Sunday, February 21, 2016

Honor Thy Parents

My mom's been gone for almost 14 years now. When she died I found ways to honor her memory and keep her with me.

I made her fabulous lasagna. I used her yellow Pyrex bowl to make chocolate chip cookies just like she did. I treasured her hand-written recipes. I made decisions based on what she would like or what she would think was a good idea. I tried to be the kind of mom she was. I started going back to church and embraced genealogy and family history. I ate and bought things that she liked, like See's candy and Hallmark cards and ornaments.

Keeping her alive in my heart has been easy and brought me so much comfort.

Now with the passing of my dad I am finding ways to honor him. I know that he was so proud of me for going back to school and for taking care of myself and my kids, and that brings me comfort, but I have really felt the need to get back to all the things he helped me fall in love with: fly fishing, camping, hiking, just enjoying nature and the great outdoors.

Camping trips were part of our life growing up, and as I became a teen and mom and my sister preferred not to do that type of thing and had work to contend with, my dad would take just me on trips up to our old home town in the mountains, where we would fish at Nelson Creek (he always said Crick for creek so that's how I hear it in my mind), and we would pack a picnic and visit the lookout towers, or drive through the game refuge and count deer at dusk.

He's the one that taught me that everything tastes better if you eat it outdoors. My grandma (his mom) lived alone and we would pack our lunches at her house. We began the tradition of putting just mustard on our salami sandwiches because  of the one time my dad opened the seldom-used mayo at her house and found it an off-putting shade of green! (We discreetly tossed it in the trash.) I remember eating those simple sandwiches paired with a couple nectarines at the top of a mountain at a lookout tower, and he was right, they were delicious! (And we always had a running green mayonnaise joke.)

He took me to "Secret Lake", which was a lake at the top of a mountain with no defined trail to it. Only the locals really knew about it, and it was a great place to catch native Brook trout. There was actually an even more secret, upper Secret Lake, and it was here that we found a patch of snow that had not melted and he pulled his rain slicker out of his pack so we could go "butt sliding" on it.

Dad knew almost all the names of the plants and he loved seeing the wildflowers. He also loved finding bear scat, and inspecting it with a stick to see "what the bears have been eating". I thought that was so gross!

Later, when he was no longer able to make these trips and I was grown and had kids of my own, he relished hearing the details of any camping trip I took and loved to hear about my kayak outings.

I'm making a conscious effort to start doing more of these things, and not someday, but now. I bought what I call my "adventure car" and plan on going and doing as much as I can, even if I go alone. I feel like I'm finding my "old self" again in some way, the old self that's been on hold for lack of money, or time, or someone interested in doing things with me.

I somehow feel like when a person dies their spirit is perfected and all those things that were holding them back in life, be it health issues, age, depression, anxiety, etc. are gone, and they go back to their most perfect self, the one that was carefree, and funny, and curious, and happy, and somehow by honoring our loved ones and channeling their interests and loves, they enhance our lives from the spirit world.

So now to honor my father, I will do those things we loved doing together. And I will continue to honor both my mother and father, in different ways and keep them close to my heart.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Movin' and Groovin'

I have a feeling that this year is going to be a year of flashbacks and nostalgia. Now with having both my parents gone, I like to think of all the times in the past and cherish the moments. I was blessed with great parents, and as such, have great memories!
One of the things I was thinking about was that I've always been into fitness. I remember getting Jane Fonda's Workout Book for Christmas one year when I was a teen, and setting up a studio of sorts in the garage to do my workouts.

I also joined a women's health club, and did Jazzercise classes.
The women at my mom's work challenged each other to lose weight, at one point, and I started doing classes for Mom and a couple of her friends in our livingroom.
 I remember planning the moves and picking the tunes we would workout to. I think the funniest thing is that I didn't have the technology to do a mix tape, so I just had 45 records that I had to switch out.
 At this point in time I was into country music. Oh my goodness, just thinking about all of us in the livingroom doing our workout to the likes of Merle Haggard and John Anderson makes me want to laugh!
Of course we wore those crazy leotards and leg warmers that were popular in the 80's, and did things like stretches, crunches, and donkey kicks, plus aerobics. You got the full-deal at my class! Haha!
Wow, it was such a fantastic thing when VCR's and workout videos came along! And now I can click on any kind of workout at any time of day and have it at my fingertips. My how things have changed!
I guess what I took away from this, was how my mom thought I was capable enough to do this little home fitness class and the lift in self esteem it gave me as an awkward and shy teen. And I still love fitness, from just daily walks, to belly dancing, to Zumba classes and most recently yoga, I'm still movin' and groovin'!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Car Problems and Confidence

I've had a pretty exciting weekend. I bought a new car! Well, a small disclaimer: it's new to me, and is actually older than my old car (which I am keeping for everyday driving). It's a gorgeous 2001 Toyota 4Runner, and man, am I proud of this thing!

I haven't felt like this about a car for a long time. Although I love my Civic, it has just been a car. It's certainly nothing fancy, and it just plain and simple gets the job done of getting me from place to place. The poor thing has 225,000 miles on it. I plan to just drive it until the wheels fall off.

This 4Runner really brought back memories of my first vehicle, my 1972 Chevy Blazer that I bought from my dad in 1982.
I really loved my Blaze, and regret ever selling it. Here you see me with the Blazer and my Suzuki RM 100 dirt bike (and some fancy red pants!). These were days full of adventure and independence and taking baby steps towards adulthood.
This morning I had a flash back to a time when my dad and I were in the Blazer on a trip to Portola, and we had stopped at Martis Lake near Truckee for some fishing. I noticed some leakage coming from the front of the Blazer and took a look (now mind you, at this time I had a high school sweetheart who worked on cars a lot, and that was also an interest of mine, so I knew a fair amount about basic mechanics). I determined that the water pump was leaking. Dad had a friend who had met us there for fishing who poo-pooed my diagnosis and said it was probably just a worn hose.
We decided to drive it to Portola and deal with it there. When we arrived, my uncle and cousins' opinions, after looking at it, were that it was a faulty hose as well, certainly not a water pump. Again I crawled under the engine and to me it sure looked like it was coming from the water pump. My uncle offered us the use of his shop and tools to fix it if we were worried about it. We probably just needed to tighten hoses, after all.
My dad asked my opinion after everyone else had had their say and I told him I was certain. He never doubted me. We went down the auto parts place, got the water pump and gaskets and such, and he let me go about changing it out.
Sure enough it had a big crack in it when I pulled it off. I felt pretty good that I stuck to my guns about what I had seen, but what really made an impression on me was that my dad totally trusted what I had to say over all the men-folk that gave us advice. I'll never forget that feeling of him putting my opinion over everyone else's.
It was interesting that that memory came rushing back this morning. I have thought about it over the years, but I guess my dad has been on my mind a lot. I feel like he would love my "new" car and approve of the fact that it will allow me to go camping and kayaking and such more easily. Also this car gives me that pride in ownership feeling. That little, "hey, that's mine" excitement when I see it, like that old Blazer did.
Thanks Dad, for trusting me way back then. It sure made me feel special and competent!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Long Lost

I got a Facebook message from a high school friend who lives in San Diego, saying she was in the area, and could we get together! I was so excited to see her!

She was one of my few friends in high school, and we really hit it off. I was such a shy outcast, that I rarely clicked with anyone, but she was the exception.

She would come over and we would do weird hair conditioning treatments involving mayonnaise, and then style our hair into wild 'do's.

We spent some wonderful times together going to where I grew up in the mountains, with my dad. We would stay at my Aunt's house and in the evenings play rousing games of Rummikub and Uno, During the day my dad would take us to the lake, the fire lookouts, the game refuge, and to the riding stables--my personal favorite place in the world.

I also remember going to the state fair with her and her sister and hearing comments from the males in attendance of "Charlie's Angels". We kinda liked that.

I dropped out of school in my junior year (she was a sophomore), and soon went to work, so we gradually drifted apart. I remember last seeing her at her wedding, and my memory is that my son was about 18 months old at the time, so that would mean it was somewhere around 25 years since we had seen each other!

Nat and I drove to the town where she was staying with a friend and spent a terrific evening getting caught up on life. Her boys and her friends daughter and nephew and Nat ended up playing together and also having a good time, so it was a fun day.

We have an open invite to stay with her if we ever make our way south to San Diego. I truly hope we can do that. It's mind blowing to talk about not seeing someone for 25 years, when at the time we were hanging out as teens 25 years seemed like 100.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Nostalgia Walk

I took Nat and her friend to the movies on Sunday evening, but rather than sit in the theater, I brought the dog and went for a walk in the town where my first husband and I moved to when Cam was a year old.

I go to this town often, but haven't actually walked my old neighborhood in the downtown area in many years. It brought back a flood of memories.

We lived in this old yellow house that was actually a couple of small houses somehow spliced together. It's floors were sloping when we lived there and to my knowledge it hasn't been upgraded since.

To get to the back bedroom you walked (downhill) through the brown shag-carpeted bathroom (I do hope at least that carpet has been replaced!). It's sad to see that the big sycamores are gone and the yard isn't kept up. But this is the house that Cam and I spent our days hanging out together. Where he learned to ride his Batman trike on the porch (and infamously painted himself and rode the trike Lady Godiva style) and where Sis was born in that back bedroom with the local fire department in attendance!
We moved just 5 months after Sis was born, but the memories of taking walks through that historic old neighborhood with Cam came flooding back as I walked the roads with a different dog at the end of my leash:

Back then we had Dusty who was just as good and loyal as our Sue.
I remember oftentimes being lonely in that house. I didn't have any friends, and felt isolated from my family in Sacramento. Cam and I attended La Leche League meetings in Lodi (and hour and a half drive) and storytime at the Sonora Library to get a little bit of socialization.
I had my moments when it was really hard, of course being a first-time mom is a learning experience to be sure, but there were tons of good memories from those times too.
We loved walking downtown to the donut shop or to the park. We grew strawberries in our yard and Cam and the dog and I spent many hours in that yard playing, exploring, and even hanging laundry and cloth diapers on the old clothes line. I found an old bottle there and would often wonder who the other moms were who used this little drying yard for their babies' diapers.
Having my mom visit was always a treat, and back then there were quite a few cool shops downtown to look through. We also had some great family gatherings there for Cam's 2nd and 3rd birthdays.
We lived just behind the theater and what was then called Scott's Tavern. Walking past that corner bar on Sunday it still smelled of stale beer and cigarettes. There were quite a few evenings where we be woken up by a drunken brawl or loud partiers from the bar.

It was quite a nostalgic walk, and I will treasure all my memories from those times, both good and bad. Those were my first years as a mom, and the first years really being a real grown up.

Bathing and Birthdays

Natalie returned from Girl's Camp with the church on Saturday. Somehow as soon as she walked in, her luggage exploded (or she rifled through it like a raccoon looking for cat food).

She then opened her birthday presents after spending her 12th birthday day at camp:

I then encouraged her to take a shower after she proudly informed me that she had had only one shower in the last 5 days and only changed her socks twice.
From the bathroom I hear her call for me, "Mommmmmm."
"You need a towel?" I answer.
"Yes, and something else too!" she replies.
So when I arrive at the door to the bathroom she exclaims, "Mom! I haven't bathed since I was 11 years old!"
Good one, Nat!


While camping Nat was reading a book she borrowed from the library. She always brings drawing supplies with her where ever she goes so she took out some paper and colored pencils and made a bookmark for her book.

 and on the back it reads, "This bookmark has been specially designed and hand made for  this book only. If you take it please make one to replace it that is just as good if not better than this bookmark (yes I will check)."
I hope when we return it to the library they will leave it in the book for someone to discover.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

"To Camp or Not to Camp" is not even a question this year

Life is too short to put off camping. Every summer I tell myself I'd LIKE to take the kids camping, but I never do, due to work schedules, or lack of money, etc. This year I'm determined though, and with my tax refund I splurged on a few essential camp items. Walmart had a tent and two queen air mattress bundle online for Memorial Day, so I snapped one up along with a camp stove.

Now the tent I bought is not just an ordinary tent, it is a 60 second tent. Yes, according to the video, that's how long it takes to set up. According to me, it takes about 3 times that long. Seriously, it's pretty cool. The poles are already in it, one just basically pops it up. The 60 seconds does not include unfolding it or staking it down, this is going from unfolded to popped up, the rest of the set-up takes some time, but I'm very pleased with it so far.

Of course getting it back in the bag it came in? Not really happening. Who packs these things? I swear it's like trying to put toothpaste back in a tube! I think I've settled on rolling it up and bungee cording it, and using the bag for all the accoutrements.

Our maiden voyage for the tent took place at Lake Alpine. Natalie was the only one of my children willing and/or able to go (remember, I have a teenager!) We went from 100 degree heat to stepping out of the car and immediately looking for our sweaters!

Also the wind was trying to blow the hair off our heads! We had the kayaks, but one look at the white caps on the lake made us decide that bike riding and bug hunting looked much more appealing!

Our campsite was so beautiful. There was a carpet of these tiny purple flowers:

Natalie got out her dollar store bug house and got busy catching small butterflies and hellgrammites from the creek right next to our camp:

Next we went for a bike ride since Lake Alpine has a really nice bike trail. Boy, am I out of bike riding shape! I had to walk a couple hills, but it was fun, and Natalie found the last of the snow:
Straight across from our camp was this huge boot print from Paul Bunyan:

Is there anything more fascinating than watching a camp fire? ( well, probably, but when you have no electronics, this is pretty cool):

I was really excited to be camping when it was a full moon, and especially the prospect of kayaking with the full moon which was on Friday the 13th (dun-dun-dunnn). On the 12th, at 8:30pm this is what we saw:

So we figured that the following night would be perfect for our full moon paddle. In the mean time, after Natalie read aloud to us from the Spiderwick Chronicles, we spent a chilly night in our sleeping bags. Brrrrr.....
The next morning we had little boxes of cereal for breakfast. This is one of my camping splurges. I love to eat out of the cereal box when I camp, and eat sugary cereal I usually wouldn't buy or eat.

Again, the day was windy, but maybe a bit less, so we put off kayaking until evening when the wind died down.
In the mean time we saw this conglomeration of cones making a star:

and this hawk:

also, I was kind of proud of my Pinterest inspired paper towel holder/kitchen crate. I put one of our hot dog sticks through the paper towels and holes in the crate--it was very handy, and my dish towel hung in the handle opening. Then I packed everything up in the crate when it was ready to go. Not exactly awe-inspiring, but super handy and something I wouldn't have thought of on my own.

Natalie had neglected to pack a decent sweater, so we ran into "town" and found this cute sweatshirt that she LOVES:

After PBandJ's for lunch, it was off on another bike adventure where we found this nice granite "beach":

and my favorite wildflowers, Pussy Paws--they feel like the bottom of a kitty's foot:

Modeling her sweatshirt:

After biking it was off to the showers (this is from inside the tent as we gather our stuff to go):

$2 of quarters and lots of banging on the machine, buys you 5 minutes of shower time. No more, no less, and if you spend a minute and a half trying to adjust the water to somewhere in between SCALD and SUB ZERO, well that's your tough luck! But if felt pretty good nonetheless.

Later that evening this was the scene:
But the rest of THAT story will be found at my other blog THE UNLIKELY KAYAKER

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My College Retrospective


 Stick A Fork in Me...


 I'm Done!!!

~a college retrospective~
 It's unbelievable that this college journey has come to an end and I've reached my goal
It all started on this beach in the summer of 2011...
White Pines Lake
when I took time to reflect on my life and made decisions to make it better.
I was in my mid-forties and troubled by this thought:
And I was tired of working two jobs and still getting nowhere, so I thought, what the heck:
Going back to college was also inspired by the following two thoughts:
It's never too late to be who you might have been. - George Eliot
I had a lot of trepidation about going back to school when I was pushing 50, and was afraid of being the oldster in class
memes laptop required for class brings typewriter
and seriously wondered if my brain could keep up
or if I even still had one
and then I had all that driving to think about...and it was a lot!
Woman driving yellow car
112 round trips to American River College in Sacramento
128 round trips to Columbia College in Sonora
for a GRAND TOTAL of (drum roll please)...
 26,530 miles!!!
I could've driven to New York City and back almost 5 times!
From: Sacramento, CA To: New York, NY
(or, according to my son, I could've driven the circumference of the Earth and then some!)

And boy, was my car getting tired of driving!
Tired car
(I think I actually heard it murmur, "Kill me now...")
I have to give credit to the following for keeping me alert during all that driving:
Crunchy Snacks

Armstrong and Getty Podcasts:
 CVS Caffeine Tablets
and looking for interesting number sequences on my odometer 

Looking for interesting sights also kept me entertained.
 Like the Liberty Road Chicken Tree:
the giant flag in Jackson: 

this truck-drivin' Santa:
this sweetHEART of a cow:
and the Giant Eyeball at the Natomas Center:
But my biggest challenge was keeping my tank full:

The classwork and homework were often challenging, and I spent hours on the computer or with my nose in a book,
and I felt bad for neglecting everyone to focus on school 
Sometimes I felt like I was being plotted against: 
...or the instructions I was getting made no sense at all!
And finals were intense!
Yes, these last three years have taken a toll:
There are many times I felt overwhelmed,

and thoroughly tested!
But somehow I muddled through with no permanent damage:
and I just kept chanting my mantra:

Could I really, finally be free?

And, just for the record, this is what it feels like when all that hard work adds up to a 4.0 GPA:

but I never could have done it at all without the support and encouragement of my family (and co-workers and friends)!

"Thank You" seems so inadequate, but that's all I've got,

I'm so happy to be done!