Visiting Susan

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You’ll have to forgive me. I’m blogging about something that happened in May, in July. I refuse to give up blogging even though life is clearly trying to tell me that it’s not as important to me as it used to be. So, yes, this last May I took a little trip to Northern California to visit my good friend and fairy godmother, Susan.

They say you should have someone older in your life who can mentor you and someone younger who you can mentor. Susan is definitely my mentor. We’ve been talking about everything under the sun and encouraging each other for twenty years. TWENTY YEARS!!!

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Those of you who know Susan, know exactly what I’m talking about when I say that Susan is full of life. She buzzes on a higher frequency than the rest of us. She is like a hummingbird, or in my case a fairy godmother, leaving love bombs everywhere she flits. She’s been taking care of me for so long with gifts and little thoughtful acts of kindness,  I have to stop her now because I don’t need so much as I used to. I used to need her care desperately. From haircuts and loans to childcare to long walks and phone calls through tear strung marriage difficulties and clients that sucked my will to live…she has always been there for me. I wish everyone had a fairy godmother.

But also she is just my friend. A kindred spirit. No matter what we do together, we always have fun. Twenty years is a long time to have fun.

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Whenever I’m struggling with life, I like to pop in on Susan and rest up in her home that feels like a retreat. In fact, I hosted my 40th birthday retreat there and I’m contemplating hosting my 50th there as well.  Her home is so welcoming and unique. No matter what size your party, whether it’s one person or 50, that house can fit everyone like a hug.

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I’m sorry to keep bragging but Susan and I have been postcard buddies for a really, really, really long time. It started out as a way to keep in touch when she was recovering from a broken back but I just never stopped sending them. That’s twenty years of postcards! Susan has kept every single one. She brought them out when I was there and it was eye-widening. I didn’t read every single one but I perused them and with each card, I caught myself reliving chapters and chapters of my life. So much has changed over the years…

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We organized them and put them in a new box. It felt like I was looking over a manuscript. Who knows, maybe they will play a part in a memoir I might write someday.

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So many memories.

But as I said, I was at Susan’s to rest and recharge. I needed a little break from my regular life to get a new perspective on some thought problems that have been plaguing me. Nothing too serious or anything that I can really share but you know how life can twist and turn and you find yourself changing in ways you never thought you would…  I’ve been seeing a therapist for a while now and it’s making me stronger and stronger. I’m taking on changes that my old self wouldn’t even acknowledge. It’s a very weird and new place for me to be.

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Some of my growing pains have decided to manifest themselves physically in my back. I creak and ache and one hip likes to get really really cranky. I don’t like it at all. I thought I could stay young and spry forever but add a combination of weight gain, bad posture, and way too much anxiety and I think my age is starting to show against my will

Susan decided I needed time on her “bio-mat,” a heated yoga mat made of tubes with crystals inside them. Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical of woo-woo crystals but I dutifully did my time as Susan prescribed: Ten to 15 minutes every morning and night. It took a lot of patience in the morning to stay still and at night I fell asleep on it. I’m such a morning person that I run out of energy like a dying cell phone as soon as the sun goes down. If you ask me to watch a movie or lay on the floor on a heated mat, I am out in less than a minute. Susan would wake me up after fifteen minutes and I’d hobble off to bed.

But it did work! The pain in my back got less and less every day. I’m not sure if it was the crystals or just being cared for by Susan.

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On my second day, we visited a warehouse sale of Japanese artifacts. This sale only happens twice a year and Susan is on the mailing list of special customers who wait for these things. I was very happy to tag along!

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My mom lived in Japan when she was growing up so I have a soft spot for Japanese tchotchkes. I have fond memories of opening my mom’s cedar chest, breathing in that cedar smell, and looking through all of her treasures… I’d try on her wooden geta shoes, finger her silk obe, marvel at the tiny kimonoed figurines and kokeshi dolls… I love it all. It was really fun to walk around the warehouse and take pictures of things to text to my mom that might bring back memories of her childhood.

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I wished I was an interior decorator with a massive budget and a shipping container because I would love to ship this whole wall of wooden drawers and chests back to my house. Isn’t it amazing? I did buy a few small things that could fit in my suitcase but no furniture for me.

Then in true Susan fashion, she whisked me off for some more retail therapy in Nevada City. We meandered through the usual touristy shops (which we both found so strange after being cooped up all year) and then hit up her favorite thrift store.

Have I shown you Susan’s yard? Retreat is the theme here:

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Everywhere you look in Susan’s yard there is something to see. Angel statues, gazing balls, twinkling wind chimes, stacked rocks, rose gardens and flowers everywhere…

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In the very back corner of Susan’s yard is a strange installation that looks like a small oblong spaceship made out of copper pipes. It’s called The Omega. I don’t understand it completely but Susan described it as a series of pipes that encapsulate crystals that are pointed in a strategic direction to beam positive energy at all the negative energy in the world. Kind of like if there is a war in the middle east then this sculpture is beaming positive crystal energy at it. I know, it sounds crazy but there are crazier ideas in the world and this has good intentions so let’s just go with it. It’s installed by a guru of some sort who has all the coordinates figured out. In fact, Susan accidentally moved a plant in her yard and he called her up distressed. Apparently, he could tell with his spidey sense that something was not right in the crystal energy field as it were and by triangulation, he narrowed it down to a plant that was obstructing the beam. Go figure!

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I’m not a convert yet but I did find it incredibly interesting and maybe I might have picked up on something because when I stood next to it I felt a weird buzzing sensation in my chest. Or it could just be the power of suggestion. Either way, it was weird!

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It’s always good to have a friend who’s into woo-woo stuff.

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On our third day, we headed out to nature. Because everyone knows nature is good for healing all that ails.

 

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It was hot. But I’m glad we went because now it’s even hotter.

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There is nothing I like better than a hike through the wilderness along a stream. The flowers! The dying fauna…

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California is such a beautiful state. I’m sure all the other states have their beauty too but I am very proud of my California girl status.

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It just suits me. Or I suit it. I’m not sure.

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After hiking quite a bit we cooled ourselves off in our own little “Mermaid Grotto”  of giant boulders half-submerged in the stream. It was so nice to hide in the shade and let our feet cool in the icy cold water. It was just what I needed.

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Then we headed back home for our traditional glass of wine on her front porch. Susan has the best view. Unfortunately the mosquitos like it too so we didn’t stay out there too long.

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The next day we gardened! I mean, we’ve hit all the other R and R menu items so gardening falls in there somewhere!

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Susan had a small spot in her yard that was in need of some TLC so we built a little rock garden with pebbles and river rocks she had around.

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She also has a pretty nice collection of clay figures that a friend gave her so we placed them around.

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Can you tell Susan loves her garden?  We spent the rest of the mornings and afternoons there soaking up the tranquility. It’s the perfect little spot to sit and chat while you sip on a cup of coffee.

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At the end of my visit, I felt completely rested and recharged and ready to deal with the big decisions I needed to take care of when I got home.

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We finished off the perfect week with a parting dinner at one of Susan’s favorite Italian restaurants. You can’t really go home from visiting an Italian without having at least one superb pasta dish, right? It was delicious of course and I can’t wait to go back.  But I got what I came for: some restorative advice from a trusted friend. Now to take on the rest of my life!

The Unfortunate Timeshare Time-Suck and the 4am Fun Bunch

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Payam and I took a trip to Vegas this past weekend to celebrate our SIXTH anniversary (of not being married but acting like it). It was pretty fun of course. But let me tell you about the timeshare time-suck we got suckered into. Hah! Did I say the word suck enough? Because it sucked. Like a hoover. Those of you who have been through one of those Wyndham Resort Sales pitches are shaking your heads and laughing at me right now, I know.

Whooo. Boy. What a doozy.

A few drinks may have been involved when Payam and I stumbled out into the night air in search of cheap food. Suddenly out of nowhere someone offered me free Mystere tickets.  You could say it was an organized attack. Why, yes I would like some Mystere tickets. What’s the catch? Nothing, you just have to sit through a 120 minute sales pitch AND guess what, the sales woman will throw in her commission! Just sign your name on the line 15 times and put down fifty bucks that you’ll get back tomorrow.  That doesn’t sound like a scam at all! Well, not to somebody like me who’s spirit animal is tequila AND I really really wanted to go to a show instead of watch Payam gamble all night.

So yeah. We got suckered like the big fat bunch of suckers we are. The next morning we headed to our rendezvous to wait for our shuttle to take the tour. Thirty minutes later we actually got on the tour bus with ten other suckers just like us. You could hear the bleating of all the sheep before slaughter. The woman in front of us told us that back in the day she used to go to four of these a day and practically spend three days in Vegas for free with all the compensation “gifts”. That lifted my spirits a little but it turns out she was totally wrong.

They took us to another hotel and loaded up another 10 suckers before we finally made it to the Wyndham Resort itself, which let me tell you is nothing much. I mean I could understand wanting to sink some investments into Vegas property as the prices soar yearly now that they have multiple resident sports teams and plans of a super fast train between LA and Vegas but… the property itself was not anything I would really seek out. I’m all about boutique hotels and adventure and charm. Wyndham is about families and comfort and having your own kitchen. They didn’t even have a breakfast buffet for us. The “snacks” were gross coffee, powdered cream and a few packaged Danish cheese rolls. I was ready to get out already and we hadn’t even started our 120 minutes.

This was just the beginning of a very complicated waiting game designed to torture and subdue. After another fifteen minutes or so we finally met our friendly Persian sales guy. Of course they stuck us with the Persian guy. I’m sure they put down all the names on a table and when they saw a name that ended in a vowel Payam was a goner. Payam tried to pretend he doesn’t speak Farsi but that lasted all of three seconds. Before he knew it they were shaking hands and talking about where to get the best koobideh in town.

I won’t write up a whole play-by-play of the rest of the torture game but let me just say it was a lot of waiting and NOT talking about numbers. Whenever we would ask what it costs they would say, What is vacation worth to you? It was all about family values and making memories and how horrible you should feel if you don’t spend quality time with your family. Can you really put a price on that?

Yes, actually I can and it does NOT cost me four hours of my day in Vegas. So finally like fifty years later when my eyes were rolling back in my head and Payam was about to break out some karate to get out of there, they told us what the down payment would be. We obviously did not have the money for the deeply secret down payment and we were not interested in getting a loan to finance it. I mean, we did get suckered into the sales pitch but we aren’t complete morons. But that didn’t mean they didn’t try all the tricks in the book. Gifts and incentives galore, lots of going in and out of offices to consult with management. I felt like I was back in a 1990’s car dealership buying my first car. Our sales guy even had the body oder to match.

We were so done. When we finally signed a document saying we really were not interested (imagine that?!!) and we finally got our “gifts,” Payam and I didn’t even want to wait for our shuttle back to our hotel. We ordered an uber and got out of there as fast as we could.

BUT we did get tickets to Mystere and it was awesome!  It is true, there are no bad seats in the house for Mystere. We thought we’d be stuck in the back with our level 3/4 freebie seats but they were great. It was a great show. I can’t say say they were WORTH the four hours of torture but I would definitely pay full price for them.

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After the show we met up with my good friend Bethany (from 9th grade!!!) and Stephan (her roommate and therefore my buddy too) who live in Vegas. We partied like rockstars which lead to us exploring Fremont street at 4am like the locals do. It was crazy and fun and I laughed my voice hoarse. Bethany and I always get each other busting up since we have a lot of material being old college roommates and beyond.

And then I got the idea we should take pictures in front of this really well lit pizza sign. Because why not? Bomb lighting is bomb lighting!

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What a bunch of nuts, right? Good thing we only do this once or twice a year.