I almost felt “normal” again

Waffles with my daughter

We got away for two weeks and life felt like it did before the pandemic. It gave me hope that yes, we will return to life before COVID-19 at some point in time. These past six months (or 165 days) of sheltering in place will come to an end.

With my husband required to work remotely, and my writing that can be done wherever, we returned to a tiny beach bungalow for the third summer in a row. We had planned this vacation way before the pandemic, but with the onset of working remotely, we extended our stay and had more time to escape the desert heat and relish in a change of scenery.

There’s something about the ocean that is spiritual and calming. I didn’t realize how much anxiety had been building inside me until I got to the Pacific, walked along the shoreline with waves lapping at my ankles. I could breathe. My back straightened up. I no longer felt trapped and scared.

A beach walk near Santa Barbara

The most freeing feeling was diving under a wave. I’ve always worn hard contact lenses — well since 7th grade anyway. I could never freely dive into a pool or ocean without goggles and worrying about losing contacts, which I’ve done more than once. Last fall I had cataract surgery and no longer wear contacts. It took me a couple dips into the ocean to realize that I could swim and dive under waves without fear.

Our kids joined us for a few days, along with my son’s girlfriend and one of her sisters. We shared meals outside, beach walks, and excursions into the city of Santa Barbara. That felt normal like prior summer trips. We’ve been visiting good friends in the area since before the kids were born. We caught up with other couples and had fun laughing and talking over meals, always outside and socially distanced. But what a nice change from all those months of no social activity.

Santa Barbara Harbor

Yes, I’m back in my house, it’s 109 degrees outside. But, I still have a little bit of that feeling of hope that things will get better. And life is good.

What experiences have you had that give you hope that the pandemic life will end?

To Swim or Not to Swim

I’m looking back on August’s past. Here’s a beach reflection from 2016.

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I’m a much better vacationer today than I was in my 20s. I’ve learned how to relax.

When I was in my 20s, my yearly vacation was spent going home to Washington where I grew up. I had to see and do all the PNW things. Ride a ferry to the islands, dig clams, fish, go hiking in the woods, go to the city, ride a bike around Greenlake, go to my cabin and spend the night, visit my best friend and my other best friends—and all my friends. Visit my favorite professors. I had my Daytimer with me and scheduled events by the half hour! It would drive my husband crazy and soon I made my annual jaunts home by myself.

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This year, we rented a house in a sleepy little beach town near Santa Barbara. Our good friends live close by and we had many fun meals together, planned at the last minute. We spent hours walking on the beach, riding beach cruisers through town and sitting on the beach reading. I am reading the third Neapolitan novel by Elena Ferrante and there’s nothing better in my mind than having long stretches of time to read a good book.

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My daughter came with us plus a swim friend from her age group days. Isn’t it amazing how swimming bonds friends through life? They’re both college swimmers and they ran, lifted weights, swam and got massages.

The only downfall of vacation was the spotting of great white sharks at the beach. Only two hours after the girls had an ocean swim, a 15-foot great white was spotted exactly where they had been swimming.

IMG_3338A lifeguard told me that last week, she watched a seal by the swimming dock. It was pulled underwater, tossed up and eaten by a large creature with a fin. She said it was like watching National Geographic as the water turned red.

I was looking forward to ocean swimming and kayaking. I was going to try SUP (stand up and paddle) for the first time. But, like I said, I’m better at vacations now and sitting on the beach with a book made more sense, given the great white sharks.

Video of the girls swimming before the sharks were spotted: 

What’s your favorite thing to do on vacation?

My super busy, crazy August

Two years ago my August was crazy with stress. My husband was dealing with health insurance, doctors and trying to get tests done. A good friend practically died. My daughter was leaving college to move to a new state and career. Move forward two years and things are still stressful but mainly because of all the changes to what we consider “normal.” Looking back to my August two years ago reminds me that this year, although different, is not that bad.

Here’s what I wrote two years ago:

 

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Waffles at the beach

Thank goodness I’m almost through with a momentous August. Usually, my Augusts are quiet and peaceful with countless hours reading books by the ocean or a mountain lake. But not this year. It’s been by far the craziest couple of weeks I’ve lived through.

Here’s a replay of the past few weeks:

• My husband’s pre-op nightmare battery of tests where they kept ordering test after test so he can have his shoulder surgery tomorrow. This is an entire story in itself that includes a cancer scare that I may write (complain) about on another day.

• Our dear friend passed out at the gym, having a blood clot lodge in her carotid artery causing a stroke—the morning we were driving four hours to see her.
 She spent a few days in ICU and after a few days was released and went on beach walks with me.

• My son’s girlfriend’s car accident on the day they were coming down to see us at the beach. The next few days helping them find a car because unfortunately the car was totaled. Eventually, they made it on vacation with us—in their new car.

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The VRBO we had for one week in paradise.

• Finally, a one week’s beach vacation. Gone in a snap.

• Driving up the mountain to move the RV back to the desert with a friend to help us drive it down the twisty, windy roads. It wouldn’t start by the way. The batteries died. I asked to borrow jumper cables and then a truck because our car has a “weird-ass” battery that can’t be used to jump a car.

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Big Bear Lake at the RV Park and Marina.

• Next, we drove to AZ to my daughter’s new house. My husband flew from Phoenix to Salt Lake City so he and my daughter could drive a U-Haul for 10 hours with her worldly possessions through flash floods and monsoon winds. I spent two days cleaning the dusty, dirty house until I was exhausted. But, I did have lil’ Waffles by my side the entire time.

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They arrived in the U-Haul after a 10-hour drive.

• We hired movers to unload the U-Haul because of my husband’s upcoming shoulder surgery, plus my daughter’s distance-swimmer shoulder. We were told about a website where you can hire two guys for two hours for moving, which I did. Guess what? The movers didn’t show up!
 I’m currently trying to get a refund.

• We spent Sunday putting together Ikea furniture and unpacking boxes before making the trek back home.

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My kids body surfing during one relaxing moment at the beach.

What could we squeeze in next? Shoulder surgery tomorrow and I get to be nurse and caretaker. Then I’ll return to AZ and help my daughter get settled—and bring the things I forgot to pack on our last trip–like her work wardrobe! Whew! No wonder I’ve been stressed lately.

What is your August like? Did it seem crazier than usual, too?

Are we doing good?

I wrote this five years ago about my summer vacation with family and friends at the beach. Yes, I miss those days!

My son learning to dive with the swim team.

My son learning to dive with the swim team. He’s third from the right.

“Do Good. Be Good. We’ll Be Doing Good.”

These are the words my son recorded for our voice mail message when he was four years old.  I saved that for years.

What a thoughtful thing for our young son to say! My husband and I adopted that saying as our family motto.

A walk on the UCSB campus during our vacation.

A walk on the UCSB campus during our vacation.

I try to do good. Be good. Some days it’s a bigger struggle than others. But, it’s something to think about, too. What are we doing with our lives? Are we making a difference? Is the world a better place because we are in it?

A lot has to do with our outlook. I’m definitely one of the “glass is half full” types. I try to look at the positive and stay away from those who are negative. Turning on the TV can put you into negativity land. I truly believe that we can stay positive by removing negative influences around us. Turn off the TV. Listen to music. Read interesting books and essays. Swim! Like Ray Bradbury said, “Garbage in, garbage out!”

My kids at the age when my son recorded the voice mail message.

My kids at the age when my son recorded the voice mail message. Vacation pic from years ago.

After spending a week in paradise—otherwise known as Carpinteria, CA—I look back on our vacation as perfect. We have great friends who live there who inspire me. I always come home with so much energy from being around positive, hard working entrepreneurs.

Also, my children spent a bit of the week with us. What a treat that was for me! With two college aged kids, having them together was priceless. We rode bikes, hiked, swam in the ocean, sailed, shared meals together. It’s hard to leave them, but I’m so thankful for the time we had together. That’s my glass half full talking as I sit in my lonely, quiet house once again.

Our main mode of transportation on our vacation.

Our main mode of transportation on our vacation.

I’m proud to say my kids look truly happy. They are definitely doing and being good.

My kids and friend.

My kids and friend.

The mystery of the missing glasses

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Views from the morning beach walk.

We unpacked from vacation last night and I can’t find my glasses. This is especially bad, because I’m having eye surgery in a few weeks and I’m not supposed to wear my contacts. The question is — where did my glasses go?

Our vacation was in a VRBO beachy house in Summerland, a quaint town near Santa Barbara. We had our daughter and Waffles the pug stay with us for the first weekend and then mid-week our son and his girlfriend joined us.

It was one of the most relaxing and best vacations in recent memory. We walked the beach a few blocks below the house each morning. Each day brought new sights with a combination of fog, clear sunshine, horses, dogs, seals and dolphins. After the morning walk, my husband and I’d log onto our laptops for a few hours work. Then back to another beach for hours sitting under an umbrella, watching the waves and reading. We’d end the beach day with another walk with our feet in the cool ocean water. What we found so surprising was practically vacant beaches in August — in So Cal!

Dinners we shared with friends and the kids. We know several great couples who live in the area and we laughed through great meals and memories, like grilled fresh ahi, a delicious Italian restaurant and a make-your-own pizza night. For the kids, I cooked prime steaks, salads and their favorite veggies, using my tried and true reverse sear method I found on youtube.

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The beachy VRBO.

I was resigned that the wonderful vacation must come to an end. What I wasn’t prepared for was losing my glasses. The last time I wore them was at our friend’s house and I packed my small handbag with contacts and glasses — I’m sure.

The next few weeks will be interesting, because without contact lenses, I cannot drive. I’m literally going to be housebound until my cataract surgery — except if my friend takes me to Masters swimming and I can manage to swim blind.

My contact lenses change the curvature of my eyes, so I have to let my eyeballs rest and return to normal. I scrounged up an old pair of glasses at least five years old and scratched as heck. But it’s better than nothing, I guess. I plan on taking my morning walks, and continue on with my writing, although at a slower speed and most likely more typos — since I can’t see worth beans. In the long run it will be worth it. But, where did my glasses go?

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Waffles on a beach run.

My girlfriend has searched her house on her hands and knees. I have done the same in my own house. I’ve gone through trash, laundry, drawers, suitcases, bags, under beds, and throughout the car and trunk. Of course, I blame my missing glasses on my husband — but that’s a story for another time. Just when I need my glasses the most, poof! They’re gone!

I’ll let you know if they turn up and where they disappeared to! Any ideas?