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.


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.


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!


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.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

And, really, thank goodness for that.

A Visit to Liberty Station

4 thoughts on “A Visit to Liberty Station

  • January 12, 2022 at 7:49 pm

    Good move, Paul! Janece I totally recognize those moments when I don’t anticipate having a good time, when I am sure I know how something will turn out, and then SURPRISE! It’s embarrassing, and a good lesson on me, and also kind of nice to be surprised, too. I am so glad you made a good outing, and found a way to celebrate that very special birthday man.

    • January 12, 2022 at 11:42 pm

      I’m so certain of my convictions. It is embarrassing and a lesson I seem to have to be reminded of again and again. Bleh. 😉

      Our second half of the outing was magical and filled with beauty. I’ll be sharing that hopefully tomorrow, time permitting.

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