Alone Again Or

18 Oct

My mom didn’t have many good friends, but the ones she did have were dear to her. One of them, CJ, shared with my mom a love of music and many adventures, and my mom actually lived with CJ and her family for a bit in high school.

CJ and my mom kept in touch via occasional phone calls and more-frequent-than-calls emails. So when my mom died, I emailed CJ to let her know.

CJ, who lives in Utah, came to San Diego last week and invited me to dinner and to a concert by Love Revisited, the current version of the band she and my mom adored. It was a no-brainer to say yes (even if it was weird to go to an indoor concert).

Spending time with CJ was like being with my mom in a lot of ways. They have the same sense of style and some of the same mannerisms. It was a reminder of how much friends in our young adult years help shape who we become. At the same time, CJ made my mom — who was very… unconventional — seem pretty “normal” in some ways. (Let’s just say the late ’60s and ’70s were a tumultuous time and she has the stories to prove it.)

The show was fantastic. The band sounded great and, having grown up on the music (this song, “Alone Again Or” may be familiar to you), I was pleased to see people people enjoying and appreciating their legacy. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was very bittersweet. To be sitting there with my mom’s friend, not my mom, was hard. It will go down in the record books as the first concert at which I’ve cried.

September Milestones

26 Sep

I turned 42.

That’s actually not very exciting. It was a nice day, but nothing special. Mike took me out to breakfast, we opened gifts after Michaela was done at school, and then we divided and conquered — Mike and Michaela to her Scouts meeting and me to the parent-teacher foundation meeting. Very middle age.

Mike and I celebrated our wedding anniversary.

Lucky #13. We didn’t really do anything special.

We hit the one-year anniversary of my mom’s death.

Which was… okay? I worked, so it’s not like I spent the whole day being sad. In some ways, it feels like she died yesterday and in other ways, it feels like forever. My dad and brother aren’t really inclined to do thinks as a family, so we observed the occasion separately.

We finished Route 66!

Well, kind of. Technically, Route 66 goes from Chicago to Santa Monica. This summer we started in western Missouri, so haven’t done Illinois or eastern/central Missouri. We stopped the route in Barstow (CA) and drove home, planning to do the San Bernardino-to-Santa Monica part in the car (because who wants to drive through LA traffic towing a 30-foot-long Airstream?).

This month, we made it happen. Michaela had a day off school so we made a long weekend of it. It was lovely. We went through Claremont (where I went to college) and visited some of my old haunts. We stayed on the beach in Venice. We walked our feet off in Santa Monica. Definitely my favorite milestone this month.

Well Underway

6 Sep

Michaela’s first week of 6th grade was a complete success.

After some hiccups, we were able to get pick up her uniforms. She looked adorable on the first day (complete with lip gloss… because apparently middle school is when a desire to wear makeup starts), decked out in a skort and logo polo and new shoes.

She made a new friend, with whom she’s been eating lunch and hanging out before and after school.

She likes her teachers and we haven’t heard any complaints about classes being boring.

Heck, she even had good things to say about school lunch!

Mike and I were very sure of our choice to send her to a local charter school, even though Michaela wasn’t very excited about it. At the end of the first day, I asked if it was better than, worse than, or the about what she expected. She said it was better. And I count that as a win.

My favorite story from the first week comes from Mike, who picked her up on the third or fourth day of school. He pulled up and held up the little sign we were given to indicate which kid is ours. The staffer at pick up started to radio for Michaela but then looked around and saw Michaela and directed her to the car. This person, who sees every kid getting picked up, knew our kid by face and name after only a few days. Then, the PE teacher came by, saw Michaela, and told Mike, “Michaela told me about her Scouts fitness requirement. We’ve got a plan and are going to take care of it.” Again– this PE teacher is the coach for the whole school and knew who Michaela was and could point to something specific they’d talked about and how they are going to work together to help Michaela meet a goal.

That’s part of why Mike and I picked a school that has 400 kids instead of 1,100. We wanted our kid to be known by name, strengths, and needs. So far, so good!

Pop Quiz

28 Aug

I interviewed Michaela when she was 5 and when she was 10, and now, two days before she starts middle schools, we gave it another go.

How old are you? I’m 22.

How old are you really: 11. But I feel 22!

What’s your favorite color? I like teal and mustard yellow.

Who’s your best friend? I don’t know.

What’s your favorite snack? Ummmmm…. I’m a fan of sour cream and onion Ruffles, but I don’t eat them more often. A More plausible snack is Ruffles.

Where would you like to go to on vacation? Hawaii, if there were fewer COVID restrictions.

Why Hawaii? Because it looks really beautiful and I want to go to a really clear beach.

What’s your favorite toy? I don’t have a favorite toy. I like making crafts, though.

What’s your favorite thing to wear? I like my oversized mustard yellow t-shirt with white polka dots.

Who’s your favorite Disney princess? I don’t have a favorite Disney princess, but I can name my favorite teen sitcom.

Okay, then. What’s your favorite teen sitcom? Bunk’d Season 2. And only season 2.

What’s your favorite book? Starring Sally J. Friedman as Herself.

Which is your favorite myth? Like Greek? I gotta say Hercules. And my favorite of his tasks is when he kills the nine-headed snake by dipping his arrows in poison.

What’s your favorite song? Maybe “Wonder” by Shawn Mendes or “Better When I’m Dancing” by Megan Trainor.

What’s something you’re really good at doing? Tripod handstands. Also drawing cats. But not drawing cats while I’m doing tripod handstands.

What’s your favorite thing to do outside? Walk to the park. Also do cartwheels.

What’s your favorite restaurant? I don’t go to restaurants anymore. [Due to COVID] But previously, I was a fan of Souplantation. Before they closed.

What’s your favorite game? Like what kind of game? I’m a fan of Sorry!

Who do you love? My family.

Why? Because they raised me. Paid for me to squat at their house. As an unemployed minor, I can just live here. I don’t have to pay taxes. I don’t have to pay them for WiFi. I get free food.

What do you love about Dad? I like his snuggles and his life lessons. He’s kind of like Dad Brady, you know, when he calls you down to his office and has a talk with you. You know, like on the Brady Bunch?

What do you love about Mom? I love your kindness and all the niceness and letting me live at your house and your snuggles, and letting me sleep on the floor. [Note: I added this question because last night, Michaela pointed out I didn’t ask about myself. So today I did, but I should have asked this question when she was in a better mood because this was a little bit of a half-hearted answer. The “sleep on the floor” part refers to something we did on Friday night, when she said her room was hotter than our room, which has very plush carpet and where she managed to grab a full 10 hours of sleep!]

What makes you happy? Laughing at my own jokes. Talking to my friends. Playing on the play structure with my friends.

‘Tween-i-ness

15 Aug

When I was younger — can’t remember if I was a ‘tween or a teen, but somewhere in there — I said something smart to my mom, who grabbed me by the chin and said, in a low, angry voice, “Let me tell you something, little girl.” I can’t remember what words came after that, but I know it was an epic take-down (like this but mother-to-daughter).

Years after that, we’d laugh about the incident. I never understood what would make my mom do that. But today, as the mother of a sassy ‘tween, I understand. I feel it in my bones.

Got Our Kicks

9 Aug

The one thing I left out of my summer wrap-up was a biggie: our long-awaited Route 66 road trip!

We bought our Airstream nine years ago. And for those years, it’s been used as a guest bedroom and, well, as a piece of driveway décor. We hadn’t ever taken it out as a travel trailer!

In 2019, Mike started planning for an epic Route 66 road trip to take place in summer 2020. We all know how that turned out. (Thanks, COVID.) So we made 2021 our year.

Mike worked really hard to get the Airstream ready. He worked on the power system and singlehandedly installed a new air conditioner so we’d be comfortable as we made our way across the southwest. He bought a special trailer hitch and system for stabilizing the whole rig. Mike also did a ton of planning, mapping out how many miles to go each day, having a general idea for where to stay, etc.

And then it was time to go. Mike and Michaela drove off on July 10, all 48 feet of them (26-ft.-long Airstream, the 3-ft-long hitch, and the 19-ft.-long truck). They covered about 175 miles each day, braving windstorms and thunderstorms and heat, and having a great time together. I flew to Tulsa, OK on July 15 and they picked me up at the airport (if you’ve never seen a big truck truck towing an Airstream pull up at the Arrivals gate, you’re missing out!). We then drove to Mike’s dad and stepmom’s house, where we spent a few days with them and Mike’s brothers and their families.

Our Route 66 trip began in earnest on July 19, when we headed northeast to Carthage, MO. Route 66 stretches from Chicago, IL to Santa Monica, CA, but we knew we weren’t going to do the whole thing. That being said, from where Mike’s dad lives in OK, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to Kansas and Missouri, which would let us cross two more Route 66 states off our list.

Route 66 was largely bypassed when I-40 was built, and the route was officially decommissioned decades ago, but there’s still a lot to see and do along the road. We went through small towns and a few big cities (Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque to name a few). We met lovely, super friendly people. We stayed in RV campgrounds, which I ended up really liking even though I wasn’t sure at first that I would. And we had lots of great together time!

A few stories:

We (well, *I*) decided before our trip that we (*I) wanted to come up with a hashtag for the trip. We tossed around some ideas, but when Michaela declared she wanted to name the Airstream “The Buff,” the decision became very clear: #WatsonsInTheBuff. I explained “double entendre” to Michaela, who was mortified that I would consider making the name of our trip something that also means “naked” but I persisted.

Mike’s part of a Route 66 Facebook group and posted pix of our trip in the group as we made our way across the country. At one point, we pulled up across the street from the Milburn-Price Culture Museum in tiny Vega, TX (pop. 884). A man walked out as we stepped onto the museum grounds and says, “Are you Mike Watson and family?” “Yes,” we answered. “We are. How’d you know?” “I’ve been following your trip on Facebook. We figured you’d get here today.” We were then treated to a lovely conversation, full of facts about the museum’s holdings and also a recommendation for delicious pie at the Mid Point Café (located halfway along the route, as you’d expect from the name).

I love free maps and literature. Love them. So at the state line in New Mexico, I of course grabbed a “Route 66 New Mexico” book so I could learn about what was ahead of us. In the book, I read about Watsons Bar-B-Que in Tucumcari and knew we needed to stop. We’re Watsons! It’s bar-b-que! There were pix of signs with cheeky sayings on them! We did and in spite of the fact that they were closing for the day, the owner Jimmy Watson was just as kind as could be. He made us heaping plates of his delicious food, chatted us up about town and our adventures, and was just all around great. There was one other customer in the store, who I ended up talking to and who was trying to sell me on moving to Tucumcari (nice people, low cost of living, everyone knows everyone so very safe). So it was extra hilarious that we ran into him at the store an hour or so later when we stopped for ice for our cooler. “Hey, Watsons,” he exclaimed. Small down indeed.

When we got to Santa Fe, we spent a couple of days hanging out with Mike’s mom and stepdad, who drove down to meet us and take Michaela back to Colorado with them for a few days. Then Mike and I made our way back home, just the two of us, skipping a bit of the route we’d done before and couldn’t do because of size restrictions on trailers (and skipping the boring part between the AZ border and San Bernardino). It was a great way to ease back into work after three weeks off (Mike) and two weeks off (me).

We need to do the Chicago to Carthage, MO part of the Route, and the San Bernardino to Santa Monica part. Another adventure for another day!

Catching Up

9 Aug

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted an update, but things have been good!

Michaela finished out her 5th grade year in homeschool. She and Mike did a great job teaching and learning, growing together and finding ways to make homeschool work. In fact, Michaela did so well that she tested into honors math at her new middle school!

Still we were all excited when the school year ended and it was time for summer. In June and July, in particular, the public health situation was improving and schools were out, so I could finally catch my breath on the work front. Michaela got to spend more time with friends. And once Mike got through an extremely busy graduation season (he livestreamed dozens of graduations in Los Angeles County), he was able to slow down, too.

Mike’s mom came to visit and she, Michaela, and I treated ourselves to a luxurious, long weekend near Palm Springs. We stayed at the La Quinta Resort, a Waldorf Astoria property that I love. It’s a beautiful spot with something like 50 pools and a handful of restaurants on property. It was HOT so we spent a lot of time in the pool. We also spent a day at Joshua Tree, which was gorgeous, and went into Palm Springs for milkshakes.

Mike and Michaela spent a week at an archaeological dig on Mt. Palomar. A local archaeology professor was conducting field school with his student, digging at the home of San Diego’s first African American homesteader. They had a great time and Michaela, at the ripe old age of 11, was able to dig with the college students. I got to go up on the final day of the dig to be part of a ceremony (held on Juneteenth this year) and it was so moving and impactful. A truly memorable experience.

Michaela also went to her first sleepaway camp this summer! She has been really involved in BSA (formerly Boy Scouts) and went with her troop to a camp in the mountains. She had a blast! Really good experience being independent and spending time with her friends, building her scouting skills, and more. She came back talking about what she wants to do next year.

And Michaela did a week of surfing camp! In Intro to Sailing, she learned the basics. She already knew some knots that are used in sailing thanks to BSA; now she also knows about the parts and pieces of a sailboat and has actually taken a small boat out into the bay all by herself. I, as a non-swimmer and non-boater, was super impressed. Mike has big plans for the two of them to go out sailing (and has been looking at sailboats, although I’m not ready for that yet).

There were lots of other smaller things, too. Michaela did pottery camp and she’s continued her gymnastics classes. We went shopping for school uniforms, since her middle school requires them. We’re trying to soak up the remaining weeks of summer, which includes zoo camp and a week of intermediate sailing camp.

Mother’s Day 2021

9 May

Today has been bittersweet.

Mike and Michaela made me a delicious breakfast and showered me with gifts. We went for a four-mile hike in the national park. And except for the uphill climb at the end of the hike, which kicked my out-of-shape butt, it was really, really nice.

Another favorite part of my day has been hearing from, and connecting with, many friends. My friends are pretty amazing people! They make my life so much more rich.

Of course, I was missing my mom today. This morning I found myself looking through my Google Photos, trying to find a picture of me, Michaela, and my mom. Turns out, I don’t have one. Not a single picture of just the three of us.

Still. I was lucky enough to have my mom for 41 years and I have lots of other great moms in my life, including two (!) mothers-in-law. And every day brings the chance to be a good mom to Michaela. She’s a very special person; I must be doing something right!

Civil Discourse

7 Apr

Excerpts of messages I’ve gotten over the last week from people who disagree with a policy decision my workplace has made:

“What an upside down cesspool you live in.”

“You people don’t know anything about the Constitution.”

“A communication spokesman-type person possessing well developed skills is sorely in absentia” [Note: I am the spokesperson]

“You need to lose your job.”

“Your organization is a pathetic failure, and so are you as ‘officials.’ Resign NOW.”

“You disguist [sic] me.”

“You are full of shit.”

“You are as disgusting as they get.”

“You must truly hate our country… Communist traitors.”

“Add Music Watson to the enormous list of disgusting San Diego toilet fish… You’re a freaking disgrace.”

“You are useless pieces of shit. Fuck you.”

“Tone deaf lazy fucks… You people suck dick, unAmerican [sic] pieces of human shit… You people are fucking lazy, stupid and retarded… FUCK YOU and eat SHIT and DIE motherfuckers.. Dick sucking, pig snout fucking trash.”

Aren’t people lovely?

Six Months

20 Mar

My mom died six months ago today.

I usually track it Sunday-to-Sunday, since she died on a Sunday. It was 24 weeks last week and in the ensuing week, I sort of lost track of the date. But this morning, I looked at the “on this day” feature of Facebook. There was a post from many moons ago today noting that it was my six-month wedding anniversary, and then I remembered. Sept. 20, our wedding anniversary. Sept. 20, the day my mom died. March 20, six months after that date.

I miss her.