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Lisbon

The Castelo de São Jorge (Castle of Saint George) sits on the highest peak in Lisbon. It was here that Sarah and I ran off to the morning we arrived. We got a taxi from the port and then held on for dear life. The road to the castle is winding and narrow, and our taxi driver, who probably makes this trek several times a day, didn’t seem to notice us wide-eyed and reaching for our seat belts.

After arriving safely, we almost turned back when we saw the line to get in, but then realized it wasn’t the line for tickets, it was the line to actually enter and it was moving quickly. I’m glad we went in. The views were vast and worth seeing. We strolled around until we felt like we’d seen enough. At this point in our trip there had been a lot of ancient castles on hilltops. In saying that, I don’t mean “if you’ve seen one castle, you seen them all.” They are all quite fascinating and rich in history, but when you are limited to a day trip in each port of call, you have to make the most of your time.

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This little wall was right next the entrance to the castle.

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My favorite of my castle photos

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Lisbon

We opted to skip the taxi and walk back down to the city center from the top of the hill, though that wasn’t much safer. The sidewalks were very narrow and with blind corners and cars traveling past at high rates of speeds, we were grabbing arms to keep each other from harm’s way. We ducked into pottery shops along the way, wishing it was easy to get these gorgeous ceramics back to California. We also saw thousands of various sized painted roosters, called The Barcelos Rooster, which is the unofficial symbol of Portugal. I did not know this.

pottery

A little side story about that rooster. My mom has had a very tiny one on her kitchen windowsill for years. I’ve never known or asked where it came from. A few weeks before this trip I was visiting and doing dishes. I looked up at the rooster and thought he looked dusty. I grabbed him and gave him a good cleaning and in the process, I peeled off most of the paint. He went from a colorful dusty rooster to a mostly gray rooster with peeling paint. I’m an awful daughter. I said, “oopsy” and stuck him back in the window. You can imagine my surprise when I saw gift shops in Lisbon full of these guys. Of course I bought her a new one and confessed about the old one.

Rooster

Our ultimate destination was to find food and drink. Isn’t that the best part of traveling abroad? We walked to the city square and discovered an information booth manned by a young local man. We asked, “Where do the locals go? Tell us where you would eat around here?” He said, “I would eat at home!” So we said, “Okay! Can we eat at your home?” He laughed and directed us to a side street where he said we could find a few choices. We were very happy with our food and giant beers.

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Tomorrow we dock in Oporto!

 

 

Cádiz

Adventure! We were excited to land here. Sarah and I, along with Rebecka and Dennis, had signed up for an excursion called the Forest Cycling Adventure at this port. We hopped on a bus from the port city of Cádiz that took us to the village of Vejer de la Frontera, a stunning hilltop town. I wish we could have spent more time there, but it was just our starting point on the 10-mile bike ride that took us down to the sea.

It was an unexpected surprise to begin our journey at Vejer de la Frontera because I didn’t know anything about these beautiful villages in the Andalusia region of Spain, where every building is painted stark white, the blue sky above and green hills surrounding making the perfect frame.

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The ride itself was guided by two locals. It wasn’t a challenging ride for my group, as the four of us cycle regularly, but there were others on the tour that weren’t experienced riders so we had to stop and wait on occasion. I don’t think any of us minded too much, though there was the occasional break from the group due to the desire to just GO!

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The view to the sea at the start of our ride

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Rebecka, Sarah, and I during a break

It was a little bit of a stretch to call it a “Forest” Cycling Adventure. I kept wondering where the forest was, but it was a gorgeous ride that took us on back roads with very little traffic. We eventually rode through a small campground surrounded by trees before we made a sweeping descent to the sea.

The wind was blowing something fierce. The plan was to visit a lighthouse, but when we began down the road that led to the beach, sand in our face quickly turned us around. We decided to find a place to have a cold drink before we got back on the bus and headed back to Cádiz.

We didn’t have a lot of time in Cádiz before we had to board the ship, but we made the best of it. We walked the pedestrian streets and found an outdoor cafe where we had a bite and sipped Albariño. (I’m actually not sure if that’s what we were sipping, but it sounded better than white wine and I know that while were in Spain, we sipped Spanish wine often. When you are traveling with a winemaker, you let her order the wine). We then made our way to the massive Catedral de Cádiz, where we climbed to the top of the bell tower to take in and photograph the sweeping views of the city.

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Our boat!

That night, the sun set in Spain and in the morning, it rose in Portugal. Next up, Lisbon.

Málaga

Málaga is the southernmost city in Europe located in the Andalusia region of Spain. It lies on the Costa del Sol of the Mediterranean Sea. Málaga is one of the oldest cities in the world. It’s traceable history goes back 2,800 years. It is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and my friends and I had the wonderful experience of going to the Picasso museum in the city where life began for this legendary artist. But first we visited Alcazaba, a fortress palace that was built in the span of six years beginning in 1057. It was built after the fall of the Roman Empire when the city was under Islamic rule. It was a fascinating walk through the splendors of this ancient place. It was maze-like with meandering pathways that took you through lush gardens and tiled walkways, stone archways and small rooms, where you couldn’t help but wonder what went on so long, long ago in each and ever corner.

Alcazaba

Keyhole Archway

Sarah and I up high in Alcazaba with the sea behind us

We next took a taxi to Museo Picasso. You are prohibited from taking photos of the exhibits, so we enjoyed the experience for exactly what it was; surreal and in the moment. This famous and beautiful Picasso was there. I stared at it for a very long time.

Picasso | The Three Graces | Paris, 1923

This Jackson Pollock took up an entire wall, and I was very pleased to see his work there as well. (Both photos borrowed from the museum’s website).

Pollock | Mural | 1943, New York

After the museum, it was time for food. With no tour planned on this stop and no one to guide us, we walked through the center of town searching for a place to eat. We sampled Marcona almonds from a street vendor along the way. They were the best I’d ever had. With no time to visit the Málaga Cathedral, we still walked toward it to take in it’s splendor from the outside while we looked for a place to eat. There was no shortage of restaurants to choose from, but we found a place slightly off the beaten path and it was perfect. You could tell it was family owned and there was a large group of lively locals. In fact, we were the only foreigners there and somehow that made the experience more enjoyable, as if we had been let in on a secret. At the end of our meal they delighted us with tiny glasses of complimentary liqueur and a piece of candy.

Málaga Cathedral

Marona almonds and other deliciousness

Just a snippet of our tapas experience

Back on the ship that night, we went a little crazy with dessert in the Grand Dining Room. I know I’ve said the food was excellent on the ship. This photo proves it.

As we departed Málaga, our Cruise Director announced that we would be leaving the Mediterranean Sea that night via the Strait of Gibraltar and making our way into the Atlantic Ocean. And then there was this glorious sunset. Later on, I managed a bad photo of The Rock.

The Rock of Gibraltar

Next up, Seville.

Cartagena

This ancient port city, located in the Murcia region in southeastern Spain, has a natural harbor that has been used for thousands of years. Going back to the 16th century, it has been an important naval seaport and is home to Arsenal de Cartagena, the Spanish navy base.

See that tiny strip of land? That’s La Manga

The boat arrived on a cool, but cloudless morning and along with a few others, Doralice, Sarah, and I boarded a bus that would take us 35 kilometers outside the city to the resort town of La Manga, a seaside spit that is 21 kilometers long and 300 meters wide. On one side of this vary narrow strip of land that is packed with highrise hotels and condominiums is the Mediterranean Sea, and on the other is the Mar Menor lagoon. The lagoon’s water is warm and rich with salt and minerals. Unfortunately, our time there was too short and we were unable to take advantage of the healing properties of the dark mud and clay. We could only watch from a short distance as others walked the beaches, the mud a sign of where they ached, though a few must have thought a head to toe covering would bring about maximum healing.

 

Taken from the bus on the road to La Manga

A stop along the way at Faro Cabo de Palos

The Mediterranean Sea with La Manga in the background

My buds

We were given about an hour of freedom in La Manga so we quickly made our way to the nearest hotel in search of refreshments. We thought we would find a terrace overlooking the beach and sip a cocktail. We were close. There was no terrace, only sand, and instead of a cocktail there was an asiático served hot in a plastic cup. This is a popular local coffee drink made with sweetened condensed milk, brandy and Licor 43, and it was perfection. We washed down meat flavored chips with our asiático and watched the mud people.

Asiático and Boca Bits

Healing Mud

Back on the bus we returned to the port city for a visit to Castillo de la Concepción, which is located on the highest peak and offers the best view of Cartagena. To get to the top of the peak there is a panoramic elevator. We walked around taking photos of the lovely views and of the peacocks who reside there. I was mildly obsessed with the peacocks, and so, was rewarded with a fanning of feathers by this one guy.

The Lift to Castillo de la Concepcion

Mr. Peacock

The view of Cartagena with the ancient Roman colosseum to the right

From there, the three of us left our tour group to explore Cartagena on our own. We visited the Roman Theatre Museum, which was fascinating because though the colosseum was built sometime between 5 and 1 BC, it wasn’t discovered underground until 1988, and thus began the archeological excavations. We wrapped up our day in the city center where we found food, drink, and shopping along the pedestrian streets.

Next stop, Málaga, birthplace of Antonio Banderas.

The Boat

I had never been on a cruise. I was never sure I actually wanted to go on one. I love to travel and explore, but the desire to do so by way of a giant floating hotel wasn’t on my list. Mostly, I thought the limited time in each port just wouldn’t be enough. Still, I’ve always been curious about them and had heard from people who cruise that it’s important to pick the right cruise line. Oceania appeared to fall into that category.

As soon as I got home from the watering hole the evening that Sarah extended the invite, I went online to check out our specific cruise. My eyes watered in anticipation of the places we would visit. I had never been to any of these cities, let alone countries. My visits to Europe have been limited to Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, and Italy. I had never been to Spain, Portugal, France, or England. And while the stops would be brief in our ports of call, I was positively giddy.

On our last morning in Barcelona, Sarah and I went for another run down to the water. It was then that I first saw our ship. The big “O” loomed 10 stories up on top. I couldn’t wait to get on and see what was on the inside.

First Sighting

First thing’s first

I don’t want this to read like an advertisement so I’ll just say this: The food was delicious, the service impeccable, the beds luxurious, and our stateroom, while small, was perfectly comfortable with plenty of closet space and a nice sized bathroom. We also had a balcony where we drank gin and tonics and looked at the sea.

Our first night, in what we thereafter called, “The Purple Bar”

A lasting memory to take with me was Natalia. She was our housekeeper from Russia; an adorable young blond woman with an infectious smile who took excellent care of us and called us, “My ladies.” No doubt she treated everyone that she was assigned to the very same way, but she had a knack for making you feel like you were the most important person on the ship and I adored her. You sometimes meet people who make an impression and though I really didn’t actually know her, I wish I did.

Not once did we stay on the ship in lieu of exploring a port. Had we, there were plenty of daily activities or a beautiful swimming pool to lounge around, but we didn’t want to miss what was beyond the ship. We only had one full day at sea, and that was toward the end of the cruise between Bordeaux, (where we actually did an overnight and were able to spend more time), and Honfleur, our last stop before disembarking in London.

And we’re off. Goodbye Barcelona. Until we meet again.

First stop, Cartagena.

Barcelona

It was once a place I could only imagine in my head; lively, colorful, and bold. It was that and so much more.

We arrived on a Friday morning after a long and mostly sleepless flight, greeted by sunshine and a cool breeze. Excitement was the drug keeping me awake. I was in Spain.

These were my companions: Sarah (Winemaker and bestie), Gail (Sarah’s mom and friend), Marcus (Sarah’s nephew and newest friend of mine who I adore), Doralice (dear friend), Teri, (friend and Wine Club Manager), Rebecka (Winemaker and friend), and Dennis (Rebecka’s husband and friend).

The hotel check-in time was 3pm and as it was still morning we dropped our bags and went for a walk. Within blocks of the hotel were two of Antoni Gaudí’s most famous buildings; Casa Batlló and La Pedrera. For those that don’t know, Gaudí “is considered the greatest exponent of Catalan Modernism and one of the leading lights of the Art Nouveau movement in Europe, despite his architecture evolving into such a personal style that is rather difficult to classify.” (Giordano, Carlos, Nicolás Palmisano, and Ricard Regàs. Visual Guide to the Complete Work of Architect Antoni Gaudí. Barcelona: Dos De Arte, 2015. Print.)

We decided on a tour of Casa Batlló, but first we were hungry. Rebecka, with a travel guidebook in hand, directed us to Tapas 24, which was in the neighborhood. We arrived a little before they were ready to begin lunch service, but they said they would serve us if we were okay with a limited menu. That was fine with us. My first meal in Barcelona did not disappoint. It was simple food; pan con tomate (toasted bread with tomato and huevos rotos (broken eggs with potatoes and sausage). Delicious is an understatement. Perhaps it was because I was in Barcelona, perhaps it was delirium from lack of sleep, perhaps it was hunger, or perhaps it was the olive oil, but I was so happy.

Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló was once the private home of the Batlló family. In 1904 Joseph Batlló contracted the services of Gaudí to construct a new building at the site of a building built in 1877. Batlló wanted the building torn down and a new one designed by Gaudí, but Gaudí convinced Batlló to renovate the existing structure. Two more levels were added along with a completely new facade. The end result was a work of art, complete with eight private rental apartments and a roof terrace.

With our hotel room still not quite ready, our group split up. Sarah and I hopped on the “on and off bus” knowing we could see much of the city in a relatively short amount of time. We had no intention of getting off the bus. We were weary and killing time and thought this a good way to see the highlights of the city. We plugged in the English headset, put them on our ears and then struggled with heavy eyelids and nodding heads. Two hours later, we checked into our room, but then promptly made our way to the roof.

Jetlagged and blissed out, we sat sipping wine and taking in the entire city that we had only two and a half days to explore. For me, it didn’t matter what we did or where we went. It was all new to me and I knew I would be delighted with whatever was chosen. If I am unfamiliar with an area and someone else isn’t, then I prefer they take the reins. Just tell me what time to be ready. I did very little research before this trip because I knew I didn’t need to. I wanted to be surprised. I know that I am an easy traveler, low maintenance, and possess a ridiculous childlike wonder when it comes to knew experiences. I’m known to do happy dances.

Dinner that night was at Cervecería Catalana, highly recommended as the best Tapas in Barcelona. The wait was long, but so worth it. I can’t remember everything we ate, but these thinly sliced fried artichokes quickly became a favorite dish of mine in Spain.

After a good night’s sleep, Sarah and I began our day with a run down to the water. We were out of the hotel before 8am. The streets were so quiet and unoccupied. I loved running by the small shops that were just beginning their day, but not quite open. There were a few elderly folks out for a morning stroll before the city awoke, and the smell of fresh baked goods and coffee kept hitting our noses, tempting us to forget about the run.

Our excursions continued to be about Gaudí. He is so pervasive in this glorious city and with so little time, we wanted to see the stand outs. After the run, our group gathered to visit Park Güell. This is a 42-acre public park that Gaudí designed beginning in 1900. It’s a combination of landscaping and architectural elements. We walked the paths to the top of Carmel Hill and enjoyed another beautiful view of the city.

Park Güell

Park Güell

From there we were in for an amazing treat. By way of a friend’s recommendation, Doralice took us to Entrepanes Díaz for lunch. It was a tiny place off the beaten path, which most likely serves locals more than tourists. Incidentally, Doralice speaks Spanish, which I’m certain was a relief to the gentleman that greeted our gang at the door. We were the first to arrive, as it was still a bit early, but he was warm and welcoming. The food was excellent and the memory of that place is one of my favorites from the entire trip.

After lunch we went to what is considered to be Gaudí’s most famous work, La Sagrada Familia, an expiatory temple dedicated to the Holy Family. Gaudí toiled 43 years on this project, but died in 1926 at the age of 73, before it could be completed. Construction did not resume until 1954, and still it is not completed, but it is considered a masterpiece of world art. We were all in awe, from the moment we saw it from the street upon our arrival, to the moment we departed in our taxi. In fact, curiosity took hold from the rooftop of our hotel with its spires towering above the city skyline.

La Sagrada Familia

Inside La Sagrada Familia

Saturday night took us out of the city to Codorníu for a private tour and dinner with the entire wine club. Codorníu is the oldest Cava producer in Spain. The winery dates back to 1551. As much as I would have liked to have one more evening on the town in Barcelona, this was a wonderful experience and I’m very glad that were were able to visit a place so rich in history.

Tomorrow we set sail.

 

 

 

Alone Time

Oh, the neglected blog. To borrow from an overused phrase, the struggle is real. The struggle to write. There has been very little blogging and a bit of writing outside of the blog, but mostly I have found 2016 to be the year I stopped writing. So I will end the year with something. Anything. Boring or mundane, or whatever, I will write.

I will write about the visit to see my grandson cancelled due to stormy weather. I can go on about that. About the need to squeeze the little guy and plant kisses on his chubby cheeks and on the top of his sweet smelling head. FaceTime is awesome, but it doesn’t replace the feel of his soft little arms. So much is happening with him right now. The words and funniness are flying out of his mouth. He can tell you his name, he can point to just about anything you ask him to, and he can release his dog Frank from the crate.

So instead of the trip to see Larkin, I drove 50 minutes outside of town to Valley Ford, a blink and you miss it sort of place not far from Bodega Bay, to stay at a little hotel in the wall. Actually, it’s quite lovely in an understated sort of way. It’s clean, has very nice linens, and EO amenities in the shower. Also, the coffee is good and there was a basket of snacks at the top of the stairway landing when I arrived. When I peered in I saw individually wrapped homemade brownies. I’m sold.

I came to pout. I brought books, a puzzle, my new 2017 planner, my computer, my running shoes, and wine.

I finished one book and started another.
I completed the puzzle, start to finish.
I planned my triathlon training.
I worked on my budget.
I ran 4.5 miles this morning and I’m planning to run again tomorrow morning.
I discovered the Estero Cafe across the street for breakfast and Rocker Oysterfeller’s here in the hotel for dinner. Both delicious.
I didn’t finish the wine I brought.
I wrote!

All in all, this was time well spent with myself.

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Kids First

Mike told me a funny little story the other day. This past Friday afternoon there was a meeting at our house regarding at-home therapy for the boys. Not the type of therapy for kids going through a difficult time or anything like that, but the kind of therapy designed to help kids with autism. Since Erin (the boys’ mom) had them on Friday, she let herself into our house and was waiting for Mike to get home so they could wait for the entourage of two therapists and the person in charge to arrive to meet the boys and then discuss with us what to expect, etc. I say “us” even though I wasn’t there. I would have been there, but I didn’t know about it until that day and thought it was a quick meeting in an office somewhere. Had I known it was a three hour thing at our house, I would have changed my plans and been there. As a result, the next day Erin and I discussed her including me in group texts about what is going on with the boys because, well, we both know Mike.

Anyway, the funny story was that when Mike got home and found Erin there with the boys, Liam said to Mike, “Hey Daddy, this is Mommy!” He said it more than once. He thought this strange enough to point out. In his world, Mommy and Daddy are in two separate houses and though there are pick-ups and drop-offs and instances where we are all together in the same place, Liam isn’t used to his mom hanging out at the house where his dad lives.

That story made me think of my own son, Jarrod, who was also a child of divorced parents at a very young age, but for many reasons (that some of you know because you know my story or you follow this blog), there was nothing civil or friendly about my break-up with Jarrod’s father, Joe. We communicated only when absolutely necessary. In fact, early on, he didn’t even know where we lived.

I had hoped that we would one day get beyond that animosity. I envisioned time healing all of our open wounds. As ridiculous as it sounds given our history, I thought we could let the past go and be friendly one day. I attempted to when Jarrod got older by inviting Joe to his high school graduation party at my parents’ house, but he declined.

What brought us together was Jarrod’s cancer diagnosis at the age of 20. Why does it take something so catastrophic to get two people to set aside their grievances and breath the same air inside the same tiny room? We didn’t drive together to Stanford University Medical Center to discuss the next steps after the diagnosis, but we met there, and the three of us huddled together waiting for Dr. Ronald Levy to walk in and tell us something that would allow us all to sleep that night. It was a two hour wait. This doctor was the leading authority on Lymphoma and as a favor to my brother-in-law’s roommate whose girlfriend was a colleague on the fundraising for research side of things, (I think I got that right), we were gratefully squeezed in for a consultation. I would have waited all night for a sit-down with that doctor.

I don’t remember all that much about the wait because my state of mind during that time was one that only allowed me to go through the motions of living. I had one mission. And that was to find the right person for the job of making my son healthy again. But I do remember that Joe and I were both calm, united together by the same feelings we had for Jarrod. We were the only two people in the entire world who knew how the other felt during that time, and if that was all we had left of what was once “us,” then at least we had that.

Despite the circumstances we were able to share a few laughs with Jarrod. That I remember. And like Liam, though it was a different kid, a different time, and a different place, I remember something Jarrod said when Joe left the room to go to the cafeteria to get us something to eat. He said, “This is so weird.” I asked, “What’s weird?” He said, “You and dad in the same room with me.”

Incidentally, we all slept better that night.

Jarrod and Liam

Jarrod and Liam

 

 

The Uneventful Eventful Weekend

Our kid weekend started out normal enough. I took off work early Friday and picked up the boys from school because Mike had a thing, their mom had a thing, and grandma had a thing. We hung out and played with a new train set until Mike got home. I took an electric engine apart looking for a battery after Liam handed it to me and said, “Fix it.” I took four screws out of the bottom, which is not where the battery is housed. The battery is easily attainable by taking one screw off the top of the train, though I didn’t know that yet. When the last screw came out, the guts of the train fell out. I had three little axles in my hand. They each had three to four wheels on them with teeth. There was only one way to make them fit so they would all work together to make the actual train wheels move. I couldn’t figure it out. All the while, a distressed little boy is hovering over me as I worked on the tiny engine. I kept repeating, “I’m sorry, Daddy will have to fix it,” knowing Daddy wouldn’t be able to fix it. I gave up, put all the parts in a little dish and set it on top of the fridge. I distracted Liam by turning on the TV then went online to Amazon and ordered a new electric train engine exactly like the one I just dismantled. These are the moments I’m thankful for Prime and overnight shipping.

As soon as Mike got home he took the boys to a fair at school so they could jump in bouncy houses. I stayed home and started dinner. I made fresh pesto for pasta and when the guys arrived home, we ate. Liam devoured two platefuls and Finn took his usual two bites. After dinner, baths, and mani-pedis for the boys, we all sat down to watch Curious George 2. Finn seemed tired, but that isn’t unusual for him at the end of a long day. Liam was his usual bouncy self.

Toward the end of the movie, and during an upsetting scene where the mama Elephant is captured, Finn, who was laying on top of Mike, sat up and let out a scream. Just as I was about to say, “the mama elephant will be fine,” the entire contents of his stomach upchucked all over his father and our new couch. And so began the weekend of thirty loads of laundry, diligent sanitation, and managing one healthy kid and one sick kid. (Sidenote to parents whose kids were in the bouncy houses with Finn: So sorry, we didn’t know he was sick).

At 9:24pm I received a message from an old friend’s son-in-law via Facebook. He told me my friend had cancer and wasn’t doing well and that she qualified for Hospice this week. This was a dear friend who for many years was a big part of my life. We met when I was in my early 30s and she was in her 50s. We worked together for several years and despite our difference in age, had an immediate connection. We had always stayed in touch, but the past few years had been more sporadic and when I received his message I immediately felt awful about that. I should have known. I told him I would call her on Saturday.

Only Liam slept much that first night. Finn was up a lot. I will spare you the details of what the stomach bug did to the poor little guy because we’ve all been there either with ourselves or our kids. There’s no need for explanations. In the morning I ran to the store for Gatorade, Pedialyte, and Jello. We had planned to take the boys to see The Angry Birds Movie on Saturday, but that turned into me taking Liam and leaving Mike and Finn at home. Finn being sick had already made an impression on Liam because on the way home from the movie he said, “Let’s go see Daddy and Finn be quiet.”

Off to the movies.

Off to the movies.

My friend and the phone call I had to make weighed heavy on my mind. I was afraid to call. What would I say? How would she sound? Would she forgive me for not calling to check in with her sooner? I thought it might be a long phone call, though I didn’t know if her health would allow that. I just knew that in the past our phone calls were often very long as we caught each other up on our lives and I wanted to be sure I had a good stretch of uninterrupted time to talk.

Liam’s new train arrived and when I handed it to him he thought it was the broken one and by the end of the weekend we realized that he thinks I can fix anything. Actually, I did end up fixing the broken train on Saturday evening because of my dogged determination.

Part of me was procrastinating, part of me was having a hard time finding a good time to make the call with all that was going on in the house. I messaged my friend in the early evening not knowing if she would answer. I asked her if Sunday afternoon would be a good time for me to call since Mike and I had already discussed him taking Liam out of the house and me staying home with Finn. I figured Finn would either be asleep or I could put a movie on for him. She responded shortly after with a “Yes.”

On Sunday morning I scooted Mike out the door for a run after breakfast. He’d been housebound since Friday. Finn was still green. He sat and stared at a plate of pancakes, but didn’t attempt one bite. He slept most of the day on Saturday and it looked like Sunday was going to be a repeat. When I returned from a trip to the laundromat to wash the boys’ comforters, Mike took Liam for a walk and lunch downtown. Finn was still lethargic and not eating at all. Knowing kids usually bounce back pretty quickly with these bugs, we were getting a little concerned.

Nope.

Nope.

My fear about calling my friend went out the window when I heard her voice. We picked up where we left off like we always had. Knowing the kind of person she was, I wasn’t surprised by her acceptance of her situation and her matter-of-fact demeanor. She had been a rock for me during difficult times in my life. She was the first friend I called when my son was diagnosed with cancer. She had a daughter who had survived cancer so she knew exactly what I was going through and she let me lean on her. I leaned hard.

Around 5pm Sunday evening, Mike and I talked about calling the doctor on Monday morning if Finn still hadn’t eaten and at the end of that conversation, Mike went in to take a shower. I stripped Finn to join Mike and we were both taken aback by how skinny he looked. He’s a skinny kid to begin with, but he didn’t look healthy. It was a little scary. After a good scrub, I took Finn from the shower so Mike could finish up and got him dressed in clean pajamas. Then he sat down at the dining room table. I started asking him about food. Quesadilla? Peanut butter and jelly? Cereal? I held up the box. “Okay,” he said. I gave him a bowl of cereal and he took two big bites. Then he said, “All done.” It was a start. He crawled up on the couch and pulled a blanket over himself. I wanted to keep his interest in food going so I put a small bowl of cantaloupe in his lap that Mike had cut up the night before. He said, “Thank you,” and started eating it, and thus began the bouncing back.

Can I forgive myself for forgetting my friend’s 80th birthday this past March? She told me there was nothing to forgive. She told me that she knows how life is and how busy I am now and how lucky those two little boys are to have me in their lives because she knows the kind of person I am. I don’t feel worthy of her saying those things to me because I feel like I have failed her as a friend. What an amazing and wonderful woman she is.

Just as Mike and I were settling in to watch Game of Thrones, my phone rang and I saw it was my mom. We talk fairly often and it’s usually pretty quick check-ins so I told Mike I wanted to take the call. He paused the TV. A few weeks back my mother had told me that she and my dad had wanted to go to Anaheim for an Elks Lodge event this past weekend. My dad doesn’t drive any longer because of his vision and my mom said she wasn’t sure she wanted to make that drive herself. They were hoping some other friends would be going so they could tag along. I suggested looking into Amtrak too, but she discovered the timing wouldn’t work for the train. I had forgotten about the Anaheim weekend until we started talking last night. She told me that she and my dad had gone after all and it was just the two of them and they had a nice, relaxing time. My mom is 82 and my dad is 86 and they just took a mini roadtrip together.

Hug your parents, hug your kids, and then pick up the phone and call that old friend that you haven’t talked to in awhile.

Pat

My beautiful friend.

 

Finally Telling: A Girl’s Guide to Speaking Up

A couple of nights ago I told my boyfriend Mike a story of something that happened to me many years ago. His response was, “I have no idea what that kind of fear feels like.” Of course he doesn’t. Because these types of stories almost exclusively belong to women.

Telling the story was prompted by reading a blog earlier in the day that had gone viral and shown up on my Facebook newsfeed. The blog could have been written by ANY woman. Not because the woman who wrote it isn’t a good writer, quite the contrary, but because I don’t think there is a woman in this country who couldn’t put herself on that page. She wrote of what we women are subjected to on a daily basis, because we are women, and how we choose to handle it, which is to minimize and de-escalate.

The title of the blog is The Thing All Women Do That You Don’t Know About and it’s worth reading. In fact, you should click on the link and read that blog before you continue reading here.

The part where she says, They don’t know struck a chord with me because I had a story I’d never told until the other night. Actually, I have many stories I’ve never told, and a few I have. The dodged bullet story has been told, but why do we minimize and de-escalate? We do it for a variety of reasons, partly because, “It happens all the time. And it’s not always clear if the situation is dangerous or benign,” says the author of the blog. And she’s right.

I’m not sure if I was in danger, though at the time, I honestly felt I was. The man I’m going to write about crossed the line and made me extremely uncomfortable. I should have told someone, but in my youth and naivete, I began to question my judgement after the fact. Maybe I was letting my imagination get the best of me. Maybe it was an accident when he brushed the front of himself against my shoulder when he was fixing my hair. Maybe he was just going to get his mail when he got in the elevator with me. I can’t ruin this guy’s reputation without being sure that something was going to happen.

But something did happen. He was wildly inappropriate and I was too afraid NOT to pretend he wasn’t being wildly inappropriate. I chose to act as if it was not a big deal to keep the situation from escalating. Perhaps that was the right thing to do to protect myself, but not telling someone about it was bullshit. I was a young girl without the confidence to tell the story when it should have been told.

So here it is. Sadly, it’s not a special story. I imagine most of us women have these kinds of stories; some not quite as scary, and some much more terrifying. Maybe it’s time we all start telling our stories. Like the author of the blog said, “Just listen.”

I was 19-years old and still fairly new to the modeling world. When you are new and don’t have a lot of work experience behind you to fill your portfolio with “tear sheets,” your agent will suggest you “test” shoot with photographers. This can be expensive so there is often a list available of wannabe fashion photographers trying to break into the business who are willing to test for only the cost of the developing and prints. I chose one such photographer.

When I made the date with him over the phone, he said we would be shooting at his apartment in San Francisco and that there would be one other model there. That was fine with me.

When I arrived, I met his wife who was on her way out the door. They seemed like a nice young couple, probably in their late 20s to early 30s. There were no red flags whatsoever at that point.

The other model and I took turns shooting against a white wall in his kitchen that was next to a big window that had nice natural light. While she changed outfits, he would shoot me, and vice versa. The apartment was small, but there was enough room in the bathroom for her and I to cram all our stuff in there where we could refresh make-up, change our hair, and change outfits.

The photographer seemed okay, though he had a nervous energy about him. He appeared to know what he was doing and had the right equipment. Back before the digital age, there was always a Polaroid camera used first to check lighting, etc., before the photographer would use actual film. The Polaroids looked good and he was secure enough with his abilities to suggest minor movements for the best shots.

After a few hours of the other model and I taking turns, I was getting tired and hungry and was ready to call it a day. Things seemed to be winding down when he told the other girl that she could leave. He said he had enough shots for her and that he just wanted to do a few more with me. He told me to put on the white top that I had previously shown him; the one that when I first had shown him he said, “white won’t really work.” When I said, “I thought white won’t work,” he told me the lighting had changed and it should be okay for one last series of photos.

This was my first moment of uneasiness. I didn’t really like that I would be alone there with him. While he seemed nice, our rapport wasn’t easy. I’d shot with quite a few photographers at that point and I had never felt uneasy around any of them, even when I was alone with them.

I shook it off, said my goodbyes to the other girl, and went to the bathroom to change my outfit. When I came out he had me sit on a stool. This is when things started to get weird. He became much more touchy. It was common for photographers without an assistant to fix out-of-place hair, or adjust your clothing during a shoot, but he had only done that to a bare minimum. Now he kept touching me; fixing my hair, lifting my chin, moving my head…

There was a very definable shift in his behavior with this shoot compared to the others that day, but I was minimizing everything he was doing. I was having an internal battle with myself. I told myself he was married. I told myself I was blowing things out of proportion. I actually let him unbutton the top button of my blouse and pull it open more. He said, “We have enough wholesome shots, how about some sexy ones?”

I didn’t respond, but I did exactly as I was told, including “lean forward and purse your lips.” Ugh. The original duck lips. I was afraid to not comply. I was afraid things could turn ugly. My instincts were telling me that as long as he didn’t sense my fear or see that I was uncomfortable, then I could control the situation, but I was also thinking very clearly on how I was going to get myself out of there. I’d had enough. I said, “Can we stop for a minute, I need to use the restroom?”

I walked into the bathroom and quickly gathered up all of my things and shoved them in my bag. I made a mental note of where my coat was, which was on a chair by the door, and then, with my keys in my hand, I took a deep breath, walked out, and said, “Actually, I think we have enough today. I need to leave now if I’m going to beat rush hour traffic.” I could see that he was stunned as I walked toward the door with all of my stuff. His eyes were wide. He said, “I’ll go down with you.”

My heart leapt to my throat. Why, I thought. Why does he want to go down with me? He lived on an upper floor in an old building with an elevator that had a gate. The hallway was dark and dank. I had no idea where the stairs were and in my attempt to act as normal as possible, I couldn’t see a way out of not getting on the elevator with him. So I did. I pressed the button for the ground floor as he closed that gate on us and then stood there on high alert. Almost immediately the elevator stopped and the door opened one floor below his. An elderly man opened the gate and stepped on, and with him, the biggest sense of relief washed over me. I said hello to him with probably a little too much enthusiasm, but at that moment, I felt like that old guy was my savior.

I drove home.

I didn’t tell my parents.

I didn’t tell my boyfriend.

I didn’t tell my agent.

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