Friday, March 25, 2011


I keep finding random pictures to fill in the gaps.

Kitty wasn't exactly neglected during B.C.'s illness, but she didn't get much attention, either, and she's never been demanding... until now. Seems she was always sort of standoffish because she didn't want to draw his attention to herself; he could be a bully, and he harassed her a lot. Now that he's gone she's extremely vocal, much more content and active, but still fairly crotchety. Brent calls her the Mouthy Broad. I'm just trying not to love her fur off while she's here.

I took her to the vet for a once-over since she hadn't been in forever, and at nearly 12 she's in very good shape. Great teeth, extreme groomer, eyes and ears and paws intact. We did a blood draw just to see what "normal" is for her, however, and the news came back: early onset renal failure. Apparently her kidneys have been failing very slowly for quite a while, but her body is adapting and her urine is concentrating normally. So there's no reason she shouldn't be around for quite some time, unless things suddenly pick up the pace... powdered phosphorous binders twice a day and lots of clean, fresh water, and she'll be comfortable and active for the long haul. She shows absolutely no signs of decline.

Rainy sunset, flight into Ontario, CA, August.

Neighborhood trees, October. I worried that Sacramento wouldn't be very interesting during my favorite season, fall, but I worried for nothing. I can't believe the area doesn't get more press for fall foliage... it's absolutely gorgeous, pulls out all the stops. We have a lot of hardwoods like maple, elm, and oak, and lots of flowering, fruit-bearing, flourishing trees. We had every color of the autumn rainbow, from deep reds and browns to bright yellow, and coupled with evergreens like Redwoods and our date palms and certain leafy trees that are apparently not deciduous, the place was a riot of color. So gratifying.

Auburn, CA, on a technical assistance visit to a small water system in October.

East Sacramento's East Portal Park, October afternoon.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


In November I had workshops "down south" and fell in love with a little town called Morro Bay. Just north of San Luis Obispo, which has the highest quality of life in the U.S. (according to numerous studies I'm too lazy to look up right now), Morro Bay boasts an amazing estuary and wildlife preserve, a great little marina, a surprisingly appealing power plant just on the water, and a giant volcanic cone at the mouth of the bay called Morro Rock (which is also a bird preserve of some kind). An amazing place in so many ways, peaceful and outdoorsy, with sea shell shops and great Thai food. While I worried about Brent and Big Cat back home, I hung out in Cayucos and had a fried squid sandwich at The Sea Shanty.

Morro Rock

Tall Ship

Bikes at the Inn at Morro Bay

Hats on the ceiling at The Sea Shanty in Cayucos

Morro Bay Estuary

Near Paso Robles, just off the highway

Almost to I-5, abandoned tanks and grain repository


We accomplished something from my bucket list in October when we conquered the largest corn maze in the world. At night. In three hours.

Brent with the map.

It really was this scary... not to mention the inebriated teenagers crashing through the walls of corn.


I'm going to find some second-hand pink flamingos at Goodwill and make these. LOVE.

The Missing Months

September and October were our last months with Suitcase. Had I known we were going to lose the big guy, I might have spent more time with him, taken more pictures. As it is I have a lot of pictures over his lifetime... a few videos, recordings of his purring, a tuft of his amazing soft fur... and a lovely box of cat ashes boxed up by Sacramento Animal Hospital, our heroes. The whole ordeal really shook me throughout October and November, and I have very little memory of August and September as a result, and not many photos to piece them together. I'm working on it.

Despite everything, in October we snuck off to Santa Rosa to check out the filming location of Alfred Hitchcock's excellent Shadow of a Doubt. We did locate the house, the depot, and the court house, but the rest of the town was unrecognizable. As Brent put it, "What they've done to this town is a step back." The city center has been built up with ugly modern malls and storefronts, and otherwise the town looks like any other in the region, sort of generic. Disappointing, since the town we saw in the film was gorgeous... but we did find a costume shop where we bought the most amazing giant horse head mask for Morgan's "7 Deadly Sins" costume for a Jaycees event we attended when I zipped home to Wyoming the end of the month for our annual Halloween party. Pictures of that to follow.


Posing behind our orange couch, just before the end. He's nearly half his normal weight.

I took this in my travels (somewhere around Valley Springs) and tagged Cordale when I posted it on Facebook.

Morgan got tagged, too.

Historic Santa Rosa estate, being painstakingly refurbished by the City.

Santa Rosa depot where a scene from Shadow of a Doubt was filmed.

The house from the same movie.

Cyclisk, an obelisk made of bicycle parts.

Santa Rosa court house.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What's Not in a Name

My name is Adriane Skinner. That's it. I have no middle name. My grandfather told my mother it was a waste of ink (despite having given my father his own forename, Bartley, as a middle name), and it was apparently hard enough to come up with one name Mom and Dad agreed upon (or two, since they had to come up with Morgan first). This has never been a problem... until now.

I recently received a letter from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, which oversees drinking water operator certification in the state of Wyoming, where I am certified at the Treatment III and Water Systems I levels (the system is different in California, where I am a Treatment III, Distribution II). The letter stated that they had recently renewed my Water Systems I certification using qualifying training hours I had on record, which is fine. But there was more.

They're restructuring their database to match operators' records with their middle name or initial and birthdate, instead of the last 6 digits of our social security numbers, which was the old method (to which a lot of people rightly objected). The DEQ wrote to tell me that they are unable to print a copy of my renewed certification because they are "missing a vital piece of information." Seriously, it's that serious. The letter was addressed to "Adriane x Skinner", probably to illustrate the point.

I rarely meet another person without a middle name, apart from my older sister Morgan, who also got shafted. I even know people who have two middle names or more. Having a middle name is like having a secret, a special, hidden code name (not unlike that of a Jellicle Cat) that only certain people in your inner circle -- and some admin specialists at your doctor's office and probably your accountant -- are privy to. You might be years into a friendship before, during idle conversation, it occurs to you to ask your friend's middle name or share your own. Learning someone's middle name can be such a fun surprise (and also a new source of torment to capitalize on).

Not having a middle name is a secret of its own kind, but it's a secret shame. Like an appellatory handicap, a dearth of separate syllables stunts my signature and truncates my monogram. People occasionally react to this revelation with oddly exaggerated shock, which is why I grew up thinking it must be either a major faux pas or just really unusual. I also suspect it took some of the steam out of Grandma's disciplinary tactics when I was small... using a child's full, triple name is a sure way to let them know you mean business, am I right? Anyway, the fact that I have no middle name used to be one of the most interesting things about me. (I later became a much more interesting person.) Not a problem, until now.

As I was responding to the letter (requesting that they just use the letter "X" like a clerk at Blockbuster once inadvertently did when their system wouldn't take no for an answer, either), it occurred to me, and not for the first time, that when Brent and I get married, I can't just back Skinner up one slot and create myself a middle name I'd be glad to hang on to (I'm the last of the Skinner line in name, since Dad was Grandpa's only child), finally have a complete set of letters. Why not? Brent's last name is Shepherd. You do the monogramic math. So I will just be plain Adriane Shepherd, which, I just realized, will take decades to get used to.

If you have a middle name, treasure it. Keep it a secret and only share it with those who love you the most. It's your superpower, the one thing that, on a luggage tag or credit report, might distinguish you from the hundred or two other people who share your particular combination of forename and surname. And if you, like me, don't have a middle name at all, why then... let's start a club. We're special too.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Jump Start

I was just sitting on the couch watching Brent doze across the room in his chair while trying to read a book about Billy Wilder, and it occurred to me that I should be blogging. I don't know where the last four months went. That's not true; they went down the road. I'm sitting instead of cleaning the kitchen or pinning quilt blocks or doing something else useful because I needed some time on the hot pad... all those miles slouching in the driver's seat of my car have herniated a disc that's pinching my sciatic nerve, and on a scale of 1 to 10 this pain ranges between a 4 and a 7, and I have a high tolerance to pain. The proof:

That's right. 50,000 big ones. I can't even remember how many miles we had when we got here; I only know that 77 nights in hotel rooms later and many, many days on California roads and this is the state we're in. Ha!

I'd be lying if I said I've been too busy to blog, although I have been busy. I've had plenty of free time, but it's usually in the evenings (read: 1 a.m.) and we've been watching a lot of movies (I knew I was moving in with a film nut, but damn) and old episodes of 30 Rock and Arrested Development. It's how we unwind, and it's been fun. Neither of us has taken much time for creative pursuits while we settled into life together (Brent blogged about Bullitt, I tie-dyed a T-shirt and learned to cook), and maybe we've developed some bad habits. But as lazy as we are, we've also done some pretty awesome stuff.

Besides, all the weekday travel is exhausting, and it doesn't leave me a lot of motivation to be very mobile or productive in the evenings and on weekends. For instance:

The Eel River, Hwy 101.

What's so special about these trees?


They're 500-1,000 years old, and some are over 300 feet tall.

That's right, I finally got to see the Redwoods.

They're unbelievable.

The forest feels magical.

These aren't even the big ones.

Okay, this one is pretty big.

Eel River.

Willits, home of the Skunk Train! Hwy 101, CA.

And this was just one trip last year. I've got folders full of pictures of hamlets and bays and barns and fields, orchards, rivers, strange buildings, dirty city streets, clean city parks, wharfs, warehouses, tanks, factories, you name it. My writing is rusty, accustomed as I am to speaking out loud now... and speaking in front of groups takes a while to get the knack of. I'm good at it, and I'm enjoying it. But things may not be staying the same.

I'm really enjoying my job. It took a while to figure out what was going on, and I know in a year I'll be even better at it. I've helped a lot of people and spread a lot of knowledge and learned more than I ever thought possible. I've met some truly stellar people and not a single really bad person and many wonderful people who are right in between.

The next few months will tell, however, whether or not I get to keep doing this. Funding for our function is being cut at the Federal and State levels, and the company's future is uncertain. Will I regret having to shift back into operator mode if I have to? No. Knowing what I know now I have more incentive than ever to strap on the steel toes and pick up a wrench, and opportunities are out there. Time will tell.

In the meantime we're just enjoying life, trying to be grateful every day that we're finally together. We're getting along incredibly well... everybody says the first year's the hardest, and if that's the case, the rest of our life together should be a breeze, because it's been truly easy and lovely, a relief and a joy. Even the cat would agree, if her constant chatter made any sense. We sleep three across on a queen-size bed.

I'm organizing photo folders and will post more here. Happy and eventful and grateful as it is, my life doesn't feel complete until it's blogged.