We March

21 Jan

I read today that John Lewis recalled Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. saying, “there is no noise as powerful as the sound of the marching feet of a determined people.” Having attended the San Diego Women’s March today – along with approximately 39,999 other people – I can say that feels right to me.

Michaela and I woke up this morning and made signs for the march, which was about affirming women’s rights (vs. protesting the new president). Michaela chose to focus her sign on peace; mine was a series of hashtags.

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I put on my “A woman’s place is in the House and the Senate” shirt and she put on her peace sign shirt and we were off to meet a friend and her daughters for the march.

The weather was cold and there was about a 25% chance of rain (it did, in fact, rain off and on throughout the morning). There were a lot of speeches – too many speeches, I’d say – and while that was happening, the space around us filled with people. Women, men, children of all colors. Families. Friends. Strangers who became friends. Women were going around giving out free donuts, a danza Azteca (Aztec dance) group shimmied through the crowd, people banged drums and shook tambourines. We all sang the national anthem, which gave me goosebumps. The signs were amazing– serious ones and funny ones, wordless ones and ones covered in writing, Trump-focused and otherwise.

Some of my favorites:

  • Now you have pissed off grandma (held by an older woman wearing a neon pink bouffant wig)
  • Babies against bigots (taped to the back of a Kelty)
  • Women who seek to be equal to men lack ambition
  • The GOP: Creating government small enough to fit inside your vagina
  • Patriotism is standing by your country, not your president (a Teddy Roosevelt quote)
  • Surviving this bullshit since 1492 (these words accompanied a picture of a clenched fist, held by a person of indigenous descent)
  • Our rights aren’t up for grabs, and neither are we
  • Don’t tread on me (along with a picture of a uterus)
  • We need feminism because people still ask what the victim was wearing
  • We are only going to get browner and queerer and witchier and louder and stronger and prouder

It felt amazing to see so many people come out. The feeling in the air was electric. I hope people will remain engaged and be vigilant in standing up for the things they believe in as the new administrations makes laws and policies. I certainly plan to.

#HopefulButPragmatic

A Light Extinguished

18 Jan

When Mike and I met, I fell in love with Mike and with his best friend Elree. Elree would give you the shirt off his back. He was a great friend to Mike, and to me. Whether we were hanging out at his house playing Uno, doing laps at the rollerskating rink, visiting a local bar, or even spending time with my family (Elree fit right in– he and my brother look so much alike that Facebook can’t tell the difference in pictures), Elree was a bright light in our lives. When Michaela was born, we drifted apart a bit, but would periodically exchange text messages and well wishes. That’s why I was devastated to get a call yesterday morning from his girlfriend, who said Elree committed suicide this weekend.

I don’t know what happened that made him take his life. I don’t know if he had gotten help and it wasn’t enough. I don’t know why he didn’t see that he was loved and special and needed. I only know I miss my friend and can’t believe I’ll never see him again. I’ll never send him a text on August 8 to wish him a happy birthday. I’ll never mail him a Christmas card. I’ll never invite him to another Easter dinner.

In December, for Mike’s birthday, I asked friends to share a favorite Mike memory. Elree wrote a beautiful piece that ended with, “I remember some really great times my friend. I hope this note helps you remember great days, too.”

Here’s to memories of great days, and to Elree.

Last Day in the Big Easy

18 Jan

After our first couple of days in New Orleans and then a couple more days in Jackson, it was finally time to head home. Our flight wasn’t until Monday afternoon, so Michaela and I had time to soak in a little more of the Big Easy.

We started the day with beignets from Cafe du Monde. If you’re keeping track at home, we were in New Orleans for four days and went to the cafe three times. Michaela enjoyed peering through the back windows, where you can watch the workers make the beignets.

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Then we wandered through the French Market before stopping by Lafayette Cemetery No. 1.

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It’s small but interesting. I was fascinated by how old some of the tombs were, and how they continue to receive new generations of the various families.

The cemetery is across from Commander’s Palace, the famous restaurant (that opened in 1880!), but it’s very hard to get reservations and they didn’t have a table available for us for hours. Instead, we ran back to our hotel, checked our bags at the bell desk, and grabbed a last bite to eat at a local diner. Our waiter, Peanut, was charmed by Michaela and gave us free fries and her two complimentary scoops of ice cream. Needless to say, she was charmed by him, too, after that. Then it was off to the airport for our return trip home.

While passing time playing Uno, Michaela saw a little boy and said he went to her school. I told her she was crazy, but she insisted. I told her to go ask him and sure enough, he does! Turns out that they (the boy, his two siblings, and parents) live a couple of blocks away and had been in Louisiana visiting family. They’d been on our flight out, too, but we didn’t know it. The boy’s mom said that when she went to take her son out of school early, the school secretary said that another family was also going to New Orleans. What a small world to have us then meet in the airport on the way back!

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Mike picked us up at the airport and it was officially back to the real world. I can’t say enough good things about this trip. We travel a lot, but this was the first time Michaela and I had taken a trip just the two of us (outside of us flying somewhere where Mike already was, and then the three of us vacationing together) and it was really special. Michaela is a good traveling companion and I really enjoyed having this time together with her. I can’t wait to do it again!

Mississippi

18 Jan

Michaela and I drove from New Orleans to Mississippi on Saturday to celebrate my paternal grandfather’s second wife’s 90th birthday. (In the south, they call that “kin.”) The road was SO FOGGY. So foggy, I couldn’t see anything on either side of the bridges were drove on. So foggy, I got a hand cramp from clutching the steering wheel. So foggy, I didn’t take a picture!

Jackson is about three hours from New Orleans, so we had plenty of time in the car. We stopped at a Waffle House – a tradition when we’re in states that have that chain – and at a visitors’ center at the Louisiana-Mississippi border.

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From there, it was straight to the church where the celebration was held.

Henrietta, the birthday girl, was thrilled to see us. I haven’t seen her in a few years– she came out to California when Michaela was 3, so it’s been three or four years– and she looks just as fabulous as ever. Henrietta is a beautician by trade and a milliner (hat maker); she always looks what my mom would call “shit sharp.” She was rocking three inch heeled booties, a Louis Vuitton bag, a cream colored suit, and a fancy hat she made herself.

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Seriously– how gorgeous is she? This woman is NINETY years old!

The celebration featured speakers from various aspects of Henrietta’s life. She was the first African American to be appointed to the Mississippi State Board of Cosmetology (in 1977. Remember that next time someone tells you institutional racism was oh-so-long ago.), so there were people from that industry. She was the founder of a civic and social club, so she was feted by the club’s current president. Her niece Pamela did a “This is Your Life” tribute that was lovely. Henrietta is a woman of deep, strong faith, so there was also a strong religious current throughout, with several songs and blessings.

Michaela was kind of bored because it was a lot of sitting and listening, but I am glad she went. It’s an important cultural experience in addition to being a family event.

When the event was over, we went back to Pamela’s beautiful home to relax and unwind. I can’t say enough about our hosts. Pamela, her husband Fred, their daughter Gabrielle are so kind and were so generous. Pamela’s brother, who lives in Texas, also stayed, so we had a grand time hanging out.

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The next morning, we had breakfast together and then Michaela and I headed to the cemetery where my grandfather is buried.

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With that, it was time to drive back to New Orleans. We had to get our rental car back at an absurdly early time (that’s what happens when you rent from an in-town satellite location, not the airport center), but the good news was, we stopped at Sonic on the way back and there was no fog I could actually see while driving! It was cool to drive over Lake Ponchartrain and see swampland on either side of the road.

Back in New Orleans, we headed to our second hotel, which was on Bourbon Street. Fun fact: Bourbon Street is NOT kid-friendly. It was all drunk people, cabarets, bars, smoking, and vomit on the streets. Maybe it would have been fun in my 20s, but now, with a 7-year-old, it was mostly scary! Still, our hotel was really nice and we were upgraded to a room with an internal verandah, so we could throw open the doors to get air while facing the pool, not the street. That was our last night in town, so we laid pretty low. It was perfect!

 

Let the Good Times Roll

13 Jan

Michaela are I are in New Orleans for a quick trip. My grandfather’s second wife just turned 90 and her family is having a birthday party for her in her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. Henrietta is special to me and I decided to make the trip to celebrate with her… flying into New Orleans (Southwest flies there nonstop from San Diego and with my companion pass, I could take Michaela with me for free) and driving to Jackson for the party.

We got into New Orleans last night around 6 p.m. and after dropping our stuff at the lovely hotel Mike booked for us, we went for dinner and then beignets at Cafe du Monde. I’m pretty sure it goes without saying that Michaela loved them. French donuts buried in powdered sugar? Heaven! We walked around a bit before coming back to the hotel and crashing.

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This morning, we slept in and then grabbed a quick bite to eat at Starbucks. Not fancy or New Orleans-y, I know, but I am a sucker for a Chai tea latte and it was close. We then hopped on a streetcar to City Park, a massive park that’s home to an art museum, sculpture garden, botanical garden, several lakes, equestrian areas, sporting fields, and more. It’s where Storyland is– a garden full of things out of different books, including Mother Goose stories and more modern ones. It’s small, but we didn’t have that much time anyway. We had to go back to the French Quarter to take our tour!

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We’ve taken Michaela with us a lot of places, as you know if you’ve read this blog for a while or are friends with me or Mike on social media. I figured this time we’d do something just for kids and signed us up for a French QuarTour Kids tour. The Spooky Tour promised to entertain kids 5-10 years old with a spooky, not scary, experience. As it turns out, we were the only ones booked for today’s tour so we got a private one! Our guide, Jill, took us around the French Quarter, telling us stories from the past and sprinkling in “sightings” and “contacts” like the treasure map Jean Lafitte left that led us to the St. Louis Cathedral, where Michaela got to do a voodoo spell and use a “ghost meter” to search for ghost energy. Amazingly, the meter pointed her to the cell where Lafitte was imprisoned, and he left her a pirate’s bag full of chocolate coins (“maybe he was Jewish,” I joked). It was a fun, cute experience and I’m glad we did it.

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The tour ended in Jackson Square, so we watched an awesome band play before heading to Cafe du Monde… again… for more beignets. Then we hopped the ferry across the Mississippi River (and took it back right away).

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Michaela had her heart set on playing in the pool at our hotel, so we came back, went to the pool for a while, relaxed for a bit and changed, and then braved Friday night in New Orleans.

Mike was here a while ago and he was raving about some pizza by the slice place. He didn’t know the name of it, but I looked on Yelp for a highly rated place and we set off for a couple of slices. On the way, we heard the sounds of a large brass band in the distance. As it got closer, we saw floats, dancers, people in costumes, and then the band itself. The people on the floats and those walking were so sweet! They went out of their way to give Michaela beads and to wave at her. She was over the moon: scrambling for the beads, waving, smiling ear to ear, pulling necklace after necklace over her head. It was truly magical. I don’t know what the parade was for– a pre-Mardi Gras thing or a spectacle tied to a local bar or something else entirely– but it was the perfect New Orleans experience.

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Michaela’s final haul? FIFTY-ONE NECKLACES!

We had our pizza and walked down Bourbon Street… for one block. I couldn’t take it. There were so many drunk people, so much cigarette and pot smoke, such loud music… I am too old for that stuff and Michaela is too young. So we went back to a side street and enjoyed strolling in a more relaxed part of the French Quarter.

Tomorrow morning we head to Jackson. I expect that will be a very different experience, but I’m looking forward to it. After all, you only turn 90 once… If you’re lucky to make it that long!

Goodbye, 2016!

31 Dec

This year was rough in a lot of ways. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to call it a flaming dumpster fire, like a lot of memes floating around social media, but it definitely presented myriad challenges for me on the political, personal, and work fronts. That being said, 2016 was also awesome in a lot of ways, and it’s worth remembering them rather than dwelling on the negative. One of my friends made that point in a Facebook post and then shared all the wonderful things about her year, and now I’m stealing the idea. Here are some of my favorite highlights from the year:

  • Taking Michaela to a variety of entertainment experiences, ranging from Junior Theatre productions to Disney on Ice… to the circus… to a magic show in Las Vegas… to the San Diego Symphony… to a San Diego Ballet performance of “The Firebird”… to Aztec Girls and Women in Sports Day, where she got to interact with female collegiate student-athletes and try her hand at different sports… to Disneyland and the Great Wolf Lodge and the Discovery Nature Center (where Michaela and I got to feed sea turtles!)… to a cooking class at the Melting Pot and a pan de muerto decorating class at a Hispanic supermarket…
  • Watching Michaela grow and thrive in school, first in kindergarten and then in first grade. She has learned a lot, matured, made friends, and blossomed!
  • Rocking Michaela’s first Girl Scout cookie sales campaign, with more than 100 boxes sold.
  • Spending lots of time with Mike’s cousin Maggie, who has a very special bond with Michaela and who we’re so happy to have living in San Diego.
  • Going back to my alma mater to participate in an annual “Women and Leadership” event as a panelist with my friend Lee. We have a tradition of making a girls’ trip out of it and spending some quality time together, so it’s extra nice.
  • Seeing my dad in his element at the annual classic car swap meet. Mike and I take Michaela each year and walk around and look at cool car stuff and watch my dad show off his granddaughter.
  • Putting on a very successful conference for the California School Public Relations Association, which I now serve as president.
  • Watching Mike work so hard and his business thriving as a result. He’s added staff and broken new milestones in his billing, not to mention he’s made some amazing videos.
  • Taking a Panama Canal cruise with Mike’s mom and stepdad. We made new friends, saw fascinating sites, and visited a lot of places I wouldn’t necessarily otherwise have seen (like Guatemala, which I loved!).
  • Cheering Michaela on at two school jog-a-thons.
  • Visiting the Spring Garden Festival at Cuyamaca College. I wasn’t expecting much, but it was really cool! Michaela and I visited the Water Conservation Garden, went to a plant sale, ate a nice lunch, and she even got to climb a tall tree (with a harness and safety gear).
  • Attending a moving, thought-provoking three-day training at the Museum of Tolerance.
  • Camping out at Michaela’s school. My first time sleeping in a tent in the great outdoors!
  • Seeing The Cure, Billy Joel, Counting Crows, Rob Thomas, and Morrissey in concert.
  • Celebrating birthdays with a variety of friends and family.
  • Taking a girls’ trip to New Mexico with Michaela, Mike’s mom, and Mike’s mom’s other granddaughter. I’m convinced we should make it an annual trip!
  • Trekking to Chicago and Wisconsin for our second Watson family reunion with Mike’s family. Mike, Michaela and I spent time in the city by ourselves before we headed to Sheboygan to join the 24 other Watsons. It was a great time!
  • Hearing Michaela rave about her week at Zoo Camp. In fact, she liked it so much, we sent her for another week!
  • Walking the Live Well 5K with Michaela and earning finishers’ medals.
  • Attending my 20 year high school reunion. When did I get so old?!?
  • Putting Michaela on a plane to Denver all by herself. I was nervous; she was not. She had a blast with Nana and Papa during her time with them!
  • Watching a million hours of Olympics coverage.
  • Celebrating our 6th Annual Girls’ Trip with three of my best friends from college. This year, we went to Portland, OR.
  • Seeing “The Sound of Music” at the Civic Theatre with a friend who I don’t see nearly as often as I’d like to.
  • Stuffing my belly full of delicious food at the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners we hosted at our house.
  • Toasting Mike and Michaela’s 40th and 7th birthdays (respectively) with a nice dinner at the Melting Pot.
  • Taking a wintertime trip with Mike and Michaela to Las Vegas.
  • Sharing dinner with neighbors are an annual potluck held by a family on our street.
  • Working with a great team of individuals who are deeply committed to doing good work and to making an impact on our organization and the schools we support.

I could go on, but I won’t. Clearly I have a lot to be thankful for. Here’s to an equally fun 2017! Happy new year!

 

 

 

Politico

25 Dec

Between gifts like this…

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(Which I bought for Michaela after this year’s presidential election, searching for a ray of hope amid my despair)

And photo opps like this…

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(At a store in Las Vegas)

I think Michaela might have a bright political future ahead of her!

 

 

Merry Christmas

25 Dec

We got back from Las Vegas a couple of days before Christmas. Our tree was already set up and most of our shopping was done, so it was mostly a case of needing to get stocking stuffers and food for having family over today, Christmas Day.

In our house, Santa leaves his presents out, unwrapped. Here’s what the scene looked like last night, after his visit.

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Michaela is in love with Shopkins, so Santa brought her two Shopkins pillows and a set, as well as some stickers and a Shopkins coloring book. She likes magic, so he brought a big magic kit. Santa brought a crystal growing kit, some new watercolor paper, and new (matching) outfits for her and her doll.

Michaela woke up at 7:15 and ran out to the living room. She went through Santa’s gifts and we all unpacked our stockings. Then it was time for me to head outside to pick oranges off our tree for fresh-squeezed juice. I’d spent hours yesterday preparing breakfast enchiladas, so all I’d have to do was pop them in the oven this morning to bake. Forty-two oranges later, I had a gallon of juice chilling in the fridge and breakfast baking in the oven. Voila!

My parents and Mike’s cousin and her boyfriend came over and we opened more presents before breakfast. After breakfast, we opened more presents. Are you sensing a theme?

The family left and I turned my attention to the desserts I was making for our Christmas dinner. I made a fresh fruit tart and a hazelnut mousse cake. Both were delicious! My parents came back over for dinner and we enjoyed the desserts after we finished the dinner Mike made– ham, roasted brussels sprouts, green bean casserole, garlic mashed potatoes with chives, and rolls– plus a green salad I made.

Once my parents left, we all crashed. “The Great British Bake Off” was calling my name, after all the baking I did, so we relaxed with an episode before Mike got up to putter around. Michaela and I? We stayed put on the couch and vegged in front of the TV.

Between yesterday and today, we got to Skype with Mike’s mom and stepdad, and with his dad and stepmom and brothers and their families. It was a lovely Christmas.

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Hope yours was fun, too!

RIP, George Michael

25 Dec

And now George Michael. Like David Bowie and Prince, WHAM! and George Michael’s music appear on the soundtrack of my life. I remember my aunt bringing the “I Want Your Sex” album – on vinyl! – to my house and her and my mom rocking out to it. I remember dramatic dances to “Careless Whisper,” including at my wedding, when my brother and mom hammed it up to that song (which I love). I went with a friend to see George Michaela… maybe in 2006?… and his voice still sounded strong, even from our nosebleed seats, which we got for free through the station Mike worked for.

Here’s hoping Morrissey can hang on.

Melancholy Dog

24 Dec

While we were in Las Vegas, our dog Rey stayed with our dogsitter. She’s been taking care of Rey since we got him and is just about the best person you could hope for to take care of your pet. She’s a professional dogsitter/walker, she’s insured and bonded, and she’s a dog person to her core. When we go to her house, Rey gets super excited as we approach because he knows he’s about to get a lot of attention and trips to the park.

When we got back and I went to pick Rey up, the dogsitter said he was “melancholy” and that she’d asked him what was wrong (that’s how much of a dog person she is) but didn’t get an answer. She said he hadn’t eaten much or even wanted to get in her bed to sleep at night, which he usually does. It had been raining, and he’s not a dog who likes the rain, so I thought maybe that was part of it but didn’t really worry too much.

When we got home, though, it was clear something was going on. He wasn’t his usual spunky self. He wouldn’t eat or drink, didn’t run to the door with his tail wagging when we got home, couldn’t be bothered to move too much, didn’t go out to go to potty. It was weird and worrisome. I gave it about a day and a half and when he still wasn’t any better last night, I resolved to take him to the vet. It being Christmas Eve, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get a spot, but fortunately, I was able to secure an appointment and off we went this morning.

Have you ever had car or computer trouble, and then when the expert came to diagnose the issues, the expert couldn’t replicate it? That’s sort of what happened this morning. We got to the vet and Rey got busy sniffing everything. He was friendly and sweet to everyone we encountered. When the vet came in, she took his temperature (no fever) and palpated his stomach (no issue). She checked him for dehydration, said he was fine. She gave him a treat and he gobbled it up… Followed by another two treats and some water. When we went outside, he peed on a bush and trotted over to get into the car when he was done.

I’m not sure what the issue was, but it appears he’s fine. I’m thankful for that, but it has gotten me thinking. He’s 10 years old — that’s 70 in dog years — so it’s not like he’s a spring chicken. I’ve always rolled my eyes a bit at people who refer to their pets as their babies, but the truth is, Rey is my companion and I would miss him terribly if… when… he dies. It looks like he’ll be around to celebrate another Christmas, though, and to enjoy the chew toy I got him for the occasion. It’s a Christmas miracle!