Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year! Tiny Sandwiches, Table Tennis, and the Beach

What did I do last New Year's Eve? I asked. I had no idea. Did I drink champagne? Martini's with my mom? Watch the ball fall in New York on TV and then go to bed at 9? Did I kiss anyone at midnight?

Answering questions like that is easy when you're a blogaholic. I read ALL ABOUT IT  this morning. Things didn't get any better in January. I considered getting back on anti-depressants. I talked to my doctor about it--though I didn't follow through. I suspect things weren't much better in February either.

I have been showered with good luck and blessings and love as 2015 has drawn to a close. (It would have been swell not to have fallen off a ladder the night before Christmas Eve, but even that has gone well. My ribs are healing. After three days of misery, every day is a little easier.)

I hope I remember this New Year's eve forever because it's been fabulous.

Sand castle time.

Sophia tries sushi before high tea.

More beautiful grandchildren and the fancy New Year's Eve day high tea.

Girl filled with light.

Son vs Son-in-law ping pong.

I'll say it again. I hope I remember this New Year's eve forever because it's been fabulous.

And family back in Iowa tells me that my mom is doing well. I'm thrilled. With her fall Thanksgiving night in 2014 and the pain that followed, 2014 didn't end well for her either. Here's to 2015's final hours. I hope you have someone to kiss when the clock strikes midnight and that 2016 is kind to you.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Margaritaville: The Christmas Report

The tree, complete with my mom's crocheted snowflakes

Front hallway lights and unintentional selfie
The Christmas lights went up late this year due to the sore throat and cold. It was a joy to be feeling well enough to snare a tree and pull down the boxes of lights and get to work. I was feeling the satisfaction of the season as I stepped down the ladder, admiring the last string of lights atop the armoire in the dining room, when what to my wondering eyes should appear...well, pretty much nothing. When I opened my eyes, I was on the floor next to an overturned dining room chair with the ladder on top of me.

My friend Pete was here, a few feet away in the kitchen, baking cookies. I explained as quickly as I could that I hadn't hit my head, that I hadn't fallen from the top of the ladder, but simply missed the last step and probably would have managed to keep my balance if I hadn't collided with the chair. In those first moments I felt worse for him than for myself, having tended to a few emergencies with my mom during the years she lived here and knowing all too well those initial moments of pure panic and  the awful scenario of spending the holiday in the ER. 

I was lucky enough to forgo the sleigh ride to the hospital, but I've got some bruised ribs and a sore tailbone. And I'm sort of thankful for the reminder of how life can change in an instant. I know that. We all do. And I suppose it's good to forget it now and then and just be caught up in those times of joyful ease, but we also need to know that it can all come crashing down.

And so here I am this Christmas Day, thinking of my mom and hoping she's having a good Christmas in Iowa, thinking of Dan as I struggle for a good deep breath since the site of my injured ribs is exactly where his incision was from his lung cancer surgery, and last night I told the story of my dad and our family rituals protecting us from  Christmas tree danger. We love the distant, the dead, the living, and the light, and the darkness.

And speaking of light and darkness, I happened to catch this from my bedroom window as it streaked past.  

O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Guide us to thy perfect Light.

Of course, I didn't think of that at all at first. I thought the worst--plane on fire, alien attack, end of the world. That's the way I am. And I wish you a very Merry Christmas. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Secret Solstice Sunset

The sun refused to show itself at the close of the shortest day, sinking into the water behind a wall of clouds.

I haven't shown myself much lately either. I've been roaming the house in the dead of night with a throat so sore that I can't sleep, then making my way back to bed when the middle of the night House Hunters re-run lulls me into submission. In the morning I wake with half-a-dozen Ricola wrappers on the night stand, convinced that certainly this will be the day I feel better. And I do for a little while. But then. Crash. However, this being the longest night of the year, I may be up again watching Love It or List it, International House Hunters or god knows what. I should be reading through my stack of New Yorkers, brushing up on my French or something but it feels like there's a block of goo filling my brain. Okay, it might have been that last night I finally did sleep. If I sleep again tonight, I'm going to proclaim myself cured.

Meanwhile, I've been appropriately engaged during  these dark days.  I'm spinning around and around trying to get my mom on Medicaid. This morning I confirmed that state #1 has now faxed State #2 in order to confirm that the measly little life insurance policy of my mom's has no cash value and therefore cannot be counted as an asset prohibiting her from qualifying for Medicaid yet again. So if State #2 faxes back to State #1, all should be well. Riiiiight? How's this for a darkest day of the year fear: My mom will finally get that Medicaid acceptance letter the day she takes her final breath. I've been working on the Medicaid thing since the end of September.

Here's what I've been reading these short days and long nights:

It's Never Too Early to Start Thinking about Your Own Death

What Working in a Nursing Home Taught Me

Our Bodies, Ourselves

If You're 30% Through Your Life... (of course I know that I'm at least 60% through my life)

A Parting Lesson From My Parents

How Mindfulness Can Ease the Fear of Death and Dying

I might add that I've also been drinking some nice wine, eating rum balls and chocolate truffles, and lighting lots of candles.

One of the denizens of Hearst Castle

What have you been reading during these dark days, dear ones? Where are you finding the light?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

This Rocky Place: They Have Fire Pits Here

I've driven up the coast  a bit from my piece of paradise to this rocky place--a paradise all its own. Colder. Wilder. The motel I'm staying at with my friend Linda has fire pits. It sounds fabulous, but it's cold. For this morning's trip to Hearst Castle I wore two pairs of pants, a tank top, a long sleeve t-shirt, a turtleneck, a down vest, a wool coat, and two scarves.

Last week I was in Arizona with my son and his family. It was cold and rainy there for the most part and my attire was pretty much the same--minus one pair of pants. I am fixated on the weather. Or perhaps more accurately the climate/climate change and our California drought. The drive north to the central coast is spectacular. The ocean stretching out next to the 101 and then the curve inland where, normally, the hills and their soft curves would bring to mind the tawny coats of giant sleeping lions. This trip there was a pallor beneath the tawny hills. Lions undergoing chemo. What green there is in the shrubbery has a black undertone. The uber-elegant Hearst Castle has no running water; the parking lot is clustered with port-a-potties. How long before all of our southern California indoor plumbing takes a crap and port-a-potties are perched on our patios and porches,while hand sanitizer is preferred instead of soap and running water? Maybe El Nino will save us.

In the meantime, art is alive and well. This ancient Greek torso at Hearst Castle has survived centuries.

The elephant seals are still here.

And the sunset is no less remarkable.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Bird of the Day: Forster's Tern

The photo is not the best, but that's the new guy there on the left.

I was obsessed with the shore birds when I moved here over three years ago. I couldn't ID a single one except for the brown pelican. I still can't really tell all the gulls apart, but there are a dozen birds I do recognize. Because I walk the same beach over and over again, I haven't seen much new in the world of birds--until today. I believe the smaller bird on the left is a forster's tern.The larger terns on the right are elegant terns.  I love them all.

And how about tonight's sunset?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Beach Report

Waves crashing over the breakwater at Channel Islands Harbor yesterday

The waves have been immense the last couple of days, the tide so high that yesterday trucks came and pulled the lifeguard stations back from the water several feet. Today there were pools of water as far back as the dunes as a result of the high tides.

Willets and snowy plovers must have felt like they had swank resorts with their own private islands.  I can hear the waves crashing from my driveway which is just over a mile away from the beach. At the risk of redundancy, I'll say again that I love this place. It is paradise.

This picture does not do justice to the enormity of the waves
I don't always know what to do these days without my mother here. I'm greatly relieved that she's in Iowa, yet I'm uneasy sometimes that she's so far away. While making phone inquiries as to the cost of transporting someone's remains to a university deeded body program, it could be helpful to look across the room and see that person eating cookies and yogurt.

I would like to say that I've been able to turn my attention to writing. Instead I find myself googling things like "how to help a Syrian family," "interfaith organizations," "how to support religious freedom." Like the ocean, the world is in an uproar. Like most people I don't really know what to do about it personally. What are you doing, dear reader?

Most likely my volunteer gig after the first of the year will involve sea lions or the Channel Islands. But what I should probably be doing is sitting in the hallway at a social services office in Iowa, weeping and gnashing my teeth until I get my mom on Medicaid--and perhaps while ensconced there, stepping up on a soapbox to rail against Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. The bill for the third month of nursing home care has arrived and I've made my third attempt at bureaucratic hoop jumping. Sometimes I think I have too much faith in everything.

I've been wondering too if my life will soon feel settled. The last seven years have held a lot of turmoil. Divorce, death, and drama have been recurring themes here in Margaritaville. I do believe the winds of change are blowing. I have faith in that. Really I do.

Not really feeling festive just yet, but here's a Christmas wreath

Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday Morning Beach Report

 In one direction, the sky streaks of gray and blue, clouds like strands of raw wool unraveling above Anacapa.

In another direction, the clouds ripped apart, baring blue sky.

The waves looked as sturdy as semi-trucks this morning as two men stood on the sand, looking out to sea. They talked briefly, then turned and ran. Surfers, I'll bet. I couldn't stay long enough to confirm that they returned with their boards, but I'm grateful for the reminder to seize the moment.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Thanksgiving and Thank You

It was unsettling at first to change our Thanksgiving routine. No family dinner. Winter travel. Flying. 
But I emailed off the dessert recipes to my daughters and, on Thanksgiving Day, got on a plane.

I saw my mom. She looked and felt good. (Why didn't I take a photo?) She's gained a couple pounds. I credit the array of salads available--jello with whipped cream, anyone? No? How about pasta salad with mayonnaise?) She was talkative and brighter--just as she was when I saw her six weeks ago. When my mom came to live with me in August of 2012, I was determined that she would live out her days with me (I figured we's be lucky if she lasted six months.) She spends a lot of her time reading (currently a racy Harlequin romance!) as opposed to the group activities, but she eats all her meals in the dining room and seems to enjoy the conversation and company. The realization for me here is that I could not be all things and everyone to my mom. I'm her daughter. One of her children. The population in Margaritaville was two most of the time. In Iowa there is an array of a dozen people who visit her. If you're one of them and reading this, you are among the people I am most thankful for this Thanksgiving. Bless you.

And I should mention that I did see my daughters anyway. We met at the nursing home on Saturday. Saturday night there was a restaurant dinner for 14 in my hometown with the daughters, my brother and his family. By then, I had a plate full of gratitude with no side of regret.

And I enjoyed the mini-road trip immensely.

Mississippi River Sunrise

Chicago Clouds

Indiana Dunes--if you look closely you can see Chicago in the distance.

It'll be a long travel day, but by midnight tonight I should be asleep in my own bed. 

Blessings on all your households.