Week 48: A Haunting We Will Go

Halloween season was upon us and we should celebrate right? We’re too old to go trick or treating, and our kids are too old for us to dress them up in cute character costumes. Instead this year they went out as a group of Chippendale dancers, seriously. I suggested they stick $1 bills in their pants, but was told they are classy dancers and get $20. Okay, enough of that conversation.

Us adults decide it would be funner (not really a word) to go to a Haunted House. Well, you know me and my deals, I find a very inexpensive deal (two for $15) for the Nightwalker Caverns. Lisa-Marie, Valerie, Richard and I decide we should get a good scare one night to set the stage for the Halloween weekend.

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We arrive around 9:00 pm which apparently is late for a weeknight, or are us old fogies just early,  as it seemed we were the only ones around. I guess people were inside, as we can hear them screaming — heard but not seen. And it turns out the Haunted House is not in anything resembling a house, but in a mini strip mall kind of place in a skate shop. Well, that’s different.

We check-in, were brought around to the entrance, told the rules and warnings — if you have any physical limitations, pregnant, or intoxicated, you are suggested to turn away now. Interesting. We are asked if we want to go in individually, in small groups of two or altogether…there is no way we are breaking up the group (because we’re a bunch of chickens), we are in this together!

hhrules

Now, us gals, okay me, hate watching scary gory movies (although I am a big Walking Dead fan now), so why are here? I don’t know. But nevertheless, we are shown the entrance “elevator”, doors closed behind us and here we go. The elevator is dark, shakes and rattles and right when the door going in opens some guy eerily comes out of the corner (kind of like the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland). Here we go…Richard leads us into the abyss, with me holding tightly behind (not tightly holding his behind, that’s later), Lisa-Marie and Valarie with hands on each shoulder of the person in front. We’re on an expedition of sorts.

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It is completely dark when you enter. Richard needs to touch along the walls to figure out the direction. I don’t dare touch anything. Soon the fun begins, with people jumping out of corners scaring us…sight-bending strobe lights and loud deafening music…gory deathly scenes…creepy girl with freaky eyes walking past you in a zombie like way…a guy whose neon dotted outfit made him blend into the wall…foggy rooms with cut off body parts…figures trying to reach at you behind black plastic walls…a wobbly floor seemingly falling to unknown depths…and then escape.

hhinside

Well, that was a scare. I actually did scare more than I expected. I don’t like hidden creatures jumping out at me, so well, yes, I screamed. It was fun and glad we did it. It did seem like it went too quick and would have preferred something that would have lasted longer. Then it was brought up there’s some sort of scary event you can pay for where they kidnap you at an undetermined time and take you hostage and “torture” you for a full day. Apparently there is a long waiting list for this activity, but no, that is not on my list.

Okay, I finally went to an official “haunted house” and next year we will search for something scarier! Because we always seem to have this urge to outdo the past. I think this past year has been pretty awesome, and I would be privileged to continue to live my life this way. Maybe I will.

***

Nightwalker Caverns, 6760 University Ave. #100, San Diego CA 92115, www.nightwalkercaverns.com. General admission $15 each. I couldn’t really take photos as I was clinging to dear life.

hh

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Week 46: Speeding Across the Bay

We zig zag across San Diego Bay, faster and faster and BOOM, our speedboat catches air and as we bump like a pogo stick back down on the surface, salty sea water splashes my face. When you feel a need for speed, there’s nothing better than racing past the sailboats and ferry boats on a typical beautiful morning in San Diego. I finally traversed the scenic San Diego Bay, after living here all these years.

 

***

Going on some sort of vessel on San Diego Bay was on my 50 Weeks to 50 list, I wasn’t sure what kind, but you know I get inspiration from all types of discount platforms and this time it was from Travelzoo. Basically half price to captain your own speed boat while on a guided tour along the perimeter of the bay, sounds like a fun bargain to me. Made a reservation quite easily, and before you know it, life vests are on.

 speedjem

Prior to getting in the boat, our tour guide (for the life of me, I can’t remember his name) gave us a rundown of the boating rules, how to drive it since there are no gas or brake pedals, and adjust our steering since the boat steers from the rear. Also, it was very important to know that the rule is “sail over steam” — sailboats have the right of way since it’s much harder to redirect using sails. He talked about the wake zone, riding on the plane, and when starting to go full throttle be prepared to not see anything for a few seconds since the nose of the boat will go up before you. Then there were the cautions about getting too close to sea lions, don’t ride if you have a bad back, and making sure the harbor police don’t shoot you. Is this safe?

 

The instructions would make anyone leary about participating. But it didn’t matter much to me, Richard was driving the boat, so all I was concerned about was that I probably shouldn’t take pictures while going full speed because if I would loose my phone, there’s no way I would recapture it — unless those trained dolphins know how to locate them. Wait, Richard you were listening right? Oh, I guess he drove a speedboat before in his teens, no problem.

 

Let’s get this show on the road, or on the bay, baby!

 speed7 

speed3  speed1

The tour group consists of five boats with two passengers each, plus the guide’s boat (what is his name, this is really going to bother me). The guide is able to communicate with all the other boats. We steadily climb into our small 13’ speedboats, left foot first as instructed, safety cord attached to each driver (in case the driver is thrown out of the boat, the boat will turn off, good to know), engines on, and one by one we idle past all the docked boats into the exit channel. Baby ducks following the momma duck.

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 speedkeepout2

At the end of the channel we see the San Salvador replica build site at Spanish Landing, then we turn a corner and our guide points out the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program training facility — basically dolphins are trained to protect the harbor, recover equipment, and detect mines. I was hoping for a dolphin sighting, but as usual I missed it. We’re still at a slow pace, bobbling out of the no wake zone…here we go, first the guide goes out at full speed ahead, then the two boats in front of us, now us…Richard goes full throttle…woohoo!

  

This..is…FUN!!!

 

I’m so glad Richard was captaining the boat, because I would have tried to concentrate too much on proper steering and direction. As a passenger, I could squeal like a little girl going on my first roller coaster ride. It was thrilling. I have been on larger tour boats when on vacations, but this mini speedboat with us sitting low on the water, what an adventure! We first venture safely in the plane, then more daringly zig zag across waves, you can’t help but enjoy the moment.

speedlivebait speedseals2  speedseals  speedseals3  

Okay, this is a guided tour, so we make periodic stops along the bay’s edges:

  • Point Loma area where the bait barges become resting spots for sea lions and sea gulls, one baby pup looked injured, so sad. We did see a pod of dolphins on the way.
  • Midway Museum which towers above as we slowly glide underneath its decks.
  • The Maritime Museum ships such as the Star of India (getting ready for the Haunted Tales), the HMS Surprise, and the Soviet B-39 Submarine (you can see the rotted rear from our view).

 speedmidway2  speedmidway

speedstatue

speedstarofindia  speedmaritime  speedsub

Being from San Diego and seeing plenty of sea lions and visiting the museums many times as a field trip chaperone, can we just keep riding? We do spend most of the time enjoying the waters, especially a long stretch from the opening of the bay below Fort Rosecrans towards the Coronado Bridge. Speeding along like that, it really was a blast. I loved it when we made air, and held tight for the bumpy return. It brought a smile to my face, plus a salty complexion.

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What joy. I waved to those on slower sail boats, tourists on ferry boats, and those watching on dry land. I’m smiling, but thinking yes you folks should be envious of us, you are missing out, this is an “E” ticket ride. Being able to freely enjoy and captain your own boat, what a fantastic idea. I love being a tourist in my home town. Now, we’re starting to wonder, how much do one of these little babies cost; they can fit in my garage right?

speeddt 

One last speedy zig zag along Harbor Island. Thank goodness Richard was driving, because the angle of that turn, if I was driving we surely would have crashed into the rock wall. Is he trying to recreate some James Bond flick, that Brit of mine? But it sure was fun. And I will consider myself his Bond girl.

 speedrich

***

San Diego Speed Boat Adventures, Inc., Cabrillo Isle Marina, 1450 Harbor Island Drive, Suite 205, San Diego, CA 92101, 619-294-5852. www.speedboatadventures.com  – I didn’t take any photos of us driving at full speed, since I was worried that I would lose my phone, so watch the video on the website. Whatever our guide’s name was, he was excellent.

Week 44: Color My Day

Okay, I’m going to cheat a little on this blog. I’m going to write about something that I have actually done before. I know, I know, I did set up my own rules for my 50 Weeks to 50 blog…I’m only supposed to blog about doing things I have never done before. And yes indeed I did the Color Run last year for the first time with some friends, and this year we did it again with a few more friends. But it was a lot of fun, and well, I’m a little behind with my blogging, so it’s my blog and I can break the rules if I want to.

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***

 

I-15 WTF!!! Why is there so much traffic, why did we go this way, are there really this many people doing the Color Run, will there be any color dust left, and is it okay to pee on the side of the freeway? These were the questions running through my head and spoken in the car as we were stuck on the 15 freeway southbound trying to exit for Qualcomm Stadium, aka the Q. We met early enough — 6:30 am in front of our local Starbucks — but maybe we spent too much time chatting with each other and to friends who we saw that were getting up way too early on a Saturday morning and to get their cup of Joe.

 

Regardless, by the time we got close to the event, the freeway was a parking lot. The last time I hit that kind of freeway parking lot, was in 1992 when the Rodney King verdict was announced and Los Angeles rioted. We had decided to get in the parking lot on the 405 freeway south and slowly escape to San Diego. Soon thereafter we moved permanently to San Diego, and here I still am.

colorruntraffic

We spent approximately one hour trying to get into the Q. While waiting in the freeway parking lot, we were reading Facebook posts of others already there and starting the race. Are you kidding me? I swear they are going to run out of color. Oh, and yes I was trying to hold my pee and not drink my Starbucks hot chocolate. In the meantime, cars really don’t understand the traffic etiquette of letting in one car in at a time, and no if you are going to stop in the middle of the freeway to sneak in, we are not letting you! Sheesh people. Can you say road rage?

colorrunpotty

Finally, once we get in, sweet Gigi parks right next to a port-a-potty. That is a true friend! In our car was me, Gigi, Lynn and Maria. The other car held Michele, Marie, Karen and her foreign exchange student house guest Taki. Now came the texting part of where the heck are you in this crowd of 10,000 soon to be colorful people. Thankfully we found each other, and decided to take our time, look at the store products and register wristbands. We were in no hurry. The Color Run lets participants go in waves, and heck, it took forever to get in, so we are taking our time. This is supposed to be a stress-free morning dang it!

colorrungroup    

BLUE We head on over to the start line where a large group is still waiting. Every few minutes a group is allowed to begin their run or walk. Our whole group will be walking. In the meantime, we get pumped up by dancing to the music, waving our hands in the air, shaking our booties — wait, or was that just me? Anyway, we wake up and get excited for our color walk.

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We get closer and closer to the front, take a number of photos (we take photos all morning long), and before you know it, we are released! Woohoo, blue dust here we come! Blue is my favorite color, it’s a very calming color and I’m trying to relax after the traffic stressed morning.

colorrunalcatel  colorrunmomchild

During the blue leg of the course, we spend time chatting and catching up on what’s been going on in each other’s lives. I will say that having sons makes for a whole different life than having daughters, and then those that have both, what a combo. Okay, here comes the blue arch and dusters…we cover our noses and mouths with our bandanas so as not to inhale. As we slowly walk by the dust thrower volunteers, we make sure to get blue all over us, front and back, head to toe. Whoa, first color done, we laugh at ourselves, what a sight to see! One guy looks like he’s a performer from the Blue Man Group. Four more colors to go.

colorrunblue  colorrunblueman

YELLOW I like walking with friends. You really get closer I believe, since you give each other your undivided attention. Plus I would probably trip and break an ankle if I was on my phone while talking to friends, which would serve me right. Now we are discussing jobs, retirement, travel, oh and we talk about sex too. Yes men, women talk about sex, probably more than you men. Us women like to research all topics, and well, you know at this age, things change and we need to discuss. Anyway, we had such interesting discussions that before you know it we’re almost at the yellow arch. Same routine, bandanas up, expose both sides of the body to the yellow dust. Take pictures. I just got a new phone and I’m getting dust all over it. At least mellow yellow doesn’t show up as much, so onward to pink!

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   colorrunyellow

 

colorrunwater

PINK Ahh, pink. October is the month to wear pink in honor of breast cancer awareness, so yay for pink! Although I don’t consider myself a pink person, I am ready to get lots of pink on me. But the sun has decided to come out, and it’s getting a little hot. I am ready for the water station, since silly me forgot to grab a water bottle thinking there would be plenty along the way. By the time we get to one, it looks like they are starting to run out. Great we’re only half way through and I’m thinking that I will die of thirst. Not really, but I could have sworn there were more water stations last year, which is why I didn’t bring my own water. As I get older I try and reduce the amount of “stuff” I carry around with me, but I guess it’s still best to be prepared. Anyway, we are a group and my group makes sure everyone has water by grabbing additional cups. Extras we give to other participants who look like they need water. Everybody looks out for everyone, that’s what you call humanity.

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Pink is a popular color and we all try and get pinked up. In the front and in the back, in our hair, just everywhere! The little girls especially love it too. As the residual pink powder begins to form thick layers on the asphalt, we see the lively youth lay on the ground and make pink angels. To be young again…is in your heart. Darn, I should have made a pink angel.

colorrunpinkangels

PURPLE Walking with friends, makes the time go by quickly, and we’re heading to the purple zone. By this time we start talking about kids and college. Some of us already have kids out of college, some in college, some applying to college, and some whose kids are too young to think about college. I love having friends that can share the experiences they’ve had with their older kids to help you guide your younger kids. You can learn a lot by walking with friends, and that is not an app.

colorrunpurple2  colorrunpurple

We talk about how the whole applying to and going to college seems so much more stressful than back in our day. As a parent you wish to be able to take that stress away from them. Okay purple, lay it on. Purple is the feminist’s color so lay it on thick baby. It’s also a color for royalty… did I tell you we were wearing tiaras? I just happen to keep one handy for such occasions.

colorrunteddy  colorrunmariaunicorn

GREEN Down to the final stretch. Our feet were getting tired, the sun felt hotter, and I was getting hungry. Our talk begins to revolve around more immediate plans. What are we doing today, the weekend, this week. We realize that eventually our little adventures end and it’s back to the day-to-day business of life — kids, home, work, grocery shopping, loads and loads of laundry. There are times when I wish I was Jeannie, so I can cross my arms and blink. Knowing we had to go back home soon made this leg of the walk seem so much longer. And like most things you don’t want to deal with, it eventually creeps up on you. Well, I do have some fun plans for the weekend…I wonder if I can get an hour nap in before I have to get going again…

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CONFETTI I don’t even remember the green dust getting on me, because right at the finish line confetti was also being thrown about. Wait, I need to take pictures, darn I’m getting my phone so dirty – can my phone take a picture of my phone? Oh well, we try to all gather at the finish line for more photo opps, there are many staged areas for photos. We try our hand at the powder filled drums; the inside of my nose must look interesting. We also make sure to grab the typical giveaways of drinks and power bars. The music is still going and more color dust is being thrown around, what a fun morning, I don’t really want it to end. The music suddenly stops declaring the official stop time, but the dancing stays within my heart.

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WASH I walk into my house and daintily try to hop into the shower without leaving a trail of color dust on the carpet. Ahh, the hot water feels good, and I look down towards the shower drain to witness see the colors of the rainbow down the drain. I wished I had a camera in the shower, it was lovely how all the colors of the rainbow mix together to form a beautiful pattern, just like all our cultures. Hmm, the Color Run may be over, but I will always want a colorful life.

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***

The Color Run, www.thecolorrun.com. The Color Run in San Diego may be over, but it will be back again next year. If you can’t wait until then, there are many Color Runs throughout the U.S., as well as many other countries. It can become some sort of travel to do list!

 

Week 22: Day Tripping from Farm to Ocean

Week 22: Day Tripping from Farm to Ocean

 

The wild waves and swirling winds captivate my attention. I could sit on this lonely beach for hours staring at the ocean, listening to the roar of the waves, tasting the freedom of time. What I would give to be able to do nothing.

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***

My Saturday morning started out as planned, working on more auction details, then heading out to pick up additional donations. As with many of my volunteer endeavors, my peeps get dragged along and Gigi is with me for the auction ride again. First stop, Coronado Brewery’s Tasting Room, which is actually in the Tecolote Canyon area (their Brew Pub is in Coronado). We make a quick stop at the location, with its massive metal vats of beer. Since it’s too early to indulge in beer tastings for us (not to many others who were there), we keep going.

 

Next stop, Balboa Park to pick up some museum donations. And since it took forever to find parking, we decide we might as well enjoy the day and take a leisurely lunch at The Prado. The perfect mix of sun and clouds to create a lovely lunch on the patio. After chicken tortilla soup, a trio of skewers, and cream cheese flan with mixed berries, we sit in silence as true friends can, wanting to continue lazily enjoying the sunshine.

 welcomesuzies

I remembered that today was Strawberry Jam Day at Suzie’s Farm in South San Diego. I had been wanting to visit the farm for a long time now, and had never been able to find time. I mentioned it to Gigi, and she had no plans for the rest of the day. What the heck, plus they were going to donate to the auction too. I type in the address on my handy dandy google maps app and away we go. Oh, I wish I had a convertible on a day like today.

***

suziesjams

Now, Gigi has this thing about accidentally ending up in Mexico, so we make sure not to pass the exit prior to Dairy Mart Road (the last before the border), which is Tocayo. After passing a residential neighborhood, we turn down Hollister and to the left we see the farm. The farm is quite expansive, as over the years it has grown to 140 acres, and is the only organic farm in the city of San Diego. We can tell there is quite a crowd gathered, which has a festival feel with the food trucks, music, vendors, children’s activities, and the farm stand. Plus, of course, strawberry picking.

suzieslucila  suziespath

Before we start, I make sure to find Lucila de Alejandro, who along with husband Robin Taylor owns and created the organic farm just about a decade ago. Lucila and I once belonged to the same book club (back when I had time to read — now my pile of books I plan to read continue to grow bedside). After warm hugs hello, Lucila walks with us to the strawberry fields where many families are walking up and down the rows looking to pluck some red ripe berries. Her friendly farm dogs follow as we pass by the chickens going about their business pecking at the composted produce strewn about. The chickens look happy.

 suzieschix2  suzieschixtent

We start to look for our own strawberries to pick and head back to the furthest row, and walk towards the middle. At first I thought we got here too late, most have been picked over, but there was an abundance of berries. It becomes somewhat of a game, trying to find the ripe berries, some hidden under leaves which you don’t notice until you turn a different angle, bending down to get another view. We find plenty to fill our brown paper bags. Isn’t it funny how sometimes you search and search for something, and it’s right below your nose, you just didn’t happen to look at it the right way the first time.

 suziesstrawberries

After filling up our bags, we wander over to the rest of the Strawberry Jam activities. There’s music, strawberry pickling, face painting, teepees, bean bag toss, ice cream, organic perfumes and soaps, tree swing, and a very welcoming hammock under a pair of trees that if there weren’t crowds of people around I would go and sneak in a nap. We make a visit to the farm stand where we select some produce and jars of strawberry jam, of course you need to get some on Strawberry Jam Day. There’s also some delicious bread pudding courtesy of Snooze Eatery. We find Lucila and say our good-byes.

 suziestrucks  suziesproduce

Although we say good-bye for now, Suzie’s Farm is such a welcoming place. They have truly created a farm with a true sense of community and welcomes everyone. You feel like the farm belongs to you too. I look forward to returning, especially during an evening event where the openness of the fields and the stillness of the night would create an enchanting evening.

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***

Since I don’t come down to these parts that often, we explore a little more taking the dirt road towards Suzie’s Warehouse, and around the corner to the horse stables that offers beach rides (a future week activity in the making). The stables looked closed so we had to head back. Wanting our unexpected day trip to continue, I realize that we must not be that far away from Imperial Beach, which during all my years in San Diego, I had never been to. Once we get back to the suburban neighborhoods, we continue a little north, then west to our next destination.

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I guess I expected to find a version of Mission or Pacific Beach. Imperial Beach is quite different. Much quieter, at least at this time of year, few restaurants, bars and souvenir shops. And very uncrowded and clean. We head further south to the end of the road where it stops at the wooden overlook to the Oneonta Slough that connects with the Tijuana River. Although Mexico is still some distance away, you can see the white washed homes of the Playas de Tijuana. What a difference a few miles can make in a family’s history?

 photo-4 copy  photo-4

After enjoying the beauty of the still, green marsh lands, we take a few steps over the sand hill to glimpse the restless, blue ocean. What a contrast of scenery just a few steps apart! I envy those who stay here and who can walk from one end of their home to the other and be enveloped in two different moods. (Note to self: check into summer rental rates.) I’m surprised by the solitude that one can find at this stretch of beach. There is only one other person here, and she too looks like a quick visitor. Mexico to the south, Coronado to the north. No wonder the ocean feels torn apart. Do the currents feel the tug of land borders?

imperialbchpier

***

It’s starting to get late and time to head on over to the comfort of our homes. We continue the scenic drive and take the strand. Much of the strand is military, and you immediately notice some high circular fenced in building…hmm wonder what government secrets lie inside. We pass the cays, the military housing (how would you like to be stationed here), Glorietta Bay, and the Hotel del Coronado. Soon we are over the bridge and on the familiar freeway 5 homeward bound.

It’s interesting to me how Imperial Beach property values are so much less than that of Coronado which is not that far away. Perception is everything. Maybe if we looked at Imperial Beach at another angle, we would give it more value.

pano

***

What a great day! Being able to wander and discover new places, even in our own backyard is part of my 50 weeks to 50 journey. There is so much to discover…everywhere…people, places, perceptions. Make sure to look at people and places at different angles, you’ll never know what you will discover.


Notebook:  Suzie’s Farms, www.suziesfarm,com, onsite farm stand open on Saturdays from 10:00am to 2:00pm, public and private tours are available. Check their website for info on upcoming events, childrens camps, and u-pick days. You can taste their produce by at select grocery stores such as Whole Foods and Jumbo’s, numerous restaurants and food trucks throughout the county use their produce, or get your CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) boxes available at their farmer’s market locations.

Week 5: Shelter for the Night

“Sorry, there’s no room for you tonight.”

What, there’s no room at the shelter, where am I supposed to go?

SDRM women's entrance

At first, I don’t know what to say to the woman handling check-in at the San Diego Rescue Mission’s (“SDRM”) Nueva Vida Haven Emergency Shelter for Women and Children. Then I remember to tell her that I’m expected. You see, I’m not really homeless; my mother-in-law Donna is on the board, and I thought I should stay one night to observe. I was inspired to do this after helping my friend Martin with his Thanksgiving feeding, and after starting to plan for our high school’s Adopt-A-Family program. I thought, hey, it’s the season of giving, and it’s good to give, but do we really know what it’s like to be in the shoes of those who we give to? It makes us feel good to give; we have the luxury to do so, and we should continue to do so. I know that one night is not going to give me a true experience of what homelessness is like, but any insight is helpful, right?

 

The week of my visit, I thought I should make some sort of preparations. I wanted to look like I fit in. So I ask questions about what I should bring (some bring everything they have, some nothing), what to expect, where do I check-in, where do I park my car (the street). And to show you my own prejudices of my perception of homeless people, I didn’t eat lunch (so I would want to eat whatever was served for dinner), I didn’t shower for two days (I wanted to feel like I really needed a shower), and I hadn’t shaved for a week (with the hairy legs and armpits, you’d think I was on Survivor). I also wore an old worn Erasure Wild! shirt (yes, I still have clothes from the 80s), non-designer jeans (7 for all Mankind would not be appropriate), and I left my reading glasses with its cute pink Kate Spade case at home. I make sure to take off my nail polish, wear no make-up, and hide my iPhone. Like anyone is really paying attention to me – they’re not. My own prejudices were that homeless people are dirty and wear old, torn clothing. Well, whatever I looked like, it worked because coming off the street I seemed to have looked the part and was initially turned away.

 

I start to think that I shouldn’t have come. I almost chickened out. I was more nervous about staying at the SDRM than I was skydiving last weekend. Why was I so uneasy? Possibly a premonition of what I would later feel.

 

As I’m shown to the women’s dining hall where most people wait before dinner is served at 7:00, I immediately feel out of place. There’s one table in the back that’s empty, and that’s where I sit, much like the new kid at school.

 

I feel like an intruder. A fake. Someone is going to find out and they’re going to beat me up.

 

As I look around, I immediately notice that there are much more elderly women here than I anticipated. Don’t they have family that will take them in? On the other side of the room, there are quite a number of women trying to keep their children in order. Back at the table next to me, I overhear some younger women talk about abusive men in their lives. Another talks about her application for beauty school. One discusses local services available. There’s women and children of all ages, all groups – Caucasian, African-American, Latin, Asian, Mixed.

 

Eventually, a woman with her dog sits at my table, and a couple other younger women with small children fill in the space around me. I usually feel pretty comfortable around strangers, but here I’m out of my element, what do we have in common? Then I start the conversation as I would with any other person – what a cute baby, how old is he, yes my sons were like that too when teething. What a well-behaved dog, what breed is he, I like your Christmas sweater. The dog lady later asks if I’ve read the newspaper articles about staying with the deceased until the Coroner arrives, because bodies are going missing, possibly a conspiracy – does she mean dead bodies on the street? When people ask if this is my first night, I just say yes and don’t elaborate. It seems to suffice.

 

Soon dinner is served, some sort of meatloaf thing with rice, a boiled potato, and salad. There were fruit bowls, but not enough for all. I hear a few grumblings about that. We give the dog some of the meatloaf.

 

Once dinner is over, those who are assigned to clean up stay back while the rest of us gather belongings to go up to the sleeping areas. We’re on a schedule.

 

I begin to notice some of the other people here. A male teen hides behind his hoodie, obviously not wanting to be around all the other younger kids, or all these women. And like most kids, there’s quite a few playing with their handheld electronic games, not wanting to be bothered by Mom. Most of the women get their mattresses ready so they can lay down and rest. And yes, let’s be real, there are a couple that acted and talked as if they have some mental illness, I decide it best to just avoid those women. Many others suffer from addictions.

 

As a newbie, and a single, I’m given a spot in the overflow hallway area. About 15 of us singles are out there. The nice former barber lady warns me that they keep the lights on all night. She suggests that I go to CVS the next day and get an eye mask and earplugs (luckily, I did throw in an eye mask into my backpack, one that I bring on planes). Actually, the hallway is much more peaceful than the main sleeping area – one big room with about 20 bunk beds along one wall, about 60 mattresses on the floor for the families, a corner play area for the kids where they are trying to decorate for the holidays, the kids asking to watch a video. The bathrooms (one for families, one for families with sons, and one for singles) and limited storage space are all located in there too. Although I’m in the sanctuary of the hallway, I can feel the chaos spilling out through the doors of the main room.

There will be almost 100 women and children staying the night, sharing the space. I’m a light sleeper, and I can barely sleep when there’s one other person in a room with me, how am I going to sleep tonight?

 SDRM main room

The shower sign-up list is passed around. Five minutes is all you get. Everyone needs to be done by lights out at 9:30. I get the last slot. As I wait for my turn, I think of the mattress as being everyone’s own personal space. A single-sized bedroom. I think of my bedroom at home – queen-sized bed, plenty of blankets and pillows, ensuite master bath with two sinks, lots of storage, a balcony that I never use, guest chairs where I pile on extra clothing, and my own TV. I take out my journal and try to do something. I hate just sitting, but I quickly begin mirroring what the others are doing, laying down and doing nothing – what else is there to do? My mattress is my bedroom for the night. One night.

 SDRM hallway

A list is being put together for Christmas. If the women want to stay with relatives that night, but want to save their spot at the shelter, let the staff know. I hear my neighbor say she will be at the SDRM on Christmas because she has no place else to go. Those words stab at my heart. I try not to get emotional.

 SDRM bunk beds

Another hallway lady starts a conversation about lotto tickets. She found some on the ground and wanted advice on whether it was morally okay for her to keep them, and if she did and won, what should she do with the money? We talk about finding rightful owners if possible, but if not it’s okay for her to keep them. She says she’ll share with us since we gave her advice, and we say she has no obligation to do so, it would be her winnings to do as she pleases. We continue talking about people who win and are even worse off, and what would we do if we won. I say it’s all confusing to me, all the different lottery games, but maybe I should start playing in the first place. It’s a typical conversation amongst most people, don’t you think? We all like to dream about winning the jackpot.

 

I still feel antsy. I want to go help with some sort of activity or go play with the kids, but that’s kinda creepy if I go in and just start hanging out with the kids. I do notice that all the kids want to play and the moms just want to rest – I’ve been there.

 

After my quick shower, it’s lights out in the main room. I put on my eye mask, lay down and think that there’s no way I’ll be able to sleep, I’ll be up all night. I begin listening to the snoring pattern of the tired women, from the left, and from the right, then together, repeat, it’s a comforting rhythm. And before I realize it, I am lulled to a deep sleep…

 

…4:00 am. Music is turned on to get everyone up and start the day. We’re on a schedule I understand, but to be woken up by a blaring tape of a combination of Gospel and Christian Rock music, is a little much don’t you think? I get that the SDRM is faith-based, and prayer was said before meals and bedtime, but 4:00 in the morning, really?

 

By 5:00 am, everyone is packed up. One young girl is practically picked by others to get her up and to put the bedding away. Those returning store some items in trash bags or in cubbies, some arguing about how much space families are taking. Again I am given helpful advice by others on what to do, I say thanks, but I am only here for one night. They don’t ask why, I don’t tell. I get to know a few other women and their situations. All of them remind me of someone I know. All of them have a story. And anyone reading this can easily be in their situation, including myself. And that is the scary part.

 

Everyone is back on the streets by 6:30 am. Some take the bus to a local fast food restaurant to hang out and feed their kids a bigger breakfast, others head on over to Rachel’s Center which offers daytime services, while others wander the streets of downtown.

 

The SDRM’s policy is that families with children take a priority for shelter over singles. And I agree with that. But when you’re told that there’s not going to be room for you tonight to make room for others, I can see how that news is not taken easily. A handful of women were given notice that morning. One begins to rant and rave about the male conspiracy watching the women in shelters through hidden cameras, deciding who they will target for prostitution and sex slavery. She is quickly told not to talk that way in front of the children. Others try to figure out what other shelters may be able to take them in.

 

Another woman makes a call, telling the person about her situation and that there’s no room at the shelter anymore. She continues to say that she is not going to call “him” and that they are supposed to be helping her. I’m embarrassed listening to her conversation, as I’m intruding on her personal life. There’s no privacy here. I can hear the shrilled desperation in her voice. “What about tonight? Or the next night? Or the next night? Where am I supposed to go?”

 

***

 

I walk up the hill to my car. As I leave, how do I feel? My own emotions spill out and I sit and cry. I feel sadness. And I feel hopelessness. There are so many people that need help, what can one person do? Should I feel grateful for what I have? We have all worked hard to be where we’re at, and we shouldn’t deny ourselves and our families from enjoying the benefits. But my eyes have been opened up and I’m much more aware that the people on the streets all have their own stories. And it’s not just the people you see on street corners. How many of us live from paycheck to paycheck? How many of us have medical bills piling up? How many of us have saved enough for retirement?

 

I know some argue that this is their choice. But I always think about the kids. They don’t have a choice.

 

These women I met don’t want to be there. Certain circumstances led them to SDRM, and they are hoping to make it on their own. Maybe if they realize that someone cares about them, it will give them encouragement not to give up.

 

They are just like us, they are us. Watching their children run and play, making sure they don’t get hurt. And the mommy network gives each other advice, as the more experienced ones have already lived through those same situations. Much like my high school moms who can give others advice about college prep, test taking courses, sports programs. And while kids are at school, they can work or make appointments for services. Those with younger children try to look for daycare. As the newbie, these women freely shared advice with me, and opened up their world to me. We’re all the same. We help each other, we have values and morals.

 

I was the dishonest one. I finally did tell a young mother why I was there and gave her my info. There was something in her that reminded me of myself. I asked her to send me her resume when she gets a chance and maybe I can help. I needed to do something.

 

My “observation” night is a luxury. I can go in, watch, and leave. I can go home and do the weekly laundry. I can do my grocery shopping without worrying about how much I spend. I have the luxury of going to volunteer meetings. So in that respect, I have a very luxurious life!

 

I have the luxury of a strong support system from family and friends. And parents that taught me to help others with what you can. I know I I’m safe from ever having to sleep out on the streets and having to worry about my safety.

 

But while I thought my idea of observing the women and children at the SDRM was clever, I’m a little embarrassed that I thought it’s okay to do so as if they are animals in a zoo. I intruded into their private lives without asking.

 

Again this week, I feel like I’m not sure what I was trying to accomplish. I do hope from my limited experience, and through sharing my words, it will do something. Anything. As they say, we may not feel that one person makes a difference, but if we all do something, anything, it all adds up. Maybe it adds up to something great. Another relevant reminder – put yourself in the other person’s shoes and treat them as if it was you. I’m tired of crying now. Action, not words please.

 

So I spent the night in a homeless shelter. Whoopee, check it off the list. But it doesn’t really mean much, if all it is, is a good story. It’s real life. Do something, anything.

 

***

 

The stories:

  • Mommy B with her 7-month old son, and expecting another. Her husband is in the men’s section. Sometimes they stay with family, or in hotels, or in these shelters. She wants stability. They hope to get accepted into the year-long program and get back on their feet. Her family says they are proud of her for trying to do something.
  • Mommy C with her son who looks too big to be in a stroller. Her boyfriend broke up with her and she had to leave. Sometimes to pass the time she’ll ride the bus all day.
  • Hallway neighbor, who was a barber, has children in Los Angeles and Alaska. She doesn’t want to go back to Alaska.
  • Veteran lady who at a very young age took in her nieces when their mother died from an overdose in front of them. She became a young mother who raised the kids and all graduated from college. They are in San Francisco, Cincinnati, and Maryland. She can choose where to go, but is giving herself 30 days to make it on her own.
  • Beauty school hopeful who brings in her own food.
  • Lady with teen son who’s worried about what’s going to happen to him once he turns 16. At 16, male sons can’t stay at Nueva Vida and she hopes nothing bad happens to him with the older men.
  • Texas lady with four kids, her husband is in the men’s section. They left the state for personal reasons.
  • Mommy Z with two young children, who came from Washington State after her husband got deported to Mexico. They followed him to San Diego so they can cross the border and visit him. She wasn’t going to abandon him while straightening out his paperwork. After ten years of marriage, they lost their business and their savings. She plans to get a job and find her own place soon. She had to endure a school who at first welcomed her to enroll her children, but once realized she was homeless said there was no room. Luckily she found the Monarch School. She didn’t look the part of a homeless mother.
  • Lottery ticket woman who hears our conversation and offers to help Mommy Z file payment deferment papers.

 

Flowers were donated from Trader Joe’s for the women, but most didn’t take any because they really had no place to put them. I hated seeing something meant to be cheerful, getting thrown away in the dumpster to wilt and die. I hope they all eventually find a place of their own to display bouquets and bring a smile to their face.

 

Notebook:

San Diego Rescue Mission – Nueva Vida Haven Emergency Shelter for Women and Children

P.O. Box 80427 San Diego, CA 92138 | (619) 687-3720

www.sdrescue.org

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGgdRoIKenQ&noredirect=1#t=10

 

University City High School Adopt A Family –

http://uchsptsa.org/uchs-ptsa-adopt-a-family/


During the holiday season it’s easy to think of those less fortunate during this time of giving. We plan feedings and gift giveaways. Let’s not forget them the rest of the year. And it’s not about just giving them a handout; they want to make it on their own, and to be proud of their accomplishments. Help give them all productive lives. It’s not only about Christmas, what about the next night, and the next, and the next – what happens to them?

Week 2: Cleansing the Body

I love listening to the calming waves crashing on the cliffs below…oh wait, that was last week. I was just thinking of a peaceful scene as I try to relax, while this very nice woman sticks a plastic tube up my ass.

 

Week two of my 50 weeks journey brings me to Cove Wellness in La Jolla. Although La Jolla is scenic and there are waves and cliffs and all that, I’m here for something else — a colonic. My first week I tried to cleanse my mind and soul at the Self-Realization Fellowship Retreat in Encinitas, so isn’t cleansing my body the next logical step?

 

I know people who swear by the procedure, which is basically a cleaning out of the toxins which have been accumulating in your colon. Besides being good for your health, you’re supposed to get energetic, plus some say it helps you lose weight. Well, I’m in… because I can’t blame my extra pounds on my pregnancy weight gain forever, especially since both of my sons are now in high school.

 

I did try to prep my body by “trying” to eat vegetarian all week. After all the yummy vegetarian meals at the SRF Retreat, I thought what the heck, why not continue all week, it would be a piece of cake. Well, I really did eat a lot of cake. It’s quite different when someone else is cooking the meals for you and has used a number of recipes. My collection of vegetarian recipes was non-existent. And I really didn’t eat many vegetables. I did have a salad one day! But my diet for the week consisted mostly of eggs, fruits, breads, peanut butter sandwiches, and lots of sweets. Okay, I “accidentally” ate some bacon, but come on, how do you give up bacon?

 

So, I thought I was good to go. But that morning I did start to feel a little uneasy, because I had no idea what was really going to happen. My sister’s advice was to “relax.” But I was worried about what actually happens down there. I made sure to wear old cotton panties and loose clothing.

 

Well, Monica, the technician (not sure what they are called), was very comforting and soothing, talking me through every step. Telling me everything I was feeling was normal. It wasn’t so bad, I didn’t even really notice this tube was sticking in and out of me. Because when you think about it, every girl feels that having a hard stick up their behind is so pleasurable (being sarcastic here). Eventually you do feel cramps and a loss of control, which should be a good thing. I hate losing control. And I was a tight ass. It took a while for me give up my toxins, I guess my body was starting a collection and didn’t want to give it all up. I had to proceed to use the diluted coffee bag, which is better for the colonic virgin that I was.

 

I chanted to myself “toxins come out, toxins come out” and finally they did. All you need to know, is that it was not a pretty site. I could go into detail about color and consistency, but that really is too much information don’t you think? And advice to all, you really do need to drink plenty of water each day.

 

Monica reiterated the importance of water drinking, and informed me that some of my favorite foods, like shrimp and lobster are very hard on the digestive system taking about two days to digest. Same reason why gluten is intolerable for many people. Supposedly, vegetarians endure colonic procedures quite easily.

 

When you’re done with the procedure, you are told to sit on the toilet for at least five minutes. Now unlike some of you men, I’m not one to bring reading material into the bathroom and sit and read novels. I am the sit and go type. More important things to do. So here I am sitting on the toilet counting to five minutes…one, two, three…sixty…wait was that four times I counted to 60 or five? So I was probably sitting there for a good six minutes.

 

Well, I should of stayed longer, because on the way home I really had to go again…and why does everyone drive slow when I’m in a rush to go home!

 

Once home, I felt I needed to shower and cleanse myself a little more. Although I was assured that I would be safe from any accidents, my twisted mind thought I knew I would have one in public. I guess I should keep adult diapers around…am I really at that age? Since I didn’t have any diapers around, a maxi sanitary pad would have to do, just in case. I had plans to meet a friend to go visit the new Headquarters by Seaport Village, and I didn’t want to dirty up her car either. (Why do we freak ourselves out about these things?)

 

How does it feel after a couple days? Well, I do feel lighter, not so gassy. And I did feel energetic. I went for walks, re-covered some dining room chairs, went to kids baseball games, cleaned out my bedroom, went to the gym, put together some IKEA shelves, prepped for a garage sale, planned for Thanksgiving…so it did pep me up some.

 

The Cove Wellness website says: “Spa therapy can often be the catalyst for clarity and inspiration, balance and a healthy lifestyle.” Colonics for week two was a good choice. Maybe this will be the inspiration I need to jump start a healthier lifestyle. Not that I have a horrible diet, I did learn some things from a bout of diverticulitis in my early 20s. But, I don’t think I can entirely give up bacon…and don’t even bring up SPAM!

 

***

What are your secrets to a healthy lifestyle, especially those of you over the golden age of 50? Share your secrets, and any recipes too, in the comments section. And sorry, no pictures to post — visuals aren’t really necessary, don’t you agree?

 

Notebook:

Cove Wellness Detox Spa of La Jolla, 7946 Ivanhoe Ave., Suite 202, La Jolla, CA 92037, 858.551.9228, www.detoxspaoflajolla.com

Colon Hydrotherapy: Organic Coffee Colonic $100

Other services: Lymphatic Therapy, Liver and Gallbladder Detox, Reflexology, Cellulite Reduction Therapy, Facials, Massages, Infrared Jade Sauna, Prostate Care

Week 1: Cleansing the Mind and Soul

Sunset at Swami'sThe eastern sun is making its way up over the cliffs as I sit here in peace and solitude, listening to the symphony of the roar of the waves below, in harmony with the chirpiness of the birds above. Where am I? The Meditation Gardens at the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) Retreat in Encinitas. Many of you know it as that Ashram by Swami’s Beach.

The beach is actually named after Swami Paramahansa Yogananda, who founded the Self-Realization Fellowship in the United States, and whose Hermitage was built for him on these Encinitas cliffs in 1937. Now I can go on and on about his teachings, which I am still learning about, but this new blog of mine is more about my year long adventure towards the golden age of 50!

Why did I choose the SRF retreat for my first week? Well, my plan is that each week, leading up to my 50th birthday, to do something that I have never done before. I thought it would be a good start to cleanse my mind and soul. Sure. What did I learn during my very short stay (one overnight visit) — one weekend is not enough.

I’m not sure what I thought was going to happen — some sudden enlightening moment where my future is clear to me. Well, that didn’t occur. I did learn that I am not very good at meditation. Okay, after I made the reservation, I was told that they don’t actually teach meditation at the retreat, people who attend already practice. So I quickly got some suggested techniques from friends (thanks Heidi and Gigi). I tried a little at home the week prior – for about 5 minutes worth. Whenever I tried to clear all thoughts, the opposite would happen: Why isn’t that priority package delivered yet? We need to turn in athletic forms! I have to get my punch list done for the Foundation, for the Taste, for the newsletter, for the…I have things to do, why am I just sitting here doing nothing! Trying to meditate got a little stressful.

But I will say, that even one night at the SRF Retreat did bring me some peace and relaxation. No television, no emails, no Facebook, no Pinterest, no kids (just kidding…not), no sound. Yes, it was a silent retreat. I guess I didn’t read that memo either. I did try to meditate in my solo and very quiet room, and maybe managed to sit still about 20 minutes. My mind — not that still. I brought my Autobiography of a Yogi book to read, journals to write in, and colored pencils to make drawings (never did draw). And I attended a couple lectures and services, which were very inspirational.

SRF Hermitage

What did I get out of the weekend? Confirmation. Listening to the SRF talks, it was made clear to me that some of the beliefs I currently hold are worthwhile: that we direct our own roles in life, that there is good in all people, what happens is for a reason, don’t regret things because choices you make were what was best for you at the time, don’t lie because that exerts negative energy, and that we create our own spirituality. No matter your race, religion, sexual preferences (mine is yes), we are all the same inside. Also, don’t take life so seriously…sometimes we live in a drama, but most of the time life is a comedy.

I may not know exactly what I want, but maybe it’s selfish for me to think about what “I” want. I should accept whatever opens up in my life, and accept it all with an open mind and spirit. I choose to be positive, just like my blood type. I do know that all of you play a role in my life…and during this time, let’s write a worthwhile script together!

I did realize that it will take more than a weekend to really cleanse my mind and soul. I really didn’t intend to get preachy this first week, but my mind and soul is looking forward to a year of firsts.

*****

Silence! It’s meal time.

The gong sounds to let retreatants know it is time for meals…there are no clocks in the rooms. As we line up around the buffet table, everyone is quiet. You see, when they say it’s a silent retreat, it means silence during meals too.

This was the hardest part of the silent treatment for me. It truly was a seen but not heard atmosphere. I like talking during meals. I wanted to find out the reasons why everyone was here, where were they from, and wasn’t that dish fabulous?

Yes, I ate every morsel of my vegetarian meals. And for those of you who know me well, I am far from being a vegetarian. My friend Martin (Green Door Catering) calls it “kind” eating, and the meals at the SRF Retreat were very kind to my taste buds. I went in thinking I would have to force myself to eat the food, like when I was a kid forced to eat steamed carrots and peas. I even smuggled in chocolates, cookies and granola bars, thinking I would be hungry (don’t tell). But I surprised myself as I ate the meals with gusto!

I especially enjoyed eating the sweet potato pancakes, and the tofu croquettes served under a delicious creamy yogurt sauce. I would have gone back for seconds, but I wanted to save room for dessert (and those of you who know me really well, know that I look at the dessert menu first). The cranberry cake and the cherry pie with vanilla ice cream were so satisfying, both provided an enjoyable mix of sweet and tart.

I ended each meal slowly sipping my hot cup of mint tea…sitting in peace.

SRF Meditation Gardens Koi Pond

Notebook:

Self Realization Realization Fellowship Retreat, 215 K Street, Encinitas, CA 92024, 760.753.1811, www.yogananda-srf.org.

The Meditation Gardens are open 9:00am to 5:00pm Tuesday through Saturday, and 12:00 noon to 5:00pm Sunday.

The Hermitage is open to the public on Sundays from 2:00 to 4:00pm.

The SRF Encinitas Temple is located at 939 Second Street, 760.436.7220, www.encinitastemple.org, and conducts Sunday lectures at 9:00am and 11:00am.

The Bookstore is located at 1150 South Coast Highway 101, 760.753.5353, is open daily 10:00am to 5:00pm, except Mondays. They’re got some great Christmas items right now.