I debated whether to blog this trip and once I decided to, I wondered whether or not I could possibly call it a Virtual Vacation. This is clearly not going to be an exotic armchair adventure in Bali or a Scottish adventure or a travelogue through Mexico. It’s going to be a journey into old age in America. My partner Karyn and I are taking my elderly mother to Florida for one last visit to see her last surviving sibling, her sister Esther. It’s certainly much more of a mission of mercy than a vacation, but I am tired of compartmentalizing my life—the entertaining, exciting parts, the seductive lure of worldwide traveler, me as the adventurer, and me as the daughter, me as the last remaining lifeline for my aging mother. This trip is going to be an exploration of the lines where duty ... [Continue Reading]
My brother and I packed up my mother’s mobile home, #94 at DeAnza Mobile Home Park, in three days. We cleaned it out three weeks after I’d brought Mom in for a “trial” at Sunshine Villa, a trial I knew would last the rest of her life, if we were lucky. If we weren’t lucky, she could end up somewhere far, far worse.
Mom didn’t know that she was leaving her home for the last time. Because a month-long trial was all she could agree to. But in her case a month might as well have been a year. Her sense of time—except for the eternal now—and the far past, especially around the 1940’s—is pretty much ... [Continue Reading]
In preparing to lead the Coming Home retreat in November with my partner Karyn Bristol, I’ve been waking up in the early morning to reread one of my all-time favorite books: Sabbath by Wayne Muller. My copy is dog-eared and yellowed with many highlights, notes in the margins, the corners turned down. Every time I pick it up and read even a paragraph or two from its musty pages, my breath deepens and the tight places in my chest relax.I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this weekend retreat. It has a very different ... [Continue Reading]
I was going to post the final segment of my posts on marketing, but this piece was much more immeidate for me this month, and so I decided to post this one instead. I remember Mom standing at the top of steps on her little landing outside her back door. We were leaving DeAnza Mobile Home Park, her home for the past four years. I knew that she might be leaving for the very last time, but in her mind, she was just spending the night at my house and then going for a month-long trial, to check out Sunshine Villa, a classy assisted living place up above the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz. (Why do they give homes for old people names like that? Sunshine Villa? Really? Though I suppose Sunshine Villa is a lot better than Twilight Manor, one of the assisted living places on Chanticleer I pass every ... [Continue Reading]
I have spent the last three months creating a book to honor my mother for her 85th birthday. I began by emailing our whole extended family, reaching out to my mother's old and new friends, to anyone who had been connected to her through her long life spent acting, storytelling, folk dancing, traveling and always being a "people person." I asked people to send me a photograph of themselves, as well as any photos they had of her. And as the responses came in, the project grew and grew and grew until I had to create two volumes-one filled of family history and family memories and the other, focused on her ... [Continue Reading]
There was once a hundred year old man. Everyone who met him marveled at his vitality and the vibrancy of his mind. He radiated joy and people wanted to be near him. When asked the secret of his long and happy life, he replied, “When I turned fifty, I was determined to find a way to stay youthful and young at heart, so I decided that every five years, I would study something new.” And so every five years, this man embraced a new activity and poured his energy into it, letting the joy of learning lead him in a new, surprising direction.
I don’t know what he chose to study, but let’s imagine what his trajectory might have been: fencing at 55, sailing at 60, Indonesian at 65. At 70, gourmet cooking. At 75, Shakespeare. At 80, a pair of knitting needles. It ... [Continue Reading]
I got this hair-brained idea last summer that I wanted to learn a language. It all started when I went to Paris with my daughter, who happily chattered her way through Paris cafes and department stores, through the Uzes market negotiating for AOC goat cheese and brightly colored napkins, ordering the bits of duck we cooked on a grill at our table outdoors in the plaza in front of our glorious, sun-drenched apartment. There she was, petite and lanky and gorgeous, perfectly dressed and coiffed in that casual but perfect teenage way she has, ordering le chocolat chaud and canard-being told everywhere what a great accent she had-while I couldn't even ask where the bathroom was.
It’s been so many years since I’ve taken a summer vacation that I can’t remember the last time I took one. Why now, you might wonder. Why now, when my kids are almost launched—Eli heading off to college in August and Lizzy rounding the bend into 10th grade—am I finally taking a whole summer off? Why didn’t I do it when my kids were younger, when they really needed me? Why did I keep working? Keep writing? Keep producing? Keep teaching? Because I thought I had to. Because I was a breadwinner. Because I was afraid to stop. I didn’t know how to say no.
But now I must. I must say it loudly and repeatedly. I must keep saying it to myself and to everyone around me, but most especially to myself. Something in my midlife, sandwich generation, ... [Continue Reading]
This is one of the pieces I wrote at the “Two Things I Love Best” food-writing retreat. The prompt was, “Tell me about something you were scared to eat. I was living in Ketchikan, Alaska at the time. 13 feet of rain a year. Yes, 13 feet. Not 13 inches, 13 feet. That’s 156 inches a year, twice the precipitation of Seattle.
There were dozens of kinds of rain in Ketchikan: the misty rain that was ever present, except on very rare sun days, the soft gentle rain that we disregarded completely as we walked through town, played softball at midnight in the fading summer sun, or trolled for salmon out on the Tongass Narrows. Then there was the rain that got your attention--the pelting rain storm that slammed you as you struggled to walk ... [Continue Reading]