Traveling the world — or not?

Beach house near Santa Barbara
We’ll be returning to this beach cottage for the sixth time this summer.

When you go on vacation, do you like to return to the same place — or do you like to explore new areas?

I read a Wall Street Journal story called: “The Joy of Traveling to the Same Places Again and Again.” It’s written by novelist Tara Isabella Burton who wanted to travel everywhere when she was in her 20s. Now, that she’s older and married, she longs to go back to the cities and regions she loves deeply.

WHEN I WAS young I wanted to go everywhere. I had notebooks’ worth of lists: half-imagined, half-researched, of all the places I would fly off to without warning. It was easy for me to travel—I went to university in England during the golden age of budget European airlines. I could buy flights from London to Slovakia or Italy for under $10, or student-fare Eurostar tickets to Paris for $25. I would spend 4½ dreary and bleary-eyed hours on the bus from Oxford to London Stansted to catch a morning flight for a $50 weekend in Istanbul or Marrakech. I had a sense of myself as someone with wanderlust, an inchoate desire to be anywhere but where I was. Raised eclectically—I barely knew my Italian father; my American mother changed our home base with the school year—I gloried in the fact that I was never at home, anywhere. And so, there was nothing to keep me still.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-joy-of-traveling-to-the-same-places-again-and-again-11647345601?mod=life_work_featured_pos3

She goes on to say that she began to fall in love with certain areas and made friends. She’s pulled these days to traveling to those few locations.

I like to return to the same place for vacation. We spent two decades vacationing in Laguna Beach in the summer. Lately, it’s been the Santa Barbara area. We have friends there, restaurants and beaches we love. It’s like going to my happy place. We also like to visit Park City — another place with friends and natural beauty.

My memories as a child are vacationing at our cabin, Ocean Shores and Sun Valley, Idaho for skiing. We went to a few more places like the once in a lifetime big trip to Hawaii and the road trip to Disneyland. But for the most part, vacations were in the same few places and in the same hotels or condos.

I think there’s a certain comfort in returning to places we love. When traveling to somewhere new, I’m a little anxious, while returning to the places I love feels like going home.

What are your thoughts about traveling to new places, versus returning to places over and over again?

Do deaths come in threes?

children climbing on me at the beach
Life at the beach with two young kids back in our Laguna days.

I’ve been struggling to find the words. My brain is hurting at the thought. We lost another friend. A close friend. Our son’s godfather.

I got the call last week from our friend’s wife. I cried all night. I need to send a sympathy card and I can’t get myself to write it. The words seem so tiny and small. Helpless. I don’t know how she and her daughters are getting through each day and night. My heart aches for them.

We have so many memories with our two families together. At one time, Joe was my husband’s boss. They moved from San Francisco to the Palm Springs area when our son was a newborn. They had three daughters close in age to our kids.

They invited us into their beach deal. They found an inexpensive house to rent in Laguna Beach from Memorial Day to Labor Day and asked us to split the summer with them. With summer temperatures ranging from 110 to 124 degrees in Palm Springs, this beach rental changed our lives. I was a stay-at-home mom taking the kids to swim lessons and hanging out at the beach building sand castles and boogie boarding with my children.

My husband took long weekends and commuted back and forth. We shared a few weekends with our friends during the summer playing volleyball, Trivial Pursuit and eating pizzas with the kids.

When they moved to New Jersey to corporate headquarters as Joe moved up the chain of command with the firm, we visited them and spent Christmas together. We shared time together on corporate-sponsored trips and visited them more often when they moved to Nevada (a four-hour drive from Palm Springs).

Joe was proud of his Catholic education at an all boys school on Long Island. He was a Lit major at Rutgers and he loaned my husband and me must-read literature we had somehow missed including “Atlas Shrugged” and “The East India Trading Company.”

Joe had charisma, charm and a great sense of humor. He had a band of employees at the firm and friends throughout his life that put him on a pedestal — our family included. The last time we saw him was on Coronado Island at his middle daughter’s wedding. It was a beautiful weekend filled with memories I treasure.

We planned on going back to Coronado to visit them that summer or driving to Vegas to visit during the winter, but COVID hit. I feel like a few years of friendship were stolen. Joe was diagnosed with cancer years ago but survived and beat it. His heath was an issue, but he was living his life in his big way until this last year when another cancer hit.

I sincerely hope that it’s true that deaths come in threes, because this is the third close friend we’ve lost since Thanksgiving.

Do you think it’s an old wives tale that deaths come in threes? Have you lost anyone close to you this past year? Do you feel like COVID has stolen time from you with friends and family?

Please Someone, Tell Me That It Will Get Better!

Disneyland 14 years ago. I remember a great mother-daughter day.

Disneyland 14 years ago. I remember a great mother-daughter day.

I was texting a friend whose life is pretty much on the same track as mine. We both have our youngest off to school–at the same university–and our oldest ones almost finished. We met at the University’s orientation last summer with our incoming freshman and went to many programs together. We realized we had met earlier in the spring at a high school swim meet.

A beach day with my daughter.

A beach day with my daughter.

My point is that our lives are eerily parallel. We both visited our youngest children this past weekend. We stayed in the same hotel and ran into each other a few times. My husband and I went to watch our daughter swim in two meets. They were there to spend time with their daughter and to celebrate a birthday.

I mentioned to this friend that I didn’t think I’d miss my daughter so much when it was time to leave. But, in reality it was worse this trip than on earlier ones. She said she felt the same way. I knew I’d be upset in August after we moved my daughter into the dorms and had to say good-bye. I wrote about that here. But, this was a close second in sadness. I had this awful lonely, empty heart. I sat in the airport with my husband feeling sorry for myself. I should have been feeling happy. My daughter is doing well in school, loves her team and has many friends.

Sailing in Santa Barbara with my daughter and friends.

Sailing in Santa Barbara with my daughter and friends.

Please someone, tell me that it will get better!

In about three weeks, I’m traveling to my daughter’s conference meet. It’s close by to my mom. I will enjoy and embrace sitting by my mom’s side in her assisted living facility. Despite the sour smell, the closed windows and her refusal to open the blinds. I’ll happily sit with her and watch all the reruns of Golden Girls that her heart desires. I hope I can make her day a little brighter. Just the way my daughter makes mine.

My mom and me. Before kids.

My mom and me. Before kids.

3 Things My Son Did Wrong Applying to College

My son and friend at high school graduation.

My son and friend at high school graduation.

My son applied for college four years ago. Yes, he got in. But, it wasn’t to his first choice school. Nor, to his second. It was more like his 9th. Yes he got into one out of nine schools — his fall back school.

So what did this smart, kind, valedictorian, athlete, musician student do wrong?

First, the list of schools he applied to were all big-name top tier schools, ie. Harvard, Columbia, Yale, CalTech and Stanford, to name a few.

Please, do your research and apply to a wider variety of schools. Each application costs you money. Pick each school you apply to with care. There are many great state schools, small private schools and everything in between.

imgres-4Second, he freaked out about the essay. 

He sat for countless hours worrying about what to write staring at the blank computer screen. Looking back on it, he said it terrified him because he thought the essay was going to be the definitive work of his life.

Trust me. It’s not. Keep it simple, write in your own voice and give yourself time to rewrite, revise and rewrite again.  Let someone — a parent or teacher — read it before you send it in.

Robert with bandmates at the scholarship banquet

Robert with bandmates at the scholarship banquet

Third. He refused to show need of any kind. One of the 14 factors colleges look for in admissions is:  “Academic accomplishments in light of your life experiences and special circumstances, including but not limited to: disabilities, low family income, first generation to attend college, need to work, disadvantaged social or educational environment, difficult personal and family situations or circumstances, refugee status or veteran status.” I wrote about that here.

He truly had struggles with asthma. He had so many setbacks with swimming and missing school because of his health that most kids won’t experience. But, he said he wasn’t “playing that card.” My advice? Play whatever cards you’re given!

With upwards of 75,000 applying to a school that accepts less than 5,000 incoming freshman — it’s a numbers game. I wrote more about the numbers here in “My Son Wrote About His Crazy Mom for His Senior Project.”

Just for fun, you can listen to his highschool band, The Saucy Stenographers here. The song is called Desert Nights, written by Robert and sung by Marilynn Wexler.

With my son at the beach

With my son at the beach

Missing Angus at the Beach — a Good Dog Story

Angus7

ANGUS

AUGUST 7, 2014: I’m missing Angus a lot lately. We’re on vacation at the beach in a little cottage where Angus slept on the front porch with his head sticking in the doorway into the living room. Every morning at this cottage for nine years I took Angus for a walk up the hill. In the evenings, the family took him for his nightly swim in the ocean. He’d jump through the waves chasing a tennis ball. Everywhere I look, I miss him. So, I’m reposting this story I wrote in honor of my son and Angus’s birthday last March.

MARCH 14, 2014: Next week my son turns 21 years old. Officially an adult. He shared his birth date with Angus, our yellow lab. But, sadly, this year Angus isn’t with us. He made it from my son’s 1st grade birthday to his sophomore year in college.

 

My kids with Angus at the beach.

My kids with Angus at the beach.

The following is a story I wrote when Robert invited 50 kids to his second grade birthday party. It was published in the Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room. 

Angus1

Camping with Angus in Carpinteria.

A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents is too much for one 8-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

Angus2

Angus watching the kids on the playground at Ruth Hardy Park.

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

Angus

Angus at his front porch post at the beach cottage.

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swallowing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

Angus5

At the cottage.

In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

Angus8

The birthday boys, Robert and his dog Angus.

 

Here’s a link to a video of Angus doing his daily chore of getting the paper.