A Midwesterner’s (changed) view of California

There are so many misconceptions I had about California before I actually went there…

1. I would experience an earthquake.

I thought that the likelihood of experiencing an earthquake was high. When I started to relax, I had to remind myself of this possibility. It never happened. I remember in grade school having a teacher tell us that someday an earthquake might send California crashing into the sea. From that point on, I always pictured the outline of CA tearing apart (like folding a paper in half and ripping it along the crease) into the ocean. Didn’t happen..

2. I didn’t expect so much variety of landscape and people.

While we experienced only a small part of CA, we were able to see the desert, mountains, and the ocean. In Wisconsin, our state is pretty flat except on the far western border.We are surrounded by many lakes and rivers, just no ocean. Although we do experience extreme differences in climate with the changing of the seasons our landscape is pretty much the same.

Paul noticed that the people of CA seemed to be very individualistic. People wore some pretty outlandish things and no one stared. In WI, we are all about conformity. Fitting in is pretty easy. All you need to do is wear a regular pair of jeans and buy a Packer shirt. If you move in from out of state, you will be accepted if you dress like this. If you wear outlandish clothing, and don’t own Packer’s clothing, you will be mistrusted and talked about. If you are a man, you have to be a Packer fan.

Every time we leave the state, people ask us about the Packers. Like I would know… Frankly (don’t tell anyone) I could care less about football. Doesn’t anybody know anything else about our great state??

3. People that live in CA are health nuts.

I bought a pair of sunglasses for the trip and noticed that it had a warning that according to CA law the glasses contained materials that caused cancer. What was I getting myself into? Will I be surrounded by judgmental health nuts? I didn’t find that to be the case at all. I think that because the weather is ideal year round that more people get out and exercise.

I didn’t see any obese people in CA.

While we were waiting for the plane, Paul said that he knew we were flying back to WI just by looking at all of the overweight people waiting for the plane. WI is a very obese state. Our diet consists strongly of brats, cheese, and beer. For a majority of the year, it is difficult to buy fresh fruit and vegetables because the quality is so poor. We have excellent weather conditions 3 months of the year. Only the die hard fitness fanatics have what it takes to exercise indoors on a treadmill for several months straight. Plus with the major lack of sunlight, it is hard to be motivated while we are fighting off seasonal depression. Most of our elderly suffer from obesity caused illnesses such as diabetes. Many have a hard time walking around carrying their weight.

We pride ourselves on being hardy to handle cold winters. We are also hard working. But honestly, there really is not much else to do.

4. People in CA are beautiful, rich, and talk differently from us.

I find it funny that a lot of my stereotypes of CA are perpetuated by CA itself. Even the most beautiful and talented Midwestern girls are told that they don’t have what it takes to compete with a California girl. The CA girls are very beautiful and if they are not they have plastic surgeons to make them more beautiful. Again, not true although it keeps a lot of our beauty and talent in the Midwest.

There were rich people and poor people in CA just like there are here…They just have a higher cost of living.

I thought that I would hear at least one person say, “Like, gag me with a spoon.” Nope! They talked very similar to us. More similar than our southern or east coast friends.

Although I would have to say that WI and Upper Michigan has their own dialect.

First of all, if you are visiting here, it is a bubbler not a water fountain. A water fountain is what we throw pennies into, a bubbler is what we drink out of. You may hear someone say ‘yous guys’ for a plural of you. Then replace the “th” with a “d” and wallah. The becomes da, there becomes dere, this becomes dis, and them becomes dem.

This would be an acceptable sentence. “How about dem Packers?” “Did yous guys have fun dere or no?” We typically throw in an ‘or no’ at the end of our questions. “What did yah do dere?” Yah could be a singular form of you or it could mean yes. “How do yah like dem dere cheese curds?” “Not bad, huh?” Not everyone talks this way, but we all know someone who does and we understand.

I really enjoyed comparing the differences in culture. Someday I hope I get the opportunity to explore the rest of California..


The Pacific shore

The last few days of our trip to CA, we visited the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

After we left the winery, we drove to the marina in Oceanside with the thought of possibly renting a sailboat. We watched gigantic waves crash with a loud thundering crescendo over the breakwater. We saw a sailboat raise its main sail, get to the breakwater, then turn back around only to lower its sail again. We were out of our element. We decided it would be too risky.

I also thought that I could go surfing for the first time. I was afraid of sharks and sting rays, but frankly maybe I was afraid of the wrong things. When we arrived at the beach in Carlsbad, the waves crashing into the shore were above our heads. Just standing on the shore when the waves came in caused enough force to knock me down. I decided to watch Paul on the boogie board first before I attempted to do it myself. Then I saw a big wave crash Paul’s body into the ground like he weighed nothing.

Again, we felt out of our element. Those waves were for experienced surfers, not first timers. I also thought that I could swim in the water. No one was doing that. It would have been difficult to get past the waves.

Alcoholic beverages were not allowed on the beach. I thought that was strange. I don’t think that I have ever been on a beach in Wisconsin where people weren’t drinking. Maybe it would be different if our summers were year round. The warm sunny summer weekends are like holidays here. They don’t happen often enough.

Another thing I noticed about the town of Carlsbad was that it was very pedestrian friendly. They had a nice running track. Also, when pedestrians crossed the street they pushed a button that turned on a yellow flashing yield light. All of the traffic stopped to allow pedestrians to cross. The first few times, I ran across as fast as I could and waved a little sorry wave. Pedestrians cross at their own risk at home.

While we were in Carlsbad, we stayed at the Pelican Cove Bed & Breakfast. The owner, Nancy, was very helpful. She made excellent breakfasts and gave us little tips about where to eat and what to do. The room was not air conditioned, nor did it need to be. We left the windows open at night. It did get a little loud. Quite a few trains traveled through town.

The houses in Carlsbad were very close together. From our room, we could see into the house next door. We could smell their cooking and hear them talk. That is a bit unusual in WI. Even in Milwaukee, where the houses are close together, people at least have a small yard to mow. Some people didn’t have a yard there at all. There wasn’t a feeling of privacy, but that didn’t seem to matter.

We also noticed that Carlsbad is a very dog friendly town. People take their dogs with them everywhere. We saw more people with dogs than kids. We were at several restaurants where there were dogs inside. People in WI leave their dogs at home. I have never seen a dog in a restaurant here unless it was a service dog. A man next to us in the restaurant told us that he had his dog genetically tested to see what his pedigree was. How unusual.

Someday, I hope to go back. It was a lovely place.

California wine country


It was finally time for Paul’s birthday surprise…

We had a total of 5 hours from our conference hotel check out until our check in at the South Coast Winery Resort and Spa. It took an hour and a half to drive through the desert, back through the mountains to get there. We were looking to kill some time, which doesn’t happen often.

It was rainy when we left the desert. We made a couple of stops through the mountains to take pictures of the contrast between the sunshine when we arrived to the clouds and mist on our way out. We stopped for lunch at an authentic Mexican restaurant which was more like a fast food joint, nothing to really write about. We were hoping to check out some unique shops, but there was nothing to see. There were a few ranches with blocked off driveways and even more run down trailer homes. We ran into some rain and patches of fog, but ended up getting to the resort early. Very early..

As we got closer to our destination, the rolling mountains turned into sunny vineyards. There were billboards announcing that we were entering wine country. Then we started passing wineries. It was hard to keep our destination a surprise much longer.

Paul’s drink of choice is wine, the drier the better. My drink of choice is craft beer. I’ve heard that we have things switched around a bit…the guy is supposed to drink beer and the girl is supposed to drink wine in the relationship. We never have been much for social norms… So a birthday surprise had to include a trip to wine country.

As I mentioned, we arrived early. Quite a few hours early to be exact. We went to check in expecting to be turned away. Instead, we were very warmly welcomed. Paul was given a bottle of wine for his birthday and a free room upgrade. We were moved from the main hotel to a villa that had a fireplace and Jacuzzi. The customer service there was top notch. I kind of wanted to sneak the lady home in my suitcase and have her work for us.

After checking in, we headed down to the winery for tasting. It cost $18 for 5 tastes. We went twice over our time there and were waited on by Danny. Again, excellent customer service. He was wonderful. Some of my favorite wines were California Girl and the 2014 Riesling. Typically, at home, we do not have to pay to taste wine. In between samplings we are given crackers to cleanse our palette. It wasn’t that way here at all. We were given generous portions though and I felt a little tipsy afterwards.

The following two evenings, we ate supper in the winery’s restaurant. It was rather pricey, however comparable to a fine dining establishment at home. They had specialty foods such as lamb and calamari with unique sauces. The first night I ordered a pasta dish. Even though the portions weren’t huge, I couldn’t eat it all. My acid reflux went wild while on vacation, probably due to stress of traveling and eating different foods. Immediately the head chef came over and asked me if I was satisfied with my food. It was the second day that they used their new menu and they were very concerned that I was not happy since I did not eat all of it. I might’ve been the first person that they tested it out on, but I did like it and couldn’t offer any negative feedback.

The next day, Paul and I tried to get into a tour of the winery but they didn’t have any opening that didn’t conflict with our plans to go to the spa. Paul and I both got massages. It was rather pricey compared to at home. The massage was good, except that my stomach was still upset and I had to pee half way through which was bothersome.

Afterwards, Paul and I hung out at the pool. We sat down between a couple with two adults daughters, one being in a wheelchair. On the other side of us was a large group of young, rather intoxicated, women celebrating an upcoming wedding.

It was at this time that I became aware that Arabella and my mom were arguing. Seeing a woman with her disabled sister brought back memories for me. I think that since I had to give up a great big chunk of my childhood to take care of my disabled brother that my mother owes me a few days to get away stress free. Maybe I shouldn’t feel that way, but that is how I honestly feel. I want my mom to lie to me and tell me that everything is great even if it is not. I had to get involved and try to fix things which made things worse. Then the worry set in. Why is it so hard to relax?

I overheard the young women next to me complain about their grandmas. I felt some irritation at their drunk banter. Oh, how I longed for my grandma to be alive again. Then Paul and I went to the hot tub full of the wedding party girls. They actually thanked us for putting up with them. Apparently some of the other pool patrons weren’t quite as tolerant. We told them we were from Wisconsin. We didn’t know better.

Once the girls found out that we were married for 19 years, they started asking for advice. There were a couple newlyweds, the rest were single and looking for the secrets of marriage longevity. Paul said that he really had no idea at all what he was doing, we just adjust and make things work. Neither of us grew up seeing what a healthy marriage was like. Then I left Paul in the hot tub with a dozen bikini clad women that were half my age. I wanted to shower and get my items out of the spa before it closed. Someone asked why I would leave my husband alone in the hot tub with all of those young women. I replied, “Why stop trusting him now after being together over 20 years?”

I headed back to the spa to shower. I heard the mother of the woman in the wheelchair struggle to shower her daughter in the small stall next to me. It seemed like an overwhelming ordeal and I felt compassion for them. But they did not let her disability get in the way of her swimming and having fun with family even though it was difficult. I zipped in and out of there before they even finished showering.

We had a great time at the winery. We found the room to be very affordable. However, we ended up spending more money on other amenities such as the spa, eating there, and then of course there was the wine…

More on California

We returned from California late Sunday night… It seems like we have been home for weeks already.

We left the Sunday before. We got up early the morning we flew out, 4 AM Central Time to be exact. I admit to being a little crazy, but not the kind of crazy that gets up before the crack of dawn on the weekend. So I set my alarm in my bedroom. I also set the alarm clock on the oven. I don’t think I know anyone that can sleep through that irritating buzz. Then just in case there was a power outage, I decided to set my alarm on my cell phone using the song Californication as a ringtone. Seemed strangely fitting.

I went to bed at midnight the night before. I wanted to wait up until my kids got home safely. I didn’t sleep well, just long enough to grind my teeth and bite little holes into my cheeks.

Despite my anxiety, we arrived safely in California. We picked up our rental car and headed through the mountains towards the desert where our conference was. The man that gave us our rental car was sick with the flu. He said he tried calling in sick but a couple of other people already did so he had to come in. I worried about getting sick. Once again, despite my anxiety, things turned out fine.

Paul was nervous driving through the mountains. There were some steep drop offs. The signs said to put on vehicle headlights, but we didn’t know if we had them on. We stopped at a scenic overlook for pictures. It was very hot out. Hotter than it ever has been in a Wisconsin summer.

I wore my Wisconsin shirt like I sometimes do when I travel out of state. When we checked into the hotel, the hostess asked where I was from. I simply pointed at my shirt. She still had no idea. I told her that I was from Wisconsin. She asked me why I had roots coming out of the bottom of my shirt. I began to think that they hired her for her looks. I explained that I am a 4th generation Wisconsinite…born and bred. Wait! I’m not. My parents had big ideas and moved to Iowa where I was born and lived for one month. Maybe I’m not 4th generation after all. Way to shatter my state pride.

After we got checked in we met up with Joe and friends. I had expectations that we would go out and have a good time, but I was really having a hard time with the 2 hour time change. Joe is from the East Coast, so it was 3 hours for him. That pretty much took most of the wind out of our sails. I really felt like a party pooper.

The funny thing is…the time change did not feel like as big of an adjustment coming back home. Maybe because things were so hectic.

I really tried hard not to worry while I was gone. I know it will probably be quite awhile before I can get away again. But I did worry. My mom and Arabella fought almost the whole time.

When we got home, my son told me that he was driving with a friend on an unfamiliar road and went the wrong way on a one way street. He was heading towards oncoming traffic and had to jump a curb.Wonderful, just wonderful! See what happens when I leave?!?

Then there was that call from school yesterday. Apparently, my son skipped lunch at school on Friday which they are not allowed to do. He took a group of buddies into our car..that was not necessarily the problem. The problem was that one of the guys couldn’t fit and went into the trunk. What an idiot! Just a stupid prank. We did go easy on Alex this time. For the first time in years, he is almost getting straight A’s in school. Last year he had straight D’s. Just when I thought he pulled his head out of his you know what..

Then the phone lines were down at work last week. We finally got all phones up and running today. Plus I almost crashed the server trying to upload my pictures last night.

Unpacking…laundry…dishes…grocery shopping..oh, and we bought a truck yesterday…a 6 mile run…work…

Tomorrow I will write about more of the trip and Paul’s birthday surprise…Not about all of this other crap!


Rain in the desert


The conference is almost over. 

Today it is raining in the desert. It has been raining all day. When we got here it was dry and over a hundred degrees. Today it is in the 70’s and humid. I heard someone say that the locals said it was a miracle. The one of five days a year that it rains around here. To me, it reminds me of home. 

It has taken awhile to get used to the time change. We have been staying up late and getting up early.

We have already had problems at home. Arabella got into an argument with grandma over chores…chores that I said needed to be done but didn’t say who needed to do them..chores that I usually do..chores that no one seems to want to do like cleaning the cat box and taking out the garbage. 

We have had problems at work too while we were gone. Our phone lines and Internet were down most of the morning. Customers were frustrated. 

I can’t wait for the day when getting away is worry free. Can’t anyone else handle these petty annoyances? Apparently not when it is your kids and your name is on the door of your business. 

I wish it was sunny and warm so I can enjoy the pool. But then I think of how dry the land is here. The mountains seem to consist of rock piles and dead trees. The grass is dust. The hotel must pay a steep price for the vegetation we take for granted at home. 

Maybe miracles don’t always come in the way that we expect. It is all about perspective. 

I can’t imagine the dry, dusty, desolate, desperate thirst for water….

All I can think about is that when I go to the desert it rains and when I sign up for a race it is always hot and humid… What can I say?? Sometimes life is strange..

Can’t anything in my life be normal? I suppose then I wouldn’t have anything to write about. 

But maybe I should’ve packed a pair of pants….hmmm. 

Pondering purpose and moving mountains


Do you know what your purpose is in life? How hard would it be to move mountains?

These are my deep thoughts as I sit on the hotel balcony enjoying the lovely view in California.

I started pondering my purpose on the plane ride over. I am an anxious flyer, but I knew I was safe because I was with Paul. Not that he necessarily makes me feel safe, but because I know that God has a greater plan for his life.

But why don’t I feel like that about myself?? That there isn’t a great plan for me? 

What if the purpose of my life is to bear a child that would bear a child that would make a huge positive impact on the world? What if that is my sole purpose? Would I be okay with that? 

What if I was meant to support someone else that would make a difference in the world but never have a huge positive impact myself?

Do all lives have meaning?? What about the quadriplegic? Someone who is declining into dementia?? What about someone with autism? There are some who would say that they are not a valuable member of society if they are not a productive member of society.

But I don’t think that that is true. Carrying for a disabled family member, although burdensome at times, has positively impacted my life. Let me repeat that. Someone deemed by society as not having purpose has changed my life. 

While I sit at the conference, I listen to the keynote speaker talk about leadership and being a positive change in the world. There are a few people here that I think will do it. Then I walk down the hotel corridor and a cleaning lady smiles at me. Maybe changing the world doesn’t always mean moving mountains. Maybe it’s just a smile or kind word when someone needs it. Helping others..

Even though I am middle aged, sometimes I still ponder the purpose of my life. Am I doing what I am supposed to do? Am I on the right path? Does my life line follow the right projectory for positive growth?

There are a few people, like Paul, that are capable of moving mountains…that seem to have a special purpose. Then there are others, like me, still trying to figure things out.

Do you know your purpose in life? Does it change over time? Or are you still trying to figure things out?