Katy Moves West

The rattlesnake that crept into my brother’s backyard alarmed him. At some two feet long, he figured, it hid in the planter behind the pool, his dog Tucker whining at it and yipping. Tucker didn’t get bit and my brother hasn’t gotten the snake. He’s too busy. At 51, he’s about to be a dad for the first time, an adventure on which his two younger brothers have already embarked.

Rattlesnakes are common in Southern California. No, they don’t come crawling into homes searching for prey, though I imagine if they tracked a rat or a mouse through an open door, they could do so. Generally speaking, they’ll get out of your way, too. They don’t want to mess with you. You’re too big and they’re not big enough to eat you. But surprise them, trip on one of their homes, and you’ll pay a pretty hefty price. They have the added advantage of the rattle, but the fact is unless you heed the rattle and stop and move away when you hear it–well…

Doug’s fine. He didn’t get bitten. Like I said, he’s too busy. And nervous. He reminds me of me about 11 years ago. I was the same way. Having a child is big work and it totally subsumes the person you used to be. I’m not telling you anything new if you’re a parent. But if you’re not, and you’re reading this–please know–marriage doesn’t really change you. Having children does–so profoundly that you simply won’t be the same person ever again. And no one believes that until they become a parent.

For Doug, it’s an experiment later in life. He was married previously, but his first wife passed away unexpectedly and sadly. It broke him, as it would any man, and he spent many years attempting to rebuild some pretty shattered remains. While he was rebuilding, he met another woman and she enticed him. They married-but it didn’t last. That kind never does.

He forced himself into exile and allowed grief to wash over him. It wasn’t for nothing, though. He found a renewed strength and sense of purpose. He found God-or perhaps, God found him. He decided to replenish a weary soul and set himself on a new path and that new path included forging a whole new career-one that gave him the opportunity to travel, perhaps too much.

But in his travels, he disciplined himself. He didn’t sit in bars drinking all night. He didn’t give into hedonism. In fact, he explored good food and wine and kept up a punishing workout routine that, to this day, allows him to look many years younger than his age. He moved around a bit, mostly in the Bay Area but then settled on a modest, but hip and well-appointed flat in Sacramento, a few blocks from the State Capitol. He felt somewhat at peace. He slept nights and he gained understanding, he says.

It was around that time that he began talking about Katy. She was someone he worked with when he traveled to Alabama and they hit it off. They’d known each other professionally for sometime before he screwed up his courage enough to ask her out. When he did, she said yes–and he was thrilled. He spent weeks preparing for the date.

The relationship worked from the beginning. Though younger than Doug, Katy balanced him. He didn’t idolize her, but he grew to love her in a way that both respected her complete deep Southern individuality and spared her the dotage of a man who could have simply gushed it openly.

Katy left behind all she knew when she left Alabama. She’s still tied to the place, though. Her parents, her sister and her sister’s fiance and her nephew are all there–the whole extended family. She was born and raised in Birmingham and she’s an Auburn University girl.

She owned a home there and had a good job and she was happy for the most part. Meeting Doug was happenstance, not planned. But with something more than whim, Katy created a whole new life with my brother. In what seemed a fell swoop, but was actually a well-calculated plan, Katy sold her house, packed her belongings and moved west to California to be with him.

Their wedding, more than a year after they met, was singular and beautiful. Held in Sonoma, California, the same place I proposed to my wife, Sue, the family and friends gathered for a weekend of celebration and new life together. That was July, 2011 and it was a trip, a day, that our families will never forget. It was wonderful.

Doug and Katy moved here to Ventura County near my family and me and we’ve grown close. They’re people of more means than we are, but that’s no matter. It actually doesn’t come into play much. We spend time together when we can, share meals, talk and enjoy each other greatly.

They announced Katy’s pregnancy 9 months ago with the excitement befitting such an event. Though Doug is older, he has no children and because he looks younger, acts younger-it just doesn’t feel odd. It feels right.

Tonight, Sue and I drove to Bob Hope Airport to pick up Katy’s parents who flew in to visit while Doug drove Katy to Los Robles Hospital. The doctor is inducing this evening and sometime in the next day or so, Madelynn Grace will grace the world-and my brother’s and his wife’s lives–and all of ours too.

That snake was a metaphor–a hypervariable who came to visit at a most inopportune time. No one has seen it since–it probably gave up because there was nothing to eat in that garden and left. Who knows? Life does that. It takes twists and turns you never expect and some are good and some aren’t, and some, as John Steinbeck said, are “so beautiful, they refire the faith forever.” Here’s to rekindling the faith-and to the birth of my new niece.



Ending August

The end of summer is upon us and we’re sad. Shannon and I are having to think about going back to school. She’s reading each day to beef up on her skills, and I’m catching up on some much needed refreshers with the English literature that I have to teach this fall including Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales and Sir Gawain–the biggies. My Shakespeare chops are in tact as I teach that every year in my Shakespeare class-my very favorite class of all time anywhere, halleluiah, Amen. The Bard never disappoints, is always fun and if nothing else, I get a chance to show seniors in high school that he’s not just “some dead white guy” (as opposed to dead guys–and gals–who are not white. Apparently, political correctness has come to the point where dead white guys are worth less than, say, dead brown guys or dead red guys).

Meanwhile, I’ve been writing like a fiend—new clients, several articles for the local paper–and one for another local paper, two for the Silicon Valley Business Journal, and several for a public relations firm. Whew! This is, of course, why the posting has been so sporadic. I do love writing–but I guess on certain days, I reach my limit. I have to get to Lileks status-where he turns in five columns in a day, and then writes a “short” post of some thousand words or so. The man is a machine–and a happy, funny one at that.

Physical therapy on the docket today for the neck and shoulders. Five year old injury and as near as I can tell, just thinking about it back in late June when we returned home from the east coast made it start up again. I don’t remember doing anything to cause it–and I don’t recall how it came to hurt again. Hoping, still, to avoid surgery–but to be frank, after five years of dealing with it–if surgery would help–then let’s scalpel, baby. Time will tell–and other rotted cliches like that.

Dog days–literally. It’s been hot–though a cooling trend seems to have begun today. The heat brought out the rats back to the backyard and I’ve trapped and killed three now. Yesterday’s catch was huge–probably a foot long from head to tip of tail. He wasn’t dead in the trap, either. I had to….dispatch him. I don’t like rats–in fact, I loathe them–but I confess to feeling a bit guilty having to do the deed. I do it quickly, shovel in hand, but it gives me no joy to do so. I know I don’t want them to get to the house–and the dogs see to that mostly. But there’s nothing worse, really, than sitting on the patio enjoying the sunset and then hearing “squeak, squeak…” off in the bushes somewhere. It doesn’t give the house guests confidence in your hygiene habits. So–either I go–or they go. And I’m not going. Off with their heads!

Now, gentles–on to the day…





Nothing to See Here

The schedule heats up and the deadlines roll in-just before we get into the 22nd year of teaching. Still fighting with the neck and shoulders. Dog asleep next to me-Shannon awake on the other side, watching TV. Tired and unfocused after a hot day and a number of interviews. Weather isn’t the only thing heating up.

So, forgive the simple and short posts. I’ve got a couple of pieces up–business stuff–here and here.

I’ll have more to say later this week.


Not Ready for Prime Time

I’m not prepared for my 22nd year teaching English. I’ve had a summer that ignores the entire thing–and I mean all of it. I’m not ready.

From traveling to the east coast in June, to picking up new writing gigs, to having my shoulder and neck act up again this summer-I’m simply not ready for it. And I’m not sure how to get ready. I guess it will just have to happen.

The heat wave of the past two weeks is breaking somewhat–and it feels good to have cool breezes blow through the window again. It’s been a tough week. Sue fell in a gopher hole at P’s soccer practice and has torn ligaments in her foot. It’s bad–the injury leaves her foot black and blue. She’s in a boot and will be for 6 weeks. She’s sore–and it’s just a tough time.

Meanwhile, Aunt Laurie learned today that she has to have a hysterectomy and that’s kind of a big deal–and frightening. I have faith that, like it was for Sue, it will be a blessing for her. She’s been suffering with various symptoms and I cannot begin to pretend understanding–but I will sympathize and we will take good care of her. She’s a big part of our lives.

I feel like I’ve made a bit of headway in the neck and shoulders. The muscles in spasm has caused me loads of issues–and it’s a five year old injury. Ultimately, if I cannot turn it around, I too face surgery–but it doesn’t worry me. It’s a procedure that’s common and that will work–I have confidence in that. But I’m not quite there yet.

A few bumps in the road this week working with various corporate entities in Silicon Valley. They took some actions and the brokers who represented them made press releases, but they weren’t ready to go just yet. So, I end up calling them to get quotes or information and they’re caught off guard.


So, I do the best I can. I tell them who I am, what I’m doing, ask if I can record conversations and or take notes–and then sally forth. Hopefully, it gets easier–not harder.

A few days off, gentles. Then, back to the classroom for year 22.



Hannah and the Rolling Sea

A chance walk on the beach with Shannon and Simon today led us to meet up with the Szakaczy family about whom I’ve written previously. It was a blessed and wonderful thing to see and talk with them again. I think about Hannah often and her death, so unexpected, so wrenching, is not something I’ll get over soon–let alone her family.

It was Doug’s birthday and he and his wife were walking the beach enjoying the waves and sunshine when we ran into them. Doug and Shannon hit it off immediately–and they walked together while I talked with Mrs. S. Shannon said what a nice man Doug was and how thoughtful he was.

What began as a day to simply exercise Simon away from the heat and in the cool breezes turned into a meaningful and powerful afternoon. I’m humbled by it.

So, Simon whined and gamboled along the Pacific shores in the blue sunshine as water cataracts poured over the sand and onto the shore. He isn’t allowed off-leash there, so that was tough on him. The seagulls and the pelicans were birds that he dreamed about. He’s a bird-dog, and all, so these giant brown, white and grey birds that seemed slow and unrepentant were easy prey–so he thought.

Shannon loves the beach–she’s a natural. I think that whatever path she chooses, the ocean will be involved–it’s always been something she’s loved and she’s much like her mom in that way. But she talks about oceanography and wants to teach me about the waves and the sandcrabs and the fish. She loves it.

Simon wasn’t sure about the water at first, a bit cool, a bit rough– but he got there. There’s a river that comes out past the Edison plant and releases into the ocean. The water there is warm (yes, it is all of your worse eco-nightmares come true) and Simon ran into it and laid down to cool off. Then, into the ocean side where it was colder still.

It is a grand thing to have your daughter and your dog frolicking in the ocean. There are few things that bring life into sharper focus than moments like this. The only thing that can–is a discussion with dear and wonderful friends grieving their loss, making you feel closer to them, closer to their daughter–and closer to your own.

Everything else melts away.


Summer’s Lease

It is as if June never happened. The trip back east seems so long ago–it’s like another lifetime. I miss it–and I miss everything about it. “Summer’s lease hath all too short a date,” indeed.

A couple of days here in the Calif. beach city of Carpinteria has been a nice getaway for the girls. I was swamped with the new clients, some editing and tons of writing and no–that’s not a complaint. I’m thrilled with the work. If I didn’t know better (and I do), I’d say I was a workaholic. At least when it comes to writing and journalistic pursuits, I am. Some 9 deadlines in the past two days, more than 10,000 words of copy, scads of pages of copy-editing, up early, down late-interviewing, recording, editng, reading, writing and corresponding. I love every second of it.

School will begin soon and I need to get my head in the clear for that. I’ve got some new classes I’m teaching to beef up on, so a few hours of preparation today with our dept. chair over at the school are in order. A few more deadlines to pursue today as well.

Next week, one more final hurrah as we head north to the Bay Area to visit friends and say goodbye to summer. By the time we get home, it’s on to finish last minute house chores, clean off the desk from the summer’s revelry, get into the classroom and sort and clean it out and set up a fall routine. Hard—nearly impossible–to believe.

Sue’s and Aunt Laurie’s birthdays were this week, thus the occasion of slacking at the beach a couple of days. When I say slacking, it means Sue spends time packing, cajoling, shopping, preparing and guiding. She needs a vacation from her vacation–as all moms do.

Onward, gentles. Another summer draws down and on we go…

Welcome Aboard

Starting a new and, hopefully, long tradition here at the blog and welcoming aboard some new clients. I’m writing for the Silicon Valley Business Journal based in San Jose. Mostly digest stuff and quick hit stories, but a lot of fun and great people.

Also doing some copy-editing for Velcon Filters based in Colorado Springs, CO. Less writing-more editing. Maybe that should be my motto?

Finally, welcome aboard to BackStage Magazine for whom I did a quick piece on the latest National Endowment for the Arts grants.

Honored to be writing for such fine folks and happy to get to know you all.