Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Long Way from Home

What a whirlwind these few months have been, filled with lots of unpacking and challenging weather. As well as the fun of exploring beautiful and historic scenery. The people of Annapolis have been kind and encouraging. Autumn has launched a huge campaign to win my favor, and I can't say it isn't working. And yet my heart is still in California. I am desperately missing my family and friends and the familiarity of "home." It feels as though I am grieving, and I guess that I am. There is an emptiness that won't go away.

I can barely hold it together for phone calls home. I feel like a child at my first sleep away camp, trying to be brave and not beg them to come and get me. My grandma is moving into the home, and I'd love to be there to help her (and my mom) through this transition. A Santa Barbara friend starts chemo next week, and I'm not around to bring meals or help with the carpool. Friends are posting pictures at the pumpkin patch, a place with 12 years of traditions and precious memories for me, and the squeezing in my chest travels farther north with each pic, sometimes erupting into tears. FaceTime is the worst kind of torture, offering glimpses of living rooms whose smells and cupboards are more familiar than my own displaced ones.

This comes as a surprise to me. I pictured myself bringing a little bit of West Beach to the East Coast. I'd wear Uggs, write witty freelance articles from home while tutoring my children to academic success, and have intimate friendships across the nation. Boy, was I wrong, so far!  Life on the opposite coast with three lonely and active children, no network, and not so much as a neighbor to list on school emergency contact forms, seems a bit more chaotic.

The good friends we left behind are still an important part of our lives and special events. The five of us are learning to rely a bit more on one another, and the kids have a greater awareness of a mom and dad who don't leave or change - even when everything else does. My husband has a job that he loves, and sacrificially commutes so that our children can attend the best schools and I can be near the water. I am beyond grateful for the friends my kids are making here, and I’m really looking forward to meeting some new families. But you can bet that I'm counting down the days until the next California visitor.

Monday, September 10, 2012

August in Annapolis

When we broke the news of our impending move to friends and family in California, often their first comments were about the Maryland weather. "That's going to be a big adjustment," they'd say. And as I embark on week four of this new adventure, I can say that they were absolutely right; this is a big adjustment.

One thing East Coast weather has got going for it is consistency. You know when you wake up in Annapolis in August that it is going to be hot. That you will open the front door each morning and step out to feel God's hot breath on your skin. There is no wondering if you might need a sweater in the evenings (you won't) or an umbrella even though the sky is blue (you will). It just makes planning easier.

What I was really unprepared for is the bugs. We don't even own a fly swatter, for goodness sake! The deafening and constant screech of thousands of invisible insects is something I thought technicians invented for swamp scene ambiance in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride, not my real life backyard. The noise prevented sleep the first couple of days, but has now faded to become part of my everyday soundtrack. Although noiseless, I vow to continue my campaign against those little blood-sucking mosquitoes, who have devoured my children's legs and turned them into topographical maps of itchy red mountain ranges, until death do them part.

With all of this rain and heat and life comes intense beauty, too. Ivy tendrils that climb everything immobile, sailboats blowing under the bridges, the true green of mile-high trees that isolate neighbor from neighbor, birds of outstanding size and color, the 18th century bricks and domes and spires. It is easy to appreciate this new place we call "home," humidity and bugs and all.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Packing, Day 1

The boxes are being filled. The awful screech of the tape gun is a constant.  I've misplaced three fat black Sharpies today alone. Moving truck arrives in 7 days.

We are really doing this. 


There was a displaced bird's nest on the front step this morning. Poor little birdie, putting so much effort into that cozy little home and suddenly having to start anew. At least birds don't have to bubble wrap the nicknacks.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Summer Playlist 2012

I take any excuse possible to run errands on warm summer evenings after the kids are in bed. I love driving through town with the windows down, music blasting, and car seats empty.

I've been making summer playlists, or (as they were known in 1987) "mixed tapes," since high school. The first one was recorded on Memorex and came like a rite of passage along with a driver's license and diploma. Guns N Roses opened the collection with "Sweet Child o Mine" and side two peaked with Simply Red's "Lady in Red." 

I like to think that my musical tastes have matured a little in the years since high school, or at least broadened past Top 40.  (Now it is my children who obsess over Gotye and Katy Perry, and I who need an iPhone app to identify them.) But there are a few constants in nearly every playlist that I create. For reasons unexplainable, you'll almost always find Neil Young somewhere in the mix, as well as a hymn. And everything must be singable. Loudly, with the windows open.

Here is the "Summer 2012" playlist, and I think it's a dandy! Grab your keys and let's ride!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I and Love and You

The kids and I spent the day road tripping home, and listening to this song on repeat. It perfectly sums up what our lives look like at this very minute, with one foot in California and the other in Maryland, heads spinning with details, dreams and tie cutting.

Just can't get enough of those Avett Brothers.

Load the car and write the note.
Grab your bag and grab your coat.
Tell the ones that need to know.
We are headed north.
One foot in and one foot back.
But it don’t pay to live like that.
So I cut the ties and I jumped the track.
For never to return.

Ahh Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in.
Are you aware the shape I’m in?
My hands they shake, my head it spins.
Ahh Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in.
. . .

Dumbed down and numbed by time and age.
Your dreams that catch the world, the cage.
The highway sets the travelers stage.
All exits look the same.

Ahh Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in.
Are you aware the shape I’m in?
My hands they shake, my head it spins.
Ahh Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in.

Three words that became hard to say.
I and Love and You.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sunshine and Sweet Tea

If Dolly Parton is right (and why wouldn't she be?) in proclaiming sweet tea "the wine of the South," then DC and I are going to get along just fine.

Sweet tea is my fuel during the summer. It is fun to drink and helps keep me awake when it's 91 degrees inside the house and I'd like nothing more than to nod off on a big veranda somewhere during those two days in July when summer actually comes to Santa Barbara. I'm perfecting the recipe now to impress my new Maryland neighbors with my southern hospitality after August 1.

makes 3 quarts

4 Pitcher-size cold-brew tea bags, 8 regular, or 6 tablespoons orange pekoe tea leaves in a diffuser
¾ cup sugar
Ice cubes
2 lemons, sliced (optional)
Fresh mint sprig (optional)

Place the tea bags in a large pitcher. Add 3 quarts cold water, and steep for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine 1 cup water and the sugar. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved.

Remove the tea bags. Add the sugar mixture and stir to combine. Serve over ice with lemon and fresh mint and a viewing of "Gone with the Wind," if desired.

*Recipe from Martha Hall Foose from her book Screen Doors and Sweet Tea (Clarkson Potter, 2008).

Monday, July 16, 2012

Life is Like A Box of Chocolate

According to experts, chocolate is now good for you. Feel guilt no longer; chocolate is actually good for the heart, brain and libido. Can I get an amen? 

That is more than the permission the kids and I needed to visit Papa during his shift at the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory. If you ever find yourself cruising down I-5 through the nothingness of Lathrop, do something sweet for yourself and pit stop at Ghirardelli's ice cream shop. At $5 each, the "World Famous Hot Fudge Sundae" will not disappoint.

The smell alone is enough to get your dopamine levels rising, keeping travelers bellied up to the bar like alcoholics on a binge. Thankfully, you can't get pulled over for driving home under the influence of an over-sized sundae. Although, judging by the giddiness and volume of some of the pint-sized patrons, I'd say the hot fudge can definitely affect your judgement.

Life may be like a box of chocolates, but in this case, you definitely know what you are going to get: extreme indulgence.

Ghirardelli Factory Outlet: 11980 S Harlan Rd in Lathrop, CA

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Road Trip Games

Being on the road with the kids as the lone adult is a test of endurance. We were a mere 30-minutes into a 6-hour drive when the first “Are we there yet?” was heard, and only an hour after that when "I have to go to the bathroom" surfaced. I had packed a big fat bag of books and crafts with high hopes that the children would arrive at Grandpa and Grandma's cheerful and rested, even though Lucie did have to wait an hour for her dinner.

At the point when fidgeting and poking and simmering restlessness was about to boil over into mutiny, I came up with a game to unite the troops and distract them from their captivity. I grilled each of them in turn, asking all sorts of up-close-and-personal questions about their goals and future plans. Their answers and the laughter made us forget that we were hungry and out-of-sorts.  

Grayson plans to live in Austin, Texas, so that he can have a farm in the big wide open. He's not sure why more people don't live on farms where you can grow everything you need and don't have to work or need money? He'll bring his wife and two sons to live with him, but absolutely no little girls. Three Golden Retrievers, one for each of his sons and himself, complete the family, unless his wife wants a cat (she probably will). He'll need a full-size Dodge truck on the farm, even though he's not working. The wifey gets a minivan.

Lucie's top priority is to live in LA, so she can go to Disneyland everyday. She'll need a big place for her four horses, three Golden Retrievers, and three cats (so the dogs have something to do all day). There will be three kids: two girls and a boy (and a horse for each of them). No mention of a husband. She plans to be a horse trainer.

Violet has her heart set on becoming a Three Musketeer, but only if she can wear a pink cape (it is okay to be both ambitious and like pink, you know). She'll have a golden talking cat and a horse named Sweetie, both of whom will live in a hotel in Santa Barbara with her. There will be no car (she's got Sweetie the horse, after all), no husband and no kids. She says "they do too much crying and don't smell very good." (Kids that is, not the husband.) 

Even after being confined together in a small space for hours on end, these questions helped to remind me why I adore the company of my kids. You can use these questions, or just wing it on your next road trip.
  •  Where will you live?
  • What will your job be?
  • Will you be married?
  • Will you have kids? How many? Girls or boys?
  • Will you have pets? How many? What kind?
  • What will you drive?
  • What will you do for fun?
These dreams fit each of my kids so well, and represent such a sweet and innocent outlook. With any luck, they many even come true. Let's hope so.