Dec. 1991: Upon landing at Heathrow, we took the Tube so I could get my first glimpse of Buckingham Palace before going on to Wales.
I recently became a member of the Generation Fabulous group of midlife bloggers, which runs a monthly bloghop. This month’s topic is “Transformative Travel.”
I rarely went anywhere in my 20s and early 30s. I was too focused then on trying to stay employed in the entertainment industry… and looking for love in all the wrong places.
And then: I finally found it, with someone who was here on a student visa. And a few years later, I found myself on a plane to London so I could meet his family.
It was Christmas, and as a lifelong Californian, I expected to be cold. That frightened me.
“I’m kind of a hothouse flower,” I reminded him.
But you know what? Weather conditions that would keep me indoors here in Los Angeles didn’t phase me in the United Kingdom. OK, there was that one outing on the top of Caerphilly Mountain that brought tears to my eyes that I swore at the time were frozen — but I discovered that I could handle freezing temperatures, rainy weather and cold, blustery wind just fine… so long as I was experiencing them anywhere but California.
Dec. 1991: The Norman Keep and me. At Cardiff Castle.
That trip taught me a few other lessons:
- That my American accent was just as incomprehensible to my future in-laws as theirs was to me.
- That the United States and Britain are indeed two countries separated by a common language. (Helpful tip: Do not put “salad cream” on your salad — unless you want said salad to taste like cole slaw.)
- That socialized medicine is a beautiful thing in action. (Both of my husband’s parents ended up in the hospital – for separate ailments – over my two weeks in Britain on that first trip. And the care they received was impressive. With no scary bills to pay.)
- That I love to travel.
I love seeing new places, trying new foods, learning new histories, taking photographs (prior to that trip, I did not even own a camera). And as the years have passed and we married and became a family, this love is something we shared with our daughter. She made her first trip to meet her British grandparents when she was just four months old and we visited as often as our budget would allow — until the economy crashed. By then, my father-in-law had passed away. We could have saved a lot of money by staying home, but I’m proud that our girl has a relationship with her cousins and wonderful memories of her grandpa.
She has also been to big cities like New York and Paris and natural wonders like Yosemite and Alaska’s Glacier Park. And I know she won’t wait until her mid-thirties to get out of her comfort zone and see the world outside Los Angeles. Because we are a family of travelers.
Read the rest of the BlogHop Entries at Generation Fabulous:
Time is a Tickin’ (Photo credit: im elsewhere)
I began this post on Monday morning.
I attempted to finish it on Tuesday afternoon, while waiting for a doctor’s appointment. I didn’t get very far.
I spent yesterday working on my weekly podcast … and then trying to finish a freelance post that should have been done two weeks ago.
As you can see, time management is not my forte.
It wasn’t always this way. I was a productive, working member of society for a good twenty years — capable of managing projects on time and under budget. I expected that I would take motherhood in stride.
I was wrong.
Oh, there have been periods over the last 17 years when I thought I had everything under control. The gymnastics era was especially productive for me: Although I was forced to be out of the house for big blocks of time while she trained, the hours of waiting around forced my imagination to work overtime. That was when I did my best writing, without feeling guilty about all the housework that wasn’t getting done while I was with my kid at the gym.
She quit gymnastics four years ago, and I have been flailing about ever since. And lately, it’s gotten worse.
For some reason, everything now just takes me longer. I cannot accurately estimate the time I should devote to a task. Writing a blog post used to be a pretty simple matter, but now I find myself worrying about SEO practices, finding good outbound links, creating descriptive tags, selecting appropriate images, editing video if I shot it, tweeting out links and writing Facebook updates…
…and I am responsible for more than one blog.
I am not doing any of it well. And it’s frustrating.
I have worked all day today on a MOMocrats post that is really just a bunch of quotes from others. It should have taken about an hour to write. It’s not done.
Instead, I’ve been distracted by breaking news, correspondence, site administration, and the realization that BlogHer is in two weeks (which means I need to get my butt in action).
I signed up for the annual 5K Run (which in my case, will be a walk). And found two partners to do it with.
But for months now, I’ve done very little of the kind of writing that prompted me to attend BlogHer in the first place. And it makes me sad.
The other day on Facebook, my friend Julie posted an article about ADHD in girls. And reading it, I wondered if I might actually have an adult case of it: I feel perpetually scattered, I constantly lose things… and I’ve felt mentally fuzzy for the two months I’ve been off caffeine; a disconcerting feeling I’ve been unable to shake. Maybe the structure of my previous occupations kept me in check? And now that my daughter doesn’t even need me to drive her to school, I’ve lost all semblance of structure and so I keep drifting off-task and topic…
Or it could just be that I spend too much time on Facebook (an occupational hazard for the type of social media type stuff I have been engaged in now for years).
But maybe it’s just the fact that I don’t have a lot of time to sit and think. When everything is boom boom boom, deadline, deadline, get here and then go there and then the family is home and it’s time to shift to making dinner… It’s all too fast. And I miss those long, long, afternoons sitting in a hot gymnasium, feeling bored while my daughter trained.
I wrote some of my best posts that way.
I keep thinking of ways to try to build in some time to do as little as possible (and hopefully, get my creative juices flowing again). But I have too many obligations, too many deadlines, too many things I should be doing that never get done.
Time management #FAIL .
My daughter decided that if she HAD to stay in Los Angeles for Independence Day, she would at least spend it with friends. She invited two of them for an overnight marathon of movies, junk food and board games.
Ever last-minute, I decided we would be traditional and grill burgers for dinner. I queried the girls on their preferences.
“Any vegetarians here?”
No. That wouldn’t be a problem anyway, as we have plenty of vegan burgers for my husband. But one of the girls likes yellow mustard on her burgers. This is a substance I do not usually stock in my fridge.
And then I dropped the bombshell:
“How badly do you guys really want to see fireworks tonight?”
Stupid question, right? But I still wasn’t sure how to go about celebrating July 4 in Los Angeles.
The closest fireworks show is at a megachurch down the hill from one of the girls visiting. Last year’s event drew 60,000 people.
“That doesn’t sound right,” my husband scoffed. “It’s probably 6,000 people. Which still sounds like a lot.”
I pointed him to the website, which clearly boasts attendance of 60,000.
The neighborhood girl concurred: “You don’t want to go anywhere near there after 5:00. There is no place to park.”
That didn’t sound promising. I’m not a big fan of hanging out in the hot sun with huge crowds of people, hours before the start of the actual fireworks show. Besides, the girls were in the middle of one of their movies and while they wanted the fireworks, they did not wish to leave before the film’s end.
The event that intrigued us the most was the fireworks show and block party at Grand Park across from Los Angeles City Hall. So at 6:00, we piled into the car and drove downtown.
What we saw made my heart sing: Thousands of Angelenos — families, couples, young and old — were gathering downtown to listen to music and celebrate the founding of our nation. In downtown Los Angeles. I’ve written quite a bit over the last couple of years about the new energy in the heart of the city, thanks to a new population of urban residents who are finally making downtown a neighborhood again.
But we did not stay very long. We were famished and could not find the food trucks we expected (just one serving ice cream and another with kettle corn). So we walked a few blocks south to the Far Bar in Little Tokyo, where we enjoyed a very nice dinner… interrupted by the sound of fireworks (way earlier than the 9:00 PM start time listed on the LA Times blog). We finished our meal and headed back to City Hall, just in time for the finale, accompanied by the Star Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful.
I glanced at the time: It was 8:58.
But at least, we got to see a bit of the show.
And as we drove along the 101 back to the Valley, we got to see quite a number of pyrotechnic displays throughout the city.
Next time, maybe we’ll just get in the car and drive.
We will NOT be spending Independence Day this year with my sister’s family in Sacramento, which has led me to something of a dilemma: How the heck are we going to celebrate the 4th of July here in LA?
I’ve been combing local event sites for lists of fireworks shows and festivals for the Fourth, and there are plenty to choose from. So the hard part is making an actual decision. Do we want to watch the fireworks at the mega-church in Porter Ranch? All the way down to Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles? Or choose between two locations up in Santa Clarita?
It all sounds so… crowded.
I have always preferred the fireworks shows that come at the end of some kind of entertainment. Like at the end of a July 4 game at Dodger Stadium. (Alas, the Dodgers are playing the Rockies this week, so baseball fans in Denver will get to enjoy the show). Or the traditional Independence Day concert at the Hollywood Bowl. This year’s July 4 extravaganza features Josh Groban, who’s OK, I guess. But I would much prefer the July 5 & 6 tributes to Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes. Let’s be honest here: I’m not all that cultured. Just about everything I know about classical music is what I gleaned from watching Bugs Bunny cartoons as a kid. And how meta would it be to see “Long-Haired Hare” at the very venue portrayed there? (Not to mention my all-time favorite, “What’s Opera, Doc?” (You know, the one where Elmer Fudd sings, “Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit…”)
Do you think there’s any chance I can convince the family to stay in on Thursday?
See you in the crowd.
I just received a reminder about my high school reunion, which is taking place this summer.
I tossed it straight into the circular file. As I said when I received the “Save the Date” notice last year, I don’t do reunions any longer. That’s what Facebook is for.
Besides, I’ve spent the last 40 years trying to forget the horrors of being a teenage girl at an American high school in the late 20th century — and I don’t need to spend an awkward evening with a bunch of my peers whose only thing in common with me is that we served time together 40 years ago.
I know – that makes it sound like high school was pure torture. That’s only half-true. It was also an exhilarating period of my life, filled with friends who I was convinced were all going to change the world. As I thought I would do — even though I was a socially backward skinny teen who had trouble making friends. I just knew that once I was an adult, all of that would change.
And for a while, it did. My first jobs out of college had a modicum of glamour. I interviewed rock stars for a living. I worked in television. I traveled.
And as much as I tried to forget the teenaged me, she refuses to stay buried. Today I’m a socially backward, pudgy middle-aged woman without a lot of real accomplishments under her belt. I don’t feel like affirming the opinions of those who won’t be surprised by that. That is, if anyone remembers me at all.
I might feel differently if I had moved away from here. But since I remain, a day does not go by when I am not reminded of something from my youth. Like yesterday, while driving my daughter and her friends home from a day at the beach, we ended up passing an apartment building that had been home to two of my high school friends who got married at 19. A block up the street we passed the hospital where another friend had some scary surgery. And across the street from there was the corner where another friend died in a car crash.
By the time I was 40, five of the kids I hung out with in high school had all died: Two suicides, one AIDS, one cancer and the aforementioned fatal accident. The couple that married too young eventually divorced, and after that I was dismayed to learn that the relationship had been abusive.
I suppose part of my reluctance to revisit those years is a fear of what I might learn about the real lives of my old friends.
Better to remember each other when we were young and had bright futures.
At least on Facebook, I can choose the side of myself I wish others to see.
I am in San Jose this week, attending Netroots Nation with several of the other MOMocrats. This is my live blog of this morning’s general session on gun violence, six months after Newtown.
Moderator Jehmu Green cannot think of another conversation as important. This session focuses on how to address this problem and leave this conversation with a very clear understanding on how you can get involved.
Panel consists of:
The session focused on how to get engaged on this issue and what each organization and individual speaker is doing right now, six months after Newtown.
Read the rest of this post over at MOMocrats.
It started in January 2012, when my sister forwarded me a Groupon: $165 for a two-night stay in an ocean view room in Mendocino, plus a bottle of wine.
“This is a great deal,” my sister said. “We should do it.” She did not have to do a lot to talk my husband into it. We bought the Groupon and set about trying to find a date that would work for the four of us. The problem is that the coastal town of Mendocino is a four-hour drive from my sister’s home in the Sacramento area — which is a six-hour drive from our house. This would make it tough to do over a weekend. We needed to identify a school holiday and then arrange for my husband to take a couple of days off work to accommodate the travel time.
We decided on the first weekend of Spring Break. But a funny thing happened on our way up to Sacramento in March of 2012: my niece got home from school feeling sick, and her parents did not feel comfortable leaving her home alone (albeit with her cousin and older siblings). My sister suggested that Gareth and I go alone — but we did not want to do that, either.
So we re-scheduled for the next holiday on the calendar where all the pieces might fall into place for a getaway: Thanksgiving Weekend. But by the time November rolled around, we realized that this was not going to work, either: Linda always hosts a huge dinner with lots of guests, and we were not the only ones coming in from out of town. There was no way to graciously leave town the next day. So we rescheduled again — for Spring Break of this year…
…and once again, we found ourselves unable to make it.
By this time, we had lost the “deal” part of our Groupon: We each had our $165 on account, which we could redeem whenever we actually showed up to stay. We reduced our time from two nights to one at $200 per night. So by the time we actually got in the car and made the drive to Mendocino, we were determined to make sure our money did not go to waste. We were also pretty sure that the staff had started a pool to bet on whether or not we’d actually show up this time.
I was relieved not to be greeted with sarcasm upon check-in. In fact, everyone we met at the Hill House Inn was friendly and pleasant. Our rooms were spacious and clean. The furnishings were a little bit dated (which you can get away with in a historic hotel) and the televisions were older models — but we had free wi-fi, which I really appreciated since my phone didn’t work so well up there.
And as my sister had promised, the town of Mendocino is absolutely charming:
My youngest niece graduated from high school last week, and so we packed up our things and drove up to Sacramento to celebrate — just as we did when her older brother and sister reached that milestone.
But this year, we did something different: we stayed a while. My sister and I have been trying to arrange a couples’ trip up to Mendocino for the longest time, but between the restraints of work and school, it’s been hard to coordinate. With the start of summer and all of us in the same place, we were finally able to make that happen.
And as it’s just silly to rush back home so you can get back to work mid-week, we extended our holiday until Friday, and made a pit stop in one of our state’s natural wonders: Yosemite National Park.
It was our first real vacation – not just an extended weekend – in three years.
As you all know, I’m not the outdoors type – but I still found plenty of ways to enjoy the beauty of Yosemite, including a morning art class that had me wielding a paintbrush for the first time since I was a kid. The resulting watercolor wasn’t great – but it didn’t totally suck, either. And I got in touch with a part of myself that’s been dormant for a long, long time.
My first attempt at painting in something like 40 years.
In fact, I think just the fact of being on vacation – without the usual workday stress – allowed each of us to be our authentic selves again. You know, the people we were before we became parents and homeowners and had to act like responsible adults. For one week, we were relaxed. For one week, we weren’t bickering with one another. For one week, I felt at peace.
Now that I am back, I am trying to figure out how to hold on to that authentic self I got to meet again while on vacation. I may make some time to do more painting, if only for myself.
And start planning my next vacation. Hopefully, I won’t have to wait as long.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
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