Monday, July 27, 2015

You Know You're in California When...

Dear Diary,

Had a fabulous vacation this summer.  Flew to the West Coast and spent two weeks experiencing the many facets of California.

What a fascinating state!
From the mountains,
to the ocean,
to the valleys, dry and irrigated for orchards and vineyards,
I'd say the land was as diverse as the people who live there.
I know, Diary, I am so profound today!

But had the landscape not given me any clue -- say it was cornfields where ever I roamed -- there are other giveaways that would give me no doubt what state I was in by the end of the trip.

I shall share with the help of visual aids.

Giveaway #1 

While it is not a law for these toilet seat covers to be in public facilities,
apparently Californians take this potty perk very seriously.

With the exception of the hotels, these were in every public stall I "went" in
--and I frequented many. 
Was that too much information?

Universities, wineries, national parks,
restaurants, you name it, it had them:
lobster bib covers for the porcelain throne.
I don't know if the boys were so lucky.

Giveaway #2

California beaches are colorful, a people watcher's dream.  While I never got in the water to swim, I watched smart, strong people in wet suits brave the waves on their boards.  
The Pacific is cold. People in thongs don't go in the water.  
I don't think people in thongs can really DO much, anyway.  

Giveaway #3

Take a close look.

Here's a wider view....

 Maybe this view will help....
Thanks to

At one rental house near the coast we had artificial grass..."astro turf," i.e. The Brady Bunch backyard.

Substitute the swing set for the ping pong table and we could have had a set for Marsha and Peter to toss around a football. (No, Marsha, don't do it!!!)

I don't suppose most Californians have plastic grass, but I have to admit it makes for easy care: no watering or mowing.  A little sweep-sweep and you are ready for some putt-putt golf.  Only in Cali!

Giveaway #4

This is perhaps the biggest clue to the state.  Well, other than the obvious use of the word California.

California is in a severe drought, and is in an official Drought State of Emergency

We crossed bridges under which there was no lake or river, despite the optimistic/outdated display of blue on our GPS.
Every ranch, farm, orchard and vineyard was irrigated.
Hotels limited the pool and laundry use (to the chagrin of the children and this mom, respectively).
Restaurants served water only to those who asked.

"We're in a drought,"
"Because of the drought,"
prefaced many a conversation with a local.

Yes, CA is a beautiful place with a dark secret lurking beneath its surface. Just a scratch from those tourists paying attention will expose the ugly reality of a bone-dry, dusty, desperate land.
Yes, Diary, I am on a roll with the profound today.

We arrived home to a rain soaked state.  The wettest June on record, with more than normal rainfall already for July. Nature can be cruel.

And while I can't say that I experienced any earthquakes, I'm sure I felt a tremor while lying in my hotel bed in the early dawn of our first morning.  Or perhaps the vibration was a byproduct of a snoring husband. I was wearing ear plugs at the time. I'd rather hang on to the mystery of that moment than give in to the thought that there was a practical explanation for what I felt.

And those are just a few clues, Dear Diary, as to how you know you are in California.

Oh, and one more dead giveaway before I bail:


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Hulk and His Boy

Dear Diary,

I learned something from a child in a doctor's office waiting room.

A boy walked in with his father and sat down nearby.  IMG --inward mental groan!
I love kids, but I needed a break from little boys for the day.
(I work in a special ed preschool classroom. Need I say more?)

This boy was grasping an Incredible Hulk action figure, as well as a Batman and Robin duo.
He sat for a few minutes and watched as another boy about his age-- I would guess seven or eight-- entered the waiting room.  He perked up, walked over to this potential-to-be-a-new-friend stranger, and this is what I heard:

Hi, my name is Caleb, what is your name?


Hi Noah, will you be my friend and play with me?

     ~Sure! Mom, can I play with Caleb?

And they sat at the waiting room kid table and proceeded to orchestrate a Hulk-like pounding on poor Batman and Robin, chatting and sharing toys like they had known each other since at least kindergarten.

I smiled at this exchange and watched them in wonder.

Caleb made it look so easy: making friends.
And Noah's uncomplicated response -- no excuses or shyness or avoidance-- was such a surprise to me.
They played for about five minutes when Noah's mom called him to go.
But Caleb wasn't going to let him disappear out of his life so easily.
He skipped off with him, all the while bantering loudly,

Let's have a play date tomorrow!  
I'll give you my mom's number so you can call her and you can come to my house.  
It's ###-###-####.

Yes, he blurted his mom's phone number for all to hear.  It was awkwardly funny. And Noah's mom humored this stranger-now-turned-bff and thanked him for playing with her son.

I marveled at this exchange for multiple reasons.

First, I work with children whose interpersonal skills are nonexistent.  That these two boys could communicate their names and desires to each other in 20 seconds-- and then enjoy and share the toys together-- was jaw dropping considering what I see everyday in my work.

Second, I know that breaking the ice with a stranger is not easy for many people.
And here two children were living out the scenario with textbook precision.

Hi, my name is LJ.  Will you be my friend and play with me?

How many people do I encounter that are just waiting for an invitation like that?  For some folks like myself, it takes a bit of bravery to put themselves "out there" and ask a question like that.

Maybe I'm not a Caleb.
Maybe I'm more of a Noah, with an open heart, receptive to the call of others.

Yes! I'll play with you!  I'm so glad you asked, here's my number!

Is the world full of strangers, or potential playmates?
Caleb learned at a young age to ask this question, and he is having a ball finding out the answer.

Happy Summer!


Friday, March 27, 2015

I ♥ NY

Dear Diary,

They say New Yorkers are rude.
I didn't find them to be any ruder than dwellers from any other large city.
In fact, many were actually pleasant.
Let me reminisce.

The friendliness was apparent as soon as we made our way out of the airport to find a cab; many kind sirs asked if we wanted a ride.  So sweet! In fact many folks near the large tourist landmarks were more than happy to accommodate us for the sake of skipping the long lines or to give us a good deal.  How thoughtful!

After using the restroom in a restaurant, a server kindly got my attention as I made the trek back to my table: "Ma'am, you have a napkin stuck to the bottom of your shoe!"  Well, it was toilet paper, but only a couple squares, so of course out of gratitude I returned the favor and didn't correct him.

After taking pictures in front of the famous Tiffany's, we entered the hallowed building. As we took our first steps into the main floor, taking in the glass cases and dozens of well suited sales and security people, something crashed to the floor at our feet. Glass pieces and liquid Snapple seeped onto the tile while my mortified twelve-year-old turned beet red.  Immediately three or four well dressed men surrounded us assuring, "It's OK, we'll take care of it, don't worry about it."  See?  So kind!

While perusing Saks (Fifth Avenue, in case you want to reference it) my daughters and I decided to browse the shoe floor (yes, ladies, a whole floor devoted to shoes!).  As we roamed displays, gawking and pointing and comparing prices ($$ thousandssss), not one salesperson bothered us.  In fact, it was like we were invisible.  How did they know my three girls and I were "just looking" and didn't need to be bothered? Maybe my Clarks and our Vera Bradley bags were a giveaway.  Boy, they are good.

On our last day in the city, my daughter became visibly ill as we approached the ticket line for the observation deck of the Empire State Building.  A kindly security guard gave us all kinds of advice about "coming back tomorrow" or where to find the drug store for meds or the McD's across the street for ginger ale.  We opted for the ginger ale and a nap.  Here is my two-hour view while the three other family members went up to the 86th floor of the iconic Empire State building and my ill daughter slept in the booth next to me.  Nobody even kicked us out!  Such a nice town.

I do like the Big Apple for big city kicks, but I like town living best. 

Thanks for the memories, New York!