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The day had started off badly. Yesterday I had been all fired up to go to the Steelworks Center of the West museum in Pueblo, Colorado, but for a number of reasons it didn’t happen. Today I felt tired, in shock, and like I just wanted to eat chocolate. This was largely because of technology problems.

We are at Oak Haven, our boardinghouse for traveling nurses in Canon City, Colorado. When I got here, I noticed the internet was barely working. I went to Spectrum, and they told me I had old equipment, so they gave me new equipment to swap it out for. I managed to do this successfully, and set up a new network and password, as required, plus set up a Roku Guest Account on the TV, through which I could log into our DirecTV Streaming account at home, without the expensive box. It had the same cool interface, and I even managed to rearrange the app tiles so that Mike would not be irritated by having to scroll down. I was on Cloud Nine!

Next I was deflated to realize that every one of the six televisions at Oak Haven would need to be reconnected to this new network. But I managed to do that too, which involved writing out instructions, texting them to the nurses, asking them if they wanted to do it, or would like me to, and so on.

Then at 9 pm, I realized with horror that the Nest thermostat is also connected to the internet, and might not work properly without being connected to the new network. This was cause for panic on my part, since we had gotten a bad review due to the temperature, but I had finally adjusted the temperature to a perfect range, and was determined to keep it there, and avoid any further problems.

I googled how to connect a Nest thermostat to a new network, but my efforts were not working. So I called Google. The person helping me barely spoke English, of course. I would not hold this against anyone, except that it greatly interferes when you are trying to explain the subtleties of your situation. I stayed on the phone with her for at least 30 minutes, getting nowhere. Finally I realized that the thermostat was in fact working, and the internet connection is only so that I can control it remotely, which I normally do from home in San Diego. But since I was here with the thermostat, and this was not an immediate concern, I went to bed.

So this morning I woke up, and we had planned the museum visit. However I felt in a state of shock over all this tech stuff and some other matters. I decided that I really did need some chocolate to start off my day – specifically a hot fudge sundae. So I went to my favorite ice cream store, “You Scream,” which was supposed to open at 11 am. It was 11:05, and the store was not open, nor was there any sign of anyone onsite.

That’s the disadvantage of being in a small town like Canon City. There is much less of a “business efficiency” vibe, and more of a “I’ll do what I damn feel like” vibe. Though if I asked this business owner what was going on, I’m sure he would apologize and say that he was at the hospital with his mother, or something similarly unavoidable and virtuous. I called the store’s number and left a message, stating that I was at the store at 11:05 and had not found anyone there. Plus it said on the phone recording that the store was open “every day from 11 to 8,” while it said on the door that it was closed Mondays and Tuesdays, and I wished I knew when it was open.

So I decided to get an ice cream bar at the gas station. I got a cookies & cream ice cream bar, and it was so hard that I literally could not bite into it. I have never had this experience with an ice cream bar before. So I laid it on its wrapper on my car seat, and drove home. By the time I got home, it was perfect, and I ate it, parked out front. I also remembered that Sonic has hot fudge sundaes. I could barely believe I was doing this, but I decided to turn around, go to Sonic, and get a hot fudge sundae! So I did this and felt a lot more satisfied. When I got home, Mike said to me, “You came home and then left … where did you go?” He had seen me out the window … busted. So I had to admit to him what I’d done … ouch.

So we did go to the museum, the fascinating Steelworks Center of the West, set right next to the huge Colorado Fuel and Iron Company plant that used to cover over 500 acres, and had an interesting and inspiring visit.

We came back home, and now it was time to tackle the Nest Thermostat. I called Google and got another technician who could barely speak English and was even more out-to-lunch than the last one. Mike was watching a semifinals baseball game, and I didn’t want to disturb him. But as this technician tried to get me to do more and more things that were labor intensive and didn’t make any sense, and I found myself loudly snarling at him within earshot of one of the nurses, I realized it was time to ask Mike for help.

Normally I try to stay pretty quiet around Oak Haven, as many of the nurses work the night shift, and anyone could be asleep at any time. But feeling ready to snap by this point, I yelled up the stairs, “Mike, I need your help!” From the way Mike bolted out the bedroom door, I could tell that he must think the house was on fire. He ran downstairs, and I tried to cover my phone as I yelled in rage, “Please talk to this guy before I kill him!” My infuriated brain was aware that I could not kill someone over the phone, and I was trying to think of something more fitting to say, but couldn’t quite find it. Mike is much more patient than I am with people whom I consider to be idiots, so he took over talking to the guy. Meanwhile I was again googling what to do, and starting to get a better idea. I told Mike to just hang up, that we would do better on our own. And no, I didn’t leave any negative feedback, even though his help was worse than nothing.

Have any of you ever used a Nest thermostat? You might NOT WANT TO. I was showing Mike how the thermostat was not responding to swipes, taps, or anything else. I was wondering if it was broken. Mike, who rescues me from some predicament on pretty much a daily basis, finally figured out that “tapping” a Nest thermostat means you must tap it, not on its round screen, but on a specific location on its edge, just to the right of the top, at precisely 2 o’clock, if we are using the clock analogy. Of course this is not written anywhere, nor will any technician tell you this. But this was the main key to solving everything.

I had to disconnect the thermostat from the Google Home app, on my phone, plus navigate, through taps and swipes on the thermostat itself, to the Settings screen, and thence to the Account screen, and disconnect it there as well. It was quite the scene, literally taking two of us to manage to tap and swipe this infernal device to get it disconnected, while yelling at each other in panic over one thing or another. Well, I was the only one doing any yelling. I have been through too much pain over this wretched device, such as having to take a photo of how all the wires are connected … having to read the miniscule serial number to the Google technician, which I couldn’t have done to save my life, even after taking a photo and enlarging it, which made the numbers too blurry. I finally knocked on the door of one of the nurses, and she was able to do it … miracle. Anyway, after hours of finally getting it to navigate to the settings menu, only to have it jump back to the temperatures menu, time after time after time … I was frazzled to the breaking point.

Then to connect it again, we had to take it off the wall and photograph its QR code, and follow a bunch more steps. But it finally got reconnected to the WiFi! Victory! Now all I have to do is reprogram all of the schedules and temperatures, sigh.

On the positive side, the Google Home app does work amazingly. That was a steep learning curve too, but once I finally got the hang of it, it is so cool that I became semi-obsessed with monitoring the temperature at Oak Haven. I googled what hotels set their thermostats at, after the bad review, and finally realized that no, we are not like a home where we try to save money by using the AC as little as possible. We are like a hotel, where people expect to be pampered, and I damn well better get used to paying $300 + monthly electricity bills.

So I set the range to 68-72 degrees, which feels pretty perfect. On the Nest app I can see a circle with the current temperature at Oak Haven, and what range the temperature is set at. Best of all, I can see a bar graph of what hours the furnace (red bars) or AC (blue bars) have been running, on a daily or weekly basis. And for a somewhat obsessive lover of lists and graphs like myself, that is very satisfying.


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My daughter is not speaking to me, for reasons unclear. This has been very painful, but I finally decided that I would try to send her a nice, light-hearted text, once a month. Not the easiest thing to do under the circumstances. Here is the story about the one I sent in July.

I had received an email from Adam Schiff, one of my favorite guys. In it he described how Donald Trump has been ranting idiotically about him, first calling him a “pencil neck” and then a “watermelon head.”

A few days later I thought – I’m going to send Adam Schiff an email! I wrote the following:

Dear Adam Schiff,

You are a good-looking guy. I’m sorry the orange idiot is calling you a pencil neck and a watermelon head. But at least it gives me a good laugh every time I think about it!

Best regards,

Daria Doering

Then I had to find Adam Schiff’s email address. I looked online and found one, but my email bounced back as undeliverable. It happened again with another one. My assumption is that Adam Schiff gets so much hate mail from Republicans that he doesn’t make it easy to reach him.

So I went to his website, and found that you can send him an email from there, but only if you live in his district, and provide your physical address. I had no idea where in California his district was, so I looked it up and found a map. It’s the eastern part of Los Angeles. As I contemplated how to get my hands on an address there, I realized that my daughter probably lives in his district! I tried her address, and voila, it worked!

So I sent my daughter a text, telling her that I had “borrowed” her address, with a copy of my email. No reply, but I hope she got a chuckle.

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Today Mike and I took a day trip to San Juan Capistrano, where we like to go occasionally for lunch. I was browsing in one of my favorite shops, the San Juan Capistrano Mission Gift Store, when I heard a couple talking. The man was saying, “No, no I really don’t want it … it would just be weird. I wouldn’t wear it. It would just be weird,” while the woman kept trying to convince him. This was a bit of an odd conversation to overhear. So I turned around to see them, an older couple, with the woman holding up a Hawaiian shirt with the California missions on it. It was the same shirt I had given to Mike, which is now one of his and my favorite shirts!

I said to them, “My husband has that shirt … I love it! In fact he’s wearing it right now and is sitting out front, if you want to see it. Not that I would try to talk you into anything …” They didn’t pay much attention to me, the man was still unconvinced, and they moved on. That was fine … I sure wouldn’t want anyone to wear anything they were not comfortable in. But Mike and I still think it’s the coolest shirt ever! I think the one they were considering might have been a bit different and more “loud” than this one. But I didn’t want to stare too closely!

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Thankful today, our anniversary, and every day for 36 years of marriage to Mike Doering, who still makes my heart leap whenever I see him … whom I have dragged into so many misadventures, and who is such a good sport about them. I always say that marriage is heaven on earth, because of this guy.

Thank you for everything, from singing and playing the tambourine to my challenged accordion playing … to being my pickleball coach … to spending so much time getting the Bosch dishwasher and Samsung icemaker to work … to putting your immense effort and talent into making our boardinghouse for traveling nurses sound and beautiful … to supporting the kids and me on so many levels … to being a teacher and inspiration to so many at your job. Te amo!

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Metaphor 6/12/22

Once Mike and I had gone somewhere together but in separate cars. Then we agreed to meet at Ace Hardware in Hillcrest to shop for something together on the way home. I got there, and texted Mike that I was there, in the parking lot in the back. He texted me that he was there too, in the parking lot in the back. I texted, “Why can’t I see you then?” and he asked the same thing. Then we called each other, and had some tense words about the fact that we were both claiming to be there, but couldn’t find each other in the small lot.

Finally we discovered that there are two tiny parking lots behind Ace Hardware. Each of us knew about one of them, but not the other! That was pretty amazing to find out.

It has always felt like a metaphor for our relationship. We each know a piece of what there is to know about life, but not the whole thing, nor the same piece. We can help each other learn about what we don’t know, just like that elusive second parking lot at Ace Hardware 😀

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Max, the old warrior. The first time I saw the orange cat, I was watching our neighbors across the street. The dad came home with his two little boys. He said, “There’s that cat on the front porch, so let’s go around to the back door.” I thought – how strange, that he would walk all the way to the back of his house, to avoid a stray cat!

I soon found out why. The orange cat, as we called him, would come to our house, and pick fights with our beloved long-haired white cat, Whitey. Whitey used to lie on our front walkway, posing like a sphinx. The orange cat would attack and try to displace him. Sophie, our long-haired black “scaredy cat,” just ran away from him.

I don’t know how many times I heard blood-curdling screeches, screams and hisses in the middle of the night, as the orange cat fought with one of our cats or another neighborhood cat. Whitey would come home with a torn ear or other wounds.

Whenever the orange cat tried to enter our house or yard, Mike or I would try to chase him off with a broom or rake or whatever we had on hand. But instead of leaving, the orange cat would turn around and attack the broom! Time after time! Mike got so angry that he took to blowing an air horn at the orange cat, and the explosive sound worked better than anything else to make him leave.

I was mindblown by this cat and his behavior. I had never seen such an aggressive feline! I became determined to find out who this cat was, and whether he was semi-feral or had a home.

So I took a photo of the orange cat, and put it on NextDoor, asking if anyone knew who he was. Someone told me that he lived on the next cul-de-sac over from ours, and his name was Max. So now I could call him by name! it felt like he knew he was busted, now that I knew who he was. I could say assertively, “Max, go home,” and he seemed a trifle easier to deal with.

One day his owner knocked on our front door. The NextDoor respondent had said that Max was loved and well cared for. The owner wanted to say hello to us, and said something about no one owning cats. He seemed very nice.

Then our beloved angel Whitey died. He had been my constant companion, especially when I had toe and ankle surgery, and was stuck on the couch recovering, barely able to move, for months. He rarely left my side. So his demise was a terrible loss, and I cried for weeks.

Max kept coming around, and now he actually could take Whitey’s place. He laid on the front walkway where Whitey used to lie, and even perched on the little platform that Mike had built onto our back fence for Whitey to sit on and supervise passers-by.

However we kept having run-in’s with Max. We were all attacked by him more than once. I remember once when I heard dramatic cat sounds coming from the backyard. I went to see if Sophie needed rescuing. This was during the period when we were having our floors redone, so we had a lot of furniture under tarps in the backyard. I saw Max, carrying on in a threatening manner, but not Sophie. I shook a broom at Max and yelled at him to go home, several times, but he ignored me, as usual. So I turned to look under the tarp, to see if Sophie was there. Max then jumped on my legs from behind, scratching me and drawing blood, even through my pants!

After that, I thought – I don’t know if I can even consider being friendly to this cat, ever again! But I always eventually relented. I guess we were grateful that Max was always coming around, and wanted to be with us, in his strange way.

I also discovered a better way to get rid of him, when he was being mean to Sophie. If I walked ahead of him and called for him to follow me, and then opened the gate, he actually would generally follow me and leave. This worked way better than trying to shoo him from behind, which he always resisted.

So little by little, we became friendly with Max. You know how it is with cats … we don’t pick them, they pick us. He kept coming to visit, several times a day. He wanted to come into our house, eat some dry cat food, and cruise around. He always announces himself when he enters, with interesting and expressive sounds, that resemble talking, though I can’t begin to describe them.

He and Sophie divided up the house. Sophie spends most of her time sleeping on top of our baby grand piano. Max spends most of his time sleeping on the bed in the guest room. He is not allowed to approach or stalk Sophie, and we make him leave if he goes toward the piano. Mike has also been brushing him, and he will jump right onto Mike’s lap, or occasionally on mine, and lay there and purr, like a normal cat!

Of course we still have to be careful … the potential to attack us is always there. He was on my lap the other day, and I moved my arm too quickly, and he bit it, lightly. You can’t make quick moves around him.

So every morning now, I get up around six, and Max is at the back door. I unlock the cat door, and he comes in, ambles around the house a couple of times, and goes to sleep on the bed in the guest room.

It is a dramatic turnaround that we are friends, and we are happy to see him. Mike always calls him “old man,” as it is clear that he is getting on in years.

This morning I was thinking that our relationship with Max actually mirrors Mike’s and my relationship. These days I feel so happy, being retired and with Mike, in our “bubble of bliss.” I was musing on why it feels so blissful. Maybe because Mike and I have always kind of hated each other … we’ve been like frenemies. We fought viciously for many, many years. I always say that we beat each other into submission (figuratively). There was great love and passion there too, so it all felt worth it. But these days, all the animosity seems to have melted away, and we are left with just the love. It feels like a miracle. Same thing with Max.

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Isabel 4/28/22

Memories of Isabel Tercero: I met Isabel through Friends of Nicaraguan Culture, a group that Tanja Winter started, and always admired her. Later Isabel was taking a class at SDSU, where I was a student, and I was giving her a ride every week. Then I had an, um, unfortunate incident in my life. A boyfriend whom I had broken up with became very angry with me. He snuck over during the night and defaced my beige VW van, painting “bitch,” “slut” and other derogatory words all over it with black spray paint! I felt like I’d been painted with the scarlet letter, and was in shock. I couldn’t get the paint off, and didn’t have the money to get my car repainted, so I was contemplating an unhappy future of driving around like this! I called Isabel, and tearfully explained what had happened, ending with, “I don’t know if you want to keep getting rides to school with me, with my car looking like this.”

Isabel laughed, as if this was the funniest thing in the world, which immediately broke the spell of doom hanging over me! She said, “Daria, this doesn’t bother me at all! In fact with my history, we can be the two sluts!” We both laughed and laughed, and I felt so much better! (Then my boyfriend Mike, whom I had reunited with [thus setting off the spray-painting boyfriend] took some rubbing alcohol to my car and got rid of all the offending expletives!)

Another memory of Isabel was visiting her at her family home, in Jinotepe, when I was in Nicaragua. She made us some punch out of pitayah, now known as dragon fruit. It was so delicious that I never forgot it, and that got me started on my quest to grow my own pitayah. It now lines our fence along the alley!

My other memory is just seeing her sing … such a force of nature … a torch singer is what I always called her! Gorgeous, sexy, powerful, unforgettable! Mike and I can hardly believe you are gone, Isabel. Te amamos!

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Retro Cheese Balls

Isn’t it funny when you hear something that you just think of as normal referred to as “retro”? Today’s example: our son is coming to visit, so I thought I would prepare a special delicacy: a port wine cheese ball! I looked for recipes to see if I could find anything even better than the recipe I already have. I found several recipes for “retro port wine cheese ball,” with references to how this dish was popular in the ‘70’s! Well, um, okay, it is still an awesome appetizer, though I normally never make or eat it because it is so fattening.

However, after realizing I would have to buy a whole bottle of port wine to make this recipe, and we are not in the habit of consuming port wine otherwise, I decided on a “brandy infused cheese ball,” since I already have brandy on hand.

So I made two cheese balls – one a savory brandy-infused one with Worcestershire sauce and various spices, and the other flavored with fig preserves. However I don’t like them nearly as much as the port wine variety! You can’t even taste the brandy! So next time I will spring for the port wine. Unless these cheese balls improve so much over the next few hours or days that I change my mind. Sometimes that does happen.

I also just remembered that my husband has been pining after a Christmas goose cooked in port wine, which a friend of his cooked one year. But sorry, I am not cooking a goose, just no. Maybe I could cook a chicken in port wine!

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The joys of aging (I finally found one thing!): We were watching TV and Mike asked me if I wanted a foot rub. Not wanting to put him to the trouble, I said, “That’s okay … thank you though.” He started rubbing my feet. Well, I certainly wasn’t going to stop him … it felt fantastic … and I mused over how sweet he was to proceed anyway. After a bit I realized that he probably hadn’t heard me!

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Yesterday I had lunch with an old friend, and the subject of our parents came up. I shared that I never particularly grieved over my parents’ deaths … I cried for a day or two, but that was it. One reason is that they both lived very full lives, and in the end they had declined, and it was their time. The other is that despite the fact that I’ve always been an independent and even rebellious person, I was extremely close to both of them. My mother was a self-styled guru, and I was her follower for ten years, from ages 17-27. Or maybe I should say she was a life coach, before they existed. This is a whole story in itself, but she completely changed the trajectory of my life, in ways that I greatly appreciate.

I always had mixed feelings about my father and his three marriages (I was his oldest child from his first marriage), but after his third wife left him when he was in his eighties, I stepped in to manage his life – his complex medical, legal, financial and psychological affairs, and to run his financial publishing business. This brought me very close to him for five years, and changed my life as well.

So I feel like both my parents are so completely a part of me, and also that I knew them both so well, that there was just nothing left to grieve. They were both also “open book” type people, which I always felt was a huge gift. Even though they were not particularly talkers, they endlessly processed their lives, the good and the bad (especially the bad), and wrote about that, and I felt I knew about as much about their lives as one could know.

Despite all that, I have found ways to keep feeling connected to them … in ways that I never could have imagined.

It started with my dad. Songs would pop into my head, from a very long time ago, when I was 8 or 10 years old. I have vague memories of being in the car with him, and his singing along to songs on the radio. I have downloaded some of these songs – “Blame It on the Bossa Nova,” “Young Wings Can Fly” – fun songs from the sixties that make me feel connected to him, from a time in my life when my parents were still together, before all their other journeys began.

I also collect gold objects at times – gold coffee mugs, head phones, iPhone – whenever I can buy something in gold, I usually do, in honor of my dad. This is because he was a “gold bug.” He was always obsessed with investing in precious metals, and especially gold. I once asked him what got him started on his interest in gold, and he said he couldn’t remember. I think it must have been a person … a financial writer … but I guess I’ll never know who.

One more thing is that my father subscribed to probably 30 magazines. Every morning he would spend several hours reading magazines, and incorporate bits of what he read into his own writing. I always really admired that habit, and hoped to be able to do it myself some day when I had time. Lately I’ve subscribed to more and more newspapers and magazines, which I read on my computer. It started with the Washington Post, whose headlines always draw me in … then Israeli newspapers. It’s hard to allow myself to take so much time to read, but I tell myself that it’s my retirement privilege, prerogative or joy. So without exactly planning or intending it, I feel I’ve arrived at that same coveted place!

My mother was a fantastic musician – she played piano, accordion, guitar, and had a lovely singing voice. She had Alzheimer’s for the last maybe 15 years of her life. For the last few years, when she could barely function at all, she could still play the piano. But all she would play, for years, was the great anti-war song “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream” (I’d ever dreamed before … I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war). With the current horrible events in Ukraine, her obsession with that song seems prescient.

Though my parents were not anti-war. My father had served as a bombardier in World War Ii, and published many stories of his time in the war. They also vehemently disagreed with people who denigrated US actions in dropping the atomic bombs on Japan. So at the time, I didn’t even take my mother’s interest in that song as peace related. But who knows.

My latest connection to my mother is that I don’t know how many times I heard her say, “P.G. Wodehouse saved my life when I was young!” My mother had a pretty unhappy childhood, and PG Wodehouse (pronounced Wood-house) was a British humorist whose books she absolutely loved. She literally felt they had saved her sanity. My parents gave me many books during my life, and I generally read them all. But my mom never gave me any Wodehouse books, and I never read any. I don’t know why. Maybe I considered them an outdated mom thing.

So recently, my international folk dancing class moved to Oasis, now in Grossmont Center. That has brought me into the world of Oasis, and also the La Mesa Adult Center, since there is a folk dancing class that I take there too. I love these morning dance classes … me and the other old ladies … not having to try to drag my husband into it, and not having to compete with hot young numbers. The classes are still quite challenging to me, and keep me moving.

Having made this odd transition to much of my life being lived in La Mesa, I am now branching into other Oasis classes, and loving them! So when I saw an online class on PG Wodehouse in the Oasis catalog, I knew I had to take it! To prepare myself, I found a BBC Radio dramatized production of PG Wodehouse – a compilation of many of his books – on Audible, and started listening to it. It was delightful! Of course all that’s needed to delight me is a British accent, but the stories are very amusing too.

The class itself was amazing … I learned so much! It was taught by two older men, one of whom is the researcher and writer, and the other the main actor, who carried on a dialogue between themselves. Wodehouse had such a fascinating life. One of the funniest things is that all his books are about the British upper class, who essentially do nothing with their lives – other than dressing impeccably at all times, having lunch at their “club,” collecting silver items for their collections, arguing with relatives, jockeying for their desired marriages, visiting other relatives’ country homes, that sort of thing. While the servants do all the work, and in Wodehouse’s books, have all the brains. One series of his books is about Bertie Wooster and his valet, Jeeves. Bertie is affable but a bit dim-witted, and the brilliant but always deferential Jeeves rescues all the rich but clueless relatives from their endless follies.

The irony is that Wodehouse’s own life was so much the opposite of this. He was a prodigious writer, e.g. always at work! In his lifetime he wrote a total of over 90 books, 300 short stories, more than 20 film scripts and collaborated on over 30 plays. He lived to age 93, with his last couple of weeks spent in a hospital. When he died, he was found sitting in a chair next to his hospital bed, paper in lap and pen in hand, working on a story! Much to the world’s betterment, and merriment.

I have found that Audible has over 200 recordings of his books, so maybe he will save me some day too.

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