Friday, February 15, 2013

Old Surf Injury and the Mother of All Stingrays!

I grew up around endless orange groves with the taste of salt water on my lips.  In fact, I often stayed in that salt water until my lips were swollen and my hair bleached nearly white.

I loved to ride the waves.  As a kid, we did not have surfboards.  They were not that available in California yet, unless you were into redwood.  Surfing was mostly taking place in Hawaii at that time.  But not for long.  

In the fifties we made do with air mattresses, inner tubes, and our own bodies.  We became quite adept at body surfing, and we had the best teachers: our parents!  

They had us in the water at infancy.  I have no recollection of a time when I was introduced to waves and salt water, because my first experience was probably at a few weeks of age, in my parents' arms.

In the 60s, we had surfboards.  Or at least, my cousin had one! I got on that board as often as I could.  It was undoubtedly too big for me.  But I had a great and tremendous passion for getting on and falling off that board.  

I recall that one time, it was late afternoon, and he was finished surfing and offered me the board.  I had been body surfing all morning and was lazing around in a muu-muu, but an opportunity is an opportunity, so I jumped on it, literally, and surfed in a wet muu-muu, that was clinging to my legs.  I must have been quite a spectacle.

In the 60s there was a renaissance of surfing.  Beach Boys, Pendleton plaid flannel, sun-bleached hair, the surfers' stomp, woodies.  I was in my element.  We spent June to September in a place at the beach, my parents, my sibs, and myself.  

I would go into the ocean with my dad and my brothers, and they are to be credited with teaching me to face my fears, in the form of any wave that was taller than my dad.  When I wanted to make haste back to shore, they all yelled at me to run toward the towering, dark wall of water!  I learned to ignore my instincts for preservation.

The taste of the salt, the wet hair in the eyes, the smell of neoprene and board wax was in my blood as surely as if it had been injected.  

In the winter, it took us 30 minutes to get to the sand. (It is now a nearly two hour drive from that same location!)  But I had my own board by then.  I loved that board and loved to wax it with a bit more build-up at certain strategic spots.  I had bumps on the tops of my feet,  a red nose, and a rash on my neck.

I would go with friends when my brothers were unavailable.  I would go almost daily.  Sometimes a friend and I would get an early morning ride to a bus stop that would take us directly to PCH.  In the summers, I was only a block away.  

I lived, breathed, salt water, fog, and beach glass.  I should insert in here that despite this passion, I did have a life outside of the ocean.  I was a good student, went to a good university, dated, had boyfriends, got married, and had children.

Let's fast forward to the children.

They took to the waves like baby seals.  Suddenly I had a new avocation, that of a life guard to my kids.  I stood in the shallow water because sometimes I had to pull a toddler out of a spin cycle.  I would still go out and ride a wave, on occasion, when I had someone to keep an eye on the kids.  But for the most part, I had become beached.  

I didn't mind so much.  I just figured that it was their turn, and I was enjoying watching them as they became acquainted with the many moods of the sea.  I saw them get slapped down and ground into the sand, and I saw their triumphant faces as they were lifted by a wave for a ride not to be forgotten, ever.  "Did you see that?  Did you see me?"

One day, as I sat on the beach, it occurred to me that all four of my children were swimming like dolphins.  They were zipping up the face of waves, spinning, shredding.  Half of them, half the time, were on surfboards, but a lot of the time they were on bodyboards.  They were getting really skilled with those bodyboards.  It looked like fun.

I was in my 40s then, and I went and got myself a bodyboard.  It cost about as much as my earlier surfboard!  But, I was thinking that I could be with my kids, no matter the conditions, on a bodyboard.  Soon I was bodyboarding every day that I could.  It was so fun, and I got in such great shape.  I found it to be nearly as much fun as surfing and often, even more fun.  There were so many more kinds of turns and movements that one could make on a little board like that, albeit, in a prone position.

It was during this time that I got my first stingray injury.  Holey moley, who hit me with a staple gun?  I stayed sitting on the beach watching my foot bleed and my kids enjoying the surf.  When the pain was unbearable, we headed home and I soaked.

The second time, I was doing the stingray shuffle, but there were hundreds of them in the water.  We floated above them, looking at them.  

Earlier in the day, the OC REGISTER had come out to photograph and interview us, because we were an entire family of wave riders.  I guess in the 80s that was seen as newsworthy. They should have stuck around.  This time, knowing how painful that sting can be if one delays the hot water and epsom salts treatment, we went straight home to soak it.

I hardly recall the third sting's circumstances.  After a while it all becomes a big blur. I think that I had already gotten in a good day's worth of waves with the family and was coming in.  I was dutifully doing the stingray shuffle, when the top of my foot was whacked, anyway, by the mother of all stingrays.  I was instantly stumbling.  I was bleeding as if I had been attacked by a shark, and judging by the looks of the faces of the tourists, they must have thought that was exactly what happened.  "See that, THAT is why I don't let you go in the water.  There are GREAT WHITES out there!"

This time I was carried home, and sat, in my wet wetsuit and all, in tub after tub of salt water and epsom salt mixtures.  The pain made me tremble, and I had no ability to move my toes or even my leg at all.  I was paralyzed and engulfed in pain for 5.34 hours, and then, suddenly the pain was gone.  I limped about for about two weeks, unable to drive myself or do all that much.  

(I was in a writing class and my professor actually came and picked me up!)

I showed my injury to a lifeguard and he said, "Holy Mammacita of all things marine and nautical, that was a biggie! That was the MOTHER OF ALL STINGRAYS!"

About a month and a half later, still limping somewhat, I went to a doctor to make sure that the barb was not under the skin.  It wasn't, thank goodness.  But, I didn't even think about my tendons or ligaments.

I should have.

Fast forward twenty years.

Last November, I thought I might have broken two toes.  Two toes on my right foot were kind of black and blueish, and painful.  I was limping a bit.  After a month or two of that, I made an appointment for a podiatrist.  To cut to the chase, apparently I had developed a neuroma (like a callous) on a nerve between the third and 4th toes on just the right foot.  It was painful, and I was x-rayed and given cortisone injections right into that neuroma.  Kind of felt like a stingray zap, except much slower.

The podiatrist was puzzled.  The location was not typical, and just the right foot, not both feet?  How had I injured that foot?  I mentioned everything I could think of, including the Mother of all Stingrays.

That made his face light up as if his face could say, "BINGO!"  That could be what happened, he told me.  Apparently the slash of the stingray severed an tendon or ligament or two or three.  Indeed, I had two toes there that had lost their flexibility.  And with further observation, it was apparent that those toes were pathetically limp and lackluster when compared to their twins on the other foot.

Those toes appeared to be robust braggarts in comparison.  They had been working out.

It is true that, as a former long distance runner, that a coach of mine, observing changes to my foot post stingray injury, had recommended some changes in my running gait, as suddenly my right knee was tending to blow out at 8 miles.  So, that should have been my clue.

But, in any case, it was too late.  If I had had any severed tendons or ligaments repaired at the time of the injury, maybe those two slacker toes would be more functional today.  But I didn't know and no one told me.  It's not as if these kinds of injuries are commonplace.  But I wish I had known.

And so, in my sorry state of needing injections in my foot, and pads under my lengthy metatarsals, and needing to get rid of half my shoe wardrobe, and to never again be able to wear a high heel on my right foot (and my left foot sulks since it didn't do anything wrong!), or anything else that causes pain, and that means nearly anything...I feel a need to write this sad story.

This is partially to explain why I had to try on every shoe that I own and make a pile of the ones that will no longer work.  Why I recently had to buy a large selection of shoes to try on to find, I hope, one or two pairs that will work.  

It is partially to explain why I am in sensible shoes, sometimes limping or wincing in pain a bit.

And because, as it is clearly apparent at this point, it is a long story.

I was thinking the other day about how some older men with limps will explain that it is an old war injury.

I will be saying, if anyone asks, that it is an old surfing injury.  That is much more glamorous, (and absolutely true!) than saying that I have a neuroma on a nerve in my foot, due to irritation of that nerve, due to severed tendons and/or ligaments that changed my gait and made my toes limp and useless appendages.

Now I just need to find a bodyboarding buddy.  I will teach her how to do the stingray shuffle.  If she has the same shoe size as me, she may also inherit a lot of shoes!  

Sunday, September 02, 2012

How Was the Wedding?

I am being asked that often since I got back.  And so, I have decided that I need to write it down.  

First of all, San Francisco is one of my favorite cities.  I spent a lot of time there as a baby and a kid,  and I spent a lot of time there in my late teens during the 60s.  A bunch of us all lived there from early spring until school started in the fall, every summer for about five years.  We had the best time!  

I go there whenever I can, tagging along when my husband has to spend a week there for work, for instance.  While he works, I head out the door each morning and explore, and there is always so much to explore.  I love cities with art galleries, museums, and great public transportation.  

I came of age in San Francisco, so it has a special place in my heart and soul.  And if you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair!

So, my son-in-law, Robert, proposed in Europe, and then the plan was in place.  Only it was a very quiet plan.  It was, in essence, pretty much an elopement in many ways.  Except I knew about it as I was invited to fly up to be a witness and to photograph the entire thing.  How fortunate for me.

So, on a Wednesday afternoon, I few up to San Francisco, and spent the first 20 minutes or so, just trying to find Robert and Kiera.  We were talking on our cells, "Did I walk right past you?"  "Didn't you come from gate 11?"  Eventually I heard, "Is there an escalator near you?"  "Yes, there is."  "Can you come up it?"  I went to look up at the escalator, and there they were, at the top, the beaming bride and groom!

There was much rejoicing and many hugs and then we got onto Bart, rode it to the mission district area, and then walked to our bed and breakfast.  We walked for a pretty long time, but none of were complaining, we were just talking away.  

At our B&B, the Inn San Francisco, we made friends quickly with the inn keepers, who showed us around and told us to let them know if we needed anything at all.  (They went out and bought Kiera a shower cap!) The Inn is three stories with a deck on top, a side yard with a patio and cast iron dining sets, and a wooden hot tub (remember those?).  It's Victorian and cozy.

After our tour, we took our bags up to the third floor.  The plan was to get settled a bit and then go get something to eat.  But then we were all feeling kind of tired, and the inviting parlors downstairs supplied all manner of refreshment, so we opted to just go downstairs and enjoy the ambiance.  We dined on some organic fruit (very juicy and sweet!), and other treats, and sat and talked, took photos, and then went up to the deck, up a narrow, iron, spiral staircase.  There we took some night photos of the bride and groom on the eve of their nuptials.  

Then we settled down in our separate rooms.  Mine had a square, screenless window that opened up to a cool breeze and a view of the city.  The window was level with my bed.  If I lived there, I would have slept with my head at that window,  gazing out, instead of having my feet there.

The next morning, I went into the room where all the action was.  There was wedding attire hanging about, and a make-up artist came to do Kiera's make-up and hair.  I took photos of that as it was happening, and the wedding attire hanging up, and whatever else seemed significant, or worthy of future memories. 

By the time the young lady was finished making Kiera glamorous, we all knew each other pretty well, and so photos were taken of everyone, and the hugs and well wishes were abundant and then it was time to finish getting spiffed up with cufflinks, shoe buckles, etc.  

We went upstairs to take a few daytime photos from the top deck, and then went down for a few in the patio & yard, and then, the cab was there, and we hopped into the cab to go to the flower shop.

On the way, Kiera made good friends with the cab driver and learned all about how long he had been married, how many kids, etc.  And, again, we were all good friends and he offered his wedding advice before he dropped us on the block where the flower shop was located.

As we walked to the flower shop, passing drivers gave gentle, congratulatory beeps on their horns, seeing a couple in wedding attire, and the flower lady was expecting us.  She was sweet and we got to know her and from where she came, and she designed the wedding bouquet and the boutonniere on the spot with input from the bride and groom, and yes, I took more photos of this process.  

Then it was time to depart and there were hugs and well wishes again, and if they looked like a bride and groom before, they did even more so now with their bright orange flowers.  We walked to city hall from the flower shop and again, gentle honks, voices calling out congratulations, etc.

Then there was the beautiful San Francisco city hall with its old and graceful architecture.  Up the steps we went with pauses for photos on the way in.

While in there, there were several stops at an office to fill out forms, etc. a couple of stops in the restroom, one in a lobby for snacks, but a tremendous amount of our time was spent exploring the building and taking photos.  I would like to know how many times I went up and down that vast, central staircase.  In any case, I didn't feel a need for exercise for about three days after that.  

Finally, it was time.  We met with the judge and she was sweet and personable, and had some words to say of marriage advice, and then she told us to meet her up at the rotunda where she would perform the ceremony.

So up those vast, marble steps again, all the way to the rotunda.  There we took some more photos, and waited.  When the judge appeared, she was, again, sweet and she offered a bit of instruction about how it would go, (Kiera had  noted that she thought she must love her job) and then had the couple stand before her, holding hands while she performed the ceremony.  I was allowed to move around at will and photograph the entire thing.  When saying his vows, Robert was beaming tenderly.  When Kiera said her vows, she teared up, which of course, made me tear up, but I kept shooting. 

There were others on lower steps in that vast hallway, watching the ceremony and I saw others also tear up when Kiera did.  Once again, she makes emotional connections with others, wherever she goes.  Those watching were wiping away tears and smiling sweetly.

They exchanged rings, were pronounced husband and wife and then kissed and kissed.  A few things were signed, and then we went down to the second level, and took many more photos.  

Then down to the ground level, and yes, more photos, and photos of them coming out of city hall, beaming and leaping with joy.

Next on the agenda?  A walk to where the cake would be served.  We walked to a bakery that sold cupcakes, and along the way, more gentle beeps and words of congratulations.   In the bakery, I wondered why Robert kept looking at his watch.  But their wedding cupcake awaited them.  It was put into a small, white box.  As we were stepping out the door, I asked Robert where he thought they would have it, in that little park right there, across the street?  Yes, that's a good idea.

Oh, he's a sly one.  We walked over to a bench where a musician sat with his guitar and his music on a stand, and we learned that he had been arranged in advance, to serenade the new couple.  He began with the Beatles,' In My Life.  So sweet.  Kiera had no idea and was joyfully stunned.  He played many songs while they ate their cupcake, smooched, smiled, laughed, sang along in harmony, and danced.  

Little children came and sat at their feet, or came to stare in a kind of reverent awe at the bride and groom.  They danced some more, and smiled and laughed, and soon it was time for the next leg of this wedding adventure.  By now, I was convinced that this was a cool way to have a wedding, complete with flowers on the way, cake, music, dancing, and well wishers on the sidewalks, in the parks, on the cable cars, and in their cars as they drove by gently honking.

We met out pedi-cab guys on the other side of the park.  Kiera and Robert sat on the seat of one of the pedi-cabs, and I sat on the other one.  Pedi-cabs are comfortable seats in a trailer behind a bicycle being pedaled by some very fit guys.  We took off and rode like that for three hours all over San Francisco.  We went up hills (slowly) and down hills (speedily), we went onto sidewalks, through neighborhoods, through heavy traffic, alongside cable cars, through a craft fair, along the wharf, near China Town, through the arches of the Fine Arts Palace, over and under bridges, and well, really, pretty much everywhere.

And all along the way, people were smiling, offering their congratulations,  honking (gently), staring, pointing.  I think some of the people went home and said, "You won't believe what I saw today!  A bride and groom being pulled along in a pedi-cab!" 

I took lots of photos, until my hand was cramping and the fog had rolled in and a wind came with it and soon we were really, really cold.  We had blankets to wrap up in, but they were no longer enough.  

Then we stopped at the park by the Painted Ladies, said our thanks and goodbyes to our pedi-cyclists, who we also got to know pretty well, but they didn't offer wedding advice.  We squeezed out a few more pix then flagged down a cab to meet up with our dinner reservation. Our cab driver was a friendly guy and Kiera started the conversation by saying, "Guess what we did today!"  And soon, we knew how long he had been married and how many kids, and he had his marriage advice to contribute, too.

We dined on a quality wedding dinner at The House, and so, the wedding day was complete.  When we got back to the Inn, there was an Inn keeper there that we hadn't met yet.  We sat around his office while I printed my boarding pass for the next day, and got to know this personable man, and he, too, offered some sage marriage advice.  I have to say, that all of the advice given to the couple, all day long, was wise and sound.

I think there was a bit of everything, that wedding day, that is found in traditional weddings.  The dress, the veil, the rings, the tux, the bouquet, the guests (albeit, in this case they were spontaneous guests along the way), the boutonniere, the cake, the music, the dancing, the advice from spontaneous fatherly figures that we met throughout the day.  And there were a few things that were not traditional, such as the pedi-cab ride all over San Francisco.  But then, some might even equate that to the bride and groom getting away in their carriage.

It was a magical day full of spontaneity, smiles, and lots of love.  If I could add anything to the mix, it would only be this one thing: forever.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Exploring My Heritage- In Person

Originally uploaded by katzeye

I just got back from two weeks in the UK.

My dad is Scottish. My mother is Scottish-Dutch-Danish.

My Dad’s Scottish parents/ancestors are named Wilkinson (or at least, that is his closest Scottish relative, there are many, many other Scottish names because they have all come from there, and some of them during my lifetime). My mother’s Scottish names are Barnes, and Beveridge, and Moffat, and her Dutch name is Van Schoonhoven. Her Danish name is Nelson (her grandmother direct from Denmark).

So, there are some names. But what’s in a name?

Apparently a lot if you’re in Scotland. Before going there, I knew that the name Wilkinson is the result of marriage between the Scotts and the Norse, way back in those Viking invasion days. Having talked to various Scottish ancestry experts from time to time, I understood that the Wilkinson line came out of that kind of intermarriage, and that they were part of another clan, which may have been part of yet another clan. Apparently there were so few of them that they had to be adopted in or something.

But while exploring the Highlands, and the Isle of Skye, I learned a few more things.  But let’s begin in Edinburgh, where I spoke to a gentleman in a shop there that sold clan stuff.

I asked him if he had anything Wilkinson. He nearly became angry, declaring that Wilkinson was not a Scottish name, with the “son” on the end indicating Scandinavian.

I found that interesting since my son and I had gone to the Scottish Heritage shop in Old World in Huntington Beach the night before my dad’s funeral. My son wanted to wear a tie in the family tartan to the funeral, and the store’s owner was kind enough to let us in after hours. He pointed out to us that the Wilkinson line had, as I had been told before, been kind of adopted into another clan. He told me MacDonald, and so we chose a tartan from that clan for the funeral.

So, there I was in Edinburgh being told that a name with “son” at the end was Scandinavian and not Scottish, even though I was seeing, on his rack of tartans, “Wilson,” for example.

He was tellling me that whoever told me that was just trying to sell me something, and so therefore was lying to me. I was pretty jetlagged and found that I was near tears at his harsh way of addressing me. When I told him of other Scottish names, Beveridge, Barnes, Moffat, and Wallace, he completely changed his attitude. Especially with the mention of the name Wallace, which seems to be pretty sacred in those parts. I almost wished I had thrown the Wallace name around a bit more, as many more doors might have opened and maybe a free dinner or two! But I left his store after laying those names on him, and did not buy a thing!

As Mark was witnessing our exchange, he said not a word. And he had already secretly purchased for me the keyfob pictured above, which has not only the Wilkinson crest, but the tartan on the back. So he knew that the guy was just being rude.

But it made me start to wonder. Were the Wilkinsons black sheep in the family of Scots?

So, we continued on, into the Highlands, and the Isle of Skye. From time to time, I would look into records, such as war records in the Edinburgh castle where I found many of my family’s names, except Wilkinson.

In an information shop, I found Wilkinson in a list of clans. It said that the name was originally MacQuilkan. MacQuilkan! I recorded it in my book for future reference.

Then, at an old, beautiful church, on the bank of a loch, in the highlands, there was an older gentleman in a kilt sweeping the stone floors inside the church. I asked him about MacQuilkan and his eyes lit up.

He told me about how Quilk is the origin of Wilk, and that Quilkan was the same as Wilkin, or Wilkan, or Wilken. Quilkan is the original spelling from way back. So, that would make me a Quilkinson, essentially.

He said that many clans lost the Mac, or Mc from the beginnings of the names.  He also said that there are not many MacQuilkans left in the world. He thought there was one in the film industry in California! He said that some of the MacQuilkans were asked to change their name to Cameron.

I wish that I could remember the stories as to why this was, wish I had recorded him. It was something political as I recall. Some of the MacQuilkans/Wilkinsons did change their names to Cameron, which means that I might be related to more than one clan member in the film industry. Some refused to change their names, and some went back to their original names after changing them under pressure.

(Sounds like a nightmare for future genealogy that I do on this line.)

And he confirmed my earlier knowledge that the MacQuilkans had been taken into the MacDonald clan.

While doing all of this, I was emailing back and forth with my son who was very interested in all of this. I would send him some names to look into and he would email back with some new info, etc. I found it amusing to read about his research about why the MacQuilkans married Vikings. They were tired of being attacked by them so decided that intermarriage might bring about the end of warfare.

Some of these ancestors worked, generation after generation in the coal mines. I found myself a little sad/offended that there is a jolly, amusing coal mine tourist attraction in Edinburgh.

There was another Scottish line that I forgot to bring with me, and that is one of Scottish Royalty. My sister had sent me information on this one guy, a benevolent king. I wish I had brought that with me, because we went to so many castles that I can’t remember which was which now, and will need to sort out my notes. I may have found evidence of him, too, somewhere. Perhaps a royal name would have opened some doors for us, too.

But it’s just as well. Even if he was benevolent and promoted literacy, as I have heard, I think it may have made for a different kind of trip.

This trip was about immersing ourselves in the culture and people, and even picking up some expressions and a wee bit of an accent in the doing so (I still hear it; all those Scottish conversations in my head). And we did immerse ourselves. And it was rich, indeed.

Except for that one shop owner, we found the Scots to be kind, courteous, warm, and generous. We stayed in their B&Bs all across the Highlands and it was like being in their homes.

And Mark even tried haggis!!!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Originally uploaded by katzeye

I think I love blueberries as much as I love life. I love my failing eyesight, too. It makes it possible for me to see the blueberries in the sunny morning and capture them in the image above. And blueberries are good for my eyes. It’s a good thing I love blueberries.

When I go to restock the pantry, I always check to see if there are any fresh blueberries in stock. They are almost always not in season, and so, once again, I get a bag of frozen ones.

I was doing just that when I approached the frozen section recently at my local Spouts. I should add that I am not one of those people who loves to go grocery shopping. I enter the store, and it is as if from the moment I enter, I am lost in some kind of wicked maze and my job is to find my way out again with an adequate amount of groceries to keep us going for another week.

My plan, this time, was to get the really big bag of blueberries, hoping they might last for a while. I went straight to the frozen fruit and found an apparently frozen woman, just standing there, her chin in her hand, sighing and staring at the bags of frozen blueberries.

I had to kind of contort to look around her and when she noticed me, she sighed, without moving at all, “I know, the other ones were a better deal.”

I gave her a polite smile, not really comprehending her plight, and wanting to just get my blueberries before the crumbs I left to lead me back to the exit were gone. It was then that I noticed she had a grocery flyer crumpled in her slightly blue fist. She never did move, and I reached around her and grabbed the huge bag, and I thought that I saw her eyes dart about nervously as I did so.

I then made my way along the rest of the frozen foods, and back to the deli for the cheese I forgot, and back to the cereal aisle for whatever else it was I forgot, and then I got stuck in the toothpaste aisle for some reason. Maybe there was something shiny there.

I think my blueberries were starting to thaw as I made it to the check-out line.

I was behind about four other people, so, I occupied my time observing their purchases. Vegetables I had never seen before in my life, and some kind of animal body part, and a jar of green sauce. I resisted going back to the sauce aisle to examine the green sauce more closely. Green spaghetti sauce? Well, maybe a pesto sauce but in a giant glass jar? That could be interesting.

Oh, my turn. As I was uploading my groceries there was a clerk on a telephone of some kind, standing inside my checker’s space. He was trying to get someone to find some of the blueberries that the frozen blueberry lady was looking for. I heard him say, “Yeah, she is still there, in the frozen aisle.”
Probably pretty much a blueberry, herself, by then. She had a coupon for a particular bag of blueberries and none of the others would do, and she would wait.

I walked out into the sunshine and thought about the blueberry lady. I love blueberries. I really do. But I love life even more. I think we sometimes get stuck in the frozen food aisle or whatever other aisle in our lives that seems to be of most import at a particular time and we miss out on something else. Like walking out into the sunshine, the grocery chore done until next week, and ready to do something else like talk to a little kid, smell the ocean, write a letter to a friend, soak in the gratitude of a beautiful day.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Originally uploaded by katzeye

The word denim comes from the phrase "de nime" because that is where they first began to create and indigo-dye denim fabric, which was then made into jeans in SF by Levi Strauss as a pant that miners' could wear comfortably, and that didn't wear out as fast as whatever else they were wearing.

I have loved denim since I was a little girl, and jeans were called "dungarees." And I also love that they were created by the people of France and San Francisco, along with sourdough baquettes! And indigo is my favorite color, and not just because it matches my eyes!

I remember coming home from Kindergarten, where I was required to wear a dress or jumper, and socks and maryjane shoes, or tights, and changing immediately into a pair of jeans.

In fact, I recall being in HS and coming home and changing from my dress or skirt into jeans. (Just imagine, my entire educational career from K-college required that i wear dresses and skirts to class albeit, on many a frigid winter morning, I wore a pair of jeans under a long skirt that I whipped up the night before on the apartment sewing machine, and a wool maxi coat over that!)

So, it is not at all surprising that jeans are still my uniform of choice. I have been wearing jeans for at least 60 years!

I find that they are comfortable, durable, and that if I wear a darker wash, I can dress them up, even! I can wear skinny ones tucked into boots, I can wear bootcut ones over boots, and I can wear wide ones over platform sandals, and I can wear any kind with ballet flats, toms, converse, or flat sandals. And they don't get stained as easily as other pants, and the older ones are like old friends.

So, it shouldn't be surprising that they are my favorite travel pants as well. I like to wear a fairly bulky, comfortable pair of boot cuts on the plane, train, bus, or in the car because i find that comfortable. But having discovered the newly reformulated knit jeans, I am in heaven! I used my ll bean bonus coupons on a pair of knit boot cuts that feel like jammies but look like jeans. I will wear those to travel in FOR SURE!!

But, a while back I began a search for jeans that don't take 48 hours to dry. I want jeans in my suitcase, but with our being on the move as much as we will be on this trip, they need to pack well and dry well if I feel a need to rinse them in a sink! I recall, when we were in Swtizerland, that I did wash a couple of pairs of jeans, but they did take 48 hours to dry. Fortunately, we were staying in one place for the most part. Unfortunately, those jeans were hanging around on the radiator for two full days!

So, I found some places that have jeans that pack up light and dry overnight. OVERNIGHT?? That would mean I would wear one pair of jammie-like knit jeans for flying, and pack a pair that I could wash once or twice. But, alas, these jeans were costly. One pair costs about 125.00. My favorite ones (because they look the most like jeans) are about 100.00 but they would be 135. with shipping because they are made and sold by a company in, wait for it, wait for it, Scotland! They have a store in Edinburgh that I would love to visit! (they have stuff for adventure travel, rugged looking, but nice, stuff that is durable and dries overnight, etc.)

Some would argue that regular jeans, if they are any good, cost that much or much, much more, so what is the big deal? Yeah, I've seen jeans that cost 800.00 and up. But I am on a budget. I don't want to pay over 100. for a pair of jeans unless they are the only jeans I will need for the rest of my life! (or pretty close to that.)

So, in my DIY spirit of experimentation, I have been hand washing various jeans that I own to see how long it takes for them to dry. 48 hours for most of them.

I went back to see what the quick dry ones were made of. They were cotton denim, but only about half or less. The rest of the content was made up of other things, usually synthetics similar to polyester. The ones in Scotland are made up of mostly a high-tech fabric of their own creation. And they have a secret zipper pocket, too!

So, that is the secret to jeans that dry overnight then. The content needs to include a large enough portion of a fast drying high-tech synthetic. I began to read the labels on the jeans that I own. The ones that I always reach for the most are all cotton. Some have a touch of spandex and other synthetics.

The ones at the other end, the ones that I haven't worn as much had a higher content of synthetics. I rinsed a couple of them in the sink yesterday and they are almost dry now, already wearable, but they have a couple of hours to go before it is 24 hours.

EUREKA!! There's the secret! Get a jean with a higher content of synthetic and they dry faster! So, of course, I will try on the ones that are nearly dry now. One pair I will not take because they are very dressy looking denim trousers with no pockets. I do not travel with any kind of pants with NO POCKETS!

I went online to look at the fabric content of various jeans, but, the percentages are not given online. I will have to read labels and try on a variety to find the perfect travel jeans that can dry in 24 hours or less!

And that makes me want to just order the ones made in Scotland and be done with it. Maybe.

Oh the irony. It is because of my Scottish blood that I am thrifty, right? That is what makes me think that I may be able to find some jeans with the right content to travel with, and at a sale price of say 20-40.00!! I am confident that if I put in the time and effort, I may succeed! But the ones that are tempting me the most are from Scotland. How dare the Scots tempt me to toss aside my thrifty heritage!

(I ignore the fact that jean fitting is nearly a science, especially if one is petite, but needing an inseam around 31-32", nearly impossible to find! Petite jeans tend to be around 29-30" and the rest tend to be 33-34"!!!)

I notice that the jeans in Scotland come in a 31" inseam as their regular size!! Do women in the UK have shorter legs than women in the USA? Their petites are around 27"!!!

So, bottom line, I will definitely get out there and look for the jeans in the right fabric content to make them dry overnight. When I find them I will be in jean nirvana!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pool or Ocean?

Originally uploaded by katzeye


Do you prefer to swim in the ocean, or in a swimming pool? I think most people will say, “swimming pool!” and list many reasons to support that choice.

I prefer to swim in the ocean. And I have many reasons why that is the case.

Yesterday, I spent more time in a swimming pool than I generally spend in one in years. There were the grandkids who needed to get wet. So, there was a lot of bobbing and floating and splashing mixed in with some whining, etc.

Then, last night, I thought it might be a good idea for Mark and I to take a swim, because he recently had knee surgery, and needs to exercise.

So, we dressed for a swim and wrapped up in towels and such to make our way to the pool in the rather cool breeze. The water in the pool was probably warmer than the air, but still, there was something difficult about fully plunging. I was cold and my every instinct told me, in every cell of my body, that to be wet would be colder.

While some might say, “I want my mommy!” I was saying, “I want my wetsuit!”

But no one wears a wetsuit in the pool. It was probably freakish enough that I was wearing a tank top and board shorts. Hey, if guys can do that, who says that I am required to wear the female equivalent of a speedo anyway? Especially after 60. I just want to be comfortable. And in any case, the tomboy in me totally favors the comfort of a pair of board shorts.

Mark simply jumped in feet first, which is usually the best choice. But it’s a shallow pool. It only goes as deep as 5 feet. I can stand in the deep end and my hair can remain dry on top, which makes me feel absurdly tall, as if at a pool at Legoland.

So, Mark’s feet hit the bottom, hard, when he jumps in and that sets his knee rehabilitation back about six weeks. So he goes and gets into the Jacuzzi.

Meanwhile, I am still getting used to feeling cold, and still determined that I will swim laps. Or something.

While Mark is saying, “Ahhhh….” I am doing a sidestroke across the pool. Then I do a backstroke. Then I do a dog paddle. I am feeling strangely winded, and that is quickly followed by intense boredom.

I try getting across the pool in any kinds of strokes that I can invent. I would like to just do a deadman’s float and lightly kick my feet until I reach the other side, but I don’t want that much chlorine in my soft contacts. Then I realize that it is the chlorine that is making me feel winded. I am allergic to chlorine. Duh. I try to limit my exposure to it. We have filters on our showers to eliminate it so that I can go all year long without a breathing treatment. As a kid, I would get asthma after a swim in someone’s pool, every time.

Okay, so now what? I float on my back. I try to see stars in spite of the intensely bright pool lights.

I finally get out, feeling like a popsicle and sink into the Jacuzzi with Mark. In the Jacuzzi, I continue to swim, albeit, with much less room, because, unless I am reading, I am not that good at just sitting there. Soon another couple joins us, and then another, so it’s rub-a-tub-tub, three couples in the tub. And I am no longer even remotely swimming, but just sitting and trying to act like a grownup and stop playing with the bubbles.

Not exactly my idea of getting exercise: doing a slow roast in a Jacuzzi while talking for hours about the HOA, and politics, etc.

So, here are the reasons why I prefer to swim in the ocean:

I can wear a wetsuit and not look like a dork, unless the water temp is 75 and the air is 113, but in that case, I would probably be lying on the kitchen floor with a wet towel placed over my head and shoulders. The wetsuit, after the initial plunge which is usually taken care of at the first powerful wave, keeps my body temp better regulated. And the wetsuit helps keep me from getting sunburned.

I am a native of Cali, and have lived in Huntington Beach for about 35 years (and Newport Beach before that, and Seal Beach in between), but my ancestors come from places not known for getting tans.

My dad’s Scottish ancestors intermarried with the Norse invaders, and so that line is Scandinavian/Scottish from way back. Add to that that an Irish woman married one of these norse/scots and you get pale skin that freckles for all who come from this line.

My mother’s ancestry is Dutch, Danish, Scottish. I got my blondish/light brownish hair from her, but my skin from my dad. I can tan, if I am willing to make it a full time job. It takes at least three months of daily hours holding still on the beach to get one. And in two days of not doing that, it fades in a hurry. And for the first month, it will mostly be peeling and increasing the freckle count.

When I swim in a pool, I am dressed differently and parts of me that are not used to sun instantly burn, sunblock or not. And I think all that reflection there just increases the entire effect. So, in order to swim in a pool, I either need to wear a wetsuit, put on prescription strength sunblock that looks like clown white face, all over exposed skin. Or work on getting a protective tan.

None of those are all that enticing, so, board shorts, rash guard, etc. Anyway, what do you do in a pool? Especially one that is only 5 feet deep? Back stroke, side stroke, dead man’s float?

I prefer to swim in the ocean because there are always things you can do there. You can swim, paddle, or, run like mad toward a fresh set that is coming in. You can dive under a wave. You can float on your back up the slope of a slick wave, and down the other side. You can be pummeled to the point that you are eating sand and telling yourself that you WILL find the surface again if you just relax.

You can watch dolphin swim by. You can dodge a surfer. You can catch a wave that takes you on a long and exciting, or long and pleasant ride. You can share a wave with your buddy, or a seal, or both.

You can stay out as long as you are not turning blue, and you don’t get winded from breathing chlorine fumes. You can burn a lot more calories than you will doing a half-hearted sidestroke in still water.

My parents loved to swim in the ocean, and we did it often. I can’t recall the first time they took me into the Pacific. And I do recall my infancy (see a previous blog). It had to be when I was just a baby. I do have some memories of being held in their arms while they rose up over waves and down the other side, and their responses to these experiences were positive, so, I am certain that I began to love being in the ocean as a baby.

As children, we would often stay in the water for 8 hours at a time. We were blue prunes! As a teen, I would borrow surfboards, until I had my own, and ride waves for as long as I could.

So, what can you do in a pool anyway? To me, with my expansive experience in the vast pacific, a pool seems like a bathtub.

I guess I’ll just take a good book the next time I go to the pool. That is what I do in a bathtub.

Either that, or I will wear a wetsuit to the pool, bring a body board, and yell KOWABUNGA as I throw myself into the water. Acting like a grown-up is so overrated, anyway.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Gather 'round
Originally uploaded by katzeye


We’ve all heard the saying about not judging another human being until we have walked a mile in his or her moccasins. It is so very true.

Recently I was at a social event where a group of people were labeling a woman as being crazy. I patiently heard them out, and they all got a good laugh out of it, but inside I was experiencing turmoil.

You see, I have known this woman for quite some time. So, on the one hand, I was experiencing some pain because I know what is good about her and hated to hear her being judged so harshly.

And on the other hand, I also wondered how many times I have been with a group of people who were dissing someone that I did not know, or barely knew and I accepted what they were saying as being unbiased truth.

All too often, we judge people on the most superficial things, such as appearance, mannerisms, etc. And we also judge too quickly based upon gossip, rumor, and distortion.

Don’t we also harshly judge those who wrong us? The ultimate in compassion is to strive to understand those who are unkind to us, and to forgive them.

As a photographer, I do a lot of editing. I look at a lot of faces up close. Sometimes I edit a photo wherein a smiling, seemingly happy person, is not looking that happy up close. Sometimes I see the sadness, rough experiences, disappointments in people’s faces, when I see them much closer.

My daughter and I, from as far back as I can remember, have shared heart pangs with each other. For us, heart pangs are when we see a human being, usually a stranger, who is experiencing loss, confusion, humiliation, pain, or any of the human emotions and plights that make us feel vulnerable: the experiences and situations that we usually keep to ourselves.

When we see something like this, we call it a heart pang. Our hearts are tugged. We experience compassion and the pathos of being a human being.

Every human being has had, or will have some really rough experiences, things that will bring us to our knees, things that will test us, make us sob, make us feel abandoned, alone, hurt. We all experience harshness, adversity, troubles. We are all vulnerable.

Every human being has a story to tell. Stories that break our hearts. We need to pay more attention. We need to look more closely. Behind every smile there is a sad face. We pick ourselves up, and we move on, and we keep trying. We smile ‘though our hearts are breaking.”

As for that conversation about the woman deemed to be crazy. Sure, she might be a little bit. But I stuck my neck out and told them what I knew about her. About her triumphs and her sorrows. And afterward, there was a quiet moment. The laughter ceased. I think and I hope that they understood her a bit more, and have some compassion for her now.

I know that I am determined to withhold judgment more often and to have compassion more often, and to want to hear others’ stories more readily. Knowing people’s stories is a way to walk in their moccasins. And once we have, we will have compassion and love for them.

And isn’t that what it is all about?