Shall We Eat The Pie First?

Last month I was wandering around Costco and they were giving out samples of pumpkin pie. Costco makes great pumpkin pie. Even better than the one I make from the back of the can of Libby’s organic pumpkin.

It’s sweet. Yet not too sweet. The crust is crisp and completely edible. It’s big like all things Costco.

They bake it around October 1. There’s a plan for this pie. It announces the arrival of fall. The smell of cinnamon and cloves, nutmeg and ginger. Preparing us to launch into the holiday season with gusto.

All this arrives at just the right time. Some say too early but I’m always ready for each new season. Spring arrives just when I’m done with winter and fall comes at the end of the stifling, dry summer. Being impatient for the seasons doesn’t help. Just live each day and at some point you notice the sun’s in a new position. The mornings have changed as have the nights. The earth is wandering around it’s axis and we just have to hang on and at some point we’ll be in a new season with all it offers.

At some point I started preparing the Thanksgiving feast. After 50 years of cooking this funny, convaluted meal, mom was done. Tired of it all.

For many years everyone came to my little condo in San Jose. We’d spread the tables out around the condo and in addition to our family, invite anyone without a place to go.

Once I got my Nan Nan’s American Haviland china, I used it. No paper plates. Crystal goblets, sterling silver, and china that needs hand washing. There is a sweet gold trim around the delicate plates.china

Our home cooked meal is always the same. Turkey. Stuffing in the bird. Mashed potatoes and “Greg-special-made” turkey gravy. String beans. Green salad and little brown onions. When we moved to Reno we started a new tradition and added Southern Caviar, the gourmet name for homemade pimento cheese.

So as I was chomping on the pie at Costco and realizing how fast the year has gone, I saw the frozen turkeys and the huge case of hams. Costco’s ready. Are you?

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Ramblings on a Reno Weekend


With one hour until my volunteer shift at the Nevada Museum of Art, I walked east on Second Street toward Virginia Avenue. It was a warm, summery-autumn day when suddenly I was surrounded by the loud rumbling of motorcycles with black-leather clad drivers.

I unknowingly stumbled onto the famous, annual Street Vibrations event.

What a crazy-fest when more than 50,000 motorcycle riding aficionados take over downtown Reno with their culture of dress, language, traditions, and camaraderie.

Much to my chagrin I missed Erik “Ponch” Estrada who was performing on a main stage after the International Bikini Team.

Maybe next year.


The next morning I got up and headed over to my friend Dianne’s house. We were attending the Anne Brigman Symposium at the Nevada Museum of Art.

Anne Brigman was a woman poet and photographer who defied the current standards of photography of the early 20th century by photographing herself and other women nude in Sierra Nevada. Her beautiful and at times disturbing images were the beginning of what some call feminist photographic art.

I drove up and expected Dianne to be out front. Nothing. So I put the car in park and ran up to the door and knocked. Looking at my watch it was 7:50 right on the dot.

The door slowly opened. Her husband David stood there.

“Hey David, how are you?” I inquired happily.

He sheepishly said, “I think you two have your times crossed. She’s still getting….”

“Huh?” I looked at my watch again it now said 7:52 a.m.

“7:52 oh crap. I’m so sorry,” I said backing away from the door. “My fault. I’ll be back at 8:50” 

In my excitement about our day I was an hour early.


And finally to end the weekend, I drove to Truckee to help out the Community Theater with their 10-Minute Play festival. On my drive west I passed four Harris Ranch livestock trucks going east on Highway 80.

The past suddenly became the present as I watched these big rigs, all in a row, going to pick up their cattle.


Milton serving lunch to his crew.

I pay attention to all livestock trucks. They remind me of my dad. For many years he had his own trucks. They’d travel across the west picking up and delivering cattle to ranches near and far. At some point he sold the trucks and instead contracted with various livestock trucking companies: Machado Trucking, Livestock Haulers, LW Miller, Philip Sims, names unfamiliar to most yet so vital to the cattle business with their specialized skill in transporting livestock.

So as those big cattle rigs headed east, I was flooded with memories of early morning cattle drives and loading up trucks. The sound of hooves on the metal decks. And watching those huge vehicles maneuver down narrow, curvy dirt, ranch roads with their special, expensive cargo.

It’s like that in Reno.

I never saw a Harris Ranch cattle rig the entire twenty years I lived in San Jose. But on the last weekend in September I can pass four of them in a row, attend a motorcycle street festival and an art symposium on a brave 20th century woman photographer defying the norms in Sierra Nevada — and it all makes perfect sense.

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The Quitting That Changed Everything

January 5, 2015 I quit my corporate job.

It was one of the most easy and clear decisions I’ve ever made. Although sadly, I quit because it was time to go home and help my mom and sister care for my papa.

I never planned on working in corporate America. Coming from a family of immigrant, entrepreneur ranchers and livestock gamblers, working in a structured environment was strange. But between education, life choices, and roads less taken, in 1995 I landed in Portland Oregon, working at Intel Corporation. 

Melanie_Feb 6 2012

Me and my Corporate cube

I took the job, which paid me half of what I was making in advertising sales, because I wanted learn how to use a computer. I lacked a working knowledge of anything other than an IBM computer with the clicky keys and floppy discs you put into the machine to make it run.

Intel taught me how to be a corporate person. It was a brutal education, yet to this day everything I know about project planning, how to deal with company politics, management, coaching, and human resources I learned by working in the 90,000 person corporate beast.

There were 3 other companies and 25 years of high tech drama prior to quitting. Yet what do you do when you don’t know what else to do? So I stayed until something so horrible and yet so instrumental changed my life.

But here’s the thing I’m pondering.. Does change only happen when you are against a wall? When life is so tough or difficult you have no other choice? Or when the future is so clear you must move or get out of the way?

It’s a little theory I’m working on now that my friends are approaching the age and stage of what’s-next in life. Is it more of the same? Or is it about looking around and seeing what you can offer the world? And, if that’s the case, how do you offer the world something different when you are so involved in the work you do each day?

Can you change when everything holds you in place?


Some call this phase retirement. I call it doing-what-you-want-when-you-want. For some that means giving back, more volunteering, or a teaching gig. For others it’s starting on a new career as a writer, artists, or athlete. Or maybe this phase is about caring for others. Traveling the world.

I wouldn’t be here, doing this version of life had I not quit my job and my father, my beloved father, not passed away.

So change can happen with sadness or planning. But the real reality is change is constant. It happens around us. To us. In spite of us. It’s best to live the mantra of “embrace change and live each moment.” Start now. Right now.


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