insomnia #21 aka 2013 Year in Review

If I were to make a list of things I’d most like to leave behind in 2013, insomnia would be up there. I blame the evening’s red wine this time, but the cause could just as easily be falling asleep too early with too much on my mind. It’s a horrible thing, thinking.

My arsenal of sleep aids – herbal teas and tonics, Tylenol PM, relaxation apps – are failing to do the trick tonight. Rather than lie in bed kicking my husband every time he nears snoring, I’m here in front of the computer, writing.

It seemed potentially more productive. New Year’s Eve. Why not take stock?

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January: Our sweet dog died, my younger daughter was detained in London en route to Ireland, I wrote my first Five Things, and a friend and I attended the Presidential inauguration.

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February: My older daughter turned 23, my husband and I relived the ’90s by seeing Soundgarden in Oakland’s Fox Theater, I moved into The Link and I went on an epic surf-work trip to Central Cali, the first of many excursions I’d take with my dear friend Casey.

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March: Spent another week along the central coast, my younger daughter turned 19 and I wrote my first (and so far only) cover story for the North Coast Journal.

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April: My first Five Things column ran in the NCJ, I tripped to Sacramento and Santa Cruz, and I helped coordinate a memorial service and paddle out for John “Moose” Mason, a man whose sudden death brought forth such beautiful tribute from so many people that I found myself thinking, “We should all be so loved” – and that we should all be so kind and good as Moose.

May: Some idiots filming an ad at Moonstone high-centered a Dodge truck on a rock, launching me into Surfrider mode and ending with me being named a “Humboldtian of the Week” on Facebook, a work trip took me to D.C., we attended my fabulous brother’s fabulous wedding in San Francisco, where I stayed on for a conference after – four hotels in 10 days.

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June: Traveled to Long Beach for work and some time with my older daughter, stepped in as the NCJ’s music columnist, spent Summer Solstice at Shelter Cove, wrote about the dead whale that washed up on my beach and was given a six-month layoff heads up.

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July: Played cornhole and bocce ball for the first times and failed at neither, took a vacation to Seattle that included a whale watching tour through the Puget Sound and a stop in Portland on the way back that included visiting a friend with whom I shared a room when we were 18 – and all the required reminiscing that implies, and wrote my favorite Five Things so far.

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August: Threw a most excellent birthday party for my husband’s 50th, was hired on to do part-time outreach for Humboldt Baykeeper and moved my younger daughter to Santa Cruz.

September: Played a small role in Humboldt Made’s big premier, guested on Sherae O’Shaughnessy’s Late Night gig, traveled with Casey to San Diego for the annual Surfrider conference, helped cover the arrest of alleged crossbow killers in Manila, helped clean up around a homeless camp for Coastal Cleanup Day and wrote about it.

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October: My kickball team raised $2,697 for Six Rivers Planned Parenthood and came in second in the annual tournament, Casey and Kj joined me for my second excursion to a foreign country, this one a long-anticipated trip to Manzanillo, Mexico, where we spent six days surfing, swimming, reading, drinking and eating tacos – best vacation ever – followed by a closer-to-home excursion to track gray whales and see humpbacks, a transcendent experience.

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November: My son turned 18, my friend Grant and I took off to New York for a week, where I stayed with my brother and his wife and celebrated my own birthday – 44! – at The Comedy Cellar, and upon returning home, my husband and I moved into the upstairs master bedroom after 11 years of downstairs living.

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December: Held what was likely my favorite Ocean Night ever, wrapped up my job with Ocean Conservancy, made plans for a next chapter with the Northcoast Environmental Center, tripped down to Santa Cruz to visit our younger daughter, reminisced about a time I almost died, and trekked up to Crescent City for an especially memorable surf safari due to cramming five people in a Honda CRV, finding fun waves under endless sunshine, a rescue by me of a person drifting out to sea, stinky sea lions, piles of fish and chips and hours of excellent conversation.

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In between and throughout all that, a million photos of sunsets, sunrises and various bodies of water. Also, surfing. My wonderful writers’ group. Parties. Music. Books. Movies. Food. The requisite ups-and-downs and various heartbreaks involved in being a human people who spends time with people. Most importantly, a ton of love and good best friends. I aim to transform this list of things done into something larger and life-useful at some point, but for now, what a reminder that I am a lucky, lucky girl.

5 Things to Know Before You See Soundgarden at the Fox Theater in Oakland

1. Through a misunderstanding when purchasing tickets, you will find yourself at the top of the back of the balcony in the seats farthest from the stage while your husband is on the floor, but it will be okay because the gilded majesty of the Fox Theater awes you and Chris Cornell has the voice of a god and from this vantage point you can observe the crowd and think about what you want to write.

2. You will observe that, yes, like you, most of the crowd appears to have settled into their 40s, but you will be pleased to see younger generations represented, reassuring you that rock hasn’t fossilized just yet. The best is a parent and child decked out in matching hand-painted “Soundgarden” shirts. When you see them, another wave of love will erode the wall of cynicism surrounding your soul. Also, not everyone is white and male, so you will know you’re not at a Rush concert. (The guy in front of you in the drink line will announce, while waiting, “I know that I will never, ever, ever see a show as good as the Rush show I saw, for the rest of my life. And I just have to live with that.” If you and your husband were to break up, you think, you would never, ever, ever date this man. For the rest of your life. And you can live with that.)

3. Chris Cornell’s voice is the reason you love the band so much, but seeing the entire band live will remind you that you need to better appreciate the contributions of the other members. You will vow to learn their names.

4. Wear jeans and comfy boots. It’s Soundgarden. You don’t need to rock a dress. You just need to rock.

5. During “Outshined,” a song even 20 zillion radio plays couldn’t ruin for you, when your favorite line, one of your favorite lines from any song ever, right up there with, “There must be some kind of way out of here/said the joker…” — when it happens, when Cornell wails out, “looking California and feeling Minnesota,” and the other 1,199 people at the Fox simultaneously mouth the words and their faces light up holy, this moment, this moment is when you will realize there is no special. That transcendence happens all the time, that people nothing like you are moved by the same words, sounds, feelings, sights. That anything you believe is uniquely yours — not that you thought that line, that oft-cited line, conveyed meaning unique to you, but still the realization that everyone claims it as their own — you are reminded that we own nothing, that songs are not sung for us, books are not written for us, love is not a birthright, all parents would die for their children and sex only matters until it’s over. This epiphany will not leave you hopeless, however, for in this new understanding, this new freedom from caring, you can make your own special. Nothing is inherent, nothing is implied, but you can infuse meaning, or not, as you choose.

Bonus: On a more practical note, drink beforehand to avoid paying $9 for a plastic cup of whiskey, stay at the Washington Inn because it’s relatively cheap and within walking distance, and know that despite closing at 11 p.m., the pizza joints on Broadway will deliver till 3 a.m., so that’s how you get your husband’s post-gig munchies addressed satisfactorily.

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5 Things to Know Before You Go Out Dancing

1. What do you mean, you don’t go out dancing? That’s crazy! Dancing is fun, fun, fun! And good for you – bumps up the ol’heartrate, increases physical endurance and provides the social contact necessary for maintaining a positive outlook in this messed-up world. If you’re a guy, know this: women prefer a man who can get his groove on. (I think we all know why that’s true, but just in case, allow George Bernard Shaw to explain, “Dancing: The vertical expression of a horizontal desire legalized by music.” Mmmhmm!)

2. However, you men people, also know this: No one wants your creepy ass rubbing up against her thigh, butt or any other body part. What makes you have a creepy ass,  you ask? Because you’re rubbing up against some woman who does not want you to do that! No means no means no and a woman is far more likely to like you if you stay on the side of fun that includes respect. Having to point this out seems ridiculous, but I spent part of last month’s 100mph Soul Party running interference between some skeevy dude and my girlfriends.

3. Also in the stating-the-obvious column: wear shoes you can wear all night long. No, not your gym shoes – unless you’re going to bust out your best Electric Boogaloo moves – because sexy is good, but if you’ve strapped in and your pinky toes are going numb before you’ve even finished applying your lipstick, that’s not a good sign. Dazzle people with your confidence and they’ll never notice what’s on your feet.

4. The best dance parties aren’t always the most popular ones. Sold out shows mean wall-to-wall people, which means you can’t move and also that you’ve become a C & C Sweat Factory. Weeknights offer more than you might think: for example, you can get your skank on this Monday at the Jam; rock out to some country soul on Tuesday at Hum Brews; Wednesday, Nocturnum goes all Whomp Whomp with “Dubstep/Dnb/Glitch/HipHop/BadassBassDriven/LazerFilled/WaistMotivating/FootTapping”; Cherae Heights throws back to the ’80s and ’90s on Thursday; you’ve got barn dancin’ at the Bayside Grange on Friday, where they will even teach you to dance; and Saturday’s list of body-moving possibilities presents you with so much choice you might stress out about which dance party to attend! But you know what’s a great antidote to stress? Dancing! You can also rally a bunch of friends and take over any place with floor space and a decent jukebox. Hell, have a slumber party and Spotify up all your old faves – Madonna’s “Physical Attraction” and AC/DC’s “TNT” being two on my all-time list.

5. Don’t overdo the booze. You might think you need to get drunk to loosen up, but the difference between dancing and flailing can often be traced back to an unfortunate decision to answer, “Yeah! I’ll have another!” Figure out the pace that works to keep you happy on the floor without being on the floor and stick to it. Drink lots of water! Don’t do shots. (In fact, unless you’re toasting the dead, don’t ever do shots.)

Bonus: Still unsure? Find some inspiration listening to Mike Dronkers’ Midday Dance Party every Friday at noon on KHUM 104.3/104.7. You can bop around the office or in the privacy of your own home! If you absolutely need to take some lessons first – or you’re ready to step up to actual steps – you’re in luck! We live somewhere people love to dance! Here’s a beginning look at what’s offered, but check out other publications and flyers around town.

5 things on my mind

I’m aching to write and also achingly tired. Here’s a list:

1. Chelsea’s birthday is tomorrow: 22!

2. Nick’s having a surgical procedure tomorrow. We have to be at St. Joe’s at 6 a.m. The surgery isn’t a major one, but he’ll be under anesthesia and also the diabetes factor complicates even minor operations. Since he has to fast, we need to ensure his blood sugar doesn’t drop into the low range – if it does, he’ll have to eat, which means the surgery can’t happen. But we don’t want his glucose level to be too high, especially since his A1C level was still elevated at his last doctor’s appointment. So I need to stay up late enough to make sure he’s in a good place, then get up early enough to get him to the hospital on time. I expect we’ll be there for hours.

3. I need to record a surf session. Only one, sadly, but a fun one, nonetheless. Thinking maybe I need to get myself up to Patrick’s Point soon. Am I brave enough?

4. A couple weeks ago, I ended up hiking through the dune forest and took a wrong fork. Given that I could see the power lines stretching north-south and glimpse the highway from time-to-time, I wasn’t exactly lost, but when the trail I was on ended and the sun was going down, I began to fear I wouldn’t get home before dark. Plus the trees are scary when they’re in the shadows. And it’s all Blair Witchy. And maybe a hobo tweeker might jump out at me. But, clearly, I survived.

5. Looking forward. Setting goals. Striving.

I just finished writing something for work about a new “No Discharge Zone” to help curb cruise ship pollution. Maybe I should consider creating a similar zone in which I will not spew my random thoughts. This here, though, this poor blog is stuck being a dumping ground.

insomnia #19 (which is a lot like insomnia #18… and insomnia #17… and… )

On the upside, Nick’s blood sugar is 118 – a perfect 3 a.m. number. So that’s good. On the downside, I can’t get back to sleep. The dog was twitching in her sleep, nails scraping on the floor. I finally rolled out from under the covers, unable to bear the sound, crouched down next to her. For a moment I worried she was having a seizure. She’s old. Maybe she was dying right in front of me. The beginnings of panic bloomed. “Sandy!” I whispered, rubbing her side. “Wake up!” After a moment, she lifted her head, gave me a groggy look, then rolled to her side for a belly rub. Her legs stopped spasming. She’d been chasing rabbits in her sleep after all, not running into the afterlife. (more…)

insomnia #18, in which our protagonist is dismayed that self-improvement is still on the to-do list

“So at what point do people get to stop trying to improve themselves and just accept their flaws as the way they are?”

I asked my friend this question over lunch, stealing some of his fries while waiting for his answer.

“Never,” he said. “I don’t think you ever stop trying to be better.”

Damn. In that case, I shouldn’t have eaten those fries. Really, I’d hoped for something more along the lines of, “Oh, usually around 42.” Something that would let me off the hook. A response that would allow me to give up the so-far unfulfilled promises to myself to shed the remaining irresponsible behaviors keeping me grounded at pretty good instead of soaring at great. Alas, apparently I must redouble my efforts towards progress instead.

On the upside, having struggled with the same (boring, childish) bad habits for, oh, my entire adult life (small strides, though, small strides!), at least I can refer back to an old post and not have to write everything out again.

Humboldt County stuff I like #1

In addition to the ocean, beaches, bay and forest, I also love several local businesses/people. I don’t have gobs of excess money to spend – especially after covering food for the family, medical bills and my bar tab, but here’s some places I go. Here’s a rather random smattering (more to come as I get inspired – I like a lot of places and people!):

Praxis Fitness Keeping me in fighting shape – cause I need it! Not just to rock my short skirts, but also to surf better, bike farther, dance longer. I leave Praxis feeling awesome, which makes going there all the more worthwhile.

Cassandra at Parker’s Beauty Bar A good cut makes your look. Cassandra keeps me stylish. Not only does she excel at cuts and color, but Parker’s in general is a blast. Complimentary beer and wine, plus fun reads, from Amy Sedaris- and Posh Spice-authored books to celebrity gossip mags.

Rebecca at Bloom For all your waxing needs. And when I say “all,” I mean “all.” And that’s all I’m saying about that.

Casey’s Skin Care Studio Also for waxing, plus facials and more. Casey is a class act.

L C Nails The closest thing you can get locally to a San Francisco mani-pedi. Also massage chairs! (Note, one option on the massage chair triggers a knob nailing you right in the tailbone. Or thereabouts. Watch out! Otherwise, fun.)

Oberon Best Bloody Marys in Eureka, hands down. Also a lovely atmosphere and attentive service. I mostly go for the Bloodys plus snack as dinner gets a bit pricey.

Cafe Nooner Everything is good, especially the Bleu Noon sandwich. Warm days, you can eat outside.

Jambalaya A wide-open space, pool table, stage for the bands, hearty food and cocktails. Both birthday parties I’ve had here have excelled.

Go Go Bistro I should go here more, but it’s inconveniently located in Henderson Center. However, the mac’n’cheese makes me swoon, so….)

Overlooked with John Matthews Because while you can listen to the same music you listened to in high school, you’re so much more interesting when you follow along with John.

Lost Coast Outpost Hank doesn’t write enough, but when he does, it’s so worth it. In the meantime, stay entertained with news and music from KHUM, KSLG and The Point right here. Plus I contribute.

Obligatory Seven-O-Heaven mention here.

Humboldt Baykeeper Because they kick ass at making sure our bay stays healthy and protected. Executive Director Beth Werner blows my mind with her smarts, her passion and her modesty. She’s my hero.

Yes, it’s an indulgence-heavy list. I also donate regularly to Doctors Without Borders and pick up a lot of trash while walking my old yellow lab on the beach. So there.

(Addendum: Those last couple lines may come off defensive and flip. I don’t mean to be either – the hypocrisy of professing to care about others and then spending “extra” money on anything but charitable causes troubles me, but I’m not vying for sainthood yet, just trying to balance being good with having fun.)

Or perhaps a simple lobotomy would help

The throbbing in my head won’t let up. Partly, I’m experiencing ocean withdrawal. Partly, the teenage experience makes me want to flee from parenting in a way I haven’t felt since they were infants incessantly crying because teeth were coming in. Partly, I’m stunned that no matter how much I work, how much I make – so lucky in these times to be working at all – life insists on upping its costs. I’ve surfed once in two weeks, walked on the beach maybe twice. When I went outside to pull a weed that had smushed up against the window, I realized I haven’t been in my own lovely backyard in nearly a month. All this fine weather and I haven’t taken 10 minutes to sit on the deck with a glass of ice tea and marvel at all the world has provided me. Meanwhile arguing over chores and curfews keeps me so agitated I forget to do things like bring the new insurance card when I go to pick up insulin, fail to realize we’ve used up all the syringes. So fortunate to have insurance, but I fear (again) what that means for the diabetes coverage. Meanwhile the car desperately needs a tune-up from all the summer driving. It rattles as if it might fly apart when I hit one of the unavoidable potholes in Arcata. But I’m still recovering from all the expense of those summer travels – and random stupid costs like the bill I paid in cash, a rare occurrence, the one I can’t find the receipt for, also unusual, the one that of course now they’re saying they show no record of payment. So there’s another $100 evaporating into zilch. I add up everything that’s due, add up every scrap of income I can imagine after combing the shelves for books to sell, if we don’t have any extra expenses, we’ll possibly catch up. If I read enough parenting advise, meditate, remember my own tumultuous youth, I may find finally figure out how to channel that longed-for maternal grace. If I remember to kick myself away from the computer, breathe in the salt air at the side of the sea, haul myself out into the ocean more often, I may yet retain my sanity. If I don’t make any mistakes, if life doesn’t serve up any more surprises – ha! on both counts – it just might all work out.

Oh, it will all work out – I know it will. I think it will. But that sliver of belief missing between “know” and “think” is what makes relaxing about it all impossible.

Old dog, new tricks

On surfing:  Although the surf, by all accounts, has been excellent, I have not gone out for a variety of reasons, most of which have to do with work, time and a clear need to reconfigure my routine back into one that starts with waves and goes on from there.

On diabetes: My morning routine currently includes turning on the kettle for tea, feeding the dog and the cats, and climbing upstairs to make sure Nick is okay. Depending on how late his last blood sugar check at night was, I sometimes bring the glucometer, pop the lancet into his finger and stick the test strip into the drop of blood that squeezes out so  I can correct if he’s high or low. He rarely wakes up for this. This morning, a touch on the low side — 65. I delivered some mango-orange juice and will take up an apple or toast in 15 minutes.

Google delivers Type 1 diabetes news to my inbox daily. Recent stories include profiles on a race car driver and a pilot, and the progress of artificial pancreases as a “cure.”

Sandy

On the dog: Sandy got old this past year. Ever since her brief and bizarre sickness last year, she’s exhibited the same happy behavior she always has, but her face has turned white, her hearing isn’t what it used to be — she doesn’t bark at cars or passersby much these days — and her body has gone from sleek to bony. After walks on the beach, she’s tired. She gets to her feet slowly, sometimes clumsily. Sandy’s always been such a puppy and suddenly she’s an old lady. She’ll be 13 in September. I’m not ready to think about not having her sweet yellow self around.

On travel: Given the tightness of my budget, I’d forgone prior hopes of a trip to New York City this spring. My brother moved there from San Francisco late last year. I’ve never been. When I said I wouldn’t be able to go after all, he offered to buy the plane ticket. Sweet! I leave April 27 and am prepared to be overwhelmed by the size and the bustle. Springtime in the city. Old men playing dominoes. People sitting on stoops. Everyone walking really fast. I imagine deja vu from all the movies and TV shows in which I’ve seen NYC mixed with the wow factor of actually being there.

On money: Sigh. Every time I think I’ve got it figured out, something else pops up. Toaster breaks. The propane tank is at 10 percent. The truck needs a new tire. I need to take my own advice and quit carrying my debit card around. Been too busy to properly plot my financial goals, so other than paying the bills, I don’t have anything concrete. But seriously, I probably could’ve bought a much-needed new wetsuit and a couple board bags on what I’ve spent going out to eat over the past few months. Not cool. Time to get it together, Jennifer.

On good news/bad news: Bobby’s dad helped us out by paying off his student loans (yay!); unfortunately, the Treasury Dept. didn’t get the memo and seized our tax refund (boo!). To straighten out this clusterfuck, I have to deal with the Dept. of Ed, the IRS and the Treasury. Bureaucracy headache, anyone?

On writing: Doing it! Not here as much as I’d like, but have a couple projects in the works and a fiction group solidifying into a regular thing. When I get a chance, I’ll post the results of the exercises we’ve been doing. My brain is like a little kid with blocks, happy to be playing and building and creating.

On reading: Working on both Netherland and The Death and Life of American Journalism.

On work: Love it. Wow, I am lucky. Striving to be worthy and to take every opportunity to do good.

Whew! Social-work whirl of the past two weeks survived, brain cleared and ready to go.

Or not

I can’t leave off all grumpy-like.
FINE.

Children healthy and mostly decent.
Diabetic kid’s needs met, at least for the moment.
Husband healthy and more attentive than I deserve.
Parents healthy.
My own health is top-notch.
Various animals healthy and relatively low-maintenance.
Warm, well-lit home.
Pacific a ten-minute walk away.
Surfboards, wetsuit, booties and gloves.
Truck!
Running cars.
Tons of friends and a steady stream of social invites.
Awesome job.
Awesome boss and coworkers.
Additional enjoyable jobs and lovely colleagues.
Volunteer work engaging and rewarding.
Personal training at Praxis.
Kitchen full of food.
Tulips promising to bloom.
An overflowing bookshelf.
Music for days.
A piano in the house.
A great bike — with panniers!
Most of my problems are self-wrought and therefore theoretically solvable.
And… life continues to surprise me with all sorts of sweet little bonus moments.

SO THERE.

BLESSINGS COUNTED.

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