Daily Affirmation

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

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Rhythm of the Ocean

L and I finished our chores quickly this morning and headed to the beach.  We'd heard that the waves were pretty big, and that's always fun to watch.  Traffic was horrific getting down there - I guess that means summer has officially arrived.  We had driven the Miata - the better to find a parking space - and we lucked out just one block from the sand!  A summer miracle.

We could see the crowd lining the beach watching each big wave crash onto the shore.  We had come down to the jetty, and the waves - if they're inclined to be big - can be especially so down there.  And, they did not disappoint.  There were a few brave body surfers in the water, and they were dwarfed by the huge waves.

Can you see the little heads bobbing in front of the waves?  They were bigger than they look in these pictures!

All of a sudden we noticed the waves getting even bigger, pounding closer to shore, and up on the rocks of the jetty.  To our horror, we saw two people on a jet ski trying to out run a really large, mean-looking wave.  And the wave won, driving the jet ski onto the rocks.  People started running out onto the jetty to save them, and half a dozen life guards sprinted into the water, screaming at the other people to get back off the jetty.  I've never witnessed anyone being saved from a life-threatening situation like that before, and so I was so impressed by how quickly they swam out, were able to grab hold of the two people, and swim back in with them.  The man (looked to be early twenties) seemed to be OK - a little tired and scared, but OK.  The girl was a little more battered, very tired, and had swallowed a lot of water.  She was so lucky though - no bad scrapes, no broken bones.  She needed to lay there and get some oxygen, but ultimately it looked as though she'd escaped a bad outcome.  The jet ski wasn't so lucky.  It got pounded on the rocks, and by the time the lifeguards were able to harness it and drag it in, it was in a few pieces.  Drama.  Right in front of us.

Other than that, the afternoon was beautiful.  Temps in the high 70s, we got seats on a nice flat rock, listened to the sound of the waves for a couple of hours, and basked in the salt air and ocean spray.  We even got to witness a rescue that had a good outcome.  Relaxation mixed with just the right amount of adrenalin, making us feel glad to be alive.  Perfect way to spend an afternoon.

This next week will be spent getting ready for our Colorado trip, and I'll also take a trip to Camarillo on Tuesday for Mia's 10th birthday - actually a day before her birthday, but who's counting?  She's a special little girl, our Mia, and she just gets sweeter every year.

I'll leave you with the sound of the ocean waves as we heard them today.  It's a short little video, but you'll get the idea.

Ahhhh... don't you feel better already?  I know I do.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Midsummer Dreams

Summer is well underway.  In fact, we're just heading into the first heat wave of the season.  90 degrees plus today, 106 tomorrow, and 108 the day after.  Bleah... that kind of heat is exhausting, but at least it doesn't seem to last for weeks on end. You can take anything for a few days. EXCEPT FOR THE A/C JUST WENT OUT.  AUGGGGHHHHH!!!

Our family had it's first official gathering - the week of Memorial Day.  Rex and his family were here in Southern California the entire week.  They rented an impossibly cute house in Anaheim near Disneyland, and we were able to get together several times that week.  The house had a different Disney theme in each room, from Peter Pan, to Frozen, to Little Mermaid, to Rapunzel.  The pool and backyard were Disney-inspired, and it couldn't have been more fun.
Could this pool be any more awesome?  The kids played in it for HOURS!
They did Disneyland a couple of days, and those were the days we opted out.  I just don't have the ability to be on my feet walking in Disneyland for an entire day anymore.  They spent those days with Ronna's brothers and their kids, so they still got in their family and cousin time.

One evening we went with them over to Downtown Disney for dinner.  We wandered around (it's about 1/4 mile from end to end) the length and back a couple of times, eating dinner in between walking the avenue at the Rainforest Cafe.

 Rainforest Cafe dinner - me next to Lexi, who is next to our beach girl Skylee.  Travis is asleep in the stroller in back! L, Rex, Matthew in his glasses, and Ronna are in the back.

We had such a good time being with our grandkids, pushing strollers, buying candy and macarons, and helping them each pick out a little treat for themselves.  Dinner was chaotic and fun, in between the thunderstorms that are part of the regular entertainment at the Rainforest Cafe.  Little Skylee determined that the giant butterflies fanning their wings on the walls were real.  No doubt about it.  Lexi chattered about the last day of school, about mean girls, about her friends, and about how boys are much easier to communicate with than girls.  I concur.  She is a wonderful little girl just on the brink of becoming a young woman.  One minute she is a child, and the next she sounds more adult than me (although that's not a hard feat).

Friday was their beach day.  Skylee had declared that she absolutely "loves all things beach."  She had never been to the beach, or seen the ocean, so that was the goal that day.  And she loved it.  The smells, the sound of the waves, the salt air.  And, as luck would have it, a pod of about 50 dolphin swam by as we were out on the Balboa Pier.  It doesn't get much better than that if you love the ocean like I do (and like Skylee does, apparently!)  Afterward, we wandered over to the Fun Zone and the kids did a few fun things.  We bought the boys each a foot long shark to play with in the pool (Travis absolutely loved his shark) and we bought the girls baskets of sea shells.  I thought Skylee was going to lose her mind at the sight of all those shells.  A man sitting outside a bar told me to bring Travis over to the door of the bar (but not to go inside!) and show him the big shark they had hanging from the ceiling.  Travis' eyes nearly popped out of his head at the sight, and he showed me how sharks chew things up with their big teeth.  Quite impressive.  I don't think I did any harm to a minor by showing him a shark in a bar, as we were concentrating on the shark, rather than the drinks.  Right?

Saturday was the real treat.  Katie and her clan came south, L and I picked up my mom (she had never seen some of Rex's kids) and my brother and his wife and daughter came to California, and we all met at Rex's rental house for a BBQ pool party extravaganza.  Katie had spent the night with the girls on Friday night so everyone got plenty of cousin time.  It was just the best time ever.  Our family hadn't been together like that in years and years.  My brother's daughter Arianna is just 1 day younger than Lexi.  So Lexi, Ari, and Mia each got to spend time with the cousins that are just their age.

 l to r: Arianna, Mia, Alexis

There were kids everywhere, it was a total food fest, and we all left better people after spending a great day together.  I have to admit that I actually cried happy tears on the way home - it was very emotional in a good way being together like that.  We missed Scott, but maybe next time it will be everyone.  I am grateful for the ones that were able to be there.  For me, it was just a love fest having all of those kids together in one place having fun.

Cousin time! Back row: Skylee, Hayden, Drezden, Alexis, Mia    
Front row: Travis and Matthew   

Black and white photo: Rex and Katie
Our newest little grandbaby, Lincoln, and his parents were here for a quick visit in May also.  We were able to spend one day going to the Santa Ana Zoo, and another afternoon at Newport Beach and the Newport Pier.  He's a cute one, that Lincoln, and he's learning so many new tricks now that he's mobile.  We had a fun time riding the carousel at the park, along with the zoo train, and we spent a fun dinnertime eating at Ruby's at the end of Balboa Pier.  They are hoping to move to California in a year or so, so we'll have lots more fun times ahead of us.

 Lincoln riding the carousel at the Santa Ana Zoo - look how he keeps his eyes on Grandpa L!

The week after Rex and his family left to go home, I boarded a plane for Nashville to meet up with some crazy friends there.  We were all staying at Linda's - she sent her husband and grandkids to Dollywood for the week! - and we had a wonderful time reconnecting and catching up.  There were 5 of us: Nancy, Mischell, Linda (our hostess), Kay (her daughter was one of my favorite babysitters) and me.  Linda's husband met us all at the airport and took us to dinner in Nashville at Jack's.  BBQ in Nashville is just THE BEST.  John told us it was the only time he'd have us all to himself before being banished to Dollywood, and we did enjoy being with him.  We wandered up and down Broadway, and in and out of Savannah's Candy (Caramel apples all around!)  We ended up in a little club called the High Watt, where my nephew was performing with some musician friends of his.  It was a little miraculous that as soon as we walked in he spotted us (although he didn't know we were coming) and enthusiastically introduced us to his friends (the only one I remember is the drummer from Alabama - there were so many and it was so loud!)  His band was the best one we saw, and it was such a treat to watch him having such a good time on stage.  He is a rep for Pearl Drums, and has many many musician friends and customers - many of them there that night.  Whenever he gets the chance to perform, he jumps on it.  Kevin is nothing short of A-type.  But in a good way.

 Newphew Kevin and friends performing at the High Watt - what a treat to watch!

The rest of the week was spent touring the sights, like the Opryland Hotel.  Gorgeous place with amazing gardens and a river running through the whole thing.  I got a major blister halfway through that day, and had to buy some new sandals in one of the shops so I could ditch the shoes I had on.  Goodbye $90.00... On the bright side, we all had pizza and - miracle of miracles - they had gluten free crust available!

Another day we did the tour of the Grand Ol' Opry.
All us girls standing on the wood circle that all performers stand on at the Grand Ol' Opry.

I liked that a lot more than I thought I would.  It was interesting, and I was impressed at how much music history filters through that place.  It was kind of awesome.  Of course we took millions of pictures and had a great time.  After that tour we went over to the Bluebird Cafe.  It's a venue for songwriters to showcase their creations, and it was time well spent.  For a minimum charge of $7.00 we were treated to an hour and a half of great music by four really good singer/songwriters: Adam Hambrick, Emily West, K.S. Rhodes, and Blake Chaffin.  Everyone but Blake has music available on i-Tunes, and I suggest - no STRONGLY suggest you check it out.  They were great.  I think that might have been my favorite thing all week.

Our last day was spent going to the Loveless Cafe for a late lunch/early dinner.  Folks, Tennessee is no place to be on any kind of special diet.  And the Loveless Cafe followed that same rule, only in BOLD TYPE.  Biscuits.  Heavenly biscuits.  I had to have one.  And then two.  Gluten-free be damned.  Fried chicken, fried green tomatoes.  The best of everything the South has to offer.  I knew I would pay for it eventually, but in that afternoon I didn't care anymore.  And now I can die happy, because I had biscuits that were as good as cake.  With butter and jam.

Following our feast there, and after doing some fun shopping at the shops around the cafe, (and rocking awhile in the shade) we headed for the little town of Franklin.
Rocking in the shade at the Loveless Cafe.  We love the South!
We'd heard that it was charming.  It did, in fact, ooze charm.  Every beautiful thing you picture about small towns was there.  Families out at dusk, in the heat, patronizing ice cream parlors, sitting in the park between two historical churches.  Tree lined streets with a roundabout connecting two of them.  It was idyllic and made me yearn for that lifestyle.  *sigh*

Back at the ranch later that evening, Nancy, Mischell, and I decided to go for a walk to walk off all of the Southern treats we'd had that day.  The stars were out in force, and as we stopped at the end of a cul de sac that ended at a field and group of trees, we were treated to the enchanting sight of fireflies making their magic among the trees and across the field.  Nancy had never seen fireflies before, and we were all spellbound.  A perfect end to a perfect day and a perfect week.

Summer isn't done with me yet.  Our A/C went out (just in time for 100 degree plus weather tomorrow!  Booo....) and so a little bit of suffering is in the cards.  In two weeks, we're off to spend the July 4th weekend in Colorado with Rex and his family to celebrate Matthew's birthday and share in his baptism day.  Then at the end of the month we're off for a roadtrip to Utah to spend the July 24th weekend (Pioneer Day!) with my brother and his family.  I've been looking forward to watching fireworks in two separate valleys at once from his deck all year.   Finishing up the summer, we will welcome the newest addition to the family - Ione - to the world in early September.  A lot to look forward to, and a lot of memories made.

Mom is doing pretty well.  She misses Dad, and she is having a hard time having her independence lessened because she can no longer drive.  Her eyesight is really poor and her balance is iffy.  A light has gone out there, and maybe it will come back on a little bit, or maybe not.  A lot depends on her attitude which, between you and me, has never been super positive.  Change has always been hard for her, so we remain hopeful, but not expectant.

I took Dad some flowers yesterday and had a little talk with him about the situation.  Hopefully he will find a way to help her or maybe whisper some good ideas to us, because frankly, we're fresh out.  But life, overall, is good.  Politics aside (don't even get me started here) L and I are optimistic and enjoying our travels together here on earth.  We seem to be able to calm each other down and encourage each other at the same time. What more can you ask of your best friend?

Our children are holding their own, and some are really soaring.  It's good to see.  We have happy, healthy grandchildren who are always thrilled to see us.  What a blessing they are to us!  We feel fortunate to be surrounded by such riches.  And a granddaughter who "loves everything beach?" Ah - that's the icing on the cake.
The whole motley crew in the Peter Pan room of the summer rental house.  l to r: brother Brent, L, me, Arianna, Greta, Mom, Matt, Katie with Hayden, Skylee and Mia in front, Drezden and Zach with Alexis and Matthew in front, Ronna, Rex and Travis - WHEW!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Life Goes On

I have to say that this is the very first time in almost a year that I've felt like writing.  Last year just kind of knocked the stuffing out of me.  It's been an adjustment, these past few months.  Not just my own adjustment, but trying to help Mom through it as well.  Learning how much to push, and how much to stand back, and let her find her own way.  She can be prickly and stubborn and difficult - probably just like most people would be who are surrounded by a bunch of overbearing children.  We hovered, we bossed, we cajoled.  And what I've found works the best is to just lend a listening ear and be supportive.  So what if she tells me for the 100th time how nice she thought Dad's service was?  It seems to give her comfort.  Who cares if it takes her months longer to arrange to get her house re-roofed than it would take any of us to do it for her?  The house isn't leaking, and it isn't going to fall down.  She is learning to do some hard tasks that Dad always took care of, and she's gaining some confidence in the process.  (We hope.  That's the plan, anyway.)  So we've learned to stand down, and let her handle things in her own way, in her own time.  Sometimes it's hard to watch, but I think she's making progress.  And she'll be so much stronger than if we did everything for her.  Which she doesn't want us to do anyway, by the way, although one of my brothers has tried very hard to convince her otherwise.

Mostly I've been fine.  It's weird without Dad being there when I go to visit.  I really miss him being there on holidays and for important family events.  But I know he's somewhere close by, supporting us and watching over things.  When I cry, it's usually in the shower where no one can see.  And there was last night while we were watching a bit on 60 Minutes about a new breakthrough therapy for cancer using the polio virus.  It killed me, knowing that it's too late to help him, and also to see the people who took part in the clinical trials who didn't make it either.  My heart hurt for their families. It made me cry.   But mostly I'm fine.  I imagine Dad discovering all kinds of things in the cosmos, and having such joy in the learning.  Consorting with all sorts of intelligent oddballs just like him.  Makes me smile, even though I miss him.  I try to bring him flowers from time to time so his patch of earth will look as pretty as the other patches of real estate around him.  So people will see that he is remembered and loved by his family.  Because if nothing else, Dad was a family man, who was fiercely proud of all of us.

This summer promises to be almost as busy as last summer.  Almost.  I don't know if I could do last summer again - it was so much fun, but I never stood still.  It's kicked off already with the arrival last week of Tim, Autumn, and 1 year old Lincoln.  We had a great time going to the little Santa Ana Zoo, and spending an evening taking the ferry across from Balboa Island to the Fun Zone on the other side of the bay.  We walked down to the end of the Balboa Pier and had dinner at Ruby's.  And then the ferry back to the island and frozen bananas all around.  So good to see them!

In a couple of weeks, Rex and his family will be here on vacation for a week.  They've rented a house with a pool close to Disneyland, and so Katie and the kids will come down and have a giant cousin slumber party.  We'll see if Drezden and Travis kill each other.  That should be fun.  It's been a few years since the kids were together, and I'm really looking forward to it.

Next weekend I have tickets for Katie, me, and the girls to see Fancy Nancy the Musical at a little local theatre.  Should be a good time, and I'm hoping we'll have time for a fancy dessert afterwards before they have to hit the road.  Girls night out.

In June I have another trip planned to Nashville with Nancy, Mischell, and one other old friend, Kay.
We went last year when our friend Linda lost her son-in-law, and then her daughter to cancer.  All within 2 months.  Unbelieveable.  Soul sucking, horrible time for our Linda.  She and her husband are now the guardians for their 3 grandchildren and have uprooted their lives in California to take up residence in Tennessee.  So we are going to descend again - the YaYas bringing our crazy, spirit healing nuttiness to Nashville and surrounding areas.  Perhaps an area near you.  It'll be a good trip, ya'll.  I love places where everyone calls you "honey" and where stores are closed on Sunday.  There are also some sketchy dive BBQ places where you probably aren't safe without a gun, but that's a story for another day.  

Early July will bring another trip to Denver for Matthew's 8th birthday and his baptism.  He is the sweetest boy alive, and we're excited to share these special milestones in his life.  And we'll be there for the 4th of July!  Rex always does it up right - lots of fireworks, and the neighborhood all comes together.  It will be a good time to spend with those special littles that we love so much.

Again the last part of July, L and I will take a road trip to Utah for the 24th of July - Pioneer Day in Utah.  From my brother's new house they'll have view of fireworks going off from two different valleys.  I've been imagining sitting out on one of their decks in the heat of a summer evening, watching fireworks with them - something I've been looking forward to ever since they mentioned it in February.  My dad's family usually has a big family reunion during that time.  And I've never gone.  But this year I'd like to go.  Reconnect with cousins who were so kind to come to his funeral last year - and we had the BEST time visiting!  Dad would love it that we showed up.  Going back for those reunions was one of his greatest pleasures.  That generation is all gone now - my dad was the last.  So now it's up to the cousins of the next generation to carry on the tradition.  Pioneer Day in Spanish Fork, Utah.

And last - but not least - one of my old college roommates lost her husband last week after years of long, drawn out health problems.  My first thought, after that first stab in the heart for poor Bronwyn, was are we here at that time of life already?  That place where we start to lose friends?  Especially when those friends are Our Own Age.  Unthinkable.  I haven't been the best at keeping in touch with my roommates and countless other old friends - although in the last couple of years the situation has improved.  I've learned that The Routine will still be here waiting for me when I get back from making time with old friends.  That these memories made are priceless and dear, just as the friends these memories are made from are indescribably priceless and dear.  It's always hard for me to blast out of my rut and travel to Somewhere Else.  Somewhere where my things aren't, and everything isn't comfy and familiar.  But oh, how worth it the minor discomfort is when I get to spend a few days laughing and reminiscing and loving some of the best people alive.  So we old roommates are trying to cobble together a trip to Southern Utah.  Coming from California, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, we will have our grand reunion, and hopefully reconnect with those young girls we once were, remembering dreams lost and realizing how many of them actually came true - although not always in the way we'd imagined back then.

So a busy summer once again.  And in between, I try to sandwich in weekends here and there with Katie and the kids, now that they're back in California.  They're still a couple of hours away - a journey that involves driving through Los Angeles and beyond - but once I get there it's so much fun. Oh - and did I tell you?  She is expecting her fourth and final babe in September.  A little girl.  Her name will be Ione.  What, you say??  Yes, IONE.  Katie just loved my grandmother, but my grandmother's name was Melba.  And no one wants to be named Melba.  But her favorite sister was a fun little lady named Pearl Ione.  And Katie just loves the name Ione.  We'll call her Onie for short, just like my great aunt.  At first, I admit, I wasn't thrilled.  But it's growing on me.  And somewhere - I just know it - Melba and Onie (and my dad!)  are playing with that baby while she waits to make her grand debut on this side of life.  And if she's like either one of them, she'll be a gem.

So that is life as I know it.  Life without Dad, but learning to carry on.  Helping Mom to find her balance and confidence without running her life.  Father's Day is coming and that will be a little sad.  L and I are both father-orphans now.  The holiday has lost some of it's glitter for us.  But we have trips to look forward to, grandchildren to catch up with, wonderful friends to sit with, a shiny new baby in a few months.  L and I are feeling lucky overall.  We are feeling blessed to experience so much Spice of Life, and hold it close.  We are savoring it all, as we realize - especially lately - that these joys are sometimes fragile.  Enjoy the present, and savor every last drop.  Tomorrow it could all be different, but you have Today in the palm of your hand.  Don't waste it.

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