Thursday, September 13, 2012

In the eye of the Beholder

In the months leading up to our move to Monterey, all anyone could tell us was how beautiful it would be, how breathtaking, beautiful, amazing, beautiful, stunning, and...beautiful. No specifics, just gushing over the beauty.

Now, I will admit, after the long drive cross-country, that first glimpse of the sapphire blue Pacific was mesmerizing, but I have lived on every coast our country has to offer throughout my life; what would make this different? How was this coastal gem going to outshine the arctic island of Ketchikan, the sun-drenched coast of San Diego or the stormy Outer Banks of North Carolina?

After less than a month of exploring and drinking in the sights of Monterey, I have this to report - it is beautiful. Quietly and uniquely beautiful. Monterey is not its flashy cousin to the south. This is no brassy blonde, lipsticked, slow-running silicone pageant queen. Neither is it its sister to the north; no Earth Mother, hemp-skirted, swaying Phish fan. Monterey is the quiet one, unaware of its own beauty, content in its individuality, blissfully removed from the stereotypes of its desperate cousins.

Ice Plant, Pacific, Monterey Bay
Ice Plant covering dunes
Monterey is a unique environment, the desert meets the coast here. Succulents cover beach sand dunes, fog creeps through the pine trees, the deep blue of the bay hides secrets we can only imagine. Otters play keep-away with sea gulls, seals and sea lions jockey for position at the best sunning spots, bobcats eye deer at watering holes, all while pelicans soar over pods of whales feeding in that legendary deep blue water.

Fog, Coast, Monterey
Coastal Fog in Monterey
The environment here is not completely hospitable in the opinion of this misplaced Texan. It is chilly, the omnipresent fog brings with it a cool dampness that creeps into every pore. The formidable Monterey Canyon stretches for 95 miles and extends 2 miles below sea level, this chasm, though unseen beneath the waves, plays a significant role in the bay and land that it touches.  The icy waters of the deep chill the air and creep up in the enveloping fog. But that cloudy mist lends a magical hush to this landscape. Looking up to the Santa Cruz Mountains, covered as they often are in a thick white haze, one can easily dream of faraway lands and faraway times.

So yes, when asked about Monterey I will answer that it is indeed, quite simply, beautiful.

Pelicans in Monterey Bay

Otters, Monterey, Monterey Bay
Wild Otters in Monterey Bay
Sea Lions sunning on the rocks
Deer at Pacific Grove Golf Course

Bobcat in Monterey County

Friday, July 2, 2010

Step 1: There is no Step 1

I am a planner. I like my plans; they are (somewhat) well thought out & create little pockets of safety in an otherwise chaotic universe. Just about everyone I know has “a plan” regarding any number of issues & subjects in their life. The funny thing is, I don’t know anyone who as actually gotten all the way through one perfectly from A to B. Do you know why? Because God thinks our plans are “cute” & has big belly laughs every time we come up with one.

Now sometimes, I’ll admit, I sidetrack myself. For instance keeping up with this blog, I have every best intention! I compose paragraphs in my head all day on multiple subjects. I even have notes voice recorded in my phone! But as soon as the laptop opens, I become dazzled by one website or another that I’m just going to “check real quick!” Before you know it, hours have passed & all I’ve accomplished is learning the details of what Amber Rose is wearing in London today.

However, more often than not, it’s the universe working against me, most recently in the form of my cherubic 1-yr old fairy god-daughter. I was very clear with her, no pooping while Aunt Christine is in charge. None. I could almost hear God in her giggle & then, that foul odor wafted up. Oh the joy in her sweet little face as she attempted a bare-butt leap to freedom off the changing table while I gagged over the Diaper Genie. Needless to say, that plan did not work as well as her high-fiber breakfast.

But other plans are more important to the grander goal than just making it through babysitting without puking on the actual baby. For instance, I have a specific financial plan with a specific end goal. I did everything right in planning this one; I hit all the SMART bullet points (although I forget what the “R” stands for?). Then, there went the rug, right from under me & my carefully calculated spreadsheet. I’ve seen this happen time & time again to myself & friends alike. “We’ll have a baby after we buy a house.”, “I believe marriage is forever.”, “He’s got shore duty; finally we can spend some time together!”, “Thank goodness for my job security!” We’ve all been there, we all had a plan, but so did God.

The difference is that we can’t see The Big Picture. We curse & rant & fret when the universe makes a hard left even though we clearly said right. Our best made plans are worthless, but we persevere. Or we become addicted to Xanax, but that’s not really the best option, or the point I’m trying to get at here.

What I am getting at is that in the end, we look back & realize we wouldn’t have had it any other way. Our plan, our big goal, was missing the point all along. It’s not important what I drive in a year, it’s important that those I love are healthy. I will rock a ’97 Corolla if it means that my real happiness is still safe. Without that left turn, I would’ve missed that.

As I said in the beginning, I am a planner. But after learning the hard way a few times that plans are written in the sand at best, I’ve learned to rely on a more important skill as well, to close my eyes & jump into the unknown. All I have to do is believe I will soar & God will laugh & show me the way. That plan has proven true to fruition time & time again.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Maybe as a Redhead?

Adversity is an interesting catalyst. Without it, life would have no motion. Admittedly, every one of us would rather avoid it all cost, smooth sail through the journey, but without challenge, how would you know your strength? Can a bodybuilder boast without lifting the weight? Nope.

Yesterday I received some bad news & then some good news, on a day that started perfectly, then ended horribly. This is sometimes just how it goes kids. To say that I laughed & I cried, would be a cliché, but true. It was our 2 year anniversary & I woke up to a beautiful love letter commemorating the journey. That afternoon my little Sweet Potato, who already lives with Chronic Renal Failure, was diagnosed with a severe kidney infection & had to be admitted to the veterinary clinic for intensive antibiotic treatment. On my way home to gather her things, I checked the mail & was thrilled to find my long-delayed tax refund check, complete with interest from the delay! When has the IRS ever paid interest?!? Score! Then came the call from the vet with my snugglebug’s test results, CRF wasn’t enough for this over-achiever, she had diabetes too. Two chronic conditions that each require completely different daily medications, medications that Optima doesn’t cover…because they don’t cover pets, the heartless bastards.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted. So the evening was sacrificed to a therapeutic pity party & serious consideration of the ramifications of health insurance fraud. How hard would it be to get her a social security number? Could I live on the lam as a blonde? Sadly no, I am a hideous blonde.

Forever & a day ago I opened a cheesy email forward that gave the simple message, you have a choice everyday. Choose to be happy; choose to make it a good day. With that armor, I have lived my life & so I started making choices. Some were hard, I really like the new curtains I bought this weekend, but they cost the equivalent of Sweet Potato’s current bill. Other choices were easy, she is the longest continuous positive relationship of my life, and I will fight for her so long as she has fight left.

Thinking of it this way, considering the challenge & the path to overcoming it, creating a plan, made me feel so much more in control. I realized that I was thankful for the many blessings I had to help me along. A flexible work life that pays well, a supportive significant other, caring friends, an outstanding veterinary team & last but not least my own ability to see past the gloom to a realistic happy & healthy future. Without the experience of conquering past challenges, I would not have the confidence to face this one, or the many I’m sure are to come. So while I count the obvious positives in my life as blessings, I quietly offer thanks for those past adversities.

While I would much rather not have to deal with this current obstacle, I will. Because it is just an obstacle, not a road block, not unless I sit down & give up. But as luck would have it, God gave me the ability to make good choices & I will not waste the blessings he has given me, in any form in which they may arise.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Table for one?

I have been given the opportunity to spend an entire year on my own. A big sarcastic “Thank You!” to the Powers That Be for taking that pesky boyfriend on a swanky vacation to the Middle East until next Spring. Which leaves me here, contemplating my oneness, as a party of one.

So, how does one go about entertaining oneself for an entire year? First, one begins by referring to oneself as “one”, a classy twist on referring to oneself in third person. Then one makes a list, “Things to do to keep oneself from knitting the cats sweaters.”

What to do, what to do, when you’re a non-single in a universe of couples? All activities seem to be geared towards meeting someone to couple up with, or are designed to enhance your coupleness. But what if you’re one half of a couple? Where’s my table for one?!? Come on world! I don’t want to sit at the bar! I deserve a tablecloth too! Or at least my own paper covered table where I get to use all the good colored crayons myself.

So, my personal challenge for the next year is to revel in my awkward social position & find the beauty that lies within it. Baby steps, yes. Third wheel, sometimes. But ultimately I will find my individuality & stand proud. That is not to imply that I am not already an individual, my laugh alone sets me apart I assure you. But when was the last time you spent time by yourself...out in the world? That's what I'm going to do. Yes, I will bond with my friends & my family, but I want to take this opportunity for what it is, a chance to spend a year with me. Then I will promptly jump up & down like a crazed golden retriever when my other half finally returns home, reveling in our coupleness to the nausea of all around, and I will not be ashamed. In the least bit. But I digress, in the meantime, standing proud. Standing Proud.

And, since getting back to writing has long been a goal of mine, I’ve decided to chronicle this journey for the enjoyment of cyberspace, for better or for worse. I’m not promising high seas adventures here people, I’m just trying to learn to sleep on both sides of the bed, stave off an NCIS marathon addiction & make at least one year in what I hope to be a long life, totally & completely about me.

So, what to do? I've got a few ideas, but mainly I’m just really excited by the possibilities….

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Pajama Shirt Philosophy

This morning started out as normal as any other Tuesday, entirely too early & with much abuse to my snooze button.
But when I made my way into the bathroom for my shower, I saw pajama shirt was inside out. I'd slept like that the whole night. Granted, it was much, much less shocking than the time I blinked into the mirror & realized I had morphed into Quasimodo overnight, however, notable just the same. What could this discombobulated night shirt foretell of the day ahead?
Running late to work I noticed that my check engine light had come on, good enough timing since I also needed an inspection, but a tad worrisome as my dearly departed Jeep, Big Blue, had met its tragic & untimely demise with similar symptoms. Slowing for what would become the worlds longest bridge lift ever, scheduled no doubt when the bridge operators realized I was already late for work, I glanced at the troublesome check engine light again & saw that it had felt lonely with the absence of my attention & brought a friend along..."VSC" was now lit up bright & happy next to it. What the hell is "VSC"? As I was now safely parked on 464 with the rest of Hampton Roads, I whipped out my owner's manual to do some sleuthing. Ah, the troubleshooters grid, my good friend. Yes, yes, there's my warning lights..."Take to a Toyota dealership". Well, that's informative.
Arriving at the dealership & signing off on the $113.50 diagnostic fee I silently cursed my hated vehicle & blessed Gillian for cunningly negotiating a free Platinum Package maintenance program. One day I will have my bitchin' Vespa, with flames racing down the side & a snazzy matching day.
Arriving at the office an hour & one trip back to the dealership to rescue my garage pass later, I began contemplating how I would explain tossing my computer out of the 6th floor window to IT as it struggled to find the meaning of its life for a half hour. Bless the makers of Blackberry & whomever thought to connect it to FaceBook.
I began to mentally calculate my vacation time & wonder if this wasted day would best be finished by my pool when it all began to turn around. My previously captive emails began to display happy dollar signs from clients, the currently absent reason my heart beats began chatting with me happily via email & my dear friend texted that finally, finally she was in labor! Ahhh, sweet happiness & an ice cream sandwich from the 1st floor break room.
As I wrapped up my day floating towards the garage (down a block, across the street, up 6 flights of stairs) Toyota called. What pray tell had gone so horrifically wrong with my cursed vehicle? The gas cap & a hose was loose. The gas cap kids, the bloody gas cap. She happily let me know that they'd cut my diagnostic fee in half "saving me a bundle" & then she smoothly moved into the stirke zone prattling on about fluid flushes, fuel injectors & carbon build up to the tune of $500+. Ha! You can't part me from my money so easily (you're no sale at Banana Republic!) Except the fuel injector flush...that sounded important, seriously, she got me there.
Safely at home, I reflect upon my day from the comfort of Laura's hungry couch. The confused pajama shirt had shown me this - Yes, days will go wacky...but they will right themselves in the end.
And more importantly, I now I know that I must always listen for three clicks when tightening my gas cap.

Monday, June 8, 2009

T minus 40+ years

Today is June 8th, 2009. I created this blog on Dec. 30th, 2008. This is my first post. To call me a procrastinator is like pointing out that Nelson Mandela is black or that Grandma Moses has a thing for la labia. But its the late bloomers like them that fuel my procrastination. They both burst onto the world stage in their late 70's, so by my estimations, I've got about another 40 years or so to go before I need to get with it. That should be enough time for me to focus, to hone in on whatever it will be exactly that will rocket me to fame...or at least Wikipedia.
But lately, between tedious, infuriating staff meetings, divorces, long days working off hangovers at the beach & discussion about the frugality of my mother's wish for grandchildren before she's 90, I've realized that there's got to be something better for me to do with my time. The world needs me & its high time I've listened. And what better way to listen than to talk? Am I right? Of course I am, this is my blog. So in order to subsidize my dream career of working at a doggie daycare, I've decided to focus a little more seriously on this natural affinity for writing I seem to possess. Sure it was handy to muddle my way through Honors History essay answers & its certainly helped keep the "spark" alive while I wait for my love to come home from deployment, but can I actually buy shoes with it? That is the question!
And my dear chipmunks, only time will tell. But I think I'd rather find out now then have those hard-earned shoes I buy end up being more supportive than arches be damned! So stay tuned for random stories, thoughts, & rants on all things Christine. After all, Mandela & Grandma Moses were overnight sensations 70+ years in the making....