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Friday, February 28, 2014

The Fine Print

Oy Vey…

It seems I have another lesson under my belt. As usual it’s one I learned the hard way.

I spent at least 2 hours today on an art submission for one of the local magazines in town. I really liked my finished piece and submitted it minutes before the deadline. Or so I thought.

Once I started double-checking the contest area of the website, I realized that the deadline (which I was 99.9% sure was today) was actually yesterday. Ahhhh, the fine print.

I’m actually not that bummed. I was a little annoyed as I realized I’d missed the bus on the contest but the hours I spent drawing are not in vain. Any creative time actually soothes the brain and I think I’m riding that wave of calm right now.

I’ll still share with you the cover I did. But first a little back story. The magazine offering the contest is The Reader, a free local paper put out every Thursday. I’ve looked at it many times over the years. When I was scrounging around for art gigs in my early 20s, my artist friend Todd and I used to look at The Reader weekly for work. They have a classified section and each Thursday we’d open the paper and see if there was anything between “aquarium” and “assembly.” “Art” came up at times but not as often as broke artists like us would have liked.

The Reader is fun. It has great cover stories, restaurant reviews, a section called "News of the Weird” (obviously an amusing part), coupons and a column for almost any interest. I like its local vibe, I like that the cover story always grabs my attention, and I love that they looked to the people for the cover contest. I’m intrigued to see who wins it and has their cover printed on next week’s issue.

There were 114 cover designs submitted. 15 were from one artist! Wow. The reader gave two weeks lead time on the contest but still, 15 art pieces in 14 days is a lot. Some were very imaginative. One guy even carved his from wood! Now there’s some thinking outside the box. In case you want to see the other submissions, you can check them out here

The cover had various frames drawn in black and white, and people interpreted the assignment in a huge variety of ways. I think of mine as a color and pattern extravaganza!

Here’s my take on the blank cover:
I have to laugh at myself since my blog post yesterday was entitled “Look a Little Closer.”  Ooops. Seems this artist needs to look a little closer at the fine print when it comes to dates and deadlines!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Look A Little Closer

Today we received a good dose of rain, which is rare around here. Once it stopped I decided to poke around outside and see how the plants did after their infrequent encounter with rain. The plants looked happily hydrated. It was fun for me to nose around outside, getting up close and personal with my plants. I looked for changes and new growth and studied flowers, face-to-face. What a delightful surprise to discover a white and orange volunteer lily about to open. The last photo shows the bejeweled hammock that was created when the rain settled on a spider's web. Things look different after a storm, and I didn’t want to miss any new transformations. Take a minute and look at the things around you a little more closely. You’ll be happy you stopped to notice.

If a Tail Splashes...

Just sit right back

And you’ll hear a tale

A tale of a fateful trip.

That started from this tropic port

Aboard this tiny ship.


In case you didn’t watch as many episodes as I did, that’s the theme song from Gilligan’s Island, a cute sitcom from the 1960s. I remembered all but three words from the first stanza, which either demonstrates how great my memory is or how much of my cramped brain space is occupied by random things like sitcom lyrics. Since I often misplace things, the quality of my memory can’t be considered crystal clear. Why do I remember things like tv show lyrics rather than the location of the important paper I’m trying to find? (Rhetorical question #831.)

Gilligan’s Island is on my mind because the show started with five passengers aboard a tiny ship, and ships are on my mind because it’s whale watching season. 20,000 gray whales migrate 10,000 miles from the Bering Sea to Baja California Sur, making it the longest mammal migration in the world. Usually I forget about the whales’ journey past San Diego during what we call winter in San Diego (shorts weather, with occasional need for a sweatshirt). I was reminded of this last weekend, when my friend Roxie went whale watching with her family. Her older daughter loves animals and patiently waited to spot whales. Her perseverance was rewarded when they saw two types of dolphins and two grey whales. Roxie’s younger daughter watched a bit, but lost interest after a while and instead kept her eyes open for mermaids. Apparently she saw several!

This reminded me of my own whale watching adventure. When I was nineteen a few friends invited me to go on a whale watching boat. I remember that it was a cold, gray morning. The boat ride was scheduled to take three or four hours, and after we’d been out for hours I began to wonder if the whales would make an appearance at all. What if this was akin to Bigfoot or Loch Ness Monster sightings? (Rare and unconfirmed.) Eventually the whales did stop by for a moment. At least that is what I was told. They made their grand entrance during the one minute I bend down to tie my shoe. I swear I’m not making this up. Remember, wacky things like this comprise my life, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to miss the whales’ one, brief show. Did I feel a little cheated? Yes, a bit. But all is not lost. For here I am, 21 years later, blogging about that moment and (hopefully) giving you a laugh.

My life often resembles the blooper reel, the movie outtakes that don’t make the actual film but show all the funny “oops” moments that happen behind the scenes. My presence here on earth is a string of wacky moments, ones I don’t mind sharing in this blog because laughing about them feels right. Perhaps I should have gone into writing for sitcoms. I’d have endless material from my own life, from which to draw!

You remember the question about a tree falling in a forest, right? My version is this: If I tale splashes and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Of course! But don’t ask me—I missed the action while I was tying my shoe laces!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Hitchhiker

The spider came out of nowhere.

Well, it must have hitched a ride on something, but it seemed like it came out of nowhere. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something moving toward the collar of my shirt. Within a fraction of a second, I’d swiped at it. I’m not a spider-killer (unless they are black widows) but my swipe was intended to get that thing off of me RIGHT NOW!

Unfortunately, my shaking the intruder off my shirt sent him careening down. Into my purse. Are you kidding me, universe? That’s even creepier than having him on my shirt!

Within a minute I’d dumped the contents of my purse onto the countertop. These things often seem to happen when I’m not at home, so the whole thing transpired in a bathroom that wasn’t even mine! I cautiously pawed through the substantial contents of my purse. I’d just cleaned it out a few days before but honestly, this means nothing. I usually have tons of things in my purse and today was no exception.

Obviously, keeping the little critter in my purse was inconceivable. Imagine the freak-out I’d have if I forgot about the spider hiding in my purse (and the likelihood that I might forget is at least 95%). Can’t you just see me reaching into my purse and bringing out my Chapstick, which happened to have a spider on the top, like the cherry on a very creepy sundae? They would hear my shriek for miles. No, I was not taking that chance. So I’d upended my purse and was trying to find that rascally spider. Would he have dared try to hide in my wallet? Could he be in a discarded gum wrapper? I looked and looked. Believe it or not, I did not find the trespasser. So I did what anyone would do—I wrapped up the contents of my purse in a paper towel and brought my empty purse with me. I wasn’t taking the chance that I’d reload my purse and then forget about the fugitive hiding amid all my stuff.

So the mystery is unsolved. Could he have fallen off my shirt and onto the floor, which was the same color as his body? Maybe. But as a precaution I gave my shirt some rigorous shakes, lest he somehow was still on or (gasp) in it.   

These things seem to happen to me a lot. I seem to attract strange coincidences. I get myself into weird predicaments more than the average person does. Not just anybody can trap herself in a seatbelt as she tries to enter it from the foot area of the car. No one else I know has gotten her earring caught on a clipboard. I hit door frames constantly and trip over my own shadow. It’s not that I’m a klutz, I explain to my hubby. It’s that I’m moving fast and I don’t have patience for the slow lane. I want to get things done! I’m not a crazy driver but I live other parts of my life like I’m at the Indy 500. It’s fast-forward, and zero to sixty in 3.5 seconds. Who has time to go slowly? Not me! So if I bang my shoulders on doorframes multiple times a week it’s because I am in fifth gear, all the time. Pit stop? No time! Now where was I? Oh yes, spiders. I’m not sure what spiders have to do with my accident-prone ways but somehow they are related. Maybe the spider hitched a ride on me because he could see that I move fast and he wanted the express train to his next stop. We all should keep our eyes open for spider surprises, now that it’s almost Spring, the season when flowers are blooming and spiders are hatching. (Shudder.) I didn’t want to spook you with spider stories but having survived this spider shock (much scarier than sticker shock), I feel it’s my responsibility to notify you about the escapee. He is not dangerous but he does enjoy startling people. You have been warned.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Strike That!

I did it for the kids.

Doesn’t that sound altruistic?

In truth, it had nothing to do with the kids. It was about fun and friendship.

I’m talking about bowling last night with some other moms from my kids’ school. It rocked!

There were four of us and we had a ton of fun. We went to the same bowling alley I’d been to the last time I bowled (nearly a year ago). After last year’s bowling session I blogged about what a blast it was and made a mental note to go more often. I’m so glad my friends set up this get-together because I’m not going as often as I’d like. On a Friday night that place is packed.

Thank Heavens I’m not competitive when it comes to bowling because my score was quite low. I came in last. Both games. But who’s counting?! You want low numbers when it comes to blood pressure and cholesterol, but low numbers are not the goal when it comes to bowling. Still, I laughed at my gutter balls and bantered with my friends. It wasn’t about getting great scores. It was about doing something fun with people I like. I hadn’t spent time with these friends without plenty of kids milling about so this was new territory. We chatted about the kids and life, cheered each other on, gave high 5s and plotted about the next bowling night.

Toward the end of our second game a couple started their game at the next lane. They brought something with them that I never would have expected. I double-checked. No, I wasn’t mistaken. They’d brought a doll. I asked them if I could take a photo and they laughed and told me the back story about their mascot. It had been a prize in one of those machines that has a giant claw that you manipulate in order to grab the toy you want. I’m not sure whether this doll was from a bowling alley toy machine but somehow the doll became the couple’s mascot and accompanies them every time they bowl. I was charmed by this quirky tale and snapped a photo, knowing I’d want to share the story of the bowlers and their unlikely lucky charm. But why shouldn’t a KISS doll be their talisman?
It was such a fun evening. I love the down-to-earth vibe of bowling. People do it because it’s fun—not because it’s a place to schmooze with business associates. People who are drawn to bowling go because it’s entertaining. It’s so different from night clubs. Going bowling is not about being seen, showing off expensive clothes or a designer purse, establishing a pecking order. If the world sometimes feels like a proving ground, bowling alleys are the great equalizer. No one is there to put on a fashion show. Bowling puts everyone on the same field because everyone is literally in the same shoes. Maybe bowling shoes are the equivalent of the haircuts soldiers get on their first day in the military. Everyone is in the same boat, has the same tools, and that’s a good thing. Bowling is a great backdrop for growing friendships. Unlike golf, you don’t need fancy equipment or a whole day available for it. Bowling doesn’t take much time, the rules aren’t complicated, it’s unpretentious and it is fun. Last night we had a lot of laughs. I’d share the details, but you know what they say: what happens at the bowling alley STAYS at the bowling alley!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Oh, How Sweet!

Over the years I’ve pushed our stroller all over San Diego. People often peered into the stroller, exclaiming over the baby’s hair or cooing over tiny feet and peaceful, sleeping face. I do the same. When I pass a stroller I can’t not look inside.  
Yesterday I surprised a few people when they glanced at our stroller. These baby gazers peeked into the stroller, their mouths ready to exclaim, “Oh, what a darling baby.” But they kept doing double takes. One woman said, “Oh, how hilarious” after she looked into the stroller and saw no baby. I could almost hear them thinking, Look at the cute…cement block?

Yes, sitting inside the stroller were two half-sized cement blocks. Allow me to explain. Recently I decided I wanted to try to push cement blocks up a long hill. Not just for kicks, mind you. I wanted to turn my workouts up a notch, and this seemed like a good experiment. A few weeks ago a scene from a movie flitted across my mind. Did you see Vision Quest? It is a 1985 movie about high school wrestling. In one scene, a wrestler climbs stadium stairs while holding a log across his shoulders. This image came to mind recently when I was pondering ways to add intensity to my workouts. Having no spare logs handy, I decided to add the challenge of pushing extra weight. I wanted my whole body to work harder as I pushed the stroller up hill.  

I had a good hill in mind. When I Googled my intended route I found that the road was two miles from the bottom to the top. It isn’t in my neighborhood so I planned to drive to the hill, get the stroller and cement blocks out, and then climb. I left the house later than planned and in my hurry I decided to bring two small cement blocks with me. I’d thought of bringing more, or bringing larger ones. But looking back, I’m glad I started semi-modestly. (Upon returning home I weighed the blocks and was surprised to learn that each one was 14 pounds, so I was pushing 28 extra pounds--plus the stroller--up the hill.) That’s plenty for now.

At the beginning I felt great! I worked up a good sweat—noticeably more than when I walk my neighborhood without pushing cement blocks around. My heart was beating at a fastish pace and I felt strong and glad that I was pushing myself. On the walk downhill I felt a bit tired. The high of conquering the hill had faded and now I just wanted to be finished. The total distance was exactly four miles, according to the gadget I borrowed from Hubby, which measures distance, time, elevation and grade.  Four miles was a good amount for me right now. I am trying to lose ten pounds that stubbornly hang on, and this hill challenge felt like a good step up from my daily walks. I’m no Olympic athlete but I pushed myself and I like that feeling.

If I gave passersby a laugh when they saw cement blocks instead of a baby in the stroller, that’s great, too. I’m not expecting to transform back into how I looked at twenty-one, when I had a lot more energy and time for working out. But my experiment yesterday reminded me how hard I worked out at twenty-one. Results take work. It may seem comical that the tweaks to yesterday’s workout were inspired by a scene in a movie I saw nearly thirty years ago. But hey, inspiration is everywhere, especially in unexpected places.

We’ve been watching the winter games televised from Sochi, Russia. All of those Olympic athletes inspire me. When I see Olympic skiers over forty, I identify with them now that I am two months into my forties. Attempting to keep up with people two decades younger takes physical strength and stamina. But it also takes courage to compete against athletes who are younger--and hungry for glory. The Olympic athletes inspire on so many levels. Their dedication is amazing. I’m humbled by the commercials showing Paralympic athletes and how hard they work. Same for Special Olympians. The athletes who train hard enough to become Olympians—especially if they have a family—really inspire me. I relate to them because trying to be an awesome parent while following your personal dreams is always a tough juggle. Perhaps it’s an impossible juggle, because you want to give your all to your family without abandoning your own goals, but you’re human, which means you make mistakes.  And you never have enough time or energy to go around. But all these Olympic competitions encourage me. None of these athletes claim victory is easy. They all work really hard. It’s a good reminder for me with the everyday things I juggle. The things we want rarely are accomplished easily. You have to keep pushing. Yesterday’s experiment pushing weight up a hill had its comical elements but it is not in vain. Sure, sometimes I feel like Sisyphus, pushing a boulder up the hill, only to have it roll back down. But my effort is not useless, and slowly, it will get me toward my goal. I will find more hills, more challenges, and more goals. If you’re out and about in San Diego and you see a lady with hot pink sneakers doing something unexpected—possibly involving cement blocks, a stroller, a boulder or a log—you can bet it’s probably me. And odd as it may seem, there is a method to my madness.    

Friday, February 14, 2014

Heart Conditions

No red and pink decorations around here at the moment. I do love to put up festive decorations but this February I’ve been up to my eyeballs in another crafty project. The school’s fundraiser is coming up and I am doing an art project with the kids, which will be part of the silent auction. (More on that in coming weeks.) So I’ll leave the Valentines decorations to a neighbor, who has plenty of enthusiasm to share. This is the same house where they put Santa hats on the pumpkins in December. I appreciate their creativity!

Happy Valentines Day, y’all. Go hug somebody!

Friday, February 7, 2014


By pure chance, the box I opened a few minutes ago ties in perfectly with major events happening this very minute, on the other side of the earth.

I love serendipitous moments like these!

The box contains a few things from my childhood and teens, including a photo capturing a moment almost exactly thirty years ago.

In case you haven’t heard--and this is unlikely, but I’m hedging my bets--today is the Opening Ceremony for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. I’m not as obsessed with the Olympics as my dad is. He’s probably already on the couch, watching pre-ceremony coverage until the Opening Ceremony is broadcast four hours from now. He loves it that much. I like the Olympics, too, of course. I’m not hugely competitive or a giant sports fan, but the pageantry, the patriotism, the spirit of the games—I love that stuff.

The first Olympics I remember were the 1984 games, which were held in my home town of Los Angeles. Dad was beside himself with glee, and he and Mom went to several events, including the Closing Ceremony. Olympic fever swept over the city. In my fourth grade class, we spent a lot of time reading about the Olympics, their history, and details about the various events. I remember coloring the five interlocking circles that make up the Olympic symbol. I believe we actually had tests on the Olympics, too!

In 1984 I was ten. Up until that point, I hadn’t had direct connection with major international events, so the Olympics landing practically in my back yard must have felt mind-bogglingly thrilling. The Olympics made an impression so big that I kept things linked with it. I don’t have a lot of toys left over from my childhood. But I have mementos from the Olympics three decades ago. Today I happened to open a box where I’ve kept those items from the summer when I was ten. I love the coincidence of opening that box today, mere hours before the Opening Ceremony. In that box are a flag, a button and a bumper sticker, all from the 1984 Olympics in LA.

I remember posing with Sam the Eagle and my little sister as my parents took a photo. It’s one of the photos I have up at home. It’s such a sweet moment: my sister and I are grinning as we get a hug from the Olympic mascot. I look at ease. I’m not fixing my hair before the photo. I’m just a kid who smiles when the camera comes out. My innocence is captured in that photo. Adults don’t have that same freedom in photos. We’re too busy wondering whether we look good, whether the camera will get our best side, whether our hair is right, whether we’re squinting, whether our teeth look white enough, whether we’re smiling enough or too much, whether we simultaneously look not too posed but just posed enough, natural but still at our best, whether we’re lifting our chins enough, whether we’re slouching, whether our roots show, etc, etc, ETC! I love that as a child I didn’t have those concerns as I grin at the camera. I was too much in the moment, which is just as it should be.

What fun that I found these mementos today. It’s a happy walk down memory lane. I love connecting with the kid I was back then.

Another Olympics is starting in a few hours. It’s exciting. Fasten your seatbelts and let the games begin!  

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Guess What's Growing?

It’s only been three days since Punxsutawney Phil predicted another six weeks of winter. So I hope this won’t be taken as bragging, but I have to share exciting news. I have two photos that are indisputable proof that spring is on its way in San Diego.

I wasn’t scrutinizing our trees, pressuring them to signal spring, I swear. I’ve been too busy to count the days until the official beginning of spring. But I happened to glance up at our peach tree today and I saw something. Could it be? Nah. Too early. But I looked again later and saw it a second time. It was a tiny, brave bud, a scout testing possible spring growing conditions. It’s early February, and it’s been cold, so this bud truly surprised me. Perhaps I should study our apricot tree as well, I thought. I needed further evidence before declaring that spring is coming. The peach and apricot trees both had numerous buds, and--no way!—blossoms, too.

I ran for the camera because I love to capture these unexpected moments.

You’ve seen the signs yourself now. It’s true: spring is on its way! I’m excited.

But I’ll tone it down a little if I talk to people living outside this area. A lot of America is surrounded by tons of snow and I wouldn’t want to rub it in…