Summertime and the Livin’ is Easy

This morning on the beach

Well, easy for me but I’m well aware that there are a lot of people facing hard times at the moment.  I met a lovely woman on Sunday at our usual breakfast gathering who had just lost her husband a week ago.  He had some issues but he was doing okay.  They volunteer together and he told her that morning he wasn’t feeling so great and she should just go on her own.  And she went to get ready and came back to the living room and he was gone.  Her son was still down from Long Island this Sunday but she has a long road ahead.  I was thinking that she’s going to be okay.  There were two other widows at the table on Sunday.

And last week I made soup for two dear friends just home from rehab (hip surgery for one, back surgery for the other) and one friend who thought she was “home free” from cancer and it came back and she’s in the midst of more chemo!  Then, today, while we were on the beach for turtle patrol we were talking to one of the women who lives on the beach and is out walking every day. She’s been dealing with leukemia for ten years.  You’d never know it.

That’s it, though. Sometimes you know what others are dealing with but often you don’t.  That’s why we always need to be kind.  And grateful for every day we get up and get going and not take for granted the fact that we can get up and get going.

Red tide has been sucking the fun out of turtle patrol but we’ve been able to breathe a bit better this week.  We have 282 turtle nests on our .6 of a mile of beach that we patrol.  We “verify” every 20th nest, pound in a stake and triangulate it.  That means we analyze the area and decide where we think that mama buried her eggs.  We dig down carefully until we find them.  Sometimes we find them really quickly.  Other times it takes forever.

There’s something magical about touching that egg.  We don’t uncover them. If we’ve touched one, we know the rest are there.  We recover the nest, get the GPS location and then put three stakes up high on the scarp, measure the distances from each to the nest and  hope  that if there’s a storm and the stake gets washed away, we can relocate that clutch.  Sometimes putting those stakes in is a challenge.  I took a picture of Sally climbing up the scarp (cliff) to pound in a stake.  She was a PE teacher.  Said they had a climbing wall in her gym  Me, I’m better at “keeping the books”.

Sally triangulating

Mary with the book










Books…wasn’t that a great segway??  I’m reading Fredrik Backman’s Us Against Them...Loved Beartown. This is good, too.

And I learned a lot from Our Towns by James and Deborah Fallows.  They visited towns and small cities all over America, towns that have made a comeback after some kind of economic downturn (GE or some industry moved out, naval base closed, etc). They were looking for reasons why these particular  towns are not only surviving but thriving.  In a nutshell, towns and cities that are thriving had some commonalities.

  1.  Vibrant downtown
  2. strong imaginative leader
  3. welcomed and took care of immigrants
  4. invested in schools

there were more but here’s one that’s the most fun…

at least one craft beer brewery.

One thing that was fascinating was that the two biggest success stories (Burlington, VT and Greenville, SC) were as far apart politically as anyone could be. Burlington is Bernie’s land…as liberal as you can imagine and Greenville was equally conservative.  Go figure.

Another good one was The Soul of America by Jon Meacham…a very readable history lesson that gave me great hope that we will survive this period of insanity because we’ve survived some pretty awful things before. Good book.

And I absolutely loved Tin Man by Sarah Winman.  Beautifully written, a treasure.

Guess that’s it for now.  Lyla is almost 8 weeks old.  And mostly she just eats and sleeps but I swear she was smiling at me when I sang to her on FaceTime a few days ago. And she’s not so tiny any more.  And it won’t be long before the Texans will arrive.  Yay.

The Texans

Lyla…almost eight weeks










Love to all. Stay well.  Enjoy this summer.  And I hope your “living’ is easy”




Shingles Vaccine

Happy Family

Okay, everyone has been saying, “Get the new shingles vaccine.  It’s very effective and you DON’T want to get shingles.” And they’re right.  Every time I turn around I’ve been hearing about friends or friends of friends who’ve had shingles in the past couple of years and yes, I DO NOT WANT TO GET SHINGLES.  So I stopped at Walgreens on Friday and got the first dose.

Deirdre had warned me. Your arm will hurt. Don’t get it if you have things planned and will need that arm.  So I got it on the left arm.

The pharmacist warned me.  We’re hearing of quite a few people getting mild flu like symptoms so don’t be surprised.

But I was surprised.  Yep, the arm hurt a little bit.  But that wasn’t a problem. What WAS a problem was how I felt the next day.

I was up at 5:30 and met the turtle patrol gang at 6:00.  It wasn’t fun on the beach.  We were all wearing masks because red tide is disgusting. But we’re tough and we have it down to a science so we spend minimum time on the beach.  But even minimum time was doing me in.  I honestly didn’t know if I was going to last.

The breathing part wasn’t too bad thanks to the masks. But I felt achy and nauseous and incredibly tired.  I lasted but just barely.  And came home and went right back to bed at 8:30 and fell sound asleep.  Woke up at 11:00, sat on the couch for about ten minutes and went back to bed and slept until 3:30.

Even then I felt bone tired.  I stayed up until around 8:00 and went back to bed and slept all night. And missed the Families Belong Together March in Sarasota  That made me sad. And I missed a FaceTime call from my newest grandchild but they called back today, thank heavens.   And I’m fine today. And I won’t get shingles.  Or, as the pharmacist explained, I might still get them but I won’t get the nerve pain that can come with it.

But it was scary.  I know I haven’t ever felt that kind of total physical exhaustion..not even when I was going through chemo.

So, yes, I really urge you to get the vaccine.  Evidently 1 out of 3 people get shingles some time.  For many, it’s just a mild rash they barely notice. For others, it’s awful.    So yes, get the vaccine.  But, as I said to Jerry just now, do it when you don’t have anything planned for the following day.  I only know one other person who had a reaction like I did but I’m sure there are plenty and just in case…

Other than a lost day yesterday, life has been good.  There was a goodbye party at our favorite French cafe.  It was Liana’s last day.  She’s been one of the wait staff for several years and we’ve become mighty attached to her and the rest of the staff there. She’s heading to law school and we’re glad for her but oh my, we’ll miss that sweet, smiling face.  She has a bunch of extra grandparents and we chipped in to get her a print to put on her wall at school.  And we hugged and said goodbye…and then, what do you know, we go to Croissant and Company after yoga today and there’s Liana who dropped in to say hi and ended up working for awhile because it got crazy when everyone  got out of church.

And Mary Anne came over with her daughter, son-in-law and baby granddaughter from California.  Hazel loved the pool.  She was so totally relaxed in the water and it knocked her out. She slept all during dinner so her mom didn’t have to eat one handed.  (I was an expert at eating one handed.  My kids did not sleep during dinner)

Little Lyla went in for a checkup and weighs 10 pounds 3 ounces. She’s thriving.  We’re so grateful to Sean and Carly for doing FaceTime  with us so often. Maybe she won’t be scared when we see her in November if she gets to know our voices and faces.

Guess that’s it.  We live beautiful, boring lives and wouldn’t have it any other way.  Much love to all and Happy Independence Day.

Hazel in the pool

Present for Liana…artist Jessica Cloarec



Liana’s Farewell party

Lyla at one month


Home Again and Missing a Baby

Don’t you just love it?  I’m expecting Lyla to join her cousins, Lana and Calli, who are kid feminists (The Texas kids have shirts that say “I swim like a girl, try to keep up” and “Run like a girl”)  This girl will have some great role models when she’s ready to watch and listen.

We left California last Tuesday.  It was hard. Much as we were delighted to be going home, I couldn’t stand saying goodbye to that little tiny kid who was just short of two weeks old.  She will be so different when we see her in November.  I’m lobbying for the Californians to come to Florida in September before Carly goes back to work in October.  They probably won’t but we’re hoping.

We flew home on Spirit.  We had heard terrible things about Spirit…”You have to pay for everything, even your seat”, “They are never on time”, “There’s no leg room and the seats are so narrow you can’t breathe”, “You have to pay for carry-ons”…etc. etc.  Sean said he saw a thing on a website, “Funny things  heard around L.A.” saying Heard in LAX, “For those of you who swore you’d never go on Spirit again, Welcome Back.”

So, here’s our take on Spirit.  First, thanks, Mary Anne, for telling us you use them all the time. Next, yes, we’d do it again whenever we can get as good a deal as we got coming home.  Yes, we paid for our seats ($14 a piece) and yes, they were narrow but there was plenty of leg room.  And we bought Pepsi and water and a sandwich before we got on.  And yes, we paid to check our luggage (weight limit is 40 pounds, not 50…my suitcase was 39!…my backpack was loaded with books, binoculars, anything heavy…not great but I managed. Usually our bags aren’t so loaded but it had been a month and we had bought a few things and brought a laptop and clothes for every kind of weather.)  If you decide to try Spirit and forget to buy something to drink or eat, don’t worry…the prices were not astronomical.   And we arrived on time.  Yep, we’ll do it again.

That said, the best deals at Thanksgiving were on Southwest.  So we’ll use them for our trip to and from L.A. in November.

So we’re home and plan to stick around for a nice long time.  The Texans are coming some time around the end of July and staying awhile.  Calli and I are heading to New York City for her ten year old trip.  We ‘re going to see Wicked and do all the great tourist things.  I asked Calli to look at the offerings on the New York Pass and tell me what she’s really interested in.  She texted me that the one she’d love to do was the bike tour of Central Park.

My response:  “Not gonna happen, kid”. Haven’t been on a bike in 100 years except last year when I decided it was time to start riding again and fell a few blocks from the house. You can go on your own or find some other things to do.”  She found a bunch of other things so we’re okay.

I felt badly.  I’m really mad that I’m such a wimp about biking.  I did try it a couple times because Kate’s sisters  gave me Kate’s bike when she left Florida for the last time.  I just couldn’t get comfortable with it.  And then, once I fell, I got chicken. Kept staring at the bike every time I went out for a little exercise and decided to go for a walk instead. Sigh.

We did FaceTime with Lyla yesterday.  She looks bigger every time we see her. I cried.

Books:  I absolutely loved Ghana Must Go (thanks, Martha).  I liked The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce and I’ll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos (not great literature but sweet stories).  And I read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (also not great literature but I did enjoy it)  I want to see the movie about Pope Francis and the one about Mr. Rogers…haven’t done that yet.  But summer has just begun.

We’re busy catching up with friends.  A good friend opened a gift shop downtown last night.  She’s an artist and her work is just so joyful.  We loved the opening…seeing her work, her other picks for sale, friends from her mom and dad’s cafe across the street (Croissant and Company)  If you’re in downtown Venice, check out Tangi and Jess.  Gorgeous things.

Turtle patrol, yoga, book club, Trivia on Tuesday night, breakfasts and lunches with friends, library volunteer work…yes, we lead the good life. How lucky can we get?

One last picture of the family in California.  I don’t think they knew I took it.  Can you tell they are nuts about their kid (and also very tired)?

Keeping watch



Homeboy Industries

One of the shirts at the Homegirl Cafe

Jerry and I went on a tour at Homeboy Industries this morning.  Homeboy Industries was founded  by Father Greg Boyle (Tattoos on the Heart) who began as pastor of a church right in the heart of gang territory. Around that time, Father Greg realized, with the help of many people in his parish, that he needed to provide jobs and education as alternatives to the gangs and the senseless violence they create. So, they started a small job program, “Jobs for a Future,” as part of Dolores Mission in 1988. They became Homeboy Industries in 2001, and have grown to become one of the largest, most comprehensive and most successful gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry programs in the country.

Two things especially blew me away. The first was the warmth, the joy, the feeling of comraderie, the genuine affection the workers had for each other.  I never saw such a cheerful, personable group of workers.  From the minute we drove into the parking lot, we felt welcome.  Which, considering how scary most of these guys looked, was pretty amazing. And as we walked around it was clear how much they cared about each other.  Beautiful people transformed by love.

The place was buzzing with activity.  A former gang member took our small group outside where it

Our guide

was quieter to tell us his story.  The second “wow” moment came while he talked. What struck me was how many times he had “messed up”, wandered off, gone back to his “homies” and every time he came back to Father Greg, he was welcomed with a handshake (containing a $20 bill) and a huge hug.  He’s been back for a long time, no longer a gang member, no longer using drugs or alcohol, showing up for work every day, happy, hardworking, a good dad to his kids.

Free to anyone who needs it

The systems they’ve put in place do work. That was obvious. Drug testing, tattoo removal, GED classes, parenting classes, computer training.   AA and NA, counseling sessions, job training.


I was near tears as we walked around.  Every single man and woman there was a former gang member.  Many had been in prison.  Most had lost people they loved because of gangs and guns. Some, like our guide, had lost a leg by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  And yet all of them were joyful.  Truly joyful.

So, if you are ever in Los Angeles and need inspiration or just want to see what can be done when there’s a guy who “goes with the original program” and believes that everyone is worthy of love and care and help, go visit Homeboy Industries.

Yesterday I had a different visit that was equally joyful.  Mary Anne McDermott’s daughter, son-in-law and new granddaughter live in LA.  I went over and got to meet little Hazel, a gorgeous gabby (honestly, she really seemed to be trying to carry on a conversation with me) two month old baby who gave me a great preview of coming attractions with Lyla. I’m so glad I saw her and can’t wait to see her again when she visits Mary Anne in Venice later on this month.  And two months may be a huge difference now but Lyla and Hazel could be friends one of these days.

Lyla continues to bring us all such joy and delight. And Carly and Sean got really good news today.  They’ve been looking at daycare centers (Carly will be going back to work in October)  Infant daycare is hard to find (by the time your baby gets to the top of the waiting list, she could be in kindergarten) and GOOD infant daycare is almost impossible to find.  We looked at a daycare last week that was mediocre at best (I couldn’t sense  joy or love) and they had a waiting list but maybe Lyla would get in (over my dead body)  Then Sean and Carly visited one the other day and loved it.  I read the writeup and I loved it.  And miracle of miracles, they are expanding their infant program, hiring another caregiver and two kids will be moving up to the toddler group in October and yes, Lyla can come.  Whew…what a gift.

Be well, everyone. Have a good weekend.

Loved the shirts at Homeboy…

Another shirt



Had lunch here

In one of the offices



Jerry and I saw RBG today.  What a great movie about a great woman.  I kept thinking about Lyla (and Lana and Calli and all of our granddaughters)  We owe so much to Ruth Bader Ginsberg (and her husband who encouraged her every step of the way).  Because of her, our daughters have had so many doors open to them and we can only hope and pray that our granddaughters will have even more. I said to Jerry after the movie, “We gotta pray that woman doesn’t die or have a stroke in the next couple of years.”  I cried at the end.

I look at this tiny little girl and my not so tiny girls in Texas and wonder what’s ahead for them.  We’ve come so far and still have so far to go.  Maybe one of them will be the next RBG…or maybe one of your grandchildren.  We can only hope.

This little girl sleeps more in the day than at night (what a surprise) but Sean and Carly are definitely rolling with it.  If they get three hours uninterrupted sleep, they consider it a good night.  And Lyla really is a contented child as long as she has a clean diaper and enough to eat.  Doesn’t take much to please this kid.

She spends most of her time hanging out on someone’s chest.  Honestly, it is better than drugs.  Holding her is like being totally in the zone, like meditation when it really works.  You can actually feel your body sink and relax.

We’ve been reading a lot.  Lyla is being homeschooled at the moment with Tana Hoben’s Black and White.  I’ve just finished Olaf Olafsson’s The Journey Home,which was beautiful.  I’m reading Lisa Genova’s Every Note Played which is so well done and so painful to read.  I must be masochistic.  Still Alice terrified me.  Left Neglected helped me understand my friend, Kate, when glioblastoma took over her life. This one, though, is really rough…but good.  Just don’t read it if you’re looking for an “escape.”

I’ve also read Exit West and The Story of Beautiful Girl (loved both of them) and The Strays (very good book that I liked but didn’t love until toward the end.)  I told you I’ve done a lot of reading.  And walking.  Some of these I didn’t read…had them on my iPod.

Enjoy the last few days of May.  Almost June.   Can you believe it???

Favorite hangout

Mother and child

Pop and Lyla

Tummy time and Nana trying to get “the shot”

Three Days Old

This is your room, Lyla. Do you like it?

She eats.  She sleeps. She cries. She pees. She poops. She stares at you as if she actually is trying to figure out who you are.  And tracks you with her big eyes as you move from side to side.  That’s about it for now, folks.  But oh, my, I can’t stop looking at her. And I can’t stop smiling.

Sean does a lot of pacing when she doesn’t want to eat and doesn’t need a change and doesn’t seem to need to burp.  (I tried to find him a shirt for Father’s Day that said, “Night of the Walking Dad.”

“It breaks my heart when she cries,” he told me. “And I can’t make her happy.”

And I tease Carly about turning into the human milk machine.  This child will nurse for hours.

It brings back so many memories of Erin and Sean, the pregnancies, the deliveries, the first days at home when I was frantically trying to figure out how to make them happy.  Erin liked Jerry to walk her around in the back yard.  Sean like car rides.

I remember being perpetually sleep deprived.  And hearing about a friend who was so enamored with her newborn that she and her husband would wake the baby in the middle of the night to play with him because they “missed him”.  Dazzled as I was with my newborn children, I would NEVER wake them up, EVER.  I craved sleep. I wanted it more than food, more than anything in the world.  Wake a baby up to play with him?  Never.

We’re doing our best to be helpful so they don’t send us home.  Actually, I booked our flights this morning for Tuesday, June 5.  Spirit had an incredible deal.  (Thanks, Mary Anne, for raving about Spirit.  Never tried them before)  We’ll be back at Thanksgiving.  Erin and her gang will be at an Airbnb a few streets away and we’ll stay at the house.  Nice crowd her for the holiday.

We’re sticking close to home these days.  I take long walks to make up for no yoga.  The houses are lovely and front yards are full of flowers.  Gorgeous. There was a yard that I went by today and thought…”Hmm, that grass doesn’t look real.” I was right.  Astroturf.  Ha!  Lots of flowers and shrubs and astroturf.  Welcome to LA.

We’re hoping to go out and see RBG this week some time.  And on Friday, we’re touring Home Boy Industries.  I doubt if we’ll meet Father Greg Boyle. I imagine he has more to do than greet every tour group that comes through.  Still, I’m glad we’re going.

Stay dry, my fellow Floridians.  A million thanks, Martha and Ernie, for checking our pool yesterday. Here’s hoping we still have a house when we come home.

Only a few hours old