I think Safeway’s going to call CPS on me

“But you don’t have children, Crystal. Why would they do that?”

Two reasons: copious amounts of alcohol and ham and ham gravy baby food.

Let me back up. Did you know small dogs (like Chihuahuas) often have major issues with their teeth? And that I share my house with Stella, a Chihuahua-Rat Terrier mix? And that for years Stella’s breath has been so bad, it earned her the nickname, “Shitrashra” (as in, breath that smells like a combination of shit and trash)? And that, instead of making fun of the sweet little dog I love, I should have been taking her to the doggie dentist so she could have her teeth cleaned?

All of these things came together three days after Christmas, culminating in Stella having to get 16 teeth pulled. Yes, 16 Tic-Tac-sized teeth came out of her tiny little head. She still has close to a dozen (and is close to a dozen years old), so it could be worse.

James and I spent the week after Christmas, which both of us had off, nursing our 7.5-pound dog back to good health. She was on pain medication, which was probably great for the soreness but stopped up her waste-removal process. After three days of nothing but pee exiting her body, I called the vet. They said to try pumpkin puree (she hated it) or sweet potato baby food (she liked it okay) and 1/4 teaspoon of Miralax daily. If she didn’t produce the goods in a couple of days, we were going to have to take her back to the vet.

I spoon-fed her sweet potato and chicken baby food as often as she’d let me. At the 11th hour, she finally pooped. It was a turd for the ages, about half the length of her body. Joy!

After she was done with the medicine, I worried her mouth was still sore. So I continued with the baby food routine, swapping out sweet potato and chicken for more delectable flavors like chicken and chicken gravy, turkey and turkey gravy and, her favorite, ham and ham gravy.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, and we now have a picky dog who much prefers baby food over doggie food. And not just any flavor baby food–ham and ham gravy. Give her some chicken and chicken gravy, a flavor she liked just a few weeks ago, and she turns her nose up. Won’t eat all day, leaving the food to congeal in her bowl. But ham and ham gravy? Oh yeah. It’s on.

Which brings me to Safeway. As I watched the guy scan my groceries this morning, which prominently featured booze and ham and ham gravy baby food, it occurred to me that he might mistakenly think I have a baby at home. And that I’m the worst mother ever, only providing one flavor of baby food while I drink bourbon and eat non-baby-friendly things like jalapeños and radishes.

I pictured myself walking to the car with my groceries while the checker sends a cop after me. “There she goes! Get her. She probably left that poor, neglected baby in the trunk of her car. Just follow the smell of ham and ham gravy.”

ham and ham gravy
If I had the skills, I’d photoshop a picture of Stella’s face over that baby.

the grass IS greener

umbrella burgers
the gentle side of el niño–having to grill under a beach umbrella

We’ve lived in California almost two years now, but we haven’t been here long enough to separate legit weather concerns from TV weatherman hype. In Houston, every storm system in the Gulf presented the opportunity for SEVERE WEATHER graphics and ominous music, even if said storm posed no threat to the area. So I wasn’t sure what to think about reports of a pending “super el niño.” The local newscast is refreshingly down-home and lacking in hyperbole, but still.

Well, el niño is here, and it’s on track to be one of the strongest on record (records only going back about 50 years). There have already been massive mudslides in southern California and a huge rockslide closed the entrance to Yosemite a few days ago. A boulder fell on a car in Big Sur last week, and there was even an earthquake four miles north of Big Sur early this morning. (Okay, not sure that’s related to el niño, but it’s the first time there’s been a quake close enough for us to feel it–though we didn’t since we were sleeping.)

before the recent rains, this yard was half dirt, half thinning grass–now it’s grass and clover, with a little trail Dali made to the corner of the yard so she can bark at people walking down the street

The main impact on us so far is rain cramping our outdoors style and greening our yard. For the latter, I’m very grateful. So are the dogs. The former issue kind of blows, but we did enjoy some brilliantly clear days in Big Sur before the rain arrived.

it's rare to see
we’re talking REALLY CLEAR days
bringing shitloads of traffic

It hasn’t been foggy here in what seems like months. We vacillate between clear blue and soggy gray. I really miss the fog. It’s mystical. One cool thing: the waves accompanying the storms have been big and loud, easy to hear from our front porch at night. Maybe I need to shift my mindset from taking beautiful pictures on hikes to taking interesting pictures of weather and waves since that’s what we have more of right now.

Oh, and I saw a whale today. First sighting of 2016. Dig it.


the view from here


christmas tree reflectionMorning breaks on Christmas Eve. December 24. Just like last year.

James and the dogs are still sleeping. The only sounds are the clicking of my keyboard, our whirring refrigerator and seabirds passing overhead. I might also be slurping my coffee a little since no one’s within earshot.

Our weather, cold and rainy, reminds me of winters past in Houston (though today, Houston is expected to reach 80 degrees). El Niño has arrived in central California, and the rain comes often. The brown, crunchy land has turned green again, a contented sigh of oxygen coming from the earth. It’s soothing to look at the thick grass and clover covering our yard, and the dogs are enjoying a soft carpet underfoot on which to make their morning deposits.

At night, the ocean is loud. We can hear the waves pounding rocks at the shore. The sound makes me want to run down the hill to the coast, camera in hand, but I never do. Too cold. Too dark. Too drunk.

James and I are off for 11 days, today through January 3. A vacation in the place where we’d travel on vacation if we still lived in Houston. Assuming the rain stays away, we’ll do some hiking in Big Sur. Maybe drive up to San Francisco. Work in the yard, removing the beautiful clover that threatens to overtake our drought-tolerant plants. Read books. Watch TV. Try new restaurants. Go for drives. Take naps. A bit of soul rejuvenation at the end of the year.

Tomorrow is Christmas, our first without family. We knew the dark side of the bargain when we made this move. It sometimes means not being there when you want to be. It often means not being there when you want to be. But our people are a phone call away, and the gifts we’ve exchanged are a tangible connection. And I’m coming home for a visit in less than three months. Time moves so fast now, three months will feel more like three weeks.

The dude abides, and so do I.

However and whatever you’re celebrating as we close out 2015, cheers friend.