After coming here a couple of weeks ago, Paul and I were feeling the pull to go again. Paul and I went to college in Point Loma. Paul & I got married and lived in Seattle for six years before we moved back to Point Loma. We bought a 2,600 sq ft home with my parents and we rented a room each to my cousin and brother-in-law. A total of 7 years was spent with Point Loma being our day-to-day stomping grounds. During those years, there were regular Shelter Island visits — eating meals in the boat trailer parking lot — walking the long sidewalk that traces the edge of the bay — looking at the water, North Island Naval Station, and downtown views. It’s really quite a lovely place and it has a lot of memories for us.
Yesterday, we stopped by our favorite walk-up in Point Loma for Mexican food. Greedily grabbing our to-go bag, we headed to Shelter Island. We sat in the parking lot (which stays a lot busier now than when we first used to regularly visit). When we arrived, we unpacked our delicious carne asada (Paul had a burrito and me, a protein bowl), taquitos, and freshly made tortilla chips. We talked and watched the boats, including the cruise ship above, pass by. From where we sat, we watched the city go from faded to twinkling as the sun set and the city lights turned bright.
Walking Shelter Island
After letting the food settle a bit, we went for an early evening walk. Almost an hour-long walk, we walked and talked. It was peaceful. It felt both familiar and new. There’s so much that hasn’t been going how I planned or expected right now… the taking in and being a part of this familiar place was so very nice.
A couple of days after Christmas, we decided on a day trip to Mt Laguna to find some winter weather. Southern California is mild and temperate, especially along the coast. If you want to experience something approximating traditional seasonal weather, you have to drive a little bit. We plotted a path with hopes of seeing some snow. There and back again, the maps gave us a 3-1/2 hour driving time. Heading east on I-8, which we don’t do often, flooded my mind with memories of my high school years. I used to drive a carpool from Tierrasanta to El Cajon to attend my high school. It was a lot of driving for a new, teen driver. Once we passed my old school’s exit, my mind was freed to take in the new experience we were having.
We made it to the base of Mt. Laguna and there was a *chains required* warning. The roads were dry and there wasn’t a hint of wintery road conditions with the exception of the chill in the air. My first instinct thought was to turn around. Paul, a more ready and eager adventurer than I am (a recent and disappointing realization about myself), said “let’s just head up and see what there is to see”. And so we did.
The Healing Nature Does
Our first stop was a clearing where we could see people out and about… some sledding down the hill… and brave parents pulling wee ones on sleds across the terrain. We were expecting the cold, but were completely unprepared for the icy wind! (I need to learn how to embed videos, but until then, you can click here to see my Tiktok video when we stepped out into it. Then, I can’t think of a better word, the exaltation I felt was overwhelming. I couldn’t stop shivering or laughing. It was an energy bath I didn’t know I needed!
Being underdressed as we were, we couldn’t stay out in it long. We drove up a bit farther until we saw the temperatures dropping and knew that it would soon be, for real, chains weather. Turning around, we made our way towards Julian by way of Lake Cuyamaca.
For as many years as I’ve lived in San Diego County, this was my first time to Mt. Laguna and Lake Cuyamaca. I realized that in my early years when I still lived with my parents, we didn’t explore much because of the demands that work and life had at that time. And more recently, our years were spent freelancing. Work was demanding and finances lean. We just automatically ruled out taking mini-adventures like this one. Paul is no longer freelancing which means we have time to invest in days like this one!
We ended up skipping Julian. Between stinging icy winds, a packed with tourists Main Street, and Omicron… we decided to save Julian for another time. We mosied our way to Ramona and picked up Rubio’s fish tacos for Acorn and me (yum!) and a Popeye’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich for Paul (which he rated it a ‘meh’). After, next to Rubio’s was a store called Tropical Pineapples. Funny choices on such a cold day, I suppose, (especially when they offered hot drinks) but Acorn got shaved ice and I got a chocolate peppermint smoothie for the road trip home. Both were delicious.
My Lessons Learned:
As much as is absolutely possible… say yes to the day trip to Mt Laguna (all adventures really!), be present to this moment, and dress for the weather! 😘
I’ve forgotten how to blog. I go back and forth about what and how to write. I feel like I can blame part of it on my social media habits. Ultimately, it is my own doing – but my thoughts feel thin and scattered by the mere 5-15 second attention span required by the average social media interaction. Just like reading a book versus a blippet of caption text, writing a blog post requires a bit more mental staying power. Don’t get me wrong, there is value in social media. There are many ways that it contributes, challenges, encourages, and makes my days a little more quality. I’m just thinking about balance, making more room, and expanding myself again.
Learning a new language
For almost 4 months now, one area of self-expansion that I’ve been doing and enjoying is learning basic French on DuoLingo. In high school, I took French as my language requirement. I choose it because my Dad took French and told me how much he enjoyed the language. I started this after he died and I keep thinking that he would be tickled that I’m learning the language. He always wanted to be bi-lingual but he never took the time to learn and get to that point. I have wanted to as well and so I decided to start with small daily learning and practice. 115-day streak so far! 🥳 I’m proud of that streak.
There’s a woman on Instagram that I started following some time in the last year. She’s a clothing designer but with the new year, she decided to switch up her business. She is now a Visual Identity Coach. Her name is Rebecca Rowe (signs off her email newsletters as Bex). In one of her stories, she has a video of her practicing yoga and she wrote: “Doing this for the person I want to be next year. #tinyhabits” It hit me with a zing. You know how it is, you feel that small electric zing when something hits you just so. You can keep moving on and let it slip away – or you can hold onto it. I’m holding onto this one. I can feel it working on my thoughts and choices. I like that feeling. (Thanks Bex!)
What tiny habits do you practice? Which ones really work for you and make you feel like you are thriving!
Oh, and Happy Friday! This week, I’m feeling really happy it is here!
After exploring the Arts District and getting our fill of Mexican food, we drove over to our original destination: Shelter Island. By the time we got there, the sun was already setting, out of our view, behind the Point Loma Peninsula. The lighting was magical. The waters were smooth like polished liquid stone and their surfaces iridescent with the colors of the sunset.
_______ STEPPING INTO A WORLD OF COLOR
As soon as we parked it was clear we were stepping out of our car and through a portal to another world. The world was washed in hues of orange, yellow, blue, purple, and pink. My photos don’t adequately show the vibrance, brilliance, and glow. We were at Shelter Island, only, this was the fairyland version of it.
_______ SURPRISED BY NATURE
We had barely stepped through our portal and set our gaze on the still waters when a sea lion surfaced, took a breath, and slid back under the water. Acorn and I both gasped and said to each other at the same time: “Did you see?!” Paul caught a glimpse as he resurfaced, farther down the way, for another breath of air. The seagulls were unbothered by our arrival. The pelican, however, kept a watchful eye and did leave when he felt we had gotten close enough. While I didn’t mean to disturb him, watching him glide just above the water’s surface was magical too.
________ TWILIGHT TO NIGHT
While I certainly could have taken more… my mind, senses, and heart were full. When the skies faded from color to black, and we felt the chill of the sun’s leaving, we made our way back to the car and left for home.
Shelter Island has always been near and dear to our hearts. We have so many hours logged there. This evening felt like an extravagant gift to all of us on the occasion of Paul’s birthday.
Yesterday was the last day of Acorn’s winter break and Paul’s 4-day weekend. It is also Paul’s birthday. Since an extravagant, fun-filled, community celebration wasn’t an option, Paul wanted to visit one of our favorite and most memory-filled places (for us) in San Diego… Shelter Island. On the way and on a whim, Paul decided to pull into Liberty Station. It was a detour choice that I didn’t expect to offer much. But when we pulled in and saw a sign for the Arts District. We followed our noses and immediately made that left turn.
It has been years since we ventured into Liberty Station. We didn’t know there were artist studios. Most were closed but we could see sneak peeks of the work happening through the windows of the studios. And, we got lucky and found Colleen Veltz in her open studio. It was a delight to see her work and spend some time talking with her. We also crossed paths with glass artist Lisa Maywood in her studio space (Verre Designs). Anytime I meet other artists, especially in their studio/workspace, I leave energized and inspired.
——————– UNEXPECTED EMOTIONS AND MEMORIES
In addition to the Arts District, I was surprised by the emotion that hit while walking in and around the buildings. Most locals know that Liberty Station used to be a Naval Training Center (NTC). 18 years old, my dad completed his basic training here. The art studio buildings are converted barracks. As I walked around, I knew Dad walked there, trained there, fell in love with San Diego there. His time at NTC changed him, his life then, and then again many years later. And, by association, it changed mine too.
As we walked around, my thoughts wandering into questions about his time at NTC. And because he’s gone, I can’t ask him. Not that it matters per se… but I miss him. I want to talk to him and ask him the little things like… “which of these barracks was yours, Dad?” It was a gorgeous afternoon and a fun stop. I know Dad would have, if he could, loved to be there with us.
Back in the early 2000s, Paul and I bought and shared a home in Point Loma with my parents. Every time we head back to our old stomping grounds in that neighborhood, I’ve been washed over by grief grabs. Those years with Dad were before he lived with Parkinsons. And being here brought back to mind average day-to-day time spent with him. It was sweet and difficult. I realized I was unconsciously fighting back my tears and emotion. I asked Paul and Acorn for a hug and their love gave me the safety to dissolve into my tears for a bit. I’m so grateful for their willingness to allow space for my grief.
——————– TASTY FOOD
We made promises to ourselves and each other that we would be back to the Arts District soon and then made our way to a favorite neighborhood Mexican walk-up restaurant, Cotija’s. I was introduced to Cotija’s when I was attending a college nearby. So like, 30+ years ago. And they’ve been around much, much longer than that. They are definitely a neighborhood tradition. I forgot their burritos are as big as your head! 😂I’m doing the avoiding wheat/gluten thing, and they had added protein bowls to their menu. Perfect! It was delicious as always!
——————– GLAD TO BE WRONG
Outings like this remind me to not assume that I know what something is going to be like. When Paul turned on the blinker to head into Liberty Station, my thoughts went something like: “Ugh, this is going to be a waste of time.” And, nope, I was flat wrong. Paul mentioned a quote he remembered:
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
I’ve had a few ask how I am doing processing grief and the death of my dad. (It was three months ago today.) I thought I would take the time to write it out here and have an easy place to point to when asked.
How I am doing? I sighed deeply just writing and thinking about that question. I’m okay, good even. And I’m not, really struggling. In talking with others about grief, it appears that’s par for course. Over the past week, I’ve been struggling with heart palpitations/anxiety attacks. They get worse at night and, in those moments, I have to actively remind myself that I’m not going to die from them. It’s felt so real that I’ve teared up with gratitude in the morning when I awake… I’m alive. I’ve done what I do and researched it. The suggestions are:
Try relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga.
Eat well, eat foods with good levels of magnesium/potassium, and healthy fats
And so on…
I’m working on these and have felt some relief. Our bodies really do take a hit when our hearts are broken. I started a book a while back called The Body Keeps The Scoreby Bessel van der Kolk that talks about this fact. I’ve felt this before in myself. And, I am really feeling it as I process my grief of Dad’s physical death, as shown by the heart palpitations. The other place that I’ve discovered it is in my muscle groups. For a couple of years, I’ve experienced chronic pain in my muscles… every day feeling sore as though I had the hardest workout of my life the day before. It’s been debilitating and discouraging. Interestingly, after Dad died, the pain significantly subsided. I think the stress of Dad’s final years and months of life was relieved and my body felt that relief. But over the last week, it has come back. My disappointment can’t be overstated. But, it’s a sign of hope too… if it went away before, there’s the possibility it will again.
I’ll be honest, it feels a little insulting that I have to accept the death of my dad and processing grief… but that I have to navigate and manage its impact on my body as well. I’m not getting too stuck on that fact… but it is there. I’m mostly accepting of it, but I do sometimes resist and avoid doing the work. And that’s okay too. Grief isn’t handled one way… from person to person… or even by a single person from one time to the next. Lots of grace and love, relaxing into the experience of it and allowing it… and not putting unrealistic expectations on yourself… it’s all a day-by-day learning and practice.
So, that’s where I am. And again, mostly accepting of it all while my heart, mind, and body are hurting. It’s not easy and sometimes I fret because it impacts my ability to be as productive as I should be. There are big things that I need to be doing for my family and our future… and I’m finding it horribly difficult. But again, it’s a matter of taking each step forward as I can and with full compassion for myself. After all, my dad just died.
Writing about my portion of this stage of life’s journey, other than in my morning journal, has been met with internal hesitation and concern. Hesitation because it feels too hard to put in words what my experience of this has been. Even my personal journal is short on words. If you were to thumb through the pages, you’d see days with a sentence, two, or three that just ends without a completed thought process or entry. And I feel concerned because I don’t want to do it wrong. There’s fear that I will be inappropriate. What if I over-emphasize my feelings and experience over my Mom & Dad’s?
I mean, my legitimate feelings about this experience are mine to share. But, I’m afraid in doing so, I will disrespect or minimize the centrality of their feelings and journey. I have a hard time untangling that. Siphoning away from their experience is the last thing I want to do. Just because I’m of the temperament to write about this and share it… I don’t want to appropriate their journey. I’m having my own journey through this time and experience, but it isn’t the same as what they are living. I guess that is my caveat as I write and share with you. The love, concern, and empathy you feel for me, if you do, I want to both thank you and ask you to please send the lion’s share of that supportive, communal energy to them.
Dad moved out of his and Mom’s home on Friday, February 26th. They found a place through a senior living broker and felt it would work out. He was there three days before it was clear it wouldn’t. He moved back home with Mom for a week. The home that he moved into, had another home that they also own and run. They told Mom that they could provide for Dad’s needs there and the plan was to move him into that home the following week. He will have been there for five weeks on Friday.
Turns out, Dad is a unicorn in the world of assisted living. His care needs are a hybrid of two different care models. Over the past 2 months, Mom & I have discovered that they rarely intersect. Fingers crossed, knock on wood, find a 4-leaf clover, and every other wish for luck, serendipity, and rightness you can think of — we think we have found a place that can meet Dad’s unicorn status. There are logistics yet to be fully worked out, but I’m hoping this will be the beginning of a peaceful and content care solution that will allow for a new workable normal for Mom & Dad.
Within every day and every week, this journey has felt like a series of, sometimes concurrent, little and big emotional rollercoaster rides. I imagine living with a sensation of zen and just enough distance that it wouldn’t rock me side to side and make my stomach leap to my throat every time. But, I haven’t found that for myself yet. I understand the possibility of it, just not the implementation and reality of it. I want to wrap my mom up in the softest cotton cocoon and let her rest from all of this. I want to fly my dad away to a 360-degree horizon filled with billowy clouds, blue skies, and soft light. But, we aren’t there yet. And in reality, I know we won’t be able to achieve that in its entirety, but hopefully, we can find something closer to it.
Reading and remembering this feels longer than 6 years ago.
My side of the family, each Christmas, converges at one of our homes to celebrate the holiday. This past season, after too many years away, we met in Monterey, CA. Monterey is where my Uncle Daryl and Aunt Carol have lived for a few years shy of forever. We left home Saturday evening and made it through LA by the cover of night. We missed all the traffic and buzzed right on through. (So nice!) We spent the night in Thousand Oaks. We slept in, ate a leisurely complimentary breakfast (that was surprisingly decent for hotel breakfast), and hit the road. The skies were rich blue and the air clear and clean. Even though we were in Southern California, there was just enough crisp in the morning air to make me feel like we were, really truly, on a holiday adventure.
The only downside was that Amira was sick. She had come home from school on Friday with a fever. We were so disappointed because it meant missing her choir performance that evening. For the trip though, if she was going to be sick, it sort of turned out to be good. She was able to create a nest for herself in the backseat and just rest, read, and sleep.
We opted to go up US101. I’ve traveled that way so many times over the years. Because of rains in the prior weeks, this trip was something special. The hills, which are normally a dry golden brown, were covered with fresh green growth. You could see still the spent summer grasses below the verdant new growth. It made for a spectacular, beautiful display. I thought about stopping a few times to take a photo. I’m wishing I did as I type this now. The landscape is so sharp in my mind’s eye. I desperately want to download it from my noggin and share it with you.
Paul and Amira had never been through Big Sur and I hadn’t for years. Because of this, even though it made the trip longer, we opted to drive Big Sur into Monterey. Like the entire trip so far, the colors of Big Sur’s landscape and sea were hyper vivid, intense, and beautiful. We could see evidence of mudslides and road outages from the recent rains. Except for one small 15-minute delay, we were lucky that they had all been cleared and repaired before our passage through. We stopped at a vista and were dazzled by it. Amira was likely less dazzled. She did her best and took it in through her sick-bleary eyes. I do believe the fresh air did her good though.
And this is where I confess. It wasn’t too long after that stop that I suddenly felt done! I wanted out of the twisting roads that followed the Big Sur shoreline. It was majestic, beautiful, moving, and about 20% too long! It felt ungrateful to want out. But, wanting out is exactly what I wanted! Maybe if we had come just for Big Sur, I wouldn’t have felt that way. My relationship with it would have been different, as I think about it now if we had stopped at multiple vantage points and spent time. Instead, we were on our way to somewhere… to Monterey. I was ready to no longer be journeying and to simply ARRIVE at my intended destination. That’s the way it can be with a lot of journeys, right? I have a tendency to be impatient with the journey when I have my desired destination in mind. This can be true of road trips and in things I want to accomplish in me personally. I want better health. Do I really have to invest in consistent and ongoing weeks of regular activity? I want enhanced peace of mind. Do I really have to take the time daily to quiet myself, meditate and listen? The examples go on.
See what I mean? It can be hard to be in, stay with, and enjoy the journey. (I have a friend, Shelli, who is an exception to this rule when it comes to road trips. Maybe you are too.) But for me and maybe others of you too… the key might lie in consciously embracing the journey. Obviously on a road trip that’s not always possible… but for the sake of analogy… what if we had planned to enjoy, meander, breathe and really take in all of Big Sur? We could have planned our travels so that we started fresh in the morning. Bolstered, strengthened, and refreshed by needed rest the night before, we could take our time. We wouldn’t feel the press of having to “get there” and could celebrate the beauty of Big Sur. Something for me to think about for the future, in both a literal and metaphorical sense.
Despite my impatience, we did make it to Monterey in good time… perfect really… dinner time!
So, on my TikTok feed, I saw a man calling into an imaginary customer service line:
“Hi! I would like to cancel 2021, please.“
(pause and then…)
“Yes, I want to cancel. I tried the 7-day trial and I don’t like it. I don’t want it. I just want to cancel.”
It was funny because, well, it’s relatable. Life throws what it is going to regardless of whether there is, say, a worldwide pandemic or an ongoing threat to our country’s democracy happening. What do I share? Which part? And how much? I want to document, share, and process. At the same time, I don’t want to complain or bring you, my dear reader, down. How do you navigate the tightrope of being a light for hope and encouragement while still allowing room for discouragement, overwhelm, and grief?
Do you share enough? Do you share too much or not at all? Last night and this morning, I helped edit my mom’s Christmas letter. It’s the first one she’s been able to get out since 2017. The Parkinson’s that has been fraying away at my Dad’s physical and mental well-being has been doing the same to my mom. She’s Dad’s full-time caregiver and the demands are complicated, relentless, and increasing. As I was editing her letter, I saw how she shared the fact her life has been difficult but in a way that isn’t exhausting for the reader. Part of me was impressed, and part of me questioned it.
I mean, her sharing is authentic and in keeping with who she is. And yet, I wonder, shouldn’t she be sharing with family and friends just how intense things have been and are for her? I realize how much I was admonished to, for the most part, handle my challenges on my own. Being a burden on others is discouraged.
This year has been a real test on the limits of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, stiff-upper-lip, and all the other appropriate colloquialisms. One of the things that I *have* liked about 2020 is that it has brought a lot of cultural assumptions out into the open for analysis. It has given us the opportunity to determine whether these assumptions that we’ve long lived with, both consciously and unconsciously, are valuable and service to humanity. Or, are they actively working against it. It’s an excellent opportunity for self and communal reflection. It’s an opportunity to culturally evolve as humans in community together on this shared, singular, beautiful miracle of a planet.
I’ve had things happen or that I’m experiencing that I’ve wanted to share. But, I hesitate, pull-back, and opt on the side of not sharing. What if they (the person I’m thinking of sharing with…) are already having a hard day? Won’t my sharing make it worse for them? Am I just complaining, being selfish, and self-absorbed to share especially given that everyone is going through so much? Heavy sigh. It’s exhausting just thinking these thoughts. So much going on and so much to process, it’s difficult to find focus in the midst of it all. Heavy sigh.
All that said, I know getting to be there for someone else, to listen to their stories, worries, and emotions, can be surprisingly re-energizing for me. When I know my presence has been supportive and helpful, there is a kind of level-up bestowed onto my own resiliency. I know I don’t have an eternal capacity to do this and boundaries must be maintained. Self-nourishment and care must be maintained.
But, maybe some of this conversation would be moot if we were well-trained in boundary setting. If I knew I could reach out to share, but also be confident that they would tell me (if need be)… “I love you, but I don’t have the emotional bandwidth today to listen… or to do x.y,z. Let’s talk tomorrow.” That would be such a relief. I wouldn’t have to second-guess if I am overwhelming them or causing them emotional harm. And, if we were good at doing that with each other… that confidence could flow both ways.
I’ve been thinking out loud this entire post. I hope my rambling thoughts might resonate or spark with some of your own. I am a big believer in the power of self-reflection, intention, and committed action. The more aware of these things we are, the more opportunity there is for us to make intentional, conscious choices that will allow us to live lives of meaning and increased joy.