California Life…Meh, Not For Me

Dusty’s off in New Mexico…riding.

I’m here in California…writing.

After our unexpected bypass in Wisconsin, I spent about three weeks back in Kansas with my family. My parents bought a different house than the one I grew up in, but had it been the same house, I surely would have been sleeping in the same bedroom where I tried to hatch chicken eggs from the refrigerator hatchery container, waited until late-night hours to catch ‘the one song’ that I could record onto a tape, and agonized over getting a phone jack so I could have my own cordless phone base. It wasn’t the same house, but it was like taking a quantum walk back in time anyway. Everything slows down back home in Kansas. And it’s nice.

The fridge is always stocked with food, though the prudent person would be wise to open containers before thinking a whole meal could be planned. There’s no guarantee that the contents of any containers promise to be the namesake of the container. In other words, countless Cool Whip containers don’t mean infinite white fluffy goodness and 15 Country Crock containers doesn’t mean my parents have a butter fettish; they mean leftover roast beef, mashed potatoes, broccoli salad, strawberries, or any other edible possibility – or maybe even five mystery containers of the exact same thing. There’s just no safe way to know without opening and inspecting. There were even beers still on the bottom shelf – way in the back – from the Christmas before that Dusty and I had brought. I drank one; I’ll have another one next year.

It was nice to be so close to Sydney and Grandma and Grandpa and so many others, even if most of my time was spent at Mom’s and Dad’s house. When I told Dusty I would text or call when I left Sydney’s house to go back to my parents, I forgot that there’s actually no time to do that in the 90 seconds travel time. The quietness and peace of rural Kansas is unmatchable, although peace also comes knowing you’re welcome somewhere. Even though I could hear Fox News misinforming my dad in the other room, I was still warm and loved and welcomed.

And, oh, my little niece, Diana. While I was there, she was at the tail end of her second year. Still a few days shy of her third birthday, she demonstrated an impressive vocabulary, comprehensive understanding of pretty complex situations, and really refined gross and fine motor skills. Each day she would come upstairs and announce to whomever would listen, “Let’s get playin’.” As they say, when a two-year-old hands you a pretend phone…you answer it.

My mom works her ass off. She’s 72 years old and runs circles around…well…everyone. Not only does she continue to work at the same hospital she’s worked at since graduating nursing school, she is a caregiver for her aging parents who surely wouldn’t live in their own home still if it weren’t for her, she swims three times a week in a town opposite the direction of where she works, drives two hours away for nurse practitioner conferences, makes Sunday dinners for whoever might show up (just like Grandma Mary always did), attends community events, travels when she gets the chance, and gets all competitive in Words With Friends. I think she doesn’t retire yet because in that part of Kansas there can be too much quietness and peace. One can only play so much Words With Friends.

While I was there, I got to do Healing Touch on a few people. It was good to get my hands on some people! I went swimming a few times with Mom and the other swim group ladies from town. And I had plenty of time to write so I never felt behind. I determined that my farming family should look into industrial hemp. The Kansas jury is still out on that.

Then it was time for Dusty and me to plan out our next stop. On to Colorado we went to spend some time with his family and Connor and Westin. This homeless couple went from one family’s house to another family’s house for another few weeks. Dusty’s Aunt Gail and Uncle Dave welcomed us into their home. What I learned is that 10 days is more than enough to prove that sleeping on an air mattress with Dusty is unsustainable.

Onward ho to Duarte, California via Albuquerque, New Mexico. Dusty had an event down there so we stopped off there for a few days before heading to Duarte, where my next nursing contract started in early March. Basically, the whole goal for me while in California is to shed the 15 pounds I gained in Wisconsin, put some color back in my skin after Wisconsin, escape the depressing alcohol-supportive environment in Wisconsin, and enjoy nurse:patient ratios that Wisconsin doesn’t have. Essentially, experience something much, much different than Wisconsin.

The plan is to work in California through June 1. My travel agency found housing, which is two-bedroom apartment in Chino, about 20 miles away. We wanted to bring Floyd, our fifth wheel, because we bought it with a purpose. California makes it extremely difficult to live for extended periods of time in a camper around the more metro areas. Dusty and I were both so disappointed we couldn’t bring Floyd. Anyway, life goes on, and we’ll rekindle the fire between Pink (the diesel pick-up) and Floyd on the next go-round.

The whole area is just jam-packed-together suburbs of L.A. My morning commute takes at minimum 50 minutes. To go 20 miles! On four different freeways. That wouldn’t happen in Kansas! And it’s not quiet or peaceful! The dogs miss having a yard, and I miss having mind space. I really don’t know how people live out here for a lifetime – or why they would choose to for that matter. It is NOT for me. But that’s the beauty of travel nursing. After Dusty left for a Baja trip, I told him I feel more alone out here than anywhere I’ve been when he leaves. Not lonely. Just more alone. With all these people and stores and restaurants and freeways and…. The land of excess! [Insert scream]!

So I know I don’t want to ever live in this part of California. (Welllll….if someone sets me up right on the beach and guarantees I never have to drive anywhere, I might be game.) But while I’m here, I’ll make the best of it. Already, I’ve been out running with Zeppelin quite a few times, although I may have to rethink my route or else some little yappie dog is gonna get kicked. He always comes out and barks at me and then runs after me for a few feet. The other, the little cuss bit me on my left leg. I’d like to think Zeppelin would defend me, but Zeppelin didn’t even bother to notice because he was too busy leading the way out in front. He wasn’t a bit the wiser.

Zeppelin and I hiked up to Potato Mountain the other day. It’s rated as difficult. The terrain was definitely not difficult; it’s a groomed hiking trail all the way. But it’s a pretty steady incline almost the entire way up. Zeppelin drank all my water, but it was worth it. It took us about an hour to hike up and about 35 minutes to run down. Why do they call it Potato Mountain? Heck of I know, and the locals at the top didn’t know either. If you do the hike, you’re supposed to take a potato and add it to the collection on a flat, concrete circular platform at the top. I did not take a potato.

Sadie got into a scuffle with a feral cat that attacked her while she was peeing. The vet had to shave part of her head so they could clean it up. She’s on antibiotics, pain meds, and skin ointment. It’s not been my week to interact with the animal kingdom. Well, other than Zeppelin. He’s working out fine.

So here I sit in Chino, California…writing. Writing papers for my MSN, writing Emergency Nurses Association support referendums for the Colorado State Senate, writing responses to students as I grade online schoolwork. Finally, I carved out some time to write a new blog post as my dogs sit and stare at me with demands of a neighborhood walk and dinner in their eyes.

Dusty’s off riding in New Mexico. He just did a training that was cold and snowy. That’s one trip I’m okay with being absent from. Next up, he’s headed to Baja again, so I’ll meet him somewhere between Chino and San Diego to spend a day or two with him before he leaves again. Once he gets back, he’ll do some more local scouting trips, then be “home” with me for [hopefully] the rest of my assignment here. I sure hope so…having a dogwalker is getting expensive!

I did laundry today in the shared laundry facilities of the apartment complex. I thought Sunday evening would be the best time because families with kids would already have it done and ready for the school week. I was wrong. My washer finished the load, and I went back down to put it in the dryer. There’s an entire bank of dryers along one wall in two rows, and all of them were occupied. But I found one off to the side that looked extra fancy and I thought, “Ha! I walk right in and get to use the fancy one when all the old ones are busy.” I slid my card, picked my cycle, threw in the dryer sheet, and started ‘er up. As I walked away, I heard water loading into the dryer I just put my clean clothes into. Except it’s a front loading, high-efficiency washer. There was only one other lady in there who looked skeptically at me once while I unloaded my clean clothes from one washer and loaded them into another one. She never said a word, so neither did I and walked out of there like I knew exactly what I was doing. I’ll sneak back down when everyone else is in bed to do it the right way.

Where next? I have no idea!

Advertisements