March 29, 2013

Spring, Sprung

 I just wanted to say hello this Friday. We are in the thick of spring break, and in the thick of spring.

I'm grateful for both: the spring, and the break.  From what I gather reading some favorite blogs, spring is really dragging its heels in many parts of the country. It's cold, it's damp, and there is excitement when the thermometer climbs to 50.


Spring, or California spring, is here. I can tell by my filthy, filthy car that receives a daily dusting of chartreuse pollen. Mix that in with the early morning dew, and ugh. Time to wash the car.

I can tell by all the sneezing and red eyes here in the house. These lovely trees, pictured above, are all over our neighborhood, and there's a ton at the school. They have a not-quite-pleasant scent and shed their tiny blooms like snow in the slightest breeze. Anyway, their blooming seemed to have triggered allergies in both my kids, in varying degrees. Plus, the pollen dusting.

We've been lazy in the mornings, busy in our afternoons. I've not been able to get any writing done, or even edit the photos from last weekend's hike, as promised. Ah well.
I took this phone shot last week at Lily's soccer practice. It was around 6:30 in the evening, and I was so cold. It felt even colder after it got dark. I had my parka, a lap blanket, and shivered so much in the steady breeze that when we got home, I worried that maybe I had a fever.

It was something like 58, 59 degrees. Context, people. I only know what I've ever known. And I know that tonight, I'm sitting in the car (like the other moms) instead of sucking it up for 90 minutes in the freezing cold.

Hope this Friday finds you warm. Whatever that feels like to you. :)

March 25, 2013

Hello, Monday {Spring Fling}

Hola!  It's the last Monday of March.  Wha...? I can't even. 

After all the big writing talk and ambition of last week, I begin this week with the kids on Spring Break for the next 2 weeks. Okay. Maybe I can squeeze in some writing, or at least some transcribing into my laptop.  Maybe I should regard these 2 weeks as a dress rehearsal for summer vacation, and figure out a writing routine amongst the Monkey Chaos.

Hello, Spring Fling.  That's the name of the annual egg hunt/family party that my neighborhood HOA throws. It's literally just a few hundred yards from my house, down the greenbelt path. What with the DJ spinning tunes and the excited kid-shouting coming in through our windows, it's not an option to not attend.
Even if my kids, or at least Lily, are getting a little big for the whole deal. I had to warn her not to jump on any toddler or little-kid heads in the bounce house. 
Tucker is still excited to participate in the egg-hunt. (Even if our HOA cheaps out on buying good candy.)
And here is Lily, with her pal in the middle. I think he was doing the robot dance. (It's good to have friends as goofy as you.) I look at this scene, and again, the  threat of middle school looms. Another good reminder to soak up the present. After Spring Break, the kids  only have about 8 or 9 weeks of school before summer vacation. And then...!
 Hello, chickens. The chickens in the tiny petting area were a big hit with my kids. Especially Lily and this black dwarf chicken:
 It was some kind of mutual love thing. She rocked the chicken to sleep on her lap while the DJ played "Don't Worry, Be Happy." It cracked me up. And then later that night, I stumbled on a blog post about how chickens make excellent pets. Ha! No, no chickens for us.
Did you participate in Earth Hour on Saturday night? We did, after Lily drew this picture and got very committed to the idea. So at 8:30, we shut off all the electronics and sat there by candlelight for an hour. After the initial excitement wore off (candles! dark!), Lily tried to get us to play charades. The Husband and I were not thrilled, but after watching the kids for a bit, we got in the spirit. And it was fun!  Go figure.

Hello, my beloved Monkeys who've interrupted me 22 times while writing this post.  I lie. It's probably only been about 18 times.  Hello, 2 weeks with no big plans. Some Disneyland. Some parks. Some soccer practice  and family and cleaning the house. Hello to Easter baskets (with the good stuff) and Easter ham and devilled eggs. Oh, and writing, too.

Hello, staycation. I hate that word, but unlike last year, when we visited San Francisco, we're keeping close to home for Spring Break.  But come back later this week and I'll show you the terrific hike we went on yesterday. Outdoors. Nature. No kid electronics or gadgets.  And it was fun! 

Go figure.

Linking up with Lisa Leonard for Hello, Mondays

March 22, 2013

Coming Down From The Mountain

It's been a week now since I boarded the plane in San Diego, flew to Seattle, took the light rail to downtown, and then rode for three hours on a charter bus to the Wild Mountain Memoir Retreat. It's taken this entire week to process and digest all that I felt and encountered on my journey, and I'm not done yet.

I've kept in touch with retreat host and founder Theo Pauline Nestor  over the years since our first meeting. Back when I still lived in the O.C., I'd  driven the both of us to meet a mutual writer-friend for dinner. I'd long admired Theo's essays that I'd read in Brain, Child magazine (this was all prior to her publishing her terrific book) and we had one of those great, interrupting-each-other, animated conversations on the brief trip down the freeway.
So in November, when I first saw mention of her retreat on Facebook, and then checked out the website, I immediately wanted to attend, on a gut level.  I knew it would be good, and good for me -- there would be Cheryl Strayed, and Suzanne Finnamore, and Theo herself, plus other memoir writers I hadn't yet read, but whose works sounded intriguing and right up my alley. 

It wasn't quite a whim, but I registered and sent my deposit without pondering it very much.  And then it was Thanksgiving, and then the Christmas holidays, and then the husband's birthday in Vegas, and then I was hustling through those final stressful weeks of coaching Lily's Odyssey of the Mind team.

And suddenly, it was time to pack, and time to go. 
I felt a little guilty about going. I mean, the retreat and airfare weren't cheap, and I hadn't seriously sat down to write in months.  For exactly what was I spending over a thousand dollars, and risking death-by-airplane (or by bus on a mountain road) -- for my ego, my vanity, or some grandiose notion that I was still, nearly 15 years post-MFA, a writer?
I'd told myself, and a couple other people before I left, that my trip was a mere gesture -- proof  that I was still in the game, still committed to my half-full (half empty) yellow legal pad of memories that I'd scrawled out over the course of several weeks a while back.  I got that far, before I got scared at what I'd have to write down, and scared myself into stopping.
Of course, as it turns out, when one travels over 1,200 miles to reach a destination via car, plane, train and bus, it's hardly a mere gesture. Just as shouldering a monstrous pack upon one's back for hundreds of miles on the Pacific Crest Trail is hardly a mere metaphor for carrying the burden of grief.  (Here is the inspiring, wonderful Cheryl Strayed above, discussing what it took to write her best-selling memoir, Wild, as part of her keynote speech written specifically for the retreat.)
What I found over the course of the weekend was that yes, I'm still very much "in the game" as far as my writing goes. Of course I am.  I still very much have a story to tell, and feel re-committed to keep scrawling my story upon yellow legal pads to tell it, and tell it true. Scary as that might be.
What I also remembered was how good, how important it feels, to be among other like-minded souls. It's been too long since I've purposely sought the company of writers, people who care about books and words and story and history and baring it all. I was moved when Suzanne Finnamore, in both of her classes that I attended this weekend, was choked by tears recounting a memory, and by reading the work of another writer. That she can get so easily worked up by familiar memories and readings, and remain unashamed -- I loved that. I too am just as easily moved to tears by memories and words, except that I've always resented my sensitivity. And yet there was Suzanne, in her boots and bangs and great big heart up in front of the class, living proof that you can be sensitive and cry easily and still be a total bad-ass.
Since returning home, I've felt so lazy, in terms of leaving my desk. Beds have stayed unmade and I've barely mustered a couple loads of laundry and figuring out what kind of take-out to feed the family.

 On the other hand, I'm re-energized. I've been transcribing my legal-pad scrawls into my laptop (it's not really "writing" and boy-howdy is it ever not-great, but it's a start). I've been following links left on the retreat's Facebook page, and stalking finding out more about the writers and attendees online, and reading suggested essays and looking up books and researching markets and...yeah.  Back in the game. 
Already, I miss finding my tribe. Except for my mom (whom I called to assure I'd returned in one piece), no other friend or family has inquired about my trip. That's mostly my fault, for keeping my "writing life" so annexed from my "real life" that it hardly seems worth mentioning. And I don't mention that out of self-pity or hoping to prompt anyone to call me.  Frankly, they wouldn't quite understand, unless they've undertaken something similar.  It's hard to explain the magic that happens  when you travel a long way into the unfamiliar, and find not just like-minded souls, but that other, elusive friend who's been waiting all along.
Yourself. (In a big poufy parka.)

March 18, 2013

Hello, Monday {Wild Mountain(s)}

Hola, Monday.  Although the afternoon is flying by and it's almost time to pick up the kids from school.

This weekend, I attended the Wild Mountain Memoir Retreat, held in a gorgeous setting at the Sleeping Lady Resort in Leavenworth, Washington. Leavenworth is tiny little town in the mountains east of Seattle.

It was a big, big trip -- not that Seattle is so terribly far away, but in many ways it was quite a journey.
 On Friday morning, I took this shot looking east over snowy California mountains. I have no idea what mountains these are...they don't look high enough to be the Sierras, but I could be wrong.  Maybe another range closer to the coast?

Little did I know that I'd be experiencing lots and lots of snow this weekend, both on the bus ride to and from the resort, and also on Saturday night, when it began snowing.

This was what it looked like on Sunday morning:

It's kinda funny that after a winter of sharing La Jolla and Palm Springs and sunny skies here on the blog, I bring you snow just days before the official start of spring.

My plane landed in San Diego after 11 last night, and after luggage and shuttle and driving I pulled into my driveway around 1am.  I'm in no state to discuss or share what I gained and experienced and felt during this intense weekend.
It's all still percolating through my system. Hello this Monday to so many thoughts to think and books to read and web sites to check out. Hello to so many new voices and friends and contacts.
Hello to so much inspiration, and so many ideas (and decisions, too).

And so much snow.  Holy shit, I texted my husband, on the bus ride home.  It feels like the Rockies, I wrote. (Not that I've ever been to the Rockies.) Or maybe Narnia. The Cascade Mountains were something else: It wasn't just the amount of snow on the ground, it was the constant landscape of towering, snow-capped mountains on the horizon. Mountains upon mountains out the bus window for over an hour. 

I'll have more thoughts and photos to share about this weekend in a few days, after my head stops spinning.

Linking up with Lisa Leonard for Hello, Mondays.

March 11, 2013

Hello, Monday {Taking Flight}

Hola, Monday.  I'm surprisingly not too zonked by the Daylight Savings Time change, but then maybe I'm chalking it up to all the fun from yesterday.

This girl of mine turned 11:
We celebrated by spending the day at Disneyland, and taking along Lily's best friend. They've been good buddies since they were 5 and 6. Her friend is a year older, and already in middle school. May I just say, regarding the backseat conversation we got to overhear: YIKES.

At Disneyland, we'd agreed that the girls would be allowed to go off by themselves for a couple of hours at time. This freedom and trust was part of Lily's gift for the day. She did a great job, texting and updating and being on time at our meeting spots. (After years of visiting Disney, she's fairly familiar with her surroundings.)

That meant most of my day was spent with the husband and Tucker. It was fun as always (and Tucker loved the solo attention), but it was also odd to have my girl off in the park on her own. 
Above is the "Departures" board for the Star Tours ride.  I'll be gazing at a real departures board later this week. On Friday I'm flying to Seattle, then riding a charter bus to a writing retreat in Leavenworth
I haven't flown in over 5 years, when we travelled to Hawaii as a family. I haven't flown solo in nearly 20 years. The whole thing makes me nervous, -- navigating the airport details, flying, being a participant in a small conference of fellow writers.
But that's the point, of course. I'm too familiar with my town, my house, my desk, my routines (which include Disneyland, too).  It's time to shake it up a bit and remind myself of how brave I can be.
So hello to my newly-minted eleven-year-old. Hello to dear and familiar vistas at Disneyland. Hello to travelling and seeing some brand new views.  Hello to saying adios to my flip-flops and warm weather, and hello to packing for cold Washington mountains. (Hello to being flummoxed by the contents of my closet.)
Hello to shaking things up. Literally! There was an earthquake this morning, centered less than an hour from here. It wasn't all that big, but it had been a while. 

I don't really take an earthquake as a sign of anything, but as a metaphor for my week, it works pretty well.

Linking up with Lisa Leonard for Hello, Mondays

March 7, 2013

Hanging In the Kitchen

So I've been awfully busy & distracted lately (see the last few posts), but I finally wanted to share some of the stuff we've hung up in the kitchen recently. And by "we" I mean my husband, except for the calendar.

First up is our groovy old cocktail clock.  This is as close as we get to family heirlooms around here, as this clock used to hang in the home of my husband's maternal grandparents, who lived in a retirement mobile home park in Cathedral City (a desert community next-door to Palm Springs).  According to my husband, his grandparents did it up right and lived the desert lifestyle to the hilt when they were active: golfing, tennis, themed dances, and highballs full of ice and amber liquor everyday around 5. 
The husband says that when he visited as a child, his grandparents made everyone in the family go for a "constitutional" around the gated community after dinner.  I've visited that mobile home park, back when his grandparents were still alive. It had lush green lawns and a golf course and clubhouse and well-maintained, tidy mobile homes with grapefruit and lemon trees and golf carts parked under their metal awnings.
One could do worse with one's retirement years. We had the clock hanging in our garage for a few years, but I decided it was time to come indoors. The husband fixed it up with a new mechanism and new hands, which look pretty exact to the originals.
Next up is the calendar. A calendar isn't a big deal, except that I really loved this one when I saw it in the Paper Source catalog at the end of last year.  I put it on my wish list...but with shipping, it would've cost about $40.  I dunno. That seems a lot to spend on a calendar. (What would our grandparents' generation have thought of such? My own grandparents always had free calendars from the insurance company hanging inside the door of the broom closet.)
Then in February, the new catalog had all calendars at 50% off. Sold!  I missed January, and it was still a bit over $20 (really, WHY was shipping $7?), but I do love the bright, bold seasonal graphics. Form over function, that's my middle name.

Over by the window is a print from Pocono Modern of vintage Pyrex bowls.  I was all stoked with myself for buying this, even before it got splashed all over lots of design blogs.
But I am not so stoked with myself for not buying the shop's Fiesta Ware print at the same time. Now the shop doesn't offer them, and I really need another print to share this wall.
My grandma owned a set of blue Pyrex bowls in a Dutch pattern. They got boxed up and, I presume, given away when she went into a nursing home a few years ago.  I would've claimed them, but I wasn't present at the time.  So I have this print of old Pyrex to remind me, and an old kitschy clock, but really I'd rather not have these things at all, and be able to reminisce and talk with those old folks again.  (My grandma is still alive, but in her own reality these days.)

And what of my own items, I wonder, will be considered retro and groovy to the young people someday? Our plastic Ikea cups, the red Williams Sonoma mixing bowls? It gives me pause, when I'm pondering another set of cute plastic summer stuff at Home Goods.

Linking up with Jules at Pancakes & French Fries for her William Morris series.

March 6, 2013

Palm Springs, and a Poem

You know it's bad when I go to Palm Springs and barely take a picture of the landscape. The one above was taken by my husband on Saturday morning, from outside our motel room door. (We stayed at The Curve, and I don't recommend it. The phrase "lipstick on a pig" comes to mind. But we had a group rate, and it sufficed.) 

Most of the photos I took were of my Odyssey of the Mind team. Saturday was the stressful cap to the past stressful month, and I felt like my head was detached and floating above my body all day and into the evening. There were smiles, laughs, nerves, high-fives, tears, and a fever.  There was the ever-present undercurrent of mama-drama, when you get that many women together, each with their own ambitions and expectations for their teams and kids.
On Saturday night I celebrated the end of it all with a fiesta-sized margarita, but I didn't feel celebratory -- just rattled and exhausted and done with other people's children. And other people, period. This introvert was ready for some serious isolation.

Now it's Wednesday and I'm still coming down off it all, the adrenaline and cortisol wearing off and leaving me grumpy and drained. I was ready to share my litany of extremely tedious, first-world bitching, when this morning I read a poem-as-memorial on Jenn's site. And I cried, because it's so beautiful and sad, written for a husband after the death of his wife after a long marriage, a member of Jenn's  family.

I won't quote the whole thing, but starting with this line, the end of her poem punched me right in the gut:
His favorite pastime was never golf or painting--
but rather choosing her again and again,
wherever they went, wherever they were. 
His greatest pleasure in this life has always been
studying the landscape and finding her there:
Well. I have nothing to say, after that. That thing, that love, right there? I've got that.  That is mine, here, in my house. Every day. 
I'm just gonna shut up now and go get some shit done.  

March 1, 2013

In Like A Lion, Sting Like A Bee

March! Here you are. Out with the doldrums of with today's gorgeous warm breezes blowing through the pines outside my desk window. 

Last night, my Odyssey team had a dress rehearsal in front of our school's other teams and the parents, principal, and PTA President. We did not suck! But my brain is doing all kinds of bad, short-circuit wiring mistakes from the stress of the last few days. Don't ask me to watch your kids, your dog, or hold your keys until the weekend and our Regional tournament is over. The silly title of this post is testament to what's flying around up there in my attic.

Here are some fuzzy, camera-phone shots of the bureau at the top of my stairs.  They have nothing to do with anything, except that I like all the colors going on here. When the crazy subsides, I'm looking forward to Spring-a-fying around the house a bit.
The planter is the one I Washi-taped to death at the Craft Cabinet event I attended back in August. Now the creators of that event, Jules and Andrea, are making the Craft Cabinet an official venture with regularly scheduled events. I'm excited for them, and excited to try my non-crafting hand again at next month's event. Check out their spankin' new site.

In the meantime, this weekend: Palm Springs! Booyah. 
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