Monday, January 25, 2016

Monday Morning Beach Report: Hello El Nino, Hello Full Moon

The ocean is a gargantuan beast, its many mouths yawning tall with foamy tongues stretching farther and farther onto the sand. Not green or blue or silver or gray, all the churning has turned the beast brown. Life guard stations have been pulled from its reach, and where they once stood now lie what the beast has coughed onto the sand. Driftwood resembling half-devoured serpents. Tangles of twigs like flattened birds' nests, each with its own cache of plastic detritus, proving once more that we humans are the great sulliers of the universe. Green, red, blue, yellow. Bottle lids and their evil companion pull-tabs. Straws, strings with their flaccid balloons, pens, piñata leavings, Tic-Tac boxes, half shredded take-out containers. Tiny shards and nubbins of who-knows-what. The beast has regurgitated it all at our feet.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Minnesota: Land of 10,000 Tears

This post comes to you from my condo in St. Paul, Mn.--a condo I bought back in 2008 pre-economic downturn against the advice of my trusty financial advisor. He was right.

But post-divorce, I was making all kinds of crazy plans. I would have taken out a jumbo loan and financed the Taj Mahal at an interest rate high enough to reach the moon if I'd thought it was the solution to how shitty I felt back then. Daughter M was not doing the best in those days either, and I think living here was some sort of balm--as much balm as a physical thing can be for a hurt that's not at all physical. She lived here for three years, and now the other daughter, C, is living here with her husband. With my mom in a nursing home in northeast Iowa, the Twin Cities are now a good gateway to visiting her.

The frozen rural place/a.k.a. Iowa--taken on the road trip with C and her husband to see my mom

Photo of my mom and me taken yesterday. 

It was -28 degrees today in St. Paul. I went out for a walk. The sidewalks were dry and clean. With my eyes watering from the cold and my frozen tears sticking my eyelashes together, I thought about  my complicated history with Minnesota. I came here for college in 1970 just weeks after signing the final paperwork relinquishing my son for adoption. The next year I had major surgery on my spine and a month later my father died suddenly of a heart attack. The following year there was another back surgery. Thirty years later I came here again and again post divorce. I've walked in every type of weather. I've walked in deep into the woods and on country roads in the pitch black winter night while the sky was ripped apart by shooting stars. I've walked ankle deep in the mud on a lakeshore, along the Mississippi River in driving rain, in downtown St. Paul bathed in Christmas lights. I've walked drunk. I've walked sober. I've walked wailing out loud, talking to myself, while plotting mayhem, and while plotting my own destruction. Today I just walked, glad to be out under the sky.

Today, walking in St. Paul

Walking is what I do. Sad, happy, mad, glad, tired, wired, here, there. 
And while I've shed plenty of tears in California, somehow I always feel happier there.

Last month walking on the beach in Cambria, CA

And tomorrow, I'll be back in Margaritaville (a.k.a. Ventura County)

Though I have to disclose that this photo was actually taken in a Mexican Restaurant in Dubuque, IA

Another road trip photo--just because.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Surf Naked

You can buy this t-shirt at LAX,
The sky and the ocean were outdoing one another in the contest for the grayest gray as the airport shuttle zoomed down the coast this morning. Dozens of surfers bobbed in the water, wrapped in their black wetsuits from head to toe. No one was naked.

At a LAX bar, I might have gotten my gin and tonic sooner if I'd been naked. The bartender saw the blond next to me, but I was swathed in my gray-haired cloak of invisibility. This is a randomly employed power I have no control over. Sometimes both men and women make a point of telling me they love my hair. Women frequently go on to tell me they could never go gray. They don't have the right skin tone or their gray is a weird texture. Whatever. Oh! the bartender said, when he finally noticed me, startled as if I'd dropped through the ceiling onto the barstool. At least LAX has stopped carding EVERYONE. There were no silver-haired exemptions. What was that all about? Dear whoever stopped that nonsense: Thank you.

I'm on the way to see my mom at the nursing home in Iowa. I'm leaving this:

Last night's sunset

for sub-zero temperatures. I'm wearing wool leggings under my regular leggings and I have a down jacket the size of a small easy chair. My suitcase contains a wool scarf, gloves, two wool sweaters, a down vest, and wool socks thick enough to use as a pillow. There will be extensive driving on this trip. I'm rather relieved that I will not be making the drive alone. Daughter C and her husband will be my travel companions. I keep picturing this:

My mom now has a doctor that checks on her in the nursing home. She no longer has to go out in sub-zero temperatures. She no longer has to go out at all.

And it's just now occurring to me that she may never leave the premises again. Just like that. She's already gone out for the final time, perhaps, and none of us knew it. Often we don't know these last experiences are happening as they occur. It would be too much for us, I suppose,  if we knew. For the past half-dozen years, I've considered that every encounter with my mom could be the last. And that is how I will approach this visit too. I don't see the point in denying it. It's as real as the brutal cold.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Monday Evening Beach Report

tonight's sunset 
Maybe the world works differently than you imagined.

Maybe your aged mother goes to live in a nursing home and you think Medicaid will throw itself into gear. Everyone is so nice. The social worker at the nursing home. The case worker at Human Services. Surely everyone wants what you want which is that your mother is cared for and that the expenses for that are covered since her money is as gone as the sun at midnight. But maybe not. Maybe the gears of the system move slowly for a reason. The nursing home gets more money from private pay clients than it does from Medicaid patients. Slow equals dough.

Maybe you have no idea how the world works. None at all.

What you know is this: That when the sun goes down, the sky turns red, turns gold, turns colors there are no words for and those colors fill your eyes, float over your skin, let your soul know that you are alive. And how can it be that while your mother lived here, you could not once, not ever, even with the lure of a martini in a travel mug, convince her to watch the sunset from the sand?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Friday Evening Beach Report: How a walk on the beach is like a lifeboat

 I am stuck. No not literally. Not in the mud. Just the mud inside my head. Still no word from the state of Iowa that my mom has made it onto Medicaid. It's Friday. Why didn't I call the caseworker? I don't know. Because I'm stuck in the mud inside my head.

Meanwhile my mom's dentures somehow got lost at the nursing home. This might be day three of toothlessness. Everyone is looking for them. No one has found them. Lost teeth were a pretty regular occurrence when my mom lived here with me. I'd find them under the bed or in the bed. Once my mom tried to retrieve them from under the bed herself and fell and hit her head. I think that was the time she ended up with a big lump on her forehead that made her look like a Klingon. One day I came home to find her and her caregiver looking sheepish. My mom had dropped her teeth in the sink and a piece broke off and was stuck in the drain. I didn't know whether to call the plumber or the dentist first. It turned out not to be a huge deal. The dentures were fixable and the piece of pink plastic was not big enough to obstruct the plumbing. I was able to do something. Now I'm just able to fret and think of all the reasons why one should not lose one's dentures.

I'm great at menial tasks while fretting. So I fretted and did menial tasks. Christmas lights, cutting up the giant cardboard box that the new ping-pong table came in. Pitching another thing or two into the Goodwill bag.Trying to decide if I should plan a visit to see my my mom soon. Deciding no. Deciding yes. Deciding no. Deciding yes. Getting frustrated for being indecisive.  I couldn't decide whether or not to take a walk either. But I finally did.

The sky looked like cotton batting

And the sand was a mirror for the sky.
Foam was dolloped on the sand like whipped cream.
And if I turned around, I could see the tops of the mountains were white too.

I walked for over an hour until the sky turned red over Santa Cruz Island. I finally got unstuck enough to text daughter C and ask if she wanted to go see her G-ma with me. 

The sunset went crazy and I went sane.

And I've gone through an entire day only being vaguely conscious of my injured ribs. I think I'll try to get back to yoga next week. Another way to be sane.

I came home and bought a plane ticket. I got out the checkbook so I can pay another million dollar bill for the nursing home. I resolved for the billionth time to floss every night so I'll never have dentures. 

It was a perfect day.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Good-Bye Christmas Tree /Hello El Nino

I did not require a crane to remove the Christmas tree from my living room, but the Ventura pier needs some remodeling after December's giant waves. This morning I could hear the roar of the ocean a mile away with my bedroom windows closed, and with the rain in abeyance, I went to see how the pier was doing. Still standing, I'm happy to say, despite today's stormy seas. The winds blew in fierce and cold this afternoon. More El Nino storms on the way, they say. I feel safe here in my house out of the path of flowing mud, surrounded by farm fields instead of dry hillsides, the marina ready to catch whatever rain is delivered without any towering waves. Southern California is indeed the temperate place many people imagine it to be, but it's also a place of extremes.

And extremely beautiful. The sun went down today without much flashy red, but the clouds were edged in gold, and in the opposite direction, they were cotton candy blue.

I hope you are warm and dry. I hope your 2016 has had a nice dollop of sweetness so far. And if the wind is blowing in your direction, I hope it smells of evergreens or like the lavender in Grant Park today, releasing its wind-whipped  perfume.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Exclamation Point in the Sky and other things worth exclaiming about!

New Year's Day sunset. Hello 2016!

Once upon a time I greeted the New Year stoked with resolutions. 

Then there was the era of the ironic resolution. (Drink more! Stay up later! Party harder!) I was a mom with young children and those resolutions always fell flat.

I took things seriously again for a while and one year I even signed up for one of those online services that nag you by email about meeting your goals. 

I resolved to never do that again.

Then I think there was a year where I resolved not to have any resolutions at all. 

This year I was into it. Then decided I wasn't. 

This morning I read THIS. I'm sure it's a gross oversimplification to resolve to have great compassion. Maybe one can resolve to study great compassion. Or to look at the world and notice where great compassion exists. Yes, I'll resolve to do that (!)

I also read THIS.  Here's a quote: "We do not see that our life right here, right now, is nirvana. Maybe we think that nirvana is a place where there are no problems, no more delusions. Maybe we think nirvana is something very beautiful, something unattainable. We always think nirvana is something very different from our own life. But we must really understand that it is right here, right now." Yes, I'll resolve to do that (!)

I'm also resolving to go back to being gluten free because right now by body is the shape of a bowling pin!!!

Did you see the exclamation point in the sky last night, dear readers?

Do you have any resolutions you want to share?