Psychiatric Department at the Grocery Outlet


I so love the Grocery Outlet chain of discount grocery stores. Why, just today I picked up a jar of ginormous blue cheese stuffed green olives, a bag of the best avocados (trust me, I am a guacamole connoisseur) and a set of four floor mats made for my VW. Ridiculously bargain priced. But the high point of my shopping trip didn’t center around any of the amazing deals. While reaching into the case holding the bacon, I had to ask a fellow shopper if she could move her cart a smidge.

She was apologetic, she moved, and then she said, “I am in no hurry, go right ahead.”

She was so sweet about it, I smiled back and thanked her.

“I am a retired psychiatric nurse with the prison system…those are the worst ones, the crazy killers.”

Ha! I laughed and I felt compelled to match her statement with one of my own. “Well, I am psychiatric, maybe you can lend assistance my direction!” This time we both laughed. She took my hand and emphasized that we are all a little bit crazy and she regaled me with more of her experiences in the world of the hardcore prison community. What an exchange she provided with her rich history.

This day will go down as one of the more interesting and rewarding shopping events. Right there between the dog food, the laundry detergent, and the light bulbs… the lady who offered the friendly slice-of-life within the Psychiatric Department at the Grocery Outlet.



Introducing,dscn1440 Bonnie. She and I met at one of the MAX (train) stops.  I approached her for help with purchasing the ticket.  She walked me over to the ticket machine and offered a tutorial.  But, just as soon as she had begun, she changed her mind and, pulling a tiny booklet out of her bag, she tore off a ticket (she buys them in bulk) and handed it to me. “Here, go ahead and take this,” Bonnie said.  I expressed gratitude and took the ticket.

I was in Portland to visit my 90 year-old mom who is displaying symptoms of dementia.  She seems to have held on to her appetite consistently, leaving only the lemon wedge on her dinner plate.  She sleeps an inordinate number of hours throughout the day.  That’s pretty much it.  No TV or radio to be found in her apartment. A couple books on the table.  I am no stranger to altered brain function so I feel a certain special kinship to my mom’s compromised state of affairs although I had to squelch my manic energy and resign myself to her slow pace.  I “entertained” her with my impersonation of an opera singer while at our table in the community dining room.  Somebody complained.

Back to Bonnie.  After she handed me the ticket she asked where I was going.  I answered, “Russellville.”  Bonnie told me she was headed to the same place and that she lives there in the apartments.  So, in keeping with her treatment of the situation, she told me she would ride the train with me to make sure I got off at the right spot.  In the brief exchange of facts and figures, Bonnie and I shared family information.  She was very forthcoming about the life she has lived.  Pregnant at 13 (!!) and then again twelve years later, she has two sons.  She was wearing a uniform and when I asked her what the uniform was for she replied that she is a chef by trade.  She likes the simplicity of her lifestyle, and really doesn’t want for anything.  We hugged as we stood on the platform and said our goodbyes.

Bonnie served as the Portland representation of the friendly New Yorkers I have met on my visits to the Big Apple.  What is the correct term for when someone is under no obligation but chooses to go the extra mile to lend assistance?  Maybe the term is, Bonnie.

April 16, 2017. An amazing footnote I am able to offer.  I repeated my travels to Portland last weekend. Saw my mom again.  In her dementia state, it is no longer fun to carry on conversation.  Very problematic.  But wait, a lovely circumstance presented itself.  Bonnie was there! In the dining room hallway I spotted her  serving the Easter feast! She is, after all, a chef. I approached her, reminded her of how we had met the previous year, and there we were hugging again! Serendipity.

Harleys Are In Town


imageYou know that bucket list?  Mine included a ride on a bike.  A Harley.  I don’t know a single soul in our family or among our friends who have one…wimpy folk.  But, doesn’t it just suggest a wild streak?   So, I made a pact with myself.  The next time motorcycles, specifically Harleys, come to our town, I am going to be there front row and center.  I will present my case, “Can you please take me for a ride?”  Our town is about 8,000 strong.  Not much going on.  But, I was determined to make my wish come true next time the Harleys arrived.  I did.  I walked to the downtown bar where they congregate shortly after I heard rumbling and I knew what it meant.  I walked with conviction over to the first three men I saw sporting the distinctive leather jackets and standing beside their bikes.

Before I could speak, one very intuitive biker asked, “Where do you want to go?”  I had hit the Mother Lode.  Instinctively he knew I wanted a ride.  Unfortunately, his bike did not come equipped with a passenger seat.  Second guy begged off.  That left happy Mr. #3. Well, maybe curious Mr. #3. Okay, more like cautious Mr. #3.  I had to convince him I wasn’t trouble.  I explained I just needed to fulfill this wish from my bucket.  He gave a questioning look but ultimately agreed and said, “Hop on.”  I dutifully placed the helmet on my head, and like the pros, I put my arms around his waist — time tested security measure — and off we went.  Five minutes into the ride around town I told him my name and he said his name was Jim.

“Who are you trying to make jealous?”  Jim asked. “No ulterior motive, I just wanted a ride on a Harley and I took this as my opportunity,” I assured him.  The ride would not be complete until I asked if he could make sure to pass by some teenagers I knew.  “Look, is that Mrs. Wright on that Harley?”  I imagined they would exclaim.  My plan did not take root.  In the 15 minute ride, I never saw a single teenager.  Damn!  Where are they when you want them?!

So, the ride ended, and it was so worth it.  Jim came to trust me, and we parted with an amicable handshake.  Most importantly, I fulfilled my bucket list wish with a little bit of moxie and a lot of glee.

Budgies & Pip

In order of acquisition, Pip*, the female finch came first. So cute. So dainty…delicate. Delicate things “break” and I will get to that. She came via the mom of one of my students. Mom had her own finch caged in the dining room. I admired it and asked where she had found such a sweet bird. “La pulga”, was her answer. The Antioch flea market. I had never been, so I was clueless. I have learned that a man comes up from Mexico laden with animals to sell at the fea markets. And plenty of birds. Sometimes in reaching for a designated bird he loses another one or two. So, she picked up a sweet female finch for whom I had already prepared a cage. I placed a bamboo nest within the cage. That is the place she would fly into, very quickly. She was stealth. Loved her. I “harvested” 5 eggs from her cage and I placed them in my freezer. After nearly three years, she passed. After no sound came from her cage one afternoon, I unhooked the nest to find her inside, eyes shut, in sleeping position, still. She had “broken.” I did not dispose of her eggs for another year.

*She was named after the dot on a domino. A pip.

I don’t like empty cages. I purchased another cage and adopted Daisy and Starr, my first pair of budgies — parakeets. One quite green and the other a pale blue and pale yellow combination of gorgeous. Daisy boasted very long tail feathers. She was the only bird who would allow me to handle her. There was nothing not to like about that bird. Except her death. It came at only 10 months. Starr followed after another year. Starr was the most vocal. She/he, I am never quite sure, is missed.  Some time back I found a strange albino parakeet (see, Albino) complete with pink eyes and he rests comfortably beside the vacated Starr cage. He is quite nervous. Won’t let me touch him. His name is Jelly Bean. Watch the movie Slither for reference.

Replacements exist. Not to sound cold, but budgies are calling. I made my way to the pet store. Just the other day I found Loco with grayish green breast and yellow head. This budgie is getting acclimated. Bought her a new mirror and she uses Starr’s used (washed) swing. Less skittish than Jelly Bean.

Looking forward to a long, healthy relationship.



My phone, your phone, iPhone

I actually had to research spelling of iPhone…because I don’t have one. Hopelessly out of touch. But that’s so negative. How about, I am not a sheep. I never follow the crowd.

My hair does not follow the trend in favor of straight. Curls for me since I was little. I have never found the appeal in looking like everyone else. When I was a teenager in high school I sewed my clothes. I was not a seamstress of the premium level so my clothes may have spoken to that, but I didn’t care. I stood out. No other girl had my outfit on. Mission accomplished.

Now, phones. Mine is a Great Call flip phone. Meant for senior citizens. Big numbers. Not until last night did I ever feel hopelessly out of touch. But then we went bowling. I took the Groupon with me that I had dutifully printed out at home with great expectations. My expectations were dashed. There in the bowling alley the woman announced that my print out was null and void. My copy did not show a bar code, AND, fine print explained I was to use my smart phone. Smart? So, I suppose that means I am in possession of a dumb phone.

I use my cell phone for making outgoing calls, taking incoming calls, and not much else. There is, somewhere, a method by which I can actually text. What if I don’t want to text? Features like texting are remarkably useless to me. My cell only goes off with an incoming call when I’m driving or in class running a lesson. That’s it. The height at which my lifeline operates. I do have a school director in charge of quite a number of students and teaching staff. I will give her credit for that. Every so often she feels she needs to call me and her conversation to me is punctuated with, “Cyndi can…(kids talking to her) you bri…(bad connection)…no the res…(parents talking to her)…see yo…okay?” What?

I took on ownership of my cell in ’05 after a scare on the highway. My family insisted. I relented. And here I am with a dumb phone. I hate, hate, hate (enough loathing?) hearing phones going off in the workplace. You’re at work, hello! But perhaps even more than my aversion for phones going off, is the visual of folks walking around holding their blessed phone at the horizontal. So cute. People walking side-by-side presumably friends or family, but they are not in conversation with one another, too busy admiring their phone…and looking down. Ugh.

To Languish

I may be premature. I have been in the past.

There is a distinct possibility that my son Lance, his wife Yume, and their children will return to Japan. Permanently.

They have been living in Sacramento, three years, and by all accounts they have taken up residence with contentment. Yume has even been known to remark how much she enjoys California. Three years and the commentary is now all about the extent to which my daughter-in-law is very homesick. I am aware that she has been there before. Each wave of homesickness met with a more calm and quiet resolve to enjoy her present circumstances and ride it out. Maybe this wave will be the last. Maybe this wave will prove to firm up her mindset to return to Japan.

Who should know better than I what it is to possess resolve? What it is to be homesick. What it is to collapse from languish. I lived for nine years in a foreign country. The country called Oklahoma. Brutal weather and accents so thick that at times I couldn’t make out what the conversation was all about. Painful. They don’t even have an ocean in Oklahoma. Wha? My 20+ years of keeping time with the tide while I frequented my favorite sandy spots along the coast was the joy of a beach girl. A transplanted beach girl not coping well.

It isn’t necessary that I go into all the details. All the minutiae. Keep in mind my favorite movie is The Wizard Of Oz. There’s no place like home.

I don’t wish that brand of languish on Lance’s wife. When their second baby is born next June, I will be at their place once Yume is discharged from the hospital. I will lend a hand with all the cleaning, laundry, and errands while she breastfeeds, and tries for a post-maternity nap.

This gesture on my part may serve to alleviate some of her homesickness. Or not. And if they go through with their plans to move to Japan, so be it. I know what it is to languish in a foreign country.

Plane tickets at $2,000, round trip, are looking like reality to us. All of my vacations centered on designating when I can work around my jobs. I have never met Yume’s mom. Her folks were not at the wedding. No. If Lance and co. do make the move, my change jar will have to grow exponentially to support visits…and meet her family. And rid the atmosphere of any vestige of languish.



Raising Arizona

There is a hilarious movie our entire family enjoys. Raising Arizona starring Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunter. Too damn funny!

Work’s what’s kept us happy.” Is the line coming from a recent prison escapee. It’s funny and simultaneously accurate to the “T” for me.

Work is a gift. Jobs are a boon. For more than just monetary reasons.  I hold 3 jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area…for monetary reasons…and sanity. Everything I involve myself in carries a great deal of meaning. I can not stay home exclusively anymore. Did that with two small children for eleven years. My “kids” are fully grown and entirely on their own. They do not call us for money because they have more than we have. Ha!

The line from the movie was written for me. I am happiest in the workplace. I have recently emailed a family member explaining that I do best with strangers, acquaintances, students and coworkers. Family is, well, family. I was not able to pick my parents. I would have certainly picked a different pair. So, it stands. Work it is.

And ya know, I do not keep track of miles driven each day I am on my way to work. Likewise, I do not keep track of gallons pumped each time I pull into the gas station. Why would I? Neither type of tracking will determine if I continue working at such a distance from home. The end of my breathing will determine that.

Kept us happy…


Tompall Glaser

The artist responsible for singing the popular song about throwing logs on a fire and keeping company with your sister. Well, it’s not really popular with my husband, but what does he know of appreciation for the finer things? Though he did marry the Queen. Not sure why my husband deems it unfit to join in chorus. I did not know there was any such thing as a country artist not producing good music. By definition, I thought it was all good. Like mom and dad and apple pie.  (I prefer lemon meringue. Tart and sweet at  the same time…you can’t go wrong with a pie that boasts yellow)

This song shot to the public’s attention back in the 70s. It was a joke. Meant to be humorous. And I thought it was. Irreverence scores with me. Others objected to it, but what did they know of appreciation for the finer things?

Put another log on the fire… so goes the opening line. Not to be outdone by, Go out to the car, and lift it up and change the tire.

Keep in mind this isn’t a man speaking to his teenage son, rather, a man issuing instructions to his beleaguered wife.

Now don’t I let you wash the car on Sunday. Don’t I warn you when you’re gettin’ fat.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I have buy-three-get-a-fourth free car wash coupons with Six Flags Car Wash. So the crew at Six Flags is doing the work. I don’t mind putting a log on the fire, and I do so readily…if I want to be warm…hate winter. Definitely will not lift up the car to change a tire. I have never possessed upper body strength. And I can’t afford to mess up my manicure. OPI in “Lucky Lucky Lavender”.

And, getting fat! Ha!! There are just some things I don’t do. That’s one of them. Tap dancers look best doing time steps without excess weight.

I will teach a new session of tap classes beginning the 12th. I am leaning toward introducing the class to this piece of music. I think we can time step to it as we contemplate going  fishin’ and fillin’ his pipe.

Everything Is Sweet

So says my daughter-in-law, Yume.

She moved to the states from Japan four years ago, in time to marry my oldest son, Lance. They are quite the couple. They have added another member to the family in the form of their son, Ewan. Lots of people say this about their grandchildren, that they are so cute, and smart (ad nauseum) but my claim happens to be accurate. Ewan is the embodiment of cute factor and sharp brain function.

Yume and Lance decided to go for #2. Another baby is on the way for an appearance in late May/early June.

Discomfort. This is all Yume knows at this point. Giant waves of morning sickness. When they arrived for Christmas, I had arranged cookies in two plates where they sat on the dining table. Sweets make Yume sick. Okay, I blew that one. In fact, Lance shared with me that Yume is finished with the American diet. Sick of all the sweet food. Everything Americans eat is laden with sugar. So it seems to her. And I don’t argue with that. I have had a Taiwanese student and three Chinese students echo the sentiment.

Fortunately, I had the presence of mind (no small feat) to prepare (and I cook three dishes a year) my favorite. Tortilla soup. Yume enjoyed the departure from sweet.

Being that my foray into the kitchen to actually cook something is a monumental occurrence, I was happy to provide a dish Yume could savor without the requisite American component. Tortilla soup does not come sweet.


A Warning

Driving home from work. Going 80 on the freeway. The familiar lights on the car immediately behind me did not bode well. I pulled over and began to retrieve the insurance verification and the car registration from my glove box. The officer stepped up to the passenger side of my car and knocked on the window.

“Yes, officer?” He asked, “Didn’t you see me driving beside you?” It was 8:00 in the evening and dark. I explained to him that I tend to drive facing straight ahead turning my head only while making lane changes. So, no, I didn’t notice him to my left.

“I drive beside motorists as a warning, usually the motorist slows down when they see me.” Okay, officer, but I have already explained the method with which I drive…and I was listening to Roy Orbison…really loud.

The admonition was clear. Slow down, Cyndi. Before I went on my way and he went on his, the officer left me with one more word of warning. He mentioned that had he been highway patrol (he represented City of Oakley police) I would have been slapped with a $865 fine. I was let go with a warning. Merry Christmas.