A weekend to lift my spirits

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Big Bear Lake

I’ve been feeling down for a few days, missing my friend who recently and unexpectantly passed away. Fortunately, we had a few fun things planned this past weekend that helped me feel a little bit better.

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The flower arrangement I made at Seasons by My Little Flower Shop in Palm Springs.

First, my daughter and I went to a flower-arranging class at Seasons by My Little Flower Shop in downtown Palm Springs. We were invited by close friends from the Piranha Swim Team. My friend’s two daughters bought her a flower-arranging class for Mother’s Day. I was so tickled that they asked me to join them. I asked to include my daughter, who is home for one more week. My friend’s daughters are both older than my daughter by four and five years, but that swim team connection is a bond that never lets go. They both swam for USC, and even though my daughter was a Ute, they have the shared experience of being PAC 12 student-athletes.IMG_0923-2

We learned some basics about flower arranging, which I never knew. First, never let any of the greens touch the water. The greens decompose and create bacteria which kills flowers in a few days. When you buy a bunch of flowers from the grocery store, always strip the greens down where the water will be and your arrangement should last up to ten days.

The other thing I learned was to buy some clear florist tape at Joanne’s or Michael’s. On the top of the vase, put a strip of tape across the center, then two more strips evenly on each side. Then do the same perpendicularly. You’ll end with a grid that will support your flowers and keep them standing up.IMG_0920-2

The next thing we did to raise my spirits was escaping the desert and driving to the mountains. It’s starting to get hot and being stuck inside isn’t a joy. Up in the mountains at Big Bear Lake, it’s not only gorgeous but the high was 77 degrees as opposed to 111 at home. We went for a walk, set up our motorhome for the summer, went out to lunch at our favorite restaurant the North Shore Cafe and relaxed in the cool mountain air. We had Waffles as our buddy and he loved it since he hates the heat.

Here are pictures from our day in Big Bear:

 

Third, one of my friends in Seattle took my mom to Bingo on Sunday. I’ve written about my Bingo days with mom and how much she’s loved it. I’ve been looking for someone to take her because she refuses to go on her own–even though it’s down the hall from her room. I was reminiscing about Rebecca with the childhood friend who was married to her years ago. I mentioned my mom to him. (Our parents have been friends for decades and we used to go on camping trips together as families). He immediately volunteered and said that he thought going to Bingo with Mom would be “a hoot.” I called her afterward and she sounded so happy. Which made me happy, too.

One thing that losing a good friend has taught me is to not take anyone for granted and to reach out to friends and family.

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Waffles

 

 

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RIP My Dear Friend

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Rebecca with my baby girl.

I have a sadness in my heart ever since I looked at Facebook this morning and saw that my friend since childhood, Rebecca, passed away Saturday.

She had a huge personality, was fearless, beautiful and brilliant. I received private messages from her on Facebook constantly, and I noticed I didn’t reply to the last one which I received Saturday afternoon—the day she died.

I wonder if she knew she was leaving us? I had no idea that she was ill, but I’ve since learned that she had diabetes and died from DKA (Diabetic ketoacidosis).

The first time I met Rebecca was at my own house. Her older brother Paul had been hanging out with our family for a few weeks that summer before seventh grade. One day, Rebecca decided to come over to our house with him because she wanted to meet me. We went to different elementary schools but for junior high the town’s elementary school students would all attend the same school. I was shy and wouldn’t leave my bedroom to meet her. Finally, my mom coaxed me out to meet Rebecca Coombs and our friendship of a lifetime began.

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The last photo she sent me of herself. “When my baby grand wants a kiss, I oblige. Sir-Mix-Alot this as good as I can get! lol.”

She was the opposite of me in so many ways. She was bold, outgoing and not afraid of anyone or anything. Her long straight black hair hung past her waist and she had a huge smile. Some of my fondest memories were her introducing me to Taco Bell—which I still love today. I got a burrito supreme today in her honor.  Also, because of Rebecca, our entire high school won the local radio station KJR’s competition for a free concert—which was the first rock concert I ever attended, “WAR.” I went with her to see Natalie Cole at the Paramount in downtown Seattle, too. She introduced me to so much music and laughter. I remember always laughing with Rebecca and her sister Mary. Mary became as close of a friend to me as Rebecca.

Rebecca was one of a few students from our high school that went to the University of Washington with me. I remember spending the first night in the dorm, with Rebecca in a sleeping bag on my floor.rebecca 1

My sophomore year Thanksgiving weekend, I was home and I went with Rebecca and Mary to a concert at a local Grange. I was going to ask a family friend who was there to a Tolo (a dance where the girls ask the boys for the date). We were crossing the street on the Bothell Highway when I panicked at the oncoming lights of cars. I froze in the middle of the street. I grabbed onto Rebecca’s parka hood and she wasn’t able to escape the oncoming pick-up truck either. I shattered my pelvis and Rebecca lost a kidney. We became connected by that one experience forever.

Later on, she married the family friend who I was going to ask to the dance. The marriage didn’t last that long and she did find someone she said was the love of her life, who sadly died a few years ago. Also, her brother Paul died years ago as well as Mary’s husband. Her life had so much tragedy, yet she stayed positive and filled with joy. Near the end, she moved to Hawaii to be close to her son Jake, who she was so proud of. She posted pictures of her new life and her grandchildren whom she called “the grands.”

I will admit she was much better at reaching out and staying connected. Throughout our lives, she’d call me and during the last few months send me private messages on an almost daily basis. One funny story I remember about Rebecca was she called me up and asked who Bill Gates was. She had attended the Microsoft Christmas Party with a friend who worked there and met Bill Gates. She had no clue who he was. It was well known in Seattle that Bill was looking for a wife. He had asked her to Sunday Brunch and she said no. She told me that he was kind of a geek and she was felt awkward and made up an excuse why she couldn’t go.

I miss my dear friend and how full of life she was. God bless you and RIP, Rebecca.

 

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Still worrying about my friends and the Thomas fire

Update: I received a text this morning from my friends and the threat from the fire is finally over. She did say it smelled like a “giant wet campfire outside.” I’m relieved they are safe. Here’s the photo she sent me from last night from their neighborhood:IMG_1085

 

 

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Photo I saw on Twitter from Sunday night.

 

The Thomas fire is now on record as the fifth largest fire in recent California history. It’s still raging on and I’m still worried about my friends.

I wish they would have left because they’re under voluntary evacuation notice. I wrote about the fire and our wonderful friends and memories on Dec. 7. Since then, our friends have been existing day to day, ready to leave in a moment’s notice—breathing fire, ash and smoke. You would think it would begin to wear on you.

Every morning and evening, I text to see if they’re okay and ask if they’re staying in their house.

They thought last night the threat had passed and they were over the worst of it. Then this morning the firemen made the local high school–which is literally a stone’s throw from their backyard–the fire staging area. She said maybe they were feeling relief too soon.

I’m praying for my friends and everyone affected by the fires in Southern California. It makes you appreciate a simple thing like fresh air, being outside, and our homes.

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Here’s a view from our friends’ backyard this morning.

Do you know anyone suffering from the fires in So Cal?

 

Enjoy it while it lasts!

 

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Afternoon walk with Waffles in Salt Lake City.

Today while packing up after a fun weekend in Salt Lake City, where we went to two meets to watch my daughter swim and hang out with friends, I realized this part of my life is almost over. I checked the swim schedule to see what meets she has left and we’re down to only a few.

This weekend, I reconnected with a swim mom dear friend who has a son starting his freshman year. It was like no time has passed since we last sat together at a meet — rather than six or seven years. We also visited my husband’s best childhood friend, Pastor Scott McKinney and his wife Sara, who have made this area their home and founded a church, Centerpoint Church in Orem. After his powerful service, we sat together at lunch laughing so hard we cried as well as solemnly discussing the world’s problems. It’s been a highlight to reconnect with these friends, visit our daughter — and enjoy this part of the country.

I felt more than a little sentimental this morning. I like it here. I like the hotel we stay in, the Little America, like it’s a second home. I like their coffee shop because it brings back memories of my childhood with their comfort food of open-faced turkey and roast beef sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gravy and their weekend prime rib specials. I like the cool crisp weather, the spectacular views and changing fall colors of the leaves. I like the tall buildings downtown, where you’ll find the City Creek Center with its glass ceilings. I like the friendliness of the people and the clean bright city, which has a small town feel.

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Beautiful views from City Creek Center.

 

It seems like we just moved our daughter in for her freshman year. She got a notice Friday that she’s been accepted to study abroad for her last bit of school, so we’re already thinking about moving her stuff out and driving her car home. How weird is that? Especially when I say we just moved her up here! At least it feels like that.

When my kids were toddlers, older women would stop me at the mall or on the street and say, “Enjoy it while you can, because the time flies by.” Knee deep in the daily grind of bottles, baby food, diapers, laundry, endless picking up toys and chasing little ones, I couldn’t relate. Now I believe it and understand. Enjoy the swim team or whatever activities your child is in like it’s their last meet. Enjoy the visits to their college town. It’s over in a blink of an eye. And will you really go back without them there?

It’s not like I thought it would last forever, I just thought four years would take a bigger chunk of time.

How have you noticed time flying by?

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My daughter at the blocks at the HPER Natatorium.

 

The importance of friendships in an empty nest

 

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Back in the busy days of parenting with the gang.

I had a great day yesterday with two of my former elementary and middle school mom chums. I hadn’t seen one of these friends for we figured out—12 years! Where did those years go? They went to busy, busy days of parenting with our kids going on separate journeys and different schools.

One thing all three of us decided at lunch, at Spencer’s one of my all-time favorites, was that we have to get together more often.

How often do you say that to people and it doesn’t happen? Well, all three of us are empty nesters, and we’ve managed to stay busy—but it’s different. I miss the interaction with my friends who were the moms of classmates or swim mates. While you’re in the thick of parenting years, you have all the interaction with other adults every single day. You don’t think about it or that one day it’s just you and your husband staring at each other!

Seriously, sometimes I feel that doing what I always wanted to have the time to do—write uninterrupted every single day—can feel like solitary confinement. I’m not a terribly social person, but without the chats on the playground, play dates in the park, or sitting with fellow swim parents at meets and practice—it’s a quiet life.

So, in addition to swimming Masters with my swim friends, I’ve made a pledge to not let my older friendships slip by. I’m glad my friends agree and we’re going to actively work to get together more often.

And I’ll treasure the time my husband and I have together and to go on new adventures together—as well as the ability to write without interruptions from the kids. It’s a good life, after all—but friends make it even better.

 

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More adventures to come….

What do you do to make sure you stay in touch with friends?

 

It’s the Little Things in Life that Count

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The view from our pool makes me happy.

 

I’m proud of myself today, because I started off the week with 5:30 a.m. practice. I’ve been trying to get up, half-heartedly I’ll admit, for the past month but the comfort of bed is just too much for me at 5 a.m. An extra hour of sleep usually wins out. But, today I did it. I made it to practice on time, began my workout in the dark and found joy in watching the views of the sunrise and pink-hued mountain change color during my workout.

I find a lot of happiness and excitement in the little things in my days. Our lives are made of small moments strung together and if we spend too much time worrying or focusing on the past or future, we miss the little bits of joy in the present. 

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Happiness is my daughter with her puppy.

Here’s a list of moments that make me truly happy:

Hearing the birds sing early in the morning.

My fourth flip turn during my second 200 at practice this morning. I nailed it.

Having lunch yesterday with a good friend and spending a few hours catching up with our lives.

Noticing that a family member got their dish off the table, into the sink and miracle of miracles—into the dishwasher.

Olive the cat honoring me with her presence and stretching out for a cat nap while I’m laying on my side. I have to be careful not to move, so she doesn’t fall off.

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Olive the cat in our back yard.

 

My kids calling just to talk. They aren’t asking for anything and there’s nothing big going on.

Sitting under an orange tree in my back yard reading a really good book.

Walking with my husband and marveling at the beauty surrounding us on a weekend morning.

Reading a positive comment on one of my articles.

Checking things off my to-do list and feeling productive.

What little things in your life make your day?

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Beautiful views of bougainvillea.

 

 

Bring Tissues to My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2


MV5BNTA1MjMzNDM2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTg3NzQ1NzE@._V1_SX214_AL_Last weekend, my husband and I went to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. It’s the second movie about the Portokalos family, written by and starring Nia Vardalos.

It was the first time we were alone after enjoying two separate spring breaks. First, our daughter had driven from Salt Lake City to So Cal to spend a few days with us. I delighted and luxuriated in the little moments I spent with her. Whether it was getting pedicures, or lounging in the back yard, I just wanted to drink her in, sit next to her, be near her.

I was pleasantly surprised that she allowed me! She seemed to enjoy our company and wasn’t embarrassed to have us hang out with her and teammate Maryssa. Evenings, we went to the pool, sat with the current crop of swim parents and watched Piranha practice. Just like the good old days.

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My daughter and her teammate during Spring break. Honestly, I’m not that short!

The following week, my son spent most of his break with his girlfriend. Oh well. We did spend his birthday weekend with him in one of the most beautiful cities ever, Santa Barbara. He’ll be graduating from UCSB soon, and we may not have the pleasure of visiting him there more than once or twice more. Our friends live there, so we’ll be back. I’m sure I’ll feel a hollowness in my heart my first visit to Santa Barbara knowing he’s moved on.

Back to the movie. This past weekend, once again kidless, we went to see the second installment of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

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My son’s birthday celebration with our good friends in Santa Barbara. Homemade Black Forest cake by Debbie.

We’d seen the first one as a family, bought the DVD, and it was a favorite with all of us. Michael Constantine, who plays Toula’s father Gus Portokalos reminds us of my husband’s Uncle Luciano, from Sicily. When we mentioned it to him he said, “I’m nothing like him!” I don’t think he took it as a compliment.

We laughed so hard at the first movie. The second one, not as much. It was a good movie, don’t get me wrong. It had the same quirky, awkward moments for Nia Vardalos, the writer and star. There were laugh out loud moments with all the characters in Toula’s family. I felt reunited with close friends that I’d missed for far too many years. 

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Santa Barbara Mission with my son and husband sharing a laugh.

It hit too close to home. The aging father, the teenage daughter ready to leave home. Toula, having to rediscover and find herself after years of taking care of others. Going out to dinner with her husband, swearing she wouldn’t talk about their child.

The hardest part for me, sitting through the movie, was the tears. How much I miss my kids smacked into the center of my brain. I kept dabbing at my eyes. My husband would look over at me. I wiped my eyes some more. Finally I gave into the tears. That’s all I’ll say. Go see it for yourself and let me know how you like it compared to the first movie.

Warning. If you’re new to an empty nest, bring tissue!

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Sunset at Carpinteria State Beach during a picnic dinner.