Everything Everywhere All at Once and Attack of the Baby Zombies (Working Title)

Let me set the scene: “Sleeping” on a mattress on the floor in a chilly New York apartment living room surrounded by a deflated unicorn, packed-and-ready double stroller, toddler kitchen set, playhouse, a bookshelf of shoes and outerwear, two scooters and a couple of toddler scooter toys, a cat who uses the night space as a Mario Andretti race track, and the next-room mother-in-law who dreams out loud and wakes up once or twice to pee.

At strange times throughout the night—11:41 p.m., 1:20 a.m., 3:03 a.m., 5:48 a.m. when my daughter wakes up, makes coffee, and prepares for work—I think about the partying teens on the corner, about why I bought, then ate, three Cadbury cream eggs, about whether or not I’ll buy a new camper van, about what it would be like to live in Kauai, about the troubling economy, about the best recipe for chia pudding, about organizing my storage unit when I get back, and all other topics related to The Meaning of Life. 

Spanxed between love and chaos, I often find myself in this position when visiting my New York daughter and her wee ones. The environment and daily routines are predictable: Baby Zombies attack me soon after they wake up (about 4 a.m. Pacific Standard Time) and continue grenading me with affection until bedtime, about 8 p.m. These two, Millie who turned 3 yesterday, and Hudson, 16 months old, are vibrant, passionate, can’t-wait-to-discover asteroids, easily enchanted by crazy grandma’s ear-tickling “I love you” whispers.

Always, somehow, electricity zaps my red-eye exhaustion and sky-launches me across the shedding-black-lab-mix-Charlie-floor as I vanish into the babies’ sparkly world of Playdoh and Elsa and squeaky Minnie Mouse rotary dial conversations and Lucky Charm snacks and watercolor afternoons with Baby Mozart.

I’ve been here a week. Monday, I fly back to the seals and occasional dolphins and the deck overlooking the sunsets and marina. Back to Monet, who’s being well cared for by a wonderful dog sitter who hangs out with her twice a day, and my homies who love her up before and after work. My new temporary home feels like home although nothing in the dwelling, except clothes and a couple of pillows, towels, kitchen supplies, belongs to me. Just like staying at my daughter’s apartment. I’m temporary.

So I dive into this world, like I dive into my world back “home”, with a sense of tip-toe respect and awe. I imagine what it would be like to live here or back at the Redondo Beach apartment full time. Overlooking the sea? Or overlooking Queens in some kind of NY apartment around the corner from my Baby Zombies. Because as I sit here in the dark, having relinquished any notion that I can go back to sleep before my daughter leaves for work in Manhattan, and contemplate getting up and making a second cup of coffee before the Zombies wakeup, I am aware that this feeling is a pattern I ping pong with all the time: The Great American Straddle. Neither fully here nor there. Even when settled, I’m not.

Remember how cold it is. My frozen fingers. My ruddy cheeks.

I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing. It’s what I do, along with taking mental Remember it all snapshots.

Remember how hot it was yesterday at the Bronx Zoo when we visited the giraffe exhibit. Remember my sweet three-year-old barely tall enough to see over the rail as the stretch-necked, patterned giant nuzzled a tree-high bucket of straw. How amazed we all were at his batting black eye lashes and bat-swinging neck. “I want to touch, I want to touch,” Millie declared, obviously reading all our minds.

Remember the little boy’s pudgy hand when he held mine, the dimple-grin I must work for, but gets easier as the days go on.

Remember the make-believe games with the “Encanto” figurines and birthday unicorns and teacups and play foods blending together in the new Melissa and Doug blender from “Papa”, and dress-up princess wear, and everything everywhere all at once, joy and exhaustion, jumping on grandma’s floor mattress and cat and dog hair on the bottom of socks, and scrambled eggs and oatmeal and parceled-out glasses of wine.

Absorb the details, the feelings. The sounds. The rumbling of early morning traffic. The sparrows tweeting on the bird-food embellished balcony, delighted it’s finally Spring. The budding yellow, white, and pink trees and the popping daffodils. Katie’s and my matching grey flannel dog pjs. The new pair of blue New Balance tennis shoes I Amazon-ed to save my wary walking feet and nagging knee that miraculously accommodates my cramped toes and sagging arch. I can see/walk for miles and miles and miles … .

Maybe a half marathon, like my daughter ran last Sunday, or a bike ride through Central Park, or maybe my goal of hiking in the Sierras in the Fall, when all the frenzy of summer trips and babes in California adventure are iPhoned and Summer of 2023 albumed.

This life is spinning. The kids are growing. The flowers are blooming. Yes, it’s still raining in California as I type and in a few hours, also here in New York. We’ll stroller to the Queens Library after lunch, notice Easter decorations and New York’s vastly-different-from-where-I -live neighborhoods. I’ll do my best to savor—while responding to the needs of snack-devouring little ones—the moment so I can cherish it when I’m gone. All the tiny, chaotic, noisy, quiet, endearing rituals like Daddy reading to his babies when they wake up and go to sleep, the goodnight songs, “You Are My Sunshine”, “Twinkle, Twinkle”, “Baby Beluga”, that lull this young canoeing, paddling family into blissful slumber.

As the sun rises and the glow of my laptop fades, I can see that this imperfect cocoon, that is so hard for me to sleep in, is this family’s filled-to-the-brim paradise. 

This family offers me their floor, their space, even creep around me in the dark on the way to work, so that I can experience for myself this growing garden that won’t be tender and young and innocent all that much longer.

As I used to tell my 90-year-old dad, “There’s plenty of time to sleep when you’re dead.” He would chuckle, then go back to his wheelchair snooze.

“No slumping,” I’d tease, handing him pen and paper so he could finish documenting his life story. There’s books to read and dances to dance and toes to tickle.

He never finished that story of his.

His life, while long, just wasn’t long enough. Still, he sits in the shadows next to me, reminding me to enjoy every moment, to love wildly, to look forward, not back, and “Be bold in your travels near and far.”

Everything. Everywhere.

Here today, gone tomorrow, Dad used to say.

In a blink.

All at once.

Gotta have faith

In sickness and in health. ‘Til death do us part. I’m pretty sure I edited those lines out of my first wedding vows.

Given that I’d been divorced from a man I didn’t want to marry but was society and family-pressured into doing so to “validate” my “illegitimate” pregnancy, the second time I got married I knew there was no way I’d make that kind of promise. I won’t get into details, but my first marriage could have cost me my life had I not jumped ship soon after my second child was born. My second marriage, minus the vows in question, lasted more than two decades. We made our marriage work as long as we could because we got used to being dysfunctional. Thank God we never agreed to the obligatory vows or we never would have moved on.

It was, and is, hard to unfurl from unhealthy patterns. Whether it’s relationships or food or a destructive habit, it’s painful to change one’s ways and choose health over habit. Healthy people, those who grew up with a positive sense of self, probably don’t get it. But it’s one of those things those of us with unresolved childhood wounds suffer from; we tend to self-harm instead of self-respect.  

Thankfully, I’m happy to report that after six decades and a handful of years trying to figure myself out, I’m finally learning how to be nicer to myself. Which, I’ve discovered, makes me feel physically healthier which is saying A LOT these days since I’ve been living in a cough, cough sick ward with a really cool view of the Redondo Beach Marina. My homies, my sister and cousin, have been hacking away with this nasty cold-thing since we got back from Barbados. No one is sleeping through the night which further exasperates their chronic post-nasal dripping, coughing and eye infection seeping condition. Fortunately, I have yet to come down with the junk that “everyone” seems to have. 

I had a minor cold about four weeks ago, but my homies’ version of “the thing that’s going around” morphed into a monstrous brain-clogging submarine.

Could it be that after all those years working in a stagnant, petri-dish classroom that I built up a resistance?

Was their response to the common cold versus mine ignited by stress? Because these days—hear the trumpets blare—I’m stress-free. Not to be confused with worry because that’s part of my DNA. I worry about friends and family members; I worry about where I’m going to live while we wait for the Lunada Bay remodel to be finished. I worry about overspending. I worry about Monet. 

Worry, however, is different than stress. Worry is a habit. Stress is a condition. 

Cue in the bagpipes: 

But both are treatable.

Pep talks help. I like to listen to podcasts. My favorites are hosted by Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and Conan O’Brien. They help me think about life from a new perspective, opening my mind to topics and people I never would have otherwise considered. 

Books, magazines, other blogs also help. Right now, I’m reading “A Line Made by Walking” by Sara Baume. The story takes place in Ireland following the death of a quirky grandma and the unknowing impact she made on her granddaughter. 

Watercolor journaling is also a de-stressor. I play with colors and words, ribboning them across the page without fear of judgment or evaluation. The same is true with writing. I blog to uncover. Sometimes, when I’m lucky, my words connect with another soul which makes me feel understood, which is validating. 

Walking, swimming, being in Nature, listening to music, instantly, and almost magically, abracadabra’s away stress. Every. Single. Time. 

While none of this is new or Earth-shattering, the fact that I’m learning to be good to myself is BIG.

Thank you, retirement. I get to relax, breathe, and no longer stress-out about students. Being a middle school, preschool, and college teacher for more than 20 years was such an honor and joy, but it was also taxing and stressful. Despite routinely logging-in twelve-plus hours each week outside paid classroom duty lesson-planning and grading English essays, I was always looking over my shoulder, fearing an angry parent or student would stab me in the back. Some days I felt like I failed before I started. There was never enough time and way too many students to do the job right.

I look back now and realize how much I shortchanged my family and health, prioritizing my students over a balanced lifestyle. I learned that from my mom, God bless her, who taught me to give onto others before giving unto myself. Mom’s only luxury was smoking which, out of shame, she hid from her family. It ultimately killed her in a most cruel and suffering way.

So, we learn, don’t we? We stand tall, try to do better than those who have come before us. Which means possibly having to re-think what we think. Write a new script that makes more sense. 

George Michael’s dance video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2hLL_UNUSo “Faith” comes to mind. I know, I know, I know the song is about the complications of a relationship, but the chorus is still relevant, maybe for you too.

“Yes I gotta have faith
Ooh, I gotta have faith
Because I gotta have faith, faith, faith
I gotta have faith, faith, faith…”

Fit for a Queen

Last night I danced under the starry moon as the warm ocean pounded and the hotel band played Bob Marley. I slept in a crisp, white linen king-size bed made for a queen, turned off all the electronics from an iPad-like device next to my bed that had just been fluffed up, sheets turned back, by a mysterious butler who seemed to anticipate my every need. Right now, I’m sitting on the veranda that feels like I’m in a movie with little birds hopping along the hand-tiled floor and a tiny gecko slinking around a marble column that frames a mango tree-shaded view of the sea.

I mean, come on!

There’s more. Everywhere you might think about turning off or on or understand the electronic complicity of this mahogany and tapestry-embellished room, there’s a panel to dim lights, evoke sound, close or open the drapes, turn on the interior or veranda fans, intuitive air conditioner and silver-framed TV. The white embroidered slippers are placed next to the grandest Hearst Castle-esque bed I have ever slept in, the ornate closets light up, then there are the comped goodies in the stocked fridge, the finest liquor and wine in the hidden bar, and pink-rimmed made-in-France cup and saucer and polished silver spoon.

Yes, this is a place fit for a queen and it turns out, was. Sandy Lane Hotel in Barbados was Queen Elizabeth’s favorite resort while visiting the Caribbean and here I am in a room of my own with a soundtrack of crashing waves and the view of a shimmering turquoise horizon. Right above me, on the top suite, is where the Windsors resided.

I am far, far away from my normal life. This is a place where the British elite come to play and I’m here in my clearance rack clothes from Target, with my cousin, sister, niece, nephew and the two boys having the time of our lives. We are the only Americans we have met so far. This place attracts lovely British folk who, despite their economic status, are engaging and slightly mystified about us bubbly, brash (volume-wise) Aw-gosh can you believe we’re here? Southern California Yankee giddy tourist spirit of “Let’s enjoy every moment!”

While the Brits typically stay for a fortnight at this lavish resort, we’re here for a mere four nights, courtesy of my niece and nephew’s generosity. It was supposed to be a five-night vacay, but our darn flight was cancelled, and we had a layover in Philly, then an overnight in Miami, cheating us out of our previously booked and paid-for night at the Fairmont Hotel down the street in St. James where we stayed three nights. That hotel, the bomb. We walked out the sliding doors right onto the beach, also had our bedding turned back, bottled water refreshed, and once the kids and their parents were fast asleep, drank comped French champagne under the moon on our private deck.


How is it that we—my sister, cousin, and myself–could be so very, very blessed to have family members who thank us for wanting to share their spectacular adventures with them? We’re not a bother. They tell us all the time that they like hanging out with us, the crazy Three Amigos.

You know I’m tearing up right now, filled with a sea-full of gratitude and love. 

When you experience daily afternoon tea with sand on your feet and saltwater crusting on your chest, and breakfast buffets with catamarans sailing past your table and waiters calling you, “My lovely lady,” and “My dear,” greeting you with the biggest, most beautiful smiles I have ever seen in my life, you know life has been good and kind to you. Never, in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine I would experience this kind of tropical opulence, the kind Geoffrey, the chap we met one night at the Fairmont lounge experiences all the time. 

This is his 10th time visiting Barbados, he told us over two rounds of rum sours. He was solo, having lost his wife recently, and a girlfriend who dumped him. He needed a fortnight to “think about things”. We had a laugh and serious talk about Harry and Meghan, which he abhors, “Mark my words, he will leave her,” countering our take, “He wanted a platform to be heard, tell his truth.” He thinks Biden is a shaky old man, which was an interesting comment since he was probably about the same age as the President, yet traveling solo across the globe. Geoffrey regaled us about his trips to South Africa—“You simply must visit South Africa; it’s marvelous”— all of the islands several times pulse, and countless trips abroad chasing his favorite sport, Cricket. 

We talked about the Royal family’s squabbles, toyed with the topic of the world’s political shenanigans, applauded the singer’s reggae interpretation of a Amy Winehouse song, discussed Barbados’ glorious flauna and when the night was over for this sweet, jet-lagged man, he paid for our drinks.

“I can’t tell you how long it has been since a gentleman picked up the tab,” I told him, tapping his arm. “Thank you.”

“You can’t be serious!” he said in his astounded, Jeremy Clarkson British accent. Then waved himself away. 

It’s all been like a dream. In a few hours we’ll be gone. But before that regrettable time happens, I wanted to take a moment to chronicle it, remind myself that I’m here, that this is real, that I wrote this as a tractor pushed a motor boat into the ocean, that I’m wearing a white and pink-trimmed bathrobe with a cup of English Breakfast tea at my side, the hypnotic, translucent waves crashing a stone’s throw away from me and am about to greet the best breakfast I’ve ever imagined, so I’m told. You know, having recently re-gained some of the weight I lost, I thought about trying to kick-start my diet plan on this trip, but no, changed my mind. It’s all just way too good not to partake.

Which brings me back to dancing to Marley’s “Three Little Birds” last night with my interpretive dancer little guys, Dylan and Logan, who didn’t care a lick who was watching them. Not the multimillionaires. Not the stiff-upper-lip clientele. Those little boys, this place, reminded me, “Don’t worry, about a thing, ‘cause every little thing gonna be all right…rise up this mornin’. Smiled with the risin’ sun. Three little birds pitch by my doorstep singin’ sweet songs of melodies pure and true. Sayin’ “This is my message to you-ou-ou.”

Soak it all in.

Tell me, poet Mary Oliver asked, “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?”

Today, Mary, this day. 

Staying put—for now

Dove grey satin ripples toward me, shifting suddenly like a water snake skimming the surface. The breakwater-caged-sea ebbs and flows as I attempt to absorb this graceful, milky dance. 

Sunset. Without hoopla, without Academy Award-applauding fanfare—Nature—with some modifications by clever engineers, does its thing and I am blessed to sit here in the calm before yet another storm to witness the ocean’s ever-changing masterpiece.  

One of the benefits of staying put—for now—is the beauty of noticing. Without apology. 

As a writer, paying attention to the simple and complex is part of my job. As such, I find myself sitting on the balcony night and day, brisk or truly cold, for hours and hours. 




Sometimes worrying. 

Always praying.

Every day I toast the morning with a cup of coffee and salute day’s end with a sense of gratitude, and almost always a glass of wine: “Thank you.” 

Between you and me I’ll confess; I resent ever having to leave this paint-chipped corner of the world, now decorated with turquoise pillows and a folding table snatched from my grounded van. Errands. Picking up. Dropping off. I resent getting in the car and leaving this view because while it’s the same, it’s different. Every single time.

It’s funny, but I feel the same when I travel to other places that feed my soul, whether it’s the beaches of Cambria or the Tuolumne River in Yosemite. Home. That’s what it feels like. My heart’s triangle. 

When we first arrived at the Portofino Apartments a month ago as of yesterday, the skies were gloriously cornflower blue; temperatures were in the mid-60s. Typical January weather for the South Bay. We’ve had our spats of drizzle, impressive winds, temps in the low 40s, but by in large it’s been a beautiful SoCal winter. And I get to witness it here from the balcony overlooking the breakwater, my very own, ever-changing, real-life TV monitor screensaver.

Noticing, being still, being alone much of the time while my amigos are out and about working for a living, allows thoughts to rise to the surface. They’re just there. Things you stuffed down and didn’t want to think about anymore. I blame my grey skies British heritage as my mind tends to go grey. 

As I’ve written about before, I’m working on my chronic worry habit. I’ve got all the jingles in my head, “Don’t worry, be happy,” “Live with no regrets.” And I am getting better, thanks to this view that sweeps me away, re-directing my thoughts.

There’s wisdom here. That’s for sure. Simple. Profound. The sun rises and sets. I can take a shower whenever I want (a biggie for van camper me), shop at the organic store up the street, walk along the shore with dear Monet, take a nice swim in the heated pool or relax in the jacuzzi. I can turn right or left, travel in the sky or trapeze in an underground cave. I can take a chance or stay put. I can be brave or stay scared. 

Watching folks cruise in and out of the Marina on sailboats, paddleboards, outrigger canoes and studying the habits of seals and birds, I wonder why I neglected leisure—AKA fun—during my working years? I was too responsible, too work-oriented—unbalanced. So Sunday, I decided change that and do what I’ve been longing to do for years: I went kayaking. 

My bouncy 9-year-old grandson and I climbed into the popsicle orange kayak and we paddled in the waters that, for my entire life growing up in Redondo Beach, I walked past. We laughed and screamed and splashed and surfed tiny waves and cruised past the stinky seals and the mossy breakwater and the Pier. It was an absolute blast.  

Now I’m inspired to have fun every single day. I’m positive it’s the antidote to worry. Yes, I know I’lll slip. But today, before tackling the To-Do List, my priority is to go on a solo bike ride. At some point I’ll jump into the pool and do some laps. And Friday, despite all kinds of challenges including my tendency to anchor, I’m going on an adventure. Leaving the balcony. Not staying put.

Fun is about to get funner.

I’m not sure why…

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

I’m not sure why I’m thinking about Anne Frank, one of my inspirations and heroes since I was in the fourth grade and discovered her diary for the first time. “Santa Claus”, at Dad’s Carpenter’s Union Hall Christmas party way back in the 1960s, laid out a bunch of wrapped presents and I randomly selected Anne’s diary and a black, gold-embossed journal. Those donated gifted to a doe-eyed child of working class parents, changed her life forever.

Today, tomorrow, yesterday, and weeks to come, my colleagues at the middle school where I used to teach, are sharing Anne’s story. They recently went to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles for a PTSA-funded field trip. Apparently, it didn’t go so well. Today’s generation, it seems, weren’t that engaged. A couple of students were downright disrespectful.

Checked out.

Checked out.

How can anyone not feel immense sorrow, shame, and how-do-we make-sure-this-never-happens-again-outrage to Anne and the millions of individuals who experienced the repulsive consequence of discrimination? Compassion, where is it? Connection, when did it get lost?

I did my best when I was a teacher of eighth grade English Language Arts students to help students understand the back story, the reasons why the individuals we read about were often the target of hate, misinformation and jealousy. We examined who, what, when, why and how the events in both history and present-day occurred through the lens of language arts writers and researchers. Years, and years and years ago, I realized that my students seemed to be swaying from a lust for learning and a desire to be of-service, to an unhealthy preoccupation with cultural dribble, i.e. Kardashians/TicTock/fake “reality” realities.

My colleagues and I wanted to better engage young people, so we created a curriculum that was standardized-based, yet challenged students to dive deep and pay attention to patterns, sources, and misleading messages; we encouraged students to develop vital, critical thinking skills to help them discern nonsense from facts.

Damn, we did our best. As are all of my teacher friends.

But times are different.

Things are COVID-ized.

Our young people are lost.

I can see it in my former colleagues’ eyes, who very, very sweetly, dropped by last week to pay a sunset balcony visit. They’re young, talented, hardworking, and care so very much about the kids and the teaching profession; but even they are losing hope.

I tried to reassure them, but honestly, I’m at a loss; that’s why I’m reaching out to you; we are at a critical juncture. We either stop, acknowledge our kids profound brokenness, or we crash and burn. Not an overstatement. Reality.

In my opinion, here’s what needs to happen:

  1. Teachers are at the front line. They are our soldiers in this battle called: The Future. Let’s assemble teachers from across the U.S. and beyond and document what they’re seeing.This needs to happen NOW at the local, state and national level.
  2. Students: They’re the shrapnel. We need to roll up our sleeves and figure out what’s going on and how we can help.
  3. Stress: We need to immediately address our crumbling internal infrastructure. Give folks access to counseling—at no cost.
  4. Once the evidence is gathered, we need a national strategy. Think Finland after World War II. How can we make America organically better? Not with yelling. I‘m right, he’s wrong malarkey. We have to come together at the same table and determine positive next-step solutions. We are ALL feeling it. We know something isn’t right.

I know I’m just a blogger, a random person with no power or influence, thinking about bigger issues; the worrisome direction of young people and our troubled world that appears to be spinning out-of-control. But so was Anne, a little person with a gigantic message. Had it not been for Anne’s 1940s version of a blog, we might not have understood that “in spite of everything,” as she wrote on July 15, 1944, less than a month before she and her family were captured and everyone, expect her father, murdered, “I still believe…that people are truly good at heart.”

On this day, this average Tuesday before Super Bowl galas, the State of the Union speech and GOP rebuttal, and all the other news and family events that will saturate the remainder of the week, I continue to be inspired by my dedicated teacher colleagues, my daughter who’s teaching fourth-graders in NYC, and all the other purveyors of hope who keep digging, who fail to stop trying.

Anne, at 14, said it best: “I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness; I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.”

I encourage everyone, right now, to email your local, state and national legislators and insist that they place healing America’s kids at the top of the national agenda. Share your stories, what you see, as parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles, neighbors, employers and educators. This is not a one-person, one-teacher, one-classroom, one-parent job: it’s going to take the entire village screaming at the same time, “Help!”


I just emailed four legislators. It took about 15 minutes. I encourage you to share your stories; no doubt, you speak on behalf of countless others who sadly believe that whatever they have to say won’t make a difference. But it will. And it matters. If Anne Frank can believe in positive change, “Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness,” so can I.

Postscript 2:

Within two hours, I received two responses, one from the White House, the other from a California senator. I’ll let you know in an upcoming blog what happened next.




Best laid plans

I love to plan. It’s like cleaning a bedroom closet or the fridge; while I dread the getting-started-phase feeling overwhelmed by the task at hand, once I get started, I’m energized by the process, and the end result: Efficiency. Tidiness. Everything in its place. Control.  

I have the large-scale Rand McNally Road Atlas on my left and in front, the vista of Redondo Beach Marina, the rocky fortress break wall and the congested blur of Hermosa Beach. Trusty, sweet, beloved, and very sick Monet is on the carpet next to me. 

A few days ago, I pledged not to worry, be happy. I’ve been faithful to that intention. Every time worry crept into my brain, I washed it away with a glass of water, stretching—whatever I could do—to re-direct toxic thoughts. It worked! I found myself less furrow-browed and more open. Skipping, almost. The weight of the world lifted from my shoulders. 

Oh my gosh, is that a sign? 

A sailboat named “Life is Good” with a smiley face tattooed to the starboard just glided past. And it surely is: A Good Friday. I’m here with a second cup of strong, organic coffee. It’s quiet. I’m writing. I’ll be swimming in a couple of hours, then walking with a friend, picking up my grandson after school, and Monet is here, she’s still here. 

Monet’s ill health is testing me and my Don’t Worry pledge. Because I see her slowing down, moving with more caution, having accidents because one of the tumors is pressing against her bladder. It sucks. And sucks and sucks. It’s incredibly challenging not to worry. And it’s really hard to plan my future because what matters to me right now is making sure I’m a good parent, helping my dog daughter feel calm, loved and secure.

My girl and I sleep next to each other on the living room floor,. I have a twin size camp mattress that I’ve laid out next to her special foam bed. At night, I touch her face or shoulders so she knows I’m there. I can hear her breathing, with an occasional muffled yip and wonder, “What do you dream about, Monet?” Running along Cambria’s glistening beach, sneaking crab shell treats when you think I’m not looking, dancing in the waves, fetching sticks? Or do you dream about the backyard at the old house, the place you did acrobatic tricks when you were young? Do you remember our walks along Twin Lakes in Bridgeport last Fall? Do you how much your mommy cherishes you for being your persnickety, teeth-growling self?

I love this smart, sensitive, maligned dog so much. She saved my heart when we met 13.5 years ago, and she’s breaking it now. We don’t have a lot of time left. I do my best not to worry. But it’s hard. Because I don’t want her to suffer. And I wonder when, and what, and will I know, but I don’t want to, but I must. 

This is LIFE condensed.

Like a fist that resists opening.

I skip through the days snapping photos, planning, adventuring, allowing minutia to snag me into its frayed chokehold; ignoring the gift of companionship. Like right now; sweet Monet on “our” bed, her freckled fur blending into the fuzzy grey comforter, curled up, feeling safe and loved, not worrying, being present with her breath, in and out, in and out, as I close the 2023 road map and lay down next to my sweet friend.

Best laid plans aren’t best. Because one can never fully prepare. For the unexpected. The twist. The shatter. Impending loss. I try. But it’s a fool’s game. Distracting. Wasteful. All roads leading to eventual regret. Because in planning, looking forward instead of up close, I miss The Point, the elixir, the antidote to worry: Love.

Today, tomorrow too, that’s my plan; to love as much as I can, for as long as I can. With a little help from friends and family, my palette of paints, stacks of books, sunsets, a tune or two https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RL5uQfKPSBg and poetry by the beloved Mary Oliver, Life IZ Good.

What Gorgeous Thing

I do not know what gorgeous thing

the bluebird keeps saying,

his voice easing out of his throat,

beak, body into the pink air

of the early morning. I like it

whatever it is. Sometimes.

it seems the only thing in the world

that is without dark thoughts,

Sometimes it seems the only thing

in the world that is without

questions that can’t and probably

never will be answered, the

only thing that is entirely content

with the pink, then clear white

morning and, gratefully, says so.

Don’t worry, be happy

     A public declaration of change is mighty. Expectations shatter the very ground. Will she fall in love? Will she enter the priesthood? Will she become a public figure representing the plight of American senior citizen women?  Will she return to teaching? Will she become a long-distance swimmer? Will she book a room on a massive cruise ship and travel the world? 

I could. And I might. But I probably won’t. 

I’m putting my dampened index finger up to the wind and paying attention to where the gusts  blow. If I pay attention, if I’m a good listener, I’ll know what to do next. 

That’s where I’m at less than 24 hours after declaring the Great American Shakeout of Regret. I’m in a new state of being and for it to stick I must be mindful of everything I do, be it financial, food, steps that I walk, movies I choose to view, conversations I’m part of or direct. This life and how I choose to live it is up to me, not my circumstances. Now saying this, I know I’m not proclaiming anything new or revolutionary. Like a lot of people, it’s been in my head, not my heart, like wanting to lose weight but not exercising or cutting calories. I’m well-intended, but not particularly action oriented. Not that any of this has been a mystery, trapped in a gold-laden Tibetan cave. Change is free and available to everyone. Yeh, I have tons of excuses; I know each one of them like a cherished family member—no time, it hurts, my habits are my identity, Wah, Wah, that person hurt my feelings, I’m not happy with my job, my partner, no partner—myself. But it’s a story and since we’re the authors, we can change it. 

Which is how I’m starting today, a new day with cauliflower clouds and navy- gray water and a puffy vest chill that percolates my soul. What brave thing will I do with this open canvas?

Be happy. 

All day. 

Don’t worry. Not once the entire day. If it starts to sneak into my brain, I will stretch, move, listen to positive tunes, have a glass of water to cleanse myself of my old ways. This will be today’s challenge. One entire day feeling happy. 

I’ll let you know how it goes. 

Diving acrobats of the sea

The sun warms my face and bones. It’s summer, late January. Cloudless. With this exciting cornucopia of impromptu events taking place right outside my balcony. Including the heartbreaking cries of a baby downstairs.

       This has thus far been such a quiet apartment complex, except for the chronic barking seals. Which I love. Which I crave. Along with the bird squawks. And the purring boats and the occasional conversation of the outboard riggers. This has been a place of absolute, restorative peace. But today, as I mentioned, a baby cries, a grandchild no doubt, amidst adult conversations and the occasional barking caged dog. 

       Once in a while, I see a human climbing up or down the stairs in this blemished 1960s dwelling. My eyebrows raise with little kid excitement; I crave greetings, interaction, a wondering conversation about what brought them to this temporary seaside shelter, several of the guests, hooked on the standstill of time, have lived here from years from what I’m told.

       A basking seal reminds me that time is merely a human invention. To the instructive creatures who inhabit our fragile planet, time is irrelevant. What matters to them is the here and now. Resting. Dreaming. Until it’s time to eat or swim or hang out with friends or stay clear of boaters.

My idol is the harbor seal. And the cormorants. And all the flying, diving acrobats of the sea. I want to be them, gliding in the sunset with no notion of tomorrow. 

       I am at peace. 

Even the Facetimes. 

Even the emails and texts. 

Even the yacht-toasting Yugoslavian-boating passerby’s, can’t shatter my thermal coat of gratitude. To be in this place so close to “home”, is like climbing into a warm cabin right before a winter’s frost.

To return, not in triumph, but in humility and thankfulness for the life this place gifted me, for the memories, the challenges, the hope and despair; the friendships and the heartbreak, the beginnings and the end; it all happened here in this home that is no longer my home. A new beginning. A fresh start where I can clear the slate and re-write a brand new history.

       I no longer need to look back. 

       I don’t need to say, “I’m sorry.” 

       “Good morning, how are you?” shall be my new phrase going forward.

  “I’m brilliant,” I will respond in return.

Because that’s how I feel inside. Smiling. Hopeful. Excited about the road ahead. What will I discover? What new things will I learn? Listening to my body. Paying attention to my soul. Peace like not a river, but like the mouth of this marina which I study like a student of impressionistic paintings. I’m a docent, an advocate, an admirer who wishes to climb into the mind of the creator to inquire about process, choice of color, blocking, particular paint strokes and if the end produced expressed what she needed to express, in other words, was she satisfied? 

The day isn’t long enough. I will wake up earlier and stay awake longer. I’m on vacation without an alarm clock.

I don’t want to miss a moment not delighting in Monet with her ears perked up like tents on fire season alert as she eyes the stealth seal gently climb down the scratchy rocks; not the assortment of birds flying South; not the silhouette of fisherman ably rambling across the breakwater, nor the gurgling of the rescue boat idling at sunset or the incoming storm clouds or the fragrant smell of rosemary billowing down the hallway. I don’t want to miss a second more worrying about the baby, who eventually stopped crying, or my grandchildren babies who are all doing just fine, or possible real estate investments, or what new van to buy or not, or my dear ex-husband’s ill health and housing plight, or Ukraine or Trump and Biden’s classified document blunders, or the people who don’t “get” or like me, or the missteps I have made along the way that brought me to this place, this moment of glorious gratitude.

The sun sets, a door closes.

No more regrets. 

I pledge to embrace the ever-present extended hand.

Moving out, it seems, can mean moving on.

What did you do today?

The Christmas I missed. All the year(s) and (s) and (s) I missed by working and stressing, stressing, and working. The brunch I didn’t savor. The friendships I took for granted. The winter rain I wished was over. The doomed relationship I spent decades trying to save. The diaper years, the cheeky teenage years, the cramming for tests and essay-grading, parent-conferencing, no-sleep slumber partying years, and all the hours and months and decades of wishing for “something” else. In that self-imposed vortex of misguided priorities, I lost sight of how fast the car was driving. The blur. The air. The paint brush loaded with blues and greens, magenta and dark purple.

A lyric-less piano solo ribbons in and out of a sliding glass window, stitching together a tapestry I’m trying to unravel.

“What did you do today?” my roommate amigos ask.

I searched in vain for affordable housing for my weary, ex-husband. Looked up resources to help Monet. Swam. Walked. Read a bit. But mostly I just sat on the balcony and looked and thought and tried to understand the story, my characters—me—in this place I’ve never been to before, never seen from this perspective, my hometown of 66 years.

What brings me back to the place where I started? Are there secrets? Something I missed? A forgotten treasure buried in the backyard or tucked away in the attic? An abandoned kitten I needed to save? A soul I needed to free?

The boats drift past, and the sun-bathing seal sits on the dock where she’s lounged since I opened the blinds this morning, stretched out, next to the cormorants who leave her alone to relax and prepare for the evening moonlight swim with her pals who yip and yawp all night long like it’s Single’s Night on a Carnival Cruise. 

I envy the wild creatures who live with abandon and entitlement. This is their home, not the boaters’ or the balcony stare-ers’. They don’t fear the cold temperatures or rogue waves. They enjoy. As do the flying critters of the sea who claim the surrounding trees as perches, dive into the placid sea when hunger strikes, then groom their salty frocks with the attention of a sculpture or hair-tweezing facialist. 

I will be here for three more weeks (unless my roomies want to extend our stay) to take it all in, to find myself in the mirrored marina waters, to become the skimming pelican and diving egret, to feel the rumble of the crashing waves in my chest, and bathe in the precious space of Now. 

I used to catch my father staring at the garden for what seemed like hours. He did it often, much to the irritation of my task-focused mother who would scold him for wasting time. His response was hearty, consistent, and often expressed in his characteristic full-chested chuckle, “What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stop and stare.” I didn’t know it at the time, but he was quoting the poet William Henry Davies. 

He was always reciting poetry that I thought he made up. 

I can see now that Dad was a poem. Not a poet, but the actual cliffs and rivers and rhymes he memorized and recited with the passion of an opera singer.

Dad figured IT out. What this life is all about: Loving IT. Loving each other. Doing your best. Not striving to be more, spend more, love more than you’re capable of giving. Forgive. Give. And when you think you can’t, DO! Oh, and there’s no such thing as the word, can’t.

Forgive and forget, he always reminded us. Holding grudges, just like worrying, is a waste of time. And he was blessed–despite decades as a carpenter and exposed to a litany of caustic chemicals—to have a lot of time. He lived until he was 92, died on New Year’s Eve more than a decade ago. Yet, sitting here looking at our ocean, the one he moved our family to after The War, the one our immigrant parents reveled in during surfside picnics and afternoon swim sessions, I can feel my parents’ presence. My dad’s childlike spirit was infectious. He never, ever stopped hoping or believing in the possibilities of a day. Kids and animals were drawn to him because he never stopped having fun. He was always up for a good laugh, a spontaneous jig, and a pint of Guinness. He never turned into a grumpy old man

What would he say to me now? 

Don’t miss another Christmas. Your last one will come soon enough. Be glad where you are, wherever you are. Know that I am always with you, loving you, and am so very proud of you.

I don’t hear his voice anymore. It’s long since gone. But I hear the cresting waves and the ripples of the passing boats and am awestruck by the cloud-less, golden sunsets that have greeted us every night since we arrived.  


Is it because He is here? His presence. His love. His mercy. His forgiveness and strength. The peace and understanding that I crave?

To live full-time in a landscape created by The Creator? Saturated in love and beauty. An environment that shatters trepidation and fear, that says, you belong, you’re important to me, to the planet. 

From the second floor, in a temporary, rented dwelling, my feet not rooted to the sandy soil of Cambria, the Islands, the Sierras, the geography my soul adores, I feel particularly close, attached, anchored to an unending, open-chested, breathe deeply, Truth: Love as boldly as the wild creatures, as the sea, as the waxing crescent moon. Love like an adoring parent loves her child. Like the purity and longevity that a sweet pup, my Monet, feels for me. Holy. Unconditional. Forever. Love. 

I don’t need to do or be anything other than be myself. And neither do you. 

As night falls, no one notices me from the balcony. Those who sail past, never look up. But I do. I look at them; I look beyond. I see the jets at LAX take off and land. I study the solo sailors, listen to their songs, and observe the ebb and flow of tides. This ritual, this routine of doing nothing, is everything, allowing me to return to the thing I do, and have done since I was 9 years old, my grandson’s age, when I began to feel different, alone, and yet part of something bigger than I couldn’t understand at the time. Before words like God or grace or religion or going to church become part of my lexicon. 

Then, and now, I am a student of the seal, who even though it’s almost sunset and she’s been hanging out on the dock all day, is fine and dandy being herself, doing what she needs to do to get through the night and the next day. She well may be the best swimmer in the marina or the sexiest catch in King Harbor, but right now she’s taking the time to re-charge before the next storm calls upon her to be brave. 

Thanks, thanks and thanks

An Open Letter to the Folks at the Portofino Hotel and Apartments:

The sliding windows are open and although it’s brisk, it is blue, and blue and cornflower blue and the seagulls are singing and the sailboat ice-skates through the sea reminding me that this isn’t a watercolor painting; it’s real; I’m here and my cousin and sister are here, sort of, (they’re actually at work) while I’m in the apartment writing and painting and breathing and sighing for being so blessed to have a room with a spectacular view. 

The resident seals’ chatter and the gentle whip of the American flag on the western side of the Harbor Patrol headquarters is landmark-proof that I’m not dreaming: I’m in Redondo Beach, but not the Redondo of my working days, my child-rearing and growing up in the 1960s-70s days; this is Destination Redondo, Resort Redondo, calm and peaceful Redondo, athletic Redondo, good food Redondo, historic Redondo; this is a corner of the world that was just around the corner from where I lived for 66 years, that I never knew was here, and now that I see the view from a marina view balcony, can’t see myself leaving, but probably will in three weeks.

But I’m not going to think about that now. 

For a short spell, I have a beautiful and safe place to live, square footage where I can unpack my wrinkled clothes, open a book, plug-in a computer, stir-fry a fresh veggie dinner, take a nap, have a glass of wine on the balcony and drink-in the bounty of Nature and the creativity of marine-savvy engineers, working stiffs like my dad, one of the carpenters who built the docks and the very building I’m housed in, and collect myself, my psyche, and my passion for the stillness and open-ended possibilities of just being


In this moment. 

The calm after the storm. 

After Covid-19.

After selling the house.

After being on the road for six months.

After having my VW camper van break down.

After couch-surfing at generous family member’s homes.

After retirement.

After knowing my dog of 13 years will die soon.

After making decisions that disappointed my family.

After moving on and moving back.

After finally learning to love myself and the world again, which seems to have turned so selfish and nasty and corporate and greedy. Then there is the exception—you—the folks at the Portofino Hotel and apartment manager Cody Dapson, who made an executive decision to make our lives better by upgrading our room when the unit we had been assigned to was deemed not up to their high standards. It needed some upgrades—don’t we all?–so Cody and the team decided that since they’re in the business of hospitality they’d make our lives better by giving us a second floor room with a restorative view.

I’m not sure if this happens often, placing the guest or client’s needs before profit, but this is what Team Portofino did for us: they made a We’re sorry, how can we make this better? move and in doing so made lifetime friends and advocates. This is the business model we should all follow whether we own a business or are in customer relations—or not. Extend grace. Be hospitable.

We’re all weary travelers in one way or another. Having a moment—be it a physical space or interaction with an understanding individual—to restore and feel good about humanity is so important for all of us right now. 

Because here’s what happens when we’re kind:

I’m grinning again. Walking. Swimming. Weight-lifting and getting to that happy embodiment of gratitude that I exuberantly extend to everyone I encounter. Spreading the love. Feeling the mojo.

Paying it forward.

Feeling everything is possible.

I’m back. To my new hatched chick, surprised look, giddy-widdy, joyful self. Spring has sprung in Redondo. The sun is out. The grass is searing green. Go for a bike ride. Enjoy the quietude. Thank your neighbor, your children’s teacher, thank the cook and the maintenance workers, thank everyone who’s trying their best, being accommodating, and adjusting “rules” that only serve to stifle.

And here’s where my blog turns into an advertisement. While it’s off season, while the rates are relatively low (check out available discounts), book a room at the Portofino https://www.hotelportofino.com. If you’re local, make it a Staycation. I promise you, just like me and my amigos, you won’t want to leave. 

Thank you Portofino friends, who really do seem like friends. Here’s to the start of a terrific weekend and the beginning of the best year ever.

Life IZ Good,