• blogher08,  Buddies,  Family Matters,  photography,  spilling my guts,  the sticks,  Tis the Season

    Finally December


    November has been the longest month ever. I probably feel this way because I’ve lived beyond my means (like an idiot) and I’ve been waiting for my quarterly paycheck to come so I can pay those nasty credit card bills back down. A watched pot never boils and all that. It’s been painfully long. Every day checking my bank account, every day sad. I know, at least I have a paycheck to look forward to when so many people don’t. I have a lot to be thankful for. But I was talking to Bug and she said November has been dreadfully long for her too. A few other friends have mentioned that they seem to be going through old crap that they thought they were over so maybe it’s not just me. And that got me thinking…

    When you find yourself going through something that you thought you were over (for me it’s money problems. I never seemed to learn those rich dad poor dad lessons…) instead of feeling extra crappy about being such a failure AGAIN, we should feel a little bit relieved because we have a safety net! We’ve been here before and we survived. Last time I was here I didn’t think I was going to survive. I thought my debt was going to snowball until I was homeless.

    But I’ve done this before and I did survive. I survived and thrived in fact. Here we are in familiar territory and we have the benefit of knowing we made it through in the past. Maybe this is just a circular argument or I’m not explaining it very well.  But it should give me some comfort knowing that I’ve done this before. It’s just the waiting that’s so hard. Even with all the wisdom in the world it still is so hard to be patient and wait for hard times to pass.


    In the meantime, some beautiful fall weather has been passing and I’m worried I haven’t truly enjoyed it because I’ve been so stressed. We did have a really nice Thanksgiving (I cooked a turkey AGAIN and didn’t fail!) and we got our holiday photos taken by Yvonne. Do you know Yvonne Valtierra aka the OG blogger, Joy Unexpected? She’s a magical photographer.

    I met Yvonne ages ago. I think it was 2008 when we were both mommy bloggers doing the cheeseburger party or something (links seem to be lost to time but there are some here if you really want to dig deep.)  She visited us once at the beach and took a photo of Bug’s foot in her polka-dotted slip-on generic Payless Vans and my foot next to it in my flip flop with a paint smudge on the side. It was such a simple photo but in that very small snapshot of life you could see so much about us. I have it framed and it sits on my bedside table to this day bringing me memories of when Bug was two and how she used to hang beside me like my shadow. Now I’m the one hanging beside her like a shadow but that bond is the same. We have always been so close and Yvonne captures that. That’s what I really love about Yvonne is her ability to see all the subtleties.


    I’ve hired lots of my friends as photographers over the years and I love them all. Each of them captures something sweet and different from the other. I think as a photographer I just have such a love of other people who can see the world through a camera lens and tell stories with how they frame a shot. Little looks, glances, the way the light sits… I’m just a sucker for a good photographer.  If you are looking for a photographer in Southern California I can recommend many but I especially want to recommend Yvonne.


    This one looks like a perfume ad. Who knew age spots could be sexy?!!


    I’m only sharing a few shots here and I have dozens more but I don’t want to oversaturate this blog. I’m sure they will show up somewhere someday because they are my favorite. Thank you Yvonne, if you are reading this! You did such an amazing job! I hope you keep on doing exactly what you are doing. You’ve hit the sweet spot.

  • Buddies,  travel

    Visiting Susan


    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!!!


    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.


    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.


    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…


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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!


    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.


    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:


    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…


    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!


    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!


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


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



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


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


    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.


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


    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.


    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.


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


    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.


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


    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.


    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.


    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!