Sunday, July 21, 2013

Change in a Heartbeat


Just two weeks ago I had so many stressors in my life that I had started taking an herbal remedy called “Happy Camper” in an effort to maintain my equilibrium. I was panicked about my finances, a heavy workload with my grant writing, an elderly friend diagnosed with lung cancer and his wife, and challenges related to family car and medical issues. I feel humbled by the swift transformation of my circumstances.

When Ron and I went on a vacation to SoCal, I consciously put my worries on hold in order to enjoy a long-anticipated family gathering. This time last week I was in Laguna Niguel, where Akili and Tina live. Ron, Sudi, and I flew down from NorCal. Yael drove from L.A. My dad joined us after delivering a paper at a math conference in San Diego. We arrived on Thursday evening and went out to eat at a B.J.s Restaurant near our hotel. Ron and I indulged in gluten-free pizza and gluten-free beer. I also had a scrumptious Mediterranean Salad and Ron had one of his favorite treats, a B.J.s gluten-free hot chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream. We sat at a table where I could (surprisingly) hear most of the conversation. It was a perfect family dinner. Afterward I went to Akili and Tina’s apartment where I met their kittens, Jazzy and Rooka, for the first time. The kittens (now 11 months old) are adorable and entertainingly playful (climbing the walls chasing their laser light red dot). Akili and Tina were excited to show them off to us (so sweet).

On Friday we went to a spectacular beach, where I took a walk with Dad (saw a sandpiper) and watched my two magnificent sons swim far out into the waves (as only a doting mother can). After showering off at the hotel, I went on an excursion to the grocery store with Sudi and we bought food for dinner, which I then cooked at Akili and Tina’s apartment. It was Shabbat so I lit candles and Dad and I led the Kiddush over the wine and the blessing over the bread (Mom’s spirit hovered). During dinner Akili said he was seriously thinking of flying me down to SoCal once a month to cook for him (best compliment a Jewish mom could receive). After dinner we stayed up late drinking an excellent Malbec and playing a wild and racy game called Cards Against Humanity for Horrible People, now popular among 20-somethings. Yael tweeted photographs of the cards we played throughout. We played down to the end of the deck and the kids thought it was a riot that Grandpa won (he and Tina actually tied for choosing the most “favorite” answers). We laughed so hard. Akili is threatening to buy the expansion pack for the game and to bring it home at Christmas. I’m in!

On Saturday we took a walk around a lovely pond near Akili’s apartment. Afterward Yael and I hung out for a bit at the pool at the hotel. In the evening we went to Tina’s parents’ gorgeous new retirement house in Dana Point for a delicious barbecue (loved the view of the sunset). On Sunday we ate a big brunch at one of Akili and Tina’s favorite Mexican restaurants. We then said farewell to Sudi and Yael, who returned home. (Yael dropped Sudi off at the airport on her way back to L.A.) My dad and I took a long stroll around a nearby air-conditioned shopping mall where he scored a free demonstration massage. Back at the apartment, the five of us played a cut-throat game of Scrabble and Grandpa won again (I was ahead in points when he went out and I had to subtract my remaining tiles so he beat me. Drat!) In the evening Akili bought us dinner at a restaurant near the ocean in Dana Point, where we sat outside and enjoyed a cool breeze. The lemon vinaigrette on my salad was sensational. Having one of my children actually treat us to a nice dinner was a first and I was surprised at how much I appreciated it. Akili was proud of himself for being able to pick up the tab (now that he is making good money at his job as a web developer). Tina drove us by the house in which she grew up because she wanted us to see it.

After Ron and I landed in Oakland on Monday we drove to Sudi’s apartment, where I had a chance to admire the progress of his little backyard urban garden (I wrote about it in May when we planted it), which is really taking off. We went to dinner at an extraordinary Ethiopian restaurant with Sudi and his girlfriend (whom we met for the first time; it had bothered me that we had not met her yet and that bother was put to rest). She is a lovely woman who is going into her senior year studying film and animation at CCA.

I returned home from my vacation feeling relaxed and calm. My children are thriving. My aging father is still in good health and I appreciate having had another opportunity to spend time with him. This week we moved forward with the process of modifying our mortgage, which will help us manage our debt, so I am not as stressed out about my finances. One of my grant writing jobs was suddenly terminated; and I will get paid for the hours I have worked, which will improve my financial situation for the coming month plus I am relieved to have my work load become much more manageable. My friend with the lung cancer is recovering from a successful surgery in which the entire tumor was removed and his prognosis looks good. Yael and I discussed her car problem while relaxing poolside and we have a plan for sorting things out. The medical problems that concerned me were related to Ron’s health and he has made significant inroads in addressing them after visits to a couple of his doctors.

Stepping outside my day-to-day grind, going to the ocean (always healing and rejuvenating), and spending time with my wonderful children and my dad no doubt contributed to my improved state of mind. I would not go so far as to say that all my worries have vanished, but I am most definitely resting easier and coping better. I have backed off on the Happy Camper pills. I’m on a natural camping happy for now. It amazes me the way everything can change in a heartbeat. So this afternoon you will find me juicing apples from our prolific tree and canning some of our abundant peaches. Dinner tonight? Pesto made from homegrown basil. It’s all good. I wonder what awaits me around the next corner.

Some photos from our vacation.

 Sudi, Tina, Akili, Yael, Tina's brother Bryan.
 Dad with the kittens.
 My sons at the beach.
Me and my hubby chilaxing at Tina's parent's house.

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