What is it about California?

Ok. I’ve lived in a lot of places and visited even more. I’ve been a long time Arizona resident and other than the center of the universe “Phoenix” most of the state is rather rural in feel. Even Tucson tries to put out a small town vibe, rather unsuccessfully, considering a population of a million people in the greater Tucson area.

It usually takes a couple of days to get the feel for a place. A visit to neighborhood grocery store, home grown eatery or the post office and you will absorb a bit of the local color and style. Find a place with locals, make friends and you will be given the low-down on who they are, what they are about and where they go for fun. I enjoy delving into each place and trying to feel a part of it. It is what I love best about travel.

But California, I don’t quite get it. I have been to southern California often. I have been to San Francisco and through Sacramento as well as the Yosemite area and Lassen Peak region. California is different.

I have been trying to put my finger on the feel I get when I am here and it is elusive.

It feels fast and easy, but intense and relaxed. The people feel friendly but also reserved. Sometimes I can blend in but then I will observe one of those humans who look perfectly put together, beautiful or handsome with a well made face and body. They usually get into a Range Rover, BMW or Mercedes. It is the stereotypical California resident based on TMZ and the Kardashians.

People drive everywhere, and I mean everywhere. The freeways are not for going places fast. Don’t even try it. The freeways are primarily for moving a massive amount of vehicles in one direction toward a destination. No one expects to get anywhere very quickly. Locals use surface streets much more.

I am sometimes blown away at the parking. It literally looks as though someone said “there are no trees here so lets make a parking lot.” Another item that strikes me is the way two or three blocks of homes look straight out of Home and Garden and the next block looks abandoned or has a many years old commercial property with nail salons, liquor stores and a Starbucks.

Maybe it’s being near the beautiful coast or the proximity to the narcissism of Hollywood which plays with the feel of this place. Whatever it is it a tangible thing but not too well defined.

It is welcoming, but laughs at your unsophisticated ignorance.



Little Humans

Little humans crack me up. At least most of them. Once they can verbally communicate all bets are off!

I was leaving Wal-Mart this morning and this family passed me. Mom and Dad and two kids. The daughter looked about ten and the son was probably around five. The thing I noticed was this little guy was talking a-mile-a-minute. Mom would look back quickly and reply and the dad, who was walking next to the little fella, was listening to the happy chatter.

Little fella was explaining something and his expression and rapidly moving hands told as much as his high-pitched words. He was captivating in his efforts to express himself to the older members of his family. I wanted to turn and follow so I could hear more of this interesting human.

Another time I was having dinner with some friends who had their grandchildren with them. It took all of fifteen minutes and the questioning by the two oldest began. What was humorous and interesting were their candid questions and their mature responses relating their own experiences to my answers.

Forget the grownups, these guys were more fun.

At a wedding recently I started a conversation with my seven-year old niece. I was so charmed by her conversation and the way she leaned in to speak to me, the way an adult does when caught up in the interaction, I wanted it to go on. She expressed herself wonderfully.

One aspect I have noted is the mimicry involved in conversing with little humans. I can’t count how many times the parental influence comes through in their words or expressions. An aside here is I have also encountered a lack of this same aspect in little humans. I don’t claim to know why this happens and it may be natural shyness in some. Yet, it seems that most children are by nature gregarious and curious.

They are wondrous creatures. A blank canvas waiting for inspiration from those around them and a unrecorded video waiting for their story to be imprinted.

It is an awesome and righteous responsibility. What we communicate to them is what they will give to society.

I hope little fella was allowed to tell his story with acceptance and respect.


What is family?

I was at a wedding this past weekend.

It was my nephew and his new bride. They are a loving and precious couple and the celebration was exceptional. Everyone’s joy at the joining of this couple was obvious. As is typical now days there were parents and step-parents. Lots of siblings, cousins both full blood, half and step relations. There were lots of those by marriage and intimate long time friends.

As I watched the interaction of all those present, brought together by love for the couple I took the time to observe the attachments. My nephew’s long time best friend was his best man. I have known this young man and remember his connection to my family. There was no difference in the way he was treated and accepted as family. It was the same familial love and attachment that the families showed to all of the others.

Cousins by marriage are the same as cousins born into the family. Aunts and uncles by blood or marriage are drawn in, given the same love and respect. My new niece’s daughter is as much a part of the family as their little son together. She is my niece. No questions.

Everyone made a supreme effort to celebrate the wedding, to honor the marriage and have a great time together. This is probably the one time most of us from both sides of the aisle will be all together and made it important to be united. We did it by laughing, dancing, toasting and enjoying the event.

I am proud of my family-all of them. They are mine and I am theirs.

One side note, my husband really likes fireball shots!


Role reversal

For many years I have been unhappy with the way I looked. Specifically my weight. My husband has always been supportive and loves me no matter what. I was good at making excuses and there were so many times he would encourage me to be more active, but I was a typical overweight person who would jump into exercising for a few days and then would let stress, life etc. give me the excuse to stop.

I would talk about how much I walked at work (a big facility) or I would say I was cutting back on calories (except at work) and justify my laziness. I remember my sister telling me to just make goals and go for it.

She was living in California and not working at the time and was losing and toning daily. I was jealous of her free time and envious of her daily routine. She was dropping the pounds and looking great. I was not. By the time she moved back to Phoenix she was so skinny, tan and beautiful. I was truly happy for her and she really did look wonderful. I didn’t look so great.

I knew my co-workers made the time for fitness and I also knew they were just as busy as me, so what was my problem.  Solution-I was lazy.

Skip to now.

My husband’s work in North Dakota has made it possible for me to “retire” and after months of not working and being a couch potato I was packing on more weight. I would do energetic things here and there like riding my bike or taking walks but not with any consistency. My brain just wasn’t interested. After living in North Dakota for about seven months in a nice and fairly large RV I returned to our Tucson home. The RV is in storage and I was back home. Still not working except for blogging and working on a couple of writing projects, I began to become rather reclusive. I cleaned my house, easy without messy hubby there and didn’t go anywhere. It was nice but not necessarily healthy physically or mentally.

I needed motivation.

About two months ago my niece asked if I wanted to come as her guest to the gym she goes to with her family. I thought why not? I’m not a gym rat and never have been but I like doing the weight training. The gym was not huge (no pool or spa) but was really comfortable and welcoming. I saw several other women who looked just like me-ok I can do this. I really had a good time especially being with my niece and nephew. They were encouraging and before I knew it I had been there an hour and had broke a small sweat.

I went back with her a couple more times. I talked to my husband about joining and bringing him as my guest as she had done with me and he agreed!  This began a transformation for me. Initially I was going into the gym every other day for an hour. I had an “aha” moment when the lure of the local state park walking trails attracted me and began my alternating the gym and the park. Yes-I was going everyday!

I have only missed three days in the 4-5 weeks.

My husband works two weeks on and two weeks off, so he flies down here for the two weeks off. We have really enjoyed doing my exercise routine together.  We each have our gym thing we like and are exploring more outdoor trails and pushing the limits. It has become routine for me and I am realizing the effects of my efforts in pound and inches.

I have quite a way to go but my brain has quit fighting and started to embrace this new lifestyle.

Now I am encouraging my sister, who is working way too many hours at her job she loves, is becoming a bit stressed out and has gained a few pounds back.

Role reversal.