Archive for July, 2010

What I found on the beach


After being home only four days in July, I needed to relax.  So I stayed a few days with my wonderful friend Pat, who had rented a house in Pismo Beach, CA.  Walking on the beach is the most relaxing thing I can think of – and I don’t think when I’m doing it! Really, I just watch the waves, walk back and forth, and let my mind go wherever it wants to.  It directs itself.

So this is what I saw.

I saw towels dotting the sand like a Seurat painting.

I saw a big clump of seaweed that looked like a sleeping dog.  Or something close.

I saw a kite that looked like a sting ray.

I saw thousands of dead crabs – little sand crabs I think.  That’s what all the white dots are.  Never seen anything like this before.

I saw the ocean at low tide.

I saw someone’s discarded boogie board or whatever it is.

I saw the pilings under the pier.

I saw a delicate white seaweed bulb.  I popped a few.  They made a very satisfying sound.

I saw a string of seaweed with bulbs that reminded me of Christmas lights.

I saw a seaweed leaf.  Seaweed has infinite varieties it seems.

I saw lovely ocean waves.

I saw a seagull eating a dead bird that washed in.

I saw a washed up jellyfish covered with sand.

I saw a piece of seaweed with such a graceful curve.

I saw a yellow plastic lobster that will no doubt be there forever.

I saw a poem carefully inscribed in the sand, so I took a picture of it to preserve it for the author.  Who, of course, will never know that I read her (because it is a woman, probably no older than college age) poem.

I saw the pier.

Finally, I saw pigeons on the roof of a building, obviously not perturbed by the fake owl placed there to keep pigeons away.

Then I had lunch with Patty-cake, my friend of almost 25 years and fellow teacher.  We are both retired.

Someone’s in the cabin with Gramser and August’s theme of FIRE


I told you my life is a song! Why does everything I think of match a lyric? Or a paraphrased lyric – “Someone’s in the cabin with Gramser, someone’s in the cabin I  know -o-o-o.”

But first, Creative Every Day’s August theme of FIRE is getting literal.  There is a forest fire in the town of Riverkern, moving towards Kernville.  I don’t think it will get near the cabin, but it is in the general vicinity.  So while we think about fire in all it’s manifestations, sometimes it is exactly that – fire.  On New Year’s Day I drove through Riverkern with two of the grandkids to enjoy the Kern River.

This is my granddaughter Ali and grandson Xavier standing looking into the Kern River just above Riverkern.  Of course I digitally manipulated it so it looks like they are shadow skiing.  You can see more pictures of the Kern River here.  The fire is really moving I guess, and jumped the Kern.  But let’s get back to who’s in the cabin with gramser.

Actually, 11 “someones” were in the cabin with Gramser.  All nine grandkids and two daughters.  Got home from Orlando on Friday instead of Thursday (the trip from Hell), stayed home on Saturday, and went to the cabin on Sunday to prep for the onslaught.  I say onslaught as if it were negative, but there is nothing I like more than being with all the family.

The Davies Three were visiting from Colorado (in November, they’ll be the Davies Four when Baby Boy Davies arrives).

They are sitting in the metal chair I refinished and painted (boy, that was its own adventure) waiting for blue jays.  Cooper is holding the cup that held the peanuts.  I told the kids they had to be still and quiet for the birds to come.  They had very carefully lined the entire balcony railing with peanuts!  The birds must have thought they were in peanut heaven.

I had a small slate of activities for this visit.  Not nearly as elaborate as last year, but we did tie dye again.  Actually, Sarah wanted to and she helped me pick out shirts.  We tried colored shirts instead of white this time.

Does anything strike you about this photo? The older you are, the more you will notice.  Cooper is sitting with her legs twisted like a pretzel, and Annabelle and Jackson are squatting.  When is the last time you comfortably sat like this?  I know, me either.

The shirts came out nicely.  Even if they hadn’t turned out well, they would have been good.  If you know what I mean.

Since one picture is never enough, we lined them up by height.

And to think, in November there will be another little one on the end.

Gramser took a walk with Things One and Two. (The shirts were a last-minute purchase at Universal Orlando.)  Cooper is carrying Crookshanks while Abbo has Fawkes.  Jackson did not bring Fluffy because he was currently not liking Fluffy and wanting Fawkes instead.  For some reason (silly me) I thought a boy who loved dinosaurs and crashing toy cars would enjoy having a three-headed dog.

A group played Catchphrase.

Sarah sat with the Davies Three.

You’ll notice Crookshanks in this photo.

We used big bubble wands.

The big girls painted tissue boxes.

Then they helped the little ones paint coat holders for their rooms.

We went down to Kernville and challenged the Killer Kern.

Seriously, it is called the Killer Kern by some.  Do you know Merle Haggard’s song about never swimming the Kern River again?  It is deadly – the waters run deep and there are all kinds of entanglements down there to catch and hold you.  Every year there are drownings and usually they are people from Los Angeles who came up for the day.  The signs tell people to stay out, etc. but no one believes them.  This is absolutely as far as I would let the kids walk out.  A few steps more and they would be in the current.  I told them ahead of time, “When I say stop, I mean it.”  They knew I was serious as a heart attack – no messing around here.

Annabelle, who is fearless, was more interested in picking up rocks this time.

Jackson made a tower of blocks and dared anyone to knock it over.  I don’t know what he was intending with his lizard – to balance it on the tower or destroy the tower?

It was a good cabin trip. Although I enjoy the cabin in solitude, there’s nothing like having someone in the cabin with gramser – especially when they are grandkids.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter


Before I begin – a note to Creative Every Day participants. The theme for August is FIRE. We were on fire at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and not just because it was roasting and we were toasting in Orlando.  It was magic.

One word:  Butterbeer.  Two words: pumpkin juice.  Three words: The Three Broomsticks.  Four words: Zonkos, Honeydukes, Ollivanders, Platform 9 3/4 (I’m counting that as one word.)  Five words: Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, Chocolate Frogs, sneakoscopes.

It’s all there.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then start reading the Harry Potter books instantly.  Now.  This minute. Warning – even if you think you are immune, they will consume you so make sure you don’t have any pressing obligations.

I’ve read them at least seven times.  Each time a new one came out, I started at the beginning again, and then as soon as I finished the new volume, I started it again.

If you do know what I’m talking about, then you know that on June 16th, at Universal Orlando, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened.  If you’ve been keeping up with my posts, you know that we were in Florida for a soccer tournament.  Crazy stuff – soccer in West Palm Beach in July.  But since we were so close to Orlando, there was no way we were going to miss Harry Potter world!

So here we are – first evening, still fresh, not fried nor wilted from the heat.  Since we’re going into Harry Potter the following morning, not much can stop us.  So I thought. My daughter Jennifer, and grandkids Joe, Dax, Sarah and Sophie, are heading out to CityWalk for dinner.

Yep, we headed to Margaritaville and had a fantastic dinner.  This isn’t a gimmicky restaurant – it’s a restaurant with fantastic food where the margaritas really pack a punch.  Want your money’s worth? This is your place.

We took a water taxi back to the Royal Pacific Resort where we were staying, determined to be well rested for early admission to Harry Potter.

OK, the photo is from another time, but it is the water taxi.  And I’m in it.

Here we are eating breakfast in The Three Broomsticks. Right about now you should be getting shivers, to think of actually being at The Three Broomsticks.  Our excitement was off the charts.  Mine was, anyhow, and I think the others, especially Sophie, were right there with me.

We drank Butterbeer.  Whatever it is, it’s amazing.  Seems to be a creme soda-type of drink, but it stays foamy right to the end.  I’m glad they didn’t have the calorie count.  Wouldn’t have mattered – we drank as much as we could.

We also drank pumpkin juice, also amazing.  Who would have dreamed that I would be drinking butterbeer at The Three Broomsticks? And don’t try to tell me it’s just make believe.

Before breakfast, we beat it to Hogwarts for the already much-heralded ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

We wanted to beat the lines, but that had a downside – we couldn’t enjoy all the Hogwarts scenes along the way.  We zoomed straight onto that ride.  Once it started, I have no idea what was happening.  We were swooping all over the place – were we really moving, or was it like Soarin’ Over California? There was no way to analyze it because it just went too fast!  Aragog made a big (no pun intended) impression, and the Quiddich pitch was dizzying and dazzling.  The entire ride was dizzying, and though I wanted to go again to take in all the detail, it was all I could do not to throw up.  Too old for these swoopy things.  I’ll just luxuriate in the atmosphere of Hogsmeade.

Yes, we were really there.  We worked hard to appreciate the muted colors and the snow-capped buildings even though it was over 100 degrees in the shade with humidity to match.  Harry Potter World is not large.  Why did they not put it inside a climate-controlled bubble?  It would only take magic, after all.  Dumbledore could have done it in a snap.

You know, it really was God-awful hot.  I made it for most of the morning and went back to the resort.  Jen and the kids lasted longer.  But I didn’t care – I was so entranced that I took the visual image back to the swimming pool and pretended all afternoon.  The above photo is early in the morning – early admission time actually – before crowds.

I went to Ollivanders and bought a wand.  Tip: the line to get in is daunting.  But if you go early, before all the employees are in place, you can walk around back, slip in the door to Dervish and Bangs, and from there slip into Ollivanders.  Did I feel bad circumventing the line?  Not at all.  I felt clever, like Hermione.

Came back out to a puffy sky imitating the snow on the Hogsmeade rooftops.  I did not feel the chill.

I went into Zonkos.  Stop a minute and imagine how it felt to be entering Zonkos.  It felt real! Everyone there wanted to believe and we did.  Tinkerbell would have blown up and popped, there was so much believing going on.  I bought a sneakoscope.  I just desperately needed one. There could be enemies lurking around every corner and now I’ll get warning.

I also bought some Chattering Teeth. Don’t ask me why because I’m sure I could not answer. I just wanted them.

Did I mention the Remembrall?  Don’t want to forget that.

Honeydukes, where I stocked up on Chocolate Frogs, complete with wizarding cards.  And I got some Ton Tongue Toffee for my husband.

Since I’m not too fond of wondering if I am about to get a mouthful of vomit or boogers or pus, I didn’t buy Bertie Botts Every Flavored Beans.

We came back in the evening and the following morning and evening, mostly for butterbeer and shopping.  I have many people to buy for.  If you read my post about the trip home, you will know my carry-on was not filled with useful items like nightgowns, toothbrushes, and clean underwear.  It was filled with Chocolate Frogs, butterbeer cups, Ton Tongue Toffee and Chattering Teeth.

Did I mention that you cannot get butterbeer anywhere else than Hogsmeade? And much of the merchandise is not available anywhere else.  Which is as it should be.  One should not be able to buy sneakoscopes or wands just anywhere.  I bought three large stuffed Crookshanks, one Fawkes, one Fluffy, and Scabbers.  If you don’t know what these are, pleaze read the bookz.

I do think a flaw in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is that you cannot go into the Hogwarts Express.  We should be able to sit in compartments, drink pumpkin juice and eat cauldron cakes, and change into our robes.  Another flaw was that I was unable to buy Luna Lovegood’s turnip earrings.  Or were they radishes? I was looking forward to that.  The Quibbler was available, however.

I bought 21 postcards and wrote them right there sitting in The Three Broomsticks.  They are postmarked Hogsmeade.  That’s not something you can get just anywhere.  Consider yourself very privileged, the 21 of you that receive those cards.  Not only postmarked but with a special Harry Potter stamp.

What else can I say to you?  Did I mention how delicious butterbeer is? And that I bought a wand at Ollivanders? Probably. It was just magic.  Being there was magic and real at the same time.  Because in Harry Potter, the magic is real.  The chance to live it was not to be missed – heat, humidity, rain, whatever the elements could throw at us wasn’t enough to dampen the astonishing thrill of really being in Hogsmeade and seeing Hogwarts.  And I owe it all to my granddaughter Sarah, whose AYSO soccer team went to the nationals in Florida.  But if I were you, I wouldn’t wait for someone in your family to have a soccer tournament in Florida.  I’d just go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Preferably in spring, winter or fall.

The Miracle of Modern Travel: Orlando to Bakersfield in 24 Hours


It’s true.  It took 24 hours of navigating United’s Friendly Skies for me to fly coast to coast.  I usually like United Airlines, but this time, they get an F.  Not even a D-.

I try to leave Orlando

  • First, shuttle from Royal Palm Resort, or whatever the heck it was called, at Universal Orlando.  Trip was smooth.
  • Get travel update notice on my phone: flight will now depart at 4:45 pm.  OK, the connection should be fine.
  • Get tired of sitting in the airport because I am already exhausted from the heat and the fun.
  • Get travel update notice on my phone: flight will now depart at 4:50.  Just a five-minute difference.   Connecting flight still looks OK.
  • Wonder why I can’t find a Starbucks in the Orlando Airport.  Surely they have one.  I must be in the wrong place.
  • Get travel update notice on my phone that flight will now depart at 5:00 pm.  Now I’m in trouble although the United agent assures me I’ll make the connecting flight.  I am not so sure.
  • Oops! Another update.  The plane will now be leaving at 5:40.  I’m screwed.  But not too worried because surely there is a flight from Denver to Bakersfield late at night.
  • Hear thunder.  See lightning. The storm I hoped to see happened.  One of the lightning bolts lasted so long I could have taken out my camera, put it on the tripod, and captured the moment.
  • Dang.  There’s that little jingle from my phone again.  Travel update notice – flight delayed until 6:15.   This day is getting just a little too long and I’m still in Orlando.
  • The thunder storm continues and I get another update: flight will now be leaving at 6:25.  Not only that, but it’s listed like this:
  • Estimated departure time 6:25 p.m. on time.  Stop right there. If departure times are estimates how can you be on time? Or, you will always be on time.  Brother.  Irritation is setting in.

I actually leave Orlando, over seven hours after arriving at the airport.

  • We have an airplane! They have switched us to another gate and we have a plane that wasn’t scheduled for us.  I don’t know why our plane was late – and it was late, way before the thunder storm.
  • OK, the seats are three across and I’m by the window.  Not good, since I am a frequent restroom user.  I basically become dehydrated on travel days because I limit liquids for that very reason.  But still, I have to drink something.
  • The man in the center seat proceeds to cross his legs and extend his elbows over the arm rests on both sides.  In other words, he’s infringing on my already small space.  I try to engage him in conversation – just enough to say, “I’m so-and-so.”  That’s all.  I don’t want to be best friends, but he barely looks at me.  No, he doesn’t look at me at all.
  • I need to sleep but I can’t – I don’t like touching strangers which is one reason I attempted to introduce myself.
  • I see the picture on his computer desktop.  It’s he and his wife and they look very happy.  I can’t relate the picture to the man sitting next to me.

We reach Denver

  • It’s finally time to land in Denver.  I’ve received an update telling me my flight has been rescheduled for 6:15 the following morning! Which means if I am lucky enough to get to a hotel by 10:30 or so, I could possibly have 6 hours of sleep.  Inconvenient, but surely United will give me meal and hotel vouchers.
  • We deplane.  I reach for my things and they are wet.  My Chinese silk glasses case is soaked.  My brand new blue Harry Potter pillow with Hedwig is wet.  And everything smells like coffee.  I look under the seat and there is a tipped over coffee drink.  I ask the girl in that seat, “Did you have a coffee drink?” She thinks and finally says yes.  I tell her, “It spilled and it made my things wet – my brand new pillow from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, my purse and all my stuff. ”  She says she is sorry.  I just look at her.  She says she is sorry again.  And again, I just look at her.  I’m about to keel over from fatigue, and I can’t say, “Don’t worry about it, it’s OK.”  Because it’s not OK.

United fails Customer Relations 101

  • Most of the passengers obediently trudge to the customer relations desk.  It’s my turn and I’m barely hanging on.
  • I say to the representative, “I just want to let you know in advance that I’m on the edge with fatigue and I might cry.” He smirks.  Yes, actually smirks.
  • I ask for my hotel voucher and something for meals.  He says I don’t get one because weather delayed the flight.  I say that before the weather had occurred, my flight had been changed three times and I wasn’t going to make my connection.
  • He says, well, that’s not what “they” told him.
  • He hands me a discount coupon for a hotel.  I say, “At least I can get my luggage” and he says, no I cannot.
  • Why I ask.  Isn’t it coming off the airplane? It is but it has to go to a special area for rescheduled flights or something.  I can get it but it’ll take about three hours.
  • I’m reeling. I drop the discount coupon with exasperation and he says, “Don’t throw that coupon at me.”  What?  Idiot.  I didn’t throw it at you.  He snatches it away and says well if you don’t want it.  But I do want it.
  • Once more I ask, isn’t there any way to get me to Bakersfield tonight?  No, there certainly is not.

The Comfort Inn

  • I go to the hotel phone bank and call one after the other.  Full.  Full.  Full.  Full. Finally I arrive at the Comfort Inn.  They are not full.  I book a room, non-smoking with two queen beds, and am instructed to go out Door 508  and go to the third island.
  • I do this.  Vans pass by.  The Holiday Inn and Garden Suites, etc. etc. go by several times and I’m wondering about the Comfort Inn.  A van-type of thing goes by twice with Comfort Inn on it, but there are lots of things on it, and it parks not in the hotel area (and there’s plenty of space) but in the Off Site Parking area.  So I figure the Comfort Inn sign is just advertising.
  • On the third pass, after standing almost an hour waiting, I run up to the other area and ask if he goes to the Comfort Inn.  He says yes.  I get in.
  • We pass freeway exits with brightly lit hotels and I assume we’ll get off at one of those but no, we get off in an area that is barely lighted, and the hotel looks like a warehouse.  There is no sign of food, no coffee shop or even McDonalds close by.
  • I walk in. The lobby smells funny.  There’s a guy at the desk getting keys because he can’t get his door to open, but I think it’s because he’s drunk.
  • The carpet has holes in it.
  • I check in.  I mention that the driver doesn’t stop outside door 508 in the hotel area, and the clerk says, “No, he stops outside door 503.”  I said, “Oh.  I was told 508.”  He tells me that the airport people are always getting that wrong.  But the person at the other end of the Comfort Inn phone told me 508, and he seems to be the only employee in the hotel.  I let it go.
  • I ask if he has a razor and toothbrush.  He does, but he has no toothpaste.  Whatever.

I learn things

  • Calling something the Comfort Inn doesn’t make it comfortable.
  • Calling tissue heavenly soft doesn’t take away the feel of sandpaper.
  • Calling soap finely milled doesn’t mean it smells good.  In fact, it leaves such a residue that I wash with the shampoo.
  • A free toothbrush isn’t worth the manufacture.  I put it in my mouth and begin to exert pressure to clean my teeth, and the stupid thing bends in half.
  • I learn that the Comfort Inn vending machines have chips and candy bars.  I get a candy bar for dinner.

Carry-on bags

I put my meds in my carry-on just in case.  I should put in a nightgown and some toiletries but I didn’t have room for that.   Remember that I have been at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  And I took with me things that might melt and things that are fragile.This is what was in my carry-on.

  • Seven chocolate frogs in boxes that look like pyramids.  In other words, they are non-squishable.
  • Ton Tongue Toffee
  • A Honeydukes jar with horehound drops.
  • Some Chattering Teeth from Zonkos.
  • A Remembrall.
  • A Sneakoscope
  • Butterbeer glasses
  • A pumpkin juice container

Some day I’m going to laugh about this.

I leave Denver

  • Finally, I leave Denver.
  • I remember that I have a photo shoot that Friday for a feature in Bakersfield Life, a monthly magazine that the Bakersfield Californian puts out.  It’s called the Red Couch, and four women with the same occupation are featured in each issue.  This month the women are artists and I was asked to participate.  It took some doing to work around my schedule and get all four of us to the paper at the same time.
  • So, before leaving Denver, I check my calender on my Blackberry.  2:00.  OK, I will be showered and cleaned up and can make it at 2.  I remember that when I checked the time in Orlando, my Blackberry told me it was at 4 p.m.  I decide I’m not remembering correctly because that was impossible, and at this point, except for about four hours sleep, I had been up almost 24 hours.

Arriving in Bakersfield

  • Jennifer picks me up and we wait for the luggage.  It does not come.  I go to fill out the form and the guy looks at my luggage receipts and asks me if I was supposed to arrive last night.  Yes, I say.
  • He says that my luggage is not lost – it arrived last night.
  • Is this magic?  United could not get me to Bakersfield Thursday night but it could get my luggage there? What, is there some special United luggage plane that zooms around the country like Santa Claus delivering luggage?
  • I’m glad to have my luggage but dumbfounded that it arrived the night before.

Oh well

  • Home!  Bath! My kitties! Time to spare for the photo shoot.  I leave the house about 1:20 thinking I’ll be early, because something in my genetic code requires me to be early or on time.  I am never fashionably late.
  • I’m driving and Barbara calls on my cell.  She’s being featured also, and asks me, are you coming?  I say yes, it was at 2, right?  But I thought I’d come early. Wrong. It was at 1.  Oops!  I am already unfashionably late.
  • They wait and I check my calender as I drive.  It says 1:00.  HUH? And I realize what has happened.  Every time I changed time zones, the Blackberry changed my appointment times.  When I checked it in Orlando, I was on eastern time, so it did say 4:00.  I wasn’t imagining it.  When I looked in Denver, I was on mountain time and it said 2:00.  Arriving in Bakersfield, I set the Blackberry for Pacific time but didn’t think to look at my calendar again.
  • I think this is not a good feature of the Blackberry.  I think it would mess people up big-time.  It messed me up.

The end

  • My travel is over.  I am home and in bed by 7:00 p.m.
  • I am gearing up for dealing with United.
  • I am done with the no good, terrible, really messed up day.

Day Three in Florida: I See a Soccer Game!


Day three, Thursday, the real tournament play began.  After arriving Monday, registration on Tuesday, Soccer Fest on Wednesday, competition began.  Again, I opted out – of the morning game.  I just couldn’t be in the lobby at 6:30!  So Sophie, Joe, Dax and I slept in and then went to Joe’s favorite place.  Only fair, since we went to Target – Sophie’s favorite place – yesterday.

Yep, it is IHOP!  We had a good breakfast, did the 30-minute drive to the Polo Grounds, and the almost an hour trek to the field after parking, walking to the shuttle, waiting for the shuttle, riding the shuttle, and walking to the field.  Phew.

The parents were huddled under umbrellas.

The kids, with Matt and Tabitha as coaches, were ready to go.

I was taking pictures, but due to the heat and humidity, I took them all from my chair.  The lazy way.  Jennifer said to me, “Mom, I’m glad you’re taking pictures of the team.”  Well, actually, I was taking pictures of Sarah!  Oops.

Sarah’s the one with the flying pony tail.  She played well, but the team lost.  They had already lost that morning, but they lost by less the second game.  Most of the teams have been playing together a long time, but our girls have only been together a few months.  Plus, the heat and humidity were new.  We’ll none of us ever complain about Bakersfield heat again.

Sarah had to use her inhaler once, and one girl got heat exhaustion, but they gave it their all.  Really.

As soon as the game was done, we all headed for the beach.  I was way too exhausted and realized I wouldn’t be going to anymore games.  Just cannot deal with the weather physically.  At least I made it to one.

We went to Ocean Reef Beach.  I’d already been there the day before, but today I found out where it got its name.

The girls and Matt headed out right away – that 82 degree water is pretty darn easy compared to our cold Pacific.  As they got farther out, swimming for a while where they couldn’t touch, they found they were standing on a reef or sandbar.

One of the dads is a diver and he had his mask with him.  They all took turns putting it on and looking under the water where they saw a plethora of beautiful fish.  For the kids it was exciting; for Matt, it was heaven.  What a serendipitous discovery.

The ocean also gave me the gorgeous colors of the day before, though not as pronounced.  Remember these pictures, however, to contrast with what I’ll show you tomorrow.

I took a walk with my shadow, not being interested in seeing fish.  I actually have a fish phobia and I only like to look at them behind glass, and sometimes not even then.  I liked my shadow, though, and I’m going to keep it around.  Long and lean.

I was done in and left before the others.  Again, can only take so much heat.  But as I drove away, I was rewarded with birds.

Back at the hotel, out of the very small, barely equipped kitchens, the moms and some dads produced a fantastic dinner.  I don’t know how they did it!  But all the parents and kids are wonderful, helpful, positive, and just easy to be around.

Ready to face Day Four – and for the first game, the kids had a bye – big relief and sleeping in.  I am such a fan of sleeping in.

End of day three.

Day two in Florida, and I’m already mixed up…


Only day two, and already the beaches are running together.  It’s just a giant coastline of one beautiful beach after another.  This was the day after soccer registration – Soccer Fest.  Brothers and sisters could play (along with, at least in Dax’s case, a cousin), and all the tournament players played.  Teams were mixed up so kids played with others from all over the country.  It was an all-day affair and again,  I opted out, as did Sophie, but she wanted to sleep and have alone time so I set out alone to explore.

I went to see what I could see.  And I know I went to Ocean Reef Beach this morning, so maybe I didn’t yesterday.  Aargh – which is which?  I know this is Ocean Reef, though.  I’m already mixed up which day is which.  Maybe the sun is addling my brains more than they usually are.

Anyway, obviously I’m happy.

Clouds again as there are every day.  (This morning when I got up, I thought, what’s wrong? What was wrong was the sky was all blue with no clouds.  But we got some later.)

This beach was covered with shells.

And rocks.

And tide pools.

And protected sea turtle nests.

Funny, isn’t it?  Yesterday I saw greyhounds racing so us humans (I always think of how the Ferengis pronounce HU – mons when I write that word)  can bet on them, and today I see great effort to protect the nests of sea turtles.  There are hundreds of eggs in a nest.  Something is strange here. Do the greyhounds not count because we can breed them? Control them?

It was of course very hot and humid.  Luckily, the hotels on the beach had placed umbrellas and lounge chairs so I could rest.

Ok, they didn’t put them out for me, but no one stopped me from sitting on one.  I tried to look like a hotel guest.  This is the best I could do for a self-portrait of the lounge chair, umbrella, and me.  Or my foot.

This is such a cool picture.  It makes me really wish my Blackberry had more megapixels.  Two just isn’t that many.  I might be able to get a clear 4×6 with two – maybe.  If I was completely still when I snapped.

The clouds!  The water! It just transfixes me.  And the different ways of seeing things.

I thought of these sand/rock formations as a mountain range leading to a vast sea.  The sea is vast, it’s true, but these were quite small.  Just seeing them differently.

Moving on, I more or less drove up the coast with nothing in mind.  When I saw this sign, I zoomed in.

John McArthur State Beach.  Now I was cracking up for sure.  As I checked my pockets to get out of the car – I fill them with my lipstick (because my lips get so dry), small camera, cell phone, car keys, money –  I couldn’t find my lipstick.  Darn. Maybe I lost it at the other beach.  I went into the nature center and bought a chapstick.  I went to the vending machine for water, had to return to the shop for change, put my hand in my pocket and came up with my lipstick. Arrgh.

I walked over Lake Worth Lagoon on a wonderful walkway, albeit a hot one, to get to the beach on the Atlantic.  If the wind hadn’t been blowing some, it would have been impossible.  And on the way back, the wind wasn’t blowing, so I returned to the car in somewhat of a hot and bothered mood.  I did want to take a picture of this with my cell phone, however.  Hand in pocket, I found no cell phone.  I figured it must be in the car, but just in case I stopped by the store again to see if I had left it on the counter.  No, I did not, but it was in the car.  Soooo cracking up.

I determined to find the Loggerhead Marine Rescue Center in Juno.  I went back and forth and back and forth until I was unhappy and hungry but finally figured out the way in.  It’s a turtle rescue center.  This turtle had his back right flipper bitten off by a shark, so he was being rehabbed until his nutritional status was strong and he could again go to sea.

Have you ever asked someone a question, and at a certain point in the answer you want to say, “Ok, that’s enough. Don’t tell me any more.” But you can’t of course because it would be rude, especially when it’s a volunteer you’re talking to, and especially when it’s a senior citizen volunteer who is just being helpful, but gives way more detail than you want.  Yes, that was my mood.

I’d been texting Sophie trying to get her to do something with me, but she informed me she doesn’t really like looking at animals, so the zoo was out as was the lion safari.  Thinking hard, I knew what Sophie would want to do, so I texted that I needed to eat lunch.  Would she like to go to Target with me and eat in the food court?  You have to understand that Sophie loves Target.  Some day she’ll realize what a selfless and remarkable grandmother I am, that I wanted to eat a hot dog in the Target food court.

Actually, it was a pretty cool Target.  On a second story so you took an escalator up and down, plus there was one to convey the carts down too.  She took photos to send to her friend Lizzie back home, who is also a Target aficionado I guess. This Target was enormous and uncrowded.  A year old, it is always uncrowded.  In fact, nothing around here is crowded, including the roads.

So that was the day.  When we returned and the others got back from Soccer Fest, which they enjoyed despite the grueling weather, I looked out of my room window and saw Sophie and Dax in the pool.

I looked out a short while later and saw this sunset.

It was just beautiful.  And none of the kids in the pool looked up once.

If you want to see more pictures of sunsets or waves or the ocean, check out the nature gallery here.

Fun in the Sun in West Palm Beach


I’m here!  West Palm Beach, Florida.  I came for the AYSO national soccer tournament because my granddaughter is playing on a team.  This has been a gargantuan effort – fund-raising over $30,000 so the team could participate.  In AYSO, all the money must be donated; parents are not allowed to pay their kid’s expenses.  That gives everyone an opportunity to attend.  For example, if my daughter wanted to put in the money for Sarah, she couldn’t – she’d have to make a donation to the team.  It’s a good, fair system but it’s been so much work!  My daughter is team mom, my son-in-law is a coach, and I am the grandmother.  Which is not an official position.

My flights were not crowded at all so luckily I had rows all to myself.  Look at this spectacular view from the airplane.

This was a long long day – travel day.  The next day was soccer registration and opening ceremonies, which I opted out of along with three of my grandkids.  It was a good decision – I guess they sat for hours in the sun and humidity.  A soccer tournament here in the summer is insane.

Cities put in bids to hold the tournaments, and I don’t think the AYSO selection committee thought about things like heat exhaustion, heat stroke, humidity, temps with a real feel of 111.  In a couple of years the tournament will be in Tennessee.  What happened to the northern climates, like Washington or Oregon?  Seriously, this is insane for real, not to mention dangerous.  You can’t call it fun for the refs and coaches and parents who worked so hard to get here.  Yesterday, one of our girls had heat exhaustion and she kept saying, no, she just didn’t feel well.  We are Californians.  We don’t know about that (although Bakersfieldians should).

I know about that, however, having suffered heat exhaustion three times. By the fourth time, I knew enough about what was coming to cut short my activity. ( That was the Unal Trail hike I did recently, by myself.) What I was saying wasn’t getting through, however.  If you haven’t exerted yourself in this kind of climate, it’s hard to know exactly how careful you must be.

But Sophie, Joe, Daxton and I had a great day doing some sightseeing.  We hit three beaches and greyhound races.  I’ve never seen dogs race and everyone said go, go, it’s fantastic.  I suppose it is in some ways, but I hate to see animals used like that.  In one race a dog tripped, and if it hadn’t gotten right up the day would have been ruined.  I didn’t really like seeing dogs running around a track while old men sat around working on their wagering picks.

The track had signs around urging adoption of greyhounds, but I don’t think that compensates for forcing the dogs to race.  My sister has recently adopted two former racing greyhounds.  Beautiful animals.

The blur on the left is the dogs starting the race.  There were two old men sitting near us, and listening to them talk I thought, these guys belong in a movie.  They would be perfectly cast in so many films.

Anyway, it was an experience.  But the beaches!

Look at the colors of the ocean! Couldn’t believe it.  This is Ocean Reef Beach in West Palm Beach.

We all just walked right into the water – it’s 82 degrees!  I love the warm Atlantic.

We were so lucky to be at a drawbridge when it opened  It’s the first time the kids had seen one and I always enjoy it.  Heck, I enjoy just about anything.  Except heat and humidity.  But I knew what I was getting into when I said, “Hey, I’d love to go!”  So no real complaints.

Back at the hotel to recover from the morning, Dax and Joseph had fun with ice cream.  Sophie took a nap.

We headed out for more beaches, this time to Dubois Park.

The kids were standing still, waiting to see how far their legs would sink.  Of course, being a worried grandma, I remembered reading about how someone died from being “buried” at the beach – you know, something everyone does, getting covered with sand so only your head sticks out.  But sometimes the sand can create strong suction and you can’t get the person out fast enough.  I had to go over this in my mind several times, how they were just standing there and it wasn’t the same thing at all.

To get to our third beach, we drove down this gorgeous street.

This town isn’t called Palm Beach for nothing.

We did lots of driving around and saw some very big, probably very beautiful homes.  The reason I say probably very beautiful was because we couldn’t see them.  This is the land of giant hedges.  This next picture is not a giant hedge but certainly an unusual one.  The building was so exclusive that it just had an address, barely visible.

I was determined that we would eat dinner on the waterfront and knew if I drove long enough we’d find something.  Just as I was about to give up, we did find something.  I’m not sure we were in the best area (ok, we weren’t) but the food was good enough.

End of Day One.  Just about any day I spend with my grandkids is a good one, but it was cool to be in a place exotic to all of us.  Even if it was humid and hot.

Coming soon: more beaches.

Summertime, and the blogging gets slower


Creative Every Day’s theme for July is Life.  That means everything, right?  So no matter what I write about, it meets the theme.  Leah suggested we could write autobiographical bits, and I’ve been meaning to write about summer heat, so I’ll tell a story.

I haven’t felt like blogging lately.  Couldn’t tell you why, specifically.  Perhaps I have nothing to say.  Most people who know me would say that’s impossible – I always have something to say.  Not so.  Maybe I’m in another fit of wondering why I should be blogging.  But you know what?  I told myself I’d finish out the year and I will.  Then, I’ll evaluate.

So it’s summer.  That could have something to do with it. We had a few very hot days, but mostly, our Bakersfield weather is atypically cool.  (The low 90s is cool for us in summer.)  But on those 100+ days, the heat zaps the life out of you.  Even in an air conditioned house, somehow you know how hot it is.

Here comes the sun

This isn’t actually the sun, nor even representative of one except that it’s round.  It’s a photograph I took of the London Eye with the individual compartments replaced by daisies, and that big daisy in the center.  Anything round in the sky makes me think of sun.  You can see more art here – and photos here.  The point is, all the photos with the sun are sunsets.  I don’t think we ever go out in the heat of the day to take pictures of the blazing sun.  Do we?  As photographers, we know to stay out of the harsh midday light.  Blazing, harsh – not words to entice you outside.

This is what it really feels like.

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy – or not

I understand that lyric because I lived in North Carolina for three years with three small children – and without air conditioning.  There is no way to do anything fast.  Sometimes, moving at all is hard.  I’d lie in bed at night and try to work out systems for suspending myself from the ceiling so no part of my body would even touch the sheets.

Yet it didn’t seem to bother the kids.  For us adults, though, the livin’ was not very easy.  We had a very small house (it may not have even been 1,000 sq. ft.), five jobs between the two of us, and three kids under six.  Oh, and my husband was a graduate student at UNC Chapel Hill.  Yep, our livin’ was not very easy.  Even with the five jobs, we had no money.

But what can you do?  You do what you have to – take care of the kids, plan activities, etc.  You would run in the sprinklers if you were in California, but in North Carolina no one has sprinklers.  Don’t need ’em.  It rains.  Nearly every day in the summer.  In the afternoon the sky would darken, the wind would come up, I’d gather the kids and anything that might be outside – not only so it wouldn’t get wet but so it wouldn’t blow away.  And then we’d see the lightning and hear the thunder.  It wouldn’t rain for very long usually- just long enough to leave us with steaming, saturated air one could barely breathe in.  Oh my, that humidity.

There was a foul odor in our bedroom.  We could not identify it.  We looked, searched, nothing.  After a two or three weeks it went away.  And two years later, when we moved out of that house, we rolled up the straw mat on the floor and, entwined in the straw weaving on the bottom, was a little mouse skeleton.  Unbelievable.  Gross.  We’d been smelling decomposing mouse.

I remember when the air conditioning in the car broke, and that was our only refuge.  We were so broke ourselves that I didn’t take the car in.  Finally, by September, I couldn’t take it anymore and in I went to the garage.  It was a $5 part.  For $5 I could have been driving cool.

That’s life

Not long ago, I said my life is a song.  I can’t get away from lyrics, as you can tell from the mini-headlines.  But that’s life; we did what we had to do.  Now, as an adult – an older adult – I don’t have to take care of little ones, and Bakersfield is not as humid as the south, but it’s harder every year to deal with the heat.  I don’t do dark well, but I have to keep my bedroom dark in the mornings to keep the heat out.  Have to open and shut blinds.  By late August, I am crabby but know the heat will continue through October.  Once in a while, there is a whiff of fall, everything relaxes, and then it’s hot again.

It feels like this:

Hot, electric, infra-red.  Thirsty.

Would you rather be hot or cold?

We humans are funny.  We’re always asking questions like,”Would you rather live at the beach or in the mountains?”  “Do you like summer or winter better?”  It’s as if we must pin ourselves down and choose instead of enjoying the merits of both.  After all this griping, I can say I’d rather be hot than cold, however.  We were in the Peace Corps in Morocco from 1971 to 1973.  Our first year, we had no heat in the winter.  Our house was new – a cement structure still holding lots of moisture, and we could see our breath inside. It was very cold.

We moved the stove into our bedroom so we could keep the oven on all day for warmth.  We cooked in the bedroom, which mostly worked out except for the time I spilled the pot of soup all over our bed.  We put our dining room table in the bedroom, which consisted of a plank of wood  supported by bricks.  It was low – we sat on the floor. The cold cement floor. Maybe we had cushions; I don’t remember. We bundled up like Eskimos but there is a point where one more sweater, one more blanket, won’t do it.  It’s as if you’ve reached maximun warmth and nothing else will help.

Jenny, who was two, would run around barefoot and it didn’t bother her a bit. I was always trying to get her to put shoes on, or a sweater.   Somehow we managed a trip to Malaga in Spain for a long weekend (it was very close to Oujda, where we were.  There is even a Spanish town, Melilla, in Morocco.) We took the cheapest boat to cross the Mediterranean in the cheapest staterooms.  I spent the entire night throwing up – I was pregnant.  But in Malaga it was warmer.  I knew what I had to do.  I took Jenny and went on home leave for at least four weeks, returning to stay with my parents in North Carolina.  I know from that experience that being cold is impossible.  More impossible than being hot.

I tried to find some photos to scan for this post, but it appears I didn’t take any photos in summer in North Carolina.  I guess it was too hot!

Heat is always on my mind

I am about to go to Florida – West Palm Beach – for a soccer tournament.  One of my granddaughters is playing on the AYSO team from our region.  I think I’ve had heat on my mind because I am a bit apprehensive.  Last summer we went to Disneyland on what turned out to be a very hot and humid day, and I didn’t do well.  But I want to have the experience of the soccer tournament, and then going to Orlando after it’s over to visit Harry Potter World.  So somehow I’ll deal.  And I’ll see a new place and the kids will no doubt find playing soccer with temps in the 90s and real feel in the 100s and humidity not nearly as hard as I will find just sitting in it.  I will take pictures, however.  And it’ll be so much cooler to relive it through photos.

So there’s my little slice of life, my autobiographical bit for Creative Every Day.  Life.  We have a motto here in Bakersfield – Life as it should be.  (Or sometimes not.)