favorite restaurant at the last minute.

🌹- Posting about it on Instagram and the restaurant commented and was super happy, heh.

🌹- How nice the cop that pulled us over was. He even made suggestions about the best way to approach the DMV about fixing the problem. (Which is basically that they never sent me new registration tags after I renewed.)

🌹- Sitting next to a table of guys talking about cider, and I was brave enough turn around and give them a card from the cidery I work for. (They were talking about cider and Amsterdam, we were seated with our people.)

🌹- Reaching a compromise with my boss about which half of Friday I could take off to go to the DMV. Even though she got the better end of the deal.

🌹- Finally getting all that DMV crap taken care of, including updating my address. It only took a couple hours and $20.

🌹- Experimental baking. I took lots of pictures and wrote down the recipe as I made it up, but I made the cutest little mini pies on Friday after the DMV. The crust is my go-to recipe, which is always the best, but the filling was an experiment with two nectarines, 6oz of blackberries, freshly squeezed orange juice, and whatever else I had in the kitchen. It turned out well, though it still needs some perfecting.

🌹- My new purse. I wasn’t planning on getting one so soon, but my partner saw it, ran it by me to see if I liked it, and bought it for me as a three-months-early birthday present. I love it. And it was only $45!

🌹- Meeting more of my partners family. An aunt and uncle were visiting, and we joined everyone in the city for dinner with a view of the ocean.

🌹- The opportunity to give each couple at the dinner a mini pie to take home. It made me feel like a good lil baker. ‍

🌹- Waking up covered in cats.

🌹- Tampons. Also, Tampax has changed the color design on the Supers from light green to vivid real and blue swirls. Very fetching.

🌹- Lazy sunday mornings spent reading and commenting on WordPress posts.

🌹- Rain. I mean, I hope we don’t get too flooded, but the sound is nice to wake up to.

Sunday Gratitudes #44

What are you grateful for this week? I’m grateful for…

☕️ – Meeting my January writing, blogging, and walking goals so far.

☕️ – Baking some delicious gluten free orange spice cakes on Sunday evening. From a baking mix, true, but I drastically altered the recipe to include orange and chocolate.

☕️ – Having a great lunch break on Monday. Even though my boss sent me on errands that were all an hour plus of driving apart, I ended up taking my break in a gorgeous spot.

☕️ – Watching the season five finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with my baby.

☕️ – Sleeping in. Even if I only got to do it because I felt crummy and took a sick day.

☕️ – Being able to take most of the week off due to being sick. It’s a luxury that my bank account will be crankier about it than my boss.

☕️ – Getting a bunch of dishes washed. Accomplishment!

☕️ – Feeling not-sick enough to scoop the litter boxes. They really needed it. Plus, getting all the bags of old litter thrown away! (The trash-pickup can we share with our landlord has limited space.)

☕️ – Signing petitions. It seems like demonstrations of complaint will have more effect on this president than any that have come before.

☕️ – Realizing my health insurance is all set, and that even though I haven’t gotten my card in the mail I can call it up on my phone via an app. Now I can get my prescription refilled.

☕️ – A wine tasting Sunday funday. We found some great local places that only have a $5 tasting fee, too!

☕️ – Feeling hilariously superior. Have you ever, at work, been sent a list that you yourself made as if it were new information?

☕️ – Payday.

☕️ – Meeting up with one of my college buddies in the city! It was a huge deal to me because almost none of my east coast friends have visited me in California, and I haven’t seen him in six years. Also, he was the one who helped me set up the OkCupid profile that lead to my current relationship, and he finally got to meet my partner.

☕️ – Debates with my partner. As a rule I don’t really enjoy these things, but although we didn’t agree and we’re both rather annoyed that neither of us came around to the other’s point of view, we did reach a good ending point. Eventually. And I know it makes them happier to have these sorts of intense conversations than it does me, so that’s good for somebody at least.

☕️ – Screamin’ Mimi’s ice cream.

☕️ – Realizing in time that the weird brown thing next to my pillow when I woke up was a tiny nugget of cat poop and not touching it. (Lol thanks cats.)

☕️ – How happy the dogs were to see us when we came down for a visit.

☕️ – Being able to squeeze in time with my friend and his gf, my partners friend and her bf, my partner’s parents, and my family all in two days. Efficiency!

☕️ – Taking a pic of a chocolate sale to support a local art program. Because I also work for a local parenting magazine, I was able to post it to twitter and Instagram where people might actually see it and stop by. I hope it helped.

☕️ – The Sebastopol Starbucks. It’s just our favorite. The baristas there actually bother to read my name on my gold card instead of just asking and inevitably misspelling it. It’s a tiny thing, but it shows consideration and, idk, common sense. That’s what having your name on the card is for, right?

☕️ – Waking up to warm kitten snuggles. (Probably the same one who pooped by my pillow but whatevs. When I get up she’ll roll off my partner into the spot I just vacated and be all “WhaT?!” That will be my revenge.)

Sunday Gratitudes #44

🔔 – Due to a paperwork error on a hastily handwritten section of a form, we were nearly disqualified from receiving a free 8 day dream vacation. But I stuck around arguing about it long enough that they let us have it anyway, along with the complimentary Wine Country tastings we’d also been promised. (All those years of being deeply embarrassed whenever my mom snapped at fast food employees who got our order wrong finally paid off!) I am so proud of myself for not being a doormat and giving in. 

🔔 – We’re doing a Christmas card this year!! I feel like such an adult. 

🔔 – I have all my Christmas shopping done. Never have I been so ahead of the curve and organized about gifts before. And most of them are already wrapped and under our tree! Adult achievement unlocked. (I got a gift app and that helped. I’m even under my expected budget!)

🔔 – One of my dad’s cousins and her partner are in town and they want to visit, no pressure no schedule no timeline! I love my immediate family but they make scheduling visits so complicated. This is refreshing and makes me feel special and calm and grown up. 

🔔 – For years I thought I was the only openly queer member of the family because my dad asked me not to tell my catholic grandmother. But the aforementioned cousin (Grammy’s niece) brought her partner to the 100th birthday party. I’m not alone!

🔔 – I have a haircut scheduled for Christmas Eve morning. My stylist seemed bummed about having to work that day, so I told her I’d bring her a plate of cookies. She seemed super excited! And this is only my second appointment with her, she doesn’t even know that my grandma makes like twenty different kinds plus barks and candies. 

🔔 – I wrote twelve days of Christmas love letters for my baby and made them all pretty. It’s going to be a very good Christmas and New Years. 💝 

Sunday Gratitudes #43

“Gratitude improves physical health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences. Not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health.” (x)

What have you felt grateful for this week?


I’m grateful for…

🍜 – Slow Sunday mornings.

🍜 – Playing Mahjong games on my phone.

🍜 – My amazing partner, who just did like twenty pages of complicated genealogy charts for NaNo. Blows me away.

🍜 – Making progress on my NaNo novel and not being too fussed about my daily word count being below the goal average. I still feel like I’m king good progress on getting out a first draft of the story I want to tell, which is an accomplishment for me.

🍜 – Having a new fence! The old one was just a partial one and not completely closed in. Our landlord had to save up for it a bit longer than we expected, but it’s so nice to finally have more privacy in our bedroom, which has these huge gorgeous french doors and was until now totally visible from the back drive.

🍜 – The newly closed in backyard space. We can let the cats out now and not have to worry about chasing them in complete circles around the duplex.

🍜 – Posts I made on Facebook being shared. This hardly ever happens, and then suddenly it happens twice in one week: one about the election and one about the cider I work for finally being in our favorite restaurant.

🍜 – Being emotionally on the same page as the person I love best in the world.

🍜 – The lavender pills. My boss had me drive to her farm one county over two days in a row, which is about a 130 mile round trip on windy, somewhat nerve-wracking road, and I don’t care if lavender really works or if it was just the placebo effect but I was pretty okay with it.

🍜 – A good meeting with a guy about some freelance work. I have marketable skills as an experienced Facebooker, mwahaha.

🍜 – American Horror Story. Omg why so entertaining.

🍜 – Daylight Savings Time. I love gaining an extra hour. Long live fall!

🍜 – Getting all the leaves swept off the back porch. It took a long time and now it looks really nice out there.

Sunday Gratitudes #42

I’m grateful for…
💀 – Being so stoked about NaNoWriMo! I decided to go with a new novel idea that cropped up in brain at the last minute and it’s the most excited I am about writing right now. 

💀 – Feeling good about my word counts. I’m not hitting the ideal daily word goal, but so far every day I write more than I did the day before!

💀 – Seeing proof that my partner and I aren’t the only ones with a ton of stuff living in our cars. 

💀 – Getting my laptop back from the Genius Bar free of charge. (However, they did not fix it and I’m going to have to take it back and probably get the keyboard replaced. Meh.)

💀 – Winning an argument at work. I can tell because the other person abruptly stopped replying to my emails. (This does not necessarily mean I will get what I need to do my job, just that someone was nudged perilously close to admitting that they were incorrect about something and I do in fact know what I’m talking about. You gotta laugh at stuff like that.)

💀 – Figuring out how to better move the novel along. It needed more action, so since one of the MCs is a writer of detective novels I’m going to shoehorn in excerpts from his books. 

💀 – Getting to reuse something awesome I wrote back in my tumblr RP days that I was always super proud of. 

💀 – That the above gratitude is not cheating. I have to do a lot of rewriting to make it fit this new context, but the bones of it are perfect for what I need. 

💀 – The lavender pill I took before a freelance business meeting. Considering I got stood up and am still calm, I’d say it’s a good day. 

💀 – Iced chai latte in a personal cup. 

💀 – Sweeping our apartment. Cats shed more than I expected during the winter…

💀 – Getting so much cleaning done! I took out the trash, the recycling, the random boxes we didn’t need, scooped litter, and did a total disinfecting clean-out of the litter dome. 

Sunday Gratitudes #41

This would be number 42 — which is, after all, the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. But I didn’t post last Sunday due to a combination of forgetting until the last minute and then not having time. That’s life though, right?

I’m grateful for…

📌 – Writing so much lately!

📌 – Good feedback on what I’ve written from my partner. 

📌 – Both of us doing NaNoWriMo this year!

📌 – My coworker giving me a Kleenex with a dab of peppermint oil to help counteract my vertigo. 

📌 – A very good therapy session. At one point I was remind me that, when it comes to my fiction writing, I am very good at taking feedback andincorporating it into my edits. (Nonfiction is still touchy but I’m aware of and working on that.)

📌 – Fantastic seasonal pizzas at our favorite local farm to table restaurant. 

📌 – New audiobooks from the library! It’s been a while. 

📌 – Visiting the Sebastopol library for the first and second times. It’s a neat little place. 

📌 – Our aforementioned favorite restaurant called me at work asking to buy cider! I left a business card with the bill because it makes me feel like a real adult and because I knew our former sales rep had been working to bring them on board before she left. Jackpot!

📌 – Getting my flu shot.

📌 – Making a doctor appointment and getting my prescription renewed. 

📌 – Not being put on edge by the fact that it was a male doctor. 

📌 – The doctor mentioning that over the counter lavender oil pills have good antidepressant propperties. I’m going to give those a shot. 

📌 – Having five months worth of refills until I have to worry about my prescription again. 

📌 – Leftover pizza!

📌 – Having a partner who can have a sweaty day and still smell really good. 

Sunday Gratitudes #40

I’m grateful for…
☔️️ – Gluten free donuts. They were ridiculously good.
☔️️ – Keurig hot cocoa with a splash of chocolate milk.
☔️️ – Getting my resume, LinkedIn profile, and Facebook work history all updated.
☔️️ – Not being as as upset as I might have been without the foresight to guess something like it was coming. It was a mostly self-contained bout of insanity, don’t worry about it.
☔️️ – My dad driving up to (a) pick up a dresser we decided to un-handmedown and (b) taking me out to lunch.
☔️️ – My dad letting me vent. I wen back to work after lunch feeling a lot better about life. Sometimes he’s not the most sympathetic about this sort of stuff, but he actually seems to get it. The support is all the more valuable for that.
☔️️ – Seeing Barney and Polka again over the weekend. They are good dogs.
☔️️ – Being able to text and FaceTime with my partner while we’re separated by dog-sitting and a two hour drive. I miss my cutie.
☔️️ – Buckling down on eating healthier and having a salad for lunch.
☔️️ – Making progress on some work stuff. I feel like I’m getting a good handle on reorder calls now.
☔️️ – The fact that both season’s of MTV’s Scream are up on Netflix now. It’s cool to rewatch knowing all the whodunit punchlines.
☔️️ – My coworker complimenting my phone manner. Phone calls stress me out so it was really nice to hear.
☔️️ – How happy the kittens are to see me when I get home.
☔️️ – All of the frozen meals my partner bought me before going down to dog-sit.
☔️️ – Special cookies just for me.
☔️️ – A “Christmas morning” sensation of relief.
☔️️ – I meditated for twenty minutes!
☔️️ – Finally being successful in syncing the Calm app to the Health app on my phone.
☔️️ – Discovering a new sleep tracking feature on my phone now that I’ve updated it.
☔️️ – Having salad for lunch again.
☔️️ – The great brainwave of taking grapes to work to snack on.
☔️️ – Feeling like my hair was pretty tonight for FaceTiming.
☔️️ – Trading my salad for California rolls with a coworker who thought she was getting avocado rolls instead.
☔️️ – Meditating for another twenty minutes. Two days in a row!
☔️️ – Having my baby back!
☔️️ – Warm chai in the morning. Chai for two!
☔️️ – Getting the dishes washed. I’m not very good at washing them the night of, but on weekends I’ve taken  washing them while I wait for the chai water to boil.
☔️️ – Making good progress on the new outline for my novel! This draft is going to make a lot more sense.
☔️️ – All this rain we’ve been getting lately.