Scene from a California Life

Setting: early one July evening, the patio of my condo.
I’m puttering around in the garden. Upstairs neighbor is grilling on his balcony.

Him (looking down): How was your Fourth?
Me: Great, we went back east for the week, and you?
Him: Oh, the grandkids came in, it was nice.


Me: Check out how my tomatoes are doing! This one’s taller than me!
Him: Are those tomatoes? I thought they were pot plants.
Me: Um…. no.
Him: Well, these are done. Have a great weekend!
Me: You too Bob!


100% true story. Happened to me tonight.

Happy Adobeversary to Me

pic-4 As I sit writing this, the sun has just risen over the jetways of SFO. It’s been 3 days since I was last in this terminal. I’m heading to New York for yet another work event. And today is my fifth anniversary as an Adobe employee.

It’s been a pretty amazing 5 years. When I first joined the company, CS3 had just been launched. The tablet I am writing this blog post on didn’t exist yet. I was rocking a red Blackberry Curve for a phone and thought it was the best thing ever. (And actually it was pretty good. I can’t count how many times I dropped that thing and it just kept on working.)

Adobe’s business has changed pretty dramatically since then. There’ve been some days when I couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to get paid to do what I do, and some days when I wondered what the hell I was doing.

Throughout all the changes, and the highs and lows along the way, one constant has been the amazing people and customers I’ve had the pleasure and honor of working with. A smarter, more caring, and more dedicated group would be hard to find.

What the next five years will bring, who knows? One thing I do know is that I’m looking forward to the ride.

DIY Planter Box

Planter box

More plants in the garden! This was originally a fancy gift box for wine, now it’s a planter holding Spanish lavender. Converting it was really easy. Take off the top, drill some drainage holes in the bottom, fill with dirt, and you’re good to go.

Great Is The Truth

I’ve written on this blog before about how much Johannes Somary meant to me growing up. It’s hard to put words to how strongly I felt about the New York Times piece today calling him a serial sexual predator.

As much as I hate to say it, I don’t doubt the article’s truth. I remember the occasional whispers that “Johannes had a bit of a thing for boys”. I’m ashamed to say that I never took them seriously. His wife was right there by his side every day. His kids were our classmates. The cycle of classes and rehearsals rolled on. Everything seemed so normal. The idea that beneath the surface was something else entirely didn’t fit into reality as I knew it, and it certainly never crossed my mind that anybody was being raped.

How could it? We were just kids, in a time when nobody was talking about things like sexual abuse or inappropriate touching. It wasn’t a part of that reality to think that it could be true.

I can hardly wrap my head around the idea that two very different realities existed side by side – the black and the white of one person’s life. Does knowing more about the dark side of a man erase the good he did? Should I throw all out the recordings I own that he conducted? The music is still as glorious now as it was yesterday. It’s just my perception that has changed.

The hell of it is, that both are true. The beauty and the despicable acts both came from the same person. I got a great education from the same institution that was blind to or possibly even condoned despicable behavior. That complexity is what makes it so hard to understand or explain. Another HM-er described his experiences like this:

[The teacher] signed my yearbook as “Your teacher, advisor and friend.” He was all of those things. He just took advantage of the relationship.

I feel great sadness that so many people were hurt who didn’t have to be. I feel ashamed that none of us ever said anything, never questioned whether the status quo was right. Never helped the ones who were being hurt.

Horace Mann’s motto is: “Great is the truth and it prevails”. This is a time to let that truth, however painful, prevail.


Driving home tonight, the first track from “Israel in Egypt” came up on the iPod. I’ve loved that piece ever since I sang it, in my first year of Glee Club.

But tonight I flashed on Johannes conducting that concert, and instead of it being a happy memory, I felt revolted. Ill. Angry.

Pretty much every piece of choral music that I love, I learned in his choir. And I feel sick thinking about any of them now.

I’m so angry. Why did nobody do anything? Why did the adults who were there to protect students instead chose to protect the abuser and the institution, even when presented with a direct accusation that a child had been raped? Where were they?

Make Our Garden Grow

Growing up in New York, my main exposure to gardening was being told to weed the back driveway at Grandma’s place (and the above from Candide, but that got me hooked on Bernstein instead). As you might expect, the weeding didn’t do much to hook me. I did like Grandma’s rose bushes, but then one year they pulled them all out to plant tomatoes instead, and I pretty much lost interest in the whole thing.

Fast forward past years of apartment living in various rentals, and I’m finally in a place of my own with an actual patio. And finally I’m starting to understand why my grandparents (and now my parents) spent so many hours out in the garden.

It’s fun!

Best thing about having a patio instead of a backyard is that you get the fun parts of gardening — choosing and nurturing pretty and/or tasty plants — without the weeding and lawn care that I still find utterly uninteresting.

Since I’ve never done any of this before, this year is pretty much one big experiment. So far we’ve planted four different herbs, two kinds of impatients, three tomato plants, and some Spanish lavender. We don’t get full sun all day on the patio, so whether we actually get enough direct sunlight to keep them all thriving I don’t know yet. Everything seems to be growing and thriving so far – we even have 5 or 6 green tomatoes forming on the vine – but I’m not going to call this year a success unless we actually harvest some tomatoes and the rest of the plants stay alive.

Four scraggly pink rose bushes also came with the place. I’ve still got a lot to learn about caring for them, but they’re blooming like crazy right now, and I just LOVE being able to pick my own roses and put them into a vase at my table.

Roses in bloom

I guess it really is different when you own a place.