Christmas Travelogue – Part V – They don’t pose

they don’t stay put, the lighting is wrong or I don’t have my camera. Every trip that isn’t spent in pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee (my husband’s desire), the perfect martini or bread pudding (mine), is in pursuit of the perfect bird photograph. The big picture doesn’t exactly get missed, honestly, I attend partly because when I’m behind the lens I don’t want to walk off a cliff, but more because to capture a bird, you have to become familiar with its environment.

In three days, I took nearly 1500 shots. I astound myself when I write that. I couldn’t do action shots like I do now with an old 35 mm. 1500 shots. Imagine developing that. Two days to cull through them on computer and I end with maybe 50 worth keeping, one I am proud enough to frame. These are never the unusual birds I have to run to a manual to identify. Just an ordinary Brown Pelican. Suspended for a moment against a sky that almost looks nonexistent. I can live with that.



Christmas Travelogue – Part IV – Highway 1


His cardiologist says his ejection fraction is somewhere between 30 and 35%. Just below what is called the widow maker, a coronary artery is 95% blocked, another 70. His heart rate drops to thirty-something beats per minute, frequently.  I’m concerned you could drop dead, the doctor tells him. Stents open the arteries. He is scheduled for an ICD – Implantable Coronary Defibrillator.

_MG_1249He loved the Elephant Seals, their size, the sepia tones. They were alive and 97% inert. _MG_1315

True to form, he loathed the traffic, which first stopped to 0 mph, due to a rock slide. He appreciated the side trip, although the stated main attraction, a waterfall, could be likened to a man with 50% reduction in his flow pissing off a cliff, the view of the ocean was 100% magnificent.

He appreciated less the 2 IMG_1326mph crawl from dusk to night fall wedged between cliffs and the ocean. Patience lasted less than five percent of a ninety minute crawl. If I knew anything about math, I would turn the above into some kind of word problem, but I don’t and that’s why I’m a psychologist and not a chemist or even a physician. Opportunity to practice light photography – you do what you can, stick the camera outside the windows, jump out the car when you come to a stand still, damn the percentages.

Pacific Grove had Monarch butterflies overwintering, or so he was tIMG_1508old. Less than fifty-five degrees and they wouldn’t move. It was lower forties and they clung, motionless autumn leaves on evergreens – pine and eucalyptus. He was told there were 2000 and doubted it.

By the time he reached Point Lobos, after he hiked the Cypress Trail and saw whales breaching off the coast, after he crunched over rotting kelp on Sandy Trail and chased a Snowy Egret to see how it would flyIMG_1588, after he climbed up to Seal Lion Point and down to the beach, he lost track of the numbers and just watched the waves bear down on the rocks where the sea lions bathed.

Christmas Travelogue – Part 2 – Sammie’s Christmas

She calls us Grandpa and Granny Laurie. She is five and very affectionate. She can read. She made me a Thanksgiving card and saved it till we arrived at Christmas. She sings in the bathroom. She acts out whole sections of Brave and incorporates us into the action. Give her any electronic device and she can work it. She can work her parents. She is still on a bottle. She does not dress herself. She wakes her parents to take her to the bathroom at night. She throws eight different kinds of temper tantrums. Daily. She is  not picky about what she eats but each meal is an hour long battle. She gets distracted.

Recently, someone came out with a poll of the five most stressful jobs. Parenting wasn’t on it. I had to wonder about their criteria. Parenting – the job you can never resign from, with shifts that never end, no sick leave, no right answers but plenty of wrong ones. Where everyone on the outside of any problem is an expert and free with unsolicited advice – grandparents, relatives, friends, with or without kids, total strangers.

Grandparents love to pass on the benefit of their experience. Grown children, now parents themselves love to correct the mistakes their parents made in their child rearing (just as their parents did in their own child rearing) and make new mistakes of their own. Grandparents love to point out their grown children’s mistakes and tell them why it isn’t working. My children have told me my mistakes which are lesser and different than what I thought they were, which I am dumbfounded by and appreciative of. NOTE: they disagree on what those mistakes are.

I used to tell my husband and children that my shift as Mom ended at 9P.M. They didn’t listen and didn’t believe me. I also said that I was done  as a parent when they turned 18. We are at almost 22 and 27 and counting. When they call or just show up with a problem, I still haven’t learned to shut up and just listen. My stepson is 43. My husband suffers from the same failing. We are no different from anyone else, we want to pass on the benefit of our experience and tell our children what they are doing wrong, to prevent them from making mistakes. This is our mistake. We needed to make mistakes, the little things every parent does wrong. It is good modeling to show your children you aren’t perfect, how you handle failure, and frustrated expectations, how you learn from it. Children are resilient, we wouldn’t have 7 billion people in the world today if they were easy to destroy.

I have conviction that Sammie is well-loved, well cared for, that she will not graduate high school drinking from a bottle or if she does, it will not have a nipple attached. I have faith that she already has the seeds of independence (her temper tantrums attest to that) IMG_0809that if she insists on being accompanied as a young woman to the restroom, they will be public restrooms and it will be based on common sense safety issues. And I believe that parenting is a complex task in which each child is born an individual and that it is a relationship in which the child and parents shape each other. It is intimate and except in cases of obvious abuse and/or neglect, those of us outside that relationship do not have the knowledge or right to interfere unless we are invited.

Christmas Travelogue – Part I – the food

2012-12-27 14.30.49

As I have been known to do, I ate my way through vacation. My stepson taught me to love Brussels sprouts, roasted, in a penne pasta. He showed  me how to make Italian bread, baked in a bread “trough” specially made by a welder friend from a piece of iron pipe, cut lengthwise. He said made properly, after baking, bread will sing as it cools. It sang to me in crackling chirps. I ate it anyway. Several pieces. On two separate occasions.

My cup of Christmas beer overflowed onto my Christmas ham. It wasn’t bad.2012-12-27 14.30.34

In the spirit of after Christmas cheer we took the news of a rock slide on California Highway 1 as an excuse to pull off at Lucia’s Lodge for the “fifth best fish and chips in the world” and joined an eclectic and international crowd huddling on a balcony over the Pacific sheltered from the wind and rain. I don’t know how fish and chips are rated, but eating seafood on the edge of a cliff over the ocean improves everything.

We made Carmel that night, a place were we could afford nothing but the food and conversation with the server at the pizza place. We were the only customers. We discussed Clint as actor, mayor, political co2012-12-28 18.30.09mmentator and addressed empty chairs. She said she once served James Franco. He tipped her ten percent. By the time we left, I thought about asking her to join us for a beer. Later, we tried the Irish Pub. Since the Irish stew was steeped in Guinness, continuing with an international theme, I balanced it with a Belgian Chimay, while my husband remained consistent with Irish coffee. Correcting my error with dessert, I discovered something I plan to replicate at home – mint chocolate chip ice cream smothered in Bailey’s and topped with whipped cream.

On the way back south, having forgotten the name of the delightful bea2012-12-29 16.21.47ch side cafe we once lunched at in Santa Barbara, we took a blind stab and arrived at the right place, wrong time, too late for lunch, too early for dinner. We had popcorn and drinks. I, on my quest to try as many permutations of the martini as possible in my lifetime, tried the coconut. My husband, who was driving, had a small glass of wine. We were fortunately able to order crab cakes from the bar, as well.

Our last California meal, that evening, was arguably the best. Fabio, who my stepson tells me was a contender on America’s Top Chef, runs Cafe Firenza in Moorpark. We were asked did we want to sit at a small table, the bar or the2012-12-29 18.59.17 kitchen counter. Knowing my husband would say a small table, I, of course, said the kitchen counter. I love watching the preparation of Italian food. We split the fish special. Later, my stepson demanded details of the menu and preparation. I felt like a witness under cross examination who badly failed. It was some whitef2012-12-29 18.52.25ish with capers and blood oranges with a something-something that was reduced, certainly not my waistline. I had a Lavender Lychee martini. What can I say. Two martinis in five hours. How do I know what I’ve eaten. It was all delicious. Everything there was ordered in Italian, loud and lively. I recommend it.