Halfway

6 Dec

In less than a week, Michaela turns 9. NINE. How did that happen?

I remember being pregnant and people telling me, “the days are long but the years are short.” I sort of rolled my eyes at the hackneyed wisdom. Then I had a baby and learned how truly long the days can be, and now more and more I appreciate the truth about the years being short.

In what seems like the blink of an eye, we’re at a place where Michaela is halfway through her childhood. Halfway through the traditional amount of time a kid lives with their parents, halfway through the K-12 school experience, halfway through the time I have to impress upon her lessons that will serve her well for the rest of her life.

Granted, some kids don’t go off to college and nowadays, many kids move back in with their parents if they do leave. And as long as Michaela is doing what she’s supposed to do — working or studying (or both!) and being a contributing member of society — there will always be a place for her with me. But still… This feels very momentous somehow.

It’s also interesting to think: the remaining nine years will go by very quickly, so it’s probably time for Mike and I to start thinking about what we want life to look like once our nest is empty.

My vote is we move our nest to Barcelona, but that’s just me.

Philippines

25 Nov

Mike and I belong to a service that finds international airfare deals, which is part of how we’ve managed to go to some interesting trips in the last few years. (For example, last year, we flew round trip to Japan, the three of us, for like $1,800.) In May, we got an email about cheap flights to Philippines and decided we’d go for Thanksgiving. I was excited because I love to travel, but also a little ambivalent because it was so random… and because it was a beach vacation and I don’t know how to swim and don’t need to tan! But I figured the worst that would happen was I’d sit on the beach reading while Mike and Michaela did water stuff, and there are way worse things in the world.

Our lives have been very hectic since May, so we sort of put planning on the back burner. Mike always does our itineraries and he didn’t have it all nailed down until a week or so before we were scheduled to depart. It was a hard trip to plan! The Philippines are an archipelago of 7,000-plus islands and traveling from place to place often involves ferry rides.

On the day in question, we drove up to LAX, taking advantage of our fancy credit card that gets us access to an airport lounge. The flight is 15 hours, so there was a lot of sleeping (or trying to anyway) before we eventually made it to Manila. Once in Manila, we went through immigration, got our bags, and then took a shuttle to the domestic terminal, to grab another flight. The crazy thing about the airport there is the terminals are basically in different areas of the city. To go from Terminal 2 to Terminal 4, we had to take a bus ride through the city on a shuttle with no doors!

The flight from Manila to Puerto Princess was pretty easy. No snacks or drinks on the plane; it was like Southwest light. Our hostess (Mina) picked us up from the airport and took us on a tour of the city before we drove the hour to the Tarabaran Cottages, a rustic sort of resort in Palawan. We spent several days there, lounging by the beach, fighting the bugs (so. many. bug. bites.), island hopping, river cruising, eating, and yes, reading on the beach. We even took a hike through the jungle to visit a native village; as a show of respect, we had to bring tobacco for the men and cookies for the women and children. Mina – and our driver Elmer and Elmer’s son Derek – were lovely. Our last night, they serenaded us with songs in Tagalog and also some American favorites. Watching Michaela sing “Jambalaya” with them was a hoot. It almost made up for the placing not having hot water. (Fun fact: I didn’t know how much I loved hot water until I didn’t have any.)

If you follow me on social media you already know this, but if not (or for posterity’s sake), we flew from Puerto Princess to Cebu City. We were supposed to grab a ferry to go to a place called Bohol that’s home to tarsiers and the Chocolate Hills and some other cool stuff, but we were waylaid by Typhoon Samuel. The Philippine Coast Guard stopped all the ferries, so we ended up finding a hotel in the city and exploring Cebu that day. The next morning, we tried again but still no ferries, so we took a taxi three hours southwest to Moalboal, another beautiful beach town. (The taxi ride cost about $50 in American dollars. Can you imagine what it would cost here to take a taxi from, say, San Diego to Thousand Oaks? It’d be outrageous!)

We stayed at the Quo Vadis resort for two nights. I was expecting there would be a lot of vendors walking up and down the beach selling trinkets, but there really weren’t (we only say two the while time we were on Philippine beaches), which would never happen in Mexico, for example. Quo Vadis had really beautiful grounds, with a big blue pool, stellar ocean views, and whitewashed buildings. Like everywhere else in the Philippines, there were some stray dogs, and we saw giant crabs (like the size of my fist) each night skittering around the sidewalk after it got dark.

Moalboal itself was pretty sleepy, at least while we were there. It was gray and a little bit drizzly due to the typhoon, but our last day it cleared and was sunny and hot and I could imagine the place being even more amazing. We took a tricycle (a motorcycle with a sidecar bolted onto it) to Kawasan Falls one morning. I surprised myself by getting in the (cold!) water and wading out before Mike or Michaela. I was trying to be adventurous and break out of my comfort zone! (I also ate a few bites of fish and tried fried pig knuckles, so I would say it was a success.) Michaela was super brave, too– she went out to under the falls!

Our last morning in Moalboal, we took a trike to the famous White Beach, which was exactly what the name implies. The water was soooo clear and warm. There were schools of fish swimming by, and coral in the water, and shells everywhere. I didn’t wear my bathing suit (stupid me!) so I sat on the beach and read (are you sending a theme) while Mike snorkled and Michaela played on the water.

Then it was back to Cebu City. Mike and I both agree it’s one of our least favorite cities we’ve been to. A ton of traffic and really bad smog, plus trash everywhere.

Speaking of ubiquitous Philippine sights, I have never seen so much livestock in my whole life! I saw hundreds of roosters, many of which were for cockfighting (we passed a number of cockfighting rings in various cities), plus pigs and cows and even a couple of water buffalo. And the roosters crowed all. the. time. Day and night.

From Cebu City, we headed back to Manila. I was actually really excited to spend some time there because of the World War II-related history, but the city was practically impossible to navigate! We literally waited two hours for a taxi before giving up and deciding to swim in the hotel pool instead. Uber used to be there, but they sold to a company called Grab that is a taxi-hailing app. We didn’t have great luck with it. It didn’t help that while our cell phones worked great in the rest of the country, neither Mike nor I could get online on our phones in Manila. So while our flight from Manila wasn’t until 9 p.m., we spent our day going to the amazing Art in Island 3-D museum, then wandered around the world’s 5th-larges mall, and headed to the airport early.

I am incredibly glad we visited the Philippines. The beaches were beautiful and we really enjoyed our time relaxing on the shore and in the water. If we’d had more time, I would have enjoyed visiting even more of the country’s various islands and taking in the different sights. That being said, as is the case in so many places, we also saw heartbreaking poverty. Homes made of flimsy scrap metal with no indoor plumbing, people washing clothes at communal open taps. Kids with tattered or not clothes. Lots of public urination. I spent a lot of time talking to Michaela about how lucky we are that we happened to be born where we were and how much we have compared to most people in the world, and working on her to say thank you in Tagalog to show our heartfelt appreciation for people’s service. I hope those are lessons that will stay with her as much as her memories of holding a starfish and collecting sand dollars and drinking fresh pineapple shakes.

Because we really are incredible fortunate.

So Much to Be Thankful For

24 Nov

So apparently I haven’t blogged since Oct. 17? Hmm. Here are some highlights of life since then:

I chaperoned a Girl Scouts camping trip. It was basically hell on earth. I’ll never make that mistake again.

I won a couple of first-place awards from the San Diego Press Club. It’s always to have my work recognized by a panel of professional experts.

I went to LA and saw Phil Collins in concert! My seat was in the nose bleed section, but he sounded really good and thanks to the monitors, I could mostly see. He performs sitting down now, so it’s not like he was weaving around the stage. His 17-year-old son is playing drums on his tour and the kid is freaking amazing. My aunt Jerry loved Phil Collins and gave me dubbed tapes of some of his albums (and Genesis albums) when I was a kid, so Phil Collins has a special place in my heart.

Michaela dressed as a Kit Kat bar for Halloween, breaking her fruit tradition. She and Mike made the costume together out of felt and it came out really well!

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My brother took Michaela and I to see “Wicked.” He splurged on really good seats (3rd row orchestra!), but it was a pretty late night for Michaela, especially since we went the day after Halloween. She definitely enjoyed it, but she was exhausted. I let her sleep in the next morning and took her to school late. #MomOfTheYear

I voted! There were some races across the nation that didn’t turn out the way I hoped (I’m looking at you, Beto O’Rourke, Stacy Abrams, Andrew Gillum), but it was a much nicer feeling than I had in November 2016.

I saw Morrissey in concert for the 13th time. It was a good show (although nothing will top the one where I got to meet him after!), although it ended in chaos

We went to the Philippines for vacation, which I’ll write about later.

And best of all, the treatment my mom had for her liver cancer seemed to be successful in killing the tumor. She’ll have to go in for monitoring every three months, but for now, she is doing well and things are good.

We have a lot to be thankful for!

What Counts?

17 Oct

I have spent the last couple of weeks cooking dinners for my family. This came after I realized we were eating out sometimes as much as 5 or 6 nights a week, mostly due to poor planning and laziness. It’s not healthy for us, it doesn’t set a good example for Michaela, and it’s really expensive. Mike has traditionally done the bulk of our cooking, but he’s been working a lot lately, including a lot of nights out of town, so I though I’d pick up the slack.

I follow a pretty healthy number of food blogs and am always bookmarking things that seem interesting, so I mostly have been going through my bookmarks to find things that sound good or work together (e.g., buy broccoli for stir fry, use the rest of it later in a pasta dish). It’s going okay, although I have to admit, a few days in, I was exhausted. Tired of cooking, tired of thinking about cooking, tired of washing dishes. I have mostly gotten over that for now.

Some of the stuff I’ve made has been really good. Other stuff, only okay. I track it all in this Tumblr, where I add little notes about what I changed in the recipe, how everyone liked it, etc., so if you’re interested in my hits and misses, that’s the place to look.

Last night, I made ravioli with sage, walnut and spinach brown butter sauce. The recipe called for store-bought ravioli, which got me thinking– does it really count as a “homemade” meal if you buy the major ingredient? Does it matter? Are my expectations too high as far as my nightly dinner making goes? Am I crazy to want to try different recipes all the time, especially since it kind of stresses me out to have to get home and get dinner ready? Would it be wrong to pull out a frozen pizza once a week? It’s still eating at home, but it’s… not “real” cooking.

Does any of that even make sense?

It’s not a contest. It probably doesn’t matter in the scheme of things. But it’s something I have been thinking about a lot since I started cooking dinners.

Earlier this week, Mike was out of town and I had some veggies and an open jar of spaghetti sauce, so I decided I’d be lazy and we’d make pizzas on pita bread. Michaela was thrilled to get to top hers (she chopped up her olives so it looked like a spider), said it was the perfect amount of food, and she really enjoyed eating it. Maybe that should be enough?

Who knew dinner was so fraught with deep questions?!?

Only 1 Year Left

11 Oct

When I turned 35, I made a list of 40 things I wanted to do before I turn 40. I have been working on it little bit little, but there’s a lot to be done still. In fact, when I went through the list just after my birthday, I was feeling pretty good about crossing things off… until I realized that even with all the new stuff I’ve managed to accomplish, there are still 21 things left on the list to do!

Looks like it’s going to be a busy year…

#8

5 Oct

Mike and I got back from Mexico City on Sunday; Monday was my mom’s cancer procedure (short version: directing chemo right into the tumor, to shrink or kill it), which required an overnight hospital stay so I was with her Monday and Tuesday at the hospital; and Wednesday I was back at work, but offsite all day coordinating media stuff. Thursday was a normal day and then Friday, I flew to San Francisco for my 8th annual girls’ trip!

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I felt kind of bad turning around and being gone again (from work and from home) after being away so much, but we book the trip a year out, one of the girls just had a baby, and I really needed the time with my friends. The weekend flew by, between lounging and shopping and eating (hello, Slanted Door!) and meeting the baby (who is adorable). Only 51 weeks until we can do it again…

CDMX

5 Oct

When I studied in Mexico City, everyone called it “el DF,” for “el distrito federal,” or “the federal district.” You see, Mexico City is like Washington, DC, in that way. It’s the capital of the country, which is made up of sates (just like the good old U.S. of A.).

Now, though, it’s “CDMX.” Way hipper, more Instagram-friendly.

You can say that in some ways about the entire city. It’s changed a lot since I was there! Of course, it has been (gulp) nearly two decades!

Mike and I walked across the border and flew out of Tijuana. It was a snap, and the TJ airport has a VIP lounge we could access, so we waited for our flight in extra comfortable surroundings. We landed in CDMX about three and a half hours later and took an Uber to our Air BnB.

What an amazing thing Uber is! Plug in the exact address of where you want to go and then watch as your driver navigates there. No more being dependent upon a taxi driver who may or may not know where you’re going and who may or may not take the most direct way there.

In the city, we ate a lot and walked a lot. We had a nine-course dinner at Pujol, which is one of the top restaurants in the world and was absolutely amazing. We also ate at a place called Zefiro. It was a wonderful experience; the restaurant is in a former convent and everyone is a final-year culinary student. The food was really yummy and the girls who waited on us were so sweet, I wanted to take them home.

Mike got pick pocketed on the Metro. They stole his phone right out of his back pocket. Bastards!

We went out to the pyramids and climbed the Pyramid of the Sun. When I was in Mexico before, I went alone. It was more fun to go with Mike, who cheered me on as I hauled my now-middle aged ass up the giant pyramid.

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We saw the Diego Rivera murals at the national palace with a private guide because neither of us brought our ID and you can’t go in without one… unless you hire a guide.

We got caught in several thunderstorms. I’ve never heard it thunder so hard!

We went to several markets and saw everything from live goats to supplies for witchcraft to beautiful fruits and veggies.

It was really great. Our anniversary wasn’t  really on my radar with everything else that’s been going on, so the whole thing was an incredibly loving surprise. I’m a lucky girl!

Anniversary Surprise

16 Sep

The last few weeks won’t go down in anyone’s books as the best ever. We had a scare that my mom’s cancer had spread into her bones, but it looks like that’s not the case and so we’ll be moving forward with a type of targeted chemotherapy. My mom called me to let me know she’d made an appointment of Sept. 24 for the procedure, which requires 1-2 nights of hospitalization (depending on how she reacts to everything). I, in turn, let Mike know. And Mike replied asking if she could put it off by a day or two.

I was floored. What a rude, insensitive thing to ask! She has been dragging her feet about having any treatment and she goes ahead and does it and he asks if we can move it? For what? I looked at the calendar and he was set to be out of town, but I didn’t see what that had to do with the procedure.

“You’ll be out of town with me” he said.

“Huh?”

“It’s kind of a surprise. Do you want to know?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you sure?”

“YEAH.”

Well, as it turns out, Mike has been planning since July a trip for our 10th wedding anniversary. He worked with my secretary and my boss and his secretary to block three days on my calendar. He’s flying his mom and stepdad in to watch Michaela and he’s taking me to Mexico City for a five-day getaway.

I sat at my desk and cried as he told me all that. I feel like basically since the end of July, I’ve been triaging my life, just dealing with whatever was most important at that moment or on that day and letting everything else slide, including (especially) taking care of myself. So for him to have planned this trip — a trip to a place I love, that I’ve been telling him for 10 years I want to take him to, to show him where I lived and went to school — it was just so thoughtful and sweet.

And while I’d do anything for my mom, thinking we wouldn’t be able to go was a giant bummer, to say the least.

I told Mike I’d talk to my mom to see if she could move it by a day. When I called her, she said the scheduler had given her the option of Sept. 24 or sometime in October, so obviously we can’t move the appointment.

I was just about to call Mike back to tell him to cancel the plans, or to see if we could come home a day early, or I don’t know what, when he called me back to say he’d gotten the dates wrong and that we come back on Sept. 23, not the 24th, so nothing has to change at all: we can go on our trip and I can be here for my mom’s procedure!

I have spent the days since then floating on air, dreaming about our trip. I have to get through two days of work and then we’ll be off to CDMX, as people call it these days. I can’t wait!

Where to Begin?

4 Sep

Things have been insane since I last wrote.

It’s really too much to go into in detail, but the short version is, my work team has been operating at 50% capacity after one employee left and was out for a while so work has been extra busy; the house we bought needed a bunch of work; packing and moving all our stuff was a huge stressor; my mom was diagnosed with cancer and I’ve been taking her to a lot of medical appointments; and Michaela started third grade.

The good news, in no particular order, is– our new house is lovely (and will be even nicer once we’re able to fully unpack once we install floors in the two bedrooms and two living rooms downstairs). It has a hot tub and I’ve taken a couple of soaks to relax and decompress. The kitchen, our bedroom and bathroom, and Michaela’s bedroom and bathroom are unpacked, so now we can function in our daily lives. On the work front, the employee who had been out came back today and the process is underway to hire a replacement for the person who left. Michaela is rocking third grade. Her teacher said she’s “a fantastic student and an incredible helper. My mom is in good spirits, even if we don’t have a good sense yet of what her prognosis is.

I’m trying to look on the bright side of things.

Living Well

30 Jul

Michaela and I participated in our third Live Well San Diego 5K this weekend. It was super hard to wake up at the crack of dawn (we’d been out late the night before at a friend’s house) but we managed to make it on time for a team picture and then kick off the race. We finished in about an hour, which is pretty standard, and Michaela did very little complaining. The race people changed the course this year so it was much more along the water than down the middle of city streets, and I highly enjoyed that. All in all, it was a wonderful experience. I’m glad we have established this mother-daughter tradition!

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