Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Cat Burglar

You've heard stories of dogs traveling thousands of miles across the continent to find their families who moved to another state. I even had a cat that once left our new house & crossed two very busy streets to return to his old hunting grounds after I was evicted from my first apartment (ironically, it was for having a forbidden feline).  There's even the famous story of Charles the Cat, who ran away from his home in New Mexico while his owner was gone for a few weeks, and showed up in Chicago eight months later.

And then there's Lint.

Lint is my dad's cat. She's about eight months old, a black domestic short hair who was fostered by one of my sister's friends as a teeny kitten before being adopted by my dad. She's a fabulously interesting cat. Not very well behaved, but I attribute that to my dad's parenting style, which is to bellow from his seat on the couch. That's how he disciplined me & my sister when we were teens, and that's how he has disciplined the cat. So, just like me, she's a rebel. She jumps up on the counter tops, she does whatever the hell she wants and leaves a mess of popsicle sticks, candy wrappers and knocked over plants in her wake. Occasionally she draws blood while sharpening her claws on my father's pant legs, and every once in awhile she stays out all night. Just like me when I was a teenager.

What I'm about to tell you about my dad's parenting style (regarding the cat) is not going to make him very popular with you, and I almost considered leaving it out of the story altogether. But I think it's important to know this information, so I'm not gonna pussyfoot around it. But please, try to hold your judgment until I'm through, and bear in mind a couple of things:
  • My dad is 86, and can barely get around. He's got bad hips and bursitis. So yelling at the cat is pretty much all he can muster up these days.
  • My mom was hit by a car in August, and has spent the past 4 months in rehab.
  • My dad is a rocket scientist. Kind of a mad genius. He's also a tinkerer & an inventor.
  • My dad loves his cat. Photographic evidence below, but as my father's friends have become fewer and fewer during these last sunset years, this cat has provided a lonely man some much needed companionship and both of my parents hours of laughter and joy as they are constantly humored by Lint's constant antics.
Mom finally came home from rehab in December. My husband and I traveled up to Oregon to help her transition back home.We had already spent countless hours on our last trip to my folk's the week prior cleaning, organizing and moving furniture around to accommodate my mother's limited mobility and her new walker. When we arrived at the house with mom, a young caregiver provided by an agency was already there, waiting with my dad and the cat. 

I walked into the kitchen and noticed a cheap wooden mouse trap -set- on the counter. And another by the fruit bowl. And another on the kitchen table. I confronted my dad, wanting to know why he would set mouse traps out in the open, where a human finger or a cat's paw could easily get broken, and he yelled, "That's exactly what the trap is for...the cat!"

I know. I was just as horrified as you are. I've got a lot of crazy cat lady friends who are probably tearing their hair out right now. I thought my dad was totally losing it, even though he explained - in rather rude terms - that this was the plan he'd devised to train the cat to stay off the dining room table, and off the kitchen counters. I told my dad that it wasn't cool, not cool at all, and Eddie and I went around and set off all the traps and collected them in a pile. 

What my dad didn't tell me was that he had altered the mouse traps so that they wouldn't really do any damage to the cat, just make a lot of noise and scare it, with the eventual goal of deterring it from venturing onto the counter and creating more chaos. He didn't tell me this, he didn't tell my mom, he didn't tell my husband, and he didn't tell the young caregiver. I wish he had. It might have saved a lot of drama.

Turns out, the caregiver - let's call her Jane - loves animals. Jane had animals of her own, she said, and she was somehow connected to a pet boarding facility that also grooms animals. I know this because there was some discussion that afternoon about the idea of her taking Lint to that facility to have her nails buffed, so that my dad would quit springing leaks every time the cat got a wild hair and scrambled up his legs. Someone even went so far as to get the cat carrier (which Lint often sleeps in) and moved it near the sliding door in case she was able to get an appointment with the groomer. I wasn't around for this discussion, because I had to go to work that afternoon. But I remember seeing the cat carrier when I returned, and someone told me why it was sitting across the room from its usual place. That was when my dad told me that the cat had been let out earlier in the day while I was gone, and hadn't come back. Jane told me she was thinking about walking around the block to look for her, and I said, "No, I think you should focus on taking care of my mom. That's your priority. The cat will come back."

I was wrong about that.

That evening my husband and I left for a few hours to attend a talent show at my niece's elementary school. But when we returned, mom was asleep, the caregiver had left at the end of her shift, and Dad told us that the cat still hadn't returned. We thought maybe Dad shouldn't have set mouse traps. He thought maybe we shouldn't bring our dogs to visit (but contrary to my dad's thoughts on the matter, we believe Lint really likes my dogs. She follows them everywhere, and for the most part they ignore her).

This time we were all wrong.

My first real hint that there was something more going on than the cat pulling a disappearing act on its own was when we realized that the cat carrier was also missing. It took a family meeting to realize that none of us had moved it from its perch by the door, but yet it was gone. It was as if Lint had packed her bag and moved out.  

Over the weekend, we walked around the block calling her name. We reached out to all the neighbors and asked if any of them had seen her over the past few days. Nobody had. We started looking in places throughout the property where Lint might have become trapped. Closets. The garage. My dad's car. But we also never found the cat carrier.

My dad was devastated. The trusted companion who was by his side every day, gone. The cat that it had taken him more than a decade to convince my mom (who's slightly allergic to cats) to agree to let him have, had disappeared. Sure, she was a troublemaker. But she was his troublemaker. At first he blamed her distaste for my dogs. But that cat carrier didn't walk out the door on its own.

Slowly it dawned on everyone. The more we looked for the cat carrier, and the longer we waited for Lint to return, the more we became convinced that Jane the caretaker was an actual cat burglar. It was the simplest, and therefore most likely scenario, and I am a firm believer in Occam's Razor. That's the theory (which I first found out about in the Jodie Foster/Matthew McConaughey film 'Contact') that the simplest answer is usually the correct one. And since all the other theories depended on some pretty complicated concepts, I went with the simplest one. Jane.

Animal lover that Jane proclaimed to be, she probably thought she was removing the cat from an abusive situation and providing it with a more loving home. In reality, she was committing robbery, and depriving my dad of his best buddy. Setting aside the chaos of the day my mom came home from rehab and my dad's bad decision based on his inability to get around quickly enough to properly discipline the cat, there's a lot of love between these two. All the proof you need is in this photo, snapped while the two were catnapping:

So you can can see why my sister and I weren't about to let it go. My sister - being in closer proximity - called the agency that had supplied the caretaker to report that we suspected she had taken the cat. They were skeptical and couldn't believe we would make such an accusation...until we told them that the cat carrier had also gone missing. The agency interviewed Jane, didn't think her story completely added up, and suspended her from any future shifts until the catastrophe was sorted out. They also suggested that we call the police. And she did, but not until we called Jane herself to let her know we thought she might know where the cat was, and that we didn't want to go to the police, but that if we were unable to reunite my father and his cat, that we would continue our pursuit.  Jane denied everything, of course. And before contacting the police, my sister may or may not have paid a visit to the pet resort/grooming place, posing as a potential client, asking to tour the feline facilities.

The Craigslist Ad. I left out the part about the carrier.
Meanwhile, I created a Craigslist ad, checked the online listings for the local cat rescue organization, the Humane Society and the Animal Shelter (all totally different agencies), then called and asked questions about cats matching Lint's description, and sent my dad on an afternoon-long field trip to check out the cats for himself. Half-grown, female, all-black, short-haired domestic cats are everywhere. And there were a few dead-ringers, but my dad knew. None of them were Lint.

They say curiosity killed the cat, but I couldn't help myself. I wanted to arm myself with as much information as I could about Jane. So I did a bit of internet sleuthing. I found her Facebook profile, filled with nothing but funny cat and dog videos. I poked around a little further, and found what I believed to be her address. And within a few blocks, her mother's address. I didn't do anything with this information, but I admit that I harbored fantasies of sitting outside Jane's home late at night, waiting to see if Lint might make an appearance. But I didn't. But I thought about it.

Finally, enter the police. You might think that a case of suspected cat (& carrier) napping wouldn't be taken very seriously. But the police were on it. They interviewed Jane immediately, and I'm betting she was as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs as she continued to deny any involvement in the disappearance. There wasn't a lot more the cops could do after that. Other than continue to monitor Craigslist and the shelters, neither could we.

And then the incredible happened. We got a phone call from the Humane Society. Lint had been found. The way we heard it,  within a day or two of the police interview, a black cat showed up in a woman's backyard, terrorizing her own cat, and demanding entry. But once the woman opened the door, the cat ran into the house, looking for some human love.  She definitely wasn't feral. The cat seemed in good condition, well fed, but was missing a collar (Lint was wearing a red collar with a bell the day she disappeared). The woman pulled out her own cat carrier, plopped the cat into it, and took it to the shelter to see if it belonged to anyone. They scanned her for a microchip, and within half an hour my father and his cat were reunited. Those microchips. They truly are the cat's meow.

The thing is, Lint wasn't found anywhere near my dad's house. The woman who's backyard Lint ended up in isn't even in the same city. Lint ended up fifteen miles away from my dad's house in the west side of Medford. Fifteen miles from my dad's house, but about a half mile away from Jane's.

Jane will probably never be collared for her four-legged crime, but I hope she'll think twice before taking it upon herself  to relocate someone else's beloved pet in the future.

As for Lint, my parents say she seems to be better behaved now. She doesn't jump up on the counter as much, and she spends more of her time purring and relaxing instead of sharpening her claws on my dad's pant leg and knocking cups off the counter. Its as if this whole experience has served as a catalyst to help Lint pull her fur together.

I was surprised at how many purrfect cat songs there were to choose from when putting together the playlist to go along with today's column. Hope you enjoy the Cat Burglar Playlist by clicking on the play arrow below, and if I've missed any good ones, feel free to list them in the comments section below.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Santa's Secret Is Out Of The Bag

"By the way, she knows." That was what my sister whispered out of the side of her mouth to me as we walked across the restaurant parking lot after a meal with our families the weekend after Thanksgiving.
"Who knows what?" I said.
"Lena. She knows. About Santa."

My niece Lena, who had just turned ten, perked up at the sound of her name and turned around to see what we were talking about. I called Lena over to me and said, smiling broadly, "Is that true? You know the truth about Santa? That's fantastic! I've been waiting and waiting for you to figure it out!"

Her slightly befuddled look told me right away that Lena didn't understand why I would be happy to learn that she'd finally confronted her parents to get some real answers to a few difficult questions for a kid. It was actually not even about Santa initially, but she needed some answers about the tooth fairy after discovering an old bag of Halloween candy which the tooth fairy supposedly absconded with the year before, which led to a discussion about Santa (and most likely the Easter Bunny).

"I'm so happy Lena, I really am."
"Because now you know that Santa is you." I grabbed her hand as we walked over to the car and I said, "I mean, Santa was a real guy, once upon a time. They didn't call him Santa then...but Saint Nick was a real person. And after he was gone, people kept his spirit alive by continuing on the tradition he'd started of leaving gifts for children at Christmas. So yeah, your parents are Santa. Well, they used to be Santa. But the thing is, now that you know, you get to be Santa. You are the one who gets to carry on the spirit of Christmas by becoming Santa."

I can't tell you the relief I felt when Lena got a huge, eye brow raising smile on her face as I told her about how, now that she knew the truth, she was going to get a peek behind the curtain and learn the tricks behind the magic of Christmas.

"It's kind of a big responsibility. Do you think you can handle it? Because now you are going to become Santa just like we have been since we found out. You're going to join the ranks of a lot of big kids and adults. Are you ready for it?"

She said she was, and so I told her that I had some very special tools to give to her when we saw each other next.

The Secret Santa Toolbox

A few weeks later, we ventured north again, and this time I brought the box. A tin box with "Believe in the Magic of Christmas" on the top, and it was filled with everything Lena needed to become Santa.

Lena inspects the contents of her Santa toolbox.
If you've been reading the Mistress of the Mix for a few years, you might remember that one of my favorite magical traditions of Christmas is growing candy canes from seeds on Christmas Eve. We’ve been doing it since my college-aged daughter was little, so Lena has been a candy cane farmer since as long as she can remember.

I went into pretty extensive detail about it in Yes Valerie, There Is A Santa Claus, but as a refresher, all you need are candy-cane seeds (a handful of starlight mints) and a bottle of magic elf dust (red sugar sprinkles). And there’s one more ingredient: the magic of Christmas. Because you can knock yourself out planting candy cane seeds all year long and pouring sprinkles on them, but they’ll only grow into candy canes one night a year, and that night is Christmas Eve, when we’re surrounded by the magic of Christmas.

I have to admit that I was kind of giddy when I presented Lena with her very special pre-Christmas gift. With nobody else around except for me and her mother, Lena opened the tin as I shared some super secret Santa stuff with her.

 I explained that becoming Santa is a pretty important responsibility, because the job entails becoming the keeper of magic and keeping it alive for younger kids until they learn the secret of Santa on their own. “And once they do,” I told her, “then your job is to pass that responsibility on to them so that we keep Santa alive for future generations. Can you do that?”

Lena (who had lost her voice that evening during her school talent show) nodded solemnly and whispered, “Yes.” I told her that when Sophia was young I kept the magic. When she was 14 & Lena was 4, Sophia took over the job. And now that Lena was 10, she was going to become the keeper of candy cane magic for her young nieces, 5 year old Maggie and 2 year old Nora, who just happened to be visiting for Christmas this year.

 I told her that it was now her responsibility to share the contents of the tin with Maggie and Nora, and pass on the story of how to grow candy canes on Christmas Eve. In fact, she would supervise the whole operation.

“But now that you’re Santa, I have something else to give you,” I said, and pulled out a red bag filled with candy canes. I explained that the heaviest responsibility of being Santa was to remember to go out after the little ones were safely tucked into bed to replace the seeds with grown candy canes. “You need to find a special place to hide this bag. Because this bag is only for those who carry the magic. Don’t ever let Maggie and Nora or even any of your friends see what’s in this bag.”

I told Lena that she also had to be prepared to answer any questions that Maggie and Nora might throw at her. Questions like: Do we plant candy canes inside or outside? With the wrapper on, or off? Lena already knew the answer to that question, because she’d asked it herself the first year she’d planted candy cane seeds, so she already knew that if you plant a candy cane seed with the wrapper on, you get a full grown candy cane with the wrapper on. And if you remove the wrapper before planting it, you get a sticky, sappy gloppy mess the next morning. I told her that I was in favor of encouraging scientific experiments as long as you stay one step ahead, prepared for the outcome.

I reached into the bag and pulled out a handful of candy canes in wild colors like green, blue and purple. “For example,” I told her, “when restaurants started handing out mint chocolate flavored starlight mints, I started stocking green and brown candy canes. And when Sophia asked me one year what would happen if she planted an already grown candy cane, a giant candy cane appeared in its place the next morning.”

“One just like this one, “ I said as I handed Lena a two inch thick, foot long candy cane. “Better be prepared for that one.”

 I spent the next half hour passing on all my magician’s secrets, answering all of Lena’s questions, so that she can be as prepared as possible for the enormous task ahead of her. And she's as ready (and excited) as Rudolph on a foggy night. It was like a whole new world had opened up to her, just when she thought that her Christmas dreams would be gone forever.

Lena shows off her gift.

I hope the magic of Christmas is alive in your household this year, for the young and old, and those who are just learning the real secrets of Christmas. As you enjoy your holiday, I hope you'll click the play arrow on the Spotify Stocking Stuffer playlist below and enjoy some curated music from Mistress Santa!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Long Con

My husband is the impatient type. The kind of guy who peeked at his gifts under the Christmas tree when he was a kid. He's still pretty much that same kid today, a 52 year old Scorpio boy child who finds an odd delight in trying to figure out what everyone has gotten him for his November birthday and Christmas. He's a package shaker, he tries to gaze through the wrapping paper as if he's wearing X-Ray glasses, and weighs the gifts in his hands before boldly announcing what he thinks might be inside. And as much as I hate to admit it, he's right about 75% of the time.  

So this year, I decided Eddie needed to learn a lesson.  It was a lesson that took planning, a combination of deception and misdirection, dedication, and an accomplice who wanted to teach Eddie that lesson as much as I did: his older sister Laura. 

For one solid year, Laura and I have been planning my husband's first trip out of the country for his birthday, and to arrange it so that he didn't have a clue until he had to pull out his passport and hand it over to the authorities.

We had to find a date as close as possible to Eddie returning home from his job refurbishing the road around the rim of Crater Lake, sometime around Halloween. So we found the first available dates in November for a week at the Torres Mazatlan resort. Then I asked for a week off of work, which is no small feat. Before it would be approved, I had to find a volunteer who was willing to cover a classical music radio show for six days in a row. Once that was accomplished, Laura booked our rooms at the resort and flights from Medford, Oregon.

And then the misdirection began.

When we were visiting Laura last January, she started talking about how much she'd love to have us join her in Puerto Vallarta where she usually spends a few weeks at her timeshare.  We sat down within earshot of Eddie - all part of the plan - and looked at availability. We put on authentic sad faces when we couldn't find anything within the timeframes that might work. Nothing in November. Nothing in December. Nothing in January, February, March or April. How about Mazatlan? Nothing there either? Oh well. It was a wonderful thought, we said. But just in case something opened up, Eddie would get his very first passport, and I would renew mine.

The pool, restaurant & bar at Torres Mazatlan Resort.

Then life went on for almost an entire year. In the summer, Eddie went back to Crater Lake, and while he was gone his sister and I would touch base occasionally about our top secret plan.

The entire mission almost fell apart more than once. First, the volunteer who had agreed to cover my radio show suffered a fall that left him with a severe head injury, putting him on the sidelines. But since my vacation had already been approved and the non-refundable tickets purchased, other staff stepped in to cover the shifts. Then Eddie called one day to tell me that his crew might have another job lined up in Eastern Oregon as soon as they wrapped up their season at Crater Lake. As it turned out, the job never materialized, but in a moment of panic, I told Eddie that he wasn't allowed to make any plans for the week before or after his birthday, and that he would just have to tell his boss he needed that time off.

I came to regret that. It unleashed the curious little boy in my husband, who - from that moment forward - hounded me day and night for the next 6 weeks about what we had planned. And it drove him crazy that I wouldn't tell him. I eventually got so tired of him demanding to know, that I started making up places. I told him we were going on a mission trip to Puerto Rico. We were going to Mall of America, home of the largest indoor water amusement park in the world. We were taking a cruise to Alaska to visit my old hometown. We had rented a chateau in France. We were going back to Hawaii to rent the submarine that was used in the TV show "Lost" which has now been turned into an AirBnB (I'm sure it actually hasn't). I told him I had rented one of those homes perched on pilings over a lagoon in Fiji. I even told him I had rented a palapa on a beach in Mexico with hammocks for beds, which was about as close as I ever got to the truth. I told him we were going to Cuba, where I'd rented a '57 Ford Fairlane, and I told him that we were finally going to use the 3 night stay at a beach house my mother had gifted us for our wedding anniversary at Ken Kesey's home in Yachats.

It was at that point that Eddie proudly announced that he had everything figured out.

The Yachats Theory

His hypothesis - and it was a good one, I'll give him that - was that we were going to drive to the Oregon Coast, stay with his sister near Coos Bay for a few days before driving up to Yachats to the Key-Sea Koast House, and then continuing on to visit his nieces and nephews in Astoria, one of whom had just provided Eddie with a new grand nephew that had still been cooking in the oven the last time Uncle Eddie visited his family.  I told him I could neither confirm nor deny, which had become my standard answer whenever queried about the trip, which was about every 3 minutes.

To prove his hypothesis, when I was out of the room, Eddie started a con game of his own. He called his sister and proclaimed that I had come clean with the whole secret, and told him about our travel plans. His sister did her best to seem shocked that he knew everything, then said she couldn't wait to see us. Then when I was home, Eddie Face Timed his sister while I was in the room, and laughed gleefully as he told me that he'd tricked her into acknowledging our trip to see her, proving his hypothesis. Then it was my turn to play shocked, as I told his sister, "How could you fall for his ruse, Laura?! You were supposed to neither confirm nor deny!" and then I played hurt, bummed that Eddie had, once again, figured out his gift.

The End Game

The night before we left town, I began packing Eddie's bag for him, selecting a mixture of warm and cool weather clothing. He too-casually said, "Hey throw my cologne in there, would you?" and I did. To which he replied, "Ha! I knew it! We're definitely not flying to Astoria! The TSA would never allow a bottle that big!" I smiled and said, "Oh, you got me. But I will neither confirm nor deny." And then I added another mental item to my checklist (which included grabbing our passports after he was already in the car warming it up) which was to remember to remove the cologne bottle from his bag as we headed to the airport, and give him his only physical birthday gift this year, a travel sized bottle of Armani Code I had purchased from Macy's that day. Because I know my husband and I'm hep to all of his tricks.

I let him pack our winter coats and boots. I let him heft an armload of bottled water and snacks out to the car. And I told him he couldn't bring the dogs, because NO, and let him think that it was because pets aren't allowed at the vacation rental. Eddie's sister texted him that she couldn't wait to see us, and she'd been getting our room prepared. Then she sent a few random photos of plants in her yard, showing Eddie all the hard work she'd been doing landscaping. All part of the con.

Visiting my family in Ashland that evening, Eddie continued to brag to everyone he came into contact with that he had figured out our plans. He told my daughter's boyfriend, who said, "Wait. I thought you guys were going to Cuba. You're not going to Cuba?" He thanked my mom for the gift of the beach house stay, and my mom said, "You know, there's more than one bedroom, you could take me with you." I finally played the last card in my hand by saying, "You know, I'm okay with getting an early start. So we can leave as early as you want tomorrow morning," before yawning and heading off to bed at 9pm. Because I knew how early that alarm clock was going to ring.


"It's go time," I proclaimed as I shut off the alarm. "Time to get up."
Eddie asked me what time it was (I misdirected, with "It's early, I couldn't sleep."). He said he needed a few more minutes, and I obliged him as I hastily dressed in the dark and got everything ready, but by 3:15 Eddie was already in the car, warming it up. Ready to head to the coast. I came out, sat in the passenger seat, and as he started to put the car in reverse, I said, "Honey, you need to get out of the car."
He told me to quit playing. Told me to fasten my seat belt and shut the door so we could leave. I told him he needed to come out to the back of the car and help me with something. He grumpily got out of the car and into the rainy night. Standing under the carport, I handed him the little red Macy's bag with the cologne and said, "Here's your birthday present, now take the other bottle of cologne out of your bag, then turn off the car, and put the keys in the house. We're not driving."

Eddie was dumbfounded.

In fact, he simply didn't believe me. He told me to stop playing again, said there was no use playing this game any longer because he KNEW where we were going, and it was freezing out so let's go. I grabbed his phone, started to film him, and said, "Do you think your sister and I don't have you pegged?" And I'll just let the video below speak for itself...but beware, there are a few uncharacteristic F-bombs dropped by my sleepy, impatient, bewildered husband in his hazy state of denial:

Eddie was still sitting in the car, engine on, when the shuttle van came around the corner two minutes later. I wish I still had the camera going, because that's when he realized that his theory wasn't correct, and that he really didn't have a clue about what was happening. His first reaction? "I gotta poop." And he ran back inside.

I greeted the shuttle driver and he started grabbing our bags. When we arrived at the airport, Eddie tried to bribe the the guy into telling him where we were going, and the driver said, "Dude, I got no clue where you're headed." And of course, he did. I'd told him as we were transferring our bags from car to van, removing the cologne, winter coats and anything else I knew we didn't need for the trip.

Because I had sneakily checked us in the night before, and had our boarding passes digitally downloaded onto my phone, Eddie still didn't know where we were headed as we went through TSA screening at the airport, but knew we were headed northbound via Portland when we got in line to head out to board the plane. He asked me where we were going. I asked him, "I don't know, where ARE we going?" He said, "Either we're going to Hawaii, or Alaska."

When we arrived in Portland, Eddie said he thought we might be renting a car and driving down the Oregon Coast instead of up. Then I headed to another gate (honest mistake!) that was boarding a flight to Honolulu, but got directions to the correct place and finally boarded a flight headed in the right direction, to Los Angeles.

It wasn't until we were landing in L.A. and I pulled our passports out of the secret pocket sewn in my purse that Eddie found out where we were headed, and then he didn't believe me. Thought I was still misleading him. Then suddenly we were in the plane, headed to Mazatlan, and Eddie advanced into the next state of dumbfounded disbelief that he'd been had.

By the time we'd landed in Mazatlan however, Eddie had retained his earlier smugness, proclaiming that at least he was going to experience Mazatlan before his sister did, since she always vacations a few hours south, in Puerto Vallarta.

I let him think that, until the moment we walked through the gates of the resort, and a bell hop greeted us with "Buenos tardes, you are meeting friends?"
"No," said Eddie confidently. "We're here alone."
"Actually," I said, "We're not meeting friends. But we are meeting family."
It was then that Eddie's sister came around the corner, all smiles and already tan. She'd beaten us to Mazatlan by a week, and while she was indeed getting our room ready for us, it was our oceanfront condo, not the hideaway bed in the basement.

The look on Eddie's face at that moment was worth everything Laura and I did. He was stupified. The man who made it his mission to always figure out was going on so that there were never any surprises, was surprised. The whole way. This was one present that stayed wrapped until his birthday, even though it took the help of literally every human I came into contact with for a month to pull it off. And now Eddie knows just how far his sister and I are willing to go to pull off a long con.

It was a glorious week. The sound of the surf was so loud that we had to close the sliding door at night so we could sleep. The fresh banana margaritas were delicious enough that I could sip on them all day long in the pool, and weak enough that I never had a hangover, and the gracious and kind staff appreciated my attempts to recall four years of high school Spanish classes (¡ Muchas gracias, seƱora Brewold!).

We launched another surprise on Eddie when Eddie's friend Luis - a native Mexican - showed up a few days later with his family, increasing our group to seven. Then we grew to nine when more family from Guanajuato showed up. A third of us spoke only English, a few spoke only Spanish, and a few of us spoke in varying levels of both languages. That was when the fun really started, because we were living life like a Mexican on vacation showing off for his family (because that's exactly what was going on).

Half of our gang: my partner in crime Laura,
la chiquita Layla, la abuela, Blanca y yo

The gang ended up (more than once) in the back of a pick up truck outfitted with benches, a cooler full of Pacifico Clara and a big bag of chicharrones, singing Mexican songs at the top of our lungs (as well as making up my own lyrics to Despacito after hearing it for maybe the 8th time) while driving around the city. We ended up surrounded by two mariachi bands (because uno mariachi band was apparently not enough) who serenaded us while we put away huge platters of ceviche y pescado at a restaurant with tables in the middle of the street across from a car wash, and I have a vague memory of singing karaoke on our last noche en Mazatlan to one of the canciones I was exposed to during that lovely semana en Mexico that - lo mismo que yo - gets the point across in a blend of English y Espanol, and just happens to reference driving around in a truck with chicharrones and having a very very good time! You'll hear a version of that song, "Las Mulas de Moreno" kicking off the accompanying Mazatlan Long Con playlist below, filled with the music of Mexico that I was surrounded with as part of the incredible pay off to the Mazatlan Long Con. I hope you enjoy it, and feel free to share your favorite songs of Mexico as well in the comments section below.

A short note to my tale: Now that we're back from Eddie's birthday surprise trip, he's seemed a little worried over the past couple of days. My birthday is less than two weeks ago, and Eddie says he just doesn't know how he'll be able to come close to topping his birthday present. Plus, all he got me was a new pair of boots. At least I'm pretty sure that's what's in the box.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Me too. But I'm not telling you anything you didn't already know if you're a regular reader of this column. You already know about a handful of experiences I've had, starting at the age of 8, where men took advantage of their position of privilege and assumed superiority to make extraordinarily inappropriate and lewd sexual suggestions, because I shared them a year ago this very week in The Trouble With Boobs. I hope you'll take a few minutes to read it again, because it is just as relevant - if not more relevant - today.

And of course you know why it's so relevant, unless you've been held hostage in Afghanistan for the last few years or have spent time running for your life from a raging wildfire recently. If so, you're excused. But pretty much everyone else has heard by now about the rich and powerful man in the entertainment history who was caught on audiotape saying some very sexually inappropriate things, followed by scores of women coming out of the woodwork to say that they had been assaulted and pressured sexually by this same man. The fallout from the exposure of that tape has been massive. 

For Harvey Weinstein, famous Hollywood producer and studio boss who was caught red handed trying to pressure a woman into a sexual situation with him in his hotel room, the fallout has included the opening of several criminal investigations, being fired from his job, losing his wife, coming under fire from his children, being expelled from the Academy, and finally landing in a rehab facility to be treated for sex addiction. The fallout for Weinstein has landed squarely and solidly onto his shoulders in a spectacular fashion.

Oh, I'm sorry. Did you think I was talking about that other famous rich and powerful man in entertainment who was caught on tape talking about pressuring women sexually, followed by scores of women saying that they had also been assaulted and sexually harassed by this man? The fallout for that guy was being promoted to President of the United States by the electoral college (I think it's important to always remember that 'we the people' didn't elect Donald Trump. By several million votes, 'we' elected Hillary Clinton. The electoral college elected Donald Trump). The fallout for Pussygate has fallen directly onto us. Or, to stick to the theme of this column, it's been forced upon us like a tongue down the throat after a bad date.

But there is some good news. At least that's how I'm going to look at it. Bear with me. I'll get there, eventually.

In the past, many men accused of sexual assault have blamed the victim. In fact victims have been blamed for raping and abuse for eons. Maybe its because - caught red handed -Weinstein admitted to his behavior, admitted it was wrong, and never tried to blame his victims. He is (for the most part) accepting total responsibility for his actions. But the Weinstein situation has opened the floodgates to a wave of women who are coming forward with stories of their own sexual assault. It's shining a big spotlight on just how prevalent sexual assault, abuse, harrassment and humiliation is.

Actress Alyssa Milano is credited for getting the #MeToo movement to go viral on Twitter and Facebook less than a week ago. Since then, other Hollywood heavies have come forward with their own stories of sexual assault in the entertainment industry. Jennifer Lawrence. Reese Witherspoon. Angelina Jolie. Jessica Chastain. Gwyneth Paltrow. Rosanna Arquette. Cara Delevingne. Lady Gaga. Rose McGowan (especially Rose McGowan).

But what's more important is the millions - yeah, millions - of other women who are speaking up and sharing their experiences of sexual assault and harassment. The official statistics say that 1 in 6 American women will be sexually assaulted during her lifetime. But looking at the staggering number of my own friends sharing their #MeToo stories, I think those statistics are off by a long shot. Especially because women I'm close to that have privately shared horrific stories of sexual abuse (especially by trusted family members) have not made those stories public by sharing. And that's ok. Its not ok to pressure women into sexual situations they aren't comfortable with, and its not ok to pressure them into publicly sharing something that causes them great pain if they don't want to. I even joked on Facebook that it might be easier to ask women to post a status saying #NeverMe to make easier to see how few people haven't been assaulted or harassed (so far exactly two of my acquaintances have done that).

In the meantime, I've seen #MeToo posts from Julie. Hilary. Gretchen. Kate. Buffy. Lisa. Haley. Lyn. Melyssa. Linda. Jennifer. Chellie. Ashley. China. Sue. Keri. Quincy. Gini. Jean Marie. Ursula. Kimberly. Carrie. Noelle. Amber. Rhonda. Laurie. Angela. Pogo. Sarah. Mimi. Anna. Dee. Lori. Francie. Jan. Brandi. Laura. Amy. Danica. Debra. Rachel. Judy. Jenny. Maggie. Dana. Dondi. And another Linda, another Amber, another Angela, another Julie and another Jan. By the time you read this I know the list will have grown longer. And each of their posts are followed by a long stream of hundreds of comments echoing similar situations.

A few of their stories:

"I was 21 I had just graduated from community college with my certificate in cosmetology and was a brand new bride.  As I stepped into the hallway en route to the bathroom, the owner of the neighboring business also entered the hallway. We exchanged our typical morning greetings when suddenly he stopped and turned back towards me. "So, where were you yesterday?" he asked me. "Remember? It was my birthday so I took the afternoon off?" He smiled a strange smile and then stepped in close to me. In an instant, both hands reached for the wall behind my head as he pushed his pelvis and entire body into mine, trapping me against the wall. He leaned in and pressed his lips hard into mine before he thrust his tongue in my mouth. After a 2 - 3 second assault, he stepped back and with a gleam in his eye said something to the effect of, "yeah, I forgot to give you that. Happy Birthday." I was terrified, I was disgusted, I was humiliated and I felt dirty. And for a variety of reasons, I internalized the situation as being my fault. That somehow I had earned the right to be violated. And because of this, I told one person but then kept my silence. This was not the first time I was sexually assaulted in my life. Nor was it my last."

"First time I was 12 and blamed myself. Hard to write this." 

"In 7th grade I was lying on a family beach in Hawaii with my best friend, who noticed that a guy about 12 feet away was watching us and masturbating. We got up immediately and wrapped ourselves in our beach towels and walked away grossed out.
* In 8th grade the dad I babysat for drunk-drove me home and put his hand on my leg and tried to kiss me. The next week when his wife called me to sit again, I said no and told her why.
* In 9th grade there was a classmate who in the hallways grabbed girls by the pussy. He got away with that.
* In 10th grade I worked in a country store on a poultry farm, and the guy who delivered eggs from the barns told me if I didn't watch out he would take me into the freezer. I told the boss's wife, and he was banned from the store."

"I still remember the very first time I became aware of sexual harassment. I was very young and my mom was pushing me around the grocery store in the shopping cart. I began to notice her behaving oddly as she kept looking over her shoulder and tried to choose aisles in the store that this strange man was not already occupying. But he continued to follow us around the store, exposing himself to us from beneath his long coat.
And in case you think this is an isolated incident, something similar happened only a couple years ago when I was on a date with a 41-year-old man. When I politely turned down his multiple advances after our date he proceeded to pull his penis out of his pants and tried to force it on me."

"I was one of the 40% of employees that were subject to this in the National Park Service. In addition to sexual harassment, I faced extreme workplace bullying because of being a woman. When I fought back, work life because ugly and no one even at the regional or national levels would take my complaints seriously. "It's just part of working in a man's world," is what I heard a lot. Bull$hit! I hope my daughter never has to deal with this and I will raise my son to never participate in that kind of misogynistic culture."

"I was on Canner St. walking from my apartment toward Yale Divinity School to start my shift at the Circulation Desk at the YDS Library when it happened. Walked 2 more blocks to school, and decided to call the campus Police in case it would keep the guy from doing it to someone else. I still think of walking this block. That day the campus Police took a report. That was that.
I was/am so lucky to have such strong support structures in my life. It is my responsibility to teach my son to treat all people with respect."

I did say there was some good news in all this, right? OK. Take a look at the last sentence of the last two stories. These are women with sons. Women who are empowered and motivated - with loving, woke partners fortunately - to raise their sons to be better people than the generations of men before them. Because that is what it's going to take. To raise our boys to be respectful of others' sexuality, and raise our girls to be confident that they are worthy of that respect.

I believe we're already shifting in that direction, because as I talk to my daughter about sexual trends in college, she tells me that it is becoming the norm, rather than the exception, to get an acknowledgement of mutual consent before two (or more) people engage in sexual activity. That gives me great hope. I think we have the ability to raise our children to understand that they can achieve success in life without being coerced or forced into sexual situations they don't want to be in, and that they can achieve success without forcing or coercing others into a sexual situation. It's happening already, we just need to keep the ball rolling.

Also, another important hashtag is starting to make the rounds on social media, and it's an important one. #ItWasMe. Men who's eyes have been seriously opened by reading the stories shared by women around the nation are now reflecting on their own sexual history, and owning up to behaviors that they've always known were wrong. A couple of my male friends have expressed just that over the past few days, and I hope they understand that it doesn't make me think worse of them. Instead, I feel they have become more enlightened, and are ready to be part of the solution. For that, I respect them more. Here's a few examples:

"I have touched without consent. I have been complicit in my silence. I have pushed people past their comfort zones. I have objectified women. I have benefited from a misogynist culture. I am sorry. #ItWasMe"

"I am so proud of all the woman in my life publicly declaring "me too."
I struggled with whether I would post my own. Publicly admitting victimization is so hard, and I stand with the women who have come forward and those that haven't. But, honestly I think as a man its more important to say "IT WAS ME." Its a harder thing to admit. But this is our part as men. Patriarchy gives us a privilege that women will never know. And while I am a gay man, I know I have harassed woman; even if inadvertent, unintentional, joking, or in kinship. So for every bra I unsnapped, or ass I've slapped, or comment I have made on appearance. For every "hey slut," or "hey hoe", or sexual joke... I am sorry. This a behavior that paves the way for worse harassment. Its a new world and time to change."

 "I'm seeing many brave women (and some men) posting "Me Too" signifying that they have been victims of sexual harassment or abuse. Although I have also been harassed what stands out to me is that I have been a perpetrator. Maybe some fellas will look at their behavior as well. I'm not proud but unfortunately I HAVE."

I want to acknowledge that this is not simply a male/female issue. There are women in power who abuse it, taking sexual advantage and putting pressure on those beneath them. And the victim is not always a woman, nor a member of the opposite sex. This is a global sexual issue about not respecting boundaries.  However, since the beginning of time males have dominated the world in terms of power (white heterosexual males in particular), and although the scales have shifted somewhat to give power to others, these males still dominate the world in a position of privilege and power, and therefore still lead the way as the largest abusers of their position of power. If you don't like what I'm saying, chances are you're probably a straight white dude.

Straight white dudes, you've had your time, and look what you've done with it. The world has not become a better place with you in charge of it. I'm not saying all straight white dudes are bad people, of course. Some of my best friends are straight white dudes. I married one. But you know what he did on our first date? That man - who will be the first to admit that he is as straight and white and ape-brained as they come - asked me if he could kiss me. While sitting two feet away from me. He never touched me until he knew that I absolutely wanted to be touched by him. It wasn't unsexy, and it didn't take the fun out of it. But ultimately, it's why I married him. Because I knew he respected me enough to make absolutely sure I was cool with it, because he didn't want to fuck up the chance to be with me.

But I'm digressing a little bit again. Getting back to the point, things are shifting again right now. Women are becoming more empowered. They're still trying to figure out just how many women participated in the Women's March in January 2017, but so far their best estimate is around 4.5 million. Taylor Swift kicked some serious ass on a radio DJ who thought he could get away with grabbing hers and proved that she is not just a pretty voice, she is a strong woman who demands respect. I wonder what will happen next. Maybe next we'll be ready for a president with a vagina, instead of one who likes to grab women by the vagina. #SophiaMiller2032 #beengroomingmydaughtersince1997

The last time I wrote about sexual assault and harrassment, I couldn't curate a playlist. It just didn't seem right to set my own person humiliations to music. But this time things feel different. I guess I feel that not only am I part of a movement that is gaining ground, but we're growing bigger because even those who have never suffered - those who have been part of the problem in the past - are now joining with us, wanting to make things better in the future. So it seems like the perfect time to share a streaming #MeToo Playlist on Spotify featuring women artists with some incredibly fierce and empowering songs.

 I don't want to force it on you though. I'm just putting it out there, and hey, if you like what I'm puttin' down, think about picking it up and consenting to a good time for your ears!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Pedestrian Never Wins

I feel bad about it, but I honestly wasn't paying attention. When Hurricane Harvey was blowing down houses, killing families and turning entire towns into lakes, I didn't even know. When the Helena fire ripped through Trinity county and people were literally jumping from cliffs to escape the flames that devoured almost 80 houses in a matter of hours, I had no idea. People kept asking me if I'd heard about what happened in North Korea, and my response was "Huh?"

A crap ton of other catastrophes happened the last week of August and on into the first week of September as well, and none of it was on my radar. Our trainwreck of a President made two racist announcements: that he'd pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and next on his agenda was shutting down the Dream Act (and all this right after he signed a directive to ban transgender military troops). And then Hurricane Irma came knocking.

Trying to catch up on the news for just one week has left me feeling completely ignorant, but I think I have a pretty good excuse. The entire world pretty much stopped turning for me and my entire family the day my mom entered battle with a Honda Accord.

It was a matchup like Mayweather vs. MacGregor. In this case the Honda was Mayweather, my mom, Gigi, was MacGregor. Car vs. Pedestrian. And she never saw it coming. TKO. But mom says she'll always remember the horrific feeling of being slammed into unexpectedly, that jolt she experienced just before she lost consciousness. She was crossing Pearl Street a few Wednesdays ago, in Eugene to volunteer planning a fundraising gala for Ophelia's Place, a non-profit that supports and empowers young teenage women. Then she woke up on the pavement with broken bones. Everything was bruised, she was bleeding from the head with holes in her clothes, her bra was cut off (and it was a really nice bra), and  her ruby red toenail polish was scraped off. But when a pedestrian enters the ring with a car, the pedestrian never wins.

It was a teenager that hit her. A sixteen-year old driving his mom's Honda in the left lane of a one-way street with a speed limit of 25 mph. We're guessing he might have been going about that fast when he hit my mom, who had almost reached the other side of the street when the lights went out. We don't know yet what the real circumstances were. Did he not see her because she, just like the street, was covered in black material? Did he see her and just think she'd get out of the way because - duh - he's bigger? Was he distracted by Snapchat, a Facebook post, or a text from a friend? We have no idea. What we do know is that my eighty two year old mom is lucky to be alive, and lucky that doctors were able to repair her fractured tibia just below the knee where his bumper connected with her leg, and her broken humerus just beneath the left shoulder. She has a total of seventeen deck screws holding those parts of her body together. To quote my husband, "We always knew your mom was tough as nails. Now we have the X-rays to prove it."

Our family has been relying on humor to get us through this devastating course of events. Turns out that making someone laugh is a really good way to get things going when one has a bedpan underneath them. Another fun fact: turns out my mom has a really dirty sense of humor. I put a request out there on Facebook asking my friends for a few good jokes to share with mom as I sat by her hospital bedside for 3 days, and her favorite was: Why does the Easter Bunny hide his eggs? Cause he doesn't want anyone to know he's been doin' the chickens.

  Since the accident, my sister and I have been taking turns staying by our mother's side. She took the first 3 days, when mom was flying on morphine and undergoing surgeries, talking with doctors and getting the facts about how long they thought it would be before mom could walk again (a year). I took the next 3, driving 5 hours north and spending hours on the phone with eight insurance companies, trying to figure out how to advocate for my mom and figure out how to start planning for the long year ahead of her.

 I won't go into all of the dirty details involved with advocating for someone's care right now, but what I've learned over the past few weeks is that it's exhausting to love someone as much as they need to be loved during a catastrophic illness or injury, but it's the most important thing you can do for someone you love. And it is not a thankless job. Every day my mother tells us how much she appreciates her daughters and everyone who has visited or sent a card or care package.

The family has been rallying around her, and the nurses say my mom has the liveliest room in the place since she transferred from the hospital in Eugene to a skilled nursing facility in Ashland. We all showed up for a big pizza party and football game last weekend because if Gigi can't go to the party, the party goes to Gigi. We ended up shutting the door and setting up a big fan in the corner to help circulate all the hot air that had gathered in one room and cheered the Ducks to victory. It's probably a good thing my mom doesn't have a roommate right now.

Mom will stay at the rehab place until she's well enough to continue the healing in her own home, hopefully within a few months and after a few modifications to the house. My mom will survive. Gigi's got things to do, places to go, and charitable fundraisers to organize. She wants to be independently mobile again in the worst way possible, and is operating at 120% of her brain capacity. That's why we call her Tenacious G.

Mom's favorite CNA, John, teacher her how to transfer from bed to wheelchair.
 So that's why I wasn't really paying attention when the rest of the world burned up, flooded out and fell apart, but I had some important stuff going on. But I've fund that trying to catch up on all the news that happened during that time is a little overwhelming. Good thing I've got a playlist full of wind, rain, firestorms, broken limbs and speeding cars. And there's even a few filled with North Korean political intrigue, I hope you'll check out the Spotify playlist below. Maybe you've got your own songs about all the crazy events going on in the world these days, and I'll be happy to entertain them in the comments section below. And if you've got a good joke to share, Gigi would still like to hear it, although she has graduated to a bedside commode now with the help of something called a transfer pole. But I like to tell people that my mother is learning how pole dance.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


I've known Caroline since we were both student volunteers at Jefferson Public Radio back in the 80's. While I continued to stay on the radio path, Caroline has gone on to accomplish pretty much everything she's ever set her mind to, which - after a stint working in radio - has included a career as a corporate jet pilot, achieving a masters degree in Business Administration, renovating a house and publishing two children's books while raising a couple of children on her own. In fact she did all that at the same time.

If she sounds familiar to you, it might because I've written about her before. More than once. I think that's because of all the people I know, Caroline is the one who isn't afraid to take the bull by the horns, assess the situation when things aren't going as expected, chart a new course and then set sail, pretty much always ending up at her destination using her own self-propelled steamroller. Goals achieved. So you can see why I have mad respect for this woman (and the parents who raised her, God bless 'em).
Caroline at her previous job. Holding on, and holding her breath.
The only thing is, she forgot to breathe.  Or just never had time. Until now. And now, she has become an expert in just letting go.

For the first time as long as I've known her - for more than thirty years - Caroline is unemployed. And loving it.  Her kids may be loving it even more than she is, because finally, for the first time in their lives, they've got a full time mom. She's there every night to tuck her seven year old daughter into bed and kiss her good night in person. Instead of packing her suitcase every couple of weeks to fly off to Africa or Australia, this mom is packing the car with her son's musical equipment to take him to open mic night to help not only encourage his artistic passion, but to be a part of it.

The whole family gets into the open mic night at Creek Monkey Taphouse.
She's also breathing. Which is a major part of letting go. Or, as Caroline says, "enjoying the ride." And it's not that my friend has stopped setting goals for herself. She's just charted a course that is completely unlike any other journey she's been on in her life, and it's all about healing her Chakra, letting go, stretching her boundaries and her body, and getting her OM on.

The first thing my friend did after ditching the corporate jet pilot gig that left her life "a little bit crazier and more unpredictable every day" was to sign up for Yoga House Co.'s 200 hour Yoga teacher training course in Benicia, CA. She says she did it because she thought it would be a good way to transition from that two decade corporate jet pilot career to her next educational goal, going back to school to get another Master’s degree and a whole new career as a Counseling Psychologist.  "Yep, it’s an odd path for sure," she says, "but going through an intense Yoga training course is the perfect antidote to the stresses of life."

From here on out, I'm just going to let Caroline tell you - in her own words - about the brain and body bending journey that her Yoga teacher training course took her on, and let her introduce today's relaxing yet invigorating playlist that she put together.

"The whole experience turned out to be one of the most beautiful, lovely, and mind expanding things I have ever done for myself.  I formed deep friendships with several of my classmates.  I was able to see life from new perspectives, and practice approaching the ups and downs of life with more ease and equanimity.  And it whipped my physical body into shape. So many gifts have come my way through this training over the past three months! 

One of the parts I enjoyed the most as I was preparing to teach my hour long Vinyasa Yoga class was creating a playlist.  It brought me back to my roots, as a DJ during college at Jefferson Public Radio – spinning New Age hits before and after the Hearts of Space feed on Sunday evenings and as a World Music show host on Fridays.  It’s so interesting how these old skills (and my love for music) came back into use again as I pursue an entirely different direction – 20 years later.  

So, I invite you to take a time out this weekend. Sit back and relax, or get your OM on as you listen to some of my favorite tunes to support a Yoga practice.  Move with the ones that move you, or just sit and chill out to a few of these tunes this weekend.  However you use them, I hope that this music brings you a little bit of peace and happiness.  It probably goes without saying that we could all use more of those two feelings today -- and every day!"

And don't forget to breathe!

Press the play arrow below or click here to access Caroline's Breathe Playlist on Spotify, and let me know what tunes help you relax or heal your mind and body in the comments section below.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Summer Love

Have you ever had one of those moments when you fell in love all over again? Not with your lover (although that did happen to me, and I'm forever grateful that I had the chance to get those butterflies again with the same incredible man), but with your town?

That happened to me recently, and it makes me wonder if I'm the only one, or if any of you have become disenchanted with your community, and then suddenly things clicked into place, and BAM! Butterflies. Ear to ear grin. Total contentment. Pure bliss. I'm in love with Redding, and want to shower its face with kisses.

I find it odd that its the littlest things that can make me fall in - and out - of love with the place I choose to live like the flip of a switch. For me, when the dispatcher who fielded our 911 call asking for help when drug selling squatters took up residence in the house next to mine told me that the police weren't going to come, I fell out of love immediately. The city I loved so much didn't love me back. At least that's what it felt like. The switch in my heart (I'm convinced I have one) flipped off. And it stayed that way for awhile.

And then I had a moment last week that flipped my switch back on. And again, it was just the simplest moment.

It was Thursday. I was floating in my friend Carey's pool while she played bartender, bringing out Moscow Mules with fresh mint and fruit. Her husband grilled up sliders, and we feasted on a refreshing arugula and watermelon salad - my new favorite thing. In fact here's the recipe, courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa:

I digress.

I was surrounded by some of my favorite women; the women that I trust and enjoy. The conversation was delightful and fun. The water was perfect. So perfect.

Then another friend Destiny asked, "Have you heard this?" and played her new favorite song of the summer. And then she played another. And then someone else suggested their new favorite song of summer. Within 30 seconds we were all bopping around like a water aerobics class at the Y. I've never felt more 50 than I just did when I imagined what you must be imagining, but I don't care. You know why? Because I'm in love. And it happened in the blink of an eye. I caught feels for summer. For my friends. For my town. Gave me even more love for my husband, my family and my job. But especially for the place I've called home for the past fifteen years.

I didn't realize it right away. It wasn't until I was on the drive home. I rolled all the windows down to dry my hair,  and I realized that I was smiling so wide my mouth was open, and I was singing at top volume to another new song on the radio - one that JPR is playing every single day - the one that has become my personal favorite hit of the Summer of Seventeen. (It's the 2nd song on today's playlist, "Feel It Still" by a band called Portugal. The Man. More on them and their backstory later, because I have a whole nuther cool story to tell you at a later date that came out of the discovery of this song).

Something happens to me when I'm in love. People know it. I can't hide it, nor do I want to. And since that moment I have woken up earlier in the morning, happy to get up and see what the day is going to bring. I brought my car into the Subaru dealership for an oil change, and made a new friend. A picked up the phone at work twice this week and made new friends. Suddenly I love everyone, and everyone's delightful and pleasant. I even left my phone in the bathroom at Lowe's, didn't realize it until I got to Grocery Outlet, and I made a new friend in the parking lot who let me use her phone to call Lowe's...and I even got my phone back.

Things are just falling into place. And I think it has a lot to do with the love revival I'm experiencing with Redding right now. I think people respond differently to someone who has a genuine smile on their face and is content with themselves and their life, and right now that person is me.

Things are good. Blissful. I feel at peace. And I think it all starts with me and my attitude. And the music of summer. I know I've said this a million times, but music has always transported me. If I'm in a bad mood, a kickass song can give me that attitude adjustment I need so badly. I also mark moments of my life by the music I listen to, and if  you were to look through my iTunes playlists, you'd see "Summer of 2008" "Summer of 2009" and now...Summer of Seventeen. All I need to hear is one snippet of a song from any of those collections, and I immediately know which summer that playlist is from, and I'm taken right back to that moment in time, to what I was wearing, what I was doing, and what I was feeling.

Think on that...the songs that made your summers special. But while you're doing it, hit the play button on the streaming Summer of Seventeen playlist on Spotify, and share your ultimate songs of summer in the comments section below, and the memories they bring back. I know I'm not the only one.