Trippin’ down the PCH during a really crazy week filled with things I want to ignore but can’t…

FullSizeRender (30)Yeah, so we were on vacation last week when the awfulness of Charlottesville unfolded. The fact that it happened is sickening and disheartening, but the worst part is that our “President” couldn’t muster enough dignity or human decency to call it what it was or disavow those who were responsible. Ugh. But as I said, we were on vacation when he was not doing what he should have been doing if he were any kind of real leader or moral upstanding citizen. Sooooo… instead of going on and on about how disgusted I am with his response(s) and the state of the White House in general (except bye-bye and good riddance Bannon, you pillar of racism!!) I am going to show you some really pretty pictures of the really amazing road trip we took while all that was happening.  And yes, I do feel a little guilty for experiencing so much beauty during such a dark time, but I also feel like it was a constant reminder that there IS good in this world; that there are really decent and lovely people out there. Also it was really nice to escape to the Pacific Coast and gaze out over the beautiful ruggedness of the cliffs and be hypnotized by the vast sea and just disconnect from everything for a little while– to recharge and renew my resolve to be better and to do more to help ensure the world is a nicer place for everyone.

We drove from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 7 days- here are the highlights and places I recommend you go to if you ever find yourself driving down the PCH and the 101.

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I haven’t been to Lombard St in 20 years. It’s still as twisty as ever and lots of people were either driving down it or walking up it. We just took pictures of it. I like the view from the top.
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This is where the streets of the world meet the avenues of the mind.
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City Lights has books, but also so much more. You really just have to go to see what I mean.
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Chinatown was cool! We were going to have Dim Sum, but then we ended up finding a good sushi place on the other side of Union Square, so we didn’t really experience it like we should have…but it’s ok because the sushi was really good.
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I went for an early morning run down the Embarcadero.  It was beautiful and I met a lot of homeless people (not really, but I did befriend a cute homeless dog).
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They don’t call it Fog City because it’s sunny…
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One day we rented bikes and rode from the Ferry building all the way down the Embarcadero, past Fishermans Wharf and up through the hilly (!!!) Presidio, then over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito.  My calves and my buns still hurt from the memory.
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While we were waiting for the bike rental guy to show up we checked out the Ferry Terminal Farmers Market.  It was fabulous- fruits and veg, coffee roasters, baked goods, meats, cheeses, live music and YES!! flowers. Flowers make me happy.  Especially when they come in tin cans.
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This isn’t Muir Woods but it looks like it, right? It’s Andy Goldsworthy’s installation in the Presidio. I thought it was amazing. My kids thought it was just a bunch of tall trees and logs.
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This is in front of Lucasfilms headquarters which is also in the Presidio.  It’s the world’s largest, and also the world’s smallest Yoda fountain.  It might be the world’s only Yoda fountain (but I’m not really sure).
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It was still very foggy which might have been a good thing because riding over the bridge was a little scawwwy.
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There were a ton of people in Sausalito, but we muscled our way through the crowds and rode down the road out of town to check out the houseboats and that was pretty neat.
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Habitat goals. Also #supportthearts
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I could totally live here.
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We took a ferry back from Sausalito because really a one-way bike ride over the bridge is plenty. Plus…that view.
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This was my Rice a Roni moment.
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I left my heart in San Francisco (no I didn’t, but that’s a good caption for this pic, isn’t it?)
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One of my favorite stops was in Pescadero, CA. It is a little tiny town in between here and there and there’s not too much to see but they have this brekkie spot that was pretty awesome.
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Pretty awesome, as I said.
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Actually, there was something to see in Pescadero…this sweet ride in front of this cute coffee shop (which is across the street from the not cute, but awesome breakfast spot).
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We tried to drive all the way down to Pfeiffer Beach but the road was still closed. We did manage to see some beautiful sites in Big Sur anyway.
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Ahhh… so pretty.
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Did I mention how pretty it was?
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Super, duper pretty.
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We like to ride into town with the top down…
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We drove the Pebble Beach 17 Mile Drive but no one was really impressed.  My son pointed out that this cypress is actually not that lonely because there are other trees really close by (cropped out for effect).
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We were lucky enough to be in Carmel for the start of the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The streets were filled with millions (billions?) of dollars worth of beautiful cars.  I love the Porche 911 most of all.
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I also have a soft spot for VW’s (especially buses). True story: We had an orange VW bus for a few years when I was a kid and when my parents sold it I cried.  I still miss that car. We drove it up from Georgia to New Hampshire and my sister and I both got food poisoning at South of the Border. Also, we bought fireworks but we couldn’t light them in NH because it was illegal. But my dad might have anyway. Ah, memories…
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Indeed.
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Quick stop in Santa Cruz…
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We saw surfers, sea lions, and even a giant whale.  It was kind of great.
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We all LOVED San Luis Obispo. What a fun, laid-back cool ass town! We stayed here and you should too, if you like hip, loft style apartment living.
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We saw the SMEG and immediately felt right at home, except this one is black and ours is orange, so this one is way cooler.
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Every apartment comes equipped with one of these, and there are stacks of records to choose from.  We took turns playing d.j.
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Here’s my daughter, she liked the free Wifi.
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Feeling good in SLO
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I liked this building. I hope Cody Johnson had fun playing there.
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Also, I liked this coffee shop (Kreuzberg).
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Except I got chai instead of coffee.
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Bubblegum alley is really gross.
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Really gross.
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We went to Pismo Beach and caught some waves. This is me surfing (just kidding).

 

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Santa Barabara’s Funk Zone is an artist enclave/wine tasting mecca/antique pickers dream.
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Here’s where we had our 11:00 am wine tasting and the kids had freshly baked scones. Win, win.
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Another winery. Very tropical, no?
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Obviously.
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This place made me wish we’d rented a U-Haul instead of a convertible.
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This store had only been open for two days when we visited.  I like that bag, and also everything else.
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Wine, yes wine everywhere in the Funk Zone. Yay for wine.
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And pizza.
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Onward to LA! We had a pretty sweet spot to relax and chill out at for a bit. And connect to Wifi, of course.
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Our pool didn’t have any chlorine- just natural stuff like copper and other minerals, so swimming in it felt really good, and also doubled as a bath. Time-saver!
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I took a lot of palm tree pictures. I don’t really know why except that this view seems very LA.
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Santa Monica Pier is prettier from afar, but it was fun to be up close too. This is the view from Muscle Beach where none of us did any pull-ups or anything. We just watched other people working out and then went and ate tacos.
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Here’s where we ate the tacos- Blue Plate. If you’re in Santa Monica, you should go here for tacos.
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And go at sunset- the view is insane.
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We spent our last night in Japantown. It was very sweet.
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And, we ate French ice cream in Japantown. I don’t know why except that it was there so we did.

Thinking of you Charlottesville and Barcelona!! #thereisonlyoneside #lovewins

School’s Out for Summah!!

FullSizeRender (17)In just a few short days my kids are going to be done with 7th and 3rd grades, and all I can think is- holy shit, where did the year go? Holy shit- where did the last 13 years go? And also, what the hell are they going to do all summer?  And, also, I’m really, really jealous of them. And, also, I haven’t even bought this year’s supply of sunscreen OR bug spray. And the bugs are supposed to be very, very, very bad this year. And also, I don’t think I have a bathing suit that isn’t stretched and faded to the point of being embarrassing.  And also, I haven’t even cleaned out our beach bag from last summer yet.  I shudder to think what I’ll find. A pound of sand? A half-eaten candy bar? A single water shoe? Some crab carcasses? Waterlogged magazines and books? Yes, probably all of that. And also, seriously, what are they going to do all summer? I mean, they are both signed up for sailing and camps here and there, but the days are long, and the potential for shenanigans is high, at least with my daughter.  My son, I’m not so worried about- I can picture what he’ll be doing in his free time:  read, lego, repeat.  But my daughter… well, I’m sitting here letting my imagination run rampant.

The summer I was 13 my parents sent me to Mexico City to visit my friend, Erin.  Erin was my next door neighbor when we lived in Panama.  We were inseparable in 5th and 6th grade. But, she moved right before 7th grade; her lovely family replaced with one with two bratty kids that weren’t nearly as fun. I made some hard-earned babysitting money off of them but that’s all they were good for. They told me I smelled and that I needed to shave my legs (which was probably 100% accurate but made me hate them all the more).  It was a long year without her. Also, I wasn’t too thrilled about moving to Alabama (after living in paradise for three years it seemed like a crappy hand to be dealt) so the Mexico trip was presented as a way to soften the blow.

I was only there a few weeks, but we did a lot.  The things I remember most are: stealing her parent’s car and joy-riding around the city; meeting up with her older brother’s friends to drink “cokes” that made me feel giddy and nauseous; making homemade aloe face masks that left us rashy; visiting like 200 museums with mummies and pyramid replicas; spending a dusty, hot day at some Aztek ruin that I didn’t appreciate at all; staying up til all hours of the night watching highly inappropriate movies; throwing up in her dad’s car on a windy mountain road heading to Ixtapa; eating tortillas hot out of the oven from roadside shacks; sneaking out and smoking cigarettes on the beach when her dad went to bed; throwing up in her dad’s car on a windy mountain road on the way back from Ixtapa; and wishing her cute older brother would get back from wherever he was already (I had a mad crush and he was the first and only boy I’d ever kissed). He never showed, but that was still the best vacation I’d had in my young life.

So this is why my mind is going to all places crazy right now. I do not want to imagine my daughter driving, drinking, smoking or kissing this summer. Eh gahhh!  But left to her own devices anything could happen, right?  She is the same age I was that year and look how I spent my time! It was probably a good thing that I moved to Alabama after that and spent a miserable year friendless and mopey, listening to Elton John sing Sad Songs Say So Much and pining for my old life.  It definitely tamed the wild side that Erin introduced me to.  But what’s going to tame my girl’s wild side? Wait, does she have a wild side??!! Ugh… I don’t want her to find out. Not yet.

FullSizeRender (16)Our town isn’t nearly as exotic as Mexico, but there are similarities- there’s a beach for example, and boys, and cars.  We even have a museum of sorts. And we do kinda buy into that free-range-kid philosophy to a degree.  I like that both my kids have their independence and that they can take off on their bikes to meet friends at the general store, the beach, the playground, or any of the other local hangouts around town.  I do trust that my daughter will make good choices.  But we’re getting to the point where those good choices are going to be harder and harder to make. How much freedom do we give her? Enough to feel independent, but not enough to get into trouble? But what does that even mean? Here we are, entering into another phase of parenting and I am completely unprepared.  I don’t even have bug spray. And the bugs are supposed to be very, very, very bad this year…

 

Mom, then and now (and all of it beautiful)

FullSizeRender (6).jpg This is my mom (on the right) and her friend Barbara, back in -oh I don’t know- maybe the early 80s or late 70s. Back when to me, Mom was just MOM. She was just the woman who took care of me and my sister, the woman who made dinner, the one who cleaned the house, the one who left behind a cloud of White Shoulders perfume and a smudge of lipstick on my cheek when she and my dad went out on weekend nights. She drove me to the emergency room when I sliced my leg wide open on the neighbors swing set and was the one who helped dry out my favorite stuffed animal after I left it out in the rain one day.  She braided my hair for school and made me drink my milk at dinner. She was the one who let us get a cat, and then took care of it when we didn’t. She was Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy.

I knew she liked to drink Tab and smoke Kents, and that she stockpiled crime and mystery paperbacks. I knew that she missed her mom and that she loved to travel. She sang loudly and off-key in the car to music my sister and I hated, and she liked to make small talk with the checkout lady at the grocery store. She had a short temper but a great laugh that came from deep inside when she thought something was really funny. She hated her teeth and never smiled for pictures. She had an amazing sense of style and for a while she made most of her own clothes. She hated to exercise but once she took disco lessons and she had one signature move that she used over and over. When she went in the pool or ocean she never got her hair wet. She was a master at floating with a cocktail in her hand. She liked parties but hated that my dad always had to be the last to leave. She was the family Jeopardy champion because she was sharp and smart as a whip. She made tuna casserole for dinner way too often. She had a seemingly endless repertoire of idioms that she could wield on a dime as unsolicited advice or a spot-on reprimand. She liked daffodils because they were yellow and she seemed to know the name of every plant she came across. Her boarding school days didn’t do anything to dim her spit or fire but did instill in her a deep appreciation for and insistence on proper etiquette. I knew all of this, I saw all of this, but I didn’t see HER. All of these things were just things about my MOM that I knew.

I think sometime in my early 20s I started to think of my parents as people and I started to realize that I could have a relationship with them that went beyond the daughter- parent one. There were a few really good years there when my mom and I could have nice conversations over a glass of wine and really connect. I think if we had been contemporaries we would have been great friends as kids, teens, young adults. I think if she hadn’t gotten sick we would have been great friends as grown-ups. But she did get sick, and that’s where the trajectory of the story changes.

You see now, these days, Ceci struggles with the ravages of Parkinsons Disease.  And it’s a bitch.

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Over the 15 years that my mom has had this devastating disease it has slowly robbed her of many of the motor and cognitive skills that have always defined her.  She can no longer boogie down and sing at the top of her lungs while driving down the street. She can no longer tell you the name of every President and Vice President (and who ran against them) in the order they were elected. She can’t paint her toenails fire engine red and some days she can’t put her lipstick on straight. Cooking is a chore because getting dishes out of the oven is complicated. She can’t sew because her fingers don’t work that way anymore and sometimes she needs help putting on her shoes. She can’t string beads to make necklaces and she can’t refinish a piece of furniture when she gets bored of its current state.  It’s hard for her to turn the pages of a book. And there are days she can’t get out of bed. She asks the same questions over and over again, and she forgets things we already talked about. We don’t have conversations about complicated things. I can’t ask her advice when my own daughter has me at my wit’s end or when I feel overwhelmed with the everyday chaos of my life.

I feel like she’s lost so much of herself and so, subsequently, we’ve lost so much of her and sometimes that leaves me breathless. But then I think of who she’s shown herself to be, and with that, what we have been given– and that too stops me short. Because despite all of the challenges she’s faced with this disease, despite all of the limitations she now has, she doesn’t complain, she doesn’t give up and she doesn’t give in. I know she has bad days, and I know she gets frustrated and depressed. But she almost always puts on a brave face. She never says no, and she never says “I can’t do this”. She still travels, she still has dinner parties, she still goes out with her girlfriends for lunch or to the movies. She still tries. Every. Single. Day.

She is the epitome of grace in the face of adversity. She is resilient and brave and determined. She is a reminder that life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect it, but if you try, if you really try, you can make it work for you. Sometimes really shitty things happen that you can’t control, but if you have the right attitude and enough determination those things won’t destroy you. They won’t define you and they won’t destroy you.

Mom, I knew you back then, but I didn’t KNOW you. Now I know YOU. Getting to here from there didn’t happen the way any of us wanted, and I’d still change it for you if I could. But, it’s your life, it’s my life, and all of it’s beautiful even when it’s scarred and imperfect. Thank you for teaching me that.

Goals

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My house is a work in progress. When we bought it back in July of 2014 it was in a sad state.  It was built by a stone mason in 1957 and had some interesting features that we liked for their uniqueness and, as they say, the bones were good- so we made it ours, even though there were layers of grime, miles of wood paneling, scratched and worn floors, weird tile, funky windows, an overwhelming odor of stale oldness and a few stray cats living on the porch (and leaving interesting piles of you don’t want to know what on the floor).  The kids saw a house of horrors, my husband and I saw potential. This was nothing new; it’s our fourth fixer upper. I’d like to say it’s our last, but I have a penchant for rescuing sad, ugly houses and there are a few around here that I’d love to get my hands on, but that’s a different story for a different day.

Anyway, so we’ve done a lot to the house. We took down walls, we reconfigured the living space, added a new kitchen and a second bath, converted a porch to a family room, built a big deck (outside living space is mandatory in a beach town!) and invested in millions of gallons of white paint. We’ve put a ton of time and energy into making this house a home. And it is great, it does feel like home. I love everything we’ve been able to do with it. But there was one little thing that we just never really got around to and it was driving me bananas.

When we bought the house we knew that renovating the weird and creepy basement would be a project for the future (possibly the far out future given everything else we needed to do). But, as I was looking for the different elements that would turn this fixer into our home, I found the PERFECT light for the stairwell going down to the basement. Everything about it was exactly what I wanted- the size, the style, the material, just everything. I did not know it was possible to care so dang much about a light. But, well, let’s just say it was love. True love!! So, I bought it.

And, it’s been sitting in our garage, still in it’s original box, for 2 1/2 years.  My husband started using it to store his car gear on, like a work table. No, no, no, no.

It does not feel good to leave something hanging for that long (ha- no pun intended). It was a project that I wanted to finish, but just never did. It’s like that one thing on your to-do list that you keep writing down week after week because it somehow just never gets done. The one you never cross off for whatever reason. I hate that.

If you leave something for too long, the desire fades and you end up settling for the way things are, not the way you want things to be. And, I think that’s a shame. I am at a point in my life where I don’t want to leave things as they are if I’m not satisfied with them. I want to be motivated to make positive changes. I do not want to avoid doing something because it’s hard. I no longer care about low hanging fruit. I want to climb the tree and go for the best that you find at the top. And, I guess maybe finally getting this light hung represented a little bit of that for me. A small catalyst.

So!!! We hung the light! It was a feat of balance, acrobatics and upper body strength- I didn’t think about the logistics of hanging a 20 lb light from a 15 ft ceiling over a steep, unforgiving brick stairwell, and you probably never have either. Yeah, it was not easy. But we did it, and we did it without killing each other (figuratively or literally).

It feels so good to cross that off the list. Every time I open the door to the basement I get a little happy flutter in my heart. Why? It does look damn good, especially with all that beautiful white paint (I do love white paint!) and maybe that’s part of it. But also maybe because for me it represents something more. It’s goals.