Daily Affirmation

The best things in life are free.
The second best are very expensive.
- Coco Chanel

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Bunnies Are Multiplying

Here Comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail

Hippity hoppity, Easter's on it's way!

Bringing every girl and boy

Baskets full of Easter joy

Hippity hoppity

Happy Easter Day!

I needed a little break from work and the computer, so I put together my Easter table.  It looks fresh and cheers me when I walk into the room.  I especially love the bunny on the shelf who is wearing bunny slippers (did you notice them?)  And the Easter basket pictured was my mother's when she was a child, and then it was mine, and then it was Katie's.  When Katie moved to Puerto Rico she left it with me, and I need to get it to back to her so one of her little girls can love it as much as I did.  It even has the original grass in it - good, thick paper grass.  Not the shiny plastic kind.
I feel lucky this year to be enjoying good health for myself, and good health for my family.  At this time, we're all doing pretty well *knocking wood*  And I am so, so grateful.  My parents are still active and vital, and my brothers and their families are happy and well.  I'm feeling especially fortunate because I read a couple of blogs tonight written by people I consider friends - even though I've never met them.  One lost her husband yesterday to a long illness.  Another is having a mastectomy tomorrow.  Both are facing these challenges with grace and courage.  I am learning many good lessons from them - although I'm sure they'd rather not be teaching them.
So tonight I am thankful for blessings big and small.  For faith.  For prayers.  For health.  For family and friends.  Friends I've met, and friend's I've only "read."  I thank you for the laughs, the hilarity, and even for sharing the tears.  My life is all the more rich for knowing you.  Thank you for being part of my life, and letting me be even a small part of yours.  

Monday, March 26, 2012

We Are Quiet Old Geezers

Quiet weekend around here.  We were prepared for rain - or at least clouds on Saturday, but it turned out to be a fairly nice day.  So what better to do on a nice day than to load the bikes up for a ride?  We hadn't been out on them for over a month, so we wisely decided to take it a little easy.  Turns out that yoga has kept me in better shape than I thought.  L had very sore legs that night, but me?  Not a bit!  Hah!  We ended up riding about 8 1/2 miles, but that was enough.  If you haven't been on a bike for awhile, it takes a little while to work up to more saddle time.  Our behinds were more than ready to hop off the seat after just that meager distance, but we'll do better next time!  Plus, I've been conferring with my niece in Utah, who is really into mountain biking, and she has introduced me to the lovely world of padded pants and comfy-er seats.  But since one pair of pants is about $99, I'm still saving my money.  But soon.  Very soon.
On Sunday the clouds had rolled in by noon, and rain was imminent.  After church we drove around delivering money for Scout-a Rama tickets (gotta support the boys!), delivering cases of powdered milk from the latest cannery project, and then, since we were in the neighborhood, we stopped in at L's parents for a quick visit.  By this time I'm dying to shed the church clothes: skirt, tights, boots, and Spanx.  Sometimes pudge just has to be free, and have some down time in yoga pants and sweatshirt.  And at last, that's what I did.  Ahhhh... freedom!

This is rain in Puerto Rico, but this is how it was raining in So Cal on Sunday night!

And down came the rain.  First in a steady shower, and by 6:00 it was a raging downpour.  I love to hear heavy rain on the roof.  I love to hear it pounding in the street, while the wind blows the trees and leaves.  It was good to be inside our cozy house listening to it, heat on, while watching "Once Upon A Time."  (Is anyone else hooked on that show?  So good...)
At 10:30 or so, there was a little thunder and lightning.  Nothing too exciting, but noteworthy because in my neck of the woods we get precious little of that.  I remember being a kid on vacation with my family in Utah, and having a summer storm hit there.  Now THERE they have amazing displays of lightning that lights up the whole sky, and thunder that shakes the windows.  I love it.  I even love it when the power goes out, unless I need to blow dry my hair.
At last, we turned out the lights, curled up, and L was soon fast asleep.  I lay awake listening to the rain coming down outside.  And then all of a sudden it came down harder than I've ever heard rain come down before.  It was glorious!  And L slept through it all, softly snoring.  As it wound down again, I soon fell asleep myself.

So you can see that most weekends - heck, most WEEKS - are very very business as usual around here. We'd planned to go see "The Hunger Games" but when we thought about the lines, and the hordes of people we decided to wait another week.  We're a little dull like that.  Since the kids have grown up and moved on, we've become very complacent with our quiet solitude.  It's funny how kids shake things up so much.  Sometimes I miss the hubbub and excitement.  They were the best of times.  But nowadays, I wake up and go to sleep with my best friend.  Life has a certain order, it is (mostly) calm, and there is time to take care of myself like I couldn't do when I had small children.  (Good thing too because I'm getting old... OLD!)
And then, one day, we look at each other and decide that we've had enough of our quiet time, and we hop a plane to see the grandkids.

Because every now and then you need sweet, sticky kisses

and someone to help you hunt for treasures.

It keeps you young to get down on the floor and play

or go outside and blow crazy amounts of bubbles.

Every so often in the winter, Mema wants to play in the snow with someone special

or stir up a pan of brownies with an assistant chef.

Papa gets a hankering to build a grand sandcastle with the kind of small helper 
who brings her own tools.

And who can resist this sweet little treat?  I am in withdrawals as we speak...

Yes, our quiet life is good.  To a point.  And then I start to daydream about birthday parties, silly songs, building forts, and reading bedtime stories.  I'm convinced it's good for the heart.  I know it's good for the soul.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Around The Corner...Spring!

We had rain, rain, rain all weekend.  If it wasn't raining, a very cold wind was blowing.  At times, both were happening.  Meanwhile in Massachusetts, and elsewhere about the country, the weather was glorious, in the 70s.  Spring bulbs were blooming and it was a visual display of Easter just around the corner.

This morning I woke up to blue skies and sunshine.  It reminded me of how good life is.  Sometimes I get caught up in the bad news, the high gas prices, life struggles going on within and without the family, and my own trivial worries.

I forget - momentarily - that good news and bad news come and go.  A steady diet of either wouldn't be good.  Too much bad and we become beaten.  We lose hope and do stupid, hopeless things.  We lose our joie de vive, and our ultimate goal focus.  Likewise, a constant diet of happy, good, easy news isn't always good.  We become complacent and lazy.

Our survival tools become blunted and dull.  We forget how to solve problems, and/or look to everyone else to solve them.  Much as I hate to admit it, an ebb and flow between the two is probably best for our learning, strength building, and growth.  Not that we have much control over the darn thing.  It's a constant struggle to find the balance.

The lucky thing is that our own individual ebb and flow varies from others around us.  It's lucky because it gives us the chance to help a friend or family member who is struggling when we're riding high.

  And when we hit our low point, there are so many outstretched hands, and ready hugs.  It's inspirational no matter what point in the ebb and flow you're in.  The hard part is remembering to look around you to take notice of who could benefit from a little dose of you.

Or, if you're struggling in the shadows, remembering to look around for that friendly face and ready hug.  That someone who would love to help you or be your friend.

And it's interesting how, so much of the time, it isn't the person you'd expect.  But that is one of the many, many things that keep life interesting and rich.

You never know when there will be a treasure waiting in the next moment, the next life drama.

That shiny gold thread woven into your tapestry.  It's exciting when you stop to think about it.

When I look back on my life, and see the multiple missed opportunities, bad judgements, and times when I've just plain old screwed up, it makes me really sad.  Discouraged.  Despondent. But I know that we are not to wallow in self loathing, and self pity.  It's toxic.  I've had the thought that, with most of us, the worst mistakes we make stem from a common character flaw.  With me, it's fear.  Fear of what people think, fear that I'm not good enough, fear to try because I might appear stupid.  Fear.  Of many things.  For others, it could be something else.  We all have our demons.  And that's the thing I've realized that has helped me: we all have our demons.   No one is exempt - even those who always seem so together and complete.  So I try to cast my fear aside, and become fearless.  It doesn't always work.  But more often than not, it does.

When I struggle, I try to remember that so does everyone else.  And for some reason, that imperfect human factor makes me a little less afraid to reach out to others, or to ask for help myself.  We are all touched by sadness, by inadequacies in one category or another, by imperfection.  But as long as we keep trying,

 keep picking ourselves up and trying again, those imperfections don't get the best of us.

Oh, and by the way, it's good to help your friends and family dust off when they've taken a header.  There's nothing worse than slipping on that banana peel and completely biting it, and then watching everyone pretend that they didn't see.

For heaven's sake, help them up and at least share a laugh (or a cry) over a Diet Coke.  That is being a friend.  Taking that fear of falling away and showing that life goes on, life will get better.  The booboo can heal, and we can fly again.

And that's what Spring in all of it's glory reminds me of.  That ability we've been given to have many many chances to make good and do better.  Once fallen, not always in a messy heap on the ground.  We can rise up and learn from mistakes.

Even bad ones.  We can learn, we can grow, we can change for the better.  I love that.  It fills me with hope and happiness.  It makes me anticipate those beautiful spring bulbs that come up year after year.  The new leaves on on the trees.  The hint of warmth in the air.  It may rain from time to time.  It may even be a proper storm.

But Spring always comes, my friends.  Always.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Family, Friends, and Monarch Butterflies

L and I spent a lovely weekend up north in the Pismo Beach area.  I love it up there.  It's beachy cool and the pace of life just seems a little slower up there.  It's the place where thousands of Monarch butterflies flock to between November and February each year.  The further I get away from Los Angeles, the happier I am.   L's brother Rick and his family live up there, and, coincidently my friend Marion was down from Seattle visiting her mother in a town just a little north of there.  So it was a two-fer weekend, seeing everyone in one visit.
The drive up was perfect until we got to Buelton, which is just outside of Solvang.  There, the highway had all lanes closed going north because of a fatality involving a tanker truck.  We were rerouted around it, and actually, that detour gave us a really beautiful view of the rolling hills, farms, and vineyards typical to the area.  There was field after field filled with those little golden flowers.  Huge meadows of yellow waving in the breeze.

In no time at all (seemingly) we'd arrived at our hotel, and Marion drove down to meet us.  There was just a little time before dinner, when we were all going to meet Rick and Diana, and so we drove over to the beach and walked around.  It had been a pretty day, and the beach was filled with families and all types of people out enjoying it.  The view looking north up the coast was beautiful.

We went to eat at a little Thai restaurant called Thai Tilay.  If you're ever in Pismo Beach I highly recommend it.  It doesn't look like much from the outside, but it was really really good.  They served a coconut milk based soup that tasted amazingly like a recipe a friend of mine just gave me.  Such great flavors in every dish!  Everything was served family style, and so we each ordered something and shared it.  It was a good evening spent catching up and hearing about everything going on with our nieces and nephews.  Rick had gone to podiatry school in San Francisco, and Marion was familiar with where they'd lived.  Such a fun night with everyone.

At the end of the evening we went back to Rick's, saw the niece and nephews who were home, and then we said our goodbyes.  Marion headed north back to her mom's and we turned in at the hotel, bellies full and minds happy.

The next morning we got up, had breakfast, packed everything back in the car, and headed towards home.  It was very overcast and damp from the nearby ocean, and chilly out.  It felt good to be in the warm car.  At one point south of Solvang the road came back out close to the coast again and we got out to take some pictures.  It was such a beautiful place, kind of wild and lonely along the rugged coastline.

The railroad tracks ran by just below the road.

There were wildflowers growing everywhere.

Once we stopped, two other cars also stopped to take pictures.  It was lovely there.  Back in the car, we didn't stop again until we got to Goleta.  We took the Hollister exit and followed signs pointing to beach access.  We ended up in a small parking lot with no beach in sight - just a trail and a grove of eucalyptus trees to the left.  We had no idea how far away the beach was, but figured it wasn't far so off we went - me in flipflops and toting my purse of all things.  About a quarter mile into the trail I was feeling very ridiculous about bringing that purse, but the damage was done.  And actually we passed other people along the way who looked as if they'd made the same miscalculation so I carried on as if a pumpkin colored purse was a normal hiking accessory.  I'm 50 ++ years old, so it's okay to look ridiculous sometimes.  The first half of the trail was in the eucalyptus grove, shady and cool.  We saw Monarch butterflies and heard woodpeckers.

L was more prepared for a hike than I was.

We came to a clearing on the trail, and it looked like you could go any number of ways.  We chose the trail that went most directly towards the beach.

Back into another grove of eucalyptus, then a right turn up a hill, and there it was: the beach.  There was a steep tricky trail winding down to the actual beach, but with my bad ankle and in flip flops trying to hang onto a camera and purse, I didn't dare try it.  So we stood up on the bluff and snapped away.

It was windy and it was a lonesome spot to stand looking out at the empty ocean.  There was a small group of girls having a picnic on the bluff next to us.  There were hikers here and there with very happy dogs.  There were mountain bikers.  The air was cool - perfect for the workout - and the sun would peek out from time to time.  Before we'd started out through the grove I'd almost decided not to try it.  I was afraid my ankle would give out, that I wouldn't be able to do it.  What a beautiful hour or two I would have missed out on!  I'm so glad I pushed on and tested my ankle strength.  I have a pair of flip flops that are amazing.  They're supportive and well made, and they're more comfortable than most athletic shoes.  They certainly carried me through on this walk, and I was able to enjoy the rocky beauty of the coastline, the peaceful eucalyptus grove, and the Monarch butterflies flitting about.  It was the first time I'd heard a woodpecker.
We arrived home tired and glad to be home, but full of good memories of a weekend well spent.  A quick getaway chock full of family, friends, and nature.  Perfection.
Communing - and photographing - nature

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