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Friday, May 23, 2014

Shiny Chrome

People in San Diego have some cool vintage cars. I love stumbling upon these treasures just by chance. It makes my day. Two days ago I found this Falcon wagon in a parking lot. I just dig those tail lights.

Yesterday I was walking near school and found this beauty, a Coupe deVille. It has such style and attitude. Check out those fins!

Since it’s a long weekend--Memorial Day—there may be plenty of vintage cars ambling around town, doing a slow cruise through the city, lingering at stoplights so all of us can admire them. I’ll keep my eyes open…

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Lycra Meets Shar Pei

I did something today that I haven’t done in a few years. It took some courage, I must say. I tried on swimsuits. It was not pleasant. I lived to tell about it, and I’m grateful for that. I’m sure some people have fainted while trying on swimwear--it can be that much of a shock! Honestly, it was humbling. Quite humbling.

Let’s examine the facts. I am 40 years old and I have given birth to three large babies. My poor stomach did not bounce back and has more loose skin than a Shar pei. I’d love to have the stomach I had at 21—flat and slightly muscled. And shoot, I don’t even have any photos of my glory days. But back to the present. Swim suits are not my clothing of choice. But it’s warming up and I will take the three kiddos to the pool this summer. If swimming were manageable in a mumu and straw hat I’d wear that. Full coverage, my friends—and I’m talking about more than sunscreen!

I do have a swimsuit that still has stretch to it. I can wear that. But it’s not ideal for lap-swimming, and I may do a little of that this summer. Last week, I went into a store near our house to buy kids’ clothes. Somehow I took a wrong turn and found myself lost in the middle of a tropical jungle of fluorescent orange swimwear. I resolved not to panic and tried to find my way out of the swimwear maze. In my attempt to retrace my steps I spotted a few one-pieces. Eventually I managed to find my way back to kids’ wear. Fast forward a week. Today I was back at the same store, inexplicably marching toward swimwear. If I wanted to do some laps this summer, I needed a suit that would stay where I put it. I was a little curious about the suits that claimed to make you look ten pounds thinner instantly—it’s on their tag. I tried one on, and it’s possible that the diagonal cut across the front made my waist look a little more cinched-in. But I can’t say for sure because it seemed to me that the ten pounds that may have left my waist immediately were forced south and this was not, NOT a welcome trade. No sirree, back to the drawing board.

I tried on another suit in a great color but it was too low-cut for me and the shoulder straps seemed destined to flop down. I ended up leaving without a suit but I did buy a pair of shorts, the other item on my shopping list. (Believe me, shopping for shorts is no easy feat, either. What are shorts, really, except the bottom half of a bikini, the only item scarier to shop for than a one-piece swim suit!)

(I can’t believe I’m confessing all this online. I have only shown one friend my sad, sad tummy, but here I am, posting the grim details of my stomach for all the world to read. Oh, well. Perhaps there’s some bonding to be done among ladies who have had pregnancies and stretch marks, or who have passed 100,000 miles on the odometer, as I have. Yes, let’s laugh about it so I am distracted from my panic attack.)

I’ll pause my self-effacing swimsuit tale for a minute and say that I do celebrate people’s right to wear whatever they like at the beach or pool. I remember seeing a seniors’ water exercise class at a pool years ago. I thought it was awesome that the ladies wanted to be healthy and get some exercise and that they didn’t shy away from it because their bikini days were over. These eighty-year-old ladies were not in their prime, I’ll be honest. But I think it takes a lot of courage to don a swimsuit in public! These ladies had pluck. And I’m a big advocate of beauty not being defined by your size. That lesson took a long time to sink in. But let’s be real for a minute. Most of us wish some of our body parts looked different. Especially after having three big babies, I must face reality and admit that the bod looks different than it did ten years ago. I do exercise daily—my low blood pressure is evidence of that. I try to eat healthfully and I have excellent cholesterol levels because of that. But I won’t starve myself just to look better in a swimsuit. Will I continue to exercise? Yes. I’ll do it to be healthy—and frankly, I’ll also do it because I have an ego and I’d like to look not bad for forty, instead of just letting gravity yank down every last part of me. I have to put up a fight!

An hour ago I googled “the horrors of swimsuit shopping.” I wasn’t sure if there would be any exact matches but it seems this theme is nearly universal for women. I read a few accounts of other ladies’ trauma in the swimwear department. Some of these women were hilarious! One in particular I highly recommend. Sadly, my attempts to speak nicely to the computer and get it to link to that post are not working. So instead, go to Google and search "Marcia Richards, Diary of a Swimsuit Shopper." Reading Marcia’s post on swimwear gave me some good laughs. When you can’t wave a magic wand and change your reality, laughing about it is highly therapeutic.

Even though my expedition today was humbling—even more so than I anticipated!—I’ll still head to the pool this summer. I want to splash around with my kids and I’m not going to let self- consciousness prevent me from living. Join us, if you like. Look for us in the shallow end. I’ll be the one in the mumu and straw hat.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Happy Stuff: A Growing Garden

At the community garden some of us have been painting boards over the last few weeks. Once they are ready we'll assemble them into garden beds. Our garden is about to grow, in more ways than one. Eighteen more beds will be created and we hope that bees, butterflies and birds will flock over to take a look (and a drink).

The lady who has the bed north of mine has two very green thumbs. She's growing dozens of plants, including corn.

My Canna are coming along, which tickles me. Today I picked some green onions.

Not everything I plant flourishes. But gardening is like so many things in life: if you show up and put in some time and effort, good things happen.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Smoke and Fire

In some ways it’s been a typical afternoon and evening for me. I’ve spent a few hours assisting with homework, taking out the trash and cleaning up messes. I’ve washed dishes, done laundry and cut fabric.

But in another huge way, tonight is anything but business as usual. My county is fighting eight big fires as I type. While I sit safe at home, 23,000 people have been ordered to evacuate their homes. I can’t take my eyes off the news. I’m watching the changes in the sky north of here—a brownish-orange stripe slowly becoming a orangey-gray sky. I’m texting friends to see if they have evacuated and need a place to stay. I’m listening to voicemails about whether school is cancelled tomorrow. 22 school districts will be closed.  

How’s this for incongruity: watching the news in horror while my wind chimes make soothing music in the breeze and the ice cream truck cruises my neighborhood, playing its incessantly cheerful melody.

I’m so grateful we’re not evacuating and that my corner of this county is not in jeopardy. But the craziness is only fifteen or twenty miles away. It does hit home. I recognize these street names. I painted murals in homes in the neighborhoods where smoke and flames have replaced our usual May Gray.
It reminds me of other years with bad fires. I remember the Cedar Fire in October of 2003, the largest wildfire in California history. The air was disgusting all over the county. Our neighborhood wasn’t directly in harm’s way but I felt sad for the San Diegans who were. I wanted to help, and so I volunteered at the Red Cross, answering phones as people called in donations. Some called in to give money. One restaurant owner called from Orange County, telling me he had hot food ready to drive down to the fire crews.

These tragedies eclipse differences people have with their neighbors, or attitudes we may have about other neighborhoods. When the chips are down, we’re just all San Diegans and we want things to be okay in our county. We’re people first. We pull together and we want to help make things right. I don’t when this disaster will be behind us. I’m not sure exactly how I’ll support the San Diegans who are affected by this mess, who may have lost their homes already. But I will do something to help the people of this county. It’s what you do.   

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Coveting my Neighbor's Yucca

Yesterday I saw it as I drove by. I returned this morning, camera in hand. I stood at the base of a neighbor’s Yucca plant—all ten feet of it—mesmerized. The plant was at least six feet tall—a porcupine-like explosion of sharp needles. On top was a four-foot headdress of sparkling white flowers that reminded me of orchids.

It’s bright and early on a Tuesday morning so let’s pretend we’re at school—I’ll be the teacher—you sit over there—and we’ll have a surprise pop quiz! Please choose from the answers below:

How many varieties of the Yucca plant are there?
a)      14
b)      40-50
c)      60-70
d)      I hate multiple choice quizzes and I don’t want to play this game anymore.
If you guessed (b) you were correct! That’s a lot of variety, I say. I had no idea there were so many.
I’m no expert on Yucca plants. The first one I ever noticed was at my grandparents’ house when I was a child. But it wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I really appreciated Yuccas. Our next door neighbor had a big Yucca in his front yard. Most of the year I barely detected it. Its spiky, hunched-over form wasn’t exactly welcoming. But twice a year, out of nowhere, the Yucca grew a luminous crown of bright white blossoms, glittering in the sun. Once I started looking for Yuccas, I realized there were a number of types. Each was different but they all had the curious combination of sharp, ominous-looking leaves and soft, dazzling white blossoms.

We’ve been advised not to covet our neighbors’ goods. Rest assured I have no plans to sneak over there and wrestle that spiky plant out of the ground and drag it back here and replant it in my yard and pretend it grew there all by itself. I’m not really coveting my neighbor’s Yucca. But I think it’s okay if I look but don’t touch.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Toh-MAY-toh, Toh-Mah-Toh

If you were to ask about how my tomatoes are growing, you’d have to be more specific.

If you wondered about the tomatoes I planted at the community garden, I’d say there are mixed results.

If you meant the tomatoes that planted themselves in unexpected places, I’d tell you that they are growing like teenagers.

Some weeks back I noticed some pointy green leaves growing amid succulents in a hanging planter. I didn’t think much of it until the leaves and stalk continued to grow and starting resembling a tomato plant. Say what?

At approximately the same time, a plant began growing in the middle of a barrel of Agapanthus. This surprise centerpiece is a tomato plant, too.

I’m not going to try to move them. I simply water them and watch them grow.

But let’s indulge ourselves for a moment and roll our eyes at the irony:

I plant tomato seeds and seedlings several summers. The results are not exactly impressive. The seeds never make it. The seedlings grow but my tomato yield (if such a term can be applied to a very limited total) would not be enough to make salsa for three tortilla chips!

However, the tomato plants I did not plant are growing like weeds. I’m grateful they’re growing—don’t get me wrong—but please! The unpredictability of this just has my head spinning. I like my effort to yield results and when my effort met tomato misfortune, I was bummed. However, I seem to be the surprised recipient of a consolation prize. The universe is giving me something we all thought didn’t exist: a free lunch. It’s a free lunch of tomatoes with a side of tomatoes, which will be ready at some point this summer.

Okay. I’ll just go with it. I’m still a little annoyed that my efforts sometimes don’t yield results, but I suppose I should just embrace the surprises that gardening involves. Mother Nature works in mysterious ways…  

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Happy Stuff--Red Canna

The Canna flowers have bloomed. (I know you’ve been sleepless with anticipation!) It’s exciting for me because I’ve been waiting and watching and wondering when. And now they’re here! They’re cheery and full of color, a beautiful splash of red among the many shades of green in the garden.

The wait was worth it.

(Sigh of contentment.)
Now that I have relished their arrival, let’s find something else on which to fixate. How about the next-door neighbor to the red Canna: orange Canna perched atop groovy striped leaves. These plants are are smaller than the red ones so I may have to wait awhile for their blooms.

‘Til then I guess I’ll be...
Sleepless in San Diego.

Saturday, May 3, 2014


This month marks the two year anniversary of the first time a group of gardeners stood on a bunch of dirt and started hatching plans. We gathered one May day on a patch of dirt and began to plot…about plots (garden plots, that is). For several months we gathered once a week to build a garden. We painted boards, then screwed them together to make planter beds. Some of us (not me!) understood irrigation systems and built one out of PVC pipes. We shoveled mountains of dirt. We guzzled water, exchanged high 5s and wiped our sweaty brows.

Two years later we are expanding the community garden. I learned about the plans a week ago and today a handful of us gathered to prime more boards. It feels like déjà vu. A patch of grass was cleared across the walkway from where our garden is. It’s a large triangle of dirt right now and if you don’t find that exciting, then we really need to talk. A triangle of dirt is potential! It is the first part of what will become more garden space for people who like to mess around in dirt, who are Do It Yourselfers, and who love to watch things grow. Eighteen new beds will be built. Some people have been on the waiting list for a long time and they’re ready to get dirty!

You’ll have to trust me on this one. It may look like a bunch of dirt right now, but really, it’s a bunch of dreams…

Friday, May 2, 2014

All Creatures Green and Small

Checked my bed at the community garden today. Although my Canna hadn’t bloomed yet, I did have a moment with another garden lover.

I didn’t expect him to be there. But when I arrived he was sitting in the shade on a Canna stem. We studied each other quietly as the hot sun blazed down on us. He permitted me to come closer and even allowed me to take his photo. He was polite and patient. I admired his shape and he basked in my attention.

But he had his limits. When I stopped two feet away from him to take a close-up, he fled the scene with a magnificent jump of fifteen feet. I watched sadly as he leapt out of my life. Our time together was brief but oh so meaningful…