From the home office in Oakley

June 26, 2001

Some things never change, and for as long as we have lived in Oakley the one constant has been the spare bedroom that has invariably been a repository for unfulfilled dreams. It started out as a den where we hooked up one of the old computers and occasionally used it as a guest bedroom. Eventually it became the resting place for empty boxes and extra appliances that had outlived their usefulness. During our brief foray into picture framing the room became a workshop of sorts where we carved up mat board and made our artistic creations. When our interests turned to railroading, the room was renamed the "Train Room" and for almost three years was inhabited by model railroad layouts and equipment.

But lately the room had fallen into disuse, returning to its former life as a dumping ground for household junk. Now it has come full circle, being reincarnated as an office for Roni, a writing sanctuary for Glenn and a new sleeping spot for our cat, Ariel. The conversion took about a week of throwing away stuff and rearranging storage boxes for the items we wanted to keep. Gone are the rickety train tables and in their place are two of our trusty old computer desks, a photocopier and some filing cabinets. A third-string computer (on which we are composing this month's missive) serves as the brain of the writing sanctuary. It isn't much good for playing the latest video games, surfing the Web or doing intense graphics work, but for composing prose it is just perfect. And the ability to close the door and shut out the rest of the household noise is priceless. We expect to spend many hours in this place.

Another advantage of the new home office is its location on the north side of the house, away from the intense glare of the summer afternoon sun. Heat has been a factor of late, particularly in power-starved California, as we changed seasons and got caught up in a high pressure system that raised our local temperatures above the century mark for several days running. It is on these 104-degree days that we are thankful for the air conditioning that came with our new cars. It is also when we are most thankful that we live within PG&E's sacred Block 50 that is exempt from the rolling blackouts that everyone else keeps fretting over. We haven't had many Stage 3 power alerts in the last three months, fortunately, but we are still very concerned with energy conservation and the ever-present threat of higher electricity bills. Curiously, our bills this spring were actually lower than last year at the same time, and that is including the 40 percent fee increase PG&E won a couple of months ago.

All this heat hasn't been good for our garden, which has been suffering from poor water circulation and neglect on our parts. We did manage to get a good strawberry crop this year, but our cherries and vine berries didn't fare well. It looks like our grape crop will be down this year as well. Our back lawn is also struggling as it nears its fourth anniversary. We spent part of June 24 trying to figure out sprinkler problems and unearthing edging bricks that had become buried under sand and grass. Now we have to find a way to kill off the weeds without killing the lawn they are infesting.

June has been an exciting month for Ben. He graduated from first grade last week and began a three-week vacation. We joined him June 20 for Family Day at his school where we had a barbecue lunch. He had hoped that he would lose his third loose tooth before the end of school, but that had to wait until the 24th. As soon as it popped out of his mouth he was popping it into an envelope to deliver to the tooth fairy. He was rewarded the next morning with a couple of golden dollar coins under his pillow. Ben has also decided that he wants his own pet, which will probably take the form of a kitten that a friend of his has waiting once it is old enough to leave its mother. We don't know how Ariel feels about this idea, but hopefully she will get used to it soon.

Glenn's employer is in the thick of its voluntary buyout and early retirement program. So far there have been several announcements of people who will be departing as the newspaper works to cut 87 positions by July 20. Most of the announcements to date have been expected as oldtimers take advantage of some pretty enticing incentives to leave. The big shock for many will come around July 12 when we hear who wants to leave voluntarily and who the company will allow to leave. Employees have until July 5 to turn in their voluntary buyout forms, then seven days to change their minds before the decision becomes official. Until all the forms are in for a specific department no decisions will be made, according to the personnel gurus.

Naturally, you are wondering about now whether Glenn intends to stay with the company or take his chances on the buyout. The answer is that Glenn doesn't know yet, nor will he likely make up his mind until July 5. It is a tough decision, and one that is being repeated by nearly 1,000 of his coworkers. Needless to say, staff morale is not at an all-time high.

We close this month with a look at the Gehlke family's latest interest, NASCAR racing. With the Winston Cup series visiting Sonoma over the weekend there were several local appearances by the various racing teams throughout the area. Last week we got to see both Kyle Petty's Sprint car and Jeff Gordon's DuPont car on display in Antioch and Brentwood, respectively. The drivers weren't there, unfortunately, but it was our first look at the cars up close. We have been taping the races each week and usually wind up watching the last few laps together. Roni is a Jeff Gordon fan, while Ben is partial to Mike Skinner. Glenn will root for Gordon, Tony Stewart or Dale Jarrett, whoever happens to be nearest to the front of the pack at the end of the race. We had hoped to work up Ben's interest in the sport so we could all head over to Sonoma for the Dodge/SaveMart 350, but Ben is still a little unsure of the noise level. We'll have to work on that over the next year, then hopefully we can make it out to Sonoma in 2002.

Glenn, Roni and Benji

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