Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

Like the daffodils forging upwards in my front yard, I'm a little confused by our recent spring-like weather.

About 10 years ago, I jumped in my car on the 2nd of January when it was foggy and 34 degrees in Grants Pass and drove through the canyon to find it sunny and 64 degrees on the coast. That's when I discovered the best-kept secret about this special corner of the world: Some of the finest weather comes when you least expect it.

Mother Nature is being particularly generous right now, stringing a dozen or more sunny days in a row.

The weather has brought an onslaught of tourists, escapees from the fog and cold in valley. Unexpectedly, we found ourselves waiting in line for a table at Fisherman's Restaurant on Sunday afternoon while dozens of boomer-aged motorcycle riders from out of town ate fish and chips in their leathers.

Later we saw more vehicles and people along Pebble Beach Drive than

we've ever encountered. Cars were parked every which way along the

narrow road. Monday, Rick took the dogs for a run up on the bluffs at

Pt. St. George because "there was no room on the beach for us."

I've spent most of these postcard-perfect days in my windowless office

staring at numbers on my computer screen with the concentration of a

fortuneteller gazing into her crystal ball. I've been conjuring up my

2009 budget.

The numbers on the screen remind me that these are extremely

challenging times. There is no such thing as "business as usual" in

this economy. As the budget evolved it became crystal clear that we

would have to be very frugal and disciplined this year.

After weeks of scrunching numbers, the budget deadline of noon Monday

finally came. With the budget completed, I felt liberated. No longer

tethered to my desk with financial statements, spreadsheets and a

calculator, I was able to move around and shake off the tightness in my

neck. It took a while to get through the stacks on my desk and tidy up

a little as I prepared to take Tuesday off.

Driving home from work, I noticed a sight just as unusual as daffodils

threatening to bloom in January: Christmas wreaths attached to the lamp

posts lining our downtown streets, their little white lights shining

brightly on the 19th of January. I followed the glow of the wreaths on

H Street toward home and wondered if the added expense for post-holiday

electricity was in our city's budget.

And while we're talking about government budgets, let me tell you the

one that's really got me concerned: the state of California's budget,

or lack of one.

Will Sacramento get away with doling out IOUs for state income tax

refunds? I wonder. The only way it could work for me would be if the

IOUs could be used like script. Then come May when my car registration

is due, I'd take my tax refund IOU down to the DMV and trade it in for

my tags.

If my refund is large enough I'd be able to upgrade to a designer whale tail license plate - that's never been in my budget.