Being back in San Diego, my birthplace, was a roller coaster. I love, love, love my family. I see so much of myself in them. Whenever I am there, it feels like home. If I were to ignore the cost of living, among many other factors, I'd move back in a second. It's just not where I'm at in life right now. It would also mean that my husband would have to take on the corporate job he's not quite ready for (i.e. cooped up in an office or meeting room from 8-6). And if I am to move back one day, I want it to be on my terms. I want to be able to afford to live there and have the means to enjoy it. No half-assing it. Until then, I will visit as often as possible and stay connected to my roots via my amazing relatives.

A little back story: When I was six years old, my mom married my stepfather; a childless man ten years her senior. Needless to say, he didn't know how to handle three kids . . . or my severely bipolar mother. He was in the Navy and we moved from the only place I'd ever known, where my relatives still live, and relocated to a remote island in Alaska. We had such a tight bond with my family prior to that move. It was the first of many that took us from one part of the country to another and constantly uprooted our existence. I appreciate the fact that I've seen much of the country as a result, but it certainly wasn't the best way to go about it. My mom had many issues, just one of which was the bipolar disorder. For reasons I may never fully understand, she took great pains to sever all communication with my extended family. The aunts, uncles and grandparents we adored were no longer an integral part of our lives. It felt like the rug had been pulled out from under us. Although I now know there was more to the story, at the time it felt as if they'd had kids of their own and moved on from us.

This photo is so telling. I was a bummed kiddo.

My mother is no longer in my life. She severed all ties with me about eight years ago. It was probably the best thing she has ever done for me. It allowed me to let go of the past rather than to continue to relive it; and I've forged a new, more meaningful relationship with the rest of my family. I will never take this second chance with them for granted. I'm too grateful. More on them soon. I guess you could say that I had a rough childhood. Those around me typically do. I just think it was life. I have my quirks, but all in all I'm pretty well-adjusted. So says my therapist.

A SoCal kid? Who, me?
Now knowing all of this, at least the CliffsNotes version, you can probably imagine why San Diego is such a huge part of my life; and why visiting unearths a complex web of emotions and memories for me. Good and sad. But never bad. This visit I made sure that I really immersed myself in the experience, in part, by visiting the places I once knew. My grandpa's house where I spent many a day and night; my old school which is now a run down furniture store; and the condo development where we lived prior to moving away. A highway stands in its place. Have I thoroughly bummed you out? It was not my intention, I promise. Let's move on to the lighter side of my childhood, shall we?

We're eating dessert first tonight, kids. I love Spam. My aunt used to make it for us all the time and it has become synonymous with my childhood. Imagine my surprise when I found Spam and eggs on the menu at the breakfast place my husband found during our side vacay. I didn't care that my ankles quickly became cankles and my finger felt like mini lead-filled balloons. I was eating Spam again, yo! In fact, I'm heating some for dinner as I write this. Reduced sodium, of course. I will never, ever let this delectable mystery meat stray too far from my palate again. Deeelish. My boys have not embraced the wonder that is Spam. I'm trying not to think less of them.

SueBee Spun Honey, honey. Whoa, Nelly is this stuff good! The same aunt that is responsible for my Spam addiction also introduced me to this nectar of the gods. We used to sit in the grass with a tub of this, a jar of peanut butter, a loaf of bread, and go to town. The best sandwiches ever. You heard me right. Ever. She was also responsible for creating elaborate shadow plays in her living room and Slip 'N Slide marathons. I'm jealous of myself. My grandma used to make us pancakes and create a topping bar that including a variety of pie fillings and tub after tub of Cool Whip. You'd think she owned stock in the company. How I didn't develop diabetes is beyond me.

We ate a boatload of Mexican food while we were in California. Good, actually-made-by-a-real-Mexican, Mexican food. My favorite food in the whole world is chicken taquitos (rolled tacos) from a an authentic Mexican restaurant/taco stand. I can't get enough, while my already tight pants are screaming enough!

I couldn't begin to count how many avocados we ate in ten days. We had Mexican food twice the day before we left. That particular day we came across a great little place in Santee (after discovering that my old home was now a highway) called K39 Taco Shop. My rolled taco combo came with a drink, and while I usually turn it down because I don't drink soda, I decided to go for it anyway. Next to the usual soda fountain was this little machine. Whipped drink? Orange whipped drink? What is this? My childhood came rushing back. I used to drink this stuff all the time. It's non-carbonated and foamy and creamsicle-y and amazing. If you didn't grow up on this, well, how sad for you. How could I have forgotten this stuff?! It all came rushing back, and for a moment I was six again. My husband and son were once again less than enthused. How dare they.

I'm really questioning my lack of diabetes at this point. I must have The Incredible Hulk of pancreases. I'm not a huge candy/sweets person, but I absolutely cannot resist Red Vines red licorice. Twizzlers? Uh, not on your life. Twizzers are like those candy wax lips we used to get as kids. My favorite flavor is imitation grape. If all soda were grape, I'd drink it. Grape Big League Chew bubblegum, grape lollies . . . oh, my. I'm getting excited just thinking about it. So imagine my surprise when, at thirty-one years old, I stumbled upon GrapeVines at a gas station in a hoity-toity SoCal town. I am a Red Vines connoisseur!  Why was this kept from me?! I barely suppressed the urge to yell "Mine! All mine! Wahahaha" and throw my head back like a movie villain while grabbing every available package. Instead, I opted for two and skipped out to the car. I raved and cheered and my husband gave me a uh, okay kind of look. He had better start getting on board. He ate quite a few, so I'm guessing he did. My memories tend to be stored in the taste and smell folders of my brain, so this happens a lot. Perhaps he's just worn out. Buck up, Soldier.

My grandpa had a giant lemon tree in his backyard.  It isn't there anymore.  Apparently the whole neighborhood has decided to go 'desert chic.' Only it's more dirt pile than chic. I know water is expensive, but sheesh. I loved that lemon tree. The smell, the colors, the flavors.  Heaven. The tree was growing right along the fence between yards, and my grandpa's neighbor used to pick all the lemons off his side of the fence; leading to a lot of annoyance on our side. I like lemon in my tea and my favorite color is yellow.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Endangered Manatees by Wyland

I was so in love with Wyland when I was a kid.  I didn't know what he looked like, but any man that could paint my heart's desires must be my soulmate.  Aunt Spam bought me this print for my 12th birthday.  I still have it.  I wanted to be a marine biologist from the time I was really young.  My future as a biologist was written long ago . . . but it seems that I have had to let go of the dream of being a marine biologist.  I would do it in a second, though. When I lived in Florida, during one of our tours of duty, I fell in love with manatees. 'Sea cows' is such a fitting nickname. I used to go into Wyland's gallery in Seaport Village as a kid and just stare at his work.

Wyland Gallery Laguna Beach, CA
We visited Wyland's Laguna Beach gallery during this trip and learned that he lives and works above that very gallery.  I wanted to go up and ravage him. I think I'm kidding. While I can no longer envision much of his work in my house, as it just doesn't quite fit, I fell in love with him all over again. That little girl that still exists inside of me wanted to buy every piece and hang them all over my house.  To live in his world is to live in a magical place indeed.

Tails of Great Whales by Wyland

I didn't depress you, did I?  If so, I surely made up for it with all the deliciousness that followed. Favorite childhood memories?  Least favorite? Go ahead, I can take it.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Monday, July 30, 2012

"hark, now hear the sailors cry,
smell the sea and feel the sky,
let your soul and spirit fly, into the mystic . . ."

-Van Morrison

I hear "I love the beach!" all the time. I can relate. Only what I have with the ocean seem to run much deeper.  The only place where I feel truly at peace is with my toes in the sand.  I'm not a surfer or kayaker or even much of a swimmer. I've always aspired to be, though. I used to envy the lifeguards as a kid (and even now to some extent) because they got to save lives and spend their days getting paid to stare at the ocean.  That would never get old for me. I also want the body to wear those red swimsuits. Why don't their bits flop around as much as mine when they run?  Oh, well.  At least I got over my Hasselhoff crush early in life.

I made my husband climb down to the shoreline one night last week in La Jolla and we watched the sunset together.  He was hungry and tired, but he thanked me later.  We were totally, completely free of worry, regret or sadness.  Just pure, unadulterated joy. I can't remember the last time I felt that way.  The fact that I got to share it with him made it even better.  It was a perfect moment in time that I wish I could bottle up and re-experience forever.

Mario said that at one point, once the sun had set, I stood and stared out at the ocean, barefoot in the sand; completely lost to the world for about ten minutes.  I'm not sure what I was thinking about specifically, but I know I did a lot of wishing and hoping. Wishing for nothing but the best for my family. Hoping that my dreams come true.  In those moments, it felt like they would. I want to feel that way forever. Perfection.

I know every moment can't feel that way. But I can only hope that more are like that than not from here on out. I want to be that person in the sand, free from all burdons, for the rest of my life. A lofty goal, I'll admit, but one worth attaining.

Where do you feel at peace?  What is hands-down your favorite place in the whole wide world?

Into the Mystic

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I had a goal for this month: Blog every single day for 30 days. Because it coincided with July 1st, my new goal became to blog every day in the month of July. I was doing really, really well until I left for vacation on the 13th. I maintained my mojo and continued to post for the first few days. Then my mojo failed me. I was busy enjoying myself and my material started to feel forced. My husband swears that I retained the same quality in my posts, but it didn't feel that way. I'm sorry to say that I couldn't keep up. So I amended my goal: Post thirty times in thirty days . . . even it that meant posting twice in one day to make up for missed days. At this point I'd have to write four per day to get the job done by the end of the month. Getting complicated? Welcome to my world.

It seems that I am forever making deals with myself. I'm going to work out every day. Okay, most days. Next month. For. Sure. It's a ridiculous, mind-numbing trait that I could do without. I'm going to stop doing this. Tomorrow. The fact is, I struggle to routinely do things that I actually enjoy. Perhaps it is a form of self loathing. I feel so good after working out; so you would think I'd be addicted. Instead, I do it the least when I need it the most. Like right now. Same goes for blogging. The fact that people even read this little old blog and my silly ramblings contained within is awesome. I decided to begin this journey because I needed an outlet. I didn't get into it thinking anyone would be interested in my life or viewpoints. I simply enjoy writing and am often in need of a place to blow off some steam. I'm quirky and honest about it. This blog has turned into a form of therapy for me. Even if I'm writing about something silly like my favorite mascara; I'm devoting myself to something, flexing my brain, and reaching out to others who may or may not be reading this and may or may not relate. I choose to believe that I'm not the only weirdo out there.

So there I was in sunny California reconnecting with my family, rediscovering my roots, and becoming reacquainting with my husband. So many re's. Regardless, it was an amazing but emotionally charged ten days. I had a lot to talk about and get out of my system. But I couldn't put pen to paper nor fingers to keyboard. When I needed my online therapy the most, I couldn't get it together. Not every one of my posts is going to be my magnum opus. A little snippet each day would have been enough, but I didn't even manage that. Enough with being hard on myself. This is supposed to be fun! But just like we stuff emotions that we don't want to face, I think I was putting off writing about my feelings until, well, I'm not sure when. I had a couple of posts in the can, but it felt disingenuous to write about my favorite kitchen gadgets when I'm in California, my birthplace, reuniting with the family I lost for much of my child and young adulthood. We returned home late Monday night, but I was so sad to leave and consumed by my post-vacation hangover that I didn't pick up my laptop until yesterday. Thank goodness I did.

My point is, I'm back. I've missed you all dearly. You are my BFFs and I'd hate to let you down. My senior year of college begins on August 27th and life will once again be chaotic. And stressful. I'll likely miss days, but if I know what is good for me, I won't forget to write.

A Blog About Blogging

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Since our little nugget was in camp last week, my husband and I decided to get away on our own for a couple of days. The location was kept under wraps, as he wanted to surprise me. I'm a lover of all things ocean, so I had an inkling that whatever it was, it was going to be water adjacent. I was correct. Or he's predictable. Or a combination of the two. What I didn't expect, however, was The Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel, California.

The lobby.  This is one of two insane flower arrangements.
My husband and I played a little game called "How much does The Ritz spend on fresh flowers every day?" every time we walked down the hall to and from our room. There was a bundle like this every few feet.

As much as l'd like to say, "Oh, yeah...we always stay at The Ritz! We wipe with gold-flecked TP and bathe in Dom PĂ©rignon and hydrate with only the finest sparkling water and...", I'd be lying. We are more Holiday Inn Express folks. They have amazing mattresses and warm cinnamon buns in the morning. I wouldn't mind being a Ritz-ite, but alas. Actually, I'm not sure I'd ever feel comfortable throwing that much money around, no matter how much I had at my disposal. Perhaps some day I'll have the chance to find out.

Even their fire hydrants are fancy! I stayed there so I must be fancy, too!

Although we didn't shell out $500+ for our room, it was fun to live like someone who did, if only for a night. I did not, however, partake in $15 hamburgers or a $200 bikini wax. Instead, my husband and I took the free trolley to Laguna Beach and behaved like mere mortals. We ate at local restaurants that used (gasp!) paper napkins and served their mojitos strong and in mason jars.

This pomegranate mojito was no joke. I grew chest hair. My husband finished the last few sips or I would have been toe-up.

That's more "us" than turndown service. We like immersing ourselves in the local culture and take great interest in finding the highest rated breakfast joint on Yelp. This is not to say that The Ritz didn't rock my world. It did. Despite being out of character for us, I really appreciated what it tries to do. Motel 6 couldn't have offered this:

If my gym had this view, I might actually work out every day.

This stay at the The Ritz gifted me with three things: An amazing time with my husband; a reminder as to why we work so hard; and the motivation to accomplish my long-term goals. Geez, maybe it is worth its weight in gold fire hydrants. I got to feel fancy with my husband and remember why he's the only gent for me. The time we have spent apart or living in places that are not of our choosing will be worth it if we ensure it is building a brighter future for our family. I've been studying my bum off for the last few years so that we can have the life we desire. I want to leave work everyday feeling fulfilled. I want to have the house of my dreams in the town of my choosing. I want to stay at The Ritz and reconnect with my husband. Maybe not on a regular basis...I'm a Biology major, not Bill Gates. We won't ever be in the 1%, nor do we want to be. We simply want each other and to live life on our own terms.

This was a trip I will remember forever. But not because it was spent at some fancy schmancy hotel. That was just a bonus. It was the time spent with my husband that made it so memorable. Perhaps for the first time in our marriage, we were totally free to just experience the entity that is us, without the constraints that come with being a parent, student, or employee. It was freeing in so many ways. A renewed sense of excitement for the future was also a happy result of this little side trip. As we were driving back down to San Diego, my husband said to me, "This showed me how compatible we really are. Sometimes when we are home and arguing about little things I wonder 'Can we do this forever?'" He was right. I've felt the same way. Are we going to argue about the same silly shiz for the next fifty years? Am I ever not going to be annoyed by the way he loads the dishwasher? Our marriage is solid, but we often get caught up in the minutiae and daily frustrations and forget to appreciate what we love about each other. In just a few short years it will be just the two of us for the first time. Spending two days as a couple reignited the spark between us. We have fun! We make each other laugh! My husband is a hottie! I knew those things, but neglected to acknowledge them as often as I should.

So This Is How the Other Half Lives...

Friday, July 27, 2012

"Between the optimist and the pessimist, the difference is droll. The optimist sees the doughnut; the pessimist the hole."
Oscar Wilde
My husband had to work a half day on Wednesday and we were going to hit the road for a mini vacay from our vacay, so I went with him. The only problem? It's an hour commute from my aunt's house to his company's headquarters. That meant we had to leave the house by 6:30 am. Bummer. He sooo made it up to me, though, by dropping by this place on the way:
Whoa, Nelly! This little pastry den was divine. When it was our turn to order, I had to squelch the urge to say "One of each, please!" I walked around with my face pressed to the glass and carefully weighed my options. My rump is swelling just thinking about all the delicious fat pills (a term I picked up from a friend years ago). How about some food porn?

You are so welcome. You literally just walk around this tiny building and scope out all of the options, then order at the window. They definitely had to clean the glass after I left. I mustered up some resolve and said, "One glazed buttermilk." It was so tiny that I wasn't sure I'd be satisfied.

That was sarcasm. It was bigger than my man hand. It was like a mini doughnut loaf. Per the rental car regulations, I didn't smoke. But I felt like I needed one after taking on that bad boy. Inhibition went out the window the second those lovelies hit our hands. We were like rabid dogs.

I lied and told my aunt I didn't eat the whole thing. Apparently food shame had kicked in. I ate the whoooole thing with reckless abandon. I made noises and got crumbs all over my shirt. There were a few crumbs left in the bag, so technically I didn't eat the whole thing. No, I ate those, too. I'm sorry. I am a filthy, filthy fibber.

That cute little shack has made me a doughnut connoisseur and I vow to never, ever taint my pallet with cheap drive-thru doughnuts. Only religious doughnut experiences from now on. Amen.

Doh! Nuts!

Friday, July 20, 2012

I love Scooby-Doo. A lot. So when I saw the opportunity to refer to him in a title, I took it. But this post has nothing to do with Velma, Shaggy, Fred or Daphne. Or cartoons. If I can find a way to spend an entire post on the Scoobster, I will. You won't hear about him again in this one, though. I think.

I have wanted to drive a Jeep since the age of six. How many things can you honestly say you still love 26 years later? Besides Scooby-Doo, of course. Oops. I broke my promise. What I'm trying to say is, six year old me had really good taste. One day I still intend to own one. A Jeep, that is. I think it all started when I watched my favorite show, Danger Bay, on the Disney channel when I was little.

The main character, Dr. Grant Roberts, drove around Vancouver, B.C. in this beauty. With the windshield down. While saving the planet. There may have been a crush. I'm getting all hot and heavy just thinking about him. And the Jeep. Anyway, from the day I first laid eyes on them, I wanted to be a Jeep owner. So when, upon arriving in San Diego this week, a Jeep lay before us unclaimed at the rental lot, I decided that Allah, Mother Nature, Budha and the Tooth Fairy all want my dream to come true.

You know how you want and want and want some more only to find that whatever you lusted for wasn't that great once you got it? That didn't happen here. Isn't she lovely? And with only 2000 miles, she's just a pup. It's true love. My husband has been taking her (it's definitely a her...I checked under the axel) on his hour-long commute the last two days. Perhaps from the day we met, he has known that my lifelong dream is to own a Jeep; but he never seemed to share in my excitement. Imagine my giddiness when he came home last night and said, "I love this car. You have to have one some day." She's made him a convert, too. Shazam!

There are some things I didn't stop to consider. One of them being my hair. My locks are difficult on their own, so imagine how gorgeous they look after being whipped around and used as a bug sieve for hours. I'm so attractive. I will definitely have to accept the fact that I will have perpetually funky hair as a Jeep owner. I will also have to learn how to tie a bandana. But she's soooo lovely and I want her noooow.

She did redeem herself by helping me make my face pretty. This was taken at the buttcrack of dawn, so if we can can collectively ignore my recently slept-on face, I'd appreciate it.

Another thing I didn't stop to consider? The fact that I can't just grab a five spot and lock my purse in the car while I run into Starbucks. The windows are vinyl, yo! Even when the top is on, the car is less than secure. The glove box and center console lock, but anything big is fair game. Not that loose items in a car are 'fair game,' but you get my drift. To a thief they might be. My husband and I are driving up the coast for the night and therefore have an overnight bag; so he had to take it into the building with him since I'd be shopping. I think I will just padlock things to the car fixtures in my Jeep.

This is her. The future love of my life. I recently purchased a new car, and one might ask "Uh, why didn't you get a Jeep? Duh. Stop pining and do it already!" Am I the only one that wenchy? Ruh roh, Raggy. Well, my answer is simple: Go big or go home. The whole shebang. I've been wanting this since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. Holy analogies (or metaphors? or hanging participles?), Batman! What six year old girl dreams about what car she will own as a (sort of) grown up? This girl. When I get one, it's going to be perfect. It with be a five speed, have a sunny yellow-orange hue, have 4 doors, and a satellite radio. I'm not sure about the whole folding windshield thing. I don't fancy bugs in my teeth. It will be a reward for reaching my lifelong goals. I will have earned it, and every time I climb in I want it to be a reminder of the hurdles I've had to overcome to get there. Too Dalai-lameass? Sorry. Still, my education and perseverance will have paid for this dream car. Jinkies!

P.S. I want my name to be Velma Dinkley.

P.S.S. I want Daphne's legs.

P.S.S.S. I lurv Scooby snacks. Although I've heard they were ganja treats because it was the 70s and Shaggy and Scoobs were potheads. So no comment, actually.

Jeepers, Scoob!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012